Scotland’s Carpetbaggers


Professor Adam Tomkins – arguably an academic but no scholar

Scotland has more than its fair share of carpetbaggers. They arrive every week looking for a ‘better life’. Call them economic migrants if you like. A list would stretch the capital’s Princes Street end-to-end. 

They include too many ready to counsel against Scotland’s interests, later ennobled for their ‘sacrifice’, members of the House of Lords, or hope to be rewarded ere too long. They are opportunists of a high order. Some move on to England and a ‘better’ job.

A carpetbagger’s job is short-term, a place to make as much noise as they can until noticed by London colleagues, and then receive the call to higher office, their personal assessment of their abilities vindicated.


It was the opportunistic ambitions of America’s white northerners that gave rise to the pejorative term, ‘carpetbagger’ – derived from the carpet fabric of their luggage – when they moved south to exploit the reconstruction of Southern states after the Civil War.

The term applied to those in Scotland holds the same resonance, though the trade is in the opposite direction, south to north. And let us be in no doubt, after losing the Referendum, even by such a small margin, Scotland is under reconstruction by the Tory party and those that think like them. There are fat pickings to be had by the belligerent.

British carpetbaggers are normally white southerners who come to Scotland to exploit its diminished political structures and hamstrung institutions. The intention is to build a reputation either fronting a leading Scottish institution, or to get elected to political office, each seen as a temporary situation.

Today the term carpetbagger refers to roving financial opportunists, often of middle-class means, that spot opportunities for personal enhancement and financial gain to which they would not normally be entitled had they been working in England. And of course, they are adherents to the doctrines of the extreme political Right, free markets, less tax and government, (meaning less democracy) and global capitalism.

Professor Adam Tomkins

Professor Adam Tomkins is one such recruit to the cause of self-enhancement. Whenever I hear his name spoken I think of the spotty oik at the back of the class skulking during the morning’s reading of the register. “Tomkins, Tomkins! Playing pocket billiards again? Hands on the desk, face the front!”

Tomkins is a good example of the breed. He was born in London, has a degree from a second-class university, East Anglia, was once a renegade socialist republican. In fact, together with illustrator and author Alasdair Gray, he published a pamphlet so socialist in ideals and independence for Scotland it was practically written in blood.

Tomkins  is now a staunch member of the Tory Party in Scotland, and also manages to love the Royal family. His valued colleagues are members of Northern Ireland’s odious DUP party with whom he has cosy chats about ways to block Scotland’s progress.

Like any man on the political make he detests nationalism that is not English nationalism, the side he perceives where his bread is most buttered. He feels Scotland needs to be taught a lesson in humility, and when it comes to humility he thinks himself the best person to teach it. He might well have a Ph.D. in Supreme Arrogance from the University of Orange.

His most notorious assignment, or perhaps assignation, was as a member of the Smith Commission, the one cobbled together to honour the infamous  pledge called ‘The Vow’. The outcome is best described as a sly attempt to destabilise an elected administration in order to stabilise it under a Westminster administration. How did a man who hates Scotland so much that he is prepared to harm the rights and happiness of its citizens get onto a committee established to enrich Scotland?

Teaching constitutional law at Glasgow University at the rise of Scotland’s confidence gave Tomkins a taste for the limelight. (Have we nobody in Scotland qualified to teach constitutional law but him?) Journalists are apt to introduce him as an ‘expert’ without caring about accuracy. Name tags aye impress them.

In good carpetbagger form he stood for the Scottish Parliament. Voters rejected him outright, but by the cockamamie rules of the system he got an also-ran place in Holyrood. As presenters of BBC’s Bargain Hunt say, “There’s no losers only runners up”.

From that moment onwards Tomkins has indulged in a series of mendacious attacks on Scotland’s sovereignty – on parliamentary record if readers care to take the time – and gotten involved in the DUP Northern Ireland-led campaign to block all future attempts at regaining self-governance. Were I to sum up my observations of his utterances and his behaviour it would be brief – a boorish liar. He seems a man motivated by a grudge.

Don’t take my opinion of him as correct, judge for yourself, then tell me you found copious praise from him for Scottish values and life.


Sir Timothy Clifford, the carpetbagger’s carpetbagger

Sir Timothy Clifford

Scotland’s most recent derided carpetbagger was the excessively flamboyant Sir Timothy Peter Plint Clifford. Plint always sounds like a posh Englishman buying milk, “I wish to make a purchase of ay half-plint, please, thenk you”.

