And having writ moves on, nor all thy piety nor wit, shall lure it back to cancel half a line nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
Fitting way to start with the opening lines from the Rubiyat of Omar Kayyam by Edward Fitzgerald, although as usual I only remembered a fragment of it and had to consult The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations – must choose something simpler next time. Anyway the fingers of history are moving rapidly onward and we are not getting enough time to work out what is happening.
Latest on Sunday of this week Mrs May is not presenting anything to the Westminster Parliament this week and allows 7 of the days to slip away probably leaving her running out of time before tipping over the cliff – correction, she is driving us over the cliff because she does not know what she is doing, but seems to have some vain hope that a solution will magically appear and rescue the situation. She, and her associates are pinning the blame on the EU, when it is her Tory Party which is blocking everything.
As time has gone by Mr Corbyn has now decided that he will support another EU Referendum! The penny has finally dropped but he is still prevaricating; it seems that if he doesn’t get his amendment through Westminster then he will try to get the much lauded People’s Vote, but doesn’t hint at whether he will support Remain. It’s all very confusing, probably because he is confused and now states there should be another vote looking for a way out of the shambles he allowed the Tories to create; what the outcome of that vote should be is not clear.
Nicola Sturgeon has given a cautious welcome to this cautious proposal. It is difficult to see any sign of enthusiasm from any of the sides on this issue; Mr Corbyn aspires to be Prime Minister, and even his fans are wary of that. The House of Commons is all over the place, and Labour know if they become the government they will have to clean up the mess their predecessors made, but that is the case for any change of government; this one is much more extreme – for instance how do you campaign against a big red-faced bus?
As far as Scotland is concerned I cannot see any chance of an enthusiastic campaign for the EU, but we will have to campaign on what is best for Scotland – correction we have to support and vote for a re-run of the EU Referendum and hope that the rest of the UK decide to Remain; Scotland voted 62% to 38% to Remain. The danger is overkill. People do not vote every day of the week, and it is not a difficult process, but the constant dripping will sap patience. Nicola Sturgeon is in an awkward position; the people of Scotland are having marches all over Scotland but this is for a new Yes campaign, not about Europe, so our enthusiasm can be diverted and used up with the hilariously named “People’s Vote” – who else votes – sheep?
Strangely enough, I remember the 2014 campaign with nostalgia. In the run up, I had decided, on the eve of the Dunfermline By-election to hang up my campaigning boots – it was my 78th Birthday- and the family view was “No’ afore time”. On the following Saturday I went down into Corstorphine to get bread. I passed a Yes stall and nodded pleasantly as I went past; at the corner I stopped and said to myself “You’re an idiot! You’ve spent most of your adult life supporting Independence and you’re just walking past!” I retraced my steps and got a bunch of leaflets to hand out. When I got home about two hours after I should have my wife asked “Did you get the bread?” I had.
I got caught up in the vast waves of enthusiasm, and decided to do as much as I could; it was the most inspiring period of my life. I had taken part in the 1975 Referendum on the Common Market when we campaigned against it with the slogan “Not on anyone else’s terms”, which we lost. At the time I had fought both the 1974 General Elections as the Candidate for Edinburgh North so I spoke at a couple of meetings – at one of them it was myself and a Tory versus Labour and Liberal. My principal recollection of that meeting is the Liberal stating “In the Common Market you get longer holidays and better weather!” I had fun with that, and am pleased to say the Liberals have not changed! (To illustrate I quote Stuart Cosgrove writing in the Seven Days part of The National on Sunday “I decided last year to put a coin in a piggy bank for my son’s future every time that Willie Rennie demands that independence be taken off the table. I now live with the youngest millionaire in Dennistoun”.)
I got caught up in the Campaign and leafletted and canvassed away; what struck me was that people wanted to talk about it on the doorsteps, and we seemed to have an endless supply of workers turning up, unannounced, and ready to help. As a participant in 1975, 1979 – we won that one but Westminster chicanery snatched it from our grasp then 1997, which was for devolution, and which we also won, there was a completely different attitude among the canvassers and the canvassed. I do not quite know how to express it but I personally found it inspiring and exciting. I will not be able to contribute in the next Referendum, age and infirmity – now 84!
I am pleased that Nicola is cautious, wary of conflicting paths, but while I devoutly wish for a Scottish Independence Referendum we cannot be panicked into jumping into a premature battle.
I see Scottish Labour, that non existent unicorn, may not be going to support Remain if there is a “People’s Vote”. Mr Leonard is happy to go along with his fellow Englishmen and support Leave, or so I am given to understand. It is probable he feels lonely in Scotland, but if he persists in that attitude I think he may become even lonelier – perhaps some of his Special Advisers will tell him 62% v 38%.
Also at this time the Tories, having cheated women out of their retirement pensions by increasing the age they retire are now hinting at taking away free TV licences for the over 75s. This strikes me as stupid, as they depend on the votes of pensioners – as a comment, in the 2014 Independence Referendum 16 year olds were given the vote, as were people of other nations – in 2016 they were excluded. How strange, exclude the ones who will be most affected.
And just this very evening I saw Mrs May uttering the words “Article 50” for the first time; as far as I could understand she will be putting her new proposal to Westminster next week and if it is not supported by the House she will invoke Article 50 to get a short extension, ie kick the can down the road again. Poor can, it must be getting gey battered by this time.
So many proposals, so little choice, it seems that SNP Commons Leader is getting under her skin – can’t be bad.
At the time of going to press I see that The National is going to publish the full text of the McCrone Report on Wednesday; this, if you remember was the Report to the Cabinet about the vast oil reserves in the North Sea n the Seventies – remember “It’s Scotland’s Oil”. The Treasury scoffed at a figure produced by SNP Research Officer, Donald Bain of about £800 million a year, and rejected it out of hand. Donald had not got the figure right, there were untold billions in the North Sea and Gavin McCrone gave a report to the Cabinet to estimate there would be billions and that no one could ever again say Scotland could not survive. The Treasury created a Continental Shelf account and the money disappeared from the records before it disappeared into the Treasury’s gaping maw. The McCrone Report became public when the Cabinet papers were released to the Press 30 years afterwards. Researcher and author George Rosie spent some time in Kew when the records were released, and BBC Alba did a programme called “Diomhair” – Secrets – in Gaelic, produced by Les Wilson. Both of these men were presented with the Oliver Brown Award, separately, by the Scots Independent newspaper; they are both still around to testify to the chicanery. When the McCrone Report became public the Scottish Press gave it scant coverage. I think this was about 2005 – works for the date of discovery.