Last week I said I would publish, via the Flag, at least the editorials in the printed Scots Independent a month or so afterwards.
This week I am publishing the one for November; I usually do the Flag over the Christmas period as other Compilers may wish to have a complete break from politics, but I am too old and set in my ways to change!
FIRST MINISTER’S NEW YEAR MESSAGE
Monday December 31, 2012
Referendum to bring new opportunities for Scots to make own choices
The First Minister’s New Year message has highlighted the restoration of free higher education as an example of the kind of difference that could be made in areas such as social security and foreign affairs following the referendum in 2014.
Following the abolition of graduate endowment fees in 2007, Scotland’s colleges and universities have seen record numbers of Scots, English and overseas students studying higher education, while the number of people accepted into Scottish universities has increased again this year.
In his message, recorded at the University of Aberdeen’s “magnificent” new Sir Duncan Rice Library, Mr Salmond recalls that one of the Scottish Government’s very first decisions, in 2007, was to restore Scotland’s “centuries-old tradition of free education” as he asks people across the country to consider the position if Scotland had had to follow the same route as the rest of the UK.
He adds: “The results of this are now plain to see. This year, people accepted into Scottish universities have increased. And we’ve record numbers of Scottish, English and overseas students studying higher education at our Scottish colleges and universities. In contrast, the prospect of sky-high tuition fees in England has seen acceptances for universities there sinking like a stone, with tens of thousands of youngsters being denied their life opportunity.
“Now this contrast between what is happening here and what isn’t happening there has only been made possible because it is the Scottish Parliament which runs Scottish education. But let’s imagine what would happen if we didn’t control education or if, as some people suggest, we imposed English-style tuition fees. Numbers at our universities would collapse. We would be mortgaging our own country’s future.
“And just as the Scottish Parliament has restored free education, so it offers security to our old people with free personal care and protects us all by keeping vital public services, like health and water, in public hands. It is what makes it worthwhile to have our own Parliament and it is why the Scottish Parliament is now trusted by almost four times the number of people who trust Westminster.”
The First Minister invites Scots to consider how they might vote if the referendum in 2014 was for an independent Scotland to give up its independence and hand over powers in areas like welfare or foreign affairs to the Westminster Parliament in London. Those arguing for such a move would be pursuing “mission impossible” and would be “laughed at from Gretna Green to Dunnet Head,” Mr Salmond continues.
“This New Year the joke’s on us – because that is exactly the position that we have in Scotland right now. But in 2014 we will all have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something about it.
“This Scottish Government has a positive vision of the future of this country. We can build a new independent nation. It is a vision of a country that earns its wealth and shares it more fairly. A country confident in itself and its place in the world. A country which makes the most of its natural resources. And a country where everyone gets a fair shout and a decent chance. In the meantime, as we work towards that future, let me wish each and everyone of you a happy and prosperous New Year.”
Video and images of the First Minister’s New Year message can now be downloaded from the following locations.
Audio will be posted on SoundCloud on Monday 31st at: www.soundcloud.com/scotgov
Higher (broadcast) quality video and audio of the message are available under embargo from Scottish Government Communications (see contact details below).
St Andrew’s House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 3DG www.scotland.gov.uk
A headline in the Herald on 26th December got up my nose: it read “Bid to unveil the secrets of the Battle of Flodden”. The sub-heading read “Celebrations under way to mark 500th Anniversary of pivotal battle”.
It goes on to detail how the majority of Scotland’s nobles, and James IV, our King, died in this battle, which took place as the Scots army invaded England in accord with the Auld Alliance, as England had invaded France. The deal was that if England attacked Scotland, France would attack England, and vice versa. I am not aware if any French army invaded England on Scotland’s behalf, but Scots had a land border so were perhaps more vulnerable.
Two things to note from this a) England had invaded France – most of their wars were in the country they were trying to conquer – Bannockburn, Falkirk, Stirling Bridge, to name but a few. b) How insensitive of a sub editor to see the slaughter of many Scots as worthy of celebration. Goes neatly with the Unionist ploy to celebrate the 1914 opening of the First World War in 2014.
In 1707 England also used the Auld Alliance as one of their reasons for the Treaty of Union; they wanted to secure their northern border, so that they could continue to raid France and anywhere else that took their fancy.
