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Showing posts with label referendum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label referendum. Show all posts

Sunday, 4 March 2012

A stark and humiliating contrast – Alex Salmond and Johann Lamont on the Sunday Politics

Can anyone imagine Lamont, Rennie or Davidson - or Cameron, Clegg or Miliband - arguing economically and fiscally with such competence?

Alex Salmond's clear answers on a range of questions won't stop unionists asking same questions again and again.

Scotland has the right man at the right time in its history - it has chosen him twice, and will choose independence in the referendum.

Sadly, we don’t have to imagine Johann Lamont on the economy and fiscal matters – here she is. Over-promoted, economically and fiscally inadequate, and way out of her depth. Scottish Labour should not have put a decent, hard-working politician in this unenviable position. I like her, I believe she cares - but she should not have put herself forward for this job. And, since she does care about Scotland and Scots, she's in the wrong party ...

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Holyrood Budget - Labour arithmetic 2+2=5

John Swinney responds to Tory and Labour demands for budget changes demanded without their offering any idea about where the money could come from - except for Jackie Baillie's ludicrous suggestion that the cost of the referendum (£10m) could pay for them.

The Finance Minister has plaudits for Willie Rennie's responsible approach, and brickbats for Labour and the Tories. The Scottish Labour Party has learned nothing from their repetition of their blind opposition during the 2007/2011 Holyrood term. Then they managed - in conjunction with the LibDems and the Tories - to block major items of legislation that would have benefited Scotland, e.g. minimum pricing for alcohol.

As a result of that, the Scottish electorate gave a resounding and historic mandate to the SNP, an outcome that Scottish Labour has still failed to understand. But they can no longer mindlessly block budgets, or anything else.  If only the Scottish Tories and Scottish Labour could have been big enough to grasp the olive branch held out to them by the SNP - the manifest willingness of the Scottish Government to work for consensus in the Parliament, despite their majority.

But that would have required a political approach from Labour and Tories that rose above political expediency - and a grasp of basic arithmetic ...

Friday, 20 January 2012

The UK’s nuclear panic - and devo max

To see oorsel’s as ithers see us - Al Jazeera - Breaking up Britain? 19th Jan 2012

Among the many perceptive insights in this article are these -

When independence comes “the UK will lose 90 per cent of its oil and gas reserves in the North Sea and almost half its land mass.”

Malcolm Rifkind (“who is himself a ScotAye, right) says "It would certainly open up the question of permanent membership of the Security Council in a way that would be quite awkward for the UK."

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Research Director at the Royal United Strategic Institute, notes the central nature of the nuclear issue, and the desperation of the UK to force Scotland to retain the bases. The observation is made that if the bases go after independence, “it is a real possibility that the UK could be left with no operational nuclear deterrent because the submarines could not be safely berthed.”

The article also notes that “The ability to continue formulating its own policy is also a factor motivating Scotland's drive [towards] independence.”

And there you have it in a nutshell - defence, the nuclear bases and the UK’s status in world affairs hang on Scotland’s independence, and nothing else really matters as much to the Unionists.

I’ve said a lot about the nuclear and defence issues over the years, and you can find my views by looking down the right hand index of blog search terms.

But the essence is this, for me at least -

1. I want a nuclear-free Scotland, and the only way to achieve this is full independence. I am totally and utterly opposed to the concept of the nuclear deterrent and WMDs.

2. I do not want anyone other than the Scottish Government that I elected to commit my country to war and to foreign engagements.

3. I do not want anyone other than the Scottish Government that I elected to send our servicemen and women into harms way and to die.

4. I am not a pacifist, and believe in conventional defence forces, and in joining with other countries in international military operations, e.g. peacekeeping operations or strategic interventions that Scotland supports.

The only way to achieve these objectives is the full independence of Scotland as a nation, since all of the UK parties are committed to nuclear weapons and the ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent.

Independence delivers devo max, i.e full fiscal autonomy, by default. The price of devo max without independence exacted by the UK is -

1. Retention of Scottish nuclear bases.

2. Retention of the Trident weapons of mass destruction.

3. Retention of the concept of the nuclear deterrent.

4. Retention of the right of the Westminster Parliament to send Scottish servicemen and women to war, and to die.

If you want to retain the UK, by definition you are endorsing all of the above.

If you want devo max without independence, by definition you are endorsing all of the above.

If you want neither devo max nor independence, by definition you are endorsing all of the above.

The Labour Party, the Tory Party, the LibDems are committed to the UK, therefore they are committed to all of the above.


The media slide away from these issues whenever they can, and focus instead on the economy. The economy is important - defence issues are vital.

Unionist politicians slide away from these issues whenever they can, at least until they are driven into panic mode by being forced to face them, as  Jim Murphy has been today by  Alex Salmond’s position on Scotland defence forces and resources..

Last night on STV, a politician I have some respect for, Henry McLeish, slid away from these issues, because despite his realism on Scotland and Scottish politics, he is a Labour politician and shackled to nuclear weapons like the rest of them.

Until very recently, these issues, and therefore the lives of Scottish servicemen and women were in the hands of one Liam Fox, the then Defence Minister. The circumstances leading to his downfall - preceded by desperate attempts to defend him and prop him up by Tory politicians - told us all we need to know about the reality of defence matters, defence procurement and the M.O.D. when in such hands.

At the moment, more Scots seem to want devo max than want independence. If they reject independence, there is no guarantee they will get devo max, because it will then continue to be in the gift of the Westminster Parliament, and Scotland has no democratic way of securing it, nor any negotiating card to play.

If the Scottish voter in favour of independence cannot persuade those against it to change their minds, then we default to nuclear weapons, war and death.

It’s as simple as that, and nothing will ever compensate us for that fatal choice. Make it with care, Scottish voters.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The sordid attack by Scottish MPs on Scotland's freedom - with help from English MPs

Here they are – the sordid little gang of high-road-to-England Tory, Labour and LibDem MPs (the SNP MPs participate in Westminster of reluctantly and of necessity while it lasts) who know their careers will vanish like snaw aff a dyke when the Union ends.

