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Showing posts with label Jim Murphy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jim Murphy. Show all posts

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Nicola versus The Union Mob – democratic politics?


This is a light-hearted edit of the BBC Scottish Leaders' 'Debate' on Sunday Politics Scotland today - nothing changed in sequence or content - just left the action in!

Nicola is an oasis of calm intelligence in this Unionist desert. This is what passes for a moderated (sic) debate at not-very-Pacific Quay!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Labour’s crime – the Iraq War – and my March 2003 fears on the eve of war

I wrote this letter to the Herald on 17th of March 2003. I was then, at least still nominally a supporter of the Labour Party, as I had been all my life and as my family had been.

The war against Iraq began three days later on March 20th 2003 with the U.S. launch of the bombing raid on Baghdad - Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Never in my life have I more wanted to be wrong in a prediction, but what followed unleashed unimaginable death and devastation that lasted from 2003 –2011, beyond my worst imaginings - and, in a very real sense, is not over yet.

The long slow death of Scottish Labour began in March 2003, in significant part due to their moral cowardice at that pivotal moment in history. New Labour – the creation of Blair, Brown and Mandelson seemed to die in 2010, but the rough  beast is stirring again, slouching towards Westminster.

child1child 2

My letter, published in The Herald, 17th of March 2003.

Seventeen and a half per cent of the UK population are children of 15 years of age or younger. (Source of data – CIA website)

41% of the Iraqi population are children o 15 years of age or younger. (Source - CIA website)

Therefore in any “collateral damage” to innocent civilians, 41 children will die or be maimed in every 100. (My source for these statistics - CIA website).

To add to the misery of the Iraqi children already hurt by Saddam Hussein and our sanctions will be an international crime.

Much has been made of Tony Blair’s “sincere conviction” over his stance on Iraq. If sincerity of conviction was the touchstone, the actions of any misguided politician in history could be justified. I hesitate to offer a list of those who pursued policies destructive to justice and life who were “sincere” in their conviction, but produced horrific consequences by their actions.

This coming war is profoundly misconceived and unjust, and Tony Blair is profoundly mistaken to pursue it.

He has wrecked our relationship with our European allies, damaged our international status, weakened our democratic and parliamentary traditions, has perhaps delivered a damaging blow to the Labour Party, and will undoubtedly damage our economy and our security.

As for Scotland’s MSPs supporting Blair's action by their contemptible inaction – don’t look for my vote (Labour for more than four decades) in the May elections.

I now know where the politicians of principle are – a tiny minority in the Scottish Labour group, and a majority in the SSP and the SNP. My advice to the few MSPs of principle left in the Scottish Parliament is to cross the floor now.

Iraq has become the defining political issue of our time, and the question that will be asked of politicians (and all of us) is – where were you when there was still time to stop it?

Peter Curran


Monday, 2 February 2015

As we wait for the Chilcot Report …

Waiting for Chilcot is a bit like waiting for Godot. Idly checking back in my past ruminations on the war, I came across these comment of mine in the Guardian, circa 2008.

Guardian, comments 18 December 2008

I have been totally opposed to the Iraq war, from the lies, special pleading and moral cowardice that led up to it and throughout the horror, mendacity and ineptitude of its dreadful progress. But I am shocked at the unrealistic and superficial attitude of many of the comments on the role of the British armed forces, from armchair critics who have never been near a battlefield, have never placed themselves in harms way, and have never laid their life on the line for their country. To compare our soldiers, directly or by implication, to Nazis, is obscene and inaccurate.

The responsibility for the crimes against humanity in Iraq lies with the politicians who initiated it, to the members of Parliament who voted for it, and to the electors of Britain who continued to return them to power after the war started, and who continue to support them in government - and to the religious factions and tribal demagogues who manipulate the tortured people of Iraq, and naive - and always young - idealists from other nations, perverting their religious beliefs and the teachings of Islam to suit their evil and self-serving ends.

There have been atrocities - a minority of serving soldiers have behaved badly, and their superiors have failed by omission or commission to prevent this. But such aberrations occur in every war, and where possible, it has been exposed and punished.

But the prosecution of the war by British forces has been conducted in as principled a way as the exigencies of any war permit. An individual serving soldier may, at great personal risk, refuse to carry out an order in a specific instance that violates accepted codes of morality and international law, but to expect serving soldiers at any level to refuse to carry out their orders because of complex political argument at levels far above them is to expect the impossible. It is simplistic and brutally uncaring.

And what of the generals? Once our generals start to pursue their own agenda and their own political beliefs by confronting their political masters, we are headed for a junta. I hold no brief for Sir Jock Stirrup, and I think he should have thought, and thought again before committing his vapourings to print, but I do not believe he should have disobeyed his order.

I am a Scottish nationalist, and I fervently wish to be free of the Union that sacrifices the brave young men and women of Scotland to serve the vaunting ambition and vanity of despicable Scots like Blair and Brown, and permits them to send young men and women to their deaths, but I have never doubted the bravery and professionalism of the armed forces. In a very real sense, it is a greater sacrifice to do your job and die for your country in pursuit of a cause you do not believe in, because the majority of the people of your country have willed that act.

Place the blame where it squarely lies - with the politicians and the people who put them there. Leave our armed forces to mourn their dead and maimed comrades, and their families to cry out against those who sent them to their fate. 

Blair, Brown, Bush and Cheney attempt to justify their actions, but the verdict of history will damn them. The ancient Greeks recognised their type, and foresaw their fate.

The gods fail not to mark those who have killed many
The black Furies, stalking the man fortunate beyond all right
Wrench back again the set of his life and drop him to darkness.
There, among the ciphers, there is no more comfort in power
And the vaunt of high glory is bitterness.

AESCHYLUS - Agammenon

It is Britain's, and the Labour Party's abiding shame that two Labour Prime Ministers initiated, supported, and still defend the enormity of the Iraq conflict.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Iraq, The Chilcot Report – and Scottish Labour’s attempts to airbrush them out of GE2015 campaign

James Kelly demonstrates all the abysmal levels of debating skills, and rhetoric, plus lack of focus and absence of logical rigour for which Scottish Labour are justly notorious.

He doesn't want to be debating The Chilcot Report at all. Neither does his leader, Blairite Jim Murphy, nor his strategist, John McTernan, nor his party, Scottish Labour. The Peace Envoy wouldn't like it ...


