Sending a one-person petition to the President of the United States of America turns out to be an easy affair. The address of the Whitehouse, and how to reach the President in Washington, is all there on the Internet. No need to storm the Senate building. You can email him if handwriting defeats you, though a hard copy letter is more difficult to ignore sitting in an in-tray on a desk. The President has an array of staff who answer correspondence from the general public; so, I expect to receive a ‘thank you’ from one of them. If I do receive a reply I hope it arrives in time to catch me still here.
I await a swell of sour tweets from the malignant, the kind that begins, ‘who are you to write to a president?’ antagonists who find it hard to compose a shopping list for Scot-Mid without their tongue lolliping out the side of their mouth, but have no trouble in gobbing on a passerby. From the more informed will come the predicable defamation, ‘Don’t you know what Biden did when Vice President under Obama?’ But then, this is what stopped Scotland from grasping its destiny, fear. If we speak freely of liberty what will happen to the United Kingdom? – and so on, and so forth. Men fear thought more than anything else. Fear paralyses action.
In this instance, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., has no choice but to do good for the USA, for Donald Trump bequeathed him a disaster.Who wants their legacy to be one of making a cataclysm out of a catastrophe? My only anxiety is a natural one, I hope President Biden does not remember Trump’s mother was Scottish and takes it out on me.
The President is well aware of Scotland constitutional ambitions. I hope to have him understand the nuances of the argument omitted from press stories, opinion columns, and history books, so that he throws off received wisdom and be pragmatic. I have wondered why our government has not appointed a permanent emissary to put our case, taken to as many heads of state as possible, starting with the President of the United States, together with a crate of the finest Scotch whisky.
14 May 2021
Dear President Biden
I must begin with belated congratulations on the occasion of your election as President.
In paying tribute to you, I believe I speak for many people in Scotland relieved to see sanity return to the Whitehouse. We hope you will be bold in substance, radical in ideas, and steadfast in upholding truth and justice. I am pleased to see legislation you have passed to-date demonstrates a profound moral sense and a humanitarian creed.
You have your hands full renouncing your predecessor’s anti-democratic, cruel, self-centred policies, reviving your nation’s well-being, spiritually and economically brought low by the Covid pandemic. I trust, I plead, that halting wars is on your agenda. Peace and international friendship is devoutly to be wished if we are to concentrate our efforts on mitigating the worst of climate change that lies before humanity.
On the subject of international friendship, my immediate reason for writing to you is to draw your attention to the political situation Scotland finds itself in through no fault of its own. In 1707, only earls, some lawyers and clergy had the vote, and used it to sign the Treaty of Union with England. The rest of the population, denied democracy, wept in the streets, or rioted. Since then there have been many attempts to restore Scotland’s self-governance, all halted by England’s might one way or another. Hope is cancelled. In any other situation, this would be called sanctions imposed by an occupying power.
Your respect for your Irish-Celtic antecedents is well known. Back in the day the Irish populated Scotland, and many more fled here during the years of English rule and the Great Famine. My grandfather was Irish, Patrick Reilly from County Mayo, my mother, Maureen Constance Reilly. I was born here in Scotland’s capital.
Like our Irish cousins, we Scots are a fiery, argumentative bunch, but unlike the Irish unwilling to die for our country. We die for other people’s countries. Our era of Enlightenment taught us it was desirable to use the ballot box and not the bullet, but the peaceful route makes for a long, hard slog, a wearisome journey to full civil rights when your opponent insists on moving the finishing line further and further away. Liberty remains a mirage.
Though there are noble exceptions, in dealings of equality, Englishmen are not generally swayed by empirical evidence and truth. An Englishman will explore every avenue until only common sense is left. Logic is not his passion. Foreigners are treated with suspicion, and in Victorian terms, governance is only for the wealthy elite. Scots are never quite English enough, told we will be classed as ‘foreigners’ if independent. We might become a prime minister one day, but for the United Kingdom, not for an autonomous Scotland. We got a parliament of sorts by agitating for many years, but for all the powers it has, it might as well be wampum, a string of beads for the natives. For the last 300 years and longer, England’s administration has suppressed dissent by the sword, by taxation, by censorship and by brutal policies. In Westminster today we are outnumbered twelve to one.
In 2014, Scotland’s governing party offered a new relationship with England based on mutual respect, a genuine partnership of equals: no borders, continued free trade, we keep the monarchy as head of state, cultural and scientific co-operation continued in return for our sovereignty protected. This petition of good neighbourliness rested on keeping what we earn. In swift rebuff, the new treaty was categorised as ‘separatism’, a slur, considering the UK registers Scotland with the United Nations as a separate country. We saw a referendum in 2014, undermind by false promise and later, pulling Scotland out of the European Union against the will of the people.
England dumping Europe is not described as separatism by our ever present vascillating neighbour. Scotland’s trade is blocked to the west – Ireland and the USA, and now blocked to the east in trade to Europe. Boris Johnson’s ‘Internal Market’, a right-wing snare, will control all our trade. We are effectively corralled. Our rights are traduced, our lives constrained, the Highlands left as a playground for the rich, infrastructure and rewilding under-developed, land still in the hands of influencial private hands, our trade and culture undermined. We are back in the 1700’s, only with iPhones and cars.
You will perceive a strong movement in England to retain the UK parliament as its own. This is an understandable ambition, one many Scots support, but it is disingenuous – Westminster has always been England’s parliament, in agenda and in foreign policy. Scotland is the subservient partner. Boris Johnson’s administration is tightening the screws to hobble our Parliament more than it can bear. We live in a colonised reality.
Honour demands mention of English who live and work in Scotland. Some want our independence restored, alarmed at the resurgence of intolerance emanating from their old homeland. It would be dishonest for me to omit their hopes, for Scotland is an inclusive land where Irish, Polish, Italian, and Indian peoples have contributed to our culture for generations. Frustratingly, we make progress towards the ideal only to find new hurdles and ditches placed in our way; we experience setbacks and bereavements among our kind denied basic justice.
Every nation has a right to exercise free will and conduct itself with dignity. The soldiers of colonialism, British civil servants, press and media are fully engaged in the tactics of fear, humiliation, division and smear. English politicians are unable to grasp the imminence of their actions. The situation is intolerable and at crisis. Only the other day people in a Glasgow street stopped a Home Office van in the wee small hours from snatching and deporting two legitimate asylum seekers. The mood was rebellion, the means non-violent action. It worked. The men were released. Martin Luther King would be proud. You can see why we envy Ireland its freedoms, its advances and above all, its independent thinking.
I do not know if this letter will reach your outer office, let alone your desk. Undaunted, I ask that you look upon Scotland’s honest ideals with equanimity and good will, that you dismiss the concocted complications of England’s elite, the fabrications and falsehoods of Lords and Baronesses claiming Scotland is unfit to be a nation state again, an inferior sub-sect of the species Homosapien. They do not realise ‘sapien’ means wise.
Better a Scotland friendly than a Scotland coerced.
Scotland has no wish to be anything more than a normal nation state, to return to nationhood. We wish our quarrels left behind yet we are forced to reflect we are in the grip of an alien ideology. Thinking of Boston’s act of rebellion, perhaps we might get more political traction if we threw crates of England’s tea into the River Clyde in Glasgow!
How pleasant it would have been to meet you one day to talk as two patriots with pride in our countries. I want Scotland renewed, not the biggest small nation, nor the most powerful small country, just a normal independent nation. Now a white haired old man, I learn I must ‘attend to my priorities’ before day’s end. And on that admission, please accept this letter written from the heart that seeks hope for so many.
In short, I ask that you respect and support Scotland’s sovereignty.
I wish you well and a long life!
GARETH WARDELL Writer, essayist, educationist.
Letter Sent to President Joe Biden
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D C 20500, USA
Kenny MacAskill looks at the collapse of Labour’s vote in Hartlepool once a dyed-in-the-wool stronghold of socialism Labour-style.Paul Williams, the Labour candidate in the by-election, said, “Neither Keir Starmer nor I met antagonism on the doorstep, but people did not know what Keir stood for.” Hartlepool is a port town in the North of England, County Durham, a town with a radical left-wing heritage linked to the Durham coalfields. Hartlepool was founded in the 7th century, around the monastery of Hartlepool Abbey. The village grew in the Middle Ages and its harbour served as the official port of the County Palatine of Durham. A severe decline in heavy industries and shipbuilding following the Second World War caused periods of high unemployment until the 1990s when major investment projects and the redevelopment of the docks area into a marina saw a rise in the town’s prospects.
Independence Is the Only Option,by Kenny MacAskill MP
Boris Johnson followed up his breaching of the supposed Labour Red Wall in the 2019 election, with further routs, especially in northern England. The Hartlepool by-election being the most stunning result but there were others, all showing it to be a trend not an isolated vote.
More worryingly for Labour, it seems predicated on long term social and cultural changes rather than just political presentation. It’s unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn could have bucked the trend had he remained leader but what’s certain is that the shift to Starmer failed. What caused it wasn’t political presentation or policies but the changes that have taken place there in the community and electorate.
It’s Thatcher’s legacy bearing fruit for the Tories. De-industrialisation, the smashing of Trade Unions, a call-centre and gig-economy, council house sell-offs and a change in home tenure are all bearing fruit for the right. It’s the atomisation of society and the smashing of solidarity in once solid Labour areas. I recall going to Hartlepool in 1979 as a flatmate’s father stayed there. It was an industrial town which reminded me of Motherwell. I’ve not been back since but I can safely assume that similar hard times have fallen on both.
It was that, much more than Brexit which caused the political earthquake and be under no illusion it certainly was earth shattering. Governments routinely expect to lose by-elections not storm to victory in them and certainly not administrations that have been so incompetent and frankly corrupt.
But it is “Labour no more” in Hartlepool. It’s the same as has happened in the USA where formally rock-solid Democrat areas have shifted Republican. “Blue collar democrats” as the white non-college voters are often defined shifted to the right. I’ve been reading a few books about that shift and it’s deep and profound. For those of us on the left and I include myself as much as Labour strategists, it is frightening.
Much was laid out in Thomas Frank’s book “What’s the matter with Kansas” and a more in-depth analysis of the individuals provided in Arlie Hoschild’s “Strangers in their own land”. The latter book a study of voters in a poor area in Louisiana, itself one of the poorest States. Once a Democrat stronghold it had gone Republican long before it embraced Donald Trump. Those doing so had been union members and often remained poor and marginalised. But they switched and aren’t moving back anytime soon.