Clifford arrived as many English do by a series of small-time posts, most likely supported by over-ripe references to have him removed to another place: assistant keeper to Manchester’s Art Gallery, assistant keeper of drawings at London’s British Museum, and then the big jump to director of our National Gallery, there free to create as much mayhem as his heart desired, which he duly did.

Known as Sir Timothy, and for his frequent verbal howlers ‘that buffoon’, he set about alienating Scotland’s art world with a fervour born of a man on an evangelical mission.

The first thing he did was to stuff all gallery staff into tartan trews, much to their embarrassment, parading his knowledge of Scottish culture that began and stopped in the 19th century. Next, he turned the National Gallery on the Mound into a shrine for the excesses of Augustus Pugin’s Victorian gothic. Walls were clad in heavy-duty intense red flock wallpaper, ornate Victorian and Italian furniture placed everywhere, and a plethora of gilded paintings strewn about walls from floor to ceiling where you could not see detail. For Clifford, the future of art lay in the Englishman’s colonial past.

The Telegraph said of Clifford: “An omnivorous collector, he drew little distinction between the fine and decorative arts, being blind to the hierarchies that assign to painting and sculpture more prestige than drawings, furniture or prints. Though he started late, Clifford gradually turned the National Gallery of Scotland into an encyclopedic museum, a mini-V&A or Ashmolean.

Terrific. That’s exactly what Scotland’s National Gallery needed to become, a mini-V&A, an ersatz copy. Clifford reduced himself to an interior decorator given a large budget, spending the lot on meaningless artefacts. His one and only reasonable purchase, the ‘Three Muses’, is shared with the V&A in London.

On his retirement the Telegraph, always keen to insult Scotland by patronising it stupid, ran a page of puffery entitled, “The Man Who Put Scotland on the Map“. (The Scotsman, the Torygraph’s cousin in Scotland, followed suit.) Clifford’s successor, John Leighton, is a much more low-key chap, educated in Edinburgh in fine art. Never slow to be condescending the Torygraph said, “Once again Edinburgh has picked the right man”. The collective groans of derision rose higher than Clifford’s self-esteem, which is to say, above and beyond the pinnacle of the Scott Monument.

Sadly, the great elevation, the top London post Clifford had set has heart on securing, head of the V&A in London, “the only job I ever wanted” never materialised. He drifted off into relative obscurity. Life as a carpetbagger doesn’t guarantee career success.


Colin Fox SSP – a political spoiler in the making

Colin Fox

If the definition of a carpetbagger is someone or some group seeing a vacuum, a gap in the market, somebody who goes out of their way for personal profit at the expense of others, then the raggle-taggle political party RISE must fit that category.

RISE calls itself an alliance of the Scottish Socialists, Radical Independence, the Scottish Left Project and other groups, each planning to fight elections as part of an anti-austerity coalition similar to Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. There’s ambition for you.

RISE stands for Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism, as if somehow the SNP does not already represent all those aspirations.

RISE is a Johnny-come-lately hotchpotch of egos, a potpourri of like minds but with different political goals, surely a disaster in the making. It is a prime example of how Scots get onto a winning streak and, no sooner the summit is in sight, split into arguing factions and fail to conquer the peak altogether.

Fox said: “RISE is an important ingredient in maximizing the strength of the ongoing independence movement. The independence movement does not belong to the SNP. It is not Nicola’s plaything. Supporting Scotland’s democratic right to self-determination does not make you a Scottish nationalist, it makes you a democrat.

“Nicola’s play thing’ – there’s socialist generosity for you. Sturgeon has devoted her life to Scotland’s democracy. The Better Together mob are surely smirking at the sight of their nefarious goals carried on by their RISE opponents.

According to RISE the working class – most of Glasgow and Dundee who voted for independence – is somehow mistaken in allegiance. Fox is here to put them right.

Like Ian Rankin’s Rebus murder set in the Scottish Parliament less than one year after it opened, the pop-up shop appearance of RISE was far too early, pal.


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17 Responses to Scotland’s Carpetbaggers

  1. More International Socialism. More over There, than over Here. They’re taking the RISE out of the Scottish People.

  2. While I would like to see a credible opposition to the SNP once pro-independence parties dominate Holyrood, I’m not convinced by RISE for that simple reason that there will always be squabbling on the far left and right.

    On the right it’s always about who is the Alpha dog; on the left it’s always about whose vision is the most puritanically correct.

    This is not the right moment for another People’s Front of Judea…

  3. Grouse Beater says:

    I agree. Why not join the SNP and argue for more radical policies than currently envisaged?

  4. diabloandco says:

    Love that last sentence very particularly! ( I may use it with or without your permission!)

