NEWLY published documents from the 1970s reveal Labour ministers discussed bringing North Sea oil into “English waters” in an effort to undermine Scottish independence support.

Papers opened at the National Archives in Kew show James Callaghan’s government launched a secretive “publicity and propaganda” unit to deal with the SNP amid fears around the party’s campaigning on the issue.

The “It’s Scotland’s Oil” campaign caused concern for then foreign secretary Anthony Crosland, who wrote of the “potential damage” it could cause in a private briefing note to the PM.

READ MORE: English plots to steal oil from Scottish waters should surprise no-one

He feared “Scotland could take with it into independence the oil which is the basis for much of Britain’s future prosperity” and wrote: “It could damage our international creditworthiness."

The minister told Callaghan to “tread carefully” to “avoid giving any impression that we regard Scottish independence as a likely possibility”.

He added: “The discreet way to do it would be through confidential briefing of selected public opinion informers and by seeking to inspire articles.”

According to The Times other documents indicate future Labour chief John Smith was key to this secretive campaign.

READ MORE: This is how the McCrone Report saw the light of day DECADES later

The scheme saw foreign correspondents based in London briefed that there was no economic case for an independent Scotland, with a 1977 Foreign Office memo stating “potential purchasers of British goods” in particular should not believe the Union is at risk.

The National:

Keith Brown, the SNP's depute leader, said: “This is a timely reminder of how successive UK government’s see Scotland. In the 70’s it was Scotland's oil they set out to grab, now it’s the powers of Scotland’s parliament.

“There are echoes across the generations - the new Union Unit and legislation to take powers and funding from Scotland’s Parliament are simply the modern day equivalent of trying to change the border to ensure the oil wealth could not accrue to Scotland.

“At any sign of Scotland becoming successful, standing on our own feet, and choosing our own future, Labour and the Tories put the interests of Westminster before the people of Scotland. 

“With both Labour and the Tories having acted to drag Scotland out of the EU against our will and continuing to refuse to acknowledge the mandate for a second independence referendum, it is clear nothing has changed.

“The only people that will ever have Scotland’s best interests at heart are those who live and work here, so it will only ever be a government, voted for by the people of Scotland, that will truly do what is best for Scotland."

The documents were written during the same era as the McCrone Report, which predicted how profitable Scotland’s oil would become but was never published due to fears over independence support.

Gavin McCrone, then chief economic adviser in the Scottish Office, outlined how Scotland could become the Kuwait of the north and see a rise in living standards.

The report was hidden in UK Government filed until freedom of information rules allowed it to be discovered in 2005.

You can read the McCrone Report in full here