Labour would dearly love to airbrush the Iraq War, The Chilcot Report, Blair and the Blair/Brown Government out of the general election debate, as Mary Fee's closing remarks show - but they can't - they have inconvenient evidence of them incarnate in Jim Murphy and his chief  strategist, John McTernan on their doorstep - and in the 'big beast' summoned to bale out Murphy's failing leadership, Gordon Brown - the banker of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, fully supportive of, and fully complicit in both.

Friday, 30 January 2015

SNP/Green/Plaid bloc has to buttress Miliband against the Blairites after May 7th

SNP/Green/Plaid bloc has to buttress Miliband against the Blairites after May 7th NHS, Labour and privatisation -Labour, deeply divided into two camps on NHS - and many other key issues.

We already know what camp Murphy is in - the one inhabited by all his Blairite pals.
Scots have to choose between Labour and Tories/LibDems after May 7th, and we have to trust Labour, or least that Miliband wing of Labour that is halfway rational about the NHS, the economy, welfare and Trident. An SNP/Green/Plaid bloc has to buttress Miliband against the Blairites in his own party, and they include Jim Murphy.

Conditional trust only - for a price - in a confidence and supply arrangement, with a series of key conditions set by Nicola and Cabinet in Scotland through her team in Westminster. That's the new game ...

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Who really won the Referendum? UK Unionists now deeply, EVELy confused …


It was all entirely predictable - and predicted by me, as well as many more distinguished commentators - the granting of more powers simply plays into our self-determination agenda, and feeds an appetite that will only be satified with full independence.

UK is between a rock and a hard place -

Granting more powers just increases the demand for more, and infuriates the English electorate.

Denying them guarantees an irresistible Scottish demand for the second referendum.

Ye cannae win, Westminster - we have history, the zeitgeist and right on our side. (Nov 2011 blog)


Murphy at his vacuous worse - and that's saying something!

NEIL: "I hope you'll be better at answering my questions when I interview you on Sunday."

MURPHY: "I'm looking forward to it, Andrew .."

NEIL: "I was - until that interview. But nevertheless ..."

Get back fast to McTernan and your new comms team, Jimbo - radical surgery is required on your media persona. And you can rely on them to make it even worse ...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Ed Miliband is not a deal-making kind of guy–but he’ll do one post-GE2015!

Better mute the "pooling and sharing" bit with Scotland as you get closer to May 7th, Ed - the English electorate won't like it!

Get elected as a minority government, then do your deal with the SNP, Plaid and Greens - dump Trident, give the Scots what they were promised - devomax - then work with your new partners to undo the untold damage done by Blair, Brown and the Coalition to the people of these islands.

Newsnight Index projection GE2015

P.S. We'll be back sometime in the very near future for our independence after the next referendum that Scotland holds - without asking anyone's permission.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Happy Tweeting time–votes for 16-17, nukes and Murphy on tax

Peter Curran @moridura ·  5m 5 minutes ago

#indy "Murphy to support handing full income tax powers to Holyrood" Anointed Brit.Est. candidate is all over media …

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  16m 16 minutes ago

@Sparraneil I agree. They won't of course. But I'd still accept the tax powers as a major move forward to ultimate independence.

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  19m 19 minutes ago

TIMES RED BOX: "Labour's tax warning to independent schools" I agree - stop giving these privileged people subsidies.

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  21m 21 minutes ago

@Innealadair Nuclear is the central issue for me, Martin but patently it's not for most Scots - and that includes a fair amount of YES Scots

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  29m 29 minutes ago

#indy Morning Call on about favourite smells. My least favourite smell is the smell of Jim Muphy's Blairite expedient, values-free politics.

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  31m 31 minutes ago

#indy #WMD They didn't waste much time - all WMD subs to Faslane. Just in case Scotland wasn't already the prime target in a nuclear war.

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  33m 33 minutes ago

@severincarrell The Labour representatives on Smith Commission are Gregg McClymont MP, Iain Gray MSP, not Jim Murphy MP, Guardian's anointed

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  36m 36 minutes ago

@severincarrell Got it in one - he's the mouthpiece of the British Establishment, which increasingly seems to include to Guardian.

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  38m 38 minutes ago

#MorningCall Caller: "It's the political elite that are against votes for 16-17s" Bang on, mate. Gaun yersel - puncture the patronising NOes

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  40m 40 minutes ago

@severincarrell "The significant switch will be confirmed on Tuesday by Jim Murphy, the favourite ... " etc. Murphy is Brit.Est. candidate.

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  43m 43 minutes ago

@severincarrell Nor does Santa Claus(e) come down the chimney. The thrust of the headline and content is post Murphy, ergo propter Murphy.

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Scottish CND @ScottishCND ·  58m 58 minutes ago

All UK nuke subs will be in Scotland. Subs to move from Plymouth to Faslane by 2020.

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  45m 45 minutes ago

Scotland to be offered total control over income tax after Labour U-turn … Murphy backs it, so it's a LABOUR U-turn?

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  48m 48 minutes ago

@severincarrell You makes it sound as if its BECAUSE Murphy backs it, Severin. It's an expedient Murphy, as always.

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Ron Dickinson @ron_dickinson ·  1h 1 hour ago

@JimhumeHume The arrogance of WM & MoD knows no bounds Scotland to be ONLY UK submarine port by 2020 UNLESS we kick them out via #indyref2!

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Peter Curran @moridura ·  51m 51 minutes ago

#MorningCall The anti-callers on votes for 16-17s typify all that is wrong with NO - and they ARE NOes. How do I know? Don't make me laugh!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Labour and Iraq

Extract from my 2013 blog –

Blair, Brown and Mandelson created New Labour and it worked – Labour was elected and re-elected. The results, over 13 years, are now history.

Two wars, one illegal, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, terrorism brought to UK by the Iraq War, the gap between rich and poor widened, corruption of Parliamentary institutions, the prosecution and imprisonment of Labour MPs, the resignation of the Labour Speaker of the House of Commons in disgrace, the corruption of the Press and the Metropolitan Police, the banking and financial collapse, cash for access, etc.

Hardly a success, except in one key aspect – Blair, Mandelson, Brown, Labour defence secretaries, Labour ministers and many Labour MPs got very rich indeed, in the case of Blair and Mandelson, egregiously rich.

The revolving door between government ministers, civil servants and industry – especially the defence industry – spun ever faster and more profitably.

And the military/industrial complex rejoiced and celebrated New Labour’s achievements.

