History Lesson


We regret to announce Lilian MacDonald, a long-time director of the Scots Independent, died yesterday. There will be an obituary in the September issue of the Scots Independent.


History Lesson

As a Motherwell born and raised girl I have always been proud of the role that my home town has played in the Scottish Independence cause.   When Robert McIntyre was elected in 1945 it marked the first Parliamentary milestone on the Independence journey, a journey that is far from over but which has in its sights the referendum that can realise a dream held by so many, for so long.  On Robert McIntyre’s win on the 13 April 1945, shortly before the end of World War II, he won with a majority of 617 votes.  A larger majority than the current Motherwell and Wishaw Labour MSP whose majority is only 587.

With this historic victory in mind, and the current constitutional climate I was somewhat disappointed and dismayed at the howls of complaints from opposition  politicians regarding the inclusion of Dr McIntyre’s victory on the Visit Scotland Scottish history Timeline on their website.


Following allegations of political bias in the press, the issue came to a head in the Parliament on the 18th June during Questions when Patricia Fergusson led the attack on what is considered an important and well respected agency. This was robustly defended by Minister Fergus Ewing:

“I have rarely heard a more spurious and ridiculous accusation than the one that I have heard this afternoon and seen in publicity that was drawn to my attention today. I say that because the purpose of VisitScotland is to provide information about significant dates, events and matters of interest in Scotland.”

Now I can understand that Labour politicians smarting from successive election disappointments wanting to write the SNP out of the political history of Scotland. However, presenting the first parliamentary milestone in the progress of the SNP to the position of a majority Government in Scotland as an irrelevance is both disingenuous and petty.  However, when making comment on the row in the local press the Labour MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw went on to besmirch Dr McIntyre with the scurrilous accusation that standing in a by-election had undermined the war effort and broken an ”agreement” between parties not to contest by-elections during the war. This was beyond the pale.  I was delighted when the local paper printed my rebuttal letter. I pointed out that there are several examples of individuals and parties contesting by elections, against incumbent Parties, during the war. I gave two examples. On the 13th April 1945, the day after Dr McIntyre won Motherwell, John Boyd Orr, Rector of Glasgow University and a later winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, contested a by election as an independent and won a Liberal held seat. Perhaps more remarkable that Mr Pentland was unaware of it, the Bristol Central by election on 18th February 1943. This Conservative held seat was contested by Jennie Lee, a well respected Minister of State in later Labour Goverments and wife of Aneurin Bevan.

We will be launching our YES Motherwell and Wishaw campaign in September in the knowledge that my home town has played a significant and historic part in the lead up to the referendum.  To suggest anything less is simply absurd.


Councillor Bobby Lawson

I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Hamilton South SNP Councillor Bobby Lawson.  He will be sadly missed, along with so many of our dear friends that have played such a vital role for the SNP,  their communities and Scotland.


From the Scots Independent

Sub-Standard Politicking over Trident

Richard Thomson


Defence Chickens Come Home to Roost for Lib Dems

It’s a truth long recognised that if you ever want to find common ground between Labour, Tory and SNP activists, just start talking about what a shower the Liberal Democrats are. In an instant, mutual suspicion melts away to be replaced with stories about Lib Dem election leaflets sporting dodgy bar graphs, delivered by activists who seem able to regard their chosen party as being morally and intellectually a cut above everyone else.

To be fair, there’s quite a few Lib Dems of my acquaintance whom I’d excuse from that description and I’m sure that if pressed, they’d have their own equally colourful descriptions for some SNP folk. However, the trait that annoys me most is their party’s willingness to say things which are obviously not true, which when questioned over they patronisingly pass off as a failure on the part of others to understand the nuances of their position.

Ask just about any senior Scottish Lib Dem and they will swear blind that they abolished tuition fees despite repackaging them instead as a ‘graduate endowment’. They claimed to support the abolition of Forth and Tay Bridge tolls despite their MSP colleagues voting down an SNP bill which would have scrapped them. Back in 2008, they even had a 3-line whip to abstain on a Tory amendment to have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty – which they had previously supported – to argue instead for an in/out referendum on the EU, which they now oppose.

The one which it gives me greatest pleasure to see them in difficulty with however is over the replacement of Trident. In search of a suitably triangulated (or strangulated?) position prior to the last Westminster election, they declared they didn’t support a ‘like for like’ replacement of Trident. In front of unilateralists, this was presented as the party being opposed to Trident replacement full stop while in front of the John Bull brigade, they offered a reassurance that they supported Britain’s continued role as a nuclear armed state, just not with Trident.

It’s worth taking a short walk through the history of British nuclear weapons at this point. Initially, British weapons were freefall bombs, deployed by the RAF using V-class bombers. However, aircraft – even those using stand-off missiles some distance from their targets – are vulnerable to counter measures. For that reason, a number of missile-based systems were considered instead.

The trouble with both bombers and land based missiles in the UK is that both are highly vulnerable to a first strike. This made submarines, which can remain undetected and survive a nuclear attack on the UK, the obvious method of delivery. Although the UK retained a stockpile of ‘tactical’ freefall nuclear bombs well into the 1990’s, so it was that first Polaris, then Trident, became the main means of delivery.

