Page last updated at 11:11 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 12:11 UK

Files reveal RBS takeover fears

Royal Bank of Scotland
The files show MPs fought to ensure RBS remained independent in 1980

Former Tory Scottish Secretary and MPs fought to ensure the Royal Bank of Scotland remained independent during a crisis in 1980, files have revealed.

Politicians warned Westminster about the "great sensitivity" felt by Scots about the prospect of losing the bank.

The revelations come after thousands of secret files were opened to the public at the start of a new era of openness.

About 4,000 government files from 1979 to 1983 are available at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh.

A further 7,000 files covering subsequent years will be available between now and next May.

The Scottish government will continue to move in the direction of greater openness and transparency
Bruce Crawford
Parliamentary Business Minister

The files on the RBS takeover contain correspondence from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, then only 12 months into her 11 years in power, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Geoffrey Howe.

They show the "cool reaction" in Downing Street over the appeals from Scottish MPs and business leaders, who said the takeover would set a "dangerous precedent" and spark a "brain drain" from Scotland.

The documents, which would normally have been withheld from the public for 30 years, also include reports on the nuclear and oil industries, planning inquiries, papers on Scottish schools, prisons and health, probes into football hooliganism and arrangements for a referendum on devolution.

The Scottish government announced in June that the 30-year period is to be reduced to 15, and Monday - International Right To Know Day - marked the start of that process.

Parliamentary Business Minister Bruce Crawford said: "We are now moving from a period of need to know to a period of right to know."

First tranche

The minister opened an exhibition at the National Archives to mark today's launch.

"The opening of these files has the potential to give us all a greater insight into the information-gathering and decision-making process within government."

He said: "The Scottish government will continue to move in the direction of greater openness and transparency."

George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records of Scotland, said: "I welcome this new release of government information.

"The first tranche adds significantly to the range of historical information available to researchers."

The National Archives of Scotland are in West Register House, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

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