Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Friday, 14 May 2010 14:42 UK

Cameron follows in Churchill and Thatcher's footsteps

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Lloyd George and Churchill in 1910
David Lloyd George, left, with Winston Churchill came to Inverness in 1921

They have come to the Highlands to try to resolve problems in Ireland, to woo voters and to detonate explosives.

The north of Scotland's recent and past history is littered with visits by prime ministers and figures who would go on to rise to the office.

They include Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George.

New premier David Cameron is the latest to join those names with a visit to Fort George, near Inverness.

The prime ministerial Highland fling includes an unusual gathering in September 1921.

Liberal Prime Minister Lloyd George, who was on holiday in Gairloch, Wester Ross, brought his ministers together at Inverness Town House.

Falklands War

The meeting was called following Ireland's rejection of the king.

Lloyd George's deputy was also in the Highlands and King George V was at Moy.

Among the cabinet was Churchill, who went onto lead the country during World War II.

Debate that day in 1921 led to the drawing up of the Inverness Formula which guided later discussions on the treaty creating the Irish Free State.

The Irish Free State eventually became the Republic of Ireland in 1949.

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation's archive records two Highland connections with the former Conservative prime minister.

She gave a speech to the Inverness Conservatives on 21 September 1977 - almost two years before the general election that saw her become PM.

In 1983 - the year providing the backdrop to BBC time-bending police drama Ashes to Ashes which featured a scene where DCI Gene Hunt raises a glass to the Iron Lady - Thatcher returned to the Highlands in the countdown to another election.

On 1 June she was in Inverness and the Thatcher foundation mentions that she gave a television interview in Robbie's Bar of the city's Station Hotel.

Victory in the Falklands War in 1982 and a divided opposition helped Thatcher to win a landslide victory in the general election, held on 9 June.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in 2006
Blair made a high profile visit to the Highlands a year after Brown did

While chancellor, Gordon Brown came to Inverness in April 2005 during the run-up to another general election.

On the visit north he hailed the Labour UK government's record on the economy and criticised the economic plans of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and SNP.

The following month, Tony Blair won a historic third term in government for Labour but with a drastically reduced majority.

In 2006, Blair himself came to the Highlands to mark the start of work on the first large-scale hydro power scheme in Scotland for almost half a century.

He ignited an explosive charge to begin the creation of a tunnel in the hills high above Loch Ness for £140m Glendoe power scheme.

But a rock fall last August disrupted the flow of water from a hilltop reservoir to a massive turbine, suspending electricity generation until 2011.

Cameron, the latest PM to head for the Highlands, will visit the Black Watch, the 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots).

The battalion recently returned from deployment to Afghanistan.

Nobles persecuted

Fort George was built as an artillery fortification following the collapse of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

It was designed to be a deterrent against further uprisings.

At Culloden members of Clan Cameron - led by Donald Cameron of Lochiel - fought on the Jacobite side against the government army.

Interestingly, according to an article in The Times in February, the Conservatives said Cameron would be sympathetic to the idea of pardoning Jacobite nobles persecuted during and after the '45 rising if he became prime minister.

In the 18th Century, certain surnames were declared as having a "corruption of blood" and those bearing them were executed or banished, and their land and titles were confiscated.

So the new prime minister appears to be wrapped up in the Highlands' more distant history while providing a new chapter for its record books.

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