Scotland, of course, has endured similar such changes though the constitution has stopped an electoral shift to the Tories. Politics north and south of the border continue to diverge. But where does it leave Scottish Labour? They’re thirled to the union and yet there’s no cavalry riding to their rescue in a Labour Government any time soon. If they can’t offer an alternative to Tory rule, Scotland has no option but to go for independence.
Stuart Campbell, editor of Wings Over Scotland, the website loathed by the British State and feared by its press core for its analytical skills, pointing out chronic MP hypocrisy, false statistics, GERS, press fiction and fabrications, and eventually the much argued corruption of the SNP hierarchy, is calling off his fight against insuperable odds. I reprint his valediction without comment.
The Ship Song
by Stuart Campbell
Ten years ago this month I was in a pub called The Porter in Bath with my girlfriend and her family, buying everyone whiskies and gabbling deliriously (I’d been up for over 40 hours at that point) about the significance of what had just happened.
Alex Salmond’s SNP had just broken the Scottish electoral system, winning an absolute majority of seats in a Parliament designed expressly to stop that from ever happening. A total of 72 pro-independence MSPs had been elected, and it was already clear that an independence referendum was going to happen despite the Labour Party’s best efforts. It was impossibly exciting.
This month I sat and watched 72 ostensibly pro-indy MSPs be elected again, but this time with my heart breaking, knowing that they would achieve nothing and indeed had no real intention to even try.
And I’ve had enough of feeling that way.
I’m not going to rehash all the blindingly obvious reasons why there isn’t going to be independence referendum in the life of this Parliament, because we’ve explained them a dozen times and anyone who was ever going to listen already knows. Boris Johnson – or any other Tory leader – has absolutely no reason to allow one and nothing to fear from refusing.
The only time in history the independence movement has ever held any meaningful leverage over a UK government (Theresa May’s lame-duck minority administration of 2017-19) Nicola Sturgeon squandered it on a futile and immoral attempt to deny England and Wales the Brexit that they voted for of their own free democratic will, and then helpfully handed Johnson the election that gave him the 80-seat majority which now renders him totally invulnerable on the constitution.
So what’s coming now is five miserable years of deja vu. A Holyrood with a pro-indy majority but no will to do anything with it, just like the one we’ve had since 2016 when Sturgeon lost Salmond’s majority and became beholden to the foul, racist, misogynist paedophilia sympathisers and enablers of the Scottish Greens – a situation that it’s now possible with hindsight to see absolutely delights her.
I want no part of the lie they’re going to foist on indy supporters for the next few years.
I want no responsibility for how people are going to feel as it slowly, gradually dawns on them that they’ve been conned and taken for fools in exactly the same way Tony Blair did to Labour voters 20 years ago.
Blair won three elections, but burned Labour and all its values to the ground in the process, leaving the party an unelectable, bitterly factional mess that still trails even the current monstrous, farcical atrocity of a Tory government in the opinion polls, 13 years after Blair left office to concentrate on building his colossal personal wealth.
That day is coming down the line for the New SNP, make no mistake about it. Given the ludicrously inept state of the opposition parties in Scotland it looks a while off yet. But the Tories under William Hague and Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith were a joke of a party that looked like it was dead and buried forever, but politics abhors a vacuum and eventually someone came along capable of reviving it.
The price that’ll be paid for Nicola Sturgeon’s betrayal of the SNP for the sake of her personal career will be years and years in the wilderness for the independence movement. The 80 years of work by her predecessors leading to the high water mark of 2011-14 have been turned to ashes and it takes a while for anything to grow back from ashes.
I’m already 53 and the men in my family rarely get much past 70. I don’t intend to waste the rest of my life waiting for that to happen, and unlike some I’m not prepared to lie to people in the meantime for the sake of a paycheque or a cosy wee country cottage or a pathetic delusion of relevance like some broken-record bloggers or media pundits who should have been pensioned off a decade ago.
Nor am I willing to destroy my health and happiness by putting myself through the fury of being lied to every day, never mind all the accompanying abuse.
I could spend the next decade documenting that alone, but a few weeks ago Paul “Wee Ginger Dug” Kavanagh did something so indescribably despicable I can barely bring myself to refer to it even obliquely. Out of sheer demented hatred of me and loyalty to Nicola Sturgeon, and based on a complete falsehood, he harassed a friend of mine so grievously and so disgustingly (he was trying to get them to help him have me put in prison) that they ended up in hospital in intensive care and very nearly lost their life – something for which he’s shown no remorse whatsoever.
I’m not willing to be a catalyst for that. I’m not willing to see other people dead because of how much somebody hates me. (I have my friend’s permission to publish the above paragraphs.)
Kavanagh and I are both fortunate that lockdown restrictions prevented me from going to the nice new home he’s bought with Yes voters’ donations and doing something I’d have regretted. (I’ve calmed down enough not to do it now.) The repulsive, wretched piece of slime can also consider himself very lucky that to spare my friend any more trauma I didn’t call the police over what he did.
But he’s only, and by a distressingly narrow margin, the very lowest of the grotesque, grifting, self-serving sewer scum that now infests every level of the independence movement. I said a few weeks ago on Wings that in the highly unlikely event of another indyref Yes would need to start with a clean slate of new faces, so irretrievably toxic are the relationships between those who campaigned in 2014, so as one of them I’m taking my own advice and setting an example in vacating the stage.
(Can you imagine going into a second referendum with nothing to offer as persuasion to undecided voters but Pat Kane, Lesley Riddoch, Gerry Hassan and Elaine C Smith again? Christ have mercy on our accursed souls.)
To be honest, the thought of those people celebrating Wings’ demise was the only thing that nearly stopped me from walking away. But carrying on to spite them would be letting them control my life just as much as if I’d let them shut it down before now, and I won’t give them that power.
In truth this would have happened weeks ago, over Kavanagh and when two crooked and hopelessly hamstrung inquiries whitewashed Sturgeon and her government over their criminal attempt to put Alex Salmond in prison with false sexual-harassment allegations.
It was only the creation of the Alba Party that offered Scotland one last-ditch chance of salvation.
But an unholy alliance of the SNP and the Unionist media – sweetened by a tasty £3m bribe from the former to the latter – successfully managed to smear and silence Alba and ensure it had no voice in Parliament, and most crucially no base from which to build an alternative.
The party intends to carry on, which with the deepest respect and regret I consider a futility. We learned last week that Sturgeon has simply done too effective a job of poisoning its name and in particular that of its leader. Alex Salmond has been in the form of his life in 2021 – rejuvenated and ebullient, eloquent and fearless, despite the ordeal he’s endured in the last couple of years which would have crushed a lesser man to whimpering dust – but all to no avail.
The absolute hatred with which Alba was treated by brainwashed, goldfish-memoried SNP members under Sturgeon’s direction was jaw-dropping and horrifying. Even six months ago I would never have believed a pro-indy party led by the man who took the SNP from a nutter-fringe irrelevance to the all-conquering behemoth of Scottish politics could have secured less than 10% of the list votes of SNP supporters (especially when the alternative was completely wasting those votes), but in the end it never even got close to that figure because Sturgeon has turned the SNP into a hyper-obedient Stalinist personality cult.
(On the rare occasions the membership does try to summon up some courage, as with last year’s NEC elections, Sturgeon and her husband simply steamroller it, slashing and burning their way through all the party’s procedures and rules until they get the result they want.)
No matter how much passion, energy, reason, decency and dignity Alba continue to campaign with, I don’t think they can overcome that ugly collaboration of smearing between the SNP and the Unionist media. The defining characteristic of Sturgeon’s reign as First Minister, and just about the only thing she’s done with any competence or efficiency, has been the ruthless crushing of anyone and anything she considers a threat to her personal power.
So, since I haven’t actually spelled it out yet: Wings is over.
We’ve said everything there is to say and I’m not going to spend the next five years pointlessly repeating myself while Nicola Sturgeon busily turns Scotland into a vicious, spiteful, intolerant, authoritarian and misogynist country I’ll be ashamed to come from and am already afraid to live in. The tragedy is just going to have to play out and the pieces be picked up afterwards, whenever that is and whoever’s left to do it.So unfortunately you’ll have to wait for someone else to report on Bella Caledonia’s links (via its “poetry collective”) to the British Council, an organisation identified by the Sunday Herald a few years earlier as a wing of the British security services.
(The Herald is/was the paper of David Leask and Neil Mackay, so who’d know better about the activities of the British security services, right?)
And someone else will have to take you through the Scottish Government’s disturbing new Stonewall-driven “diversity curriculum”, including its now somewhat off-message and probably transphobic suggestion that there are in fact only two sexes.
At that point, for the sake of one last straw-clutching chance to be proved wrong (or if Police Scotland finally do their job and arrest Sturgeon and Murrell for stealing the ringfenced fundraiser money) I’ll reassess the state of play and make a finally-final decision, but in truth I can’t imagine anything will have changed, and certainly not for the better. It’s time to find something else to do with my life, and having not done a Wings fundraiser in two years I need to pay the bills too.
The Titanic was irretrievably doomed two hours before it actually slid beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic, and as far as the campaign for Scottish independence goes this Parliament is simply going to be a more drawn-out recreation of those strange, surreal moments as the lights went out and hope drowned.
In our version of the band playing on, the site will remain live and you’ll even still get weekly cartoons until that point. Comments will be open for people to chat, but the actions of trolls have already ended the approval of new commenters and that will continue (along with any comments that get caught in the filters, so watch what you say). But we’re not going to spend thousands of pounds a year keeping it online indefinitely, so use the time to archive anything you want to preserve.
There also remains the question of what should be done with the money left in the Wings Fighting Fund (still a not-insignificant sum) and we’ll address that then. In the meantime I’ll resist the temptation to stuff it all into a rucksack and bugger off to Rio forever, and hope that Britain manages to come up with a nice summer to enjoy. After the last 14 months you’d think we’d all earned one.
The last nine and a half years have been an incredible honour.
Thanks for everything. Between us, readers, we scared the living daylights out of the bad guys – the true measure of anything’s worth is how much its opponents attack it, and by that metric Wings was beyond price. Like the Spartans at Thermopylae, though, our true enemies wore our own colours and we didn’t see what they were doing until it was too late.
But I’ll remain proud of what we achieved until my dying day, and of the fact that we tried our best to warn everyone about the looming iceberg when it would have been a lot easier and more lucrative to stay silent and play along with the charade like the rest of Sturgeon’s tame shills. (The honourable exceptions remain listed in the Wings links bar. Treasure them.)
