Today is the 70th Anniversary of the D Day Landings in Normandy
Around this time we were on holiday in Carfin, Lanarkshire. In these days, and for long after the War as well, we only went on holiday where we had relatives and my mother had a few around Carfin and New Stevenson. I remember the timing of this one, because day after day, there was a steady stream of army lorries, jeeps, half tracks, armoured cars and tanks rolling through Carfin on the way south. As children, I was 9 at the time, we shouted greetings and childish banter from the windows of the house to the lorryloads of troops going by. We did not know where they were going or when, but I still remember the excitement today.
A sad story
This Flag will be somewhat truncated this week, because Fraser Hudghton got married last week, and I agreed to cover his Flag. However, disaster befell me last Thursday evening when my PC crashed.. I had to complete the last bits of the June Scots Independent in the local library; I saved the work on a stick and took it to Alloa, because they do not do email. I found using the library good and the staff were very helpful.
So I am now in the library, trying to read my writing, and my youngest son awaits my stick.
Decline and Fall
This week I started to read a book I have wanted to read all my life, but never came across before. A month or two back I spotted it in Waterstone’s in Livingston, apparently priced at £3.99. I found that curious, but checked with the assistant who said that was the correct price. I bought it, remarking that I hoped to live long enough to read it, but that passed her by. The book is The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon; it has 1056 pages of fairly small print, one reason I did not take it on holiday, as lights in hotel bedrooms are not conducive to reading . Another reason might be that I did not want my luggage overweight!
On Page 6 – Yes I have got that far – it documents the final limits of the Roman Empire and these ended at the Antonine Wall between the Firths of Forth and Clyde . (They publish the map of the territory just outside the Coliseum in Rome, in marble). The Antonine Wall was constructed around the time of Hadrian’s Wall, but between the walls was Roman territory. The walls were no constructed to keep the inhabitants thereof in, but to keep the Caledonians, wild ungovernable men, out.
As far as I can ascertain, the Roman Empire lasted from 37 BC until the sacking of Rome by the Vandals in 476 AD. The remnants of that staggered on but the might and power was gone.
Beads for the natives
I watched the Tory leader, one Ruth Davidson, being interviewed by Rona Dougall on Scotland Tonight. She was presenting the Tory Devolution plan, which had been endorsed by David Cameron and Gordon Brown, and I thought “Better Together” has moved up a gear; Rona Dougall pounced on this – Ms Davidson had meant George Osborne. She claimed that with control of Income Tax, Scotland would control 40% of its income. This was all about making the Parliament responsible for the money it spent. When Ms Dougall asked why the Parliament could not be responsible for raising all the money it spent? After that the interview descended into Unionist obfuscation – as normal.
I think we are due to get the Labour Party’s update on what beads they will give the natives, but I am aware that the Liberals scheme is described as “bold” (should be boldfaced). There is of course a fundamental flaw with the Liberal policy.
The Liberals have the proud boast of supporting federalism for over 100 years, but it remains a boast. I recall asking the late Jo Grimond when Scotland could expect to see this project come to fruition – the time scale? He gave an answer that was received with rapturous applause by the audience (this was a meeting to adopt a Liberal candidate after all). As he had not answered , I asked it again; another rapturous response from the audience, but still no info. So I asked it again, in vain, alas. I concluded by saying he had no answer. (The local paper, the Buchan Observer, described me as an SNP partisan.) We were there because we saw the adoption of a Liberal as a way of splitting the Tory vote and making the seat winnable for the SNP; we regarded the Liberals as second class Tories. We were right.
The meeting was in Peterhead, in 1968, and at the end the Liberal candidate was fulsome in his praise of Mr Grimond, averring , in ringing tones “… and if we cannot have him as Prime Minister of All England, then let us have him as Prime Minister of Scotland . Says it all.
We do not expect to see the Liberals implementing any policies for Scotland any time soon.
Labour seem to be falling short of what even the Tories are proposing. I am somewhat hamstrung by the lack of my PC so I only have the Herald and the TV news to go by, rather than picking up from the social network sites where the truth is easier found.
I have been struck by both these parties putting forward their assurances of what they will do, and give Scotland, after 2015, if only we vote for them. We can give some assurances of our own; there will not be a massive vote or the Tories in Scotland. On present figures we can expect to see a Tory government south of the border, possibly with the help of UKIP. Labour are not performing well, and would not appear to be doing well in England, but if they did they would also make common cause with UKIP. What a Devil’s Brew is in the making if we stay with that lot.
Status Quo – No option
While Better Together parties make ponderous and disparate statements just now, 2015 will see realpolitik – in spaded.
Westminster has 650 MPS, plus around 800 Lords and Ladies. Scotland has 59 MPs, and any members of the House of Lord are thirled to the Unionists. So we are outnumbered 10 to 1.