We have Margaret Curran, Labour MP for Glasgow East since 2010, formerly an MSP, now Shadow Scottish Secretary, and Willie Bain, Labour MP for Glasgow North East, now Shadow Scottish Minister. Both of them come from constituencies that are among the most deprived in Scotland, a decline and deprivation that Labour has presided over for well over half a century. Willie Bain is the successor in this Labour poverty-stricken fiefdom of Michael Martin, formerly the Speaker of the House of Commons who was forced to resign in disgrace after the expenses scandal, and who is now a  Lord, safely distanced from from the poverty and deprivation of Springburn, from whence he and Oor Wullie both sprang.

Margaret and Willie sit cheek by jowl on the green benches, smiling supportively at each other – a kind of fairy tale hybrid couple. Across the gangway from them sit Michael Moore, Scottish Secretary and David Mundel, Scottish minister.

Both of these MPs are entirely unrepresentative of Scottish politics today, although they both represent the bad judgement of those who elected them. Both are members of political parties who face near extinction in Scotland. In Michael Moore’s case, were there a general election tomorrow, he and his party would almost certainly vanish. David Mundel’s party is already in self-destruct mode, something an endangered species can do without, but in a general election, the electorate of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale might well continue to display the execrable taste in politicians that has characterised them for a long time, so he might survive. (Maybe they’re too close to the Border …)

These two joined-at-the-hip double acts collectively form a discordant quartet at Scottish questions, given that their parties detest each other, but are united in their common desperate quest for survival in the face of their county’s independence. In this, they get support from sundry backbench – and backwoods – Tories, in this outing Norman Bone, who fancies himself as a wag, a hard-faced Essex Tory girl and a Scot who is MP for the English constituency of Fylde, so he’s alright, Jock when independence comes.

But let them speak for themselves, and try not to feel nausea and utter contempt as you listen – it won’t be long …

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

LibDems - the failed, bitter, vengeful UK party that attacks the SNP

This is the failed, discredited party that attacks the most successful party in Britain - the Scottish National Party.

It has five - yes, 5 - MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. It would be obliterated if a UK general election was called now. It has lied to the electorate. It has failed to deliver in Coalition. It is now Tory in all but name.

Its former Scottish leader, Tavish Scott, is now bitter, vengeful towards the SNP, and blames his own UK party for wrecking his political career. Well, they helped, Tavish, but you did a pretty good job of wrecking it yourself ....

And the Colonial Governor of Scotland, Michael Moore, a LibDem, attacks the SNP. the decisively elected government of Scotland, and in doing so, attacks the Scottish people.

Adjectives for LibDems - ineffectual, naive, expedient - and vicious in failure ...

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Extremadura, localism and nationalism.

Given all the things I have said about the Labour Party and Labour politicians, it is unsurprising that I have few amicable dialogues with the party. I am also a Labour apostate, which compounds the problem. But I have always tried to make a sharp distinction between the Labour Party and its politicians and the people they have so comprehensively betrayed. This distinction is especially vital in the case of Labour supporters in England, who, unlike the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish, are faced with limited choices if they wish to shift their allegiance

It has been especially welcome for me therefore to have Twitter exchanges with a Labour supporter that I have unqualified respect for, including for the generous way he has responded to my regrettable tendency to shoot from the hip occasionally on Twitter – a kind of Ready, Fire, Aim approach.

Miljenko Williams tweets @eiohel and his online site is

He recently was prompted to reflect on the nature of localism and nationalism, asking the question On sliding between localism and nationalism - when does one become the other?

After misunderstanding his initial tweet, and without following the link, I fired off in typical fashion, but then was politely directed back to source by Miljenko. I have his permission to repeat my comments on his fascinating article, but you really should read the original and what prompted it.



Getting over my shock at the real Extremadura intruding on my consciousness, (I wrote a book set in Extremadura - 'The Ancient Order of Moridura' - without ever having visited the region) let me offer a few thoughts - 

   The concept of a nation clearly is a much more complex one than that of a region, one bound up with geography, language, culture and identity built over centuries. It is not just a grouping of localities, and cannot be seen as just a series of economic and technological initiatives. Interdependence is the key factor that leads to communities, then localities, then nations, but national independence does not exclude localism nor does it deny cooperation across national boundaries.
     But in organising itself to survive and achieve those eternal freedoms to to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, mankind has fallen repeatedly into the seductive trap of 'big is better', and the idea of economies of scale.
     This has undoubtedly delivered benefits for some, but usually at the expense of others, and significantly at the expense of our common humanity. It has led to brutal oppressive empires, world religions, global banking, global companies, and most sinisterly of all, to the military/industrial complex – Eisenhower’s nightmare scenario, now a fact.

    What we need now is democratic nationalism on a human scale, with maximum decentralisation of power to regions and localities, and free cooperation with other nations on economic, technological and scientific matters - and yes, on defence - but with the emphasis always being on serving the needs of the people, not the people serving the needs of a privileged and amoral minority.

    If our 21st century society has only given us the iPad, the iPhone and mp3 players, it has failed. In fact, it is failing, right now, globally. Sophisticated communications systems alone will not deliver happiness, or even economic and social benefit. There is prima facie evidence that they can be inimical to it, dependent on who controls the systems and the information flow.
    Spain is a nation, and short of trying to establish Iberia as a nation, it will always be a nation. Extremadura is a fascinating region, with a wonderful history and identity, one that must be preserved and celebrated, but it is not, and cannot be a nation.

   But I know that this raises other issues of regional identity in Spain, ones beyond my knowledge and competence to comment on.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

News of the World: a note of distinct unease among the unionists - and others…

I never went to university, having been forced to leave school at fifteen to earn a living to support myself and my widowed mother. The Glasgow of 1950 was an unforgiving place to someone of my class and economic circumstances. But over the years, especially during my management consultancy years, I have had contact with universities, enough to realise that the groves of Academe are as rife with feuds and petty politicking as industry and commerce, and that such behaviour often rages unabated, unchecked as it is by any accountability to shareholders, give or take the odd undergraduate riot.

So I took some amusement from reading in today’s Scotsman of the behaviour of sundry professors at the University of Abertay, and the clear evidence that fancy dress doesn’t protect one’s back from being bitten.

