We do not have long to save Scotland.
Anybody who thinks we can wait till the “the time is right” should pause and have look at some fairly recent disasters befalling those who espoused this doctrine. The “right time” can be a very sudden event but usually only arrives because you’ve worked at it. So it’s very important that we do things right from now . Choosing what battles to fight is the most important part of this - as we are being britified every day in all our media - before Scotland actually does become “too wee”.
When Scotland entered union with England in1707 its population was just over 20% of its bigger southern neighbour.
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By the late eighteenth century it is estimated to have reached nearly 25% of England’s population, suggesting some economic benefits from the union. By the time however of my grandfather’s birth in 1878 it had dropped back again to less than 20% and by the time of my father came along in 1910 it stood at 14% suggesting that any union economic benefits had long dissipated. I was born in 1942 into a Scotland whose population was around 11% of England’s.
We now sit at less than 9%..
I record these facts because they are irrefutable..
They indicate very clearly that whoever is profiting from the British union it is not Scotland.
Fashioning your arguments around irrefutable facts is pretty useful tactic if you want to win.
History teaches us that battles are usually won by those who carefully choose where to fight. For some time now however we have been fighting our battles on ground chosen by our enemies.
I believe we did not win the referendum mainly because a significant proportion of our population are not persuaded that we are economically self supporting.
I will repeat that.
We did not win the referendum because a significant proportion of our population are not persuaded that we are economically self supporting.
That is all.
The whole Better Together campaign was rooted on this. We couldn’t pay pensions, we couldn’t provide Motability support, we couldn’t provide a defence force, what would we do without a share of the pound (which they would refuse us) and on and on and on.
And while we vigorously painted a better society and a better country as part of a constructive, positive and in many ways inspirational campaign (which has thankfully survived and changed the face of our politics) too many of our less well informed people still suspected that maybe our proposal was pie in the sky wishful thinking.
For the whole two years of the referendum campaign (and for many years before it) we were deluged by a legion of experts, prestigious “independent” financial bodies and think tanks, government reports with mind numbing figures, black holes, fiscal deficits presented as debts, and all of this hardly accessible in terms of even the slightest understanding by most of our people and all of it in that circumstance merely consolidating an impression, to many, of a Scotland reliant of UK largesse to provide the everyday services expected of a modern society.
A willing and eager media headlined this in terms appropriate to the level of absorption of its client readership and reported any dissent to this in small letters in small columns on page 8.
We were effectively engaged in a battle with the odds stacked against us on a battlefield chosen by our enemies. It was almost impossible to win – but we nearly did!
That we nearly did win was a testament to our determination and the strength of our case.
I despair of those among us who wail away about what we did wrong. We did little wrong. We just didn’t factor in fully how totally unscrupulous our enemy was and how dishonest and complicit our “Scottish” media would be against us.
However, very often by even engaging in argument in our opponent’s chosen battle, we were also providing the oxygen that allowed those distortions used against us to be repeated and repeated and repeated. This has to be understood. I see indications that it has .
An orderly retreat from an unsuitable battlefield is perfectly sensible - and what a wise army does. And then chooses to re-engage on its own terms on a more suitable battleground.
I do understand fully that our opponents hold a considerable advantage in choosing where they want to engage with us. They have a huge media army to choose the battlefield and to do the fighting for them.
But not much else.
But yet again we are being drawn into engaging in interminable disputes over complicated economic figures thrown at us by our enemies which are beyond the interest of the average voter and indeed beyond the understanding of many of them. The fact that these are selective, dishonest, distorted and not uncommonly untrue is unimportant.
They are also figures produced out of a Scotland trapped in a bust UK. They have no significant relevance to the economic landscape that an independent Scotland would be operating in. But the press carries it all and carries very little in the way of rebuttals. If we are lucky we get the last paragraph on page 8 on a headline article that sets off against us on the front page.
Of course we have to supply the comment, the rebuttal. But we shouldn’t bother wasting too much time or effort on contesting debateable detail. Our efforts will not be allowed to register.
We have much more productive uses for our resources and our time.
But, first of all, let us have a look at our position now and how we got to it .
There have been very substantial changes to the battle over the past few years and it is worth understanding what these mean.
There has of course been some sentiment for independence in Scotland ever since the union was effected - against the popular will - in 1706/1707. This has varied widely in strength and popular support. There also has always been very significant British sentiment. Both positions are entirely legitimate. But the circumstances have changed greatly at various points.
Strategically the union was very important to England. Among other things it closed the back door to the French. And there is no doubt that some of the most enthusiastic Brits in the eighteenth century were Scottish. Access revived to the English market and the huge success of the British Empire and the massive part the educated Scots played in building and administering right through the 19th century it were sources of huge Scottish pride. The Scots were giving more to the union than anybody else.
