Timing – no matter how up to date you attempt to be, news these days moves so fast it is out of date before you finish writing.


Halleluia – or the Scottish equivalent?

SNP Councillor Chris McEleny was one of the candidates for Deputy Leader, and worked as an electrician at MoD munitions site in Beith.  In the course of his campaign, the MoD took away his security pass and suspended him. National Security officials interviewed him at his home and queried him about a speech he had given to the SNP Conference.  Chris took his case to an industrial tribunal. The Judge, Frances Eccles, ruled that “Sovereignty and self -determination” are “weighty and substantial aspects of human life”; the merits of his case can now go forward to a full hearing.

Chris managed to convince the Judge that his independence convictions and the social democratic values of the SNP amounted to a “philosophical” belief under the 2010 Equality Act and were thus a “protected characteristic”. Apparently the MoD averred that the social  impact on the lives of people in, for example, Tanzania, Peru or India, which must have left the Judge looking goggle eyed! The Judge stated that Chris’s belief that decisions about Scotland should be made in Scotland made it a ”philosophical” one, not a political one, and as such was protected.

The ruling is one which we always accepted, but never actually expressed.  Membership of the SNP is about Scottish Independence, nothing less.

Nobody joined the SNP to make money, and up until the Scottish  Parliament there were no career options. Prior to this membership of the SNP was frowned upon;  I was offered one job on the condition that I would not stand for Parliament, but I would not give that guarantee.  At that time I had already stood twice, and was under no illusions I would ever win a seat, but it was my intention to stand again;  looking back I shudder to think of the risks, getting involved in politics was a No No! Having said that the first time I stood was in Edinburgh North Feb 1974;  I got Polling Day off; Menzies had employed one chap around that time who was standing as a Tory and he got three weeks off – he did not win either – he was in a department vaguely to do with some new managerial fashion I cannot remember anything about!

After the 1979  election I was told that my face did not fit at Glass Glover, where I was then, so I had better find another job. However there was a management change and the company decided to computerise, so I was asked to stay; asked if there was anything I wanted I suggested a company car – and got one! I eventually retired from that company, in 1996.    I was given three week holiday for the 1983 election and when I went off the Finance Director said “Don’t do anything stupid”, and when I asked what he meant he said “Don’t get elected”. Nice to know you were wanted. My experiences would be mirrored in many cases but not publicised.

However, I digress, but now when we look at the political climate today, together with Yes marches and meetings and even a daily newspaper dedicated to independence it becomes obvious that the desire for independence is philosophical, not political.  I congratulate Chris McEleny on his initiative, and perseverance.

I now look forward to a cartoon of Nicola with an SNP symbol over her head rather than a halo?


Wings Unclipped

And strangely, though not connected, this past week we have seen a situation where Wings Over Scotland, and Moridura, a website run by Peter Curran, were taken off YouTube by the BBC, seemingly at the behest of an Edinburgh Labour Councillor, then being reinstated with quite a few red faces in the BBC.  As far as I can gather, because the info seems a bit complicated, the action was taken by the BBC legal team in London, and the first BBC Scotland knew about it was from a Good Morning Scotland programme. Verily indeed, BBC Scotland is also a Branch Office ?


Fox in the henhouse

Consternation all round as Liam Fox, apparently the International Trade Secretary, has changed his mind on the effects of a No Deal.  A year ago he claimed that “Getting a free trade deal would be the easiest in human history to achieve”. He now thinks that a no-deal Brexit is more likely than the UK getting an agreement with the EU.

Mr Fox is most often remembered in his first Cabinet appointment with the MoD;  the picture of the nearly completed aircraft to replace the Nimrod being literally cut to pieces on the tarmac is still remembered. (And the cartoon by Alastair McNeill was in the SI -do not remember exactly when but 2007/2008).

Now he has ignored the Chequers agreement, Theresa May’s Plan A for exit from the EU;  I believe he was at Chequers at the time and voted with her. This week, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon will meet Mrs May and will be asking her about Plan B.  This will not be answered but should be. Nicola was not at Chequers, not sure if David Mundell was.


EU dilemma

Still a lot of confusion about the SNP view of the EU.  The UK was taken in to the EEC, as it was then by Ted Heath, Tory Prime Minister, classing the fishing industry as “expendable”.  This was 1973, and there was no referendum. When Labour took power Harold Wilson had promised a referendum on the EEC and it asked if we wanted to remain in the EEC.  This was in 1975, and the SNP stance was “Not on anyone else’s terms”. I remember speaking at one meeting in Edinburgh, in a hall in Lothian Road. There were four speakers, myself for the SNP, and a very pleasant elderly gentleman for the Tories on one side, and a Liberal and a Labour one on the other side.  The most memorable comment from the Liberal speaker was that in the Common Market they got longer holidays – and better weather! He also seemed to see it as a virtue that French farmers were blocking streets in protest; I poked fun at both these comments. There was no voting at the meeting, but at the Referendum itself the people overwhelmingly wanted to stay.

