A wee bit of confusion of compilers ( could be a collective expression!) this week with many causes.
Start with the stunning achievement of Andy Murray in winning at the All England Tennis Club, attaining the highest rated award in tennis; beats even an Olympic Gold – in English eyes certainly. The Scottish Parliament is now in recess, and Scotland is basking in sunshine with soaring temperatures.
So a bit of a hotch potch this week.
Some items from the Scots Independent newspaper
Labour contradictory over Bedroom Tax
Policy pursued by a Westminster Government Scotland rejected in 2010.
The weapons of choice in the Campaign to prevent Scottish Independence are simple: fear & uncertainty.
No headline is complete without one or the other but what of the uncertainty that the Union provides moving into the future?
Will The UK be in or out of the EU? Will the NHS be fully privatised? Will the English love affair with UKIP continue? And are the attacks on our most vulnerable to be intensified?
It is this last point in particular that I would like the Labour Party to address.
The Dundee group of candidates for the 2012 Local Elections; the group numbered 16, and the SNP got 16 councillors in the election.
For example, here in Dundee, Labour’s Housing spokesperson recently remarked that he was “staggered” by the scale of the bedroom tax crisis in Dundee.
He is right to be concerned certainly: 3,300 Dundonian households affected by a policy pursued by a Westminster Government Scotland firmly rejected in 2010.
He also states “We know the UK coalition will not reverse these changes”.
You would have thought then that the Labour Party would be able to provide absolute certainty in a future UK governed by Labour?
After all Labour MP Hazel Blears has described the Bedroom Tax as “cruel, mean & nasty”, a Labour National Executive Member has said “attacking people who are unemployed through no fault of their own should be something that our party opposes automatically.”
The Labour Party will not commit to abolishing this iniquitous tax.
Shadow DWP spokesman Liam Byrne has confirmed that “we are not going to make promises we can’t keep.”
So instead of the absolute certainty of repeal we are given the uncertainty of “mibbes aye, mibbes naw.”
This leaves Scotland in an awkward position doesn’t it?
We did not vote for the parties who did introduce it but did vote for the party who won’t repeal it!
In these circumstances it seems Scotland has only two options:
Independence under an SNP Government or a Scotland where Social Security has been devolved to Holyrood.
The Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, Professor Alan Millar recently opined The UK Government is in danger of breaching people’s rights by pushing ahead with controversial welfare reforms and further stated that, “The ‘bedroom tax’ would not have got off the ground at the Scottish Parliament, where the Human Rights Act is embedded in legislation. “
That is crystal clear then and if Social Security was devolved we could then act to protect our most vulnerable citizens and surely The Labour Party would be happy with that; particularly when their spokesperson in Dundee believes “devolution was designed for moments like this”.
Except he wouldn’t be happy with this.
His party recently voted against a motion at a Dundee City Housing Committee which asked that Social Security be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Are we certain or uncertain?
As I understand it, Dundee’s Labour Party think the bedroom tax is awfy bad but…they will not support an Independent Scotland in which Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to repeal it, they won’t commit their own Labour Party to repealing the tax should they be elected to power in 2015 and they will not support the devolution of Social Security to the Scottish Parliament where the tax could be repealed right now.
I have written to Dundee Labour’s Housing spokesperson asking that he clarify Labour’s position and ask that he supports the SNP in calling for the Bedroom Tax to be repealed.
I am sure Dundee’s electorate would appreciate a united front.
Until then we remain uncertain as to what Labour will actually do to help our most vulnerable but certain that they do not want Scots having any say over their future and most certain that ordinary Scots will continue to suffer.
How many other Labour groups in Scotland are similarly contorted?
A Blast From The Past
What can a long-forgotten student vote tell us about the Referendum?
Back in late 1998, I was dipping my toe into the world of work. Summer was over and so too was university. While temping at Lothian Health Board wasn’t exactly thrilling, it kept me solvent and occupied while I scoured the recruitment pages.
Weekends were still usually spent in Stirling, where a good number of my friends had stayed on. It was also where I had some unfinished business of my own to complete, in helping the FSN branch fight a referendum to disaffiliate Stirling University from the National Union of Students.
At the time, we saw the NUS as an institutionally corrupt body, exploiting a passive mass membership to give a platform for Labour Party hacks, who were more interested in advancing their own careers than they were in representing students in the battle for free education. For all the NUS trumpeted about having influence at the heart of Tony Blair’s government, our view was that if students’ interests weren’t being properly represented, then no representation was better than misrepresentation.
In the end, after a spirited campaign, we were beaten by a margin of 3:1. For all that we fought a sharp and savvy campaign, we were outgunned, outspent and ultimately out-argued in what was successfully portrayed by our opponents as a massive leap into the unknown.
So why did we lose? When the campaign started, strict spending limits were agreed. This was quickly ignored by the NUS, which started pumping in glossy posters and leaflets to support their cause. Despite this, we had the skills and the means to turn round our publicity far more quickly, and so we were able to win the poster wars to get out our message and subvert theirs.
A crucial factor was that the NUS provided bar services at Stirling. Our view was that since Edinburgh, St Andrews, Glasgow and Dundee all managed fine through an outfit called Northern Services that we could do likewise. What we hadn’t bargained on was that the other side would get away with the argument that if the NUS didn’t provide the bar services, that all the bars would shut with immediate effect.
