We have just spent last week in a small independent country. It was a popular wee place with tourists from all around the world. Some were tracing their roots and discovering where their fore bearers came from. Others, like us, just enjoy the country for its scenery, history, culture and the warmth of the people.
We were in a very rural part of Ireland and it took till the middle of the week for me to make the most obvious comparison with Scotland. Each small community had everything it needed with no need to travel great distances for the essentials. There were Tesco stores in the larger towns but not the massive ones we have here. We saw adverts for Lidl on the t.v. but it took nearly a week to come across one. We did, however, manage to shop in the village store and in the village butchers, both of which sold fresh fruit and vegetables too. Even the very rural area where our cottage was had a hotel and a village store that sold hardware, essential food and cleaning items and had a petrol pump. The instructions in our cottage pointed us to this store (4 minutes drive) for our essentials.
As we chatted to local people it became obvious that supportive communities were the norm. Anything you needed could be obtained from someone within the immediate area. Obviously some things were not available but these would be the things that an occasional day out to a large town or city would rectify as you wouldn’t need to purchase them on a daily or weekly basis. How many reading this can remember the excitement of a day out with parents or grandparents to buy the new coat, dress or shoes? A once a year occasion if you were lucky (twice if you were very lucky) rather than the weekly addition to the shopping trolley that many do nowadays.
The other thing that struck us was the alcohol…………………..or rather the lack of it. The local pubs had plenty but the shops did not have it as readily available as here. If you drank wine this was reasonably well available in the small shops but you had to go to the larger stores for beers and spirits. There were no super cheap deals on alcohol and spirits were limited. There were off-licences in the larger centres of population but again there were no super deals on the prices. Ireland it seems has tackled their problem with cheap drink and alcohol dependency. Nobody seemed too upset about it either.
As for the border scare stories that seem to be still doing the rounds back home……………..what borders? If we hadn’t had the road map with us we would have been unaware of exactly where the border was and if it hadn’t been for the road signs changing from kilometres to miles we would have been blissfully unaware of crossing a border…………….until the union flags and hand of Ulster flags draped across the fly- over road on the A4 as we got nearer to Belfast. We did wonder in Belfast why there was the desire to cling to the UK when all the pubs, restaurants etc advertised the warmth of the Irish criac.
An excellent idea that I would like to see over here was the ample hard shoulder on all roads. Not quite as wide as the normal carriageway but ample to allow slower moving vehicles (such as us playing the tourist) to pull over, continue driving and allow the faster traffic to get by. This was obviously not allowed when approaching junctions but it is more appealing to the eye than endless dual carriageway and encourages drivers to acknowledge each other as the faster driver thanks the slower one for making room for them to pass.
Ian never thought he would hear himself say that River City was a quality production. After watching an almost straight take on it based in Dublin, on RTE 1, he has reluctantly conceded that our version has a tad more quality…….. even though he probably still won’t watch it J Oh, and by the way, digital t.v. in Ireland can tune into all the British t.v channels if they choose to. The owner of our cottage chose not to. When he noticed our pro independence stickers on our car he commented that we were for independence from the British government. When we confirmed this he said “Sure, and why wouldn’t you want to”
From the September issue of the Scots Independent
Scotland shortchanged on MEPs
Ian Hudghton MEP
As part of UK, we get 6 MEPs – Denmark, Finland and Slovakia get 13 each.
With the next general election of Members of the European Parliament to be held on 22 May 2014, the SNP list of six candidates has been ranked in order by Party members. Once again the ballot was on the basis of one-member-one-vote, with the innovation of an option to vote either by post or online.
I am very grateful for the support given to me in the ballot, and I am pleased and proud to have been placed at the top of such a strong team of SNP candidates. Our aim must be to win the election next May and I hope that we do so decisively by achieving the largest share of the national vote, and increasing the number of SNP MEPs elected to stand up for Scotland’s interests.
At the last round of European Parliament voting, in 2009, the SNP won the election with a 29.1% share of the votes cast. Of Scotland’s total of six MEPs, we held our two seats and came very close to winning a third. The SNP has a long and distinguished record of standing up for Scotland in Europe, and this Euro election is an opportunity to be grasped with enthusiasm.
With recent polls of voting intention showing even higher SNP support now than when we were re-elected as a government in 2011, we should approach these elections with positivity and optimism. Of course we must take nothing for granted, but should continue working hard to earn people’s trust.
