After the European Elections

Picking up where Grant Thoms left off in last week’s Flag in the Wind, the European Election results were announced on Monday. It always feels a bit odd to go home after a long polling day effort… and wait. I must admit it was nice to soak in the bath and put my feet up rather than face an early morning at the count, but the not knowing is very strange!
In my own branch of Shettleston, David Linden had knock-up teams pushing through polling districts from early on polling day until most voters were heading for their beds. We got a keen response from many, but there were a few voters who had forgotten about the elections completely. Given the low profile given to what happens in Europe in the media, I wasn’t surprised to see turnout was low – 28.2% for the city of Glasgow, and around 10% in parts of my own ward.

For most people, European politics seems irrelevant. Often, the narrative is about fishing and farming, and that just doesn’t reach people in cities. I noticed the European Parliament’s Edinburgh office were tweeting a few pictures of where European money had benefited Scotland, and that’s certainly a good place to start in demonstrating the significance of Europe to people at a local level. The European Regional Development Fund has made a great contribution to my ward, funding via Clyde Gateway projects like the refurbishment of Dalmarnock Station, the construction of a new foot and cycle bridge over the Clyde, and the Rutherglen Low Carbon Zone over the boundary in South Lanarkshire. We need to make the positive case for Europe in every way we can, and show why it’s important we have a voice at the top table.

Despite our best efforts, the third seat was not to be. I’m sorry to see that Tasmina won’t be joining Ian and Alyn in fighting Scotland’s corner in Europe. It’s deeply disappointing that UKIP managed to scrape through, particularly given some of the illiberal and unpleasant views they have promoted. The Edinburgh Eye was already investigating their candidate before a vote was cast. It will be a challenge to the No parties – Mr Coburn is aligning himself with their campaign, and I’m sure that will make many anti-independence campaigners quite uncomfortable.

There’s been some disgruntlement and blame flying around following the result, but really, we just need to get on and carry on working harder than ever for a Yes vote in September. I decided on Monday that I just couldn’t mope around at home – I got my pile of Yes! newspapers and headed out. In the first street I was in, I was met by a fairly enthusiastic woman who was appalled by UKIP, and set to vote yes. People on twitter were also keen to get involved, because the difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK is becoming starker by the day.

We need to reach out, have those conversations on doorsteps, with friends and colleagues, with strangers on this bus. This is the time; go for it!

Jimmy Halliday’s contributions to the Cause

Jimmy Halliday – lifetime Nationalist

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 1956-70; in 1956 the entire SNP Conference delegates were photographed on the steps of the Allan Water Hotel, Bridge of Allan.

There will be a Referendum for Scottish Independence this year, which was unthinkable in the dark days of 1955.  Jimmy died on 3rd January 2013 at the age of 85, and we will be publishing all his articles in the Scots Independent, all those we have electronic input for. It is anticipated we will publish a book with all his contributions over many years but this will have to wait until after the Referendum.


Tax avoidance, we are reminded, is not a crime.

James Halliday July 2009

It is contemptible, perhaps. It is low and sleazy, but it is not criminal.

You could almost find it in your heart to feel sorry for Labour’s representatives in public life. The party of government, suffering defeat in both local and European elections, has been at the same time, struggling to find some escape from the humiliation and ridicule arising from the disgraceful information now available about the conduct of MPs. In striving to deny that information to us they put themselves very much in the wrong in the popular view. Then, just as perhaps people were beginning to find other things to think about, the ludicrously censored version of their exploits rekindled everyone’s anger and mirth.

Caught with the crows, shot with the crows looks likely to be the fate of even blameless members. Those not wholly blameless have begun to drift from the scene, muttering some sort of apology or explanation as they go. It is up to us to do what we can to ensure that explanations are not too readily accepted, and that forgiveness does not too rapidly follow apology.

Much nest-feathering has been, we have been repeatedly assured, “within the rules.” Tax avoidance we, are reminded, is not a crime. It is contemptible, perhaps. it is low and sleazy, but not criminal. MPs who find it difficult to distinguish between main and second homes, may take some comfort in the distinction. A cunning dodging of the law’s intentions might be forgiven if employed by an ordinary, non-expert citizen. It is surely a very different matter if the law is dodged, with great and deliberate skill, by the very persons who made the law/ If the House of Commons decides that some activity should incur tax, then MPs should particularly consider themselves bound by the theory, the spirit, the intention, of the law rather than by the mere letter. Such a duty, we might feel entitled to think, ought to fall especially upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Let us not, however, hold our breath.

One reason for this whole sorry display is the arrogance which comes from holding constant, or at least, frequent power. Labour activists in Scotland have never, until very recently, dreamed of being ousted from office. Challenges from such inexperienced and amateurish souls as the SNP didn’t even need a response. As the late Willie Hamilton confided to West Fife voters in 1970, they would vote for a turnip if it happened to be the Labour candidate. He wasn’t far wrong of course and by no means only in Fife.

This right to rule mentality is not peculiar to Labour. As their defeat draws nearer we must feel alarm as we picture a Tory party returned to power, braying and guffawing their way into the Commons, reclaiming the office to which they feel genetically entitled. At a less basic level perhaps, people who have passed through some test or process and achieved a shared membership in some select and defined body, cherish the belief that they are there because of their superiority in wisdom, or skills, or energy, or some combination of qualities. In any such group there will be variety of experience, backgrounds and opinions, but members will all agree that they are more to be admired than those left behind in the less selected world. This mixture of superiority and club self-regard always distances blossoms from roots, and has led many MPs to the brink of their own downfall.

They might yet escape their merited punishment, electoral or legal. It was disturbing to observe how quickly the furious public temper of recent days died down, reviving only with the appearance of blacked-out press reports. Between these peaks of rage we saw Labour, despite all the revelations, all the resignations, all the announcements of retirement, all the Cabinet shuffling and re-shuffling, calmly go through its routine. Labour spokesmen appeared before press and public to speak calmly, good-humouredly, and with normal confidence, as though nothing untoward had happened. Even the Prime Minister seemed quite jaunty at times. Relax vigilance and damp down criticism and they will rise above failure, above disgrace, above shame, and even –most difficult of all—above ridicule, relying on the sheer effrontery which is one of their greatest strengths.

As I write, here we are at Bannockburn Day and the Conference is not far off. Many years ago, but some will remember, Arthur Donaldson closed Conference quoting Bruce’s call to his men, “On them! On them! They fail! They fail!“ That’s it exactly.