The ancient, and probably best known of Chinese curses is the wish “May you live in interesting times”, and this can be fairly applied to Scotland today. The latest bombshell for Scotland is the loss of 835 jobs at Scottish shipyards. This has to do with Royal Navy orders, which may or may not come to Scotland. The reason is that work on the two aircraft carriers will be completed in the next two years and there are no orders to employ all the workforce; in fact the elusive orders for the Type 26 frigates are causing alarm and despondency in the ranks. Firstly, the placing of the orders for the carriers happened during the Glasgow East by election in 2008, a sop offered by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown to salvage Labour’s vote; this did not work and John Mason of the SNP pulled off a historic victory.
As time progressed, the Tories came to power, and with their Liberal cronies started to fiddle about with the carriers. They decided not to proceed with the second carrier, but discovered that the Ministry of Defence had entered into a contract which made if more expensive to scrap the second carriers than to build it! No I don’t know how they managed that either. Then they would build it and mothball it, unless any other country wanted to buy it – our defence oligarchs have all sorts of questionable customers – money has no enemies. The jury is still out on that one. The question of planes came after that, curiously as one might have thought that should rather have been a starting point. And as they fiddled the costs rose from £3.7 billion to £6.2 billion – and rising.
So to the current situation where Westminster MPs are pontificating, rather unhelpfully. Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal acting as a Tory, or vice versa and Ian Davidson, Labour masquerading as a closet Tory. The both say that after independence no Type 26 frigates will be built in Scotland, as the UK has never had any warships built in a foreign country – that’s us pals. BAE, the builders, say they will be closing the Portsmouth yard, and that the only place in the British Isles capable of building these warships will be the Clyde. Business makes more sense than politics to them. Ian Davidson, whose constituency contains Govan came up with the suggestion that the Ministry of Defence should place the orders now, to avoid uncertainty, with a “break” clause that if Scotland voted “Yes” the contracts would be cancelled! He sees no compuction in blackmailing his constituents – vote No or I’ll make sure you lose your job, democracy Labour style. I just wonder if he is planning to retire from the Westminster Parliament, or has a plan to import a whole new electorate into Govan to replace this rebellious lot. I sense another numpty heading for the House of Lords.
Another ancient Chinese insult comes to mind when I consider that pair “May the bones of your unworthy ancestor be tapped with a wooden hammer.”
IT’S STILL THE ECONOMY
My previous assessment of the Referendum Campaign in early August was downbeat although less bleak than in June. The polls have yet to move YES-wards to any great extent but intuitively, I sense the beginnings of movement. In the street, people are now raising the issue of voting YES, asking questions rather than avoiding the topic. All quite unscientific, yet perhaps straws in the wind.
Also, the issues are beginning to surface now that September 18 is less than a year away. Since the summer the NO campaign seems to have run out of puff and become querulous. As for YES, while it has shown greater signs of aggression and acumen, it needs a sharper economic focus.
Even amongst those voting NO or undecided, many are fed up with the patronising attitudes and demeaning comments from Whitehall visitors.
Two dangers have been averted.
To my surprise, the Grangemouth crisis Instead of undermining Scottish confidence, has done the opposite.
The relative inactivity of the UK Prime Minister has been noted and contrasted with the effort made by the First Minister. The strength of the UK is not of much use if London can’t be bothered to apply it. Instead Scotland was seen to have the capacity and will to act.
Defence jobs have always been a problem, but by allowing sole UK surface shipbuilding capacity to continue in Scotland, London has defanged the issue. Scotland can have its cake and eat it. In return for Royal Navy orders, side deals will be done to buy other defence equipment needed by Scotland from BAE and English suppliers.
Leaving aside Alistair Carmichael’s ‘bovver boy’ approach, it is clear that the more intelligent and subtle, Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond has other objectives. While assuming that Scotland will vote NO, his main objective in any negotiations following a YES vote will be to secure continued use of Faslane for the nuclear submarine fleet, at best for the new Trident over a 30 year term with a fall-back of a lease for 10 years until the present vessels are phased out. There will be fierce negotiations with Westminster and come the first General Election, the ratification of any provisional agreement on Trident will be a principal issue.
Without doubt also, the blackmail factor of the referendum saved Govan and without this pressure, the Clyde would have suffered loss of more jobs. If we surrender our clout by voting NO, the two yard policy cannot be guaranteed, given the continuing run-down of the Royal Navy and the need to continue the austerity programme..
