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My thoughts on the Referendum (2)

I was at secondary school when I really became aware of the SNP. Margo McDonald made big news by winning the Govan by-election in 1973. Both Winnie Ewing and Donald Stewart had previously won Scottish seats but the winning of a Glasgow parliamentary seat in Labour’s heartland made big news. The fact that the winner was a young working class woman whom the media quickly dubbed ‘The Blonde Bombshell’ was important too. There were two general elections in 1974. In the first the SNP secured 7 seats and in the second 11.

It was clear that a seismic change had taken place in Scottish politics with the Nationalists winning over 30% of the vote in the October 1974 election. There seemed little ideology behind the new political force. Labour called them ‘Tartan Tories’ and the Conservatives portrayed them as Scotch Socialists but really neither was true. Their romantic view of Scotland centred on an annual rally at Bannockburn. This was a party of tartan, haggis, whisky……and oil. It was no coincidence that their new popularity was born on the back of the discovery of the black stuff in the North Sea.

Their message seemed to be striking a chord throughout Scotland, except for in the vital central belt where the traditional Labour vote was holding up well. However the SNP continued to do well in local elections during the 70s.In 1979, the SNP Parliamentary Group voted against the Labour Government in a Vote of No Confidence, causing the dissolution of the government and subsequent election. The then Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan famously described this decision by the SNP as that of “turkeys voting for Christmas”. After the 1979 general election, the SNP had only two seats, representing a net loss of nine seats. Margaret Thatcher became the UK’s Prime Minister.

Although this did at first seem a disaster for the SNP, subsequent events would see Thatcher preside over the annihilation of the Conservative party in Scotland and establish the SNP as Scotland’s second party.

Despite the SNP’s losses at the general election, the 1979 referendum produced a 51.6% vote in favour of the setting up of a Scottish ‘assembly’ to allow devolution within the United Kingdom. However, due to a clause in the Scotland Act, the assembly never came to fruition. The clause stated that 40% of the total electorate would require to vote in favour. This was never a realistic prospect as the 51.6% represented 32.9% of the total. The issue of devolution was temporarily kicked into the long grass whilst the complete dismantling of manufacturing industry took place in Scotland in the 1980s

The Chrysler factory at Linwood, British Steel’s Ravenscraig works, Invergordon’s aluminium smelter, the coal mines,  British Leyland’s truck plant at Bathgate and others were allowed to fall to the free market politics of the government. The only intervention seemed to be to hasten the death of these industries rather than to prevent or defer them.

As part of their free market ideological fervour, the Thatcher government seemed hell bent on privatisation of everything that wasn’t nailed down. British institutions, which I had grown up with and took for granted were national assets, were sold off to institutional and private investors. British Petroleum, British Telecom, British Rail, British Steel, British Coal and British Gas were sold off. It seemed to me that Britain was being carved up and sold off and not even to the highest bidder -it was being sold cheaply. Former Conservative Prime Minister Harold McMillan accused the Thatcher government of selling off the family silver – probably his second most famous quote next to ‘You’ve never had it so good’.

Another thing being sold cheaply was the UK’s council housing stock. The Conservative plan to have people who had never before owned shares or heritable property, converted to their cause seemed to be working just fine and dandy – at least for those who could afford it.

Meanwhile the SNP was being riven by political division. The ’79 group, a left leaning faction within the party which included a young banker called Alex Salmond, were expelled from the party.

Despite the downright hostility that was fermenting towards the Tories in Scotland, the 80s was a bleak time for the SNP. Labour argued that the only way to get rid of the Tories was to vote Labour. With no devolution, this seemed a logical argument. The SNP was caught up in an internal battle on whether to return to their 1970s single issue stance or whether to progress as a left of centre party. The decision of Jim Sillars to dissolve his Scottish Labour Party and join the SNP was a vital factor in the political direction of the party, as was the defection of Labour’s Dick Douglas to the Nats.

Sillars won a sensational victory at the Govan by-election in 1988. In 1990, against expectations and two years later former ’79 group member Alex Salmond scored a election victory over Margaret Ewing to become party leader.

The 1992 General Election had promised much for the SNP. It proved to be mixed in fortunes. The SNP held three seats they had won in 1987, but lost Govan. They also lost Dunfermline West, but this was not helped by the sitting MP Dick Douglas deciding to stand against Labour MP Donald Dewar in his Glasgow seat instead of defending the seat he had represented for years.

The SNP had failed to make headway in terms of winning seats. However, their campaign proved a success in terms of votes won, with the SNP vote going up by 50% from their 1987 performance. It proved too much to bear for Sillars though, and he quit active politics, famously describing the Scots as ’90 minute patriots’. It also signaled the breakdown of the political relationship between Sillars and Salmond.