  5. 100,000 members cannot fail to have an influence on party policy. I’m very much looking forward to the next vote on NATO membership…

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    That makes two of us.

  7. Grouse Beater says:

    You’re welcome.

  8. davy1600 says:

    Yep, the idea we need another leftwing political party before we achieve independence is just self defeating. We need to keep our collective eye on the ball (independence) and put that before all other views and opinions.

    As for carpetbaggers they can be sorted out with independence once and for all, its the “tractors & quizmasters” that get up my goat, luckly their easily spotted. Just check out the new members of the ‘legal benefit scroungers posse’, otherwise known as the House of Lords, though their is the odd stray fluttering about preening themselfs with a knighthood.

    Its amazing what you can get with a little of your fellow countryman backstabbing.

  9. Grouse Beater says:

    Traitors and quislings are acceptable here, just not liked. 🙂

  10. donald says:

    Or the Judean people’s popular front . What Scottish independence needs is the People showing up with plenty of front ,casting aside the ‘Elected’ and re taking possession of Holyrood.
    A public gallery with teeth , not a closed shop for political betrayal’s.
    Its so true what you say about right and left Maxstaff , made me laugh .
    Its amazing how quickly the left and right close ranks though when honest men and women show up to question their legitimacy. They get accused of counter revolution, terrorism , etc.
    Culture ,authentic culture , is raw and real and honest. Politicians fear it so they pay lip service to its counterfeit. Then look for photo ops with celebrity cache . Which makes about as much sense as putting your arm around a Hooker and stating for the record that “we are very happy together and in a committed relationship , as you can plainly see”. True in a sense but hardly credible. And a great disservice to Honest Prostitutes.

    Politics steals freedom. Its like signing a mortgage . They make you mark the box in the voting booth with an X not a signature because then legally you have declared your self illiterate by doing so and thus not capable of self representation ! Clever eh ? Whenever you are persuaded to sign/mark in a box you are legally defining yourself as dead cargo.
    X from the latin exeunt , meaning absenting from , or of no living consequence. A vertical cross means place of meeting . An X means crossed off , not applicable , non sovereign . That’s why they foisted a diagonal cross on the flag of Scotland , to nullify its Pictish ancestry and replace it with Christian puritanism.

    What has St Andrew ever done for Scotland ? Really ? Apart from the enslaving ,the clearances and treacherous lairds .

  11. macart763M says:

    There’s a famous quote by the great Groucho Marx which comes to mind every time I hear the name Tomkins: ‘these are my principles and if you don’t like them… well, I have others’.

  12. Grouse Beater says:

    Behind the clown mask Groucho was genuinely iconoclastic when it came to hypocrisy.

  13. macart763 says:

    Well, if he didn’t have politicians or the political class in mind when making that particular quote… 😀

  14. hektorsmum says:

    Cannot argue with any of your statements. I am by definition a socialist but one who has problems with all of the parties who say they practise. I once said that if Ian Brotherhood was in charge of the Scottish Socialists I may have considered but I cannot stomach Colin Fox at all. As for the rest, well all of my life the bosses were mostly English, I thought that was the natural way for a bit, well into my early twenties then I got angry.

    Look at the army, unless you have a posh English accent you will get nowhere, well unless it is a sensible regiment like the Engineers.

    Had enough of the plummy accents having just retuned from a River Cruise, one particular gent, I use the word loosely said that after making the mistake of asking him which tea he chose after saying he was debating, that he had chosen one I would not have, English Breakfast, I lifted an eyebrow and said I seldom drink tea, only to be more or less accused of being too lazy to get out of bed. God they are all up themselves, but they found they were finally in the minority this particular cruise had many Scots onboard.

    Adam Tomkins along with that disgusting woman Stephenson and many many others lead me to believe that Higher Education may have been used to complete their primary school one.

    Loved this particular blog GB, you are as succinct as the Wee Ginger Dug.

  15. Grouse Beater says:

    Fascinating how these people see an opportunity for self-promotion by spouting the contrarian line; what I can best describe as doing a Malcolm Muggeridge – that is, whatever has become acceptable or fashionable, condemn it.

    That’s how you get television interviews and invited to speak at dinners. Overnight you are a media personality, ‘Scotland’s most respect’ whatever.

  16. Dointhebiz 1 says:

    “To all carpetbaggers – Get a life! Don’t steal ours!”

    As no particular fan of Robbie Williams, I did appreciate his comment to one of his tribute band followers when he said: “That’s the stuff, live someone else’s dream”.

    Excellent blog (as ever) Grouse.

  17. Grouse Beater says:

    Thank you, Dointhbiz. 🙂

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