And now, in 2014?

We have the key figures in the Blair Government that led us to war – Gordon Brown, John Reid,  Alistair Darling, Jim Murphy, et al leading the war against Scotland’s independence.

Iraq has exploded into chaos and near-collapse of the Iraq‘democracy’ set up by the United States and the United Kingdom

What of the report of the Chilcot Enquiry? Delay in publication, talk of redaction of major conclusions and fact.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Scottish media, Falkirk, Labour and Unite – independence excised from coverage?


I’ll be as brief – and objective – as I can.

A preliminary summary of events

Eric Joyce was expelled from the Labour Party for multiple instances of bad behaviour. He is still MP, but has stated his intention not to stand at the general election in 2015. (Had he resigned as an MP or been removed, there would have been a by-election.)

Labour and the Falkirk constituency selection committee must choose a candidate for what has historically been a safe Labour seat. The selection of candidates for safe seats is a matter of high significance for any political party – for a party in opposition 22 months from a general election, hoping to win and form the next government of UK, and facing a riven, inept Coalition in disarray, such a selection is crucial.

(N.B. The Labour Party must have concerns for the safety of this seat, not only because of Joyce’s past behaviour, but because, as MP for another 22 months, outside of Labour, not subject to the Labour whip, he is potentially a loose cannon politically.)

Labour policy was to have an all-woman shortlist (AWS), and members of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) were surveyed on whether an all-woman shortlist should be used. (The survey was paid for by Unite.)

Candidates who had already emerged were Linda Gow, former leader of Falkirk council and Gregor Poynton. Poynton is UK Director of Blue State Digital, adviser to Better Together Campaign and husband of Gemma Doyle MP, who is deputy to Jim Murphy MP, the shadow defence minister.

Then Karie Murphy appeared as a candidate. Karie Murphy, formerly Unison, now Unite Union, is Tom Watson MP’s office manager. Introducing Karie Murphy as a candidate was consistent with Labour’s policy of all-women shortlists (AWC) but Gregor Poynton’s candidacy was not.

A sudden influx of new members was recorded in the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and it appeared that the Unite Union had recruited as many as 100 members. The CLP choose the Parliamentary candidate for Falkirk, not the total Labour membership. (The idea of holding primaries, elections in which the wider electorate are involved has been mooted before the Falkirk debacle, and is much debated since it commenced.)

Allegation began to appear that irregularities had occurred in the signing up of CLP members by Unite. The Labour Party was in essence created by the Trades Union movement (late 19th, early 20th centuries) to ensure Parliamentary representation for working people. The rules of the Labour Party permit trades unions to encourage members to join the party, and to pay their first year’s subscription. But it was claimed that Unite had signed up members without their knowledge, a very serious allegation if proven. The matter has now been referred to the police by the Labour Party.


N.B. From here on in, I don’t pretend neutrality, and only as much objectivity as I can muster, because I am of the Left in politics and I am also a Scottish nationalist – not a SNP member or member of any party, but wholly committed to a socially democratic independent Scotland.

Labour has a long history of fights with the trades unions. Unions are by far the Labour Party’s principal source of funds through the political levy (optional) that members pay, and unions apply the funds in various ways, including sponsoring specific MPs. In return for this, they not unreasonably expect the MPs and the Party to serve the interests of their millions of members in addition to serving the whole electorate. This has always led to tensions between Party and unions. Exactly the same practices apply on funding to all political parties, with the key difference that the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties, for example, get their funds from organisations and individuals, a very much smaller group of large donors in comparison to the millions of small donors of the trades unions.

The key difference is that these corporate donors and individuals operate to a large extent behind closed doors in pursuing what they expect for their money – and they all expect something – whereas the union interaction tends to occur in a blaze of publicity.

To try and contrast the two systems in a nutshell – the trades unions, an imperfect but functioning democracy representing millions of UK workers interact with a much larger imperfect democracy in the Labour Party, whereas totally undemocratic organisations and individuals in commerce, industry, armaments and interest groups not confined to the UK interact with the imperfect democracies of the Tory and LibDem parties. Ultimately, in both cases, the trades unions interact with the over-arching and highly imperfect democracy of the UK Government.

The problem of the union conflicts with the Labour Party over the last half century (e.g. Clause Four) created  - or were alleged to have created – the problem of electability, and this was specifically what Blair, Brown and Mandelson set out to remedy after  Neil Kinnock had done some of the spadework. They created New Labour and it worked – Labour was elected and re-elected. The results, over 13 years, are now history. Two wars, one illegal, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, terrorism brought to UK by the Iraq War, the gap between rich and poor widened, corruption of Parliamentary institutions, the prosecution and imprisonment of Labour MPs, the resignation of the Labour Speaker of the House of Commons in disgrace, the corruption of the Press and the Metropolitan Police, the banking and financial collapse, cash for access, etc.

Hardly a success, except in one key aspect – Blair, Mandelson, Brown, Labour defence secretaries, Labour ministers and many Labour MPs got very rich indeed, in the case of Blair and Mandelson, egregiously rich.

The revolving door between government ministers, civil servants and industry – especially the defence industry – spun ever faster and more profitably. And the military/industrial complex rejoiced and celebrated New Labour’s achievements.

Meanwhile, the trades unions were marginalised, and the benches of Westminster became increasingly populated by MPs who had never experienced the real, harsh world of Blair’s Britain, MPs who came directly into politics waving their PPE degrees through internships as SPADs, etc.

This great divide, this yawning chasm has widened between the trades union movement and the political machine for enriching politicians and their friends that New Labour has become. After being finally destroyed electorally, Labour was replaced by a Coalition that is almost indistinguishable in its right-wing practices from the right-wing Labour Party. As an opposition, Labour has been feeble and equivocal. The trades unions, having placed brother Ed Miliband at the helm, vanquishing ultra-Blairite brother David Miliband, have been bitterly disappointed in their choice. And now he attacks them, setting the police on Unite.

The Falkirk debacle is symptomatic of this – a war between the Blairites (led by the noble Lord Mandelson, who cannot conceal his visceral distaste for trades unions)and what is left of the Left in the Labour Party, which is mainly the trades unions – some of them at least.


