The Scottish Government Yearbooks 1976-1992: Our Changing Scotland


We are very happy to announce the launch of a free digital archive for the Scottish Government Yearbooks, which were published by the University of Edinburgh’s ‘Unit for the Study of Government in Scotland’ between 1976 and 1992. The Unit was set up in the mid-1970s to address ‘Our Changing Scotland’ and the certainty – as it seemed at the time – of a devolved Assembly in Edinburgh. The Yearbooks reflect the spirit of that enterprise: contributions cut across academic disciplines … sociology, political science, social policy, history, economics, theology, education, medicine, law. And they spanned a wide range of academic institutions, centred upon – but not limited to – Scotland’s universities.

But the Yearbooks went beyond academia to embrace lawyers, journalists, political activists, policy makers, civil servants, public sector managers, local government officers and clerics. Here now well-known names from journalism (Ian Bell, Iain Macwhirter, James Naughtie, George Rosie) rub shoulders with (then aspiring) politicians (Susan Deacon, Donald Dewar, Norman Godman, Allan Macartney, Malcom Rifkind, Alex Salmond), as well as with a wide range of Scotland’s influential academics. Through this rich mix the Yearbooks sought, as the opening volume’s editorial made clear, to engage with a Scotland which was increasingly proving to be “a perplexing place”.

The Yearbooks provide unparalleled insights into a crucial period in Scotland’s political and social development. They bear witness to, and carefully analyse, a Scotland in which a devolved Assembly seemed inevitable, a Scotland where those assumptions were dashed through the referendum of 1979, and a Scotland which rejected Thatcherism but endured its radical shaking of key institutions. The Yearbooks end in 1992, when ‘home rule’ stood reinvigorated and when the question of devolution was again dominating the Scottish political landscape. As the introduction to that final volume notes there was by then “a real sense of an uncompleted agenda” in, and for, Scotland. To address that agenda the Yearbooks morphed, in 1992, into Scottish Affairs, Scotland’s longest running peer-reviewed journal of contemporary Scottish issues. And the Unit developed, briefly, into the Governance of Scotland Forum and from there into the Institute of Governance.

In this archive you can find informed and critical articles on a wide range of topics of high relevance both to Scotland’s past and to its future. In light of the 2014 referendum, the third on Scotland’s constitutional relationship with/to the United Kingdom, the Institute of Governance felt the time was right to provide the full content of the Yearbooks online and freely accessible to all who are interested in Scotland’s past, and Scotland’s future. Our changing Scotland remains a perplexing place with an uncompleted agenda: here you will find much that helps explain where, in our recent history, we have come from.

Michael Rosie, Director, Institute of Governance, August 2014.


The Archive was supported by funds from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social & Political Science, and by the kind assistance of the University’s Library and University Collections. The Archive was developed by the University of Edinburgh’s Library Digital Development Team.

If you find the SGY Archive interesting then take time to explore the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh Research Archive.


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