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Sean Connery ‘feared huge tax bill’ if he campaigned for Scottish devolution

Sean Connery had to be persuaded to campaign for Scottish devolution in the late 1990s because he feared it would cost him money.

The legendary actor – who died last year aged 90 – was reportedly concerned he would be landed with a huge tax bill if he spent too much time in the UK.

Connery, a lifelong supporter of independence, was a resident of the Bahamas at the time of the 1997 referendum organised by New Labour to gauge support for a Scottish Parliament.

The James Bond star eventually did lend his support to the campaign for Scots to vote Yes after an intervention from then prime minister Tony Blair.

“It would be very disappointing if Sean felt unable to help on the devolution front because of a disproportionate effect on his pocket,” wrote Peter Mandelson, then a top Labour minister, in 1997.

The comments were published today by the National Archives under the 25-year and first reported by the Herald.

Mandelson recommended Prime Minister should intervene and talk to the actor about tax breaks for the film industry.

Blair then spoke personally to Connery and “pressed” him on campaigning for a double yes vote in the Scottish Parliament referendum, and the actor agreed.

Scots were asked two questions at the 1997 referendum – whether they supported the creation of a Scottish Parliament, and whether that parliament should have tax-raising powers.

In a memo titled “Sean Connery: Devolution and Tax”, Mandelson wrote: “I have now spoken to Sean Connery several times over the last ten days.

“He is very keen to promote a ‘yes’ vote on the referendum on devolution in Scotland.

“But he is concerned that his scope to help will be badly constrained by the residency rules which mean that he is liable for tax if he spends more than 90 days in the UK in any year.”

Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff, eventually replied in July 1997 that the PM had spoken to Connery.

Powell wrote: “The Prime Minister pressed Sean Connery on campaigning for a double yes in Scotland. He said he was ready to do so and would be in Scotland in the few days before the vote.

“He is waiting for concrete proposals from us on what we want him to do. Gordon may well be following this up as well.”

Connery was a well-known supporter of the SNP throughout the 1990s and regularly made appearances on party political broadcasts and on campaign leaflets.

He was eventually offered a knighthood in 2000 after speculation he had not previously been given the honour due to his support for independence.

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