The other night I watched “A Christmas Carol”, the film of the novel by Charles Dickens. While the poverty of the Londoners of that era tugged at the heartstrings, it is difficult to accept that the same situation is developing in the 21st century United Kingdom. We are told by a beaming Scrooge, called George Osborne, that the bad times are past and happiness and prosperity are returning. The finance bigwigs are licking their chops, positively drooling at the prospect of big fat bonuses; on the other hand payday loan companies are thriving at a rate never before seen in this country, and we are regaled nightly by TV adverts telling everyone how bright cheerful and wise it is to borrow money at usurious rates of interest. We see welfare benefits, which are at subsistence level anyway, being withdrawn, on the pretext of getting them to move to non existent smaller houses, and food banks opening everywhere, to feed the hungry. Notably it is that the main customers of the food banks are the poor, not the feckless poor (courtesy of Scrooge), but hardworking people who do not earn enough to feed themselves!
This is reality, approaching Third World standards if we have not already reached them; the received wisdom is that Labour under Gordon Brown, ably abetted by Eyebrows Darling, left the country in a near bankrupt state. The Tory solution to cut the deficit, was to borrow even vaster amounts of cash, squeeze the poor until the pips squeaked, and put on a virtuous expression – “Are there no workhouses?” – to quote Scrooge again, who was after all a fictitious character.
The Tories have no shame, the Liberals would not know what that was, and Labour has no answer.
And we in Scotland have to put up with this, from a Labour Party which re-invented itself to become a Tory one, the single Tory MP who survived and a half a dozen Liberal lackeys doing their dirty work in Scotland, and always cutting their cloth to fit the Tory coat. It scunners me.
Unlike the unfortunates South of the Border, we have an alternative vision, an aspiration, and the wherewithal to deliver it. For 6 years Scotland has had an SNP Government, 4 of them as a minority, then a majority one when the people were able to see how much better things could be. It is not true that the SNP is the source of all human wisdom and knowledge – no party is – and we have made mistakes and also been unable to fulfil all the pledges we made, normally due to circumstance outwith our control. But the opposition is ably supported by the media, who avidly follow all the shortfalls and point to the Scottish Government. What they refuse to recognise that London cut the Scottish Budget, and will continue to do so. He who pays the piper calls the tune, but needs the money to do that – we do not get enough money, despite paying more tax – funny old world, to coin a Thatcherian phrase.
We did not put through a Referendum Bill in the first Parliament, because the Unionists would have voted it down and kicked it into the long grass at the same time; they don’t go on about that much these days, not having recovered from their near wipeout in May 2011. On that occasion, in the List Vote by party, the SNP won 69 out of 73 constituencies, an almost unbelieveable result to a grizzled old Nationalist like myself. The Unionists prated on about how this was a low poll, not so much now, but the fact is that the people who bothered to vote did vote SNP in overwhelming numbers. The 4 constituencies the SNP did not win were: Labour – Renfrewshire South, Hugh Henry, Coatbridge and Chryston, Elaine Smith, Glasgow Provan, Paul Martin, and Liberal Shetland, Tavish Scott. They don’t want to admit that and I would bet they are ignorant of that aspect. Hubris. The SNP would also have been ignorant but the Scots Independent published the detailed voting figures by constituency in the July 2011 Scots Independent. (If we seem to be blowing our own trumpet it is because no one else is!)
On the “funny old world” side, the voting system for the Scottish Parliament was designed to stop the SNP ever attaining a majority. Just one of the many errors of the Unionist cabal. They keep coming up with them, only this time as Better Together – could you believe it – as they cannot stand each other.
A Yes vote in 2014 will see the biggest change and the biggest improvement in Scotland since the charade of 1707.
Gaffe of the Year
I am grateful to Alan Bissett of National Collective who reminded me of this episode when he was on Scotland Tonight:
Ian Gray, Labour East Lothian, at the launch of the White Paper in the Scottish Parliament. “A Scottish Oil Fund – where’s the money for that going to come from?” – then looked around puzzled at the gales of laughter his question provoked.
Russian Navy ship drops in
– unannounced or noticed
Copied from Newsnetscotland
A Russian Navy ship which arrived unannounced off the Scottish coast has exposed the failure of the Ministry of Defence to provide adequate naval protection for Scottish waters, the SNP has claimed.
It is believed that the Russian navy ship had been taking part in exercises in the Baltic Sea and had been sheltering off the Scottish coast.
The incident mirrors a similar situation that occured only two years ago involving an Aircraft Carrier Task Force. In December 2011 the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and accompanying vessels arrived unexpectedly off the Moray Firth leaving the Ministry of Defence dependent on reports from Scottish fishing vessels until a nearly out of service vessel could be sailed from its base in south coast of England.
Prior to the December incident, the MOD scrapped the entire fleet of Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft which were designed to monitor surface and subsurface vessels. Amongst northern European armed forces the UK is the only to not have any maritime patrol aircraft.
Before they were scrapped, the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft were based at RAF Kinloss in Moray, the constituency represented by Angus Robertson MP. The northern Scottish region was strategically placed to launch patrol flights monitoring nearby northern waters.