England and its Misalliance with Europe
In early 2005 my wife and I were on holiday abroad and we were sharing a table with a couple from the South of England. They were very pleasant company but totally perplexed as to why we wanted independence. Surely everyone in the UK was happy with things as they were, so how could we wish to leave them? As an idle remark (believe that if you will) I asked about their feelings on the European Union. “Oh no, was the response, we’re not going to have other countries telling us what to do.” They saw no irony and no contradiction.
The SNP policy on the EEC, as it was called then, has changed. Originally the party was for European co-operation, then Mr Heath the Tory Prime Minister took the UK into Europe without any referendum, sacrificing Scotland’s fishing industry as of little import. When Harold Wilson took office he held a referendum asking if we wanted to stay in. The SNP campaigned against this, on the basis that we would not remain “on anybody else’s terms”, but we lost that one – that was 1975, to my recollection. (Entry into Europe had been blocked for years by General de Gaulle, who regarded Britain as the “sick man of Europe.)
AS time went on, the SNP changed its view again, as we adopted a pragmatic line; Independence in Europe, to counter the any fear of an independent Scotland being isolated and friendless. This is still the case, and Scotland has never been as anti Europe as England; Ireland is quite happy with Europe, and they are full members. However, the SNP position was always that after independence we would have a further referendum to ask Scots whether they wished to remain within the European Union.
Events in both Europe and England have given rise to a demand for an in-out referendum, as the Tory party tears itself apart once again over this issue, and it is unclear as to where they are going; Europe has been a festering sore on the Tory body politic, developing into UKIP. Great believers in English independence.
During my leisure time this festive season, I am reading “The Strange Death of Labour Scotland” (sad person, me). It is very detailed and I am only about quarter through it, and as I woke this morning I thought about my general impression; the fault lines are not over policy, nor even personality, but are all about Scotland and its place in the world, and/or the UK. Every major argument within Labour was about control from London, and just where the control should stop. Some were happy with things as they were, others wanted a little more control back, and some wanted a lot; it would seem to me that there is a nationalism– small n – alive and well in the Labour Party in Scotland. With the emergence of a “Labour for Independence” wing in 2012 this could mushroom.
Storm in a poison cup
It has long been my view that the SNP was not the fount of all human wisdom and knowledge, and that we had faults like everyone else. The events of the last couple of weeks have somewhat amended that view.
Firstly there was a meeting with the Prime Minister of England and the Secretary of State for Scotland, an official of the English government,* where it was agreed that there would be a Referendum, there would be one question set by the Scottish Parliament, that Parliament had the power to hold a vote , and the result will be respected fully by both governments. Game set and match to the SNP; at the subsequent press conference, the press was not supportive of the Scottish Government, but threw as many brickbats as they could. The SI was the lone voice congratulating the First Minister and his Deputy, an action that did not generate applause from the aforesaid press – they are mainly strictly neutral Unionists.
Subsequently, the Prime Minster of England stated that he was going to crush the Scots in 2014 – welcome, Proud Edward!
Then at Annual Conference, the Party had an open, combative and principled debate on membership of NATO, an organisation it has opposed for the last thirty years or so. There was a lukewarm reception from the press, a grudging comment that the SNP at least had the guts to hold such a debate. The resolution, commissioned and supported by the SNP hierarchy, passed by a fairly narrow margin. When two MSPs resigned from the SNP over this issue, the press latched on to this with joy, seeking more rebels – no mention that the other 66 MSPs stayed within the Party. Somehow, an editorial in the Herald tried to conflate this with the BBC’s handling of the Jimmy Savile case, a disgusting, offensive and actionable tactic.
How could a public, honest open debate on Scotland’s future be mentioned in the same sentence as the vile and despicable cover up of a vile and despicable “star” by a “trusted” BBC?
And then the manufactured, and severely edited, by Labour this time, interview of Alex Salmond by Andrew Neil, in March this year. Mr Neil, whom I do not admire, is a competent interviewer, and if there had been a faux pas by Alex Salmond, that would not have been missed by him. Anyway, Labour have been trying to get Alex Salmond to break the Ministerial Code on the question of membership of the EU for years, even resorting to Freedom of Information requests, paid for by the taxpayer – ie us –and if he had responded would then have reported him for a breach of the Ministerial Code! Another day, another dirty trick – and ninety odd days to the Referendum for drip, drip, drip of poison.