David Baddiel used to do a routine – based on real events, he told me – about how much worse it is to be beaten up by the police than by a bunch of skinheads. (The word “skinheads” gives you an idea of how long ago the routine was.) Because when you’re getting beaten up by skinheads you can always hope the police come along, but when the police are beating you up in the back of a van it’s no good hoping for a load of skinheads to appear. If 19 September 2014 was getting beaten up by skinheads, last week was getting beaten up by the police. No saviours are coming.
Sometimes the odds are so stacked against you that you simply have no chance of winning. But there’s no shame in losing if you left everything on the pitch. The shame belongs to the betrayers, who threw the game for some ministerial baubles and a few more years of nice fat pension contributions from the taxpayer.
We’re entering a long period of darkness for the Yes movement. I hope we get through it. Goodnight, readers, and may your god and your guardian angel go with you.
Though ALBA attracted almost 41,000 votes in the Scottish election starting from a baseline of a brand new party, and over 5,000 members in a few frantic weeks of canvassing, the policies and ideals of Scotland’s newst independence party were starved of publicity and reportage, the candidates and Alex Salmond its leader, effectively censored from daily news by the British press and media. The foot soldiers of the British State need no cue to deal with rebellion and upstarts. ALBA discovered how dirty Scotland’s opposition will play to keep Scotland an English possession and docile. Here, two of ALBA’s proponents, Kenny MacAskill MP and Neal Hanvey MP, take a long cool look at how the party should regroup and prepare for the next step in its development.
Towards The Future
By Kenny MacAskill MP and Neal Hanvey MP
The election’s over and the votes have been counted. It wasn’t to be for Alba this time, but the fight goes on. Whilst there’s disappointment, there’s also vindication. SNP list votes were even greater than in 2016 and yet produced even fewer list MSPs.
There’s an irony in the SNP suffering from unionist tactical voting, having traduced Alba for allegedly gaming the system. In the end it was perfidious Albion not Alba as Labour and the Tories gave each other hauners – when will the SNP ever learn that the British can’t be trusted? They may write the rules but they sure don’t play by them.
But with more MPs than Scottish Labour and more members than the Scottish Liberal Democrats, we march on. More are already joining having seen the outcome and many more we believe will follow.
That’s because indyref 2 is being kicked even further down the road. Firstly, a veto was given to Boris Johnson by insisting that a Section 30 order was required. Now that’s compounded by allowing him to dictate the timing. The First Minister’s decision that there’ll be no vote before “coronavirus recovery” cedes that to him as well. Leaving aside how there can be recovery without the fiscal and economic levers provided by independence, Johnson can delay matters indefinitely by simply saying “now is not the time”, knowing that he and Nicola Sturgeon are now singing from the same hymn sheet.
Nationhood first, second and above all
Alba is readying itself to push for independence and promote a radical policy agenda whilst preparing the policies on borders, currency and so many other issues that the SNP have shamefully failed to do, as well as contesting council elections next year.
Local groups are getting established and a national conference to settle the constitution and set policy is being organised. In the interim the Westminster group has to be set up. Parliament has returned and so we require to formulate a strategy there for Alba.
Alba intends to be a membership-based party where it’s the rank and file who decide policy and strategy, not executive diktat or select groups having greater influence than individual members. But as with some matters in the run-up to the election, we have to take some immediate decisions as to how we’ll operate, though it’ll ultimately be up to members. We’ll account to the national conference and will follow the directions of the party through its democratic structure.
Until then this is how we propose to operate in Westminster. Alba isn’t an abstentionist party. Westminster isn’t our parliament but having been elected there it’s up to us to use it and maximise its benefit for our cause (as well as of course representing our constituents to the very best of our abilities).
The case for dissent
We’ll seek to use the platform it provides – limited though that may be – to make our cause’s case. We’ll also seek to utilise the resource it offers through the ability to question and obtain information. Both of those factors are critical for our party’s success.
We’re working with others who have served there to devise strategy and tactics that we can deploy. Room for manouvre is limited, as the days of Charles Stewart Parnell and the ability of Irish Nationalists to disrupt has passed. Powers have been centralised and the government dictates the agenda more than ever. But still there are things that can be done and gains that can be made.
That said, there can neither be supine deference to it nor any role taken in the administration of the British State. Partaking in pageants such as the Queen’s Official Opening of Parliament will be forsworn, as will participating in issues that are neither relevant to Scotland nor of concern to her people. Seeking official offices within Parliament is not the role of an MP of a party seeking to be independent of it, and neither’s holding posts that simply entrench British authority, whether over our land or other provinces.
Attendance in the Commons will be when it affords an opportunity to promote Scottish interests, not a routine sojourn to London. There’s plenty work to be doing in our constituencies and across Scotland, and that’ll be our focus. We’ll vote when appropriate on issues as they arise.
However, we’re under no illusions as to the likelihood of success in those votes and see no need to be there to do so on every occasion and on all issues. Since our election in 2019 not one vote was won by the SNP, let alone the opposition. A routine majority against SNP motions or amendments by the combined unionist parties was in the region of 250. On other issues the Tories had a majority of 70 over the combined opposition. (72 now with the Labour defeat in Hartlepool.) Our two votes either way are not going to make any difference.
In these circumstances we’ll go when we need to but concentrate our efforts in our constituencies and in Scotland. We pledge now that we’ll do so unless and until directed otherwise by conference. In the interim we’ll maximise what we can do there to promote Scotland’s cause.
NOTE: Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey are Alba Party MPs. Article also published on Wings.
The debate about how much of the UK’s amassed debt Scotland should inherit as part of an indpendence settlement has raged long and often acrimoniously. “What currency will you use?” as regular a the racist gibe “Scots hate vegetables”. The base line is simple, Scotland need accept none of the UK’s debt.
The unionist line is ferociously belligerent; England will be a total scumbag in negotiations forcing Scotland to accept debtin return for chunks of territory currently under the banner of UK possession – thus hobbling Scotland to impoverish us and slow down progress, before we have a chance to begin anew and strengthen the economy. The sheer stupidity of SNP’s ‘Growth Commission,’ that we take a share of UK debt and burden ourselves from the start of independence, is the reality of Scots and self-flagellation as before.
There is a better argument. Scotland can refuse to take a share of UK debt and so begin with a clean slate. After all, for decades Scotland was a more prosperous country than England, our neighbour too busy throwing taxes at 100 year wars with Spain, France and the Netherlands, and then American colonies ….. a familiar pattern for a nation keen on remaining imperial master.Below my comments is published a paper by economist Dr Jim Walker, ALBA economic spokesperson, arguing the case for no debt.
Free and easy does it
ALBA led by Alex Salmond published their policy stating an independent Scotland should negotiate from a position of zero debt inherited from the UK.
Publication of the policy will ensure that the final days of the election campaign stay focused on the question of Scottish independence with Salmond urging the SNP to back ALBA’s negotiating position on a clean break settlement. Previously ALBA has published positions on an independent Scotland’s European policy and the scale of the investment required for economic reconstruction.
In a major shift from 2014, ALBA say that the post pandemic financial markets mean that Scotland should not take a share of UK debt as part of “building a new nation”. Nor should Scotland seek an equivalent share of non territorial assets through a sterling currency union.
The paper is published today by ALBA candidate, and world leading economist Dr Jim Walker, also sets out that, as a goodwill gesture, an independent Scotland should not seek reparations from the UK Government for the severe economic damage wreaked by Brexit.
The position puts clear tartan water between ALBA’s plans for independence and those set out in the SNP Growth Commission that proposed an independent Scotland should pay an annual “solidarity” payment of around £5.3bn to be transferred to the UK as a price for Scotland’s independence. (Nicola Sturgeon has since accepted that the proposals of the growth Commission are completely out of date. )
ALBA say that the economic negotiating position of Scottish independence is no longer equivalent to 2014 because through the age of austerity and the pandemic the overwhelming bulk of Treasury borrowing has been via the Bank of England printing money, through quantitative easing. This means that the public sector debt position balances between Bank of England assets and Treasury liabilities.
Urging the SNP to back ALBA’s position Alex Salmond has said that “ in order that Scotland’s recovery is in Scotland’s hands it is vital that Scotland now has the full range of financial recovery powers that only independence provides. “
Currently, the Scottish Parliament does not have the powers to fund a reconstructed economy.
ALBA state that their call for a no shared assets, and no shared debt position, means Scotland could utilise its resources to embark on a massive economic recovery programme “free from the shackles of UK debt, or even worse still paying billions of pounds to the UK Government in some bizarre annual subvention.”
In addition, a new Scottish Currency should be set up as soon as possible after Scotland becomes independent although sterling, as an internationally tradeable currency, could still be freely used to denominate assets and liabilities.
The Walker prescription
In the White Paper produced for the 2014 independence referendum, Scotland’s Future, the SNP-run Scottish Government proposed a currency union with the rest of the UK after a Yes vote. As part of that mature and simple settlement the Scottish Government also offered to take on board either a population share or an historic balance share of the UK’s public sector debt. The Better Together campaign, UK politicians of different stripes, and HM Treasury all rejected the White Paper proposals and declared that Scotland would not be “allowed” to use sterling post-independence. The then governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, was ameniable to sharing the pound, if it was the wish of Westminster. “It can be accommodated”. But the colonial tyranny closed ranks and threatened to cut off Scotland from the pound.
The Alba Party has a different outlook. At the heart of its post-independence economic proposals for the next referendum or election plebiscite is immediate moves to establish a new Scottish currency. Sterling will be used in the interim and indeed as an internationally tradeable currency can continue to value private assets and liabilities.
However the UK’s rejection of a currency union means that all facets of that previous proposal fall. In addition on 13th January 2014 the Treasury made it clear that they would honour the legal position that they had title to all U.K. debt, under all circumstances.
In addition, the then First Minister Alex Salmond specifically stated that the debt sharing offer was contingent on acceptance of the currency union proposal. He said back then, “We remain prepared to negotiate taking responsibility for financing a fair share of the debts of the UK provided, of course, Scotland secures a fair share of the assets, including the monetary assets”.
The Alba Party believes independence negotiations should be a matter for the Parliament not just the Scottish Government and that the new independence platform must be constructed with urgency.The ALBA proposal at the independence negotiations will be that Scotland will start from scratch as regards currency, debt and deficits.
In keeping with other declarations of independence the successor UK state will retain all public sector debt issued on its behalf. Scotland will only inherited debt of the current Scottish Government and local authorities.
