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Showing posts with label Angus Robertson MP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Angus Robertson MP. Show all posts

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sense on Scotland's defence from Lieut.Col. Stuart Crawford

Among all the hysteria from sundry Westminster politicians, Lords, admirals et al, it is a breath of fresh air to hear some calm commentary from a former senior soldier, now in business in Scotland - Stuart Crawford of Stuart Crawford Associates - a former Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army. From a recent BBC radio interview -

I’ve always been a believer that an independent Scotland could run its own defence forces, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that if the political will is there, then the circumstance would allow it to happen.

“I think the big question is not  -- whether Scotland could have its own armed services - I think the question is whether it should.”

I think that gets to the nub of it, and had some of the defenders of the Union approached it with this level of objectivity, instead of attacking the feasibility of a Scottish defence force, some real dialogue might have been established in the great debate over Scotland’s future.

Stuart Crawford readily accepted the interviewer’s suggestion that if Scotland voted Yes in the referendum, the realpolitik would require negotiations, and Scotland could negotiate for part of what the MOD currently owns.

Yes, I think that would be part of the process. I think if we can can go through that process, you’ve actually got to ask yourself what an independent Scotland might want its armed forces to do: and that, together with a look at likely foreign policy - and security policy - would give you an indication of what size and shape the forces would be, and that would be a good springboard to start negotiations with the rest of the UK for the allocation of assets.

“I think Angus Robertson’s got a very valid point - Scotland has contributed, and therefore Scotland is entitled to a share of MOD assets. But it’s not just a numerical 10% thing - we have to really ask ourselves what we want them to do.”

The interviewer referred to the First Minister’s recently expressed view of the ‘blueprint’ (actually ‘template’) of Scottish armed forces as containing an RAF base, a naval base (without nuclear submarines) and a mobile armed brigade, and asked if this sounded right, compared to other countries.

(BBC report: “Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said the UK defence review has produced a template of how armed forces would look in an independent Scotland. He said the setup of one naval base, one air base and one mobile armed brigade was “exactly the configuration” required for a Scottish Defence Force.)

Stuart Crawford said there had been “lot’s of guesses” that it would be about 10% of the UK’s defence resource, and Norway had been cited as a comparator.

Bu again we come back to my point - what do we want them to do? The armed forces exists for a number of reasons, but mainly they are to maintain the territorial integrity and safety of the nation and the people. And we have to ask ourselves - what are the risks? Who is going to attack an independent Scotland? And what is it they might want to capture from us?

Thanks God such vital logical concepts and principles are now being discussed objectively, and such eminently pragmatic questions being asked by a professional soldier, and a Scottish businessman, free of the usual fog of negativity. I ask why such ideas and such capable professionals are not appearing in properly structured television debates, and yet again and again, radio can offer such clarity?

The interviewer asks if a defence review by the Scottish Government is necessary before conclusion are reached on the makeup of the Scottish Defence Force?

Stuart Crawford’s answer in an unequivocal yes.

It needs to go through what I would regard as some sort of intellectually rigorous process whereby it asks itself what they are for. That may go through several iterations -“

Intellectual rigour and logical iterations clearly have a place on radio, and radio is not afraid of them, but television journalism may take fright at such terminology, preferring all too often Strictly Come Defence Chatter, or maybe Scotland’s Got Defence Forces? type programme structuring, terrified of intellectual and professional depth.

“ - because cost obviously is an important aspect, and when one comes up with some sort of design of an armed service - of all three services, I would assume -we have to put some sort of costing on it, and defence economists are the people who would do that sort of thing, not ex-military people like me. But it may be that the budget allocation that the original plan called for is too large, and therefore you have to go through the whole thing again and say - where can we compromise on it, and what can we do with that?”

The interviewer raises the question of whether an independent Scotland’s membership of NATO has a bearing on all this.

“Well, the SNP - assuming that it is the SNP that takes Scotland to independence, if that is the case - has long had the policy of negotiating its way out of NATO. I think that is a question for them to answer, not for me. The elephant in the room on all of this is Trident on the Clyde, and I think that the negotiations on the removal of Trident from Scotland are going to be absolutely central to any defence debate in the future.”

The interview referred to the previous day’s suggestion from some UK government quarters that an independent Scotland would have to contribute to the clean-up costs of the Trident bases.

Well, I mean - gosh, who knows? All I know is - and I think rightly so - that an independent Scottish Government would not want to have the so-called independent nuclear deterrent based in Scotland, and therefore it would be very keen that it should leave Scotland. I can’t see Scotland achieving independence one day, and Trident sailing out of the Clyde for ever the following day …”

Despite the fact that it is my fantasy, and that of many nationalist to see just that, I ruefully have to accept the reality of Stuart Crawford’s last statement.

The interviewer referred to the suggestion, again yesterday, that the removal of Trident could take decades.

That is not an inaccurate assessment. I think if we look at when the current Trident fleet is due to bec0me obsolete and out of service might give the sort of timeframe when Trident might come out of the Clyde. The real problem, as everybody has said - there’s nowhere else for it to go, except probably France or the eastern coast of the US: there’s no suitable base for the boat and the weapons south of the border.”

The interviewer closed by thanking Lieut. Col. Stuart Crawford for his comments and insight, and so do I - and so should every Scot, whether nationalist or unionist or undecided, because he spoke more hard sense in a five minute interview that all the unionist Lords and politicians have uttered to date.

With one fact alone, Stuart Crawford gave us the heart of the UK’s - and NATO’s - problem with Scotland’s independence - they have nowhere else to put their weapons of mass destruction, and may have to abandon them.

That fact alone makes Scotland’s independence worthwhile, not just for Scotland, but for the peoples of these islands, for Europe, for the world, and for generations as yet unborn.

And we can’t wait decades for the WMDs to be neutralised …

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The panic over UK nuclear weapons turns to threats - the UK bombers are now in attack mode

I have complained for three years that defence was the elephant in the room in the great debate, with politicians and media sedulously avoiding the mention of the dread concept - Scotland’s defence position after independence.

But no more - the nukes have hit the fan, so to speak, and today it’s all over the media like a radiation burn, and a nuclear glow hangs over the news. Journalists and television commentators frantically try to get up to speed, and in the absence of any significant commentators within easily whistling distance of Pacific Quay or in Glasgow’s West End watering holes - some say the usual mode of selecting panellists - producers are having to cast their nets in wider and hopefully deeper waters. The usual suspect won’t do as studio guests for this one - it’s a job for the big boys and girls …

Thanks God, there are some big beasts in the press at least, and Ian Bell has weighed in with a classic 1200 words or so.

Read him at Will Salmond go to war in the battle for defence?

He says most of the things I have wanted to say and tried to say, but says them with superb professionalism and economy.

