In the Herald on Sunday Ian McWhirter said of the Scottish Government’s White Paper on Independence, Scotland’s Future, that “Not since the tablets of stone descended from Mount Sinai has any document been more eagerly awaited or expectations greater”. Does he exaggerate? Were the tablets expected when Moses ascended Mount Sinai? As someone who has a 16 year old son I have to say Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows launch may have been a better comparator! Harry Potter launch took place at the National History Museum, “Scotland’s Future” at Glasgow Science Centre. Both launches captured the world’s attention and imagination, with press reports, live coverage, and satellite broadcasts around the world. I do not make this comparison tritely! But because the message I took from the Deputy First Minister in the Chamber yesterday, making her Ministerial Statement, is that children are at the heart of the vision “Scotland’s Future” presents of what an Independent Scotland could be, should be and what Scotland’s people can now choose to be:
“It is our aim that all children from age one to when they enter school will have access to a guaranteed 30 hours of childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year—the same number of hours that children spend at primary school. We intend, by the end of the first session, to have delivered that policy for all three and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds. The policy will provide our children with the best start in life and will enable many more women to join the workforce to fulfil their potential, provide for their families and contribute tax revenue to our economy.
That policy will also create 35,000 new jobs. Independence will allow us to ensure that the economic benefits from increased growth and, therefore, increased tax revenues will stay in Scotland rather than flow straight to the Westminster Treasury. That is why we need Independence to successfully deliver that ground-breaking policy.”
You would have thought that such ambition, vision and recognition would have been universally welcomed across the Chamber, but the Better Together Parties did not disappoint in failing to capture the historic significance of the launch. On a day that Scotland is presented with an opportunity to reduce inequality, transform our economy, deliver the aspiration of “the best country in the world in which to grow up”, Johann Lamont will be remembered once again for negativity, slur and vitriol. Patrick Harvie captured Better Together’s failings in his question to the Deputy First Minister;
“I would love to fund a childcare revolution by scrapping the weapons of war instead of cutting other public services.
However, even if the Better Together parties do not share the desire for the freedom to make that choice, does it not show the depths to which they have sunk that they describe that proposal as a childcare bribe? Since when did any politician with any integrity describe public services in such demeaning terms?”
Like Nicola Sturgeon, I agree totally with Patrick Harvie! And furthermore, I trust that parents and carers the length and breadth of Scotland will also agree! Bairns before bombs.
The coverage following the launch and the Deputy First Minister’s statement has focussed on the Currency Union. I am amazed that our pound, Scotland’s pound as much as the rest of the UK’s pound is spoken of in such territorial language. Johann Lamont words reveal so much of the psyche of the Better Together mind-set:
“Does not the Deputy First Minister accept that she cannot guarantee Scots what currency they would have for their wages, mortgages, pensions and savings because her plan is to rely on the good will of the rest of the United Kingdom, who are the same people whom she claims are doing us down and that is why we need to leave the United Kingdom in the first place?”
“Good will” Really? Do we have no stake in the assets of the United Kingdom Has Scotland no shares, no rights and no return from a 300 year union? If indeed, as many Labour politicians claim, that this is the most successful Union in 300 years, why is Scotland not a partner with rights and obligations in equal measure?
Last week, I spoke in the Stage 3 debate on the Referendum Bill and questioned the assertion of Better Together that we belonged to the most successful Union in 300 years:
“We are the most unequal country in Europe and the fourth most unequal country in the developed world. We have the lowest male life expectancy, in parts of the east end of Glasgow. In my home town, after the closure of Ravenscraig, we had the highest male unemployment rate in Europe. We have been drawn into illegal wars. It might have been Anne McGuire’s appearance on television that reminded me that we have recently endured the closure of Remploy factories across our country. I do not regard those as measures of success.”
I also spoke about our young people, the Harry Potter generation who will have their first opportunity to vote;
“The opportunity to work with young people is one of the greatest privileges for me and for all my politician colleagues. Young people who are tackling sectarianism in our society, fundraising for hospitals and international aid, and advocating and supporting fair trade are more than capable of examining the issues around the referendum.