All of the above has been gone over with a relatively fine tooth comb by the UK/metropolitan media. They see the Falkirk Affair in a UK context, from a UK perspective. The fact that Falkirk is in  Scotland, that Scotland played a major role in the foundation of trades unions and the Labour Party is ancient, and mainly irrelevant history to them. This superficiality and parochialism is what Scotland has come to expect from London media. From time to time, Scotland intrudes rudely on their consciousness, and they are aware that Scottish voters are effectively disenfranchised and don’t get the government they vote for on occasion, but then, Scotland is just another region of England (sorry, Jock – UK!)

What is almost unforgiveable is that the Scottish media has swallowed this narrative whole, and conceives its duty done when they passively regurgitate it to Scottish voters. Consider the following examples -

To listen to this duo, one might think the Falkirk debacle had nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland's independence, and had no significant implications for it.
But these journalists accurately reflect a Scottish press and media that is either so locked in a UK mindset that they are oblivious to them, or are so caught up in editorial policies that don't wish to highlight them that they are hamstrung as professional journalists in telling the truth to the Scottish electorate by fully analysing a political event that is shaking up UK politics and is central in many ways to the great independence debate.

Here we have John Reid, who sure as hell knows what the battle is all about, and it has bugger all to do with Scotland, except incidentally -

John Reid: "a very important moment for the whole Labour Party"

The point at which the poisoned grip of Blairites like Reid could be loosened and the Party returned to the people it was created to serve.

John Reid:"It is at heart an ideological battle - a political battle..."

It sure as hell is - to free Labour from the men enriched and ennobled by Blair and his wars - like John Reid - while the people sink deeper into the slough of poverty and death created by Blair and Brown's ineptitude - widening the gap between rich and poor and bankrupting the nation. Men like Lord(!) Reid who deliberately wrecked the chances of a Rainbow Coalition to defeat the Tories after the 2010 election.

England struggles - and Unite struggles to give working people a real political choice with the forlorn hope that they can reform New Labour. Blue Labour, Lord Sainsbury's Labour, Progress Labour - call the beast by its many names, see its many faces - multi-millionaires Blair's and Mandelson's Labour - at best a centre-right party, but sliding towards something much worse in the global military/industrial complex that is raping the planet.

God help England - this is the only chance they have, but it is a forlorn hope.

But Scotland has a real choice - already exercised in the limited form open to it in 2007 and 2011 and yet to be made fully on 2014 - the choice of saying YES or no to an independent, socially-democratic Scotland.

The Sunday Herald had a major spread on Falkirk – comprehensive, albeit a mirror of London media analysis, despite their pride in having “broken the story …” From its front cover headline Lamont: Unite’s puppet? to its extensive coverage on pages 6, 7, 8 and 9, with Ian Bell on page 10 to its editorial on page 36, it took an almost exclusively UK perspective of the Falkirk issue, despite the reference to Lamont.  Only in the last half of the last paragraph on page 7 could I find any reference to another party that might just have an interest in all this – the Scottish National Party, the party that forms the devolved government of Scotland, elected with a massive landslide majority – the party that has delivered the referendum, the outcome of which will shake the entire UK power structure, perhaps end the 306 year-old union and remove nuclear weapons of mass destruction from Scottish soil, with ramification for Europe, NATO and the transatlantic alliance.

Here was my little exchange with Paul Hutcheon of the Herald/Sunday Herald on 4th of July. Paul was reacting to my criticisms of Scottish media coverage of Falkirk -

Peter Curran@moridura 4 Jul

  • @paulhutcheon It's time for Scottish Unite, Scottish Labour and trades unions to recognise where their real interests lie - in independence

    Paul Hutcheon Paul Hutcheon@paulhutcheon 4 Jul @moridura can't see the independence angle on a story about membership subs

  • Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura 4 Jul

    @paulhutcheon It's painfully obvious that you can't, Paul.

  • And he demonstrated comprehensively his inability to see “the independence angle on a story about membership subs” in the Sunday coverage. Let me help you, Paul - and Tom Gordon and Ian Bell and the Leader Writer - to understand …

    Three political parties in Scotland – all from the left of the political spectrum, plus many other organisations also on the left, are committed to the independence of Scotland from the UK. Additionally, embryonic breakaway organisations exist of disaffected Scottish Labour members and Scottish trades unionists – including Unite members – who support independence. Some support the SNP, others don’t, e.g. Labour for Independence.

    A major think tank, the Jimmy Reid Foundation is active and influential on the left of the political spectrum (where else would it be bearing Jimmy Reid’s name?). At least one major union is not affiliated to the Labour Party, the firemens’ union. All of them are diametrically opposed to Blairism and all that it stands for. They are solidly anti-nuclear and pro-trades union. The STUC is well aware of this growing dynamic within its member unions and their lay members, together with a growing number of shop stewards, worker representatives and a few cautious full-time officers.To say that Johann Lamont is aware of this – despite laughing it off – would be a massive understatement. Effectively elected by the Scottish trades unions, I suspect it keeps her awake at nights.

    To suggest that the Falkirk issue, a frontal attack on a trade union – a civil war between the BlairitesBlue Labour, New Labour, Lord Sainsbury’s Labour, call it what you will – and the soul of the pre-Blair/Brown/Mandelson Scottish Labour Party is irrelevant to independence is, to put it at its lowest, a failure of imagination and good political journalism.

    I hope to attend a meeting of Trades Unionists for Independence this Wednesday in Edinburgh. Reflect on that title, Herald/Sunday Herald (and BBC Scotland) and on the keynote speakers – Dennis Canavan (former MP/MSP), Robin McAlpine (Jimmy Reid Foundation), Cat Boyd (PCS activist) and Sarah Collins (STUC Youth Committee) and think again about the nature of your coverage of Falkirk and Unite.

    Thursday, 8 December 2011

    Scottish unionists–and Michael Moore - inch towards their exit strategy

    Someone once said that a Scotsman would do almost anything except harm his career. That is certainly true of Scottish unionist politicians – Scotland and the Scottish people have always come a poor second for most of them in their scale of priorities, with the high road to England and Westminster and a place on the gravy train way up front.

    In fairness, some have not started out that way: the insidious lure of preferment, high office and money, money, money has come later, then that ultimate flight from all things Scottish - ennoblement, the ermine and the Lords - and freedom from the tedious business of getting elected every so often, not to mention listening to constituents. And the strange satisfactions of the title – Lord Poodle of Auchterselloot

    A tiny number have believed in Scotland, albeit within the Union, and have consistently stood up for their ain folk. Wha was like them, but maist o’ them are deid. But among the living I would certainly number Henry McLeish and he is not alone.

