DESPITE the cheerful presence of the singing duo, Fran and Anna, former premier James Callaghan couldn’t help but recall serious matters - namely, the March1979 Scottish devolution referendum - when he visited Coatbridge in early December 1991.

Lord Callaghan, as he now was, took part in the official opening of the £16 million leisure attraction, the Time Capsule. He was returning to the area, having opened the general hospital some years previously.

As the Glasgow Herald reported, his thoughts soon returned to his time in office (he occupied 10 Downing Street between 1976 and 1979) and to the 1979 referendum.

Of the votes cast, 51.6 per cent were in favour of a Scottish assembly, and 48.4 per` cent were against; but the ‘Yes’ proportion of the electorate, at 32.8 per cent, fell short of the stipulated 40 per cent. “The lesson for Mr Callaghan is clear:” the Glasgow Herald observed on March 3. “Devolution is not the popular issue he imagined it to be.” The main headline that day: “Scots Assembly, RIP.”

In Coatbridge, Lord Callaghan praised the then-current moves towards devolution but conceded that disillusionment with his Labour government of the time may have rubbed off on voters in the 1979 vote.

The wave of strikes which became known as the “Winter of Discontent”, he added, “not only brought the Labour government down but in my view set the referendum back.”