This conceit that Scotland, though smaller than England, was giving more and because of that was an equal partner in an Empire that dominated the world was the bedrock of the union.
World wars fought together did little to dent this attitude.
In short when many of us joined the SNP in the fifties and sixties everybody was proud to be a Scot. We were brave. We were clever. We were ambitious. We were faithful. We were industrious and wealthy.
And we were equal partners in a successful union.
Had you suggested that Scotland was reliant on English handout you might have been punched. This pride and confidence in Scotland however had different meaning to different people.
(a) For many, pride in Scotland’s contribution to a British union of equals was - and remains to this day – a defining sentiment.
(b) To others national self respect has always meant that that all the great strengths of Scotland and the Scots could just as sensibly be used to our own benefit in running our own country to our own values.
(c) In the past some could see clearly through the glow of the Empire to families huddled eight to a room labouring to provide the elites with their wealth and they saw a better society possible. Many among saw this possible mainly in an independent Scotland. This last is certainly a rapidly growing perception again today.
What happened of course is that as circumstances changed so did perceptions. And so did the behaviour of the Westminster rulers. The huge “British” sentiment, engendered by a shared experience in the massively successful Empire and the shared sacrifice in World Wars started to fade, particularly with the new generations as the Empire disappeared and the wars receded into history. Scottish national sentiment grew, slowly. Then came the discovery of oil. As Gavin McCrone reported to the UK government any hesitation about Scotland’s ability to go it alone was abolished by Scotland’s oil. And the SNP, having nearly won the Pollok by election, had won Hamilton the following year in 1967 (before Oil) and was taking deep and permanent roots.
London’s attitude to Scotland changed. From smothering Scots in praise about their abilities and their contribution to the Union the bonanza of Scotland’s oil, as well as underlining Scotland’s viability, provided on the other hand the biggest reason to a less wealthy post-empire UK to fight strongly to hold onto it and hold onto Scotland.( Some of us said so at the time and were wary of the “It’s Scotland’s Oil” campaign which implied oil as the major basis of our case for Independence.) So the McCrone report was hidden. And a campaign (which continues to this day) to persuade the Scots that they were too poor to stand alone was commenced.
And let me be perfectly plain. I am annoyed but hardly surprised that the London establishment buried the McCrone Report. But that’s politics. I despise however all the hoardes of Scottish Ministers and MPS of all parties (except the SNP) who colluded in that deceit and who betrayed the people they were elected to represent and who still are among us. And here we are in 2017.
The Empire is no more. We are not in an equal union. There is precious little to be proud of in Britain.
And (b) and (c) above are in conjunction.
So in the light of the present political landscape let us have a look at the battles we face and how we choose which ones to engage in – and, just as importantly, which ones we avoid.
This is where the irrefutable facts can become weapons.
This is where we choose carefully.
But firstly – the armies.
The unionists. A huge army, mostly of mercenaries who are fighting for vested interest. Their weaponry is their vast control of the traditional media and particularly our public service broadcaster. Their major tactics are bluff, bluster and threats to scare the gullible. They lie and they deceive. They control the books and the accounts and can present any form of them their media control allows. Their campaigns are aimed unerringly at the ill informed.
The nationalists. A much smaller army - but with much better troops. They have an admirable cause. National self respect and community concern drives them. Self interest or vested interest is not their motivation. They undoubtedly have the best soldiers but aren’t able to always chose the battles they would like to fight.
It is obvious that the Unionists have a huge advantage over the Nationalists if the battle is joined on the Unionist chosen ground of economic figures provided by Unionist sources. The validity of these figures is less important than the Unionists’ ability to have them promoted without question or examination across the popular media. As a critical understanding of what are very often complicated figures is not within in easy reach of most voters there is little point of nationalists getting tied up in disputing them. The more we argue them in fact the more they get repeated - with very limited response allowed.
Our time can be better spent. More particularly as it becomes more and more obvious that they don’t understand Scotland.
And of course all the unionists figures against Scotland proceed on an entirely false premise. They are figures drawn from a Scottish economy trapped in an almost bust UK economy. They assume huge Scottish share on “national” expenditure. And they assume we will run Scotland the same way. But why ever would we want independence if this was to be the case? But first let us look at some of the little skirmishes that can divert us and which we should be very wary of.
Independence is a means to an end. Yes. But only to an extent. But be aware of the false promises some folk assume this offers.
Many are confident that an independent Scotland will be more Green or more socialist or republican. These are popular positions but independence doesn’t promise a green Scotland and it doesn’t promise a socialist or a republican Scotland.
The only “end” that independence promises is a simple one - Scotland governed by the Scots and by governments elected to do what the people of Scotland want.
The currency issue. I don’t believe the currency issue had much to do with how people voted. I think our enemies are feeding us a post referendum line here encouraging to get involved again in a tiresome argument which distracts us from addressing more constructive things. In my opinion it only reinforced the fears of those who already believed we are in subsidy to the UK.