There are other beasts in the defence jungle, with less democratic intent than that of a fine journalist like Bell telling the truth to power, among them George Robertson, a former NATO General Secretary. Having come a long way from Port Ellen, Islay via the Ministry of Defence, NATO and all things bright and nuclear, the Wee Laird of Port Ellen is understandably a fan of NATO and the ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent, i.e the Trident WMD weapons system.

And so we get the unionist bombing litany, familiar from Liam Fox (who he?) and Jim Murphy, etc. There are “gigantic holes in the plan” - aye, a nuclear hole, George - and “The SNP intends to tear Scotland out of NATO”. The wee Laird’s language gets more colourful and violent, as befits a befits someone with a career based on weaponry - the SNP are proposing “surgically amputating” Scottish regiments from the British Army. The FM’s brief outline  of some defence aspects to a journalist are “half-baked proposals”, the SNP is “dogmatically demanding” - Lord Robertson is never dogmatic - and so it goes on.

The SNP is “stretching the tolerance of the Scottish people”. What the **** would you know about the Scottish people, Lord Robertson? It’s a helluva long time since you placed yourself before the will of the Scottish people in a democratic election, but the SNP did, less than a year ago, and got a formidable democratic mandate. What’s your mandate, Geordie boy?

Playing politics with defence is reckless.” Naw, what is reckless is playing career politics with obscene weapons of mass destruction that can kill millions, main millions more, and pollute the planet, Geordie.

The response to the Wee Laird’s excited language from the SNP comes in the calm, measured words of Angus Robertson, MP.

The SNP advocate exactly the same non-nuclear defence policy - including defence cooperation, and membership of  Partnership for Peace - as Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland, none of whom are members of NATO.”

Here’s what NATO itself says about Partnership for Peace

The Partnership for Peace (PfP) is a programme of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO. It allows partners to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation.

Based on a commitment to the democratic principles that underpin the Alliance itself, the purpose of the Partnership for Peace is to increase stability, diminish threats to peace and build strengthened security relationships between individual Euro-Atlantic partners and NATO, as well as among partner countries.

Perhaps you should have taken a look at the NATO website before launching your diatribe, Lord Robertson?

EXTRACT FROM 24th September 2011 BLOG: LORD ROBERTSON et all

But of course, the high road to England has been the glittering prize for ambitious Scottish Labour Party politicians, and indeed all Scottish politicians with the exception of the SNP – a route to Westminster, ministerial office and ultimately the Lords, the final escape from democracy and the tedious need to get elected to make money. They have the shining Labour examples from the past to inspire them – Lord George Foulkes, Lord Martin, the disgraced former Speaker, Lord McConnell, Lord Watson, convicted of fire-raising in a Scottish hotel, Baroness Adams, once distinguished as having the highest expenses of any member of the Lords, despite having spoken in the Upper chamber only once (2009), Lord Reid, Lord Robertson – the list goes on.

However, the last two are interesting, since they were both Scottish Labour MPs who became UK Secretaries of State for Defence, and in Lord Robertson’s case, grasped the even more glittering prize of Secretary General of NATO.

George Islay MacNeill Robertson left Islay as fast as possible, and despite being elected six times as MP for either Hamilton or Hamilton South, moved swiftly to more exalted UK posts, and ultimately to NATO. He now bristles with directorships and consultancies.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The laziness of Scottish journalism

I had planned an extended blog this morning on ‘Labour’s Last Redoubt – I’m an internationalist!’ But it will have to wait until later today, because one or two items in todays press require a quick response.

I have defended the media, especially the BBC and print journalism on a number of occasions against those who think that all media are biased against nationalism and Scotland’s independence, and that it doesn’t really matter anyway because bloggers and alternative media are going to supplant them anyway. This has led me to point out, among other things, that political bloggers and alternative media in fact feed upon media and the press, and would have rather thin blogs without them.

But I have also complained of the lack of any real investigative journalism in Scotland, and the reliance of television and the press on the same old circle of panellists and commentators – the usual suspects. An exception to this can be radio, and often the key story and insight of the week comes from radio, especially Radio Four, where the real story of the week before last broke on the Today programme on defence, and the nuclear issue for the UK of Scotland’s independence.  Here I must say that a blogger’s role in recognising the significance of this story and teasing out the elements of the debate appeared to have triggered the belated wider awareness of its significance. That blogger was me, and the blog was Nuclear bases, subs and Trident on Today programme

Anyway the press, including today’s newspapers, have belatedly latched on. Do I claim credit? No, but I claim a role. And by the way, guys, your analysis is still superficial and has still failed to grasp what really matters in the defence story. Earn your corn, for God’s sake!


A few weeks ago, I attended an SNP meeting in the old Broughton School, now Drummond Community School in Edinburgh. The meeting, on 15th December 2011, was addresses by Angus Robertson MP and Derek Mackay MSP, the two central strategists in the SNP’s independence campaign.

The meeting was no secret, and it was made clear that there was no restriction on attendance – it was not a closed meeting, and branch members were encouraged to bring along non-party guests who might be curious about the SNP and its independence strategy. The open invitation included the comment “This is no ordinary meeting as we will map out how we will help secure Scottish independence.” Indeed, Angus Robertson asked the large audience, around 250 to 300, if they had brought an outsider, e.g. a non-party, non-affiliated voter who might be interested - and if not, why not?

There was no security, no requirement to show an invitation, and those attending were simply invited to sign a guest book. At no point in the meeting was confidentiality requested or suggested, and I remember looking around and wondering where the press people were, because although I assume they weren’t formally invited, there was nothing whatsoever to have prevented them attending. I am certain that Angus Robertson and Derek Mackay operated on the assumption that, like any political meeting these days that is not enveloped in iron security measures – and probably most of those anyway – that it would be reported, and indeed probably recorded surreptitiously. There ain’t no secrets no more, if you will forgive the double negatives …

But today’s Sunday Herald, pages 6 and 7, over three weeks after this meeting took place, bursting with excitement, presents a report of the meeting billed as EXCLUSIVE BY PAUL HUTCHEON. Eat your hearts out, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward!

Paul Hutcheon breathlessly reveals his Deep Throat -

At a meeting held at a school in Edinburgh last month, details of which have been leaked to this newspaper, psychologist Claire Howell was present alongside Robertson and Mackay.”

The article goes on in similar vein, with a rash of quotes in inverted commas, to maintain the spurious air of secrecy, one which was totally absent in the structure and tone of the meeting.

Not one word of the ‘exclusive’ presented anything that was not already in the public domain. If Paul, or any other journalist had taken the bother to find out that the meeting was scheduled, they could simply have attended as an interested party – no slouch hat, raincoat, and heavily-muffled face would have been required, Paul.

