Interesting Times

We are verily indeed the victim of the old Chinese Curse “May you live in interesting times”, as the political situation gets more and more complicated.

However at the end of the day, Scotland can feed itself, has vast amounts of fresh water, a scarce commodity in today’s world, ample producers of alcohol, and enough energy to not only power Scotland but to sell energy to England. We also have a bright and gifted population and a good National Health Service. What we do need is more of that population, and we face a shortage of young people; our moves in that endeavour are frustrated by a right wing Tory Government who have blundered into a state of isolation developed by Brexit. The vast bulk are beginning to grasp that but seem powerless to sort it out. It reminds one of those who died and finished up in the nether regions, and cried out “Lord, Lord we didna ken!”, and the Lord looked down in his infinite goodness and mercy and said “Weel, ye ken noo!”

Just a whimsical thought, but we have a solution – Independence, which the Better Together lot strongly resist. The more they keep saying “No”, the more determined we must be as what passes for democracy is flouted by the view from the South, who claim Scotland as a valued sinecure; in actual fact the English want to keep Scotland in thrall because of their sense of importance. The UK has a seat at the UN Security Council, which may have been logical at one time; the only reason they retain it is because of Trident, and this is why they are desperate to hold on to us. Elderly Scots, my generation, the National Service generation, have a false sense of our place in the United Kingdom. Auld Fearties, who confuse the Queen with the English Parliament; we are not republicans – as yet.

Whatever chosen “facts” they throw at us, we have the assets, all we need is the power to take control. We are suffering from the kind of neglect which sparked off the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916. The UK would not listen to them; they were finally forced to talking, but only let them have partial independence, keeping Ulster in UK hands. God help us, we have no desire for conflict but neither had Ireland. After the Rising when the rebels were led away they were pelted with rotten fruit by Irish women, who might well have had their men in the British Army fighting in France, so no approval there. Things only changed when Great Britain decided to shoot the rebels; of particular interest to Scots is that one of us, James Connolly, an Edinburgh man, was too badly wounded to stand so had to be tied to a chair and then shot.

The Brexit solution to the Irish Question is now looking really fragile as England is determined to exit the European Union, but a backstop is causing intractable problems – back stop? We really mean the buck stop!

Billy Wolfe

I was intrigued by Ewen Cameron’s piece on the late Billy Wolfe in the July SI; the collection of leaflets in Billy’s possession is of interest. Many may have forgotten, or never knew that when Margo MacDonald won Govan there was also a by election in Edinburgh North on the same day and Billy Wolfe was our candidate. I took part in that one; there was a group of us from Edinburgh West CA, who turned up a lot. They were Chris Grahame (father of Christine Grahame MSP), Alastair Kidd, a Merchant Navy Skipper, Norman Irons (subsequently Lord Provost of Edinburgh), Dick Platt, who became PPC for Leith, myself and another Edinburgh West member, George Finlayson. When we arrived at the SNP rooms, Marie Stewart, widow of Dougie Stewart, used to say “Here comes the first team!” Alastair Kidd, Norman Irons and myself are the only ones still alive.

These elections were in November 1973, and before we knew where we were there was a General Election in February 1974!

I was on the Candidates List and I was selected for Edinburgh North –I got Polling Day off work. In Govan, there was chat going about : “Is Harry Selby his real name?”, to which the response was “Is who’s real name?”

Harry Selby won the seat back for Labour in February 1974; I think he might have been a local barber.

The point I got from Ewen Cameron’s article is that in February 1974 Margo’s leaflet did not mention the SNP at all, which might also explain why at the October 1974 Election there were only 6 activists in Govan. Ewen did not make any comment as to why.

In the SNP, and general politics nowadays, there is no folk memory of how the Party rose and fell; the catalyst was the creation of the Scottish Parliament , and I believed that we should take hold of it and run it to independence. The dogged fight by the Unionists to ignore Scotland and their opposition to the SNP shows that is happening.


It would seem that Johnston Press is still in trouble and deciding to sell off some titles. I cannot remember where I read that; there had been a version of management buy out which impacted on their pension fund, not to the benefit of employees. I used to always read the Scotsman, every day and followed the stories avidly; during the 1974 General Elections I could go in the back door and hand over a letter for publication although the paper was closed, I knew the deadline. There was not an anti SNP bias but tacit approval. Over the years as the newspaper changed hands, things became different; the paper was purchased by the Barclay brothers, millionaires who were domiciled in Sark, coincidentally a Tax Haven. They installed Andrew Neil as Managing Editor, and the paper changed; it had been a supporter of a Scottish Parliament but became a fierce critic of the principle, and of the SNP.

This would have been just after I retired, and I read both the Herald and the Scotsman every day; having two newspapers pushed through the letterbox each day caused problems, meaning one would get damaged, (When I was working I would get the Scotsman delivered and pick up the Herald on my way to work.)

After an exasperating few months of torn papers I cancelled the Scotsman. When the Johnston Press bought it over I anticipated a change of style as it had been failing, but it continued to attack the Scottish Parliament and the SNP although Andrew Neil departed for more lucrative work in London. It was my feeling that it would change as Scotland had changed and become more SNP friendly, but apparently it has not; friends of mine only buy it to check who has died, but the Scotsman died as well.

I have not heard anyone say a good word about the paper for a long time – it may have changed- but I get the Herald and the National each day so no room for another paper even on an experimental basis; this would cause marital strife.

BBC Scotland

Normally the only programmes I watch are the news ones; to this extent I am becoming much more aware of the shortcomings, every weekday – nothing happens in Scotland at the weekend, I watch the lunchtime news and the evening news; lunch time is set from 1.30 – 1.45 – 15 minutes of all the news in Scotland. Every day the preceding programme, BBC News is from 1.00 to 1.30. The important News always finishes with weather reports from all of the UK, and this can run over by as much as 5 minutes. The same also happens in the evening, supposedly 6.30 to 7.00.

Invariably the UK News runs on before we get to the bit that says “Where you are”; it seems we have to know whatever the weather is in the Scilly Isles, or Norwich or “Where they are”.

This has been going on for as long as I remember; I felt aggrieved that I could not withhold my Licence Fee, as being an octogenarian I didn’t pay it anyway. However if I am still alive when this happens I could withhold payment; how could be the Tories be so stupid as to mistreat pensioners?

Winnie Ewing

I have probably commented on this before, but now that Winnie Ewing has become 90 it is worth repeating. Last year Professor James Mitchell produced a book “Hamilton 1967”; all by elections have made some changes, but the effect of Hamilton in 1967 was earth shattering – or Britain shattering. To my mind it was the most significant by election ever in the UK. It had all sort of effects , on me when sometime in the early Seventies Winnie collared me at a National Council meeting: “Jim Lynch, why is your name not on the Candidates List?” Being a bit of a smart Alex I said “Winnie, many things I would do for Scotland but I wouldn’t want to go and live in London”. “I had to do it. What makes you so good?” I was caught. However that was only me. Winnie’s victory changed Scotland.

The UK was never the same again, and independence is now on the horizon, just visible; that was Winnie’s effect.

Plan B

A lot of huffing and puffing going on as the prospect of a Plan B for a referendum will not be discussed at this year’s Annual Conference.

I am not in the picture fully but I cannot see us having a divisive debate about a Plan B before Plan A in effect is even tried. I do believe that the SNP should have one, but not that we should shout it from the rooftops.