FORMER Tory leader William Hague urged Tony Blair to delay the referendum on Scottish devolution following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, according to newly released official papers.

The vote, which led to the creation of the Scottish Parliament, was due to take place on September 11, 1997, with a referendum on Welsh devolution a week later on September 18.

Restricted files obtained by the Sunday National in February show that Hague, the Tory opposition leader, wrote to prime minister Blair days ahead of the landmark event calling for a delay following the car crash in Paris on August 31 which claimed the Princess’s life.

Wary of accusations that his intervention could draw her death into political controversy, Hague asked Blair to not make the correspondence public.

READ MORE: Secret files reveal William Hague asked Tony Blair to suspend devolution vote

The Sunday National revealed Hague's plea to Blair near the beginning of this year following a long running freedom of information battle with the UK Government. In February this paper also published Hague's letter - which has now been more widely distributed - as well as considerations being made by the Labour government that the Tories could make a legal challenge to the referendum.

“This inevitably means that the referendum campaigns will effectively close down, and only three days will then remain for the Scottish campaign. This cannot, in any respects, be regarded as satisfactory,” he wrote.

“I strongly feel that parliament should be recalled next week so as to arrange to amend the Referendum Act so as to effect a delay. With cross-party agreement this would be a quick and straightforward procedure.”

READ MORE: Secret files reveal fears that Unionists would try to stop Scottish devolution through courts

However Blair rejected the idea, telling the Tory leader that there were “serious practical difficulties”.

“Recalling parliament this week would have the effect of politicising this period of mourning – exactly what everyone wishes to avoid,” he wrote.

READ MORE: Scotland Office fought for years to hide secret papers on devolution referendum

The long process of getting hold of the files dates back to November 2018 when The National submitted a freedom of information request to the Scotland Office, then presided over by David Mundell, requesting that six files in the National Archives of Scotland relating to the 1997 referendum should be opened.

Public bodies normally have 20 days to give a response and the Scotland Office made two extensions to the request before rejecting it on February 7, 2019.

In the refusal letter, the freedom of information officer at the Scotland Office wrote that parts of three of the files were “exempt from disclosure ... because it would be likely to, prejudice relations between the UK Government and other administrations within the UK”.

Following a rejection for a review of the decision, the Sunday National complained to the UK’s Information Commissioner who examined the files to see whether they should be released in whole or in part or not at all.

The commissioner’s office upheld the complaint last July, ruling that some of the papers should be released.