This is a strong negotiating position but it is entirely fair for the following reasons.
First, more than 95% of the UK’s general government debt has been accumulated since 1980. More, as a percentage of GDP the debt has doubled since the financial crisis of 2008 when the government and Bank of England embarked on wholesale quantitative easing. That debt is largely owed by one branch of government (the Treasury) to another (the central bank) and therefore forms no legitimate liability for the Scottish or any other people.
Unlike the SNP’s White Paper, the Alba Party rejects entirely any obligation to share debt accrued through central bank money printing and sees no role for Scotland on paying interest on that debt which is a transfer from one government pocket to another.
Secondly, there can be no acceptance of debt liabilities without a proper reckoning, that is a valuation of the assets which back that debt. When individuals or households buy a house or a car, they often take out a loan from the bank. This debt is a liability for the household but, equally, the house or car is an asset (which either appreciates or depreciates through time). Government debt is no different. The debt position is widely reported each quarter and each year but the assets – UK embassies abroad, military installations and equipment, government buildings and publicly-owned infrastructure and land, are not detailed nor marked-to-market.
Without such an accounting the debt is meaningless.
Alba says it will waive Scotland’s claim on 8% of the UK government’s assets (from Whitehall to the UK Consulate in Hong Kong) and accept as payment for its wasted territorial resources over the last 50 years the stock of government assets – buildings and infrastructure – that currently exist in Scotland. Territorial assets will therefore be divided geographically by country.
Thirdly, the costs of Brexit, a political adventure the Scottish electorate clearly rejected in 2016, should properly form a compensation claim by the incoming independent Scottish Government on the rest of the UK. The debt that Scotland will have to accrue to rebalance its economy because of a decision imposed unilaterally on the Scottish people will run into the billions of pounds.
As a goodwill gesture the proposal is NOT to pursue compensation for this act of willful damage and will write off the consequential sums owed to the people of Scotland by the current UK government. Similarly the several hundred billion of oil and gas revenues wholly accrued by the Westminster Exchequer in the years since 1980 will not initially be subject to any similar reparation claim as this settlement proposes a clean balance sheet as a starting point.
The world has changed since 2014 and the case for independence must be adjusted to meet the new world not the old.
The rejection by the U.K. Government, and the other unionist parties, of the proposal for a currency union indicates that they have no interest in a apportioning of assets and liabilities.
The proposal by ALBA for a new Scottish currency at the earliest possible date is better suited to the new economic environment. The economic damage wreaked by Brexit will require substantial capital investment sums in the Scottish economy. Starting from a position of zero debt will be a substantial advantage in raising the capital required for this process of reconstruction at current international bond rates.
ALBA propose that the Scottish negotiating position in the independence discussions should be a clean break settlement.
As recently as 2012, to use the term colonial or colonialism was considered an outrageous slur on the relationship England with Scotland. Speak the word and you were brabded someone who ‘hated English people’. In fact, the novelist and illustrator Alasdair Gray was hounded for weeks by the press and politicians alike for publishing his seminal essay Settlers and Colonists. The content of the work born out of his years of experience and observation working in Scotland’s arts community. Fire and brimstone rained down upon his head from all quarters, encouraged and inflamed by the media, frontline of the British state. ‘Let’s get the bastard’ said one tabloid hack to his editor. The SNP hierarchy fell silent and failed to defend him, a body better entitled The Self-Preservation Society. Everything Gray wrote was substantially true, yet he was forced to point out the obvious, he had no dislike of English people.
The reality is, we are expected to live an ersatz English existence, never querying English priorities, accepting their neo-liberal economic policies, their cultural standards, and paying for their follies, such as our youth sent to fight in endless illegal wars. Taken out of the European Community against our will, we were comprehensively ignored by the Boris Johnson administration. This highlighted Scotland’s predicament in widescreen technicolour. When we reject Westminster rule at the ballot box it is still imposed upon us, though the miserable Scottish branches of Tory or Labour party might be reduced to one representative in the whole of Scotland.A ‘Union of Equals’ it aint.
Those who read my website know I picked up the baton from the sorely maligned Gray and expanded on his critical theme – see links below. I am pleased to say, today, people understand and acknowledge Scotland is a colonised country. The word ‘colonial’ need no longer be whispered in safe company. The reality is, we are caught in a one-way, illegal, land and tax grab Mafia-style Treaty– we pay for protectionwe did not ask for. Here Professor Alf Baird expands on the theme. (His biography is at the essay’s end.)
Is Scottish Independence Decolonisation?
By Professor Alf Baird
Professor Edward W. Said, and the UN for that matter, had no Professor doubt about Ireland’s Ireland’s former colonial status, which it shared with a great many non-European regions, despite being incorporated in 1801 as a part of the UK ‘union’. Professor Said referred to W.B. Yeats’ cultural dependence and simultaneous antagonism levelled against the British during Ireland’s ‘anti-imperialist insurrectionary stage’, which ended over 700 years of colonial domination since Ireland was ceded by the Pope to Henry II of England in the 1150s. Whilst imperialism in Ireland preceded the exploitation of Asia, India, Africa, and the Americas, it was no less exploitative and destructive of the indigenous community. Said reminds us here that imperial expansion subordinates’ peoples by ‘banishing their identities, except as a lower order of being’, and in separating them from their own culture.
In the context of Wales, Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru, similarly leaves us in little doubt as to his views on the status of that nation, given the title of his book: ‘Wales: The First and Last Colony’. In this work, Price describes Wales’ historic and ongoing cultural, political and economic subjugation and its long-plundered function as cheap and plentiful supplier of high-grade minerals and agriculture to support and feed England’s imperial appetite and enhance its relative prosperity; meantime, Wales and its people are left languishing in perpetual socio-economic underdevelopment and subsidiarity.
Some folk in Scotland, primarily those comprising the more privileged bourgeoisie (the latter said to readily ‘mimic the colonizer’ in terms of language, culture and more, according to Albert Memmi), mostly take a rose-tinted view of our ‘status’ within the UK. This is despite the fact our enforced and undemocratic EU exit demonstrated Scotland’s subordinate status, whilst the post-2014 referendum Downing Street narrative views Scotland to be little more than an‘incorporated’ territory and people, much like Wales, and Ireland previously. A certain Professor Adam Tomkins now seems keen to rewrite the union alliance on the Scots’ behalf, such is his regard for what he seeks to ensure remains a subordinate people.
Of course, us Scots have aye been fed a quite different history narrative from the reality, and mainly through a British Anglophone and unionist prism and mindset. Scotland’s real story is one of many centuries of conflict with an over-dominant and aggressive imperialist neighbour, the standoff only partially ending through a corrupt subjugation arrangement in the form of the Treaty of Union. The price of this is that Scots ever since have remained subject to an endless cultural assimilation process combined with economic plunder and exploitation of resources, all coordinated via external political control, deceit and mystification concerning Scotland’s strategic ‘national’ matters; much like the typical lot of any downtrodden colony and its wretched folk, then.
What the UN term as the ‘scourge of colonialism’ is defined as economic exploitation and political control by another country, plus occupation by settlers, and may also involve a degree of population displacement and replacement, all amidst a heavy dose of cultural ‘assimilation’, or what we know as cultural and linguistic imperialism. It would seem rather difficult to argue that Scotland has not been subject to much of that, and more, with the nation’s enforced EU exit merely offering confirmation of our colonial ‘status’.
Scotland (and Wales) is also subject to what Professor Michael Hechter called ‘Internal colonialism’. In this we see an ethnic and cultural division of labour, with most of Scotland’s top jobs advertised and handed out from the metropolitan core, with the remainder generally held by the more privileged Scots who tend to align with the dominant Anglophone cultural hegemony. The outcome of this internal colonialism for the ‘peripheral nations’ is their persistent economic underdevelopment, in part due to an enforced narrow industrial specialization which is primarily aimed at supplying the needs of the ‘core’ nation, aided by what is invariably a mediocre meritocracy. An Anglophone cultural hegemony also gives rise to structural inequalities in society,reflecting Scotland’s persistently high levels of deprivation, poverty, attainment gap, illness and drug abuse, as well as the highest prison population per capita in Western Europe, the latter being another salient feature of colonial subjugation and oppression; the construction of a good number of prisons is a well-established feature of historic colonial oppression globally.
Hechter concluded that UK internal colonialism, as with colonialism more generally, likewise involves racial oppression and prejudice against ethnic peoples in the ‘Celtic Periphery’. These wholly unsatisfactory outcomes are what gives rise to the development of an independence movement which primarily reflects the ethnic solidarity of, in Scotland’s case, Scots speakers. In this sense the Scots language and culture remains sufficiently strong, despite assimilation efforts to remove them, to still generate a national consciousness, without which, according to Frantz Fanon, there would be no motivation for national liberation to begin with. This also helps explain why most peoples in self-determination conflict are linguistically and hence culturally divided.
As Scotland edges ever closer to independence, we increasingly see the colonial fangs of the oppressor bite a little deeper into its prey. Lest we forget, features of colonialism also include coercion, force and worse (colonialism is considered to be at the very root of fascism, according to Aime Desaire), and here we see in action what George Osborne refers to as ‘the arms’ of the British state in Scotland, which is the crown and civil service. The politically motivated prosecutions of Alex Salmond, Mark Hirst, and Craig Murray are but a few of the more well-known examples. The state censored ALBA Party, prevented from using its saltire logo and starved of media coverage, forms another part of the UKs anti-independence stance. Scots need not look very far, nor in the distant past to discover the extent of barbarism that is British colonialism disguised as ‘unionism’.
If Scotland is a colony, as increasingly seems evident, Scots should not therefore be surprised at the evolving colonial picture. And with that, inevitably the reality begins to dawn on what also seems to be therefore a colonial justice system, colonial governance, colonial education, a colonial economy, a colonial media, and an entire colonial structured society and mindset. Frantz Fanon also reminds us here that a single dominant National Party will make its own ‘accommodation with colonialism’, much as we see in the actions of the current SNP elite. This realisation then gives rise to the creation of new National Parties such as ALBA, which reflects renewed urgency and momentum by the independence movement in an effort to drive forward the cause of independence to its desired conclusion.
In this regard Scots should perhaps take heed of the Estonian approach and where, in Lesley Riddoch’s documentary, the leaders of that Baltic Sea nation cited the following three essential requirements for independence:• national consciousness, without which there can be no momentum for independence in the first place; • courage, of the country’s independence leaders and people at the time of the declaration of independence and assertion of sovereignty, and to ensure that, upon independence, the new independent state replaces the leaders of the nation’s social institutions put in place under colonial rule.
