Turbulent Times

Thought I was nearly finished but had a sleep in the chair and decided to rip it up and start again.

I cannot remember such turbulent times in all my 83 years! Maybe I am just forgetting but I am certain things have never been so uncertain.


First we have a world crisis with the US and North Korea engaged in a war of words, so far. North Korea is unpredictable and the United States with an unpredictable President does not give us succour. In this we have the nuclear threat, Trident, in Scotland , in theory in Britain’s hands but with the power to use it with the United States, where the same unpredictable President has his finger on the button and a disregard for NATO, for 40 years the peace guarantor in Europe. Theresa May has probably got her finger also on a button saying “Now is not the time!”

Then we have the strange case of two Russians in England poisoned with a nerve gas that seems to be invented by Russia so, without any hard proof, to our knowledge, we also have a diplomatic crisis where the UK Government accused Russia and expelled 23 diplomats, followed by Russia expelling 23 diplomats and a whole host of other actions. The Russian President has just been “re-elected” and is cock-a-hoop. In the resultant hoohah, I was most impressed by the diplomatic sentence from the Minister for Defence, Gavin Williamson ; he stated “ Russia should just go away and shut up”; he probably also said “So there!” The Chinese President has also been “re-elected” for life.


Closer to home the exit from the European Union drifts on. It looks very much as if our hard right Tory government doesn’t know what is happening and is still making declarations which are unenforceable at European levels. The latest wheeze is that they intend to leave the EU with access to British waters for quite some time. This has angered the Scottish Tory MPs – some of them anyway – who reminded Theresa May that her majority with 10 DUP MPs is outclassed by the Scottish Tory MPs 13 (unlucky for some) who claim betrayal. As a major part of their success was due to the support of the fishing community it leaves them with egg on their faces, and P45s in their pocket. (One might ask if David Mundell has an opinion?)

One has to remember that Ted Heath took us into the Common Market, as it was then, by stating that fishing was expendable; there was no referendum to legitimise his policy, but he was offered an opt out for fishing but declined as he was desperate to get in. When he was rejected later, Harold Wilson was elected and he promised a referendum on membership; this was in 1975, and the SNP campaigned under the heading “Not on anyone else’s terms”. Scotland as a whole supported membership. I remember being on a platform with a Tory (a very pleasant gentleman) in a hall in Lothian Road. Also on the platform was a Liberal who claimed that in Europe “They got longer holidays with better weather”, which opened the way for him to be debunked by me. How very Liberal.

Three years after that I had a resolution from Corstorphine Branch of the SNP to become anti Common Market narrowly defeated at the 1978 Edinburgh Conference. Such is life. I was pointing out that we were seeking independence from one remote foreign capital only to hand it to an even more remote foreign capital. I changed my mind later when the late Jimmy Halliday told me that we would have exactly the same amount of independence as every other member of that union.


Most weeks I attend First Minister’s Questions; my wife tapes the session and I also get it on the Week in Holyrood from Caledonia Media – audio only (This station has over a million listeners). After coming home I watch the video and listen to the audio – just politically curious.

This week I picked up that Ruth Davidson said that the attack could have happened anywhere, in Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Glasgow, and I wondered why she omitted Dundee? She went on about the TV show, Russia Today, in a thinly veiled attempt to have a go at Alex Salmond. Nicola disapproves of the show but suggested Ms Davidson was diverting the issue from the donations to the Tory Party from the Russian oligarchs south of the Border; Nicola did not mention the £20,000 paid by a Russian lady to have lunch with Ruth Davidson. By the look of things London is awash with Russian billionaires hiding their ill-gotten gains in a pirate haven.


Speaking of London, I woke this morning with the words of “Land of Hope and Glory” running through my mind; to those of a younger generation, probably everyone, the chorus of that song is “Land of Hope and Glory, mother of the free, how can we extol thee who are born of thee. Wider still and wider will thy bounds be set; God who made thee mighty make thee mightier yet”.

I was puzzled as I do not know how I knew these words ; I consulted the God Wikipedia, and discovered the tune was from Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” and the words were written around 1900. It was England’s National Anthem probably until the Sixties, when they decided on “Jerusalem “ – words “And did these feet in ancient times walk upon England’s pastures green” These feet, belonging to Jesus.

I do not know how I knew “Land of Hope and Glory”. At Primary School, the teacher I remember best was a Miss Murphy, a hard, distant individual, my Secondary School was Lawside Academy in Dundee, run by nuns, many of them of Irish extraction; I had also three years training to be a Marist Brother (failed) and it did not come from there. In my National Service days songs could be rather salacious or maudlin! I can remember singing of “Granny’s Heiland Hame” – my Granny was Irish and lived in a tenement in Dundee. I did not hear it at home, or in church but it is in my memory, planted there. This is probably why the older generation, mine, were No voters in the 2014 Referendum. I cannot be unique, but I had the good fortune to do my National Service with a Scottish Regiment which confirmed my thoughts; at the time of the Referendum all of my social circle were No voters – I was the only infantryman. Just puzzled because I have no recollection of singing it at all, but I do remember the words of songs and poems, no great shakes.

However, could this be why the Tories appeal, certainly in England, to those who wish to be mighty again?

1 Comment

  1. I have a recollection of a Red Clydeside version of the former “English national anthem”, which started:

    Land of dope and story, struggling to be free.

    I have long since forgotten how it continued, but a whole generation of us there grew up with the blinkers long since fallen from our eyes. The experience did me a world of good as training for half a century of activity in the rarefied atmosphere of international diplomacy.

Comments are closed.