The comments at First Minister’s Questions were crude, offensive and personal, and have opened the wounds that the Unionist parties have suffered? I revert to my opening comment, that compared to the Unionist parties, and their spear carriers, the SNP comes out nearer to the fount of all human wisdom, knowledge, – and integrity.
Mr Salmond has referred the matter to the independent Council of Advisers.
*Just before Conference I was sent a copy of Issue No 3 of the Scots Independent, dated January 1927.
I quote one small excerpt “Another matter discussed was the palpable injustice of the way Scotland was treated in the grants to her Record Office. On the Goschen basis that Scotland got eleven eightieths of any grant to Great Britain, Scotland should have received for her Record Office for the year 1924-25 the sum of £8655. As a matter of fact she only received £2012 net, while England’s net receipt from the Exchequer was £61,008.. The remedy proposed for this state of affairs, which has been discussed again and again, is to make representations to the Prime Minister of England, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of England, and to the Secretary of State for Scotland , who is an official of the English Government.”
They do that now with oil money, which is ours, and not a grant.
It has also been my plan to publish the Gaelic and Scots columns a month or two after they appear in the Scots Independent; I seem to have been a bit remiss, or probably more space taken up by Scottish Government announcements. Anyway, here are the columns for July, still relevant.
“We was robbed!” (or war we?)
Gin we are ti believe the media, oor pairty haes raison ti repeat the weel-kent wirds o the American boaxin manager. Lawbour, it seems, haes perswadit the press that they cam oot o the local elections in a stranger poseetion than the S.N.P. Bit this isnae true; we gat 425 saits an they hae 394. Whit wey coud they threip that they war the rael winners? This coud be because, afore the election, a wheen o journalists, gien a lift bi oor birl-doactors, pit it aboot that Lawbour wad dwine awa, an they didnae. We soud hae been cannier. Deed, unner the auld first-past-the post seestem, a smaa swing ti the S.N.P. wad hae brocht us mony mair saits; bit unner the STV seestem, a smaa swing in votes wul gie us a smaa eik in saits, an that wes whit we ocht ti hae been expeckan, seein hou weel we haed duin in 2007.
Forbye, we ‘ll can expeck that STV wul yaisually mak shair that nae pairty gits a feck o the saits on ony council. This is whit cam aboot in twa-thirds o them. Wha cums ti pouer efter that, wul be a matter fir pactions atween the pairties in back rooms (A wad hae said “reek-fillit rooms” bit this is nae langer poleetically correck.) It seems ti hae been at this pynt that the S.N.P. lost oot. Lawbour (wi less saits an less votes aathegither) nou haes the owerance – maistly wi help frae ither pairties – in aboot nine cooncils ti oor five; bit unner the auld seestem, it’s likely there wad hae been saxteen Lawbour cooncils ti seven fir the S.N.P., an twa Tory cooncils an aa. The raisons fir this affcome wad differ frae cooncil ti cooncil. Wes it acause the Leeberals, that haed aften been oor pairtners, went doun the stank? Or did Lawbour bid fir coaleetions o Unionist pairties? We maun see hou we can cum better oot o thir trokes neist time roun: as they say in thon ither example o American culture, “Animal House”, “Dinnae git wud, git aiven”.
I the lang rin, this micht prieve ti be a bad time fir aa the newly eleckit cooncils. We soud min the voters at ilka turn that a Lawbour admeenistration cannae proteck them frae the cuts haundit doun bi the Tory-Leeberal coaleetion in Lunnon. Ainly an independent Scottish Government coud dae that!
Just after that election an Independent councillor joined the SNP, giving us 426.
Bheir neo-eisimeileachd roghainn eadar riaghaltas ann an Dùn Èideann no ann an Lunnainn. Dhomhsa chan fheudar ceist a bhith ann. Tha Westminster air ar leigeil sìos a dhèanamh bho fhada air ais san t-saoghal. Tha a giùlan rinn beagan mar gum bitheadh Alba na tìr-imrich dhi. Dìreach mar a spùill Impireachd Breatainne Afraca agus mòr-thìrean eile gus an seilbh a ghabhail, tha ola Albannach air a thoirt a Lunainn gus pàigheadh ‘son Thatcherism. Mar iomlaid gheibh sinne stèiseanan cumhachd niuclasach agus armachd mhòr-sgrios na Breatainne. Tha 10% cumhachd thonn, 25% cumhachd fairge agus 25% cumhachd gaoithe aig muir na Roinn Eòrpa againn. A bharrachd, tha ola air fhàgail againn! Le neo-eisimeileachd thèid againn air cur às do chumhachd agus armachd niuclasach is rudeigin nas fheumaile a chur nan àite.