But what caught my attention was a little piece tucked away up in the corner of page 7, at the end of a four-page coverage of the phone hacking affair. It is by a sociology lecturer at Abertay University, one Stuart Waiton, and it is entitled Analysis: NotW closure an act of liberal intolerance.

I wouldn’t exactly describe it as an analysis, more a little anti-liberal rant. Stuart is fond of inverted commas, which doubtless in the flesh he would offer as raised eyebrows while twiddling two raised finger as enclosing quotes to what he says. Paraphrased, his piece comes down to saying that the News of the World closure is a bad thing, brought about by “right thinking” people, the “liberal” elite - a “tolerant” group, driven by snobbery and fear of the “mob”. He dismisses the idea that the “right” is all powerful in our “neo-liberal” world as a myth. The quotes are all from Stuart, who clearly deeply distrusts “right thinking” people, “liberals” and their “tolerant” pretensions.

Tell it as you see it, Stuart. The only obvious omissions from your piece are references to the silent majority and an attack on The Guardian. It’s safe to assume that Stuart and I would not choose each other as drinking companions. Sociology must be an interesting discipline at Abertay, in among the coup plots, the spying, the allegations of the incompetence of the university court, the grievance letters, the resignations - a rewarding research laboratory right on a sociologist’s doorstep, with the conflict doubtless being exacerbated and its extent exaggerated by tolerant, right-thinking liberals and the mob.

For the record, Stuart: Rupert Murdoch took the decision to close the NotW, not tolerant, right-thinking liberals or the mob.

However, this strange little outburst, and a piece on essentially the same theme on page 29 by Allan Massie - who could not easily be mistaken for a liberal - gave me cause for wider consideration about just what is happening here …

The phone hacking crisis has been building for some years, but the accelerated pace of events over the last week, the enormity of the revelations, and the magnitude of the impact on the hitherto seemingly impregnable News International monolith have been welcome to many - including me - but deeply threatening to some.

Professional journalists have been uneasy over the closure of The News of the World, and are worried about just what form regulation of the press might take. These fears are entirely understandable, and in some respects, well-founded. When journalists of the reputation and calibre of Harry Reid and Tim Luckhurst call for a period of sober reflection before rushing into regulation of the press - as they did last night on Newsnight Scotland - we must listen and take account of their views.

But the collapse of the News of the World, the sudden ebbing away of power from the Murdoch organisation, the threat to the BSkyB takeover, the serious questions over the behaviour of the Metropolitan police, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron towards News International are of deep concern to other groups, with very different motives, sharing very different fears about the pattern of recent events and the forces that precipitated them.

The Guardian newspaper played the central role. This venerable news organ, once The Manchester Guardian, with a formidable reputation beyond its regional origins, was a formative influence on my political thinking throughout my youth and during my middle life. It is of course the bête noire of the right, infested as it is by tolerant, right-thinking liberals.

Throughout my career in business, espousing liberal - with a small l -values and ideals was treated with deep distrust by my main employers, and reading the Guardian newspaper was regarded as clear evidence of pinko-lefty tendencies and general unsoundness. One employer objected to my bringing it into the senior management/directors dining room, the existence of which, in itself, was evidence of their non-liberal values!

The forces in our society that were hostile to liberal values had initially seemed to me to be the forces of the right in politics, e.g. the Tories, and amoral big business, the military/industrial complex, and fundamentalist religious groups. However, this distinction - which had been blurring for decades - became irrelevant from Tony Blair onwards, as the Labour Party effectively became - and remain - the Tories Mark II.  Since the Liberal Democrats were becoming increasingly illiberal and undemocratic, especially in Scotland, it seemed at one point as though the game was lost to the forces of the right, and liberal values were in total retreat. The only gleam of hope for me was the SNP win in 2007.

In the absence of any effective opposition to the juggernaut of right-wing values and the increasing dominance of war, the military/industrial complex and the nuclear deterrent as the operating principles of the United Kingdom, those of a liberal persuasion in Scotland had the Scottish National Party, whereas the the people of England were left with no real political choice except the feeble, vacillating Liberal Democrats, who experienced a dramatic but short-lived revival of their electoral fortune before the 2010 general election, but then promptly betrayed their mandate utterly in coalition.

In short, the forces of reaction, anti-liberalism, anti-democratic values, anti-Europeanism, power and privilege were incarnate in the UK, in its three main political parties  - Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats - and the ever-present, ever-powerful unelected British Establishment.

The only possible response of the people to this denial of their democratic rights and freedoms was to operate outside of the perverted democratic process, through alternative media, friendly mainstream media and the power of social networking. Since the UK is not yet a totalitarian dictatorship, it has been possible to do this effectively without the use of violence, although inevitably some mass demonstrations had egregious episodes of violence by a tiny and unrepresentative minority. This has been in marked contrast to the so-called Arab Spring - a spontaneous wave of people power, with violence as its only route, provoking even more violent responses, with as yet unresolved and unpredictable outcomes.

The Scottish Parliamentary elections exploded into the complacent UK Establishment  consciousness in May of this year, delivering an unequivocal mandate to the Scottish National Party, and the ability to call a referendum on Scottish independence.

In the space of 24 hours, the possibility of the break-up of the UK, the removal of the nuclear bases from Scottish waters and Scottish soil, the removal of Scottish armed forces from Westminster control, the removal of Scottish oil revenues, Scottish tax revenues, Scottish whisky duty revenues - all of these things became a frightening reality for the UK Establishment and Westminster.

The present outbreak of consensus between the three UK parties, their enthusiastic but belated condemnation of Murdoch, News Corporation, News International, Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, the police and Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all, is an attempt to mask their complicity in what had gone before. This entire web of corruption and influence was and is the UK in all its sordid operating reality - a conspiracy of the rich and powerful - and those politicians who aspire to be both - to exploit the ordinary working people of this kingdom in its four component parts.

It was forced upon them, as was the exposure of the expenses scandal, of the cash for influence scandal, of the revelations of egregious incompetence of the Ministry of Defence, of the sordid machinations of the UK’s complicity in illegal and/or misconceived wars by the actions of those organs of the Press and media that remain beyond their influence and control - and most of all by the people, in their campaigns, in their use of the new media, and in their overwhelming disgust for what is being done to them in  the name of democracy.