A No vote does not mean the Status Quo; feeling will be running high after a No vote so there will be pressure on the English and Welsh MPs to clip the wings of these arrogant Scots, and make sure that they never raise the subject again. We will be reminded that we were given the chance to become independent – and spurned it – North England will be here.
At the end of the day, the Referendum is about two issues directly related :Westminster desperately needs the oil money as it is keeping them afloat, They have had it and misused it, for over 40 years, and left nothing in the piggy bank.
And the other issue is Trident; their amour proper demands that they also retain this , paid for by oil money, to keep their seat in the UN Security Council and allow them to ponce about the world making meaningless declarations. Arrogance knows no bounds,
Their seat in that Council could easily be taken by Brazil, much larger that the UK , but with no Eton trained politicians to help waste their resources.
The Empire has gone; it has been in decline since the end of the Second World War, and is due to fall.
Harold Macmillan’s sellout
The reality is that he didn’t have a clue about Scotland.
Discussions between an American president and a British prime minister 54 years ago might seem to have little to do with our ongoing push for Scotland’s Independence – but these particular talks between Dwight Eisenhower and Harold Macmillan are in fact very relevant indeed.
The two statesmen were arguing about Polaris, the nuclear weapons system that was about to be based in Scotland. I appreciate that for many Scots the real scandal was that the UK government should have agreed to host the deadly weapons in the first place, and then to place them in Scotland, but what I want to discuss here is the ensuing negotiations, in which Scotland’s remaining interests, such as they were, were jettisoned in the interests of keeping in with the Americans.
Macmillan had, or thought he had, a deal with the Americans that the Polaris submarines would be based at Loch Linnhe, near Fort William. This was regarded as suitably far away from any major centre of population, which in a way says it all. But President Eisenhower then insisted that they should be based on the Clyde, within twenty miles of Glasgow, Scotland’s most populous city.
This was seen by the UK government as perilously close to Glasgow.
There was a further dispute – possibly even more crucial – about who should have ultimate control over the weapons of mass destruction in the subs, and who should be in charge of any launching.
Macmillan fought the British – in this context I can hardly call it the Scottish — case but Eisenhower was not be swayed. So Macmillan gave in, the British Cabinet gave in, and the Americans emerged from the high level spat totally victorious.
The supine cave- in by Macmillan and his Cabinet was without doubt irresponsible and reckless; appeasing the Americans seemed to be a higher priority than the safety and security of Scotland.
(This account is based on a passage in the very thorough biography of Macmillan by Lord Wiliams of Elvel, and published five years ago.
Charles Williams is a highly regarded Labour peer and biographer and he researched in the UK National Archives at Kew and the Eisenhower Library in the US. I have no reason to doubt his narrative .It shocked and angered me when I first read it but it was only when I went back to it, in the context of our ongoing campaign for independence, that its full import hit me.)
I wrote a column for the Herald describing what happened and there was a predictably, and justifiably, indignant response.
What is crucial in all this is the mindset of Macmillan. He was genuinely proud of his Scottish background, but the reality is that he didn’t have a clue about Scotland.
His Scotland was a rich man’s playground, a northern wonderland of grouse moors and comfortable castles; indeed there was the occasional visit to Balmoral to be fitted in.
His notion of Scotland had little if anything to do with the realities of life for most Scots. I’m not making this point in any chippy class war sense; in fact Macmillan was every bit as ignorant of middle class Scotland as he was of working class Scotland.
His ignorance meant that he was utterly incapable of grasping what Scotland’s true needs and interests were. He could play fast and loose with Scotland’s security and its safety because his overriding priority was, as his obituarist Lord Blake later insisted, to keep in with the Americans.
Macmillan would often state, sentimentally, that he was the grandson of a highland crofter. This was not entirely true. His grandfather, Daniel Macmillan, left the family croft on Arran when he was just 11. He became a bookseller’s apprentice and eventually “made good” as the founder of the publishing firm of Macmillan which made the family fortunes.
To be fair, the family never forgot Daniel. Harold Macmillan was first taken to Arran when he was eight, and throughout his life he kept with him a picture of the croft where Daniel was born. Young Harold was sent to an Oxford prep school, and then, in 1906, on to Eton. He left Eton early – there was a persistent whiff of scandal – and was tutored privately for entrance to Oxford University.
After distinguished service in the First World War he worked as a junior diplomat in Canada, and visited America. Then he worked in the family publishing business, before becoming Tory MP for Stockton in 1924. Thereafter his political career progressed pretty serenely till he reached the top of the greasy pole, as PM, in 1957. One of the first tasks he set himself was to “mend fences” with President Eisenhower of the US.
