THE extent of tensions between members of the 1970s commission which recommended the creation of a Scottish Assembly have been revealed in newly released government files.

The Royal Commission on the Constitution, also known as the Kilbrandon Commission, was set up by Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1969 to examine the constitution of the UK in response to growing support for the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

The report recommended the creation of devolved institutions for Scotland and Wales, which ultimately led to doomed devolution referendum of 1979.

But the panel could not fully come to an agreement, with two members failing to back the final report produced in 1973 and producing their own separate proposals.

The files from the National Archives include a letter from commission member Labour MP Douglas Houghton stating that he wanted to resign eight months before the final conclusions were produced because of a “failure to agree upon a common approach to the task in hand”.

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In the letter to home secretary he wrote: “On such a complex and politically sensible subject as changes in the constitution, and the institutions of government, there is imperative need for team work in an unusual degree and the reconciliation of differing views as a basis for an objective presentation of the issues involved.

“There can be differences of opinion on the commission about the direction reform should take, but on this commission above all I believe that our duty is to agree upon the reasonable range of choice available for public and political discussion.

“This has not proved possible, so I am no longer prepared to continue."

He went on to state: “Constitutional change is not brought about by commissions but by popular demand, expressed in pollical action. Majority and minority reports and “memoranda of dissent” have not place in the task of this commission.”

“To me this is fundamental. I have worked for a unanimous approach for over three years. I hoped and believed this would be possible of achievement, and I have learned only recently that it is not. My usefulness on this commission is therefore finished and I want to go.”

The archive also contains a handwritten note which sheds light on the MP’s thoughts on another commission member, fellow Labour politician Lord Crowther-Hunt.

“Prime Mminister … Douglas Houghton cannot stand any more of Dr Norman Hunt,” it stated.

Houghton had also raised concerns about the work of the commission shortly after it was set up, although at that stage described it as having a “harmonious and fruitful beginning”.

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In a letter to Downing Street, he said both he and Conservative politician Selwyn Jones – who also later resigned from the group – had consulted with their respective leaders and “our own firm view is that we should come off it”.

He wrote he could not see “how this commission can attempt to settle anything” and raised concerns that parties would have to make political commitments to “some of the more controversial sectors in our inquiry” in the looming General Election before the report of the commission had been published.

He went on: “On the commission agenda we have Scotland and Wales with their internal nationalist movements; Northern Ireland, with its special problems which need no emphasis here; the Isle of Man; and the Channel Islands … plus regionalism in England.

“I don’t believe that an omnibus task such as this, if undertaken on traditional lines (with months taken up by hearing evidence in all the territories within our reference), can finish the job on any sort of timetable to meet the pressure of events. We have started much too late.”

The commission’s first chairman was Lord Crowther – following his death in February 1972 he was succeeded by Lord Kilbrandon.

It has been suggested that one of drivers for Labour to set up the commission was the victory of Winnie Ewing in the 1967 Hamilton by-election, when she entered Westminster as the only SNP MP.