Empire, Europe and the Union: Lady Priscilla Tweedsmuir (1915–1978)

  • Paul Ward


Like Walter Elliot and Thomas Johnston, Lady Priscilla Tweedsmuir held to an outward-looking version of Scottishness that operated within the framework of the Union. She told the House of Commons in 1955 that ‘Scotland is a voluntary partner in the Union with England and Wales. We must take our share — and a large share — of responsibility in the great issues of foreign and Commonwealth affairs, defence and the wider matters of Government.’1 Tweedsmuir differed from Elliot and Johnston in two fundamental ways. Firstly, and most obviously, she was a woman, and secondly, born in 1915, she was of a subsequent political generation to them. Whereas Elliot and Johnston’s political careers were conducted against the backdrop of Empire, hers coincided with the end of Empire and the United Kingdom’s turn towards Europe. She was compelled to renegotiate unionist identity to take such developments into account. Another way in which she differed was that while Elliot and Johnston were subordinate figures in UK politics, it is fair to say that they were the two most eminent figures of their day in Scottish politics. Tweedsmuir was far less prominent. Her highest political position in Scotland was as Minister of State in the Scottish Office (1970–1972), and in the UK government it was as Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1972–1974), where she was the first woman to serve.


Foreign Affair Royal Commission Military Family Conservative Party Unionist Vote 
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© Paul Ward 2005

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  • Paul Ward

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