And the Scottish manifestation of this deep unease with the true voice of the people, and their aspirations for a real democratic state has been to give a powerful mandate to a party they believe in. This mandate cannot be attacked directly by Scottish unionists, but they have targeted it obliquely by every avenue open to them, questioning the reasons that led them to decisively reject the unionist parties, trying to pretend that the electorate were fools and had been manipulated, that the turnout and the proportion of the vote was not a real mandate - the list of ‘charges’ is endless.

But in the phone hacking scandal, the unionists have taken to attacking the people themselves as deluded, complicit, as bringing it upon themselves.

Allan Massie, Defender of the Union par excellence, closes his otherwise bland piece - which contained no new insights, and says little that has not already been said - with an extraordinary final paragraph.

“Nobody owns the moral high ground in the present kerfuffle - and this includes the public with its appetite for salacious gossip. Of one thing we may be sure. If the Press is curbed, the appetite for such gossip and slanderous comment will not disappear. Already you can find more - and nastier examples of it on the so-called social media. The public indignation now being expressed is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in the glass.” 

In other words, it’s all the fault of the people - they are not driven by revulsion at the hacking of the phones of murder victims and their families, of the families of servicemen and woman killed in the UK’s foreign wars, nor at the manifest corruption of the Metropolitan Police Force, nor of those at the heart of government. The people are themselves to blame for bringing all this upon themselves and will do so again - their moral outrage is hypocritical.

I have this to say to Allan Massie - in choosing between the culpability of those who create, feed and profit by depraved appetites and those who suffer from them, the line of argument that chooses the victim is despicable: we have heard it articulated over alcohol abuse, over rape, over drug addiction, etc. and it is usually accompanied by a wish to avoid any form of legislation or practical action that would ameliorate the abuse, substituting instead moral posturing and an attack on the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Any commentator who values his or her reputation for objective comment, as I am sure he does, should consider vary carefully using any argument that contains a hint of this. In his unionist campaign to prevent Scots from achieving their nation’s freedom from and independence of the UK, Allan Massie should be alive to these dangers of unwitting association with the more extreme examples of this blame-the-people mode.

He says that nobody owns the moral high ground. I agree with him on that at least.

But some of us are on higher moral ground than that occupied by the present London-based UK political parties and by the British Establishment, and that higher ground is increasingly occupied by the people, especially the people of Scotland.

I invite him to join us on it - it will be worth the climb …

POSTSCRIPT: As of this afternoon, News Corp has withdrawn its bid for BSkyB.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

“Independence was sleepwalking towards independence”. Aye, right, Alan …

ALAN COCHRANE: I found this the most incredible intervention in recent years - months ... For John Major to say this is absolute havering. I mean, this was the man who said independence (sic) was sleepwalking towards independence - and now he's saying 'huv the whole lot, let's go the whole way’. I can't understand what he's playing at, quite frankly. Unless he's, like a lot of English Tories, completely sick of us."

Aye right, Alan - " independence (sic) was sleepwalking towards independence"

Well, you could say that - except the Nationalists have their eyes wide open - it's you and your ilk, Alan, who have been sleepwalking, in the death sleep of the Union. Scotland has been completely sick of it for a long time - and of its defenders in the Press.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Cameron the Coward–frit, frit, frit

David Cameron - frit, frit, frit, as Maggie would have said – or feart, as Scots would say.

Dodges the phone hacking/BSkyB debate and sends the hapless Hunt - a right Hunt if ever there was one - to take the flak, unable to answer questions.

Not even a slippery Old Etonian could have avoided incriminating himself faced with the forensic questioning of the House. He has taken the 5th, so to speak, by hiding from Parliament. What does he have to hide? A cosy Cotswolds dinner party with old pals Murdoch and Rebekah Brookes can't sort this one, Davy boy.

Scots! Let’s get the hell out of this corrupt Union as soon as possible.

Saor Alba!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

An antidote to the ‘Britishness’ nonsense talked in the Newsnight special

Rory Stewart OBE, Tory MP (born in Hong Kong, raised in Malaysia, education Dragon school, Eton and Balliol college, Oxford - Deputy Governor in two Iraq provinces for the armed US/UK Coalition that illegally invaded  Iraq. He served briefly in the Black Watch. His family originates from Crieff in Perthshire).

Asked if the break-up of the Union, compared by Paxman to a marriage, matters -

I think it matters very deeply, I think we’ll miss it terribly. It is something it is very easy to imagine you can tear apart, by I think like any relationship - any intertwined thing - once it’s gone, we’ll miss it and we will never forgive the government that tore it apart.”

This is emotional nonsense, with highly coloured, pejorative terms, delivered by a privileged product of the British Establishment, colonialism and Empire. He believes what he says - why wouldn’t he, with that background? He talks of the voluntary ending of a 300 year-old political treaty by democratic means and negotiation as a tearing apart, and the we he refers to, although he the thinks of it as the people of the UK , is in fact his own tiny, powerful, privileged class.

That class will miss the Union - you’d better believe they will!  They owe all they have to it - it has delivered for them, while marginalising, impoverishing and killing the rest of us in large numbers, especially the Scots.

And never forget, that historically, that class has always included Scots who were willing, indeed enthusiastic agents of British imperialism and the betrayal of the economic and social interests of their own people. And they’re still around …

Asked pointedly by Paxman what ‘we’ would lose, he replies

I think it’s a mistake to think we would lose economics (sic) - you can make economic arguments, you can make political arguments - you lose an idea: an idea of union, an idea of what was great about Britain - of England, of Scotland. And those are things that all of us feel.”

In the turgid emotional and now stagnant pool that is the unionist mind Britain, instead of being a geographical term for an archipelago - a group of islands - is conflated with a political entity, one that didn’t exist when the union with Scotland - a political and economic union - took place. He’s right - Great Britain is an idea, and its time is ending. If it’s any comfort to the Rory’s of this world, the Union of the Crowns - a much older pragmatic idea - looks set to continue.

