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Monday, 19 September 2011

The M.A.D. Men of the Unionist parties


The Scotsman is in full unionist mode today – it might as well have put the Union Jack on its masthead, given the space it devotes to the anti-independence voices now clamouring to be heard. Before I come to that – and other matters – let me re-state what I consider to be the fundamentals of the current state of the union -

The choice has to all intents and purposes come down to devolution max or full independence. All the talk of economic factors, of the currency, of borrowing powers, of taxation and of the detail of independence is smoke and mirrors – the last redoubt is defence and foreign policy.


Because no country can truly be a nation unless it controls its own foreign policy and defence.

No country can be a nation if it lets another nation decide in what cause - and when - to place its servicemen and women in harm’s way, and to sacrifice their lives if necessary.

No country can be a nation if it permits another to determine its fate in the most fundamental areas of nationhood.

Scotland cannot be a nation again unless it is fully independent.

The above principles are entirely distinct from defence alliances and treaties, which can be entered into voluntarily and exited from at will. (An independent Scotland would undoubtedly enter into such alliances, and would also have a range of flexible and common sense areas of cooperation with other nations short of formal alliance.)

Do all of my fellow Scots men and women agree with me on the above principles?

I don’t know the answer to that – I don’t even know if my fellow nationalists agree with them. I don’t know if every member of the Scottish Nationalist Government agrees with them. I must assume that Scots committed to the Union don’t agree with them, or if they do, they only do so for the entity that claims to be a nation – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Only a referendum will determine the answer, and that is why the Scottish electorate must be very clear on the fundamentals – not the detail – of what independence means before they answer a question - or questions - at the referendum ballot.



A sharp distinction must be made between why defence and foreign policy matter to Scottish unionist voters and why they matter to unionist politicians, including the Scottish variety.

Scottish unionist voters either have a vaguely romantic notion of Britain’s imperial glories, or they are afraid that Scotland could not defend its security against threat and its international interests independently of the UK. They are rarely, in my experience, clear about what such threats could be, and what Scotland’s international interests are. All they have to do to achieve clarity is to look at any small European or Scandinavian nations, something they rarely do, except to patronise or deride, e.g. the tired old ‘Arc of Prosperity’ jibes. From my perspective, Scottish unionist voters are the victims of 300 years of unionist propaganda and imperial myth, exactly the kind of paranoid, jingoistic narrow nationalism that they falsely accuse the SNP of displaying.

Unionist politicians believe that defence and foreign policy - especially the nuclear deterrence policy, nuclear weapons and nuclear bases - matter fundamentally, because they are the passport to global politics, international roles, power, prestige – and money, money, money

Tony Blair, a lawyer and subsequently an MP for an obscure North East of England constituency, Sedgefield, now has an estimated annual income of in excess of £15m, and a personal fortune variously estimated at £40/60m. Such wealth was not created by democratically representing the electors of Sedgefield or the interests of the electors of the UK as Prime Minister, it was built on the back of an international career involving death, destruction and war.

Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour, had to borrow money from a businessman to buy his first London house. He is now a Lord, an immensely rich man, and is in the process of purchasing an £8m house. Such a fortune did not come from his earnings as a Member of Parliament, nor from his modestly lucrative salary an perks as a European commissioner, not from his liberal daily expense allowance as a Lord – it came from international consultancies and directorships that relate directly or indirectly to defence and foreign policy.

Under Labour, the Ministry of Defence, the legendarily incompetent - but unfailingly lucrative - body that fails to adequately equip our young men and women in the armed forces, spent an average of £5.6m on entertaining each year under Labour and probably far in excess of that under the current regime. We don’t have to be told who they were entertaining, boozing and eating lavishly with while Scottish soldiers died – while Fusilier Gordon Gentle died because his vehicle was not fitted with an electronic bomb detector.

No defence minister has retired poor: no senior MOD official retires into poverty or even a modest pension. They slide effortlessly through a revolving door into lucrative directorships and consultancies with the merchants of death, or with brutal foreign dictatorships of the kind now being overthrown by the people of the Middle East in the Arab Spring.

Scottish MPs on the high road to Westminster head for the lucrative, blood-soaked pastures of defence like heat-seeking missiles – they know where the money and the power lie.

After all, the bloody trail has been blazed for them by their predecessors. Only a state with its operating principle as eternal war, fed by inducing eternal paranoia in the electorate, can satisfy the insatiable greed of the powerful, the privileged, the amoral bankers and the military/industrial complex that ultimately controls this sham democracy, bleeding the people dry in every sense of the word.

The unionist politicians are M.A.D. men in the acronymic sense – they are committing the reluctant component nations of their dying empire to mutually assured destruction.



Back to worldly matters and today …

Scotsman headlines –

I’ll get the whole Cabinet to make the case for Scotland staying in the UK – Moore.

We can’t allow Salmond & Co to shut down opposition (Tavish Scott)

Blair’s secret Libya talks reopen Lockerbie row

So we have Michael Moore – the Colonial Governor, a member of a party reduced to a pathetic rump in Scotland and wholly discredited in the UK, and a failed and bitter former leader of that party in Scotland, Tavish Scott, spewing their bile and frustration against the choice of the Scottish people and the decisive democratic mandate they gave to a party committed to Scotland’s independence. This from the federalist party, while the two solidly unionist parties desperately proclaim their independence from Westminster, wrapping themselves hastily in an ersatz kilt. And the Blair/Libya story appears, fairly presented by David Maddox, while the unionist spinners are doubtless trying to revive the tired lie that somehow the Megrahi release was a result of connivance between Blair, Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill, a fiction so bizarre that it beats Fonzie jumping the shark.

