A black tie do

It was my “pleasure” to turn on the TV a couple of weeks ago to be regaled with the Chancellor of the Exchequer , George Osborne, waxing lyrical about the dangerous situation of independence.  Now I have nothing against the dinner suit and black tie, I have one myself, rarely worn these days, but the sight of this harbinger of doom pontificating on the perils of independence while being responsible for even greater dangers to the disunited kingdom bordered on the ridiculous.  That’s an understatement, it did not border on the ridiculous, it was ridiculous.

Three things emanate from this episode;  the first is that an Old Etonian Tory Chancellor on TV fairly raises hackles in Scotland, so please can we have some more.
The second  thing was that he was addressing the Scottish CBI, which he may fondly imagine is representative of Business Scotland.  Watching him, I cannot say listening, my mind strayed to membership of CBI Scotland, and a bit of digging done early last year by Calum Cashley, one of the SNP researchers in Holyrood  on the aforesaid CBI Scotland.  The occasion for this was the New Year message from Iain MacMillan of CBI Scotland..  Calum  could not find  a list of members, but found their business directory;  on the assumption that businesses would not pay money unless they were actually members, he went through the list and established that the membership of CBI Scotland was 90.  Yes, 90, out of a total of 296,780 business enterprises at that time.

The list, which Calum published on his blog, contained 3 universities and the commercial arm of another university, 9 were quangoes or publicly owned companies (this included TIE – of Tramway fame – now deceased, and  the SECC owned by Glasgow City Council), 8 were trade bodies and 6 were subsidiaries of other companies and only 62 were Scottish companies – out of a total of the 148,760 Scottish companies – .04%.  In a spirit of fairness, he then took the 62 as a percentage of the larger and medium sized industries – 2,695 or 2.3%.

Among the engineering members was Weir Group, whose CEO Jim McColl is firmly in the Independence camp,  so not all CBI members would be backing Mr Osborne.

The third thing that emanated from his tirade was that he completely ignored the reason for it.  Brutally, when Scotland becomes independent, rUK will suffer a massive loss of revenue, and will be bankrupt.  All the guff about Better Together  is just that; Scotland always paid her way in the UK, but when oil came along the argument was killed stone dead.  They did their best to keep it buried but the McCrone Report surfacing after 30 years showed that Scotland would have been a very wealthy country indeed, but successive Westminster governments, aided and abetted by their Scottish toadies, concealed and squandered the vast wealth generated.  The Chancellor’s aim in life is to look after the people  of England, not Scotland, and we should never forget that.



A rip off – whatever fancy set of initials we use.

Consider the case of PFI /PPP and the Treasury;  all these massive payments under PFI/PPP exist because the Treasury recommended that the Public Borrowing Sector Requirement could not be exceeded, so all these clever wheezes were kept off the balance sheet – ie creative accounting?    The EU has now ruled that option out, but the juicy projects keep going ahead, with vast amounts of public cash being shovelled into the banks which we are currently subsidising! The taxpayers always pays twice.

However, one fundamental issue that has never been addressed is why is there a Public Sector Borrowing Requirement in the UK at all?  Over the past 40 years vast sums have been poured into the Westminster Treasury from the oil in the North Sea, the bulk of it from Scottish waters.  Where has all this unearned cornucopia gone   – evaporated into the English myth of a world power, while public building were left to crumble.


The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism

A major series of five programmes on BBC Radio Scotland  beginning September 24 at 14.05, repeated September 29 at 6.04 and October 1 at 02.00

“It could be said in the present day that Scottish patriotism is now more rampant than at any time since since the Wars of Independence”

Professor Allan MacInnes of Strathclyde University

In  The Cause, Billy Kay explores themes of identity, culture, history and politics to trace the development of Scottish nationalism and its political expression in the rise of the SNP.  Billy speaks to nationalists who have devoted their lives to a movement which a few decades ago was regarded as peripheral and irrelevant, but which is now at the centre of national life.  These include veterans like former Party Chairman James Halliday and editor of the Scots Independent Jim Lynch, seminal figures like Gordon Wilson and Winnie Ewing, and the family of the hugely important figure of “King” John MacCormick – all tell their version of their story from within the movement.  Others recall the sneers, the personal hostility and animosity their Scotttish  patriotism provoked at one time and the sacrifices many people made for the cause of Scottish independence in the past. Modern Scottish nationalism is expressed by Humza Yousaf MSP, whose father was the first Asian member of the SNP, and by First Minister Alex Salmond who looks forward with optimism to the future.

The commitment and  passion of the many  nationalist activists interviewed  is given context  by the analysis of  eminent historians  in the field such as Professors James Mitchell and Richard Finlay of  Strathclyde University and Dr Peter Lynch of Stirling University. They are joined by authorities on earlier periods of Scottish History –  Fiona Watson from the University of Dundee e.g. highlights the importance of the Wars of Independence  in the creation of our national identity.   Billy also records the people and the atmosphere at live gatherings which celebrate that history:  on the battle field of  Bannockburn;  at Arbroath Abbey for the Declaration of Arbroath;  at Bonnymuir where the 1820 Society commemorate the Radical Rising of  working class men who carried a banner with the words “Scotland Free or  a Desert” ; at the former mining community of Redding near Falkirk where the men of the Sir William Wallace Grand Lodge of Free Colliers hold their annual demonstration to remember the struggle of Scottish miners for freedom and their identity with the struggle of Bruce and Wallace for Scottish independence.