The intervening years between the 1992 and 1997 general elections were marked by some SNP electoral success. In the 1994 elections for the European Parliament the party managed to secure over 30% of the popular vote and return two MEPs (Winnie Ewing and Allan MacCartney). The SNP also came very close to winning the Monklands East by-election of that year, caused by the death of the leader of the Labour Party, John Smith. In 1995 they went one better, when the Perth and Kinross by-election was won by Roseanna Cunningham who later became the party’s deputy leader.

The 1997 General Election saw the SNP double their number of MPs from three to six. More importantly it brought the Labour party to power in the UK. They promised in their manifesto to hold a referendum in Scotland with a view to setting up a Scottish Parliament.

Next – “Devolution will kill Nationalism stone dead” and “Do you bloody well think so?”


A Black Country?

I see the wide eyed loonies are at it again…..


When I say wide eyed loonies, I’m talking about the party who is leading the polls in England for the Euro elections.

Maybe Mr Henwood in saying that Lenny Henry should go and live in a black country is just saying that he should go back to where he came from -where he was born.

That is Dudley in the West Midlands. The heart of the area known as the Black Country

Yeo must be joking

Tim Yeo, chairman of the energy committee is a Conservative MP.

He entered parliament in 1983, and whilst surviving various controversies about ‘love children’ (2 of them) and expenses, has been there ever since.

Despite an apparent conflict of interest with his energy committee position, Yeo picks up £140,000 a year from green energy firms to promote their growth. He seems quite happy that the public should foot the bill to maintain his earner.

He is such an advocate of green energy that it came as quite a surprise when he vigorously opposed the erection of turbines at Chedfield. As he had previously advocated the building of wind farms in every available square metre of land this was surely a curious departure? Until you consider that Chedfield is in Mr Yeo’s constituency and near where he lives

I’m not sure what part Mr Yeo took in the privatisation of the electricity companies in 1988 under Margaret Thatcher and then energy secretary Cecil Parkinson, but it was surely in the role of enthusiastic supporter of his party’s policy of wishing to sell off every government owned asset that wasn’t nailed down. Former Tory PM Harold McMillan referred to the process as ‘Selling off the family silver’.

Yesterday Mr Yeo, in his role of committee chairman summoned up every ounce of mock indignation he could muster to berate power company bosses. These are people who would not be in their positions had privatisation not taken place.

“You are putting profit before customer!” he boomed, pausing only to check his angle with the TV cameras.

Now correct me if I’m wrong. Wasn’t that the whole point of privatising power companies in the first place?


A Page Turner?

My friends are, I would say, a fairly representative mix of Yes, No and Don’t Knows in the forthcoming Scottish Independence Referendum. I’m in the don’t know camp with head and heart playing tug o’ war with the issue. The thing is that no matter what your view or voting intentions, you probably know in which respective directions the brain and the blood pump are pulling.

Yesterday’s White Paper brought the impending Referendum into sharp focus in the kind of way that you realise that it’s only four weeks till Christmas. And there was Eck in the role of Santa Claus yesterday promising all sorts of bounty to everyone……but only if you’re good and vote the right way.

The White Paper (although at this stage I have to admit that I haven’t read it) seems to be a hybrid between a blueprint for independence and subsequent SNP manifesto for 2016 in an independent Scotland.

And what is in this Whizzer and Chips of a document?

Well I’m not going to spoil it all for you, because dear reader if you are in Scotland you will not be able to escape people debating its content at great length over the net ten and a half months.

However the bars/hurdles have been set high.

The disappearance of Trident from Scotland in the first term? I’d have thought that logistically impossible apart from anything.

We’ll be part of a Sterling zone says the White Paper. Oh no you won’t say all the UK political parties. The EU are biding their time on this but expect them to throw a cat amongst the doos on that soon. They will point out that regardless of any negotiations and politics, the legal position is that Scotland will be a new member and must commit to the Deutsch mark Euro. This would leave Scotland with a different currency from its largest trading partner (by some way) i.e. the UK.

Like the UK political establishment, they are implacably opposed to Scottish independence and will do all they can to prevent it. One feels too that countries facing their own separatist issues such as Spain and Belgium would continue to throw any spanner they could into the works to ensure that an independent Scotland would not be seen to be a success.

The most convincing case for me to vote Yes is the notion of dispensing with a parliament. The converse of that thinking led me to vote No in the devolution referendum (although admittedly I regret that now). There was one parliament when I was growing up and that always seemed a sufficiency of the bloody things. Now we have Edinburgh, Westminster and Strasbourg and as well as these being listed in terms of proximity, I’d also say that this is also their relevance as seen by many Scots (even if an objective view might challenge that with 80% of our law emanating from Strasbourg ). All politics is local politics they say.

