Interesting moves were afoot in the UK Scottish Office this week with Borders MP Michael Moore’s departure as Secretary of State for Scotland, replaced by his Lib Dem colleague Alistair Carmichael. First indications seem to suggest that a more ‘combative’ operator was required by the UK Government in the run-up to the referendum next year. A wise move by Cameron perhaps, getting the change in this far ahead of the vote, but it does suggest that the UK Government are on the back foot at the moment.
Cameron has spent much time in recent weeks and months fending off poor press about his leadership and his control over the Tory party, never mind the Coalition, so discussions over the impending Scottish vote I suspect will be drawing a great deal of agitation in the pro-Union parties’ corridors at Westminster.
Following on from Cameron’s clear assertion that he will play no part in live TV debates with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, and the flawed logic behind that decision, at least in voters eyes anyway, the Cabinet changes should give Yes supporters much heart.
With the independence march and rally in Edinburgh last month drawing such a vast range of active participants, the civic movement in Scotland is clearly gathering an enormous volume of resources together for the shorter campaign which is ahead of us.
At the heart of where flaws lie in the No campaign is that of distance from the Scottish voters they will be purporting to represent come referendum day. Cameron knows full well that his presence in a live TV debate can only serve to reinforce that his UK Government touches on very few domestic policy matters which affect Scots day to day lives. That they then have control over Scottish resources, oil revenue, and decision-bearing power over whether to take the country to war, will not sit well with families struggling to pay their fuel bills.
Whilst a UK Government foists the Bedroom Tax on those already struggling to keep their heads above water, time and again we have a Scottish Government implementing measures which are progressive and aimed at tackling Scotland’s toughest problems. Even Tony Blair’s former spinmaster-in-chief, Alastair Campbell, now commends SNP Government policies – “Scotland leading way on alcohol again. Why do UK govt resist acting to deal with alcohol abuse?”.
Much guttersniping across the media will be ahead of us, and the ebb and flow of political events will largely dictate the weekly run down of news headlines. What the campaign will ultimately boil down to, however, will be who offers a better vision of the future. The No team’s inherent problem is that they are fighting for the status quo, no change, nothing better, nothing new, in addition to the fact ‘No’ hardly trips off the tongue as being a wise side to be on before any potential vote. Yes therefore have everything to play for.
With a Scottish Government white paper due, I am sure many questions will be answered as to what ‘independence’ means to the man, woman or child on the street. If it can be demonstrated that we can in fact take decisions over all our resources in a positive way, then the No campaign will struggle – to say the least.
Scotland Office reshuffles or not, combative versus diplomatic, or not, will make no difference. In the end it will be up to people living, studying and working in Scotland to decide what tangible effects independence will bring. A Unionist politician will not save their campaign by arguing another down, it can only serve to highlight that they have nothing to offer but more of the same.
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 12 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.
What price integrity? – May 2006
An unemployed man had no earnings to lose
I have offered elsewhere a tribute to Tom McFettridge. Let me now explain the particular reason why the SNP should respect his memory.
After his election to the Council in 1968, we hoped that we might, in 1969, elect a second SNP councillor in Camperdown. What we hoped, Labour greatly feared.
At the time of his election Tom was one of a six-man workforce, and his employer could not carry on his payroll a man who would be frequently absent on Council business, so he had, as they say, to let Tom go. There were then no councillors’ allowances. Basic compensation for loss of earnings was all that was available and an unemployed man had no earnings to lose and therefore no compensation to receive. Facing the prospect of real hardship, Tom searched for a new job in a larger workforce where his inevitable absences might be accepted.
His applications were all unsuccessful. There now approached him with an explanation a Labour fellow-councillor who told him that powerful persons–“ruthless bastards” was how he described them–would have him blacklisted throughout the mills and factories of highly unionised Dundee. “We know you’ve been looking,” he was told. “You’re not on.”
However, he could improve his prospects, securing a comfortable job offering “a thousand a year, Tam, and a car” if he would arrange to sabotage the SNP campaign in Camperdown. SNP election materials were to be collected by Tom and then handed over for destruction.
Tom now made three visits. First to his priest. Second to me. Third, together to Lord Provost Alex McKenzie. Mr McKenzie brought in the Chief Constable, who proposed investigation locally. Tom made the point that none of us could be sure who in Dundee was wholly immune to the influence of those behind the conspiracy, and so the investigation was conducted by Glasgow detectives.
On an arranged date the go-between came for Tom’s answer and their conversation was recorded by two detectives in Tom’s house, and a third busily fiddling under the bonnet of his car in the street below.
In due course the charge of corruptly attempting to influence the outcome of the election came before Sheriff Margaret Kidd in Dundee Sheriff Court. There the accused councillor enjoyed the professional representation of a highly regarded legal firm and the eminent QC whom they had briefed, Mr Ross, later Lord Ross and Lord Justice Clerk.
Tom stoutly maintained his credibility under fierce questioning from Mr Ross. The recording played in court was not of the highest quality, but it was good enough to provide corroboration, and clear enough for one local eminence to place a despairing hand over his eyes while seeking comfort in quiet but heartfelt profanity. Mr Ross sat down and simultaneously Sheriff Kidd said, “Guilty on all counts”.
The threats which Tom had faced now became a reality. He was in effect blacklisted and vilified by every means or agency available to our political opponents. His life was altered beyond recall, his health and his living standards alike falling short of those which he might otherwise have enjoyed. What he did in the interests of political integrity was done also on our collective behalf.
The luckless and now convicted councillor was expelled from the Labour party. Several years later his offer to join the SNP came close to being accepted by those who did not know this story or chose to ignore it, but in the end his proposed move came to nothing. He never identified his controlling superiors.
Tom McFetteridge – May 2006
We learned with great sadness of the death last month of Tom McFettridge in his home city of Dundee after a lifetime of service to the SNP. First appearing at National Council in the early sixties, he became by the later sixties a leading Party activist and chairman of Camperdown branch, then strongest by far in the city.
He helped the Party through trying times, combating disloyal intrigue, and by 1968 the Party was strong enough to secure his election as councillor in Camperdown ward–the first SNP councillor to be elected in the city.
1968 proved a false dawn and Party progress in Dundee had to wait until 1973. Tom’s term on the Council ended in 1971 but he remained active at branch and constituency level, serving at various times as Chairman of Dundee West C.A.
Despite health problems as the years passed he remained full of enthusiasm, full of shrewd and humorous insights into politics and politicians. His observations and opinions on best tactical practice showed him to be a most naturally gifted political animal. He was a most remarkable and interesting man whose death I deeply mourn.
To Graham and Veronica, his children in whom he took great pride, and to his family, our sympathy is extended.