Of course, for the Sunday Herald, surrendering yet again to its tabloid instincts, the story is the ‘guru’, not the open content of the meeting. After all, if you have a three-week old ‘exclusive’ from a ‘leak’ from an open meeting, you do have to try and make it look like something. Journalism is a hard game these days, and anything is better than getting off your arse, out of the office and doing some real digging.


Monday, 2 January 2012

Nuclear bases, nuclear subs and Trident–a complex defence question for independence

The Today programme of Friday 30th December 2011, focusing on the defence implications of independence, with contributions by Lord Forsyth, Lord West, First Sea Lord and Angus Robertson MP seems to me a highly significant marker on the course to Scotland’s independence.

It illustrates how media works in this new media age, and Marshall McLuhan’s prescient words of over half a century ago acquire new force every day.  The Today programme on BBC Radio Four goes out in the early morning. It catches the early morning commuters who listen to something important in the morning than the turgid sea of mediocre to awful pop groups that seems to obsess so many young to not-so-young professionals (if Twitter is anything to go by) who should have developed better taste by this time.

I tend to miss it, because when I listen to radio at that time, it tends to be BBC Radio Scotland. I was alerted to this broadcast on the iPlayer by Twitter. I replayed it on the iPlayer and it seemed fairly interesting to me, but it was clearly necessary to isolate the three contributions from the totality of the three hour programme, scattered like currents in a dumpling as they were, and group them as a single sound clip for comparison purposes. This forced me to listen again, and I found new aspects second time around. I then prepared them as a YouTube sound clip, which involved another listening, and a third level of understanding.

I decided to then isolate the Angus Robertson contribution to permit rapid access for those who only wanted to hear the SNP position, and this fourth listening revealed new nuances.

This then led me to transcribing the broadcast clips for the purpose of commenting in my blog, and this slow process involved yet another level of understanding.

So what started out as a series of radio studio comments early in the morning – one medium, the broadcast spoken word became a second medium, the repeat on iPlayer, a third medium, the YouTube sound clips and a fourth medium, good old fashioned text – the written word.

The kernel of the broadcast for me was the nuclear issue – in more ways than one – because it matters fundamentally to me, and bluntly, to the world. It again clarified in my mind the vital distinction between nuclear-powered submarines not carrying WMDs and those that do – the delivery system for the obscene Trident weapons system.

Cutting through all the sentimental crap about Britishness and British identity, about fiscal and financial matters, this is what matters to the British Establishment – their nukes, the badge of their power, their claim to being a global power, and frankly, a money machine for the whole sordid apparatus of Westminster, the M.O.D. and the military/industrial complex. Trident is the ultimate symbol of the deliberately paranoia-inducing Unionist state, the state with its operating principle as perpetual war, perpetual fear of a nameless aggressor. This is what they fear losing, this is why Scotland’s independence strikes terror in their hearts.

And that is why Scotland must lose its WMDs – its nuclear bases. But –the picture is not a simple one. I have reprinted below my September blog on the nuclear-powered subs vs nuclear-powered subs carrying missiles aspect of this debate, crucial to the UK, to the US, to NATO and crucial to Scotland.


NUCLEAR (My blog of 22nd September 2011)

The nuclear lobby has been lying low since Fukushima, after an initial bout of futile propaganda, but they’ve crept out of their nuclear shelters since then, and are beginning the insidious fightback – radiation’s not so bad really, it may even be good for you, the real threat to humanity is wind farms polluting the landscape, alternative energy will never work, the wind doesn’t always blow, the waves don’t always wave, etc.

The symbiotic twin of nuclear energy, the WMD industry, is also out and about, alarmed at the prospect of losing their WMD dumping ground, Scotland, and the vital submarine bases. I was more than disturbed that the SNP government seems to be rather less hostile to nuclear submarines and appeared to be welcoming the retention of nuclear submarine bases in Scotland as part of the defence-as-job-creation scheme thinking that regularly pollutes and distorts rational debate of defence matters.

Now I accept that there are difficult moral questions when one comes to weaponry, because it is designed to kill and maim other human beings, and the scale of horror from, say, the flamethrower, designed to burn alive another human to the baton, designed to inflict a sore head, involves moral dilemmas and choices even in individual cases. Unless one rejects all defence concepts for a nation and all conventional weaponry – I don’t – choices have to be made.

When one comes to the incinerations of millions and the pollution of the planet, human imagination quails, and human morality often fails. I am become Death – the destroyer of worlds.” The Bhagavad Gita, quoted by Robert Oppenheimer as the full horror of what the implications of his work dawned on him as he observed the first nuclear explosion. This choice should be simple, and for me and many others, it is – starkly simple.

But as a nuclear-powered submarine is not a weapon in itself – it is the carrier of a weapon or weapons system, and the nuclear reactor that powers it is not a weapon – why should we object to it, especially if it provides jobs?

Well firstly, I reject the defence as job creation scheme argument, and believe that defence policy and expenditure should be based solely on defence considerations. But the UK is deeply in the grip of the military/industrial complex and the armaments industry, and all our politicians are infected by this kind of thinking. It is the kind of thinking that powers graft and corruption wherever and whenever it occurs.

Secondly, I believe the retention of nuclear-power submarines in Scotland is the thin edge of a nuclear wedge – it compromises the SNP’s position on nuclear power and WMDs.

Nuclear power is unacceptably dangerous. A young serviceman, armed and drunk, attacked his shipmates and killed his officer on a nuclear submarine recently. He has just been sentenced to 25 years for this crime. A recent television documentary on nuclear subs showed a crew member being disciplined for drunkenness on board the the sub. It’s not so long ago since two armed nuclear subs crashed into each other on the high seas.

This is the nuclear reality that nuclear proponents would like to slide over, with their emphasis on the safety of the systems and procedures. No system is safe against human fallibility, against human error, not to mention human greed and corruption in defence and civil nuclear contracts in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment. The nuclear error is one that humanity cannot afford to make – other errors pale into insignificance beside it. But we have politicians who are the moral and intellectual equivalent of a five-year old playing with a loaded gun or a live grenade.

Keep nuclear, in all its manifestation, out of our new Scotland.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Scotland’s defence–Angus Robertson’s response to the leaping Lords on Today

Naughtie:On the defence question – do you accept that it’s going to be a very, very costly business if Scotland does go independent? And not only costly to Scots, but costly to people elsewhere in the United Kingdom?”

Angus Robertson:That’s not the way I see it, Jim. Firstly, the prospect of people in Scotland being able to determine their own future is extremely exciting and historic. We look forward to the referendum as a real opportunity for the country, and it is true to say that it will impact on all policy areas of life, and we think it will bring tremendous advantages - and it’s important to understand what those are in defence and security terms.