Three years later I had a resolution at the 1978 Edinburgh Conference to oppose membership of the Common Market, which was narrowly defeated;  the upshot of that was that I was asked to appear on TV with George Reid, then SNP MP for Ochils and pro European. I did not cover myself with glory.  Before we went on air I said we were not there to rip lumps out of one another but could George give me any tips – he was a very seasoned TV guy. He told me to look at the camera and not to use notes, as this would detract from the presentation.  We sat down, and at the start of the show he pulled out his notes, and I thought “Here endeth the first lesson”.

As time wore on in the SNP the EU issue kept cropping up from time to time, then Gordon Wilson proposed we should support membership as this would counter the claim that Scotland would become isolated after independence.  The resolution was debated at Conference and my card was not taken, so had no locus. In any event the SNP decided to change tack so that was that; I think that I had decided to come off the Candidates’ List by then, as earning a living was paramount.

However as the years rolled on there were discussions and I had the view that there was no point in securing independence from one remote Parliament to hand it over to an even more remote Parliament.  The late Jimmy Halliday, former SNP Chairman and Chairman of the Scots Independent newspaper, countered with the point that we would have exactly the same amount as every other country in that Parliament.  I changed my tune, but considered it as a bargaining point, not exactly convinced. As far as I am concerned, membership decisions will be made by an independent Scotland – but I do not reckon on being around ?


Irish Problem.

Following on from the above, when Ireland was asked to join the EU they were happy to do so, and saw their economic prospects improve dramatically.  The crash of 2008 hurt them badly but they have recovered from that – the UK is still toiling.

When Ireland regained its independence, or most of it, it was the result of a long and bloody period, including partition, after which the UK said it had solved the Irish problem.  The problems in the North festered and we had the Troubles for many years. This was partially solved by the Good Friday Agreement, brokered between Ireland, the UK and the USA, and enhanced by the EU – there was no visible Border between North and South.  This suited both sides, but is now at severe risk from Brexit, as the UK tries to cherry pick what EU rules it can. No way could the South rejoin the UK, and the UK is doing somersaults to find an answer. What is becoming more obvious is that the solution is Re-unification – bitterly opposed by the DUP.

While on the subject of Ireland, when they became independent they carried on using the pound, changing to  the punt in 1928, then started using the Euro in 1998 , I think.

The SNP Growth Commission recommends using the pound for about ten years after independence.

In any event, Ireland has led the way in independence, using the pound and the EU, so it is viable to follow it.


Bruce Trilogy

I have just finished reading the Bruce Trilogy by Nigel Tranter, which has been sitting in my bookcase for about 40 years.  I think it must be that time, as they are in paperback. When I lived in Peterhead I used the Library there quite a lot, and they would phone me when new books arrived to see if I was interested, a service I appreciated.  I know when the first book in the trilogy, The Steps to an Empty Throne, was published. I had changed my job and I stayed in a company training school in Edinburgh Monday to Friday, then travelled to Peterhead on the Friday afternoon, and back to Edinburgh on the Sunday night.  When I got home one Friday my wife told me the Library had been on the phone and a book had come in they thought I would like. I went down on the Saturday morning and got the first book. I did not have time to look at it over the weekend but took it to read when in Edinburgh.  I left Peterhead about 11 o’clock on the Sunday night, and my car broke down just as I was passing the Prison.  I phoned the AA from a callbox outside the Prison, joined the AA, and they said just wait in the car. I started to read the book.  A mechanic came out from a garage in Peterhead and I was towed back in the town. They fixed the car and I went on my way back to Edinburgh arriving there about 4 am.  I went to bed and picked up the book because it was riveting! This was in November or December 1969.

I had joined the SNP in 1966, which is probably why the Library thought I would like the book.  Nigel Tranter was not a Nationalist, he was a Liberal; I appreciate a lot of the book would be historical fiction, but he had the historic events recorded, conversations by the participants would be creatively written, but history did not lie.  I got the other books when they were published in hardback, from the Edinburgh Library, and eventually bought the paperback copies. I have probably read them about three times.

Looking back, it is astounding how we were never taught Scottish History – we knew about Magna Carta, about Henry VIII and Cromwell etc, but nothing  about William Wallace, Bannockburn, the Declaration of Arbroath, or the Sack of Berwick. All this was new to me. When the film Braveheart came out it was a blockbuster; my cousin,s wife, in California, a Serbian, was tremendously moved by the film.  We know it was largely fictional, although.

Perhaps time for a re-launch of the Trilogy;  Nigel Tranter’s book on the Wallace did not have the same appeal, but maybe a film on the Bruce might help.


  1. I have my 3rd copy of the Tranter trilogy and it is again taped up to keep it together. I must have read the story over a dozen times in my life. As a Scot, I think it is one of the most powerfully written historical novels ever put on paper, and neither Braveheart or the other films of the Bruce come even close to getting the dynamics of that period in our history.

    I also quite like Chris McEleny having seen him at one the hustings he spoke at, and see him as well spoken and a seemingly honest politician (oxymoron not)

  2. Thanks Bill, as you say the Bruce Trilogy is a very powerful story, and I think one which could do with a re-launch.
    I only met Nigel Tranter once, at a book signing for The Wallace which for some reason really took off. At the time I was employed by John Menzies and was asked if I could lay my hands on his sword – I was Menzies’s Nationalist , when it suited them. I knew Billy Wolfe at his company Chieftain Forge had made a replica, so I borrowed it for the book signing

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