    But the rest of them are now looking at a career abyss when independence comes – they would say if it comes. The political agenda in Scotland has been totally dominated by the Scottish National Party and its vision and values since 2007: the unionists have moved through stunned denial to vitriolic opposition, but now, faced with the stark reality of the May 2011 election result, to moving inexorably towards a reluctant recognition of the inevitability of change.

    It is astonishing to consider that the Scottish Labour Party is only now at the point of electing a new leader seven and a half months after the resignation of Iain Gray. What was left of the Lib/Dems at least got off their erses and elected a leader, and the Tories, having almost rent themselves apart in the process, managed to get someone in post. Neither of these two leaders exactly looks like the kind of leader their respective parties needed if they were to have any hope of restoring their fortunes.

    Consider the fate of Scottish unionist MPs after independence.

    At a stroke, they cease to be MPs. Those among them who are ministers – a single Tory and some LibDems – will probably cease to be ministers, although being an MP is not a requirement of being a government minister. The Scottish Lords are in a strange no-man’s land. The Queen is still the Queen, and in theory at least they owe their position to her, instead of the sordid reality of a political appointment.

    But can they sit in a chamber that no longer has any relevance to Scotland, part of the democratic process of UK Minus?

    How will the English, Welsh and Northern Irish people regard the Lairds of Auchterselloot voting on legislation and drawing their expenses?

    The Scottish MPs who lose their seats - among them some very significant individuals for their parties - could look to the party managers to find them a safe seat. But who will have them? The good electors of England are unlikely to look kindly on having a Scot parachuted into their constituency, and the risk for the party of putting a Scot up for election in the period immediately after independence would be to great an electoral risk.

    It is even less likely that some obscure but worthy English MP is going give up his or her seat to make way for a big Scottish beast. It will be difficult enough in all conscience for Scottish MPs in English constituencies if they face re-nomination and a campaign soon after independence – or perhaps before it.

    But some might take comfort in the fact that if an independence referendum in say 2015 resulted in a YES vote, it would take years to reach that bright day when Scotland will again be a nation.

    However, another spectre looms for the Scottish unionist MPs …

    As yesterday’s PMQs demonstrated very clearly, David Cameron’s coat is on a very shaky nail over Europe. The future of the Coalition looks increasingly uncertain, and the LibDem mice, while not exactly roaring, did emit a cheeky squeak in their recent Commons vote against the Government. Not quite a rebellion, but certainly a fart in church …

    If the Coalition falls, especially in the context of global uncertainty, most of the nightmare for Scottish unionists MPs would come early, and the Douglas Alexanders, the Murphys, the Tom Harrises, the Danny Alexanders - and the sole Mundel - would risk being oot on their erses in a general election.

    So all of this brings me to today, and that extraordinary manifestation of the Union, Michael Moore, the Scottish Colonial Governor. If there is a figurehead for Scotland in the UK, it is oor Michael. But his job – and his MP status – both end with independence, as does the Scottish Office. In a general election, he might well lose his seat as a Scottish LibDem. Lordships will be hard to come by for such as he in the present climate.

    And so to the Herald’s astonished headline - Surprise as Moore says that he is not a ‘Unionist’.

    Is the Pope not a Catholic? Is King Billy not an Orangeman?

    In the tones of Peter Kay and garlic bread, I say “Not a unionist? Not a unionist?

    Be kind to the man – as a kind of Scot, one who will do anything rather than harm his career, he is simply gearing up for his exit strategy, as is Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy, Auld Uncle Tam Harris and all.

    Because there is nothing so terrifying as being alienated from your ain folk, and finding that you have nowhere to go. Being on the wrong side at a pivotal moment in your country’s history is not a happy place to be.

    But don’t despair, guys – somebody will have you. The new Scotland won’t keep you out – it’s an inclusive, forgiving nation. You may have to spend some time in the wilderness doing penance in sackcloth and ashes, but you have talents and experience and providing your contrition is genuine, Scotland will find a place for you.

    But don’t submit yourself to the electorate for say, twenty years or so. After all, we haven’t forgiven Maggie, and she wreaked her havoc on Scotland a generation ago. Scots have long memories …

    Saturday, 24 September 2011

    The speed of light, variations on equations – and the High Road to England

    The speed of light is big news, thanks to the particle physicists at CERN and the Large Hadron Collider. I had a bit of fun with the LHC way back, before it was switched on - large hadron collider – and now jokey variations on equations based on Einstein’s E = mc2 abound online.

    A little know fact is that the Large Hadron Collider was responsible for the SNP’s landslide victory in May of this year.  A new particle – the Unionist Bullshit Killer particle – was inadvertently created and, escaping from the tunnel of the Collider, it arrived in Scotland at just over the speed of light, just in time for the Holyrood election campaign. Lethal to some parties, it disabled the Tory Party, already severely wounded by the Thatcher Particle, almost destroyed the LibDems, and attacked what was left of the brain cells of the Labour Party.

    The effect of the Unionist Bullshit Killer particle was wholly beneficial to the SNP, which most scientists attribute to the SNP’s relative autonomy and independence, and a quality known as Scottishness, which is a sort of Britishness anti-matter. However, some who belong to the New Labour school believe that an effective antidote to the particle is endless renaming of the Labour Party, in the hope that the particle – and the electorate – will be fooled into not recognising the party of Iraq, WMDs, economic incompetence and greed.

    So far, this strategy has not worked, but many live in hope. A small, but significant minority believe that the new data on the speed of light mean that the May 2011 election can actually be re-run, thus relieving them from feeling that they are living in a parallel universe where Scotland’s independence is assured and the UK’s days are numbered.


    The Scotsman has been in hysterical headline mode since John Swinney’s budget, and the casual reader who thinks the Scotsman is still a quality daily reflecting the real world faithfully might be forgiven for believing that the world has risen up with a great cry of indignation and horror at the Finance Secretary’s budget, when in fact a number of vested interests have squealed, and the usual suspects have appeared with dreary predictability, e.g. Iain MacMillan of the CBI, crying woe. The Scottish Unions cannot be dismissed in this way, however, and we must remember that they are only doing what unions do, making a pre-emptive threat to protect their membership, something I have applauded them for doing in England against the Coalition.

    But the problem with the Scottish trades unions has always been that many of their full-time officers are often more representative of Labour Party politics than they are of their membership, for the simple reason that the Party offers career progression and the high road to England for those who toe the party line. For many trade union officials, the Party and the union are a seamless whole, and they find it difficult to separate the two. While the unions, in the main, are affiliated to the Labour Party, this will continue to be true.