Joan McAlpine, talking hard sense, leavened with humanity as usual, attempts to reassure those about to cry in their warm ale over the impending ‘loss’. Peter Davies, an English Democrat would like to return to the status quo ante, i.e. reverse the devolution process, rightly pointing out the self-serving political motives of Labour in using it to consolidate their Scottish hegemony (it didnae work, Tony!) but he is a realist, albeit a disgruntled one, about where we now are, and wants out.

Prompted by Joan McAlpine’s analysis of the real reason for devolution, Rory Stewart reluctantly concedes that “probably, in the end, it reflected the desires of the Scottish people. I think it would have been dangerous to fight it forever. But I think at the same time, Scotland and England can be independent … and Scotland is more independent in the Union than out of it.”

He goes on, however, that it is “reckless and unnecessary …” He is interrupted at this point by Paxman saying that it can be done. Rory acknowledges that it would not be a cataclysm, but “a crying shame …”

Faced with the English Democrat asking why the English are being discriminated against in the devolution settlements - as they are, in my view - he patronisingly tells his countryman (in Rory’s English persona) that he is “falling into the trap that the Scottish nationalists are setting - they are trying to make you feel that you are being discriminated against” to which he receives the robust rejoinder from Peter Davies “We are!”.

“Everything that they are doing is designed to try to make you feel resentful - you don’t need to …” This is half-Scot Rory talking about a large number of his countrymen and the elected Government of Scotland. Peter Davies rejoins that he is not resentful, but old Etonian Rory is in full patrician mode now.

You can be confident and proud of being British.”

Peter Davies, an Englishman, is more practical, and rejects the patronising tone. “I want what they’ve got - that’s not resentful.”

Gaun yersel, Peter, I say, endorsing his feeling that he is being discriminated against, because he is. Tam Dalziel said so, and since I am now from West Lothian, I support that other product of empire and privilege, the Laird of the Binns. At this point, Joan McAlpine made more relevant, hard economic and legal points, but Paxman prefers to stay with the emotion and the discrimination issue.

He questions the audience - do they feel discriminated against? He raises the nonsensical proposition that the English should be allowed a voice in the referendum, which some of the audience do. Could the English force the Scots to stay, even if they wanted to leave? This leaves the unfortunate audience member being prompted by Paxman looking confused, as well he might be, and asking that the question be repeated.

But Paxman gets little comfort - good old, English common-sense is prevailing. One of them recognises that some Scots actually may have more reservations about independence than the English.

Paxman seeks for Scots to answer his question, but yet again gets a robust answer from an Englishman, that it is a matter for Scots, not for them. Paxman then finds a straight-talking Scot, who says that all that will happen is that the English will lose a few more Labour MPs, and is sanguine about Scots continuing to get on well with the English, since they do so under “the pseudo independence we’ve got now.”

But Rory will have none of it - we are “in danger of turning friends into competitors, and opening up rivalries and crises of identity that none of us need or want.” He remains oblivious to the fact that this exists only in his mind and the minds of his narrow privileged class, not among the ordinary people, who recognise that the UK and the Union are not operating in their interests, but in the interests of Rory’s class - the British Establishment.

The Scottish audience member who spoke earlier points out gently to Rory, and cites former British empire members Canada, Australia and Ireland, where contacts, family ties and social relationships and economic ties are just fine.

Rory ignores this courteously stated point, and falls back on his Dad in Crieff, who is proud to be Scottish and British, and claims, with no evidence, that this represents more people in Scotland than the audience member represents, a discourteous, impertinent and unsupported statement.

I have little to say about the last few minutes of the discussion - it’s all there in the clip for those who want to analyse it.

I leave the last word on the UK and the Union to the distinguished historian, Norman Davies, on pages 870 and 871 of his magisterial work The Isles. I have selected quotes that seem highly relevant to me.


(1) The United Kingdom is not, and never has been, a nation-state.


By the terms of its inception in 1707, The United Kingdom has been prevented from developing either the federal or the unitary structures which have elsewhere fostered homogeneity.


It is essentially a dynastic conglomerate, which could never equalise the functions of its four constituent parts, and which, as a result, could never fully harmonise the identities of the national communities within its borders. The UK, for example, has no one established Church. (It has two of them.) It has no unified legal system, no centralised education system, no common cultural policy, no common history - none of the institutional foundations, in other words, on which nations states are built.


Like all ruling elites who wanted their citizens to form a coherent national community and to identify themselves with the interests of the state, the British establishment deliberately confused the concepts of citizenship and nationality. Indeed, in British usage, citizenship actually came to be called ‘nationality’, whilst citizens - or rather subjects - were called ‘nationals’. This linguistic manoeuvre did much to create the false impression that everyone who carried a British passport was automatically identified with the same national group.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Why the SNP won in 2011 - and why the unionist parties lost

A fascinating analysis, and one we must study closely. The electorate liked the SNP and the SNP team, and regarded them as competent to run Scotland under the present constitutional settlement.

Now we must extend that perception into a recognition that an independent Scotland can be run even more effectively by Scotland Party - the SNP, and only a decisive referendum vote by the Scottish electorate - and by them alone - will deliver that.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Stream of consciousness … and the BBC

I like to have a specific topic to address, but today I haven’t. But since I didn’t blog yesterday, and since some regular readers rapidly reach the reasonable conclusion that I’m dead if I don’t blog for a couple of days, I feel obliged to give proof of life …

So I sit at the keyboard with no plan, in the hope that something will come from the Id at least as far as the Ego and perhaps even reach the Superego. I’m not entirely certain that I have an Ego or Superego anymore, but I’m in regular touch with my Id, something closely resembling its manifestation in Forbidden Planet.

Today’s Radio Times confidently states on page 56


12.00 The Politics Show  Analysis and debate. Includes News at 12.00 and at 12.30 Scottish stories.

Good old reliable BBC - my trusted public service broadcaster, telling the truth to the four nations of Britain, calling the rich and powerful to account, champion of the ordinary people of these isles, in this great united kingdom - Dunkirk, Churchill, muffins for tea, cricket on the lawn, stiff-upper lips, guardian of the free people of the world, men in fancy dress in great cathedrals, monarchs, Royal weddings, knights, Lords, Ladies, colourful ritual and spectacle, stronger together than apart, etcetera, etcetera. You know the rest …

No need to consult the online guide on my television - after all, it’s not a public holiday, although something called Pentecost has knocked The Big Questions out of its 10.00 slot. The Andrew Marr Show was the predictable load of old Westminster village pap it has become since not-so-super injunctions have killed the mojo of its eponymous host.