It’s the Economy
Yet, the NO vote, despite the negativity of Better Together, is ahead in all opinion polls. YES Scotland needs to concentrate on the economy to answer the fears of those who feel that the British economy provides security. The outcome of the Referendum will stand and fall on how people feel. Safe with Britain, it will be a NO vote. Confidence in Scotland will be YES.
The North/South Divide
The referendum has made us short-sighted as to what is happening elsewhere in the UK. And being in Northern England seeing family last week was an eye opener. In England there is concern about the contrast of a booming London and the South East compared to the North of England. The debate has ignited over the consequences of HS2 to the southern rural environment outside London where most constituencies are held by Conservative MPs as against the benefits to the North. One comment put it thus:
“The great cities of the North have been adrift from London for decades, but since 2007 the capital and the South East have accounted for almost half of Britain’s growth in output. If the map of Britain is not to become a literal illustration of Disraeli’s two nations, the tracks (of HST2) must be laid.”
The huge expansion of the London economy compared to RUK is frightening. The City of London caused the financial collapse and yet is the prime beneficiary. Unfair, but it will continue if the Unionists get their way. That is the essence of the argument YES Scotland must take to the people. The City State of London is booming. House price inflation is out of control. That bubble has the capacity to bring the British financial structure crashing once more, especially since the boom is based on consumption and increasing private and public debt.. And then what will happen to the pensions and jobs of Scots?
YES Scotland must challenge the Unionists and all who are against Scottish independence by asking two questions:
- If Scotland remains in the UNION, what guarantees will you give to redistribute wealth from London to Scotland to redress the imbalance of prosperity and industrial poverty?
- Given the voting power of the densely populated London and the South, HOW can that be done?
The London question is the soft under-belly of the Union. To make an impact, YES Scotland in a kind of ‘street fighting’ must harry their opponents unrelentingly, demanding answers. The Unionists will be hamstrung. They cannot give such a pledge; the British capital would not allow it. Today the grip of the London octopus is so powerful that the RUK exists to serve it regardless. If Scotland votes NO, the resources of the English North, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will continue be exploited for the benefit of London.
Things may feel slightly better but no supporter of independence can be confident, let alone complacent. Only a sharper focus on the economic problems facing Scotland within this unequal United Kingdom can tip the scale.
Although I am happier than before, there is a large gap to bridge. It can be done. An English friend put it brilliantly:
“The NO vote is larger and open to contraction,
The YES vote is smaller and open to expansion”
Gordon Wilson is Director of Options for Scotland and former Chairman (Leader) of the Scottish National Party
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.
Widening our horizon. Editorial March 2007
We feel it only right that we share good news with all our readers while at the same time offering our grateful thanks to many for their practical support. In particular we have recently received generous contributions to the Robert McIntyre Memorial Fund enabling us to continue to provide schools with copies of the paper. Robert was a convinced believer in the necessity of an informed electorate, and equally convinced that the sooner young Scots were encouraged to think about political principles the better for our society in days ahead.
An extension of this kind of work has recently been made possible by a donation which is to be used to inform people outside Scotland about our cause and our movement. Of these they have heard, usually, nothing, or perhaps the usual dismissive and slanderous rubbish which British governments can all be relied upon to spread around.
In our old far-off amateur years Party members were all too ready to insist that only we ourselves mattered when it came to determining our future. That may well be true in the long run, but before the long run is over we can very usefully make friends among the spectators and passers-by.
It is surely a good idea to seek the favourable opinion of the peoples and governments of other countries. The day may come when that goodwill will be crucial to our hopes. Think how hard and how repeatedly British politicians work to convince us that Scotland can not enter the European Union at all, or certainly not automatically. We would be wise to be working on countering this kind of lie. Think of the goodwill, which is far from being all legend, enjoyed by Scots overseas. Do not let that goodwill go to waste. Take every opportunity to respond with friendship to others.
It is thus our purpose, thanks to the financial backing offered us, to inform, through the relevant press, foreign citizens and Scots alike, of the essentials of our case and the story of our election campaign as it proceeds. In Europe’s Parliament our MEPs past and present have done this to great effect. We enjoy support throughout the Commonwealth thanks to a common language and millions of personal ties. We will now embark on a kind of “independence extension” programme and will keep you posted.
James Halliday, Chairman, Scots Independent