    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. It is fair to say that no such exalted – and highly lucrative – posts would ever be open to a Scottish MP who decided to devote himself or herself solely to the interests of the people who elected them to Westminster, and are certainly not open to those who decided to become MSPS and serve the Scottish people in Scotland.

    Now the most ambitious Labour MPs – and MSPs - grasp these essential facts very rapidly indeed, and at the earliest opportunity get the hell out of Scotland and as far away from the realities of the day-to-day lives of their constituents as possible. While Springburn crumbled into even greater dereliction and poverty than that which had been the legacy of decades as a Labour fiefdom, Michael Martin was siting in the Speaker’s chair, acting as shop steward for the MPs who were ripping off the taxpayer through the expenses system. 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.

    John Reid, MP of Motherwell North and then Airdrie and Shotts soon saw the attractions of the classic route to power – Secretary of State for Scotland and Secretary of State for Defence, and held numerous other Cabinet posts besides. A former Communist and a product of a very rough realpolitik Labour environment, he once described the Labour Party in 1983 as "Leaderless, unpatriotic, dominated by demagogues, policies 15 years out of date". Twenty eight years on, his description still more or less fits. But he saw the light and the road to power, prestige, wealth and a Lordship very clearly indeed, and the rewards have been substantial indeed for the Baron of Cardowan.



    These lesson have not been lost on another ambitious Scot, Jim Murphy, and he was well on the road while the Brown Government was still in power, and had climbed on to the first plateau, Secretary of State for Scotland, courtesy of the voters of East Renfrewshire. But this happy progress was rudely interrupted by the May 2010 General Election, when Labour got thrown out of office, the realistic chance of the Rainbow Coalition of Labour, LibDems and nationalists that Gordon Brown hoped for being killed stone dead by John Reid in a television interview.

    Jim has not given up, however, and clings on to the path as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence. Despite his acknowledged Southern Irish antecedents, James Francis Murphy is viscerally opposed to his native country, Scotland, achieving its independence, and is a stout defender of WMDs and the nuclear deterrent. In that, he echoes John, the Lord Reid, who according to George Galloway can sing - and play on guitar - an entire Irish songbook of republican ballads, something that must come in handy in the boardroom of Celtic Football Club, but is less acceptable on the terracing, courtesy of the SNP Government. John Reid is committed to multilateral nuclear disarmament, which means he is committed to hanging on to British WMDs till the tooth fairy appears on the international scene. He is of course, despite the Irish revolutionary songbook, totally committed to the Union, Trident, etcetera, etcetera …

    Jim Murphy stars in a double page spread in today’s Scotsman, beaming from his office in Westminster, with Big Ben just across the road. The headline – My biggest regret: being sidelined by a tribal party – is intriguing. Who is this tribal party? Why, Scottish Labour, of course!

    In case anyone is any doubt of where Jim’s priorities lies, here is what the boy from Arden has to say for himself -

    He has ‘admitted’ that his greatest regret was to allow himself to be excluded from Labour’s Holyrood election campaign. Why? Because they might have won had he been involved. You’re too modest by far, Jim …

    Labour failed to be one team, and the culture of tribalism between MSPs and MPs has to end.

    He modestly insists that he will not consider being Scottish Leader for 20 years. (That relieves me of one worry for my declining years!)

    He agrees reluctantly (David Maddox of the Scotsman says he grimaced) that it was “mutually agreed” that he stay out of the Holyrood election campaign.

    But here are his killer-diller comments -

    He insists that there is no problem with the ambitious and more talented members of the party in Scotland wanting to come down to Westminster.

    In other words, the more ambitious and talented members of the party – among whose ranks he clearly numbers himself – will take the high road to England, and the rest, the MSPS who are the elected representatives of a devolved, soon to be independent Scotland, are the less ambitious and talented and should stay behind. Nice one, Jim – tell it like it is

    And on his own future?

    Well, he might consider being Scottish Leader in 20 years time (once he’s rich, and assuming he’s not a Lord) but now now. “I’ve got a job to do, I want to be Defence Secretary.”

    I’ll bet you do, Jim – think of the perks!

    Saturday, 17 September 2011

    More from the Cold Fried Labour franchise?

    What does a Scottish journalist or commentator do when real thoughts about Scotland’s exciting and demanding political scene desert him? Why, he writes a ‘What Labour Must Do’ article with one hand while flicking TV channels and playing with his iPhone with the other. Fire it off to Bill Jamieson at the Scotsman – he’ll print anything in that genre.

    So has Gerry Hassan, a commentator of real perception and depth on Scottish affairs, joined the McTernan franchise, paid upfront for the secret recipe and embarked on a career in fast crap journalism? No, he hasn’t - appearances to the contrary - even though he offers us a new variant on the title - Scottish Labour owes us an exciting, new story  Read it – he has something relevant and useful to say.

    But his closing paragraph asks Labour to recognise that Scotland has changed, the SNP bogeyman story won’t wash anymore and Labour must “reach out and tell a modern Labour story of Scotland”. Unfortunately, Gerry, that will require powers of invention far beyond the capacity of Scottish Labour or the UK Party. And to tell a real story, you must have a soul …

    Sarah Boyack gave the game away in her car crash of an interview with Raymond Buchanan on Newsnight Scotland. In his introduction, Raymond Buchanan encapsulates the problem facing Scottish Labour -

    Labour is used to being in power in Scotland, so some of its Scottish members are still coming to terms with not being in control of anything bigger than a council.” In the lead-in to the superb introductory video piece by David Allison, RB describes it as the dilemma facing “what used to be the People’s Party.” How I love that phrase, one I have used repeatedly since I started blogging …

    Jim Murphy talks earnestly outside John Smith House (oh, how the greater Labour leaders of the past silently mock the thing their party has become) about reorganisation at grassroots level, changing constituency boundaries, plans for an elected leader “from all our parliamentarians” and he claims that this is “really putting energy into the party, totally transforming it and giving a kinna set of structures that kinna don’t belong to the era when they were built, which was in 1918, but bringing us right up to date so that we can not only strengthen our party, but stand up for Scotland and win a referendum when it comes.”