I switch on just before midday and wait expectantly, laughing in sardonic delight because the tennis has been rained off. May it piss down on that tedious game for evermore, a game that is healthful exercise and a legitimate pursuit for those who actually get off their arses and play the game, but an exercise in mindless voyeurism for those non-players who watch it …

I should have been warned by the fate of The Big Questions. Midday passes, and the mindless chatter of those under the umbrellas continues, with the kind a vacuous gossip and idle speculation that characterises acres of sporting commentary. Panic-stricken, I switch to BBC2, only to find more crap, so I belatedly consult the online guide. Nae politics today, mate. If we can’t have tennis, you’ll have to be content with Country File, or some such rural idyll.

So at the end of a week in which we have seen the care of the old and vulnerable across the UK threatened by the rabid greed of speculative capitalists, the continued revelations of criminal behaviour by our UK newspapers, a week in which the implications of the behaviour of the UK Supreme Court for the Scottish Justice system becomes even more worrying, a week in which more young men and women are dying in misconceived foreign wars, a week in which we contemplate yet another involvement in Syria, and a week in which the Brian Rix Whitehall farce that is called the UK Government - the ConLib Coalition - move seamlessly from one disaster to another, a week in which Miliband Minor’s relevance to his party and to the nation is placed under question, the main political vehicle for examining events and placing the powerful under scrutiny - and where Scottish affairs get a real discussion platform - is sacrificed to a tennis match that didn’t take place and some countryside rambles.

I’m your long-term friend and defender, BBC - but when you behave like this, I shout aloud for independence, for  a free Scotland, with its own public service broadcaster, employing the fine journalists, presenters, creative artists and technicians that make up the present BBC Scotland, but freed from the dead hand of London.

And by God, we’ll have it, sooner rather than later …

Here to the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation - the SBC!

Roseanna Cunningham tweeted me to say it (?) was broadcast at 11.30 am. If so, I kick myself for missing it - but the criticism stands.

Stop press: I've now checked - it was broadcast at 11.00 am - now watching on the iPlayer. Will I apologise to the BBC? Will I ****! You ruined my morning - am I suppose to plan my day on not believing the Radio Times and cross check the transmission time of every programme if there's bloody sport on?

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Independence - the Bruce, The Scotsman - and Jim Sillars

My spell of woodshedding has been cut short. Far from being able to relax and take stock  after the election result, events have propelled me out of the hut prematurely, especially today’s Scotsman headline - SNP lowers sights to ‘independence-lite’.

This made me choke on my breakfast cereal, inducing my normal reaction to events, which is to rush to judgement and shoot from the hip - the ready-fire-aim approach. But I have learned to deal with it these days, remembering the wise words of an old boss - “Peter, your second idea is always better than your first - draw breath and wait for it.” So I did …

So let me move back to Thursday and to Politics Now on STV. The vital message at the start of the programme came from Gordon Wilson, a true elder statesman of the SNP (unlike Jim Sillars, who often puts his mouth in gear while his brain remains in neutral).

The thrust of what Gordon Wilson said was that the momentum gained by the election result had to be harnessed.

“With this majority, Alex should, in my opinion, unleash the SNP as a political party … to go out and campaign for independence. That means that he should … persuade the campaign team who ran this brilliant election to turn their talents into organising now - not  in two or three years time - for the referendum. You’ve got to do it now, if you’re going to persuade people to vote YES for independence.”

Hear, hear! Those are my feelings exactly, and I hope that Gordon is preaching to the converted in Alex Salmond. But then again, since this most considered of men felt it necessary to say it makes me think that the point needs underlining.

We got a replay of Tam Dalziel forecasting the doom and disaster, in plummy Establishment tones, that would result from the devolution process - the motorway without exit “to a separate state, separate from England”. Another of yesterday’s men, Brian Wilson, felt that the election result should be “a wake up call for Labour”.

Really, Brian? What a penetrating insight! Who would have thought of that until you said it!.

But it has been more like a jangling fire alarm intruding into the deep sleep of morality, of values, of common humanity into which the thing that is now the Labour Party has sunk.

Where next for Unionism is the question the programme poses, and Lord Forsyth, the Laird o’ Drumlean has the answer - a referendum sooner rather than later, a theme taken up by various panic-stricken unionists, including Iain Martin in The Spectator.

The British Lord, Forsyth, ennobled for services to Maggie Thatcher in the destruction of Scotland’s infrastructure and industry, latches on to Alex Salmond’s wish to have the referendum coincide with the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, and draws the lesson from this is that “Bruce won it, fair and square, hands down, because he chose the ground to fight on - chose the best ground and he struck the first blow. That is the lesson for David Cameron.”

This is chutzpah indeed, a quality once defined as the ability of a man on trial for murdering both his parents to plead for clemency on the grounds that he is an orphan. It has now become the theme of the unionist fight-back, and has been picked up by the Spectator, Fraser Nelson and other Scots of that peculiar unionist type, Scots with a deep vested interest in the Union - the high-road-to-England Scots, worried that their ‘noblest prospect’ now seems like damaged goods. Samuel Johnson had a keen eye …

Let’s look hard at this adoption of the Bruce and Bannockburn as a guide to action by the unionists. They select the man who unified the nation of Scotland for the first time, who defeated England’s attempts to subordinate it to English rule in a great, decisive engagement, and what they are saying is this -

Bruce, a champion of an independent Scotland, got it right and beat us, the Unionists. Let’s learn from our mistakes in that far off battle, adopt this Scottish hero’s strategy and tactics, this time to defeat the rebellious Scots, led by their elected government and First Minister, and ensure the continuing dominance of England and the British empire.

In other words, let’s reverse the Bannockburn result.

