‘Scotland, Right or Left’ is a title paraphrased from a seminal essay by George Orwell, ‘My Country, Right or Left’. It used to be a question Scots answered without hesitating – ‘left’, because we invariably elected Labour politicians to Westminster. When we regained our Parliament all that changed. Labour, Tory, Lib-Dem lost their main seat of power. Naked, we saw them for what they really are, schizophrenic, loyalties divided between two masters, pro-London, their advocacy of Scotland a sham, our democracy a sham too, all the parties were unionist parties.
Is the Scottish National Party left-wing or right-wing?
I think it does not know which it is. It has a left-wing attitude, a disregard for colonial authority and concern for the less fortunate, but a right-wing love of entrepreneurial adventurism. This dichotomy is in the Scottish blood. Those who sought work abroad and became successful became successful in a big way. Andrew Carnegie is a classic example of the breed. I have a cousin who went to New York with his family, a joiner to trade, and within five years built up and owned a major construction company.
Early last century, our politics were rebellious and radical. And yet when the ‘red Clydesiders’, as the 1930s radical socialists were termed, were wooing and winning crowds in Glasgow’s George Square, Scotland voted Conservative. Willie Gallagher, John Maclean, David Kirkwood, etched their name into the national psyche. Life was a simple struggle of worker against boss. The masses had no power, the bosses had it all.
The socialist, the conservative, the Liberal, Uncle Tam McCobbly and all are now in the Scottish National Party. It takes all sorts. The SNP’s birth issued from a clash of right and left ideologies, but as it consolidated its influence it tended to move into the centre ground, both to attract support from all sections of society, and to demonstrate a certain sense of stability.
From the SNP’s earliest days, via its highs and lows down the decades, and even today, those on the left are frequently thrown out for expressing dissent too far, or in Alex Salmond’s case, a party within a party. The SNP has arrived dead centre once again.
A time of hope
When the SNP won their first landslide victory I was overjoyed to see our nation take a giant step toward maturity. Exciting times. It was a pleasure to see Alex Salmond outwit Westminster by altering their derogatory title of ‘Scottish Executive‘ to the confident ‘Scottish Government‘. And he was smart enough to notice Westminster had omitted to reserve renewable energy which he duly grabbed running, and promoted to the benefit of our nation, far and ahead of English environmental policy. He took Scotland into the modern age. We questioned everything, and that alone is left-wing.
What I wanted to see happen next was our government begin a round of Celtic and international meetings with ambassadors and heads of other governments, and again, Salmond did not disappoint. His visit to New York to chivvy up a greater interest in an annual celebration of Scotland, to match American love of Irish culture, got us noticed. The photographs of the parade helped to wipe out the previous image of Labour’s dolt, Union Jack McConnell, posing in a grey pin-striped skirt someone told him was a kilt.
Salmond showed us international politics, what being on a world stage was like; this was the start of a new Scotland, statesman-like, outward looking, making friends of nations we had been denied by Westminster, forever a jealous proxy.
We were vigorous, certain of our destiny. On the right-wing side of things, Salmond had been an executive with a leading bank, the RBS, but was a champion of civil rights. He brought to his role a caring right-wing background when it came to finance, investment and attracting big business to our shores.
The Gradualists take over
Then came Nicola Sturgeon. Knowing her experience of international affairs was limited, I hoped she would follow Salmond’s example, seek out international support for independence, return us to grown up politics that spoke sense without a dozen marbles in its gob. I hoped she would grow into the job of First Minister.
Her trip to Dáil Éireann and her speech to the politicians of the Republic gave another lift to our spirits. I reported on it, something few UK newspapers did. (See Notes.) On socialist principles, Sturgeon has maintained the SNP belief in a welfare state, in free education, in a secular society, and on open immigration, if only Scotland was able to organise immigration, a power retained by London.
Unlike Salmond who busied himself meeting influential people, Sturgeon embarked on a mission to meet the masses. She indulged in thousands of selfies visiting schools, nurseries, hospitals. She became the people’s First Minister.
Sturgeon’s trip to New York was for a celebrity interview on the satirical John Stewart Show, but that was okay. She made her mark. It was like seeing Billy Connolly on the Parkinson Show for the first time, you felt pride in a Scot attain that amount of attention. We did not notice there was something shallow in how she went about her role. We gave her the benefit of the doubt. After all, we were not the British ambassador for so-and-so colony there to cement England’s loyalty to the US. We were our own boss with a mind of our own, or so I thought.
A loss of momentum
From there on events took a downward trajectory. Despite a number of announcements from the SNP that it was embarking upon a radical manifesto, we never seemed quite to achieve that goal. The jolt arrived with incautious pronouncements on international leaders that sounded hellishly like those made by Tory politicians, and worse, allied to American foreign policy. When did the people of Scotland debate foreign policy? A new, free-thinking Scotland was not supposed to be a carbon copy of an old England.
New social policies were waved about with abandon, but soon disintegrated into sloppy thinking, shabby argument and a general messiness of message, football team intolerance, thought crimes, gender equality, and the shrill hunt for Alex Salmond’s scalp, all took their toll on what was once a rock solid administration.
The party admired for its ethics, its discipline and its boundless energy, began to look lost and defensive. Where was Sturgeon taking us?; it is not clear and is still not clear.
The most recent events portray an SNP as creator of its own misery. One day Sturgeon announced she was here to stay, supervising a pandemic her central task, civil and constitutional rights sidelined. The SNP had chosen the line of least resistance, it had become comfortable in its dressing gown and slippers. It began to talk like old Labour, complacent, boasting it was the natural party of Scotland.
