Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

For political watchers, the impending Scottish Government White Paper, due to be released on 26 November –http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/White-Paper-date-549.aspx – is what we await, and what will set the tone for the forthcoming months through winter and into 2014.  There will be much to chew over, and you can bet that this event more than any other will light the touchpaper for the Yes / No debate ahead of us.

Before its release, however, it is worth noting all politicians came together in our annual remembrance week to commemorate the veterans and fallen soldiers of wars past and present, so its seems fitting to leave this week’s Flag to a little history from Poppyscotland.  More information on how to donate to the campaign can be found here –


For over 90 years Poppyscotland has been providing life-changing support for Scotland’s ex-Servicemen and women.  

In the aftermath of World War I, many of those who served their country were left destitute on their return home. Those returning to civilian life had to cope with the prospect of unemployment, financial ruin and homelessness, as well as coping with the psychological trauma suffered as result of the horrific scenes they had witnessed on the front line.

The Commander of the British Forces in World War I, Field Marshal Earl Haig, was horrified by the plight faced by so many men who had been under his command and he dedicated his later life to the welfare of ex-Servicemen.

In 1921 Earl Haig came across a group of French widows who were selling silk poppies on the streets of London, having been inspired by Lt Colonel John McCrae’s iconic poem “In Flanders Field”.  Haig recognised the potential of these poppies to become both a symbol of remembrance and also as a means to support the welfare of ex-Servicemen.  By 1922 Haig established the first Poppy Factory in Richmond, Surrey, but such was the demand for poppies that few were reaching Scotland.  In 1926 his wife, Lady Haig, established a Poppy Factory in Edinburgh to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland.

Since then the poppy has become a symbol of remembrance and of the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces, both at times of war and in their peace keeping duties.  Importantly, for over 90 years it has raised millions of pounds to support the needs of veterans and their families, living in Scotland.

From its inception the Scottish Poppy Appeal has always operated independently from The Royal British Legion’s appeal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  In 1921 The Earl Haig Fund was established by the respective Officers’ Associations north and south of the border to administer donations to Earl Haig’s new Poppy Appeal.

In England, fearing handling money for ordinary soldiers might breach its Royal Charter, the responsibility for the Poppy Appeal was passed from the Officers’ Association to the Royal British Legion.  The Officers’ Association Scotland did not have the same concerns and therefore continued to operate the Scottish Poppy Appeal independently from the Royal British Legion’s Appeal elsewhere in the UK.  This also ensured that the money raised in Scotland from the sale of poppies went to help the Scottish ex-Service community.

The Officers’ Association Scotland continued to operate the Scottish Poppy Appeal until 1954, when they decided to constitute The Earl Haig Fund Scotland as a standalone charity.  We have been operating this way ever since.

In 2006 The Earl Haig Fund Scotland was renamed Poppyscotland and a new year-round fundraising programme was introduced.  Since the re-launch there has been a noticeable rise in non-Poppy Appeal fundraising activity.  During the same period donations to the Scottish Poppy Appeal have risen by 50%, with the 2010 Scottish Poppy Appeal raising a record £2.35 million.

June 2011 saw Poppyscotland merge with The Royal British Legion (TRBL), which operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to form the largest charity group supporting the Armed Forces community across the whole of the UK.  Under the terms of the merger, substantial additional investment will be committed to Scotland to make significant improvements to the support services for veterans and their families living north of the Border.  Poppyscotland will, however, continue to operate as a distinct, separate charity within the TRBL group of charities.  The Poppyscotland brand will continue unchanged and the Scottish Poppy and Scottish Poppy Appeal will remain in place, with funds raised from the campaign being used exclusively to support the Armed Forces and veterans’ community in Scotland.  The manufacture of Scottish poppies at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh will also continue.


An excellent article from Third Force News on the challenges facing our veterans today, and service-providers working to ensure that those returning from conflict can return to ‘normal’ life, is also well worth a read – http://www.thirdforcenews.org.uk/2013/11/struggling-on-civvy-street/


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.


The Labour Party needs Scottish lobby fodder to govern England.