Clearly, in regard to the last point, an independent Scotland would no longer be concerned with prioritising and elevating an Anglophone unionist elite hierarchy to continue to run its affairs. Nor would it be about serving primarily the economic needs of the former ‘mother country’. The primary focus would be on developing Scotland’s own people, culture and economy, which is the purpose of national independence and decolonisation.
NOTES: Related to the article, this video summarises the results of recent published research undertaken on the subject of Scottish independence.
BIOGRAPHY: Professor Alf Bair was, prior to his retirement in 2016, Professor of Maritime Business and Director of the Maritime Research Group at Edinburgh Napier University. He has a PhD in Strategic Management in Global Shipping. His specialist area of research and teaching is strategic management in maritime transport. His research activities encompass most of the world’s main shipping markets in Europe, Asia, Mid-East and North and Latin America and Australasia. He has published more than 200 research articles, plus delivered over 150 conference papers, many as invited speaker at major maritime industry events, also winning several international prizes for his applied research work and development of applied theoretical and analytical frameworks in areas such as port privatisation, strategic management in shipping, container transshipment, and shipping service feasibility studies. In 2020, he published a research-based academic textbook on the subject of Scottish independence: ‘Doun-Hauden: The Socio-Political Determinants of Scottish Independence’, available from: Doun-Hauden: The Socio-Political Determinants of Scottish Independence: Amazon.co.uk: Baird, Alfred: 9798634652320: Books.
If my old pal, Frederic Lindsay was still alive, a fine novelist and independence supporter all his days, he would be shocked at the chaotic state the SNP now finds itself in, mired in vainglorious, deeply flawed, divisive policies for the few, intolerant of dissent among its ranks, fearful of pursuing its core raison de’tre, Scotland’s self-governance. The despicable hunting of Alex Salmond alone would have had him resign his membership followed by a razor-sharp letter in the Scotsman and Times. Every month Eric attended, religiously, two meetings, his local writer’s organisation, PEN, a worldwide association of writers, founded to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation, and his branch of the SNP, probably the most unfriendly gathering of disunited minds these days.
Back when we shared a drink and talked of psychological crime thrillers to adapt for the big screen, we shared the view that Stieg Larsson’s creation of Lisbeth Salander – the vengeful motorbike rider with a dragon tattoo on her back and ankle – was the most welcome invention of a modern woman fighting to take control of her own body since Emmeline Pankhurst and Dr Marie Stopes. The character was a revelation. Neither of us would raise a glass today to the ‘liberated’ activities of Nicola Sturgeon who has taken the rights of women back decades.
The loner as leader
Religious is close to ‘cult’, a noun appended to the Scottish National Party almost every day by press pundits and Twitterati alike. Well protected by her Pretorian Guard of weak men and fiery women, her disreputable husband hovering in the background, SNP account books tucked inside his underpants where no one will ever venture, Nicola Sturgeon has most definitely managed her image to such as extent the use of cult is justified.
Attached to her public persona, our first minister’s feverishly protective fans fire down lightning bolts on unbelievers. They are ferocious. What they have to say about her skills is awe inspiring. What they have to say about self-governance is reduced to SNP HQ approved slogans.
Her opponents claim she is the one undermining the move to self-reliance. Her adoring disciples claim she is without fault, the only person qualified to lead Scotland to independence. Included in that latter summation are some distinguished voices who have broken free of their normal diplomacy to make plain they don’t care about her chronic failures; she is leader incomparable.
Their sudden attacks on persistent, well-informed critics are posted in fury. I shall not dignify any by naming them. None rode to the rescue when Cherry, MacDonald, Hanvey or Salmond and other colleagues were being crucified. People can become overly-sentimental when faced by a choice of censoring an elected official whom they have known for some time. In this case, their sense of justice was non-existent. They may demand respect for the first minister, but they forfeit respect for themselves.
Of cliques, claques and cults
Attached to a political party in government, cult is troubling. It denotes an intolerance to contrary views, parochialism trumps rational discussion, evidence is rejected, a closed mind, wanting the world to mirror your narrow view of it. The act of knowing is not a joy. The cult member already knows it all. You cannot teach them a thing.
When in my twenties I studied philosophy, devoured tombs on the subject like a hungry caterpillar. I wanted to know what made us tick living in a Christian society, particularly those of us who reject the notion of a diety floating up in the sky, eternal life in the Hereafter, and a fiery well managed hell in the bowels of the earth if a bad person. I wanted to know if we are truly free thinkers, or guided by a Christian concience all our lives, whether we know it or not. I came to no great conclusion other than Presbyterianism can be oppressive, reduce minds to the judgemental, and I was missing out on sunny days. Scotland’s freedom was an altogether different matter.
In the political world, we have not yet jailed a man for years who told the truth, but we did try to jail a man for being innocent of a crime. When it comes to the darker features of this world we can look at our own UK government. As Julian Assange has proved – to the cost of his health – Chief Whistle Blower and prisoner of the British State, we are manipulated by those we trusted enough to elect. His truism “wars of the last fifty years have been the result of press lies” is a jolt to the belief we live in the best of all possible worlds, democracy perfected. If the SNP do not uphold the law embodied in the democratic spirit who sanctions them?
Under Thatcher, the state learned to use science and propaganda to promote its ends to a greater degree than any administration since the Second World War. Is the SNP in that league? I do not think so, not yet, at any rate. We forgive the SNP a lot, overlook the worst because, well, it’s on our side, the side of Scotland, or so it seems. But as soon as it slips from the shafts of fair play and honesty, we feel betrayed. Some fanatical SNP members block all wrong-doing out of their mind. It did not happen.
Those who praise the state for clamping down on uncomfortable dissent are encouraged to nurse loyal citizens, and to place the state as something higher than mere private citizens.
This reasoning is why, in my bookish days – abandoned for more practical pursuits – I rejected the views expressed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel as professional philosophers have done, a man once held in high esteem in Germany. Karl Marx was a great admirer of Hegel, a disciple in his youth, Hegel having a profound influence on his political theory, some of which can be detected in his view that the state has a life of its own. Marxists advocate a kind of society which is good in itself, regardless of whether it will bring happiness to individuals. There are shades of this dogma under headmistress Sturgeon.
Those delighted with her progress demonstrate how authoritarian edicts only bring happiness to those in the chosen hierarchy priviledged to rule. And that is what I see is the rotten core of the current SNP, not the rank and file, but the higher echelons. I see more arrogance than cult.
Hegel wrote: “The essential being is the union of the subjective with the rational will [that is, our unerring ability to fit reality to suit or prejudices]; it is the moral Whole, the State, which is that form of reality in which the individual has and enjoys his freedom; but on condition of recognising, believing in and willing that which is common to the Whole … the state is the existing, realised moral life. The morality (sittlichkeit), of the State is not of that ethical (moralische), reflective kind, the true morality is based on the principles of abiding by one’s duty to the State at large.”
Simply put, believe what the SNP State tells us is true (a referendum next year), or be excommunicated and disenfranchised by and from ‘right thinking’ people. Of course, readers do not need me to add that this view is objectionable.
To Hegel, people who believed in the state had the right to force their beliefs and tastes on society. This view leads to ‘nasty parties’, as the Tories are often described, a party that does not care about how it abandons ethics and scruples. We get a kind of administrative aristocracy. To be SNP is to be right and bright. To be anything else is dumb and scum. To achieve promotion within that society, dissent from the orthodox creed is unacceptable.
A new Scotland subverted
The state tends to ignore the individual and their happiness. Independence of judgement becomes taboo, errant, marking out a person as deviant. The last thing Scotland needs in the middle of a new Enlightenment is docile, uncritical citizens, blindly serving party dogma. This is why I welcome the appearance of the ALBA party. It offers a counter view to solutions.
Everybody likes to be a member of some community, club, or tribe. For a long time everybody was welcomed by the SNP to their community. It took all sorts. That has altered for the worse. It is a party that has disenfranchised so many and moved into a highly reactionary, defensive position. It has built a citadel on a hill. Instead of creating a great degree of cooperation, welcoming another independence party, for example, the SNP has built a wall around itself.
For someone creatively minded, it is unhealthy to hold tight to one fixed belief and never gain knowledge. Each day is a day for learning. Nicola Sturgeon wants conformity, the antithesis of a liberted Scotland. On that route lies stagnation and despair. Vitality is smothered.
How sad to report, Scotland’s first minister has presided over, indeed encouraged, a gradual suppression of independent thought.
While in hospital feeling like death warmed up as consultants around my bed decided which body parts I could do without, Alex Salmond phoned to wish me well, putting the nurses in a tizzy, and to my surprise asking if I would pen an arts policy for Scotland. I assumed he was giving me something to live for that need never materialise, although I would have preferred an honorary degree for services to Scotland’s arts, to be candid. (I write and edit my wife’s books but she gets the honorary degrees in literature from universities! No one said marriage is a conjoining of equals.) Still, it was a surprise request confirming my maxim, everything in life comes too late.In school I was once last in a sports day race, mocked by the guy in front for being last. So I dropped out and gave him the finger.No chance to drop out from this task.
I surmised Salmond – a great tactician – was planning something momentous but he called back later to play-down the request – possibly to divert me from calculating two and two reach four, saying the ‘policy’ was to publish on his website ‘Scotland Speaks’ to test public reaction. I was to write no more than 900 words. I wrote 1,400.
The invitation reminded me I had done my best to offer my punchy wordsmith services to the SNP in 2013 and received blank stares, which is the reason my essay site exists. I found a way of helping the cause of liberty. Perhaps I looked too eager, or forgot to wear under-arm deoderant. Instead, in 2019, the SNP employed the discredited ex-editor of the Scottish edition of the Daily Record and co-architect of the ‘Vow. He got the cherished role of Master Propagandist. Murray Foote, who conned Scots out of their birthright, saw his nefarious crime sanctified and rewarded by Saint Nicola.
For the record- no, not that Record, I also offered my draft Constitution to the SNP in its deliberations to protect our sovereignty, but that too was ignored. I reckon I am the most ignored thing by the SNP after a referendum on independence. Their wonderful new-ish National Secretary cannot be bothered answering my emails, the lovely slacker. The SNP is not clever at utilising talent and ability it attacts from new adherents to the cause. Over 120,000 of us bored to our back teeth disappeared faster than snow off a drystone wall.