Càinidh cronadairean mar Alasdair Darling planaichean an SNP sterling a chumail, a’ dèanamh a-mach nach e neo-eisimeileachd cheart a th’ ann. Ach tha aon rud fìor – fiù’s ma bhios bacadh air ar fèin-riaghladh ionmhasail bidh sinn fada nas neo-eisimeiliche na tha sinn an-ceartuair far nach eil mòran cumhachd eaconomaiche againn air rud sam bith. A bharrachd, faodaidh sinn co-dhùnadh a dhèanamh air ar ceannard-stàite, rudeigin a bheir mi don Jubilee. Tha mi den bheachd gun do thog an Jubilee ceist na dà cheudnachd ann an Alba. Rinn an SNP seo gu math soilleir. Gu follaiseach bidh daoine sa phàrtaidh a’ toirt taic do neo-eisimeileachd, ach bidh cuid airson a’ bhanrigh a chumail mar cheannard-stàite agus cuid eile ag iarraidh poblachd Albannach. Feumaidh sinn an cuspair seo gabhail os làimh, ach chan e seo an t-àm. Bha na Sòisealaich Albannach airson gum bitheadh e air a thoirt a-staigh don chunntas-bheachd agus tha mise toilichte nach bi. Chan ann a-mhàin gum bi mòran a’ faicinn neo-eisimeileachd mar cheum mòr, is ‘s e, ach a rèir coltais chì cuid luach fhathast san teaghlach rìoghail. ‘S e cuspair eile a b’ urrainn sgaradh a dhèanamh san ghluasad air fad.
Tha ar n-adhartas gu saorsa a’ gabhail àite ann an ceumannan. Nuair a gheibh sinn cumhachdan staite àbhaistiche ‘s urrainn dhuinn an-uairsin ar n-aire a thoirt air na Windsors agus an àite san dùthaich. Ach aig a’ cheann thall cunntas-bheachd ann no às, ‘s e mo bheachd-sa gun toir iomadh dùthaich sùil air suidheachadh a’ cheannaird-stàite nuair a shiubhaileas a’ Bhanrigh Ealasaid. Bitheadh sin na àite nàdarrach gus an t-slighe phoblachail a ghabhail.
Independence gives people the choice between a government in Edinburgh and London. To me it’s a no brainer. Westminster has consistently failed Scotland since time immemorial. Its style of rule has had connotations of that of a colonial power. As the British Empire pillaged Africa and other continents for their natural resources Scotland’s oil is piped straight to London and used to finance Thatcherism. In return we get to house Britain’s nuclear power stations and weapons of mass destruction. We have 10% of Europe’s wave energy, 25% of the continent’s tidal energy and 25% of its offshore wind resources. Moreover, we still have oil! With independence we can scrap nuclear power and banish nuclear weapons seeing them replaced with something more useful.
Critics such as Alistair Darling criticise SNP plans to retain sterling, claiming that it is not proper independence. But one thing is certainly true – even if a degree of our fiscal autonomy is restricted we will be far more independent than our current position where we have no major economic powers over anything. Furthermore, we can make a decision over our head of state, which brings me to the Diamond jubilee. I think Scotland as a nation found the entire affair highlighted the question of Scottish dual identities. The SNP almost personified this. While obviously those in the party support independence, some support the retention of the queen as our head of state while others endorse a Scottish republic. We will need to address this question but the time is not now. Scottish Socialists wanted to include it in the referendum and I’m glad it’s not. Not only do many see independence as a big step, which it is, but some seem to still see a future in the monarchy. It is a further issue that could cause division in the entire movement.
Our progression to sovereignty continues to take place in stages. Once we acquire all the powers of a normal state attention can then turn to the Windsors and their position in the country. Ultimately though whether a referendum is held I think many countries will assess their head of state after Queen Elizabeth’s reign. That would be a natural point to take the republican path.