The crucial role of writers, thinkers and artists like Hugh MacDiarmid, R B Cunninghame Graham, Eric Linklater, Compton Mackenzie, William McCance and JD Fergusson in the National movement will be highlighted by important commentators on Scottish cultural history like  Tom Nairn, Paul Henderson Scott and  Tom Normand of  the University of St Andrews.

This cultural dimension will  grace  the series with poetry from  Barbour to MacCaig, and readings from Burns, Scott, Stevenson and MacDiarmid.  Music and song will also feature from Burns “Scots Wha Hae” to the Corries “Flower of Scotland” and Hamish Henderson’s  “ Freedom Come All Ye”. The moving theme music is  by Sarah MacNeil’s band Cherrygrove  –  Sarah is a student at the Royal Conservatoire of  Scotland who composed  “Free or a Desert”  to commemorate  the Scottish political martyrs of 1820, John Baird, Jame Wilson and Andrew Hardie.

For more detailed information about the series, visit the newspage of my website www.billykay.co.uk  

In the Autumn Billy Kay will present a major 5 part series on the history of Scottish Nationalism on BBC Radio Scotland. The first programme will be broadcast on Monday September 24 at 14.05, with repeats later in the week on Saturday morning September 29 at 06.04, and on Monday October 1 at 02.00. Each programme will also be available on the BBC  iPlayer online for one week after broadcast.

Among those interviewed for the series were  prominent people from the SNP and the SI including Winnie Ewing, Gordon Wilson, Jim Halliday, Jim Lynch, Humza Yousaf, Fergus Ewing, Alasdair Allan, Paul Scott and Alex Salmond.  From historians, academics and intellectuals there are contributions by Tom Nairn, James Mitchell, Peter Lynch, Richard Finlay, Alan MacInnes and Fiona Watson.  In his presentation of the the rise of nationalism as a political force, Billy Kay will quote from  figures such as Burns, MacDiarmid, Don Roberto and Oliver Brown and speak to ordinary folk who support the Scottish cause at commemorations such as Bannockburn and Bonnymuir. 


The Cause:  A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 1    The Battle for Scotland    

Broadcast  Monday September 24 at 14.05, with repeats later in the week on Saturday morning September 29 at 06.04, and on Monday October 1 at 02.00.

The diversity of  reasons why Scots feel a strong sense of identity with the country.   The Wars of Independence, their importance in the forging of Scottish identity, and the echoes from those days in the modern nationalist movement.  “Too long in this condition” – the growing  feeling in the 1960’s and ‘70’s that Scotland was becoming a cultural colony of England and the backlash that provoked with the rise of political nationalism.  


The Cause:  A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 2   Free or a Desert?   

 Broadcast  Monday October 1 at 14.05, repeated Saturday October 6  at 06.04, and on Monday October 8 at 02.00.

The 1820 Society’s commemoration at Bonnymuir and the link between the struggle for democracy and the demand for a Scottish Parliament.  James Keir Hardie and RB Cunninghame Graham’s founding of the Scottish Labour Party with Scottish Home Rule at the core of its philosophy.  The formation of  dedicated nationalist parties in the 1920’s and ‘30’s and the creation of the SNP. The peripheral nature of the SNP through till the ‘60’s, yet the support for the idea of Home Rule expressed in King John MacCormick’s Scottish Covenant Association and the popular response to gestures like the liberation of the Stone of Destiny.


The Cause:  A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 3      Flower of Scotland.  

Broadcast  Monday October 8 at 14.05, repeated Saturday October 13  at 06.04, and on Monday October 15 at 02.00.

The rise of cultural nationalism in literature and the folk revival of traditional music. Radio Free Scotland and the struggle to get recognition for the nationalist movement on radio and television. The slow transformation of the SNP from a small, marginalised “sect” to an organised political machine capable of achieving sporadic but spectacular successes such as Winnie Ewing’s victory in the Hamilton by election of 1967.  The lasting effect of that victory in the surge of popular nationalist sentiment.


The Cause:  A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 4      At Hame wi Freedom

Broadcast  Monday October 15 at 14.05, repeated Saturday October 20  at 06.04, and on Monday October 22 at 02.00.

“It’s Scotland’s Oil” campaign and the high of electing 7 then 11 Nationalist MP’s in 1974, contrasted with the deep depression and divisions which emerged within the movement following the rigged failure of the  1979 Referendum.     The growing feeling of marginalisation and alienation among Scots under Thatcher’s Tory government leading to a huge surge in demand for a Scottish parliament culminating in the successful Referendum of  1997.   The international  dimension of Scottish nationalism expressed in Hamish Henerson’s song The Freedom Come All Ye which became an anthem for the pro parliament groups in the period.


The Cause:  A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 5     “A Very Special Place”

Broadcast  Monday October 22 at 14.05, repeated Saturday October 27  at 06.04, and on Monday October 29 at 02.00.

We compare and contrast the civic nationalism which has developed in Scotland with ethnic nationalism in other countries. We hear about the loss of the parliament in 1707 and the positive results for the cultural well-being of the nation on regaining it in 1999. Brither and Sister Scots look forward to the referendum and contemplate the kind of Scotland they would like if their desire for independence comes to pass. Looking to such a future the First Minister believes Scotland can be a “very special place.”