“We’re in a slightly odd position in Scotland at the present time, where we’re already responsible in Scotland for veterans, but we’re not for defence and security policy, So, the point that we believe is that Scotland, Scotland’s Parliament – the government here – should be able to decide whether our servicemen and women go to war or not, how we defend our regiments, how we retain our bases, what posture we should take – whether Scotland should be a home to Trident nuclear weapons.

“All of these are the decisions that normal countries make, and we want Scotland to be a normal, successful country.”

Naughtie:Yes – but in the event of independence, there would be a very simple decision to be made, because the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet is in Scotland. Now that would still be  -em – the defence equipment used by the government of Westminster: in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right? At a cost of many, many tens of millions of pounds?”

I held my breath at this point, because the nuclear issue is at the very heart of my wish to see an independent Scotland. I regard most things as negotiable, and politics and diplomacy are the art of the possible, but for me, the objective of Scotland as a non-nuclear nation is not negotiable – it is a deal breaker – a sine qua non – as the Romans said, “a condition without which there is nothing.”

Why am I holding my breath, I asked myself? I have heard Angus Robertson confirm this very point a few weeks ago to a large and enthusiastic audience at Drummond Community School in Edinburgh, flanked by Derek Mackay. But Naughtie formulated his question as a double-header question – a very dangerous form to respond to. He asked for a single YES/NO answer to what in effect was two questions – nukes leaving Scotland and the cost. YES or NO confirms or denies both possibilities. The question must not therefore be given an unqualified YEs or NO if one answer is YES and the other is not.

Angus Robertson:Well, first off, let’s deal with the financial basis of the defence in Scotland and the UK, before …

That’s my boy, Angus!

Naughtie: “No, no, but hang on .. we’re talking about.” (Naughtie doesn’t like his double header being rejected.)

Angus Robertson:It’s important for listeners in England, who’ve never heard this, to understand the way that defence is currently organised and paid for in the UK, and at the present time, there’s a massive defence underspend in Scotland – incidentally, also in many English regions.

“But in Scotland, £5.6 billion less has been spent here than taxpayers have contributed to the M.O.D. In manpower terms, we’ve seen disproportionate cuts – 10,500 jobs lost – and in the recent strategic defence and basing review, we’ve seen two out of three air bases closed, the total withdrawal of the Royal Marines, and the closure of Army Command in Scotland. That is happening within the United Kingdom …”

Naughtie:Yes, and a couple of billion quid in defence order, which would go down the drain if Scotland were independent, because you wouldn’t be building stuff for UK defence.”

Angus Robertson: “I’m happy to move on to that in a second, Jim – it’s not true – but if I can just finish the point that I’m trying to make. It’s really important for people to understand that the UK Government does not look after defence well in Scotland, and I would argue in other parts of the UK, particularly the North of England either. And one of the advantages of being able to make defence decisions in Scotland is that we would utilise all of our resources – and Scottish taxpayers contribute about £3 billion a year towards UK defence, adequately just for Scotland.

“Now, you talked about procurement there. Let’s move on to procurement.  58% of the defence industry in Scotland in procurement is for export beyond the United Kingdom. Point two – where we have have an excellent domestic producing defence sector - excellent in shipbuilding, excellent in radar, excellent in optronics – I have no reason to believe the decision makers, either in Edinburgh or in London, will not continue to resource the best equipment wherever its made. And at the present time, the UK Government won’t spend 4.4% of its equipment and non-equipment spending in Scotland. That means that Scottish taxpayers are paying for considerable investment in the defence sector in England.”

Naughtie: “Well, the defence sector of the UK – these are matters that we  are going to – well, we will return to often and at length between now and the date of the promised referendum – but for now, Angus Robertson, SNP defence spokesman – thank you.”


I was disappointed that Angus didn’t get round to answering the first part of Naughtie’s question on the “the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet ..“ … in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right?

But he was right to concentrate on the threat/bribe aspect of Lord West’s nonsense on defence procurement in Scotland and its impact on jobs, especially in shipbuilding. Angus Robertson demonstrated a superb grasp of the real issues, and the figures, unlike the two fumbling, bumbling peers who preceded him, and he did an effective demolition job on their feeble scaremongering tactics.

To Angus’ own question in his opening response – “… whether Scotland should be a home to Trident nuclear weapons.” We already know the FM’s answer, Angus’ answer, the SNP’s answer and the Scottish Government’s answer – it is a resounding, decisive, unequivocal NO and it has been given in many forums. For the SNP to renege on that posture would be an inconceivable betrayal of trust, and they will never do it.

As for the question “the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet … in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right?”, I think know your answer, Angus, because you have already given it many times in the context of Scotland being non-nuclear, opposed to WMDs, whether carried on nuclear submarines, or by other delivery systems.

Or do I? Is it more complex? Perhaps … A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor, whether or not it carries nuclear weapons. No nuclear weapons could be allowed to remain in Scotland under clearly and repeatedly stated SNP policy, i.e Trident, but nuclear subs and their bases without a nuclear payload?

I know there are existing treaty obligations about Scotland providing safe havens in Scottish waters to our allies – and we will continue to have allies, and will be part of non-nuclear defence groupings. Clearly, there are complex questions to be considered and discussed there with the UK and European allies. Angus Robertson is well equipped to discuss them rationally, objectively, and without rancour. But are the representatives of the UK anti-unionist parties and Establishment?

Not on Friday’s today showing, they’re not … The doughty Baroness was right about one thing – they had better get their act together, and field some politicians or diplomats who know what they’re talking about, unlike the ones we’ve just heard. The Scottish Government – and the SNP – have got their act together, and a superb one it is.

Ah, 2012- what will you bring?

Saor Alba!

Saturday, 31 December 2011

A tale of an unelected Baroness, two unelected Lords a-leaping and one elected Scottish MP – guess the topic?

Here’s what says about the House of Lords -

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. It is independent from, and complements the work of, the House of Commons. Members of the Lords play a vital role making laws and keeping a check on government.

Here’s what I say about the House of Lords – it is historical relic maintained to limit the power of elected democracy in the House of Commons – the choice of the people. It is comprised of the Lords Spiritual, who are there simply because they are unelected bishops of the Church of England, founded by Henry VIIIth to legitimise his dubious marital arrangements, by hereditary peers who are there because an ancestor either fought or bought his way into the favour of the ruling monarch of the time, and by life peers, who are unelected political appointment by one or other of the London parties, usually political hacks who once were MPs but for one reason or another were booted upstairs into the sinecure of the ermine, or former generals, admirals, etc. with a fair number of businessmen who have contributed a substantial amount to ??? - and a few figures from the arts and entertainment world.

