Siol nan Gaidheal
The Branch Factory Economy

“So long as Scotsmen must go to the English Court to obtain offices of trust or profit in this kingdom, those offices will always be managed with regard to the court and interest of England.

Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1653-1716)

Anyone astute to the political and corporate climate of our country will be only too aware of the increasingly diminishing power which the people of Scotland hold over their country, not only on the issue of land ownership but in the management and control of the multinational corporation and the economic assets of our nation. Three hundred years of rule from England has failed to produce any form of protection for Scottish interests and Scottish ownership, in fact only serving to worsen the situation and to turn our nation into nothing more than a branch-factory economy.

Over the past decade the massive transfer of corporate power and influence out of Scotland has been nothing short of staggering, with many Scots companies being taken over by English and other foreign companies, and being subsequently run by the nationals of these aforesaid nations. The story of the English Managing Director phoning his Scottish subordinate manager demanding to know “what the hell is going on up there” will come as no surprise to the nationally-aware Scot, who realises that the big man at the top, whether he be in London, New York or Frankfurt, is worrying over the national future of a country which he knows and cares nothing about. Their unease and impatience can only make the wee man in Scotland want to hang on to the status quo for dear life – harassed by fluctuating interest rates, worried about his profit margins or the possibility of a recession, besieged by impatient shareholders along with the threat of possible takeovers, and of course the new implications of the Single European Market, he couldn’t care less about national sovereignty at best, and is visciously opposed to it at worst.

According to a study by Glasgow University academics, Ivan Turok and Ranald Richardson, almost 250 independent Scottish companies fell to foreign-owned companies in the money-grabbing ‘80s. Most of these raiders, needless to say, came from London and the south-east of England. Many of Scotland’s greatest and most prominent companies fell into foreign hands – Arthur Bell, the House of Fraser, Anderson Strathclyde, British Caledonian, Loganair, the Distillers Company and Britoil, to name but a few. Research into the number of major Scottish industrial companies has shown that in 1974 they numbered around 150. Twenty years later that number is around 70. One paper by the David Hume Institute calculated that in the space of three years between 1985 and 1987, Scotland lost control of more than twenty per-cent of its listed industrial companies.

Great engineering firms such as Anderson Strathclyde, Barr & Stroud, Carron Phoenix, Thor Ceramics and John Brown Engineering have all lost control of their management to foreigners. Textile companies such as Coats Paton, Dundee Textiles, John Laing of Hawick and J&J Crombie have all fallen to bigger English firms with many paper, board and timber companies going the same way. And what of our world-famous whisky industry? – less than twenty-five per-cent is now owned in Scotland, with the rest being owned in London, the USA, Canada, France, Spain and Japan. And as has been made plain by Siol nan Gaidheal over the past years, the most important areas of the Scottish media – The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, the Edinburgh Evening News, the Aberdeen Press and Journal and the Evening Express cannot speak for themselves, because they are all owned in Canada via Watford. And as we all know Scotland’s biggest-selling tabloids, the Daily Retard and the Sunday Mail, are part of the London-based Mirror Group, basing their editorials and political leanings on the school of thought which exists in that region. BBC Scotland, as has been made persistently known to us over the years, is only a branch of London and must have budget approval from London as well.

Although much of this loss of power can be attributed to the takeover and merger culture of Thatcher’s ‘80s, we must remember the encouragement given to it by the “old Labour” mentality of the government of the 60s and 70s and their adherence to socialism – a well-meaning philsophy designed to protect empoyment but which is in essence outdated and economically flawed and which has served only to hand over all scottish control of our industries to the British/English government, allowing it to be sold on by Mrs Thatcher to English and foreign ownership. These companies were nationalised with the best of intentions, but ultimately led to the biggest blow for Scottish industry – shipbuilding, coal mining, railways and steel mills - the loss of which we have yet to recover. All of them built up by Scotland and the Scots – only to be sold off to the highest bidder by English governments and their puerile adherence to extremist foreign ideologies of unbridled socialism and unbridled capitalism.

Recent political and business coverage has shown the takeover of another great Scottish company – Scottish Widows – taken over by Lloyds TSB. Once again a great independent Scottish financial company which could have been a fantastic Scottish-based financial services group is turned into a branch-factory overnight – the same as the Clydesdale Bank, TSB Scotland, the stockbrokers Wood Mackenzie and World Markets – all of which went to England and other places foreign to the Scottish people. Let us not forget that Scottish Widows were one of the most vociferous opponents of any constitutional change – but then again their interests were with those of London and the south-east which come first in a company destined to be based there!

Not all of this is bad news however. Scottish Power’s takeover of Pacificorp in the United States is proof that Scotland may be realising the opportunities of the global market. The Royal Bank of Scotland’s recent takeover of the National Westminster Bank also showed a boldness of spirit and innovative thinking which the people of London and England do not expect from our companies, nor indeed our nation. Our profile has been raised and hopefully this may be signs of a reverse in the trend where English companies are losing their independence and the head offices are being transferred to Scotland!

The people of Scotland must, however, awaken to the situation which is unfolding before them! When the economic climate takes a downturn it is the branch-factory which is the first to be closed and there is nothing that us or any union can do about it. The country is left in a weak position as decision-making is removed from Scotland and professional outside suppliers such as lawyers, architects, accountants, advertising agents, designers and printers lose out to their English counterparts. Employment in Scotland falls as the massive quality of work generated by a head office is moved unnecessarily elsewhere – to England! The bitter reality of this situation is that our nation has been left with the dubious status of being no better than a spayed cat! The cat still looks the same. It walks, stretches and purrs but has lost all means of reproducing. In company terms our business and industry have lost all means to grow, adapt or innovate. Our people must embrace a future where the culture of dependency on England and Westminster handouts is thrown out the window. Independence and national sovereignty must be given first priority status. We must pursue proper decision-making, creativity, innovation and learning, creating a better future for our people rather than that of our abysmal current situation of relegation to the position of a backward-thinking branch office of the world economy!

Siol nan Gaidheal advocates the complete re-taking of Scottish business and industry back into the hands of the Scots with consititutional and legal amendments designed to prevent any further erosion of our sovereignty. Only when Scottish business and industry is run, managed and owned by Scotsmen and women can we benefit our own people, raise the levels of employment and the professionalism of our workforce and remove the threat of our companies being closed and our workers paid low wages by foreigners who could not care less about us. A recent report by the Management Studies department at the University of St. Andrew’s entitled Scenarios for Scotland was one of the most extensive studies ever of Scottish cultural and economic life. Like others before it, it again concluded that Scotland was a branch-factory economy and that if the situation mentioned above does not change, Scots will be left with low-paid jobs in service sectors such as call centres while manufacturing is moved abroad. Our future has all the hallmarks of a nervous culture, political uncertainty and economic decline. This scenario must be challenged for the farce that it is! The challenges of social exclusion and the global market could make Scotland into the wealthiest nation in Europe by 2015 if only the people of this nation had the courage to stand up for Scotland and to stand up for Scottish sovereignty.

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