SEAN Connery was happy to support Westminster plans for Scottish devolution but feared his tax exile status would limit the amount of time he would be able to spend actively campaigning.

The James Bond star was said to have been happy to heed Tony Blair’s 1997 call to back the Yes vote, granting greater powers to Scotland. But he was concerned that any campaigning in person would see him at the mercy of residency rules, meaning he would have to pay tax if he stayed more than 90 days in the UK during the year – something it was suggested he felt certain ethnic minorities did not have to do.

Connery, who spent much of his time in the US, Spain and the Bahamas, was described by Cabinet minister Peter Mandelson as “very keen” to support the PM, due to “several” conversations between himself and the actor in May and June 1997.

In a memo to Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff, Mandelson wrote: “But he [Connery] is concerned that his scope to help will be badly constrained by the residency rules.”

He added: “Certainly, it would be very disappointing if Sean felt unable to help on the devolution front because of a disproportionate effect on his pocket.”

Mandelson suggested Blair contact the actor, or meet him when the pair were next in London at the same time. The memo, released by the National Archives in Kew, acknowledged Connery’s agreement to support the Yes campaign – and was annotated, playfully, with the words “shurely yesh” in reference to Connery’s famous and much-impersonated burr.

Connery would go on to be a prominent supporter of independence, despite not living in Scotland.

He said of the referendum in 2014: “I fully respect the choice facing Scotland in September is a matter for the people who choose to work and live there – that’s only right.

“But as a Scot with a lifelong love of Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss.”