In 2014, as an electoral area of the UK, we will again be electing only six MEPs, while Denmark, Finland and Slovakia as Independent member states of a similar size to Scotland elect thirteen each. With Independence, Scotland would have vastly increased influence in EU decision-making. Not only would we have more MEPs, but also we would have the absolute right to be represented at the top table among governments – rather than depending on Westminster ministers who often fail to prioritise Scotland’s key concerns.
Of course, the Independence referendum in September 2014 gives us the opportunity to choose a new and much more meaningful relationship with our partners in the EU. A recent opinion poll in the Sunday Express has indicated a narrowing gap between those intending to vote Yes and those who, at this stage, are leaning towards a No vote.
On the basis of this Angus Reid survey, a swing of just 6.5% would be enough to secure a Yes vote in next year’s referendum. Interestingly, the poll also found that nearly a third of declared Labour voters will back independence, along with nearly a quarter of LibDem supporters. It seems that people of all political persuasions can see that with the powers of an independent Scotland we can build the kind of fairer, more prosperous country that we all want to live in.
In 2014 we have a tremendous and exciting set of opportunities to campaign across Scotland’s diverse communities, encouraging our fellow-residents to vote SNP in the Euro-elections, and Yes in Scotland’s referendum.
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 13 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.
Scotland not too poor for independence – June 2005
Naturally our enemies despaired when Scotland became an oil-producing country. ‘Too small for Independence?’ Perhaps. ‘Too stupid?’ Arguable. But ‘Too poor?’ Not now. Never.
How quickly they recovered. It wasn’t ‘Scotland’s Oil’, it was some oil company’s. There was hardly any anyway and it would run out any minute now. Furthermore it should be shared out. The normal processes of sharing by selling and buying seemed somehow not to apply. Really we were just nasty, greedy people who should be ashamed of themselves.
They would say all that, wouldn’t they? What of our own response? A few weeks ago in The Herald Joan McAlpine wrote, “Why did everyone think it was our oil, except us?” What a fine old Scottish tradition it is to give up an advantage when enemies taunt and reproach us. Once at Flodden and twice at Dunbar Scots threw away the chance of victory. By 1979 we had added the North Sea to these battle honours.
Leading figures in our party were to be found making common cause with our enemies, noses wrinkling in distaste at the unseemly self-interest of the ‘Scotland’s Oil’ campaign which had to be wound down in case our capacity for altruism were to be doubted. Never doubt it again.
This decommissioning of the oil weapon was in part a consequence of the power-struggle between the NEC and the Parliamentary Group – or if you prefer ‘some members’ of the NEC and ‘some members’ of the Parliamentary Group.
Both felt obliged to accept that the offer of devolution could not rationally be rejected. Enthusiasm seemed greater within the NEC perhaps because, for some reason, gradualism was deemed to prove Left-wing credentials. The debacle of 1979 came upon us while the Chairman struggled to find reconciliation, a task made more difficult by flashes of patronising conceit from one body and of resentful jealousy from the other.
The dissension continued into the post-election period as we all tried to work out where the blame lay. In some minds the error had been to be caught up in joint action to achieve devolution while being ratted on by a hostile and cynical Labour Party. Others saw that the strongest support for devolution had come from the working class, the ordinary Scots people. Whatever the preferred term the more affluent and privileged seemed gleefully hostile to Home Rule. Let us therefore aim our message at this class-defined electorate.
Leaders of the new 79 Group evidently believed that only a fierce internal battle would commit the Party to their programme. The sad fact was that the Party had always been committed to the priorities that the Group favoured. No group was needed to frogmarch the Party in a direction which most of us were perfectly willing to follow ending in a destination that we had already reached.
Scholars tracing the Party’s pedigree have generally categorised it as being in the Social Democratic tradition, and a whole range of policy documents produced during Billy Wolfe’s tenure had deliberately encouraged that judgement. In some countries the distinction between ‘Social Democrat’ and ‘Socialist’ is understood but here, unfortunately, confusion prevails. The far Left has always shot Social Democrats first. The NEC didn’t shoot us but meetings became very unpleasant.
Dissension prompted self-serving leaks to the press and subsequent accusations about responsibility. Margo suggested that someone might have left their NEC papers on a bus. Willie MacRae wondered if perhaps an office-cleaner might have come upon an open filing cabinet. For the first time ever the NEC was factionalised and fighting capacity would not be restored until the bitter if needless conflict was resolved.