It took some weeks to get my head around art for all, what should be reformed and what should be encouraged. Giving consideration to things inadequate in our cultural diaspora is easy until you have to think about ‘why’, and what good it will do, not the least of which is actually keeping talent in Scotland and not see the best moving elsewhere to make a living. Actors, directors and playwrights always go south, painters are ambivalent but know London critics and galleries exhalt and sell talent best of all. Writers tend to stay here, but successful others like novelist Alistair MacLean toddle off to tax exiles.
Anyhow, I put my thoughts on paper and sent it to Alex Salmond and then forgot about it. Yes, it is nice to be acknowledged, and even if late in life, rewarding. Better than a birthday card at 100 years of age from the Queen.
You could subtitle this paper, ‘Not a proper job’. Freezing to death at 6am on a winter’s morning in Lanarkshire, waiting for the crew to set up for a drama scene shot outside a rural pub, holding a paper cup of coffee for warmth, a lorry driver shouted, “Why don’t you wankers get a proper job?!” The arts are not always appreciated by the philistine whose idea of ‘art’ is Page 3 of a tabloid newspaper. Moaning about arts festivals is a Scottish hobby. Edinburgh folk are apt to grumble at the world coming to their city every International Festival.
In a discussion with Salmond, I suggested we should have a celebration of Scotland’s greats, let the world know who our best are, rather than hoping the ever-non-Scottish director of the Edinburgh International Festival might include a few ‘local’ productions in the August extravaganza if we doff our cap.
The main tenents of my thesis are now part of the ALBA party’s manifesto. Thus, I feel obliged to publish my paper in full, and hope it holds interest for those wedded to Scotland’s culture, even if I am a little embarrassed at the grandeloquent title. Tomorrow, I’ll change the world, right after I have a good breakfast.
AN ARTS POLICY FOR SCOTLAND
“Placing our palm in the earth tells people we exist.” Gareth Wardell
A fable taught when a child was the story of the grasshopper and the ants. The grasshopper plays sweet fiddle music all summer for the enjoyment of a colony of industrious ants storing food and building homes. When winter’s hardships arrive he is refused food and shelter only to be lectured about the virtue of hard work prepares us for tomorrow. That is how our society treats the arts when budgets tighten. Other nations increase support. They acknowledge the arts bring pleasure and happiness, and they heal. Great art is an ambassador for a nation’s culture. It fosters global friendships.
Begin at the beginning
Education is prone to churn out conformity; rather we should cultivate the best instincts in human kind. This is conceded by most thinking people. One begins with the inalienable right of every individual to develop from opportunity offered. To confine learning to existing job opportunities, education as a sausage factory, is the state at the mercy of capital. The arts can create well-adjusted personalities, confident, articulate and imaginative, the very essence of human progress.
Everything begins at the primary level, everything. Inculcating an adventurous spirit in children, exploring by creativity, and co-operating with a friend or group, eradicates the fear of failure. The joys of construction are shared. There should be no such thing as failure, only experimentation. (The Montessori Method excels at this.) Failure teaches the child he or she is of less worth than their peers, that they are of limited ability.
Infant schools include art, dance, music and storytelling. Children should explore their indigenous culture and that of other societies, concepts that connect people the world over. (I include Gaelic culture.) Primary teachers usually key in work to the cycle of the seasons, but it is vital children make connections with the world immediately around them, the one that exists every day.
Take art as an example. Primary teachers are excellent as all-round teachers; few have any expertise in aesthetics. A peripatetic specialist is needed for that task. Bringing in a secondary art student is an answer. Let them teach lessons in the principles of art, why art is all around them, from colour and pattern, through design, to architecture. Teach children how aesthetics are important in everyday life, knowledge imparted withoutbeing over-complicated.
At an early age, through play and games, children are expert in imagining themselves as adults, pirates, ballet dancers, bus drivers, tigers, movie characters, and the like; the origins of theatre are there to develop. Exposure to arts and crafts is paramount if an individual is to see power not as superiority over others, but as learning by artistic creation or scientific discovery.
Children of this age are information sponges, they absorb without bias. Teaching without children knowing why they do it, is useless.
The arts are, by their nature, anarchic and free flowing, like youth itself. The pioneering work of dominie A.S. Neil and his Summerhill School and his disciples John and Morag Aitkenhead with Kilquhanity House in Castle Douglas, demand a renaissance, where young adults are freed of adult coercion over subjects suppressed by rigid curricula. Free will spurs self-motivation.
In secondary education we should follow the same line of curiosity as primary education ditching the rigid lines of learning. Truth is important but imagination comes first. Leonardo da Vinci would have a lot of trouble adjusting to strict educational categories of subject matter. To him science and art were one and the same. In the fourth or fifth year a pupil ought to be free to specialise.
To know who plotted the death of Rizzio, Mary Queen of Scots favoured musician, is of no great application. However, to understand the male psyche can give insight into human nature. The aggressive youth may find pleasure in the armed services as an adult – utilising the arts as a means of exploration can illicit others skills that will bring satisfaction as an adult.
Music must remain a staple of an education system. Venezuela provides the triumphant example of achievement from poor income backgrounds that result in callow youth’s enthusiasm to participate in orchestral music – see the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, often under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. We had a similar experiment gaining praise in Lanarkshire. A nationwide echo of their principles is the way forward to create Music Scotland. Let no one be put off by fear of scale.
Drama classes boost language and communication skills; music classes boost an understanding of mathematics and foster team work; dance exhilarates, modern dance innovates, painting, print making and sculpture teach the science of colour, design, creative use of earth’s materials, enhancing imagination that express new ways of seeing. Rothko’s colour-field canvasses taught us colours trigger emotions.
An educational system is usually aimed at usefulness. The arts free us to discover other possibilities.
Filmed drama and documentary
The moving image is the form of storytelling of the modern age. The novelist and writer, the auteur, cinematographer, designer, composer, musician, digital magician and animator come together through filmed drama and documentary.
Alas, Scotland is locked into the British film industry, to a great extent the English film industry. Understandably, it promotes English culture. The chief among it are known to reject Scottish subject matter as ‘not commercial’, leaving Scots filmmakers at an acute disadvantage, forced out of Scotland to find work. This is unacceptable.
Scotland has a cottage film industry. We remain a country more often used as a backdrop for films of other nations, than one making movies.
The Norwegian model is one to study. The Norwegian government gives an annual tranche of money to existing film production houses, and a large portion of cinema ticket profits go straight to the production company. Income and government funds are conjoined and recycled. This is a standard Scotland would do well to implement.
By this method Norway, a small country like Scotland, is able to produce a dozen films a year without worrying about international sales or subtitles. Producer’s films find an audience on Norwegian television, paid for the right to transmit their films. Scotland does not have a broadcaster actively involved in encouraging movie making. If writers, directors and producers want to see their work shown in the UK or abroad, we require a resident expert in international sales, with local cinemas guaranteeing exhibition of home grown material, even after Scotland has established its own broadcasting company investing in film.
Scotland can emulate the Norwegian model, our stories expressed in Gaelic, dialect, or in Scots-English.
Creative Scotland, labours under a faux commercial role. It dominates those that cannot survive without subsidy, and new talent looking for start-up funds. The decisions it makes are hit and miss. Some decisions are inexplicable. Sitting in an office dishing out rules and application papers is bureaucratic. The old Scottish Arts Council had a policy where an arts officer turned up at a client’s door or event, unannounced. There is need of an ‘Academy of Arts’ that dispenses funds, and also elevates its practitioners, no London critics needed to decide on standards or values. Creative Scotland is a stop gap that wants a rethink.
Corporate sponsorship is a dragon consuming all before it. Big business reduces creativity to consumerism. A new Scotland can discipline corporate ownership of the arts. Ditch pick-the-popular sponsorship in favour of a national accumulated fund – sponsors duly thanked and publicised. Take a modest portion of mandatory tax from businesses. Together with a wholly Scottish Lottery Fund, (still a reserved fund) a ‘National Fund’ rids us of the mendicant culture where only the strongest survive. Let arts activity free itself from stifling commercial imposition, wary of radicalism.
Art colleges moved to installation work some years ago, ‘concepts’, encouraged by second-rate UK prizes. (An installation caused the first fire in Glasgow’s Mackintosh building!) Art schools exploit this fashion to save on painting and drawing materials. Art students are graduating who cannot draw or paint. They know nothing of the process of artistic creation. The pendulum has swung too far one way. The principles of art are sacrosanct; those skills take years to acquire. Nurture the gifted, not the lazy keen to become an ‘artist’ on the back of shallow concepts. And in that regard, we should see stronger support than now for the guardian of Scottish art, the Royal Scottish Academy.
Education is the province of the political charlatan. Opponents of Scotland’s rights carp and bite at the edges knowing there is never enough money to alter things, their moans and groans are safe. The proposals set out here for the arts in education and the community are not expensive. At the other end, the proposals for filmmaking can be organised in a way that avoids high financial risk.
Above all, a government that embraces the arts embraces human aspiration, a place where we gain a sense of ourselves as a great civilisation. A spirit of adventure and liberty will bear fruit in an atmosphere of consistent and sustained national support of the arts. Scotland, be bold!
Listening to Mary Lou Macdonald in a television interview, leader of the Irish social democratic party, Sinn Fein, I was struck by how unselfconsciously she used the phrase English nationalist, rather than British nationalist. She was not, after all, referring to Welsh or Scot. If the term is used in Scotland it meets with inane cries of ‘racism’. In the Republic of Ireland, English nationalism is an all too real legacy familiar to Irish from centuries of brutal colonial rule.
In Scotland we prefer to blank out similar suppression of our rights littering 300 years of London rule. Far too many Scots suppose life in modern Scotland enjoys unfettered freedoms and full democracy. What is there to worry about? We can buy what we want, just not get the government and policies we want. But who cares about politics? We see no Stasi agents arresting dissenters and disappearing into the night.
And so, the more adventurous among us look for historical parallels in an attempt to understand our situation. We can do no better than study Ireland’s bloody struggle.
For the curious a good starting point is to follow Churchill’s wake. If anybody stood for the imposition of rule by the British Empire, he did. He was its champion. Anything less, a concession here or there, he considered appeasement or even defeat. There are plenty of modern-day English nationalists who express the same hostility to any suggestion of Scottish hegemony no matter how mild.
Liberal with far-right Tory inclinations
In 1922 Churchill was still a Liberal working in the War Office under the party’s then leader Lloyd George. Together, they had had to come to terms with the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia, that it was there to stay. Revolution made British politicians jittery. They sensed the old world order was in for a kicking.
