Throughout the period of Conservative hegemony from 1979-97, the Scots made it clear what they thought of the Tories and their neoliberal economic policies which had led to the destruction of Scotland’s industrial base and mass unemployment. The Conservatives’ unpopularity plummeted even further when they introduced their hated Poll Tax in Scotland, before other parts of the country.
In the 1987 general election, the number of Conservative seats in Scotland fell from 21 to 10. By 1997, this had been reduced to 0.
Scottish left-wing voters hoped and expected that when Labour eventually returned to power in Westminster, they would make a clean break with neoliberalism and go back to the more collectivist policies of the 1945-79 period. They expected that Labour would support industry and put manufacturing before the interests of the bankers and speculators in the City of London.
They were to be cruelly disappointed. The New Labour government of Tony Blair, which was elected in 1997, merely offered more of the same neoliberal policies.
As Scotland‘s disenchantment with the pro-war, neoliberal Westminster elite grew, so did support for independence. In March 1979, two months before the advent of Thatcherism, the Scots voted in a referendum on devolution. Only 32.9 percent of the electorate voted ’Yes.’
In 1997, however, the Scots voted overwhelmingly for devolution, with 63.5 percent voting for the new Scottish Parliament to have tax-raising powers.
A decade later, polls showed that the majority of Scots weren’t just happy with devolution, but wanted independence.
It was quite a significant shift in a relatively short timespan and the economic policies that successive Westminster governments followed from 1979 onwards can account for this sea-change in public opinion.