Last Friday, I accepted an invite from a close friend, who happens to be a Strathclyde University alumnus, to attend a panel debate chaired by Prof John Curtice. On the Yes side were Humza Yousaf, Zara Kitson and Ivan McKee, three talented, up-and-coming politicians. On the No side, Jim Murphy, Baroness Annabel Goldie and Lord George Robertson (apologies to aficionados of peerage etiquette, first names should never be used in relation to addressing life peers).
As was to be expected of two former Defence Secretaries, Jim Murphy and George Robertson focused on NATO membership and the Clyde’s reliance on MOD procurement to maintain jobs in the dockyards. Mr Murphy does his usual ‘no sovereign government is going to allow its fleet to be built by another nation’. Humza got one right back at them when it was pointed out that both the UK and Norway (and other NATO allies) regularly outsource shipbuilding to other countries such as South Korea. But don’t the truth get in the way of a magisterial soundbite, Mr Murphy. Despite Humza getting told off for heckling (named one country out loud that contradicted Mr Murphy’s assertion), all three Unionists heckled their way through Humza’s consequent contributions. As ever, don’t do as I say…
On another issue, Jim Murphy raised the threat that the rest of the UK will, in essence, be hostile to an independent Scottish government. Gone are the platitudes about respecting the referendum result. We were regaled about how the former UK government will do all it can to frustrate iScotland. Ensure EU membership is frustrated at every turn. No shared currency. Those two aspects alone will do more damage to businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland than to Scotland, adding in the region of £500 million in unnecessary transaction costs, not to mention the run on the pound now that it doesn’t have North Sea oil receipts to shore it up.
The most telling aspect of Jim Murphy’s future scenario for iScotland is that he constantly pictures it as hostile relations between an iScotland and the rest of the UK. That therefore assumes, he cannot envisage that the Labour party is capable of winning both a Westminster general election or forming a future Scottish government. Does he really imagine that if the Labour party’s electoral appeal should result in leading governments in Edinburgh and London that they would not work together? Does his international socialism stop at the Channel Tunnel?
That line of thought points to the other Unionist parties too. At no point have the Tories or Lib Dems envisaged a place for themselves in an iScotland. Some people think there will be a grand realignment as part of the transition to independence. I’m not so sure. I cannot see the Scottish electorate looking to Johann Lamont or any other Labour leader-in-waiting to take us forward in nation–building on a grand scale. How could they trust parties who have belittled what an iScotland can do?
My thoughts are that for the first two terms of an iScotland, the people are most likely to tell the SNP: “you wanted this, now make it work”. No other party has campaigned for so long to make this a reality and have more than most to prove an iScotland will grow and prosper.
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.
Scottish Independence – the labours of Sisyphus
There is an entity called Scotland definable as a nation by all tests
Some readers may remember a famous political columnist of the 30’s, 40’s, and maybe 50’s, who wrote his column using the pen-name “Cassandra”. He must have been feeling sorry for himself when he chose the name. The gods had given Cassandra the power to make prophecies which were always totally accurate but would never be believed. The gods could hardly have devised a more cruel fate.
William Connor, alias Cassandra, didn’t know how lucky he was. Many people believed him and formed their political opinions as he advised. Our Party and all of us as individuals have greater claim to be thought of as Cassandra’s true heirs and heiresses .Staying with Greek myths we find that a fate even worse than Cassandra’s befell Sisyphus . He was condemned to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a steep hill, only to find that whenever he reached the summit the boulder rolled all the way back down the hill. His task began again and would never end. Does this seem somehow familiar?
Look back on a lifetime, long or short, being repeatedly bludgeoned into political defeat by the ceaseless braying of “Too small. Too poor, too stupid.” Take on these arguments and disprove them repeatedly campaign by campaign, decade by decade, generation by generation, and still they will assail your ears as often as discussion occurs. We are Sisyphus.
To-day we learn that Mr George Galloway, back home in Dundee, has dismissed any thought of Scottish independence because Scotland is small. True enough, and so are many perfectly successful independent countries, but Scotland is for ever required to meet conditions and pass tests far more stringent than are demanded of anyone else before we can even allow ourselves to think of self-determination. This three-part dismissal of our case is, of course, as stupid and ignorant as it is brutal, and there is a special kind of stupidity which affects those who think they are being shrewd.
Others unpersuaded, perhaps of more scholarly bent, hold more subtle doubts. For instance, David Torrance in reviewing Gordon Wilson’s book, detects as a “weakness” in our argument “a failure adequately to explain an unflinching belief in independence”. I welcome his “unflinching”, and I hope he’s right. Perhaps he would reject any explanation which we might offer. A Nationalist view is that there is an entity called Scotland definable as a nation by tests which have proved sufficient to earn recognition as a nation for all other peoples. Why does it seem that Scotland cannot make a similar claim?
Torrance turns next to review “The Illusion of Freedom: Scotland under Nationalism” by Professor Tom Gallagher from Bradford. The wording of his title enables us to guess at his feelings. No one needs to be a very deep thinker in linguistics to detect hostility in “Illusion” and “under”; and following through to his conclusion Gallagher confesses himself “deeply hostile to the concept of national self-determination.” That is a fascinating statement. Many may share the sentiment but so far as I know, have read or have heard, no other human being has ever expressed such a view. Ever since the Peace Treaties which followed the 1914-1918 war, the principle which underlay all diplomacy was national self-determination for all who wished to claim it. The post-war map showed the acceptance of national self-determination. Any departures from the principle since then were effected by violence and conquest, and in Europe no such conquest has survived. How deplorable Professor Gallagher must find Ireland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro. Sorry for the list. I seek merely to expose fatuity. Let’s hope that Professor Gallagher will be forever haunted by the ghost of Woodrow Wilson who made possible all those freedoms.
Torrance seems at the last to come to stand by Gallagher’s side condemning the SNP’s perceived belief “that true freedom consists of liberation from foreign control, and that what comes next is of secondary importance.” He really should better inform himself of SNP internal debates and decisions over the past half-century. The SNP has long since decided that independence is basically the only means by which Scotland’s material prospects can be ensured. They accept that independence must have a purpose and will have consequences which are desirable and attainable only through independence
It is not for me to attempt the conversion of all these various critics. The Party is rich in talent and experience far beyond the wildest hopes and imaginings of those of us whose loyalty predates success. Which brings me to a moment of leave-taking. It seems time to fill a gap in our collective memory. Richard Findlay has told our story to 1945. Gordon began his at 1960. For most of the intervening years Home Rule was championed by the Scottish Covenant Association while the SNP was in mere survival mode. I now propose to record how it survived and in what condition it reached 1960. Some parts of the story may at times seem interesting to the Editor but that is up to him. I have valued and greatly appreciate the privilege so long enjoyed of being allowed to write regularly. I am sorry that I have had so little direct reaction to anything I have written but perhaps everyone has just been mannerly. Thank you all anyway.