A few days ago the Institute for Public Policy Research tried - in a letter to the Scotsman by Tony Dolphin - to correct the distortions that the Scotsman had placed on their report on the public sector in Scotland. The IPPR denied that report had described the Scottish public sector as bloated, that it relied on out-of-date figures and was an attack on the SNP’s proposals for lower corporation tax. Needless to say, in the best traditions of Hearst-style yellow journalism, The Scotsman (was ever a paper so misnamed?) did not give the prominence to these denials that it did to its original anti-SNP coverage.

But in the Scottish Perspective section, Lesley Riddoch has interesting and objective things to say - Politicians failing to focus on now especially in this mordant paragraph -

Bizarrely, the people talking most about independence right now are the politicians who viscerally oppose it - helpfully pre-airing independence scenarios, pumping the oxygen of publicity into the whole project and making sure that a once inconceivable future can now be visualised by many voters with some clarity. And the SNP haven't even started campaigning yet.”

Gaun yersel, Lesley … that’s journalism! That’s comment!


  1. Do you find it impossible to accept that unionists are relaxed about the notion that the interests of Scotland, in terms of Europe and the wider world, are broadly in line with those of the rest of the UK? I can't think of many expeditions that are fantastically beneficial for England and/or Wales and/or NI, but to the severe detriment of Scotland.

    I'm also in disagreement with the notion that a nation MUST have full independence, lest its nationhood be dismissed. I accept Scotland as a nation despite the political union with the other constituent parts of the UK.

  2. The short answer to your question is yes, Alex. You already know my views on the view expressed in your second.

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. I'm as ever grateful to have discoverd the Moridural insight into events.

    The comment from Alex is the comment from a Brit nat politician or I'm a Dutchman.

    The views you expressed don't require such a question unless the person asking it doesn't understand writing.

  4. Excellent post, Peter. Well thought out points. The idea that a nation can be dragged into a war with which its people are in disagreement is an essential point. I won't go into the fact that they are being dragged into that war to support the UK's subservience to my own nation, the US.

    Is this really a situation that Scots want to see continued?

    Well, obviously, it's not my decision to make, but it's bad enough that Americans die in our misbegotten imperialistic adventures, much less that the people of other nations do.

  5. No, he's not, Stevie - he's an academic with a special interest in defence matters, and I'm happy to have him express his views and challenge mine. That's democracy! And you're a Dutchman ...



  6. America and Barack Obama are in a difficult place right now, with a whole complex history - spanning 60 years - to grapple with.

    I don't want to be a junior partner in US foreign policy, but men of my generation have not forgotten the enormous debt we owe to America for the Second World War, perhaps the last just war.

    And I have faith in the American people to ultimately do the right thing. America's severst critics are Americans, just as Israel's severest critics are Israelis.
    I also owe a personal debt to American industry (Goodyear) for giving my real career opportunities and schooling in business. I have relatives who moved to America in the 50s whose children have served with distinction in the American military, who I respect deeply, even if we may differ on some things.

    Perhaps most of all, I respect America for having thrown off the yoke of the British Empire a long time ago, showing the way to other countries who got the hell out - as Scotland will soon ...

  7. Sorry, J.R. - I meant to indicate above that I was responding to your post ...

  8. When it's spring again, I'll sing again - Stevie from Amsterdam ...

  9. A succinct retort, Peter!

    Perhaps to many it seems a bit naff to talk of 'sovereignty of the people', but I accept a nation can be a nation without full independence. The fact that Scotland will be granted a referendum on independence indicates an acceptance that the nation of Scotland is one worthy of national self-determination.

    Political and constitutional preferences come and go. Whether the pro-independence campaign garners 30% or 70% of the vote when the time comes, it won't alter Scotland's status as a nation. That's precisely what being a nation is all about - it's a community of people with common ideals/ethnicity/history/whatever.

    PS. Apologies for saying 'nation' and 'national' about 50 times in that comment...

  10. A few definitions, Alex -

    A country is the territory of a nation with its own government, usually defined as a state.

    Scotland is a country with its own lanuages, people and culture but without its own government, and in that sense is a nation under subjection to another state - the UK - which is a hybrid construct of three former nations and one articially created territory in the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland.

    Scotland, under the Act of Union, expected to remain as a nation and a kingdom, but under the state control of the Parliament of the two united kingdoms, i.e the state. That act and treaty was progressivle betrayed as Scotland lost its autonomy and much of its identity to the state of the UK. But it never lost its sense of nationhood, nor the desire to recover its autonomy.

    We - and I mean Scotland - are a country that once was a kingdom and a nation and an autonomous state, one that had become essentially a region of the UK up to 1999, but has since been progressively recovering its identity, its autonomy and its sense of nationhood - a process that is not yet complete but soon will be.

    Offer your defintion of a nation to the USA, to India, to Australia, to Canada, to the Republic of Ireland, to African states, etc. and they will laugh in your face. They can tell shit from Shinola - last-ditch defenders of the Union can't ...

  11. Sorry to have to disagree with your comment about the USA, Peter, but I do.
    The USA, as all countries should normally do, acts in what it sees as its own interests; no more or less.
    And its interests are controlled by essentialy a self-perpetuating elite. The poor American people scarcely get a look in.
    Hmm, now that I think about it, doesn't that sound a lot, it couldn't be..

  12. Well, I agree with your analysis of a self-perpetuating elite and the UK parallel. But just as I have faith in the people of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ultimately do the right thing, I have faith in the real America and real Americans to do likewise.

  13. I think the fact Scotland remained separate on matters such as law and education demonstrated that it was always more than just a region of the UK.

    Still, it seems unlikely we'll agree. I'd let Catalonia and Scotland call themselves nations without altering the status quo. You wouldn't. Fair enough.

  14. Stephen Maturin would have disagreed with you, Alex - and on the Republic of Ireland too.