It is important to know the restless, impulsive nature of Churchill. He contemplated overthrowing the Russian revolution before sanity got the better of ambition. His close colleagues thought him more of a Tory than Tory ministers. For his part, Lloyd George considered Churchill ‘an obsessive’. He was no less so when it came to giving Ireland its liberty. Though the Easter Rising in 1916 barely altered the Liberal party’s attitude to a united Ireland, Churchill seemed perturbed by the growing rebellion and thought it should be put down if the need ever arose.
Even when moderate nationalists were swept away by the party for full independence, Sinn Fein, in the 1918 British General Election, securing 73 seats, the British parliament was not much moved. They would not see a Sinn Fein MP in the halls of power for they refused to take their seats. One supposes Boris Johnson and his cohorts will respond likewise, with a yawn and a racist remark, if poll predictions come to pass and the SNP wipe out all but three MSPs at the 2021 Scottish Election, deciding to withdraw MPs from Westminster. Tories need do nothing. They hold all the cards.
Master of all he surveyed
By 1921 Churchill was master of the Colonial Office, ensuring that Britain’s domain of colonised countries remained ruled by whites. America was not yet a greater military power, Britain still able to tell ever nation under the sun what was good for them and who should rule them.
Whenever the question of Ireland was brought up, Churchill’s view was the same as when at the War Office, he advocated suppressing rebellion with fiscal and trade coercion or armed force. However, he recognised his policy of reprisals, destined to fail, was not winning hearts or minds. IRA guerrilla attacks continued unabated.
The only solution was to allow an election to take place in Southern Ireland – Ulster being protected from any fallout – and see what happened. There was lots of talk about a truce, but as far as can be gleaned from historical reports, this tactic relied on lots of anti-republican candidates standing for election.
Had Churchill been able to commandeer ‘Sinn Fein is not Ireland’ to paraphrase an inane Scottish Tory slogan, he would have used it. Back then, ‘Ireland is British’ was good enough.
What he did say was, “If necessary, we can break up the Irish parliament and resort to coercion.” (David Brynmor Jones Diary – Vol 3.) Alas for Churchill and Empire loyalists, the election resulted in a walk-over for Sinn Fein. The British state has a similar problem with Scotland, how to deal with the rise of the SNP without having the democratic authority needed from the Scottish electorate.
Politeness doesn’t always work
Finally, the government of Lloyd George was in a panic. They had no strategy to stop the march of Irish nationalism. The only voice heard was Churchill and his ‘shoot ’em up’ solution to everything. Meanwhile, politicians in the Ulster Parliament watched with increasing alarm events unfolding and resorted to what they do today, put pressure on Westminster behind the scenes to gain favour.
With Churchill banging his fist on the cabinet table, the alternative was to adopt martial law in all the Irish counties and govern unelected, or do a deal with Sinn Fein.
The former idea was a logistical and costly nightmare, the latter initially unthinkable. In keeping with English colonial rule, the British government did what it had always done, refused to talk to elected ‘upstarts’, (see Gordon Brown and SNP example), and instead imposed martial law, backed by the infamous Black and Tans that Churchill declared “were getting to the root of the matter quicker than the military”. (ibid.)
An interesting fact: Churchill was not given a place on Lloyd George’s Irish Committee – a committee the mechanism by which you delegate matters of state to consider specific events and make recommendations. Churchill was distrusted by his own party and by the Tory party he was soon to rejoin, with whom he had a lot in common.
His absence was explained as presenting a caring, benign face to the disconsolate Irish. The tactic worked. In Churchill’s intimidating absence, the committee looked at the implications of stomping all over a nation they had let starve during devastating potato famines, and pulled back, making conciliatory offers of a truce.
Churchill never liked the word, a quirk that came to his rescue when facing Nazism. He thought a truce gave kudos to IRA tactics. Outnumbered by colleagues, he accepted his heavy-handed approach to contain Irish dissent had not succeeded – for the moment.
IRA force Britain to the negotiation table
And so it came to pass the IRA strategy of organised dissent and dissonance worked. The British government acknowledged acceding to a truce left Republicans in charge of the Irish Parliament, they controlled most of southern Ireland.
Likewise, if current polls prove prescient in Scotland in 2021, the SNP look to be in full control of all constituencies bar one in Shetland, one in Aberdeen, one in the Borders. There is no doubt the SNP hope this forces Boris Johnson to negotiate and endorse a second referendum on independence. But they reckon without Boris modelling his persona and his policies on Churchill.
Lloyd George packed his bags and organised successive meetings with the Republican leader Èamon de Valera, to agree upon the basics for full-scale negotiations.
Unsurprisingly, the Irish wanted a republic, no half-measures. The British wanted negotiations to stretch endlessly and tire out Irish demands, In the event, Republicans eventually accepting dominion status – no better than a colony or a protectorate. More on that shortly.
An ulterior motive in protracted negotiations was to cause the Republican movement to split into soft and hard factions, and with luck and infiltration, start an internal war. The British way of control has never varied, generation after generation, divide and rule, and if uncontrolled disorder arises, step in as the saviour of law and order.
In Scotland there is a view held by Nicola Sturgeon’s supporters, that the do nothing sudden or shocking, a rose petal diplomacy – a modern version of hippy flower power – is by far the best route to independence. They hope to seduce English power into submission. Nothing could be further from the Irish experience. Hence, an opposing faction in Scottish politics, the realists, if you like, feel the SNP liable to accept a compromise if they ever get to the negotiating table.
Powers we did not give
At this point, I am obliged to digress for a moment to preempt alarmists among us by stating the obvious. I am not advocating violent insurrection. Scots do not die for their country, they die for other people’s countries.
What I suggest is, the British Tory party, by warlike history and its exceptionalism, now emulating the opportunistic, amoral Donald Trump, knows violent discord wins the day for the party in power. Excessive authority can be stamped on a disorderly society with impunity. Authoritarian regimes know enough people will welcome tough action that helps them get to work on time.
The strong arm approach has a down-side. Strict control is expensive to maintain over a long period. It drains the Treasury coffers. It upsets the social order. Eventually, you are forced to negotiate. Alex Salmond choose debate. He was the one person who could and did rev up the anti and turn a talking shop of unionists in Holyrood into a hotbed of visionary zeal. There seems nothing but calm in the SNP benches since his departure.
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, an articulate prime minister but badly educated in egalitarianism at one of Scotland’s premiere private schools, Fettes College, was smart enough to see what was coming. Reluctant to offer Scots anything more than Labour’s discredited neo-liberal policies, he agreed to the reinstatement of Scotland’s Parliament, later expressing regret over what he saw as devolution “encouraging nationalists to ask for more” – unintentionally admitting Scotland has less than constitutes full democracy!
In Ireland’s case, the intention was to offer a settlement, spurred by Churchill breathing fire and brimstone, allowing limited Republican rule but keep Ireland as a state within the Empire.
It is hard not to see Scottish devolution as a significant parallel, a parliament offered in diminutive form, an ‘executive’, with hobbled powers, a gift on loan. Freedoms limited artificially invariably call for group action to allow people to exercise free will.
In Ireland’s case, after cabinet discussion, the British offered unconditional talks to the Republicans, Churchill having preferred to restart war, over-ruled by his colleagues.
Lloyd George, as unionist as any Scotsman on the make, and in common with today’s English politicians, chose a one-sided, largely unionist negotiating team to do their best to brow beat the Irish down to a free tram pass and a latch key to live in their own country. Scotland should expect the same treatment when its time comes.
Churchill chaired the defence side of discussions with the same arrogance of Theresa May and Boris Johnson waving aside Scotland’s request to be part of EU withdrawal talks. He contemptuously dismissed justified Irish calls that they be responsible for their own defence, had their own army, dispensed with a navy, and wished to be neutral in conflicts involving the British government. Again, Scotland’s team will have all that and more to contend with, assuming they arrive at the negotiating chamber fully prepared!
The dealer always wins
Churchill wanted full control of strategic ports in Ireland, a condition that had de Valera’s team scoff in disbelief. From this one can see clearly how Westminster will demand retention of Faslane Dockyard in a future Scottish settlement. This is why I suggest the counter offer, they rent it for £3 billion a year for a maximum of 10 years, leaving on the ninth, and clearing up any toxic mess left behind at their expense.
For the initial talks, Churchill was sidelined a second time, watching in annoyance as Lloyd George saw to the detail of the settlement. By any standard it was a case of the invader demanding restitution for things he had actually stolen.
A brief example of conditions the British wanted reads like a duke’s list of what he wants in taxes and tithes from the commoners tilling his land: members of Ireland’s parliament, the Dáil, must take an oath offering loyalty to the British King; respect for the Crown to be accepted in the new state, including hereditary land ownership – Scottish landowners will like that one; recognising the Ulster Parliament together with a Northern Ireland boundary, partition – a ‘boundary’, that old problem again! – must be accepted, Ulster kept as a separate province; no fiscal autonomy, the reverse of which currency will you use? thrown at Scotland; countries with which Ireland could and could not make a treaty – British enemies must be, ipso facto, Irish enemies; trade with England before all others, and so on, and so forth.
Behind those conditions was Lloyd George and Churchill’s avowed determination to keep Ulster Unionists happy, as the Tory party does now with billion pound bungs from the public purse for DUP support. Scotland can expect a similar hidden agenda when facing England’s conditions, a bridge to Ireland probably still a delusional proposal.
Sign Here – Brits Rules rule
Lloyd George managed to have de Valera sign an outline agreement which virtually reduced Ireland to dominion status, one of the key issues that opened wide the schism between de Valera and Michael Collins. For de Valera’s part, capitulation to too many British demands troubled him deeply. His subsequent volte face, was to have tragic consequences.
To his credit, for it effectively created the Republic, Churchill stood by the Agreement and expected to implement those sections under his brief, but he is recorded belittling the accord as ‘wicked’ in later months. He thought the war against Sinn Fein should have been continued until they were truly broken.
As Colonial Secretary, Churchill took on the role of handing powers over to Ireland but made the process a tangled web. There is scholarly disagreement he did so deliberately to gain advantage, another angle, so much money was involved he wanted to keep out of Ireland’s hands. By January 1922 a provisional government was established with Michael Collins and the writer and newspaper editor Arthur Griffiths drafting a constitution.
Coincidentally, the SNP has a draft Constitution for Scotland, but it lies dormant while the SNP chase faulty policies on social issues better tackled in a constitution after Independence Day. There is a loss of dynamism the Irish would never have allowed. They knew how to capitalise on principles to encourage adherents to the cause.