As of 21 December 2011, this gang of gandy dancers and railroad men – and women – numbers 788, plus another 21 who are on leave of absence or otherwise unable to collect their generous attendance allowance. The elected representatives of the people in The House of Commons numbers 650 MPs. Endless rubbish is talked about reforming this pernicious, faintly ridiculous and undemocratic institution, but in the main, nothing happens because the system suits the London parties and the Establishment. (Something has been done about the hereditary peers, who never mattered much anyway, but it will be a cold day in August before the London political parties let go of their right to create new Lords.)

The Labour Party, the party of social equality, the party of the people, simply loves the House of Lords, and former horny handed Labour sons of toil can’t wait to get as far away as possible from the sordid realities of their crumbling constituencies and into the ermine and on to the red benches. Lord Martin of Springburn, the disgraced former Speaker of the House of Commons, forced to resign over the expenses scandal, was relieved to find the pain of his ignominious exit from the Commons effectively and speedily ameliorated in this way.

Yesterday, another former Speaker of the House of Commons, also Labour, who left in a more dignified manner than Michael – now Lord – Martin did, Betty Boothroyd - now Baroness Boothroyd – decided to prompt the Today programme on BBC radio, to cover an issue that she felt wasn’t being discussed enough – the implications of Scotland’s imminent independence, especially its relevance to the UK’s defence policy.

A word in the right ears, and, lo and behold, it’s on the agenda for Today yesterday (sorry about that!) and a couple of Lord come a-leaping to the defence of the UK’s inalienable right to WMDs for the purpose of intimidating other nations, by killing Scottish servicemen and women in foreign fields and by basing nuclear weapons of mass destruction in Scotland, thereby making it a prime target in a nuclear exchange, and placing the indigenous population at risk of nuclear accidents and pollution of the environment. All of this is justified by a kind of job creation scheme argument over defence expenditure, one that seems to have great appeal for the Scottish Labour Party and Scottish trades union bosses.

The two Lords who leapt into the fray at the Baroness’ behest were Lord Forsyth and Lord West.

THE LORDS WHO LEAPT – Michael Forsyth

Baron Forsyth of Drumlean, the wee Tory laird, former confidante of Lady Thatcher, archetypal Scottish Tory needs no introduction. Utterly opposed to devolution, to the Scottish Parliament and to the independence of his nation, his contribution was predictable, and in its a way, a vintage Forsythian diatribe.

Today’s James Naughtie invited Lord Forsyth to comment on the questions that might be asked in the referendum.

With characteristic moderation, the unelected Forsyth opened by describing the elected First Minister of Scotland, - the acknowledged front rank UK politician, Briton of the Year, with a higher popularity rating than any other political leader and a decisive mandate from the Scottish people - as “a snake oil salesman”.

Forsyth, like others of his ilk, seems oblivious to the fact that this questions the judgment of the Scottish electorate - and their intelligence. In fact they do recognise snake oil salesmen – and women – when they see them, which explains the parlous state of Scottish Tories. (Like many of my generation, I saw the real thing in the 1940s and ‘50s in the Glesca Barras – Prince Monolulu.)

He then accused Alex Salmond of campaigning for devolution in 1997 “alongside Donald Dewar” the arguing against it in 2004. Since devolution and a Scottish Parliament were the first crucial steps on the road to independence, the leader of the SNP was hardly likely to campaign against it, but as Dewar, Forsyth, Tam Dalziel and others clearly recognised, it was not an event but the beginning of a process, a process now well advanced, thanks to the First Minister.

Both Tories and Labour (Johann Lamont was at it recently) now attempt to make the ludicrous case that the SNP cannot work under a devolved settlement and campaign for full independence – that they are somehow the enemies of devolution. A hauf-witted chimp could see through that argument. Forsyth, of course, was and is opposed to devolution, the Scottish Parliament and independence. When he looks at the rump of the Tory Party sitting in Holyrood, he must wonder what the **** they’re daien’ there …

He claims that Alex Salmond “wants three questions” in the referendum “because he knows there is a majority against independence”. Neither Michael Forsyth nor Alex Salmond knows any such thing. What they know is that a series of opinion polls indicate the the majority of Scots are in favour of a radical change in the constitutional settlement – that some favour full  independence, some appear to want the maximum powers devolved to Scotland but to remain in the UK, some want the status quo, and some are undecided.

It would never occur to Lord Forsyth, a grandee of a party that is essentially undemocratic in its atavistic power-based instincts - someone who is viscerally opposed to Scotland’s independence, or indeed devolution and the very existence of the Scottish Parliament – that Alex Salmond is a democrat, that a referendum is a democratic process, and that, on fundamental constitutional issues, the question or questions must be framed in a way that allows the electorate to exercise the choices it appears they want to make, rather than the simplistic ones a reluctant Tory Party - which has had no democratic mandate to govern Scotland for at least 14 years – wants to foist on them.

$64,000 question from James Naughtie: “Are you still convinced that there is a natural majority in Scotland against full independence?

Lord Forsyth: “I don’t know, Jim, but what I am convinced of is that continuing with this deliberate war of provocation which Alex Salmond is engaged in will damage the Union and damage Scotland’s interests …”

Forsyth seems to be having a problem with his short-term memory – a moment ago, he was saying that Alex Salmond “knows that there is a majority in Scotland which are opposed to independence.” He also seems blissfully innocent of the fact that Alex Salmond doesn’t want to damage the Union – he wants to end it completely to advance Scotland’s interests. Forsyth does have special knowledge of how to damage Scotland’s interests – at the time he was Scottish Secretary of State to Maggie, this bleak twosome managed to destroy Scotland’s industrial base, throwing thousands on the scrapheap. Scots haven’t forgotten, even if the wee Laird has …

Forsyth is concerned that the English now appear to be more supportive of Scottish independence than the Scots, and this of course reflects the underlying anxiety of all Scots who have allowed themselves to become dependent on the British Establishment and Westminster that the nation to which they have sworn allegiance will show them the door. There will be no Scottish MPs after independence, and I would not relish being either an Scot who is an MP in an English constituency or a Scottish Lord after independence. The Queen, Scotland’s new constitutional monarch (or perhaps King Charles and Queen Camilla?) may find a way to look after the Scottish Lords – after all, it was she, at least in theory who ennobled them.

The apprehensive wee Laird then tried to suck James Naughtie into his paranoia, reminding him that he was Chancellor of Stirling University, and inviting him to share Forsyth’s indignation over fees charged to English students. He then rather ruefully quotes Alex Salmond’s delivery of the Vulcan Death Grip to such critics by pointing out that independence would make English students troubles go away – they could then all come to Scotland to escape the iniquities of the Tory-led Coalition’s brutal fee burden.

Naughtie ignores the fee nonsense, as well he might, and asks Forsyth what he and the other two unionist parties are going to do about it?

