Page last updated at 01:39 GMT, Saturday, 27 June 2009 02:39 UK

Tories were 'wrong' on devolution

David Cameron
David Cameron said he would respect Scotland if he came to power

Conservative leader David Cameron has said his party was wrong in the past to oppose Scottish devolution.

Mr Cameron told a BBC TV documentary the Tories were right to point out the potential problems of such a move.

But he added they should have paid more attention to "legitimate" pressure for self-government in Scotland during their time in power at Westminster.

The Conservatives opposed devolution until 1997 when Labour's victory paved the way for the Scottish Parliament.

'Greater expression'

Mr Cameron said about his party's position on devolution at the time: "I don't think we got it right.

"I think you can argue that the principled position, of arguing that devolution within a unitary state is extremely difficult and there are all sorts of problems it brings, and those problems are there.

I'm by temperament probably pretty unionist
Tony Blair
Former prime minister

"But I think where we went wrong was we should have spent more time in government thinking, how do we give legitimate help to those people within our United Kingdom who want to have a greater expression of self-government?"

Mr Cameron said he would respect the right of the Scottish Parliament to rule on domestic matters in Scotland if he became prime minister.

In return, he would want the Scottish National Party to accept his mandate to decide on issues such as defence which affect the whole of the UK.

'Genuine desire'

Tony Blair, who as Labour prime minister oversaw devolution, told the programme the process went against his natural political leanings.

"I'm by temperament probably pretty unionist," he said.

"On the other hand, I could see - and studying the history reinforced this feeling - that there was a genuine desire on the part of people to have more say over the things that were happening around them."

Labour's former Scottish First Minister Henry McLeish told the programme Mr Blair was a "pragmatist" when it came to devolution.

The SNP's current First Minister Alex Salmond said devolution had been motivated by Labour's "fear" of his party.

"The feeling that things had got to such an extent that unless this was delivered, proposed, endorsed by the people, then the result would be that Labour would lose control over its heartlands and fiefdoms," he said.

The programme, presented by BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor, marks 10 years of devolution.

Holyrood and the Search for Scotland's Soul will be shown on BBC One Scotland at 2220 BST on Sunday 28 June.

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