    Despite the fractured Lord Prescott syntax, I know what you mean, Jim. If I may paraphrase – you don’t trust the Holyrood MSP group to deliver a leader, so MPs must be included, you’ll dump the antiquated 1918 structure and bring in a new one, and having failed to stand up for Scotland while in power and throughout the SNP period in government, you will now do so by “winning a referendum”, i.e. persuading Scots to stay in the Union.

    A quibble – the referendum is not an election, it is an attempt to determine the wishes of the people on a single issue, the status of a union they entered into voluntarily (more or less). A referendum is not ‘won’ by a political party, but is a decision of the people to which political parties, among many others, contribute by rational, persuasive argument. If the Labour Party had any political values, vision or programme for Scotland beyond the preservation of the Union, they would understand that, but they don’t.

    What would become of the Murphys, the Harrises, the Alexanders et al if the Union ended? Look for a safe seat in England? Take the long, hard, low road back to their native land? To be welcomed with open arms by MSPs who had stayed to fight the good fight in Scotland, willingly standing down to make way for the big boys from Westminster? Aye, right …

    And so to Sarah Boyack, who spent the summer reflecting on the election in May. Let’s twist again like we did last summer – ah, that summer of 2011. How we reflected!

     Scottish Labour is now “totally focused on winning back in the future, and we think devolving ourselves, giving ourselves a stronger leader, giving support to that leader to make them able to do the job.” Something is sort of left hanging there – the ghost of Prestcott delivery – but we know what she means. Not a word about what Labour are for – it’s all structure. As Brian Taylor says, the Scottish people are many things – but they not daft …

    In the interview that followed, Sarah Boyack walked straight into the elephant trap in her opening remarks by referring to “our vision of Scotland”, to be instantly challenged by Raymond Buchanan as to what exactly that vision was.

    Sarah’s vision – “a fairer Scotland, a Scotland of solidarity ..,.” (an unfortunate choice of words Sarah – shades of a real socialist, Tommy Sheridan) “to make sure that we invest in the vital public services that people need …. big plans for creating jobs, modern apprenticeships …” While Labour was saying these things, Sarah, the SNP Government was actually doing them, while Labour’s obsession with the Union obstructed them at every turn. But do go on …

    We’re now going to devolve our party …” Twelve years after devolution and the Scottish Parliament, the penny has finally dropped in the empty pinball machine that is Scottish Labour.

    Raymond Buchanan is unimpressed by the talk of structures. He’s keen on the policy.

    RB: You talk about Labour being a party of fairness, of solidarity, of public services … you could be describing the SNP. What’s the difference?

    The Vulcan death grip. Sarah writhes. “Well, the SNP tried to camp on some of our historic territory …”

    RB: And it’s worked, hasn’t it?

    It’s all down hill for Sarah from there on in.

    Now What I think Labour Must Do is … I’ll write an article in my sleep and submit it to the Scotsman. Or do I need to sign up under the McTernan Labour Cold Chicken franchise? Look what happened to a real McDonald when he challenged a giant franchise! Caution, caution …

    Sunday, 4 September 2011

    Glasgow, Labour, the SNP, and carpetbaggers …

    I have had my moments with Gerry Braiden of the Herald, mainly over the reporting of the Dalmarnock outrages directed against the Jaconellis and other families, businesses and of course the shocking callousness of Glasgow City Council over the closure of the Accord Centre for disabled children.

    But I believe in crediting good, objective journalism when it makes its rare appearances in the Scottish Press, and Gerry Braiden’s exclusive yesterday – Labour axes ‘old guard’ – was an example of that.

    It reflects the inchoate panic of Glasgow Labour as it faces the terrible prospect of its control of Glasgow City Council being wrested away from them in next year's local elections, a fear that must be exacerbated by  the recent Ipsos MORI poll on Scottish Public Opinion and voting intentions.

    However, Labour might take a crumb of comfort from alleged infighting among SNP Glasgow councillors, if Tom Gordon’s piece Fresh blow for SNP bid to take over Glasgow in today’s New Sunday Herald is accurate.

    I can forgive my party many things, but if they blow their chances to remove Labour from the GCC, and wreck the last best hope of the people of Glasgow, I will find it hard to swallow. Maybe someone will reassure me …


    I have had some fun on Twitter over Murdo Fraser’s plan for a new Scottish Greed and Privilege party -

    moridura Peter Curran

    Murdo Fraser's New Unionism sounds a bit New Labour-ish. Could he not have called it New Imperialism? New Jingoism? NeoConism? Naechanceism?

    moridura Peter Curran

    Murdo Fraser will outline plans to "kill independence" and "break the SNP" at his campaign launch next week. Who, the Tories? Aye, right …


    However, Rosanna Cunningham calls for due seriousness, in case he is on the ‘right’ lines, to coin a phrase. David Mundel, on BBC News today, looking even more rabbit-in-the-headlights than usual over a grainy, out of synch link from Skype, clearly doesn’t like Murdo’s big idea. The virtual death of his party is as nothing to him compared to the fact that, as the sole Scottish Tory MP in Westminster from a party contemptuously rejected by Scots, he nonetheless is taken seriously by the big boys, and thinks he plays a significant role in government.

    I have always found David Mundel to be faintly risible, and he did nothing to dispel this today. Quotes -

    Membership of the Union ---- is a very strong suit in our armour ---“

    A new party is not a silver bullet that turns the problems round …”

    Wearing a suit under your armour is not to be recommended, David, although if anyone can carry it off, you could. Silver bullets are for killing werewolves, and they were used to great effect in recent years at the ballot box to kill off a great threat to the Scottish people, namely, the Scottish Tories.

    Back to Scottish Labour, who, if the Glasgow SNP can get their act together, will face a hail of silver bullets at the 2012 local elections. Murdo Fraser’s New Unionism leaves the way clear for Scottish Labour to re-brand itself as The Scottish Labour and Unionist Party, under the leadership of one or another of the carpetbagging hacks from Westminster. The name change would simply formalise things, for this is what they have been for some time now.

    For those not versed in American history, the carpetbaggers were cynical and opportunistic politicians who move from the North to exploit the South. Labour is busy reversing the compass in this respect.

