TONY Blair opposed the Scottish Parliament having control over abortion after being told it was “the number one issue on the doorstep”.

In a memo from May 9, 1997, about the powers of a Scottish Parliament, his Scottish political adviser Pat McFadden suggested abortion should remain reserved to Westminster.

In the note to the Labour PM, released yesterday by The National Archives, McFadden warned him: “I am worried about this.

“Several new Scottish MPs have told me this was the number one issue on the doorstep during the election.

“The Catholic Church will see devolution of these issues as an opportunity to open up the possibility of changes in the law. The Church of Scotland has also been adopting a more anti-abortion stance recently.

“Won’t devolution of these issues give rise to the potential of a big difference in the law... in Scotland and England, with women possibly travelling from Scotland to England for abortions?”

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In his own handwriting, Blair said of devolving the issue: “I think no.”

However, the debate rumbled on inside the Cabinet – the then Scottish secretary Donald Dewar, Welsh secretary Ron Davies and Commons leader Ann Taylor wanted it devolved, while home secretary Jack Straw and health secretary Frank Dobson wanted it reserved.

Dewar argued it was logical to devolve abortion, though he believed there was an argument to reserve human embryology and genetic research.

He told the Prime Minister following a meeting on May 20, 1997: “I fully appreciate the strongly held views on the highly sensitive areas of health policy which the Lord Chancellor discusses in his minute. I indicated at the meeting that I could see the case for reserving human embryology and genetics ... but that the subject of abortion should be devolved given that it is integral to health provision in Scotland and an issue which the community in Scotland would expect to have its voice heard.”

However, on June 9, 1997, Dewar wrote to Blair conceding the issue.

“On abortion, genetics and human embryology we accept the case for reservation,” he said.

Abortion law was devolved to Holyrood in 2016 following the set up of the Smith Commission after the independence referendum in September 2014.

The move was announced by former Scottish secretary David Mundell in 2015.

Speaking to the Scottish Affairs Committee in the Commons, Mundell said he could “not see a convincing constitutional reason for why abortion law should not be devolved”.

The minister said he understood this was a very sensitive matter that many people felt very passionately about and that the UK and Scottish governments would continue to work closely and consult widely as they moved forward with the transfer of power to Holyrood.

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Mundell said at the time: “I understand that abortion law and whether it should be controlled by Holyrood are matters that many people feel very strongly about. I respect that. The subject was debated very passionately in the House during the passage of the original Scotland Bill in 1998 and again during committee stage of the Scotland Bill in July.

“The Government has reflected very carefully on the points that have been made and I can today inform the Committee that we will bring forward an amendment to the Scotland Bill so that abortion law can be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”

Laws over human embryology, including on aspects of IVF treatment, continue to be reserved to the UK Government.