The wee Laird flounders. “Well, I – I believe that we need to –er – work together and make the case for the union, and put it to the people of Scotland, and demonstrate how none of the big questions which – aah – matter to Scotland – erm – in terms of – eh – getting growth in our economy, getting jobs, what would happen –er - in respect of our defence –er – er – forces – er – what would happen about the national debt – none of these things have been discussed.”

As always, when a Scottish unionist talks, one is never quite sure who he means when he says our, as in our economy, etc. He presumably would like us to think he means Scotland. In point of fact, Alex Salmond has talked cogently and incisively in many forums about growth in the economy, in jobs, unlike the incompetent Tory-led Coalition, who not only have nothing intelligible to say about such things, but who are also making a king-sized mess of of doing anything about them.

The national debt is a big question, given the fact that Labour, the LibDems and the Tories have increased it astronomically by their financial and fiscal ineptness, and it clearly can only be addressed in the negotiations that follow the independence YES vote, over two years away. Not least of the problem is that, given the monumental cock-up that is the Coalition, not even Gypsy Amalia could predict what the national debt will be in 2015 or thereabouts.

As for “our defence- er –er- forces –er ..”, the our clearly refers to the UK defence forces, and  specifically the nuclear issue. But we’re coming to that …

We have this extraordinary phenomenon of Alex Salmond …” You got that right, Michael! “…with Brigadoon economics”. Well, no, Michael – the First Minister is the only politician in the UK talking sense about economics at the moment. The Coalition’s economics could best be described as Mickey Mouse economics, except the Walt Disney’s ghost would probably sue me for defamation. Ah hope it disnae …

“Ah, eh – telling people that he want to hold a referendum on the future of the United Kingdom – in the teeth of a financial crisis – on the anniversary of a medieval battle – Bannockburn. Yeah, yes – indeed – if it weren’t so serious, it would make you laugh.”

The wee Laird audibly relaxes with relief, having come out with this inaccurate and entirely trivial and irrelevant point, the climax of his inarticulate fumblings. You did succeed in making me laugh, Michael – at you.

This man went straight from St. Andrew’s University to Westminster City Council and spent his life up to 1997 in politics. Following the collapse of the Tories and with them his political career, he was speedily ennobled, and has since become Deputy Chairman of Evercore Partners International, a Director of J & J Denholm and NBNK Investments, and a former Deputy Chairman of J.P. Morgan UK.

All of these exalted organisations clearly saw qualities in Michael that must have had something to do with high finance and banking, and not just his Lordship status and his political contacts. He, in turn, must have learned a lot about the role of banks and financial institutions, not to mention Maggie’s deregulation, followed by 13 years of Labour incompetence, and now Coalition incompetence in the financial collapse of Britain’s economy.

He clearly could have marshalled all the formidable financial expertise he clearly must have to survive and prosper in this exalted company to offer trenchant arguments and a critique of Alex Salmond. But instead, he offers cheap insults and Brigadoon and Bannockburn. Oh, Mikey, how you disappoint me …

He is again thrown into panic by Naughtie’s question of who is to lead the Unionist campaign against independence. “Well, certainly not me,” he says rather hastily. “I, I, I, I,- I think" Michael as Carmen Miranda seems to be on the horizon, or even cogito ergo sum, but thenwe need to have – errr – the Unionist parties – er – working together – together with business and others, putting forward – er – the arguments for the Union! And this Alex Salmond has promised - this is a once in a generation decision - and the sooner we take it the better.”

As the wee Laird said “And this Alex Salmond has promised” his voice rose almost to an eager, hopeful falsetto, and doubtless his wee buttocks – delicately covered by Union Jack shorts - clenched excitedly under his kilt. As the late Jimmy Edwards used to say, you couldnae have got a tram ticket between the cheeks o’ … (Stop it right now, Peter!)

Aye, aye, aye aye, aye – I don’t love you veeery much, Michael …


Lord West of Spithead was First Sea Lord, head of the British Navy, before he became a politician under Gordon Brown, and, to my astonishment, was at Clydebank High School, and must have been there when I lived in Dalmuir, near Clydebank, from 1960 to late 1968.

This entirely irrelevant fact made me predisposed to like him, wholly irrationally, but this feeling was speedily dispelled once he opened his mouth.

James Naughtie invited him to detail the defence questions he claimed hadn’t been properly considered in the debate (what debate?) on independence.

Well, I, I, – good morning first of all – I – “ Haud oan, there’s only room fur wan Carmen Miranda here, Alan!

Alex Salmond hasn’t even – he’s guilty of not even having addressed defence issues, he’s sleep walking, I think, into disaster.” Poor Alex, he’s not just a snake oil salesman, he’s also guilty – and sleep walking! I have to give these two ********* full marks for bizarre inventiveness in invective. More ! More !

The implications are  - are very, very far reaching. How does Scotland – how would Scotland see itself in this new guise?”

A. As an independent nation with its own defence forces.

Would it be part of NATO?

A. Not while NATO is committed to nuclear WMDs

Would it be part of an EU defence force?”

A. Yes, almost certainly …

How would it defend its sea areas?”

A. With its own navy and its own vessels, appropriate to Scotland’s defence needs.

I’m tempted to ask where the **** you’ve been, Lord West, when these questions were being asked and answered by the SNP in many media forums. If an auld punter like me knows the answers, why don’t you? Maybe you were busy considering the fact that Britain has more admirals than ships, perhaps? Or maybe not …

There’s no doubt whatsoever that Ireland, for example, has relied on the UK and NATO to look after its defence needs – er, er – effectively …”

I wonder what The Republic of Ireland has to say about that?

Would that be what Scotland were doing? Erm –eh – we would need to look at issues such as – what size of force would Scotland have? What are the nuclear implications for the whole thing?

Ag! At last we get to the nub of it – this is what is really bugging the UK about Scotland’s independence. It’s the WMDs, stupid – any fool can see that …

And of course defence industries –these are all key issues.”

Aye, right – defence industries. I wondered when that one was coming, because a large part of the gravy train comes to a shuddering halt if Britain, i.e. the UK, cannot maintain itself – or claim to – as a world power brandishing nukes. The military/industrial complex, and its ever compliant handmaiden, Westminster, and indeed a large part of the insidious web of wealth, power and influence flows, or should I say, radiates from the ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent.

James Naughtie prompts the coy Lord: “You’re talking about what would happen in the event of –eh – what you might describe, just in shorthand, as full independence? Scotland being a separate country entirely – if that were to happen …

Naughtie’s breathless description, full of pregnant hesitation, makes this sound like an impending global catastrophe, on the scale of, say, Yellowstone Park erupting. Is there any other way to describe full independence other than as – erm – ah – eh – full independence?

