Listening and connecting – out and about

As part of the annual Cabinet on tour, our Scottish Government highheidyins are in Shetland this week. It’s a positive thing to do, not least because a different part of the country gets showcased each time they do it. I’ve never had the chance to visit Shetland, but the sunny photographs certainly would encourage me to go: twitter reveals that John Swinney has seen some picturesque landscapes while out running, Fiona Hyslop has admired the morning sunshine, and Derek Mackay has clapped some pretty ponies wearing fetching jumpers. Yes, that’s the ponies, not Derek…
More seriously, the Cabinet meeting in Shetland allows for a focus on island issues and the benefits independence can bring to those in our most remote areas. On this trip, the Cabinet were asked to respond to the joint Our Islands Our Future document, and did so with the Lerwick Declaration. A conference is to follow in September.

Sitting in Glasgow, it can be easy to see the potential of independence driving the economy of our largest city; if I was sitting in Stornoway, Lerwick or Kirkwall, I can appreciate that the reasons for and benefits of independence may look quite different. All parts of Scotland have a great opportunity to make their case for what would improve the lives of the people who live there – for me, independence is a fresh page in a new book. Quite reasonably, the Councils of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles have looked at to see what they might like to set down: I hope more Councils will take their lead.

It’s encouraging also to see from their tweets that Alex Neil has been out visiting NHS facilities in Shetland, Kenny MacAskill has met with the Police, Angela Constance has been discussing youth employment issues and Alex Salmond has been hearing from young people about their 2014 legacy. A public meeting was also held in Lerwick to let people have their say. I’m sure I read somewhere that people were far more likely to have met SNP politicians than any other party; I’m glad we have a Government that doesn’t stand aloof from the people they really work for.

Closer to my home, Glasgow City Council, in a pale imitation of the Cabinet on tour model, have taken two meetings of the Council’s Executive Committee out to Easterhouse and to Scotstoun. I like the principle, as it increases the chances of people brushing up against the democratic process, but I’m not sure the practical aspects of it quite work. On both occasions, it’s been a case of ‘we’re glad you’re here, but now let us get on with things’, rather than actual engagement. The public aren’t allowed to speak at meetings or ask questions, and as we generally refer to particular sections in the Committee Papers when we ask questions of the administration, it can be a bit hard to follow.

Being in public places rather than the usual stuffy committee room seemed to have prompted some of the Labour Councillors on the Exec to speak a little more, but I suppose that’s what happens when you shine a light on the political process! I’ve made efforts as a Councillor to get out and hear from organisations and from various parts of the Council – it makes a difference, and I’ve learned far more doing that than sitting in a committee room. I’d recommend it!


Allison Hunter

We are deeply saddened to report the death of Allison Hunter from cancer at the age of 71.  Allison was the Election Agent for Jim Sillars when he won Govan in 1988, for John Mason when he won Glasgow East in 2008, both by elections, and for Nicola Sturgeon when she won Govan for the Scottish Parliament. Allison had been the SNP Director of Organisation, a job she did superbly until she retired at 60.  She became a Glasgow councillor, and was leader of the SNP Group until her health made her give up.

Readers of the Flag will also remember her as a Compiler, and she was a Director of the Scots Independent newspaper.

Our sympathies go to her husband Ian, daughters Mhairi and Fiona and son Roy, also grandchildren Kathleen and Andrew.

The SNP has lost a strong , talented and committed campaigner, and Scotland has lost a valuable, principled and clear headed politician



As promised some time ago, the editorial from the July edition of the Scots Independent

Parallel universe

I watched an interview this week, STV Scotland Tonight, and listened with amazement to the Better Together spokesman rabbiting on about how everywhere in the world people were crying out for the kind of union Scotland had with England.  He didn’t go so far as to tell us where he had been, and he didn’t say how many former colonies were waiting to flee back to Mother Britain, probably because that lie could be proved very quickly – i.e. –  nane!

I was so astounded that I scribbled down what he had said;  it was unfortunate that the interviewer did not question him further, but perhaps he felt the man  was a bit deranged.  Later in the programme Lesley Riddoch said she had never seen the man and didn’t know who he was, so I felt a bit better.

However, he was talking balderdash, complete rubbish, a farrago of lies and he just kept talking;  there is no doubt in my mind now that when the Yes side starts to ask questions we will see how Better Together will turn obfuscation into an art form.

The Aberdeen Donside by election was rivetting and I watched it alternating between BBC and ITV;  at one stage the Labour gang – as defined by Johann Lamont – let out a mighty cheer, which disturbed me, but this was just to keep up their spirits.  Aberdeen Donside was not, as Labour kept saying, an SNP heartland.   Until Brian Adam took the seat in 2003, they used to weigh the Labour vote;  Brian won by 497, or around that in 2003, then by 3,800 approx in 2007, and then a massive 7175 in 2011.  Mark MacDonald had a majority of 2025;  Brian Adam did have a large personal vote, and people should remember that he was not standing.   Labour has only 3 MSPs with a bigger majority than that.   Labour used every dirty trick in the book, but they failed. They continually make the assertion that the SNP is obsessed with the Referendum;  a look at the leaflets from Aberdeen Donside (Page 7)shows who the obsessives are.