The Stirling Union’s V-P Services – the man elected to be in charge of all the bars – was crucial in getting this message over. Taken under the wing of the NUS activists bussed into the campus from all over the UK, he proclaimed that he couldn’t do his job without the support of NUS Services. Instead of questioning the accuracy of the statement or what this might say about the competence of the office holder, students by and large took it at face value. Arguing that things could be better and cheaper under different arrangements cut little ice whatsoever.
Many sympathetic to our point of view opted instead to stick with what they knew. That they did so with no enthusiasm was little consolation – that came when my good pal Russell Horn appeared with Richard Baker on Good Morning Scotland to discuss the result. Listening in, I think its fair to say that until his ritual disemboweling by Isobel Davidson over Labour’s knife crime policy ahead of the 2011 election, I doubt Mr Baker has had a less comfortable experience in front of a microphone than the one Russell gave him that morning.
Our biggest weakness was to assume that the cheeky, rumbustious pamphleteering which had always worked in the past would work again in the future. Used to tormenting a once strong but now feeble Labour group on campus, we hadn’t bargained on their being sidelined with well-resourced and credible spokespeople from outside. We didn’t prepare the ground with ‘experts’ who could neutralise the cheap assertions of the other side. In retrospect, for all that we often put ‘Team NUS’ on the defensive, it’s a wonder that we got any votes at all.
Despite that, we were able to claim a moral victory. There’s evidence to suggest that the fear of further ballots at Stirling and elsewhere helped push the NUS back towards a stance on student funding more in tune with its membership. As a bonus, many of the SNP team involved used their experience to get a Councillor elected at the following year’s local elections in the University ward.
Now, as the great Pete Seeger once sang: “You might not want to draw conclusions, I’ll leave that to yourself.” However, at the forefront and the fringes of the campaign to keep Stirling in the NUS were individuals – not just Richard Baker – who now play senior roles in ‘Better Together’. For me at least, some of the parallels are striking in terms of how they were schooled to take on a motley band of self-financed upstarts in the Stirling referendum and how they have set out their stall to date against the ‘Yes’ campaign.
‘Engendering fear’ as Douglas Alexander once put it is how they have always won in the past, and they’ve won far more often with that tactic than they have lost, which is why they’re running the same campaign again. To have dismantled their arguments, we’d have needed far more resources and to fight a sustained campaign over a much longer period than we gave ourselves.
Fifteen years on, it’s academic what we would have done with the time and resources we didn’t have. Fifteen months out, Yes Scotland does have the time and resource to win, but it needs to start showing some guile as well as an ability to get on the front foot. If there’s one lesson which both sides from the Stirling referendum could agree on both then and now, it’s that real victories are far, far better than moral ones.
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 15 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.
Beware false words and promises – Sept 2004
THE National Party of Scotland had, from its formation in 1928, a fully coherent political programme, and required its members to withdraw from any other party. Further, the new party committed itself to an election-fighting strategy, challenging the British political parties in the most unambiguous fashion possible.
However, if the Party’s influence was to increase, its membership had to grow. Those who had not been sufficiently interested to join the Party or its earlier component groups had now to be persuaded to do so.
Some came quite quickly and willingly but others required concessions and acceptance of their various conditions before consenting to become members.
Within the NPS many feared that offering these concessions or accepting these conditions would involve abandoning or at least modifying their fundamental principles.
So as time passed principles were questioned, debated, eroded, abandoned, restored and then questioned all over again. Some argued in favour of the widest possible membership.
Others responded that the wider the membership the shallower would be the average commitment and the worth of the cause itself would be diminished.
Consensus, seen as a virtue by some, was seen by others as a flabby dodging of decision and choice.
Most active in pursuing party growth and working to bring about the decisions, which would encourage it, was the NPS Secretary, John MacCormick.
His was the most busy and active mind involved in these early days, and he had won the good opinion of many prominent public personalities.
He now used his reputation to attract the support of people whose public identification as Home Rule supporters would strengthen the Party and impress and encourage others to follow.
Unfortunately some of the key people in MacCormick’s sights were, unknown to him, less than sincere. This we now know thanks to the researches of Richard Finlay (Independent and Free, John Donald, 1994).
They resented the NPS, which had usurped the leadership, which some felt should have been theirs. Instead of co-operation they threatened competition, forming the rival Scottish Party.
Among their number were several prominent Press personalities and it was probably they who peddled vigorously the notion that the Scottish Party were “moderates” and therefore much to be preferred to the “extremists” of the NPS.
Feeling now a degree of urgency, MacCormick sought reconciliation and achieved it in time to have the two parties co-operate in fighting a by-election in Kilmarnock in December 1933. Shortly thereafter, in April 1934, their union was made permanent in their agreement to form the Scottish National Party.
Nationalists had thus encountered for the first time an experience, which has recurred on many occasions in subsequent years.
The Scottish Party, though supported by little more than a comparative handful of members, demanded and secured parity in the number of Party offices held.
Nationalist public statements now revealed more tenderness in relation to England, the Empire and the monarchy than had been customary from the NPS.
In response to these developments, as if to prove that growth won by such means would carry a price, a number of NPS members now resigned.
It seemed that for each new member gained an established member would be lot, even though independence, rather discreetly defined, remained the SNP’s professed objective.
From these events we should learn to let time test the sincerity of support. When people who have shown little previous regard for us or our cause come to claim to seek independence, most of them are lying.
Or if not, they are saying in effect, “Well, yes.
But I want to wait until my more urgent priorities are attended to, and I will.