I mean, haud on there, jist wait a minute, Jimmy! Ah thote this wis jist a wee country, barely a tenth o’ the size o’ the mighty UK, hardly able tae brush its ain teeth withoot Westminster tae haud its wee haun – why is the skitters runnin’ doon yer legs at the prospect? Whit’s gaun oan here? Eh?

Naughtie goes on: “What is the extent to which installations in Scotland are an important part of UK defence?

The noble Lord is calm and measured, almost reassuring initially, but he’s building up to the heavy muscle – the threats …

Well, they are important to the defence of our islands – there’s no doubt about that .. and therefore, any …” (For ‘our islands’, read ‘the UK’)

Faslane is the obvious example.” prompts Naughtie.

Faslane’s obvious – but clearly, I’m looking at –eh – eh – the option of Scotland separating. Faslane and Coulport, I think without a doubt …” The noble Lord’s gold braid quivers and he tries to move on swiftly, but Naughtie again – and pertinently – intervenes to cut through the merde -

Naughtie:We’re talking about nuclear submarines here.”

Lord West: “Nuclear submarines, attack submarines - the SSNs and also of course the deterrent submarines, with the  -eh – nuclear warheads …”

There – that wisnae too hard tae say, wiz it, Lord West – nuclear, attack, and –eh – nuclear warheads?

Erm– basically, that base would effectively close. I think the SSNs – the attack submarines – would be moved with their jetty – there’s a big jetty that can actually float and be moved, down somewhere, like, Devonport or Milford Haven.”

Get ready fur two heids an’ a green glow, residents o’ Devonport and Milford Haven – and ye’ll need mair than an Anderson shelter when the nukes come doon oan ye … But think o’ the joabs – the joabs … Surely that’s worth being made a prime target – is it no’ ?

But. naw, ye’re gonnae be all right efter a’– the nuclear wans might no’ go at all!

The actual ones with nuclear weapons – there has to be a real question then, of – would we keep nuclear weapons? Would this effectively lead us into unilateral nuclear disarmament?”

Did I hear that right? Nuclear weapons and all the attendant risks for the good people of Faslane and Coulport have been acceptable for decades, but they can’t be moved to Devonport and Milford Haven?

But the admiral has an answer. “Because the cost of replicating the ship lift, - erm – the explosives handling jetty, the storage facility at Coulport would be billions – eh – and we’d have to think of where that was put. Em – so the implications are ginormous ..”

Naughtie:and where the costs would lie – with the administration in Edinburgh or the administration ..” (tails off)

I have to say you’ve missed a few open goals here, James – maybe you’ve been doon there too long, trips to Stirling notwithstanding …

Lord West: “… if this was forced on us by a separation, I think a lot of the costs of clean-up, for lack of a better word ..” There is a better word – detoxification, Lord West. “should be carried by Scotland.”

Now that’s what I call nuclear chutzpah! By God, ye’re a brazen bugger, Lord West – ye’d murder yer ain Mammy and Daddy and plead for clemency on the grounds that ye’re an orphan! Whit a man! Did ye learn a’ that at Clydebank High?

And I think if one looks at the military – the very aspect of military forces – I – I did some rough calculation, and I looked at Denmark, Norway and eh- eh – and Ireland, and they’re all roughly five million, the same as Scotland. I looked at their defence budget as a percentage of GDP, and it would mean that Scotland would be spending something like £1bn – £1.1bn a year. This means her forces would be 8 patrol vessel, 2 maritime patrol aircraft, a handful of helicopters and eight and a half thousand troops.”

Well, thanks for your back-0f-a-Westminster-envelope calculations, Lord West, and for writing our defence budget for us, but – how can I put this delicately – that is none of your business. The purpose of independence is that we do it ourselves and get people like you and your excess of admirals vs ships off our backs. Of course, we’ll let you know what we’re planning when we’re ready, just to keep you from utter panic, but be patient.

Unlike the UK, we don’t plan to have the fourth largest defence budget in the world – behind only France,China and the US – which until the cuts, was running at around 2.7% of GDP. But you see, we’ll be about defence, not invading foreign countries, not maintaining irrelevant and obscene weapons systems, not about posturing as a global power, not about sustaining a gravy train of M.O.D. jobs. consultancies, revolving doors to the defence industry for civil servants, and lucrative directorships and consultancies for retired or redundant politicians. OK?

Now would those troops be used for UN peacekeeping, would they be part of the defence of Europe, bearing in mind America is looking the other way now, and letting Europe do more ..”

Aye, now we’re getting to the nitty gritty. The SNP has already said that an independent Scotland will play its part in appropriate UN peacekeeping operations, just as other small countries do, and will play its part in EU alliance that are not nuclear based. As usual, the Unionist Lord is asking questions that have already been answered, answers to which he and his fellow UK defenders appear not to hear.

“I think this would diminish both our countries. I think it’s really worrying, and I don’t believe that Alex Salmond has really looked at this at all – and the implications for defence industry in Scotland is devastating.” Here comes the threat – the defence-as-job-creation-scheme argument

If I were now looking at shipbuilding, and looking at the type 26 programme as the next big frigate programme, and I was one of the industries involved, I would say – put all our investment in England, because if  they separate, there’s no way England, Wales and Northern Ireland will pay for ships to be built in Scotland – they’ll be built elsewhere. so they would lose their shipbuilding industry – on the Clyde would go, Babcock would have nothing after the carriers, they’d have to close airbases, they’d have to close army bases. There are huge implications, and I don’t believe that Alex Salmond has really exposed these to the Scottish people, or the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Exit the Labour Lord, having dutifully delivered his Armageddon scenario, and his threat/bribe message to the Scottish people, who have suddenly become they

We must assume that Ed Miliband and Johann Lamont stand foursquare behind these threats, and that union full-time officers are being briefed as I write to work their memberships into a state of paranoia about independence and jobs.

I would like to finish the analysis with Angus Robertson’s response to this, but I’m knackered, it is after all Hogmanay, and family and guid Scotch whisky beckon invitingly, so I’ll have to save Angus till tomorrow.

A guid New Year tae yin and a’ – and mony may ye see …  Saor Alba!

Friday, 16 December 2011

My New Year resolutions start today …

I listened to Angus Robertson speak in Edinburgh last night. It is a rare experience to hear a politician speak and have fundamental doubts dispelled. It is even rarer to experience a politician who not only really communicates ideas but who also listens. Angus was ably supported by Derek Mackay MSP.

Because of his key role as SNP Leader in Westminster, Angus does not have the media exposure that senior SNP politicians in Holyrood have, and although his considerable talents are familiar to party members, he is not as visible to the wider Scottish – and UK – public as ideally he should be. His formidable talents and abilities are therefore applied out of the limelight – and maybe at this crucial time in Scotland’s history that’s the way he wants it to be.

