The Prime Minister said: 'I do need to meet distinguished individuals and find out what they need.' Realising that this might not be a true cross-section of Scottish opinion, he added: 'I will have to meet lots of other individuals as well.'
Mr Major said the choice of the 14 who had 'achieved distinction in a varied range of fields' had been 'devolved' to Ian Lang, the Secretary of State for Scotland.
He said the seminar at Bute House, Mr Lang's official residence, had been a 'good debate' and that 'rather surprising points had been made'. A different perspective had been put on the constitutional questions that had been asked in the past.
But having created a near frenzy of anticipation about how all of this could have come out of a mere morning's breakfast of kedgeree, tea and toast, the Prime Minister then snuffed out hopes. 'I don't propose to go into details of what was said,' he said.
The formal description of what was supposed to have occurred described the talks as 'assisting the Prime Minister as he takes stock of the constitutional arrangements for Scotland within the Union before reporting parliament'.
Those 'assisting' were managing directors, chairmen, university principals, more managing directors, professors, one of which happens to be a senior economic adviser to Mr Lang, a Sunday Times (Scotland) journalist, and the governor of the Bank of Scotland.
Of the 14, most were noted Scottish Tories. The Scottish Nationalists were not amused. A statement said: 'During his discussions with the great and the good, John Major is not meeting a single person who publicly advocates independence. He is not taking stock - he is taking the mickey.'
Alex Salmond, the SNP's leader, said: 'Mr Major is as out of touch with the realities of Scotland as he is with the realities of the economy.'
The Prime Minister had anticipated such criticism. 'It is very easy to get the opinions of the political parties and of business. I know their opinions, I get them all the time.'
Instead, he said, he was looking for personal experience. Mr Major also promised to 'go on consulting till I've a rounded view of Scottish opinion'.Reuse content