Macmillan was a supreme representative of a certain type, often very influential in the British establishment. Their careers are rarely in Scotland, but they maintain vague, sentimental Scottish connections. They tend of be fond of piping and rugby and to revere the Scottish regiments (except when it comes to fighting for them politically).
But their understanding of our country, its needs and aspirations, is limited, to say the least.
Jimmy Halliday’s contributions to the Cause
Jimmy Halliday – lifetime Nationalist
To put matters into context, in 1955 the SNP contested only two Parliamentary seats in Scotland. Dr Robert McIntyre fought Perth and East Perthshire and Jimmy Halliday fought Stirling and Falkirk Burghs. Jimmy then became the youngest ever SNP Chairman and served 1956-70; in 1956 the entire SNP Conference delegates were photographed on the steps of the Allan Water Hotel, Bridge of Allan.
There will be a Referendum for Scottish Independence this year, which was unthinkable in the dark days of 1955. Jimmy died on 3rd January 2013 at the age of 85, and we will be publishing all his articles in the Scots Independent, all those we have electronic input for. It is anticipated we will publish a book with all his contributions over many years but this will have to wait until after the Referendum.
Defence most grimly reserved of all powers
Residual memories of Empire and fantasies of international influence
Those who wish to see an end to involvement in wars, like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, often point to the obvious option and say “just withdraw.” bring back our sons and daughters out of harm’s way and end the heartbreak of maiming and death which has afflicted so many families.
How sad it is that Defence and Foreign Affairs and all involvement in war is the most grimly reserved of all the reserved powers which the British Parliament retains and which cruelly restrict the free functioning of decision-making in our devolved Scotland.
Nor is the British government alone in making “just withdraw” a choice which Scots cannot easily select. The government of the state to which we are all subject has its intelligence clouded and its wits hopelessly fuddled by the residual memories of Empire and fantasies of international influence returning. Perhaps if we offered parents the option of withdrawal they might be relieved and grateful. Perhaps soldiers themselves would be grateful, but perhaps not. For a young soldier his unit is his home and his colleagues are his family. As in a family he and they are linked by commitment, loyalty and duty of care to one another. He does not wish to damage these relationships. In any case these young men have entered into an organisation which honours all the very qualities and virtues which they respect. Courage and endurance and comradeship are precisely the desired features of their peer group. For them to “withdraw” smacks of retreat.
One day in the summer of 1956 as British soldiers were being sent to Suez by a disgracefully conspiratorial British government, Oliver Brown led some of us to a stance in a Glasgow street to speak our protest against what was happening. Quite a number of soldiers passed by. Most did not linger. Those who stayed to listen were frankly unsympathetic. Many shouted abuse, shook their fists, and a few threatened violence. We were drawing attention to the shame and deceit of a war which might end up killing them, and they nevertheless rejected our well-intentioned call for the campaign to be halted.
In the wider community, then and now, those emotionally Right-wing in sentiment are quick to assert that calling for an end to a war is the same thing as betraying those who are fighting it. If we question the war they claim we are undermining the war effort and frustrating soldiers in their pursuit of victory. American Republicans have turned this sort of reasoning into a political art form, and many British people, not all of them English or Tory, go along with their reasoning.
Here in Scotland we have a folk memory of pride in military traditions, and in many regions there is still a pride in regiments recruited locally. Some years ago the cry was “Save the Argylls”, and more recently vigorous support was voiced in Perth, Angus and Fife for the Black Watch. All Scottish regiments in their time and place were raised to serve a purpose. The Royal Scots and the Dragoons, under various names, served the Stewart monarchy. The KOSB and the Cameronians were raised precisely to confront a bullying monarchy. The Black Watch had its own peacekeeping role along the Highland Line and later Highland regiments contributed mightily to the winning of North America, India and much of Africa for Britain’s Hanoverian crown and empire. They were much praised and complimented by their superiors and controllers, military and political, who nursed the comforting thought once expressed by General Wolfe “No great mischief if they fall”.
Until independence their descendants in blood and in profession will continue to fall. Until independence resources will continue to be squandered on weapons often inadequate and inappropriate– “not fit for purpose” as the phrase now has it. Until independence the financial costs to us all will soar far beyond all wisdom, all capacity, all necessity and all relevance. It all ought to stop by any test of intelligence and common sense but Britain’s statesmen will not stop. Professional soldiers and sailors are now ready to expose the absurdity which is Britain’s Trident programme, but be assured it will continue, and will involve Scottish people, Scottish land and Scottish resources until Scots muster the resolution to decide otherwise.
To bring our fellow Scots to that decision requires tact, perception and sympathy as well as our own conviction. Until then we have no power to end bereavement and heartbreak, and no power to save soldiers’ lives by the simple decision not to send them to fight unless and until their own community considered it couldn’t be avoided.