Holding onto power
Holders of power will always use their position to gain more power and privileges. Along with that they will defend the status quo, the last thing they want is chaos that might undermine efficiency in the system that provides their livelihood. This was one unspoken but obvious reason for Scottish companies warning they would move to England if Scotland regained it liberty – they feared greater taxation and loss of profits. This is an odd attitude to take because moving lock, stock and barrel to another country is costly, and invariably means loss of loyal customers. The abhorrence of change is also why the SNP lay aside any risk in choosing more than one way to attain independence.
Unlike Westminster, our current parliament is not populated by a monopoly of people who have big business and management experience, ensconced in Holyrood to protect their interests. We have a few lawyers, and some from small businesses, but with the glaring exception of Labour and Tory contemptuous of Scotland’s ambitions, most are good, ordinary folk dedicated to serving Scotland’s interests. However, once Scotland regains the full powers of a nation state, we can expect that to change, and the big boys muscle in to look after Number One.
The SNP were often called ‘tartan Tories’, less so these days, having served up a diet of socialist policies, including protecting the NHS and education as best they can. The phrase ‘tartan Tory’ does its best to suggest the SNP is full of bone idle capitalists and massive share holders, who have the luxury of doing nothing except pay managers to keep an eye on staff, and other specialist staff to keep an eye on the stock exchange.
Big time capitalists today are mere recipients of profits. Those who created Internet companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook, are extra-ordinarily wealthy, way beyond the dreams of Victorians. Their empires are so vast and far-reaching they can undermine the state – imagine a pandemic lock-down without Amazon – but their owners do little more than discuss a company issue or two once a month with a few chosen colleagues. They are extremely powerful, able to alter social trends and habits without actually being elected to govern or ever having championed a political ideal. You will not find one major capitalist in the SNP.
As for the SNP being a left-wing party, or left-leaning, there is, as I have stated, lots of evidence to support that observation. Countless policies now in operation protect the weak and the vulnerable, all of them anti-neo-liberal. In addition, we want to be part of Europe, we feel European.
Marx and Scotland
When I attended an SNP meeting some years back, I was surprised to discover as many ex-communists as socialists in the group. If they wanted to see the destruction of the boss class the subject never arose. Meetings were taken up with post-independence matters, and campaign strategy to win the popular vote.
Of the age of the Internet and drone warfare, Karl Marx – munching his apple and cheese packed lunch in the British Library – had nothing to say. He arrived too early to see the development of the digital age. But the Communist Party still exists. Followers of Marxian theory have given socialism the erroneous image of standing for worker’s rights against the rich, coincidentally, also for manual workers against wealthy white collar workers, that is, people who earn a living by their intellectual skills.
Marx says nothing of small businesses, people who work hard running a corner shop, the local post office, a fish and chippy, or a florist. The self-employed barely existed in his day. You were salaried, a seller of materials, unemployed or a beggar. He glorified manual work as against intellectual work, that is, he disregarded the bourgeoisie’s contribution to an economy. This was a serious theoretical error that has seen a climate in the United Kingdom of small business owners identify with the Tory party for protection, a party determined to wipe out union rights, which it has done, and many freedoms with it.
In Scotland, the Tories crushed the miner’s union and destroyed our great ship building yards and steel works. We voted Labour in retaliation and got much of the same. Anti-union laws were not repealed under the Blair or Brown administrations.
With the connivance of the Lib-Dems, Labour and Tory stole Scotland’s oil. Some will argue it matters not a jot; Marx was right to maintain that the poor are brutally exploited by the rich. He did not think it worthwhile distinguishing one kind of rich person from another, or for that matter, one comfortable member of the middle-class from another. The important thing was to end exploitation and monopolies. So what kind of Scotland does the SNP hope to create? I wish I knew.
SNP and monopolies
At least the SNP is not for exploiting anybody, other than its member’s patience when it comes to attaining self-reliance.
The SNP is a socialist party in many things, definitely not in others. But then, if a new Scotland was to attempt to wipe out or demote entrepreneurs in order to abolish exploitation it might leave workers of all grades worse off than before, unless some sort of acceptable profit-share partnership was carefully devised, acceptable to both sides, where the many could feel they see the right return for a day’s labour.
The power to exploit people depends on the possession of a monopoly. Being the only political party of worth in a nation is a kind of monopoly, but that can alter in a single election. Having a large majority can motivate a party to imposes inhumane policies, such as we see pursued by the Tory party of England.
Those who possess land are few in Scotland, yet they to possess a monopoly of power. Almost all our landowners are right-wing, supporters of an unequal, crooked Union. Landowners live on rent they extract from the use of their land. Landowners write their own terms, leaving just enough for renters to earn a profit from their labour. It can be land that offers up wind farms, oil, gas and minerals.
But the battle to come is a gargantuan one against those who own giant Internet monopolies. Other than send a letter to the leader of the Conservative party asking for leave to leave, so far, the SNP has done nothing to prepare it and us for that battle once the land called Scotland is in Scottish hands.
I argue, the SNP is neither one hundred percent socialist, nor one hundred percent capitalist. Currently, it’s ideologically nowhere. Some might feel that a good thing. But on the issue of removing Scotland from a corrupt and aggressive UK, it seems not to feel it a matter of urgency.
In fact, in the last six years the SNP has done only the minimum to win our liberty and that is unforgiveable. There is no middle ground here. The enemy is at the gates.
Report on Nicola Sturgeon’s official visit to Dublin: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-bwJ
Sturgeon discussing human rights with a UN committee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA4-kIdBQ_U&feature=youtu.be