Another reason to vote Yes is the fact that the SNP, from the sidelines at least, seem to be the most cohesive political unit of the major parties by some way and not only in a purely Scottish context. You could throw in all the UK parties into the mix there too. In Alex Salmond I think it’s hard to argue against the fact that he’s the most effective leader of those parties.

Never mind the hapless windae hinger Johan Lamont or Ruth (Miss Jean Brodie) Davidson, Eck knocks Cameron, Clegg and Miliband into a cocked hat


Yesterday I was struck by the almost euphoric response on the broadcast media from those Yes supporting commentators. On Radio Scotland, Irish academic Owen Dudley Edwards compared the White Paper to the Declaration of Arbroath and the American Declaration of Independence.

My blog friend Kate Higgins is always an enthusiastic advocate of independence. Much as I enjoy Kate’s optimistic and positive take on issues, I thought that yesterday on Radio Scotland she sounded like a combination of Pollyanna and Dr Pangloss as she gushed about the brochure as if the Referendum was now a formality.

The last time I can remember such optimism in a Scottish sense was in the run up to the World Cup in 1978……..

But then there’s Doctor No, aka Alistair Darling, the chancellor who presided over complete collapse of the banking system in 2008 and now lectures us on financial probity. He has previous form on not being able to predict how many days will be in the following year. Al was in high dudgeon yesterday attempting to rubbish the whole idea of independence. To be fair this is his remit but if yesterday confirmed anything it was that ‘Better Together’ have the wrong guy in charge.

I wrote here about Darling’s blink rate but I see the video in that article has been deleted.

I know that the usual indication of a politician lying is that their lips move, but from the article above:

Here is a link to an aricle by Linda Prestonseven signs you are being lied to

“BLINKING. A person who is lying will blink a lot,as blinking seems to correlate to the amount of mental stress we are under. In a normal conversation where a person is attuned to you, he will blink at roughly the same rate as you, often at moments when you pause in your speech. Be wary of someone who is blinking frantically as they speak with you.”

Here’s Alistair…

Mystery Man

I notice that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have both been in high dudgeon about the “Crystal Methodist” aka former head of the Co-op bank, Paul Flowers.

What did Ed Miliband know about his nefarious substance abuse? How could an organisation such as the Co-op bank, closely associated with the Labour Party have appointed someone with such lack of judgement that he was filmed buying drugs? Did he know about Mr Flowers being a customer of rent boys?

Mr Cameron has deemed him unsuitable to head a bank.


This photo is doing the rounds on t’internet. If it weren’t for the preposterous corkscrew perm, one might think that this was a photo of a politician close to David Cameron. Of course it couldn’t be that man because the chap pictured here is with an escort and there is a white substance on the table which is unlikely to be talcum powder.

If it were anyone associated with the government at all then Messrs Cameron and Clegg would have sorted it all out by highlighting the issue and demanding his resignation.

Unless they were self righteous, hypocritical twerps like Ed Miliband that is….

Post Independence?

The picture is becoming clearer on what Scotland would look like after independence.

We’d have the pound, the monarchy, a shared welfare system, Trident (at least for a while), continuation of the BBC, The Bank of England as a central bank…….

Can anyone tell me what would be different?

Farage Balloon

What a stushie in Edinburgh this week when the bold Nigel found himself at the centre of a small but vocal protest against his visit to Scotland.

He threw the toys out of the pram and then later (see video in the link above) Mr Angry style, slammed the phone down on a BBC Scotland interviewer.

This blog’s opinion on Farage and UKIP has been made clear on several occasions and it isn’t complimentary. However maybe some more light than heat should be shed on him and his party.

For instance their economic and immigration policies are completely bonkers just don’t add up and are very sparse on detail. Perhaps a Paxman/Mair challenge to them would show Mr Farage up as what he is than some boisterous students venting their spleen and Farage benefiting from public sympathy from the exchange.

And also maybe there should be a debate on the issues where Farage and UKIP have a point like the recent EU commissioner for justice who is a convicted fraudster.

Like the backhanders received by unelected slimeballs like Barroso, Prodi and Mandelson. Barroso spent a week on Spiro Latsis’s luxury yacht – a jolly valued at 30,000 euros. Barroso’s predecessor Prodi approved 10 million of Greek state aid to the company owned by Latsis after accepting generous hospitality from the magnate.

Still Greece can afford it.

Mandelson’s love of hospitality from those who can secure influence from him is an article on its own.

These things shouldn’t deflect focus on Farage. He is very good at grandstanding and the Edinburgh exchange will have been right up his street. Where he is not so good is at handling awkward questions as evidenced by the short BBC Scotland interview.

That would seem to be the way to puncture the balloon.