    Saturday, 3 September 2011

    The CBI and the Ipsos MORI poll - panic in the Union, silence in the Press


    I thought of doing a piece on the C.B.I. today, but thanks to a Twitter link from Ewan Crawford, I find that Calum Cashley has already done all the heavy-lifting in his piece on 5th January 2011, an-in depth analysis that effectively demolishes the C.B.I. claim to be representative of anything significant in Scottish industry, except perhaps the personal political orientation of some if its senior officers, past and present. Calum Cashley also trenchantly makes the point that if the C.B.I. made the same sustained, quietly productive contribution to the economic debate as the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, instead of acting as a cheerleader for the Union, it might actually claim to have a real role in Scottish life. I had thought than when Linda Urquhart replaced Iain McMillan things might change for the better. On this week’s showing, they haven’t


    Ipsos MORI POLL – Scottish Public Opinion Monitor

    Yesterday’s Ipsos MORI poll – the Scottish Public Opinion Monitor – was greeted with rapturous delight by nationalists, and to date, if not quite a deafening silence, a muted response by the Herald and the Scotsman, who give it minimal coverage. The superb graphical presentation of the damning statistics for the Union of the sampled will of the Scottish people, which would have been reproduced lovingly in double-paged spreads by both newspapers had they told a different story, have been ignored, and the figures made as dull as possible.

    The Scottish public will have to access the original - Scottish Public Opinion Monitor – online, or buy a printed copy to feel the full impact of the statistics.

    This is doubtless in sharp contrast to the panic-stricken quacking that will be taking place in various inner sanctums of the Union, as the deeply confused and deeply threatened Coalition demands explanations of its tame Scotsmen – Alexander, Moore, et al - as to why the natives of the northern province are refusing to recognise their Britishness, and that we are stronger together and weaker apart, etc.  The Colonial governor, the hapless Moore, will take most of the flak.

    In the Labour Party, with even more to lose when Scotland says bye-bye to the UK , another Alexander, Douglas of that ilk, and other Scottish Labour MPs who lose no opportunity to pledge their undying allegiance to the regime that offered them the high road to England – Jim Sheridan, Ann McKechin, Tom Harris, Cathy Jamieson, etc. – are being asked what the hell is going on.

    Jim Murphy will be exasperated that what he thought was his final escape from Scotland to safer pastures in the deep South - and a cosy niche as Shadow Defence Secretary - keeps being threatened by demands that he involve himself in the messy and confused processes of trying to revive the corpse of Scottish Labour.

    And that strange, motley band, the Scottish Lords, will squirm on the leather benches and wonder what will become of them if the people of Scotland have their way.

    Lord, Lord! We didnae ken … they cry. Aye, weel, ye ken noo! replies the Lord

    Tuesday, 10 May 2011

    The new Scotland - where to from here?

    There’s a concept among jazz musicians - woodshedding - that expresses where I need to be at the moment. Going to the woodshed is what a jazz musician does when he or she needs to come to grips with something fundamental - technique, conception, tone, etc. Legendary jazz woodshedders included Charlie Parker who entered the woodshed as a primitive young musician and emerged as a fully-fledged genius, with a formidable technique and with a new musical language, and Sonny Rollins, already an established musician, who famously woodshedded on a public road bridge and re-invented himself and his music.

    The woodshed is a metaphor, but I’ve got a real one - the Hut, as we call it, our little summerhouse at the back of the garden, an invaluable retreat from the distractions of the house.

    I urgently need to woodshed on the big questions that face Scotland and all Scots, old and new, now that the election is over, and we are basking briefly in the new Scottish Spring - independence and the referendum that might lead us there.

    But before I disappear, I have a couple of things I want to say -

    I have been struck over the last week by the virtual absence of any discussion over foreign policy in the media and in the press - the Trident in the room, rather than the elephant in the room.

    For me, independence means Scotland having control of its own foreign policy, of its own defence - of deciding in what circumstances and for what cause Scottish young servicemen and women must be placed in harm’s way by the state and give their lives if necessary, depriving Scottish families of their children, their partners, their spouses, their fathers, their mothers, their brother, their sisters, their friends - and Scottish servicemen and women of their comrades.

    Fundamental to that control of foreign policy is the rejection of nuclear weapons and the concept of the nuclear deterrent.

    Why is this topic being quietly sidelined by all parties, both those opposed to independence and those in favour? Why is all the talk confined to economic control, social policy, various options all the way through to devolution max, to constitutional monarchy, to somehow retaining the concept of the UK while freeing Scotland of the dead hand of Westminster and the Treasury?

    Well, I have a view on why.

    It is because control of foreign policy is the truly fundamental issue that no one wants to speak its name, lest they frighten the horses.

    It is because it is believed that it was not a particularly important or defining issue in the election campaign,  other than in the context of the cost of Trident, and the job creation scheme argument that is often used to justify military expenditure.

    It is because it impacts directly on the ancient link between monarchy, the military and organised religion - all three potential minefields for politicians, whatever their core beliefs and allegiances.

    It is because it is believed by politicians, with some justification, that the voting public don’t really care about it, don’t understand it, and are made uncomfortable by it.

    Nationalist politicians are wary of putting it centre stage because it might not play well with the voting public when they enter the independence referendum polling booths.

    Unionist politicians must play canny with it, because it is in fact their fundamental reason for opposing full independence, and is linked inextricably with the the idea of British identity - an imperial identity - the United Kingdom’s perceived role in world affairs, the whole rotten edifice of undemocratic, unelected privilege that is the British Establishment and the Peerage and the House of Lords, the unionist’s latent or overt anti-Europeanism, and the subservient, client nature of the UK’s relationship with US foreign policy.

    So now the nationalist politician may be entering an unspoken consensus with the unionist politician in the two years or so before the Independence referendum bill that, together, we won’t frighten the military horses, the monarchy, the Church, the Establishment or the electorate, and will concentrate on the economic and social arguments, and that something that falls just short of full independence that includes control of Scotland’s foreign policy may be a happy outcome all around.

    On my way to the woodshed, let me say that while I will make my contribution to the economic and social argument, and to the principle of gradualism and softly, softly catchee independence monkey, nothing short of full control of Scotland’s foreign policy will ultimately satisfy me.

    Tuesday, 28 September 2010

    Ed Miliband's speech - Blairite reactions

    As Miliband the Younger criticised the Blair/Brown regime's record on the economy, - on civil rights, on freedom, etc. - the camera panning across the audience lingered hopefully on brother David. But just behind him sat Alistair Darling and Jim Murphy, both giving the powerful impression of sitting in an abandoned nest in their still-warm, but rapidly cooling excrement. Douglas Alexander looked much the same.

    I didn't see Iain Gray, but then, no judgement could have been formed, since Scotland's would-be next First Minister always looks that way.