And the by election was not mentioned by Labour at First Minster’s Questions today – nothing to see, just move on.  I think Johann Lamont lost the plot at First Minister’s Questions, she just seemed to be on a rant;  I’ll need to watch it again on my computer to see if I can work out where she was going.  She was talking about economics not a subject she seems terribly knowledgable about.  As usual, Alex Salmond managed to twist the knife a bit when he said that after years of the Tories trying to win support in Scotland they had finally found it – in the Labour Party!

We are going to have a  very hard fifteen months between now and the Referendum; the Westminster government has thirteen – Yes thirteen – committees working to persuade the Scots how lucky they are to be ruled by England. I cannot understand how Scottish politicians are so thirled to London control.  One would imagine that they might just lift their heads a wee bit and see the coming waves of austerity, stirred up by the mismanagement of Scotland and England by mainly London.  The two nations are drifting apart , different views on the NHS, on welfare, taxation, defence, and Europe.  The Tory austerity drum is being banged hard, and the Labour Party is mildly marching behind to the beat.   How can they accept that the economic crisis, created by an out of control City of London has to be paid for by the poor and the dispossessed, building up via the Bedroom Tax by the minute?   As Chris Harvie says elsewhere in this issue, how many doors in Barlinnie have clanged shut behind bankers?  And what do the bankers do?  Take their bonuses, mostly earned by paying off the little people;  the money men made the crisis but have not paid for it.

It has been said that the Scottish Parliament has been a disappointment to many, and that we do not see or hear mature reasoned debates.  Well, the Parliament has done some things well, the smoking ban for instance, although that was a private Member’s Bill proposed by SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, thrown out by Labour in the first Parliament, and then proposed by them in the second one!  It brought in free personal care, not to everyone’s satisfaction, but they are working on it.  Where things are getting hotly contested is due to the Referendum;  the Unionists cannot accept that their big brothers in London have ripped them off for generations, and they still slavishly yelp at the SNP which is doing a far better job.  They are frightened and lack self confidence – give them a real Parliament with all the powers and a lot of the carping will disappear, because we will have to “ mak a kirk  or a mill o’ 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.


Euphoria of election success followed by self-doubt and demoralisation – Nov 2004

BY the early 1940s SNP members were in a grumbling mood. Membership was in decline. Morale was low and blame pursued the Party’s leaders. Confusion as to the proper response to the war further fomented discontent which, in the 1942 Conference, prompted the election as Chairman of Douglas Young.

Young’s popularity, deriving from his refusal to accept conscription, and consequent trial and imprisonment, did not impress his opponents.

They saw themselves as being punished for having to take realistic account of public opinion.

His election was followed by the immediate departure from Conference and Party alike, of these opponents led by John MacCormick—”the only real politician in the SNP” as I recall being told by a politically active and well-informed Greenock teacher in 1940.

His departure and the split in the Party seemed then and in later years to be disastrous.

In retrospect some good did come of it all.

MacCormick was now free to devise and implement his own preferred strategy, no longer harassed by the suspicious obstruction of those left behind. In the new organisation—Scottish Convention—which he founded, consensus was restored as an acceptable objective.

The days of The Home Rule Association and the Scottish Party had returned.

In like fashion, the SNP Continuing could set about perfecting its capacity for electoral confrontation.

Moves in this direction had already been taken under the active supervision of Robert McIntyre as Organising Secretary and, from 1942, National Secretary.

He went on to produce, in 1944, “Some Principles for Scottish Reconstruction” which became a kind of enduring manifesto.

The Party’s revived electioneering zeal was rewarded by Douglas Young’s 40% of the vote in a by-election in Kirkcaldy in 1944.

By the turn of the year a further by-election was due in Motherwell.

Like Kirkcaldy, Motherwell was a Labour-held constituency, and with the wartime electoral truce still in force, no Conservative candidate would contest the election.

With high hopes and in these favourable circumstances Robert McIntyre was elected on April 12th 1945 as the first ever SNP MP.

His tenure lasted only until the General Election in July but it was packed with significant incident.

The imposition upon him, over his protests, of the need to be introduced into the House of Commons by two sponsoring MPs was carried through on the ruling that the United Kingdom House of Commons was, in law, just the English House of Commons whose ancient pre-Union rules were still to be enforced. A useful little lesson.

The incident allowed Scottish Tories to peddle the story that McIntyre had “refused to take the oath”, and that tale followed him to the end of his days.

Not that it worried him. What he found more hurtful was the shock that met him when he attended his first post-election National Council and found himself denounced for his ‘Westminster ways’.

Westminster ways or not, the General Election had to be fought. The Party contested eight seats.

They might perhaps have taken warning from the fact that finance and staff could cope with no more, but Kirkcaldy and Motherwell had sent expectations soaring.

In the event only these two constituencies produced respectable votes—27% in Motherwell and 17% in Kirkcaldy.

No other percentage approached double figures.

Disappointment, self-doubt and demoralisation followed. Sustained and prolonged ridicule from outsiders added to depression.

A party that still obstinately committed itself to election-fighting just looked foolish.

Worse was to follow when in the next decade members, money and willing candidates all approached vanishing point.

The spring in the step of 1942-45 had gone and long years were to pass before it returned.