Our nation has waited for 300 years to have its political existence asserted in the eyes of the world, asserted but not yet properly acknowledged and conceded. For 79 (not 73) of these 300 years our party has worked toward our present position and beyond. The occasion, one felt, called for poetry or a symphony. Preferably both. We owed something in the nature of Thanksgiving; a Te Deum perhaps for Catholics, and for Protestants, the equivalent Lutheran “Now thank we all….”  After all, the Clydeside MPs in 1918 left St Enoch station to the singing of “Now Israel may say…”

In whatever fashion, rejoicing is in order, and grateful thanks to our Party colleagues at all levels whose efforts have brought such happiness to us all. While rejoicing, we remember the now absent friends who have not lived to see these great days.

We are bound, if we are old enough, to look back, because retrospect gives us a true awareness of how far we have come. In 1955 we fought only two seats, Perth and Stirling. The combined workforce was unlikely to reach 47 and now we hold 47 seats. Before us we can see the final target of national independence, but the closer that target comes the more bitter will be the resistance from our opponents. There’s nothing unfair about that. The Conservatives are Unionists and they do what it says on the tin. The Labour Party needs Scottish lobby fodder if it is ever to govern England, where power, profit and professional advancement are to be most readily found. End of story, and end of any chance of their calm acceptance of Scottish independence. An end too of any truthful analysis of the pros and cons of the case.

From the Liberals, a third party striving to be second in UK terms, we must expect rivalry, and that is perfectly fair. What is not at all admirable, however, is their betrayal of at least some of their traditions. For a century the two great progressive principles were Liberalism and Nationalism, which proceeded in close harmony from 1815 till 1918. Why then did the Liberal Party’s present leader profess to see wicked qualities in our Nationalism? This is no honest misjudgment and he is well aware that he is cynical and untruthful in his portrayal.

What do he or his colleagues make of the man who helped to create our Party, and who went on to serve the Liberal party with distinction and consequence? Liberal strength in the Highlands and in the Borders owes much to the pioneering work of John MacCormick. Do they know his name today? And if so, how dare they, by implication, defame it?

An alternative exemplar, for at least some Liberals, might be found in another reminiscence. In 1950, in the campaign to make Dr MacCormick Rector of Glasgow University, we were allies, and welcomed that fact. We would talk of the years ahead, and where that alliance might lead. We co-operated in the Scottish Covenant movement with ease and with considerable effect, and we looked forward to the days when Scottish politics would be characterised by the contest between Unionism and Nationalism.

Not too bad a prophecy, was it? Another one was that if we played our cards right the English Parliament would throw us out. That one has still to be tested, but it’s worth a thought.

Then we come to the toughest opposition of all from which our opponents draw so much of their energy and hope–the British media. We have to be careful what we say about them because they are guaranteed the last word. President Johnson, who understood such matters, explained that you shouldn’t get into a stink-swapping contest with a skunk. They are not all skunks, though the designer of The Sun’s election day front page was that among other things. In fact the newspapers really shouldn’t arouse anger. They are in most cases just supporters’ club magazines and are entitled to their partisan untruths.

Broadcasters are different. Scotland is fortunate in having one or two who bring a measure of scholarship to their presentations, but the general slanting of news is deliberately unhelpful. Some, we know, are active partisans in private life, but others are just trying to be smart and to appear shrewd. Alex Salmond, they are at pains to point out, will meet with great difficulties in having his measures accepted. “He will find…..He will have to…..” ha-ha, tee-hee….and so on.  Mr Salmond will understand all that without their promptings. He will know too that the media will hammer away at the great truth which Messrs Brown and McConnell have teed up for them–that voters have three parties, all Unionists, against our one, and so, of course, he has no mandate to seek independence. Having used so much powder and shot in attacking independence, which was not 2007’s issue, they may well find that Mr Salmond will yet catch them with fallen jaws and empty muskets in, perhaps, 2011.

We are now in the position which our leaders have chosen. We mean to govern so acceptably as to ensure ever-increasing respect and support. By our actions we will smooth the way to independence. Well, let us hope so, being now thus committed. But even if actions speak louder than words, words are still important. We must hope and expect that, as well as acting wisely, our representatives will take every opportunity to explain in words the advantages which independence will bring. If they do, our people will come increasingly to see independence through our eyes–a just, noble and profoundly moving aspiration for a nation.