The combination of three crucial roles – party leader in Westminster, defence strategist and spokesman and independence campaign manager – must place an enormous burden on his shoulders, but it is one that he is manifestly well-equipped to carry. On last night’s showing alone, this is man in whom I can place my trust, and it was abundantly evident from the large audience that they shared this view.

He implanted certain key ideas in my mind, one’s that I found it uncomfortable to take on board, while recognising their total validity.

And so to my early New Year resolution, on this anniversary of my mother’s birth. (Moya, as everybody who ever knew her called her, would have been 110 years old today.)


I will resist the temptation, ever-present, to be negative, especially towards those who don’t agree with me.

I will try to mirror the positive approach that is the essence of the Scottish National Party, and a key  factor in its electoral success and appeal.

I will recognise that other Scottish voters, commentators, politicians and political parties have an absolute right to express their views, and if I want to change them, I must first understand them and secondly address them without rancour.

I will remind myself daily that there are people who love Scotland but have different views of its future from me, and that we share that central, vital point of agreement.

I will recognise that the independence of Scotland is my objective, and that goal trumps all others. (I only ever had one deal breaker – one thing that I can never compromise on – that of a non-nuclear Scotland. Since that goal can only be achieved by Scotland’s independence, my key objectives are therefore inseparably linked and in harmony.)

I will keep constantly in mind that the goal of independence, and therefore the referendum campaign, cannot constrained by the SNP manifesto, and that others, from all parties - and no party - who seek independence have different views from me and my chosen party, the SNP.

I will also keep constantly in mind the central fact that after independence, the question of who governs Scotland will be determined by the electorate. The relationship between the parties, and between each party and the electorate will undergo a sea change, similar to, but much greater than the one that followed devolution and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

If my little blog is to have any  relevance to Scotland’s future, I will have to resist the ever-present temptation to yield to the easy option of throwing chunks of red meat to the already converted, and instead contribute to the much more complex task of trying to influence the unconverted.


I regret that, knowing my own limitations, I will regularly fail to live up to these resolutions. When I do, don’t hesitate to slap a grumpy old git’s wrist. Some of you may even miss the red meat.

Here’s a picture of some old Weegie with a bottle of Glenmorangie standing next to the Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill

Kenny MacAskill and some Weegie

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Scottish Office in action as the debate intensifies–Moore and Mundel defend their country–the UK

The Colonial Governor, Michael Moore talks down his country, or rather, the country whose interests he is supposed to represent. His country is, of course, the United Kingdom - a failed state.

He 'wholeheartedly' supports the union, as does his questioner - but it is not a Scottish heart, nor is it a brave heart.

  A Tory MP, Ann McIntosh and another Establishment figure, Sir Menzies Campbell (LibDem) make planned mischief over the UK Supreme Court and the Scottish Expert Group headed by Lord McCluskey.

The hoary spectre of Jim Sillars, yesterday's man (1992!) is invoked by David Mundel as a "former Deputy Leader of the SNP". It is left to Pete Wishart SNP to defend his country, Scotland and his Parliament to these two Scottish unionists acting in concert with a unionist Tory.


The West Lothian Question, the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament and the two Assemblies, the the UK Supreme Court debacle - the contradictions mount, the English get restive and the Unionists begin to panic.

Ah, the decline of an empire! What a pathetic spectacle it presents ...


I should have some affinity with Jim Sillars. He is of my generation, two years younger than I am: he is a Scot, his politics have always been of the left, he is a former Labour man, he moved from Labour to the SNP and he comes from the Scottish working class. There the similarities end.

He also has a record of significant political action (which I do not), and was a pivotal figure at key points in the history of the SNP, and is a former Deputy Leader of the Party. For that legacy, he retains a certain respect among SNP members and activists.

But he has, in my view, been recklessly squandering that legacy since he lost his Govan seat in 1992, at which point he effectively ceased to have any real relevance to Scottish politics. His pejorative comment about Scots being “90 minute patriots” became a kind a epitaph for his political career.

His recent interventions into the Scottish political debate have, in my view, been at best unhelpful, and at worst, damaging to the cause of Scotland’s independence, especially at this crucial time. He has become a kind of icon for the unionists, who quote him at every opportunity (see David Mundel in the above clip) and is a favourite choice for inclusion in television news discussions for the same reasons. He chose recently to mount one of his more intemperate attacks on the Scottish Government through the medium of a letter to The Telegraph, the Pravda of the Tory Party and the Union.

I do wish he would shut up, but I fear he won’t – he probably sees himself as the prophet in the wilderness, and the Union is more than happy to accommodate him in this role.

Oh, Jim …

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Scotland treated with contempt by Cameron and Blunkett at PMQs

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): In a few weeks’ time, the Prime Minister will decide whether he will close RAF Lossiemouth, in addition to closing RAF Kinloss, which would lead to the biggest loss of jobs in Scotland since the Tories closed manufacturing industry in the 1980s. As a consequence, that would mean that Scotland would have fewer service personnel, fewer military bases, aircraft, vessels and Army battalions and less defence spending than all our independent Scandinavian neighbours of comparable size. Will the Prime Minister explain why he is concentrating defence spending in the south and cutting defence spending disproportionately in Scotland?

The Prime Minister: We are going ahead with the aircraft carriers, which are being built in Scotland. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that if we had an independent Scotland, he would not be flying planes but flying by the seat of his pants.
(My thanks to Conan the Librarian for the Hansard text, not quite verbatim, as Conan pointed out.)

Note the glib, contemptuous, Oxbridge-debating society style with which this rich Tory dismisses a serious, well-formulated question that affects the lives of thousands of Scots.

Scots, for God's sake, get your hands off your forelocks, and recognise that Westminster and the UK don't give a damn about Scotland. The Unionists parties (Labour, Tories, LibDems) can't and won't help you - only the Scottish National Party has your real interests at heart

Vote for Scotland - vote for your ain folk - vote for independence - vote SNP.

A former Labour minister attacks the Scottish and Welsh settlement at PMQs and compares them with Yorkshire. That's what Scotland is to the London-based parties - just another subordinate region of the UK, to be treated with either envy or contempt as the mood takes them.

But they can't win -

Blunkett achieves the triple whammy of upsetting the Scots, the Welsh and the English in one ill-considered question, reinforcing the belief of the Scots and the Welsh that they should be fully independent, and making the English feel that they too should have their own Parliament and recover their country from this poisoned Union, and stand again proudly as England - an ancient, proud nation.

Vote in May 2011 for Scotland - vote for your ain folk - vote for the only party that can deliver what Scotland needs - the Scottish National Party. Vote SNP.