Collins, Minister of Finance, and Griffiths leading the delegation, handled negotiations, de Valera staying in Ireland to allow the plenipotentiaries to refer back to him without being pressured into any agreements. “To me, the task is a loathsome one,” Collins wrote. “I go in the spirit of a soldier who acts against his best judgment at the orders of his superior.” In a letter he wrote that he had “signed my death warrant”.
He was right to be on his guard. De Valera suddenly rejected the Agreement because it involved the partition of Ireland and did not create an independent republic. In Griffiths and Collins in particular, de Valera had found scapegoats. The SNP are just as guilty of creating scapegoats when it comes to protecting their perceived reputation.
To the crushing disappointment of Collins the revolutionary, de Valera reverted to war to achieve a genuine, self-reliant, obsequious to no nation, republic. Because of the Oath to the King, he and his followers could never, ever, vote for the Treaty. Collins thought it a paltry excuse, something not worthy of breaking a treaty.
De Valera was heavily castigated for his alleged deviousness and vanity. What remains is a master politician, a man who knew his constituency and understood his place in history. He understood he was a symbol of Ireland’s struggle for independence. Nothing less than a true republic would do. But it was Collins who had fought and beaten the British to the negotiation table by his brilliance for intelligence work and intimidation. We do not have a Collins or a de Valera in the Scottish parliament … or do we?
Churchill put his trust in Collins and Griffiths to deliver the dominion state negotiated, which they did with great reluctance. Like Scotland’s devolution, to them it was only the beginning of things. Churchill was shocked at de Valera’s renunciation, an Englishman who did not understand the passions that motivate revolutionaries.
Jolly bad mannered chaps
The IRA repudiated the Provisional Government and promptly resumed its forays into Ulster. Churchill retaliated by submitting a bill to the Westminster parliament asking for support for an invasion force if the IRA declared a republic. He employed all the leverage he had. He refused to supply arms to the Provisional Government unless they used them against the IRA. England’s age old tactic of divide and rule took on a bloody aspect, not resolved until the Good Friday Agreement.
In April 1922 Churchill approved the Special Powers Act that suspended habeas corpus, removed civil rights, including detention without trial, legalised street searches and house raids without warrant, and instituted imprisonment for refusal to comply.
By the next election, people fearing conflict, the Provisional Government achieved a win for the pro-Treaty side, and Churchill used that to drive a wedge between Irishman and Irishman.
Compared to the contempt with which Boris Johnson treats Ulster’s expectations by tearing up the Brexit Withdrawal and endangering the Good Friday Agreement, Churchill gave his full support to Ulster Unionists. He did not betray them. Churchill had no fear of Catholics fighting Protestants, they were too few, but he guessed correctly Protestants would be hostile to Catholics. Today, the Protestant community finds itself in the minority compared to the growing increase of Catholics, both numerally and politically, something Churchill never foresaw. A Catholic majority is more inclined to vote for a united Ireland.
Once more, England’s departure from a territory it governed resulted in partition and prolonged violence. So, despite Churchill’s many attempts to derail the Irish Agreement (“a sane chauffeur who suddenly drives you over a cliff”), it came to pass without his Machiavellian intervention.
Could we see a similar outcome with Scotland’s independence negotiated by a bellicose Boris Johnson? Tories usually arrive with gifts of money and false promises. Johnson chooses the Churchillian path, divide and rule. In Scotland’s case, he proposes a policy in which the Tories appropriate part of the Barnett Formula (in reality Scotland’s taxes), and they themselves dispense the largesse to Tory supporting constituencies in Scotland, an English version of American pork barrel politics.
The Dissolution of the Union
At this point my research for this essay ends, chiefly because the well informed know the rest of Ireland’s tortured history, a war that lasted until the end of the 20th century.
What we see now is a proud, confident, independent nation state, recovered quickly from the financial crash of 2008, still belittled by a jingoistic England, ironically prospering at the expense of England’s grand folly – the dumping of European co-operation, culture and values. Over time, Ireland removed the remnants of dominion status and, with a new Constitution in 1937, became fully independent. There is one more important comparison to discuss. Scotland’s independence is inevitable. It will be aided and abetted by forces outside the UK, stronger than the UK with the leverage to make Westminster listen, those third parties repulsed by Tory contempt for the rule of law and human rights.
However, the question I ask myself is this, is the current SNP crop of MPs and MSPs clever enough, tough enough, to negotiate our freedoms without compromise, without concessions, and without a politician who can scare the living daylights out of the destroyers of democracy? I remain to be convinced. The cunning of the British government is these matters is legendary.
Missing the small print is the difference between a new Scotland and Scotland cheated.
Apologia: Though of Irish decent (Grandfather from County Mayo), I offer apologies to irish readers if my interpretation of events is innaccurate, and welcome correction.
Film Dramatisation: This early Irish dramatisation of the Treaty negotiations has the look of a school’s broadcast but is no less accurate or truthful for all that. You’ll enjoy recognising a few fine Irish actors in their fresh-faced youth. If you have an hour-and-half, spend it viewing this informative piece. https://youtu.be/RUfr0FgZz_8
Women took centre stage at the launch of the ALBA party’s Women’s conference.ALBA released its official policy manifesto on equalities. We attach it below for the benefit of voters, particularly those concerned by the other parties’ positions on women’s rights.
Extracts from key speakers
ALBA, Scotland’s fastest growing political party has launched its Women & Equalities Policy Statement following its first ever Women’s Conference on Saturday 10 April.
Launching the ALBA Women and Equalities policy statement Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, ALBA Candidate for Central Scotland said:
This is the policy statement women in Scotland have been waiting for and will speak to many women who feel their voices have been sidelined in the debates that have taken place in the Scottish Parliament on the forensic examination of women, hate crime and the proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act. A majority of ALBA’s candidates in this Election, 18 in total are women, who if elected will tip the balance, in the Scottish Parliament in favour of Womens sex based rights.
“ALBA acknowledges that no single protected characteristic is more virtuous or more worthy of recognition and safeguarding than another. They are all fundamentally important, each on their own, and as a collective”.
Cllr Caroline McAllister, ALBA Candidate for West Scotland, a former SNP Womens Convenor, past Deputy Convenor of West Dunbartonshire Council who was “Violence Against Women” Ambassador said:
“The launch of this ALBA Women and Equalities statement is an important milestone for Women in Scotland. It sends the clearest possible signal that Women will not be silenced for defending their sex based rights. It also calls a halt to the repeated and continued abuse women experience every day just for expressing their legitimate concerns about the attempts to erode their existing rights in law, such as the Equality Act 2010”.
Cllr Lynne Anderson, a former SNP Equalities Convenor and ALBA Candidate in Central Scotland said:
“This statement provides vital recognition of the need for women and girls to have privacy and dignity in every aspect of their lives, including access to refuges, changing rooms, toilets and prison cells. ALBA are standing up for women, and for that reason, more and more women are backing ALBA in this Election”.
Speaking after the ALBA Women’s Conference Rhona Hotchkiss, a former Director of the Nursing and Midwifery Practice Development Unit and a Former Prison Governor said:
“The single most important thing Alba could do for women in Scotland would be to recognise the sex-based nature of the oppression, discrimination and violence against them. If Alba is serious about being a party that stands up for women, it must work to protect single-sex spaces, services and sports, applying the terms of the 2010 Equality Act”.
Also speaking after the Conference Professor Nighet Riaz who is a researcher and educator at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), a published author, political and community activist. said:
“As a woman of colour, I am enjoying speaking at Alba’s Women’s Conference and discussing my research on racism, and how it is framed and enacted through our policies, reports, our social systems, structures and institutions. I shared stories where women of colour navigate ‘work spaces’, highlighting the barriers and challenges they face at each level of recruitment, retention and promotion. Working collectively with activists and allies, I dream and work towards a post-racial society, but we still have a fair distance to go. We can only get ‘there’ by working together.”
Speaking at the Conference Eva Comrie, ALBA Candidate for Mid Scotland and Fife said:
“Professional experience as a family and child law specialist, and personal experience as an amputee and frequent visitor to hospitals and clinics, tell me that women and girls need safe spaces today just as much as ever. Those are especially important where there has been trauma or abuse or where there are illness and other vulnerabilities”.
Stephanie Reilly, ALBA Candidate for Mid Scotland and Fife said: “As the youngest Alba candidate, I am standing to give young people a voice. Independence is the only way to begin to change the inequalities that young, less-privileged women face. I believe that empowering young women and building a fairer country for them is vital. Encouraging young women to pursue their dreams without the burden of poverty and discrimination is top of my priority list. ALBA strives to achieve a country in which we are all equal to one another”.
POLICY STATEMENT: ALBA Women & Equalities Policy Statement
The ALBA party recognises that by dint of birth andhappenstance, we are not all created nor do we live our lives asequals. Scotland’s history involves multiple injustices where chance or privilege have dictated outcomes, and today, poverty continues to be the biggest driver of inequality and a blight onour society. These days should by now be past. Surely this modern world and an independent Scotland can cater for all without loss to any.
The Scotland ALBA strives to create, envisions a level playingfield where we can become truly equal to each other and where everyone’s rights are respected and protected, but, vitally, not at the cost of others.
The Ten Tenets
1:ALBA undertakes to protect and preserve women’s rights, not at any expense to others, but as a safeguardfor women and girls. 2: ALBA believes women have the right to discuss all policies which affect them, without being abused and silenced. 3: ALBA believes women have the right to maintain their sex based protections as set out in the Equality Act 2010. These include female only spaces such as changing rooms, hospitalwards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostelsand prisons. 4: ALBA believes women have the right to refuse consent to males in single sex spaces or males delivering intimate services to females such as washing, dressing and counselling. 5: ALBA believes women have the right to single sex sports to ensure fairness and safety at all levels of competition. 6: ALBA believes women have the right to organise themselves according to their sex class across a range of cultural, leisure, educational and political activities. 7: ALBA acknowledges and promotes all of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010 which are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership,pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and sex. 8: Crucially, ALBA understands the controversy and pain whichhave characterised Scotland’s recent attempts at reform; there has been much heat and at times little light. 9: ALBA invites and will endorse a citizens’ assembly on howbest to reform the Gender Recognition process in a respectful, sensitive and positive fashion. 10: ALBA acknowledges that no single protected characteristic is more virtuous or more worthy of recognition and safeguarding than another. They are all fundamentally important, each ontheir own, and as a collective.