We allowed ourselves to get tied up for weeks on an argument chosen by our enemies when we should have been painting the picture of the better country that independence promised. Our momentum in the final stages of a campaign that we were steadily winning was lost. That was all the currency argument did in my opinion.
And whichever option was chosen on the currency would have been subjected to continuous assault. That is a fact. But by choosing one option we gave them the opportunity to say “No”
It is easy to be wise after the event but what we should have done was just present a range of currency options and gone on with our progressive campaign.
The damage that was done to us on the currency issue was not the issue itself but the distraction. We should be careful not to fall into a similar trap again.
In or out the EU. The notion that the expansionist EU would throw out or not allow membership to the country with most of Europe’s fishing grounds, most of Europe’s oil reserves and a strategic command of the North Atlantic is of course absurd. But we got diverted again into a sterile argument on this. Brexit has of course turned this issue into a political carnival.
The monarchy. Similarly. But a matter of little consequence. Who cares? The people of an independent Scotland will determine the fate of the monarchy at some time in the future.
Then there’s Federalism. The latest, current and probably last red herring being drawn across the field. Federalism is a nonsense in the UK context unless Scotland is reduced to the status of an English region or county. And we still get Trident and illegal wars with it as we would with any form of Devo whatever.
(* Confederalism (already independent entities freely sharing powers and responsibilities on matters of mutual interest ) is an interesting suggestion well worth consideration however. There could be huge benefits in expanding on this concept. To be debated. A confederal British Union? Joining the Nordic Union? Now there’s an argument that carries folk over into a post independence debate.) And that’s the point.
The new country we can build – and what would YOU like it to be like? That is the debate we want our people to be engaged in.
So here’s what we do. We strip away all the silly arguments about a Scottish economy based on a Scotland trapped in UK and written by our enemies and take the battle to our own chosen battlefield.
First thing we do is establish a compelling comparison.
So on one side we have a large country, steadily becoming more underpowered and short of water, over populated and overcrowded in a significant part of it, with a diminished and a still diminishing manufacturing base (and most of that owned elsewhere), very limited natural resources, hugely reliant on the importation of food and many other essentials with a mercantile class seriously overpaid and with an economy overly dependent on banking in money markets which are in continual crisis as its general population faces increasing impoverishment in end of empire pains which were never recognised or dealt with. It has an almost unsustainable national debt. Watch this space. Under present political direction and control the only way it is going is down.
On the other side there is a small country. It is lightly populated and perfectly capable of feeding itself should it set its mind to it. It has vast natural resources, voluminous good water, produces a surplus in power, has a long history of innovation and invention, some of the world’s best universities and more of its population beneficiaries of tertiary education than any other country the world. It has per capita a higher level of manufacturing than the big country and a much higher level of exports. It is not a country that is inordinately impressed or deferential to privilege and everybody is well in reach if they get just a bit above themselves. It has almost limitless scope for expansion.
All things being equal I know which one I’d put my money into.
I know which country is economically self supporting. And I know exactly why the big one is hanging on to the small one - and it is not to subsidise it. But sadly under present constitutional arrangements the small one could well go down with the big one.
But the comparison above provides us with our battle ground. It is the one battle ground they don’t want to be on. The one battleground they can’t beat us on. They can only engage seriously in that debate by insulting us - by proposing that we are too poor or too stupid to manage ourselves - and we can prove that we are neither.
But not, I repeat, by arguing about figures produced out of a Scotland trapped in a bust UK.
When somebody says “pensions?” I reply that our first ambition will be to make them as good as those in Ireland. That usually rocks them back.
When they say “defence?” I point out that Norway has over forty armed ships in its waters, all built in Norwegian yards and Denmark has similar and Ireland has a fully integrated defence force of over 12,000 while paying about a third of what we are charged by Westminster for no ships and virtually no soldiers.
When they talk about “incomes” I talk about Scandinavian levels of wages. And then Scandinavian levels of social provision provided out of high wage economies .
When they talk about GNP and GDP I refer them to the tables showing small countries in all the top positions and Scotland invariably higher than the UK in them.
When they talk about agriculture and food production I refer them to New Zealand and ask them do they think our farmers are any less able.
I could go on and on. But the point is I do not engage in any debate about figures produced by our enemies out of a Scotland trapped in the sinking UK except to say “So you thing 309 years of a union has rendered us an economic basket case, a beggar state, and you think we should just opt to go along for more of this?” If they agree to go along with that there is no point in engaging with them. We can’t get them. And we don’t need them.
We can get enough of the people to vote for Independence if we can show them vividly by using viable comparisons of a progressive future and engage them in debating a vision of what we can do when we are free. That the battleground we must chose. And as soon as possible.