I want all Scotland’s young people to embrace the opportunity to ask the big questions. Where is Scotland’s place in the world? What values do I want my country to have? What are my priorities for my country’s future? I am glad that young people will have that opportunity next year.”
I do hope that many of our young people will read or dip into “Scotland’s Future” to get the answers to these ‘big questions’ because the White Paper does give the answers.
On the 25 November 2013 Harry Potter the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel, published in 1997 was named ‘nation’s favourite’ children’s book in the Booktrust vote. It was released the year my son was born and in the intervening years Scotland has been transformed, not by magic, but by political will and democratic choice and a glimpse of what we could become if the democratic and constitutional settlement for Scotland reflected the will and choices of the Scottish People. Free Education, free prescriptions, social justice, a commitment to welfare delivered by a Parliament that 16 years ago was the opportunity the Scottish people seized with both hands. With exception of former Labour Glasgow Provost Michael Kelly, would anyone else is Scotland go back to a pre-devolution settlement when we are delivering so much for Scotland? This is simply the next step on our journey and I trust that, 16 years from now, “Scotland’s Future” will be the Nation’s favourite book because it is the book that gave the Nation the confidence, the answers and the vision to vote YES in September 2014.
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.
Special SI 4 page Autumn 2007
How Are We Doing?
Labour caught napping through their own lazy failure
Reporters and commentators, professional observers of events, have shown a wide measure of agreement about our Government’s performance in these its first few months. Friends who are not particularly involved in politics have come forward of their accord to express their approval of our team’s competence. We hear privately that Holyrood’s civil servants are favourably impressed too. It all makes good hearing for us as we all enjoy a little reflected glory earned for us by our party colleagues who are our elected representatives.
It seems that these skills have come as a surprise to many but they can come as no surprise to us. We knew that secretaries and ministers were capable people, fully up to the jobs which they had to undertake. They have shown a sense of purpose, of knowing where they were going. They have proved themselves quick learners, each mastering his or her brief with commendable speed.
Any surprise derives from the decades-long propaganda of our opponents. “They don’t have the chaps”, the Tories say of all their opponents. As for Labour in Scotland, they have professed to see us as novices, amateurs, not to be thought of as informed persons like themselves. Donald Dewar, it has been often said, regarded all persons not in the Labour party as being somehow morally inadequate. He and his colleagues, the best of them, probably genuinely believed that all the qualities which could serve the less powerful belonged exclusively to the Labour party. They would deny that we might claim equal commitment and they could hardly even comprehend our making the claim. It has been a pleasure to see Labour caught napping through their own lazy failure to understand what Nationalists are really like.
Surely by now they must realise that our determination to secure social justice matches or surpasses their own. When Wendy Alexander asserts that the SNP government will slash funding for social projects, will withdraw benefits from the elderly and is just itching to diminish existing welfare programmes, she is talking nonsense. Her presentation of the SNP is a parody, a bogey with which she and her colleagues have frightened themselves. Beginning, no doubt, by wanting to frighten the voters, they have come to believe in their own propaganda. Thus they now earn amazed ridicule from political journalists who have watched open-mouthed while Ms Alexander has flown off various ill-informed handles.
For ten years or so Labour have boasted, among other things, of this marvellous-beyond-belief young woman, an intellectual giant, a powerhouse of energy, a magician of campaigning. Let none presume to confront her. Have a care; keep your head down and your voice silent because if not we’ll get Wendy to you.
Well, now she is here and Alex Salmond has to deal with this colossus of politics. When he does so, and even seems to get the better of the encounter, Labour bleat about his lack of chivalry. All of a sudden this brightest of political stars has become a fragile young woman who must in all decency be protected from the nastinesses of debate and confrontation. She would be well advised to learn, belatedly but quickly, that her image of the SNP is fantasy. Our Cabinet is not twitching to means-test benefits or anything of the sort. From whatever nightmares Wendy and her colleagues have suffered they should now awake. The agenda which they attribute to the SNP is simply not going to happen.