This begins to look more like folly than chutzpah - hijack an iconic Scottish hero, Bruce, and his greatest victory, Bannockburn, to resist and reverse the very thing he fought for.

Now we come to the Union’s representative on Earth - the colonial governor, Michael Moore, the third incumbent of this benighted post in just over a year, the previous incumbents Danny Alexander and Jim Murphy now feeding from the Union trough that is Westminster. Moore has quickly acquired the vacuous pomposity that this role requires. Denied a plumed hat and a white horse, he has instead deepened his voice and become skilled in the meaningless platitudes demanded by the job.

I’m opposed to Scotland becoming independent but I do want to see the Parliament have substantial powers.”

Aye, right …

Nicola Sturgeon promptly puts the SNP’s objectives for Scotland’s independence clearly.

Bernard Ponsonby:But it will be a separate state?”

Nicola Sturgeon:Yes, of course.”

Then we come to the panel, and we have Jim Sillars. Why the media want Jim Sillars as a commentator is never entirely clear. He occupies no significant place in Scottish politics anymore, and he cannot be exactly described as a powerful independent voice on Scottish affairs, but I suppose to a programme producer, he fills that strange specification of someone who was once strongly associated with a specific party viewpoint, but is now reinvented as a political commentator. Think of Lorraine Davidson, for example. In other words, he is expected to be objective, but not quite. Sillars offers the additional attraction of being someone who consistently sounded sour notes on the SNP.

However on this programme, he was all sunshine and light, to the amazement of many, including me. But he presumably had his Scotsman piece of today’s date drafted, or at least in his head …


Tom Perkin’s story open with the following paragraph -

Senior figures within the SNP now believe a full breakaway from the rest of the United Kingdom is no longer the best short-term option for Scotland.”

Closer examination of the story shows this to be a conflations of a number of statement from SNP senior figures, most of which say no such thing, but are a reiteration of common sense observations on how the mechanics of independence would operate. The conflation essentially relies on taking Jim Sillars’ views in his article on pages 6 and 7 as the centre point of SNP thinking. Sillars is described in the sub-header to the article as “the figurehead of fundamentalism” within the SNP. (They also describe him as THE MAN WHO STOOD UP TO SALMOND.)

A more accurate description might have been the figurehead who has long since fallen off the prow, and now floats sadly in the wake of the ship. But this article may signal the final waterlogged submersion of the object.

Before analysing the front page claim in detail, it may be worth speculating on what The Scotsman’s motives are in running this story and making this claim. Some may think that the paper has undergone a sea change in its attitude to independence and the SNP over the last year. After all, they did run a leader backing Alex Salmond and the SNP to run Scotland. But in my view that was an expedient recognition of an inevitable power shift in Scottish politics - not wanting to be left off the bandwagon or out of tune with the zeitgeist, a motivation much in evidence among many people of late.

But the Scotsman is not in favour of independence - it is unionist to its core. It now has to find a way to get behind the NO campaign for the referendum without being too obvious about it. So it presents its ‘landmark opinion piece’ by Jim Sillars.

He relies on the 80 interviews conducted by Professor James Mitchell on the concept of independence, plus his poll of 1000 party members. Professor Mitchell found a lot of consensus and pragmatism among these groups, characteristics that I personally would say more or less define the party. If I may be so bold as to attempt to respectfully summarise Professor Mitchell’s analysis on page 5 - summarise his summary, so to speak -

1. The SNP has moved on from a black and white institutional view of independence to a view that a variety of ‘unions’ - with a small U - will continue to exist, and this involves a Union of the Crowns concept quite explicitly.

2. The SNP understands very clearly the concept of a de facto social union of familial and personal links.

(One which only a fool would deny, but a defender of the Union opposed to independence bent on mischief might well do. Professor Mitchell notes that Calman confused and conflated this union with something else - common expectations about social welfare.)

3. The SNP clearly understands the knowledge union, i.e. that professional, educational and scientific sharing of knowledge and expertise crosses boundaries of nation and ideology, as it does and always has done throughout the civilised world.

4. The SNP, on the question of the European Union, reflects within it a minority (around 20%) who oppose EU membership, but the party “is at ease with EU membership” but has problems with some EU policies.

(In this, the SNP probably reflects every political party and grouping in the UK, although the deep fault line over the EU in the Tory party on this issue is infinitely deeper than anything displayed by the other parties - a veritable San Andreas Fault, liable to bounce off the Richter Scale at any time and fragment the Tories.)

On defence, the SNP has referred to shared bases, for reasons that must be evident to all but the most obtuse, e.g. RAF bases, etc. But opposition to nuclear weapons “remains rock solid”.

There is nothing in any of the above conclusion that would surprise anyone in the SNP, and it probably would not cause any raised eyebrows among the vast majority of those who voted so decisively for the SNP to govern their country for a second term. But from the standpoint of a diehard Unionist, it either comes as a shock or a blow to their attempts to portray independence as a terrifying spectre, both before the election (with humiliating results) or now that it seems infinitely more likely within the term of the Parliament.

Like The Wizard of Oz, they are embarrassed when the curtain is pulled aside from their terrifying projections and thundering cries of Beware of Independence! to reveal a frightened little Unionist Lord and his ilk manipulating the levers, in terror lest their power and influence slip away from them, together with the UK baubles, titles and sinecures they have accumulated along the way.

But what does Jim Sillars, ‘long-time fundamentalist’ and ‘THE MAN WHO STOOD UP TO SALMOND’ make of all this?

Firstly, he makes it clear that, in his anxiety to be part of the success of the SNP and get into the big tent fast, he and Margo MacDonald are no longer fundamentalists, nor opponents of ‘the Salmond leadership group’ - an odd choice of words, to say the least.

He would ‘prefer to have the full enchilada’ (so would I!) but is now anxious to demonstrate that he has always been pragmatism personified - he could have fooled me - by citing old pamphlets and making a series of observations that verge on the banal.

As he develops his argument, it becomes evident that his pragmatic conversion to Salmondism may be only skin deep. After quoting  his admirable wife, Margo MacDonald’s observations ‘back in the 1970s’ about a social union existing after independence, the following phrase emerges -

You will have heard that idea fall from the lips of present SNP leaders, but it isn’t sufficient to soothe peoples’ anxieties.”