Commenting, Mr Robertson who is the Westminster SNP Leader said:
“For the second time in two years the MOD has been left scrabbling to deal with visiting Russian naval vessels off Scotland.
“There is absolutely no problem with Russians or anybody or any other friendly nation seeking shelter off the Scottish coast, but it is the duty of the UK Government to ensure there are timely security escort procedures.
“Again the MOD has been exposed without any maritime patrol aircraft at all and without the proper conventional naval vessels based in Scotland.
“To rely on vessels based on the south coast of England taking more than a day to steam north is embarrassing and is a perfect illustration how the UK Government does not take northern security seriously enough.
“In contrast the Scottish Government is pledged to prioritise the maritime challenges of our region with maritime patrol aircraft and conventional naval vessels following a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 independence referendum.
“This will benefit Scottish defence and all of our allies especially northern European neighbours including Norway, Denmark and Iceland as well as the rest of the UK who will have a neighbour in Scotland that will take these matters more seriously than Whitehall does at the moment.”
Jimmy Halliday’s contributions to the Cause
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 – 60; in 1956 the entire SNP Conference delegates were photographed on the steps of the Allan Water Hotel, Bridge of Allan.
We are 10 months from a Referendum on Scottish Independence, which was unthinkable in 1955; Jimmy died on 3rd January 2013 at the age of 85. We intend to publish all Jimmy’s articles in the Scots Independent from August 2004 up to 2011, all the ones we have electronic input for. It is anticipated we will publish a book on Jimmy’s contributions over many years, but this will have to wait until after the Referendum.
Not either Movement or Party – but Both – February 2008
Emotionally the “Movement” concept met with wide support.
Every so often a published opinion poll tells us that, let’s say, 20% of SNP members do not support independence. If you fall into this category please feel free to share your reasoning with the rest of us. No one to my knowledge has ever done so, and it would be helpful to have an explanation of a seemingly incomprehensible political opinion.
Similarly, polls have often told us that, again let’s say, 60% of Scots support independence but only 30% would be likely to vote for the SNP. What can we make of the 60%?
Firstly, and most simply, many of them are just telling lies, needlessly and for reasons known only to themselves. A second and more truthful group are for independence but only if it comes as a gift from the Labour Party, which alone they trust, and for whose misdeeds they will always find excuses. Equally they will always find excuses to justify their constant fury against the SNP. We should lose neither sleep nor temper for we know what in their eyes is our crime. We have pushed them off their monopolised high horse in Scotland, look very likely to do so again, and might well, some day, cost them office even in England. So the attitude of this group is perfectly understandable.
But what about those who remain? Who favour independence but who reject us? If we are at fault please tell us how we can improve. Reveal to us whatever it is about us that prompts this rejection. If you want independence do you not want to join with others who have the same objective? Do you not feel prompted to work with them in the one organisation whose very purpose is the independence which you say you support? Do you not feel moved to help enhance the power of the movement with your time, your effort, your means, as Party members do? If not, why not?
But of course, I said “movement” just now, and perhaps I have stumbled upon an explanation of our mysteries, In the fairly distant past, Nationalists used to argue about whether our ”Party” was really a “Movement” and not a real Party at all. The more we argued, the more it seemed we were telling ourselves it had to be “either”—”or”, one thing or the other.
Emotionally, the “Movement” concept met with wide support. A “Movement” sounds so romantic, so noble, so virtuously amateur. So much more exalted than a Party, busying itself with winning and using power, requiring discipline of its members, organising their work and guided by collective decisions. That kind of thing tended to make free spirits who regarded political activity as just pleasing themselves, feel quite faint.
In many ages and in many nations a movement has held especial charm for the young–the really young, in their earliest political awareness. Let me suggest as an example the first Nationalist body in which I found a home–the Scottish Nationalist Association in Glasgow University. In those years, 60 years ago, our GUSNA was the foremost and most successful political group in an excitedly political world. It dominated debates, won competitions and won two Rectorial elections. Its membership was quite as strong as that of other political clubs, usually between 100 and 200.
And of those 100 or 200 how many were Party members? ——–Two: Alasdair MacDonald and myself. Certainly the ongoing success of the Covenant drew eyes away from the Party but many GUSNA fellow members would make a point of saying,” Of course, I am not a Party member.” How dreadful in retrospect, how hurtful and unfair and foolish is that “of course”, coming from those too devil-may-care, too swashbuckling, too altogether exciting and personally remarkable to suffer themselves to be contained within a mere party.
Some of them grew up and grew in wisdom and practical awareness. More than a few lived to do the party service and four of that generation were in their time Parliamentary candidates. Some of to-day’s Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers will have their own recollections of very different times but they too may have been handicapped by this strange unwillingness to honour the Party. With whatever enthusiasm you seek independence you, we, all of us, should see the party not as an alternative to, or inferior substitute for, a Movement, but the cutting edge of that Movement. The creation of the Party was a remarkable achievement which deserves the respect of all, and the particular gratitude of all who found it ready and waiting to receive them into membership.