But back to the Lib Dems. If the UK were to have a nuclear weapons system which was not Trident or similar, it would need to involve a new fleet of bombers or land based missiles, both of which would retain exactly the same vulnerabilities which led to the adoption of Polaris. A cruise-missile based system could be adopted, although cruise has a considerably shorter range, would need a new warhead design at massive expense and is easier to shoot down than its ballistic equivalent.

If a ballistic system is chosen, that clearly requires a class of submarine capable of launching the missiles. If the deterrent is to be operative 24/7/365, then four vessels will also be needed. Given the infrastructure already in place, a variation on the present Trident system would be far and away the cheapest and most effective option if you wished to retain a British nuclear weapons system with the current capability of being able to ride out attack while being able to retaliate anywhere in the world.

So, presented with a report carried out for them by the UK Civil Service, the Lib Dems have been forced to concede that submarines which can fire ballistic missiles are the only practical option if they want Britain to remain a nuclear state. Undeterred, to maintain the pretence of meaningful differentiation from other parties, we now have Danny Alexander trying to tell us that significant savings can be made if only we reduce the number of Trident vessels and end the practice of always having a boat at sea.

His problem is that the savings simply can’t be made, since the costs for the infrastructure needed for just one boat is pretty much the same as it is for four or even more. In the context of a £100bn commitment over forty years for the costs of supporting Trident, the sums saved by reducing the number of submarines are minimal, unless its to have no deterrent full stop – the one option which wasn’t considered at all.

The arguments against having Trident at all are familiar enough and don’t need repeating here, as are the reasons why Scottish Independence is the only viable route to UK nuclear disarmament. Nevertheless, having seen the fence upon which they were so carefully perched crash down around them, I for one am going to enjoy watching the Lib Dems try to pick the resulting splinters out of their bahookies between now and referendum day.

Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to possess WMD is a matter of principle and not tactics. Perhaps that’s why the Lib Dem leadership has experienced such difficulty wrestling with it.


Jimmy Halliday’s contributions to the Cause

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


We are 15 months from a Referendum on Scottish Independence, which was unthinkable in 1955;  Jimmy died on 3rd January 2013 at the age of 85.  We intend to publish all Jimmy’s articles in the Scots Independent from August 2004 up to 2011, all the ones we have electronic input for.  It is anticipated we will publish a book on Jimmy’s contributions over many years, but this will have to wait until after the Referendum.


Challenge, champions and change – Feb 2005

YEARS of Party failure had prompted discontented persons to form Home Rule-seeking organisations of their own devising. J.M. Reid, the sympathetic editor, gave his opinion that the SNP was only one sect among many. He was not wholly convinced by my response that some day all would have to sally under the SNP banner.

The impulse to form these groups was to a great extent personal. Their moving spirits had quarrelled with Party decisions, had been temperamentally uncomfortable in any disciplined organisation or just felt that, in their own excellence, they could improve upon anything the Party had done.

They all understood that when people spoke of ‘the leadership’ of the SNP they were speaking of Robert McIntyre. Several of the loose cannons were personally hostile to Robert who, in one or two cases, returned the compliment. This strange antagonism aside, they sought to blame the Party’s disappointments upon McIntyre’s insistence that Nationalists must steel themselves to endure a long struggle. Malcontents of all sorts seemed to believe that, on the contrary, there must be a swift and ready path to Independence if only this fool could see it. Delay was the needless pessimism of a man who persisted in sticking to familiar tactics, especially fighting elections. As the results in General Elections of 1950 and 1951 had been disheartening, critics crying “told you so” intensified their attacks on McIntyre and his guidance of the Party.

Most critics had come from recognisable sectors within the Nationalist family, continuing to share the same sort of motivation as the Party. By 1954, however, a new breed of critic was emerging. Everyone of that generation had seen leaders build their campaigns upon notions of unique national virtue or hostility to a uniquely oppressing enemy. By 1939 democracy controlled less of Europe than the various brands of Fascism on display, and Scotland could hardly expect to be quarantined against its influence. In such movements impatient persons detected life and vigour, challenge and stimulus, which might hold greater appeal to potential supporters than the tired old methods. The SNP, already seen as a stick-in-the-mud kind of organisation, was now urged to rouse itself and seek liberty by confronting the English state as the enemy. Unfortunately rhetoric, even by mistake, tended to erode distinction between “the English state” and “the English”.

McIntyre and his colleagues regarded any such behaviour as unacceptable in principle. Even those not strong on principle had to accept that it would be electorally damaging. All through these years Labour had worked ceaselessly to smear all Nationalists for Nazi crimes and at least some of the mud had stuck. Only folly would lead the SNP to invite any more.

As the 1955 General Election approached these problems were simmering away. Time passed and only one candidate was in place – Robert McIntyre in Perth and East Perthshire. He sought desperately to find even one colleague to give even that pitiful degree of backing to his stance. Enjoying local influence and respect he encouraged Stirling SNP, with Grangemouth’s backing to contest the Stirling and Falkirk Burghs constituency. Ninian Gibson suggested to his father and to Robert that I should be their candidate, and thus it happened.

At the National Council after the election, resolutions of support for the two of us were greeted with derision and sneering. Robert felt that he had become the issue and an excuse for persevering malice. A successor was required and I was called upon to be that successor. I soon found that enmity can be transferred with staggering speed from one target to another.