What people, Jim? The huge majority that voted for those same SNP leaders?

But then comes the statement that the Scotsman  doubtless seized upon, in common with unionists opposed to a referendum or a YES vote if there has to be one.

On his idea of ‘a new concept’ that of ‘a kind of confederal relationship with England’ (sic) - ignoring Wales and Northern Ireland - Sillars sees ‘a quasi-Nato relationship on shared defence and security against terrorism, with Scotland paying its share of those functions, plus our share of UK debt, from its sovereignty over all taxation, including oil, and perhaps offsetting some of those costs by leasing the Trident base for a long period.’

Sillars then accurately predicts the reaction of party members - including mine - to this astonishing suggestion. Never! Let me say it again - Never! If the Scottish Government and the SNP were to show any signs of going down such a route, they would invite the immediate formation of a campaign against it, and risk a split in the Party.

I’m all for pragmatism, for gradualism, for reluctantly accepting a Union of the Crowns and a constitutional monarch, for extending devolved powers, etc. as a route to full independence - but retention of Trident in our waters after independence?

Never, never, never!

Sillars then goes on to say -

“We must,  if we are serious, look through the English (sic) end of the telescope. Scottish independence, in the old model and the old policies, threatens English (sic) state interests, and if so threatened they will fight to keep us in the Union because they must do so.”

“There is a vital link between Trident and London’s veto seat on the UN Security Council, because shorn of it, it becomes more difficult to justify retention at a time when India, Japan and Brazil are pressing their case.”

This is the old Aneurin Bevan argument against sending a British Foreign Secretary “naked into the conference chamber”.

Jim Sillars - if this is your idea of pragmatism, give me fundamentalism. If this is your idea of Scottish independence, then bluntly, either you are in the wrong party or I am. I am forced to say that given the old Lyndon Johnson choice, of having you inside the tent pissing out or outside pissing in, I prefer the latter.

I am a nationalist of only four years standing, and therefore must give due regard to the fact that you have given a large part of your life to it, and achieved in the past a significant role within the Party. But I must also say that, as at one and the same time a relatively new party member and an old Scot, I am part of the new Scotland, and if you want to be part of it too, you had better rethink your ideas fast.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Could I return to the Labour Party?

I am a former Labour voter and supporter, with  fifty years of voting Labour now behind me. The watershed was Iraq, and after several years of doubt about New Labour and the Blair Gang, I shifted my allegiance and my vote and joined the SNP as a party member.

As a converted sinner, that may make some long-term faithful party members uneasy that I might shift my allegiance back to Labour. Some of my blogs where I have discussed the need to convince loyal Labour supporters who are nonetheless in favour of Scotland’s independence that a vote for independence is not necessarily a vote for an SNP government – a very real aspect of the need to persuade Scots of other political persuasion to vote for independence in a referendum – have perhaps added to that unease.

So let me make my position clear. My primary objectives are now to achieve an independent Scotland and a nuclear-free Scotland, and nothing will now ever change those objectives. I currently see the SNP as the best political party for achieving these objectives, indeed the only party.

What circumstances could make me return to Labour?

1. The abandonment by the SNP of a firm commitment to independence and a nuclear-free Scotland. I have no inherent objection to gradualism in the strategy for achieving independence, since I don’t want the Party to get it wrong in a premature referendum, and effectively remove independence from the table for a generation. (I don’t have a generation left to me!)

2. That the Labour Party in Scotland severed its link to the UK party and committed to independence and a nuclear-free Scotland. (I would hope that the trades unions would do likewise.)

Since both these criteria are as likely to be met as Alex Salmond being made Lord Salmond of Lithgae, there is little danger of apostasy.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The General Election – the choices

The date hasn’t yet been specified by Gordon Brown, but it has to be on or before the 3rd of June and is predicted to be early in May.

The choice at the ballot box for most UK electors is not a happy one. They have three major parties to choose from, but against the knowledge that the real choice is between two, Labour and the Tories. They can throw Labour out and get a Tory new government that is committed to all the major policies that brought the United Kingdom to its present parlous state – centralised power in the South East of England, the nuclear deterrent and war as the organising principle of the state, a blind belief in the Union and the remnants of Empire, and a foreign policy inextricably linked and subordinate to America.

Alternatively, they can vote LibDem in the hope that in the event of a hung Parliament - now a probability - that the LibDem’s residual principles might moderate the worst excesses of the new government. No voter can seriously believe that the LibDems can form a government.

But Scotland has a real choice – to return as many SNP MPs to Westminster as it can in the hope that they can

exert influence in a hung Parliament on behalf of the people of Scotland while the Union lasts

 get more powers devolved to Holyrood


ultimately secure the independence of Scotland after a decisive referendum result.

This choice is derided by unionists on the basis that, if fully exercised, it would result in a majority of Scottish MPs returned being SNP, thus presenting an unarguable case for Scottish independence that Westminster could not ignore. Since unionists don’t believe this could happen, they use this as their prime argument against a referendum.

Well, they are right - up to a point: it is unlikely to happen at this general election under the present power structure and the insidious pressures brought to bear by the Union – a biased media, ruthless use of patronage to bribe the Scottish establishment and the exploitation of Scottish military traditions to create a lethal culture of militarism, war and glorious death in the service of the rump of the British empire – the old, old lie.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori

Wilfred Owen

The Scottish electorate has been brainwashed into believing that they cannot secure Scottish independence at a UK general election and must therefore choose one of the main UK parties if they want to exercise their democratic right to influence the system under which they are so badly governed.

(Douglas Alexander came out with the ludicrous statement on The Politics Show on Sunday that neither Alex Salmond nor Nick Clegg would be standing outside Downing Street as Prime Minister on the day after the general election.

Nick Clegg is running for leadership of the UK but Alex Salmond is not: the Scottish voter at least understands that even if Wendy’s wee brother doesn’t …)

Only progressively extended devolved powers and ultimately a referendum on Scottish independence will bring home to the Scottish people their real democratic choices, an awareness of their identity and a surge of self-belief in the true possibilities for their future.