Siol nan Gaidheal
The Labour Party and Scotland
Now that the much-vaunted "euphoria" of the 1997 General Election is already ancient history and we have had Labour in power for quite some considerable time, one must wonder how satisfied those who supported them in Scotland are. When the activists were out, the candidates knocking on the doors, did they tell you that "when we get into power, we will retain and build upon Tory policy commitments and develop a quasi-Conservative identity and agenda indistinguishable in many respects from John Major's"? In particular, did they tell you that they would do nothing to reverse the decline of the "National" (sic) Health Service, continue to undermine the principle of educational opportunities for all, sit back and watch multinational pirates asset-strip our painstakingly redeveloped industrial base, do nothing for the unemployed save accentuate their status as "job-seekers" or allow rural and farming Scotland to spiral into abject recession ? Did any Labour candidate inform even one voter in Scotland that Tory Blair would refuse to properly tax the rich, the tamely-named "fat cats" who at the mere suggestion of Scotland regaining its rightful status as an independent Nation-State throw a tantrum and threaten to pull out of the country? The answer to these and to many similar questions being asked at the present time in Scotland is....NO.
Scotland has always been a stronghold for the Labour Party, our own opinion being that, proverbially, they could put up a monkey as a candidate and as long as it wore its red tie and rosette, it would have an excellent chance of becoming an MP. Cruel comment perhaps, but who could in all honesty refute the substantive point? Tradition of course plays a huge part in Labour's popularity in Scotland; scenes of thousands of marchers with their Labour Movement banners winding their way through the streets of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and elsewhere is something many of us remember well. Fine people undoubtedly, with the most dignified and honourable of motives; they were however essentially deluded in their loyalty. The fact that most of them were miners (whose sons are, needless to say, no longer miners or the fathers of miners today), and that the banners and the marchers continued their righteous stomping right on to London where they would congregate to present their begging bowl at the hallowed door of number ten Downing Street, only to have the said door slammed in their incredulous faces... says a lot for our industrial decline over the decades and a whole lot more on much of our country's puerile, not to say lemming-like adherence to British socialism and all its ideological cul-de-sacs.
Whatever the wisdom of such an adherence, the fact remains that a form of tepid ideological socialism still holds sway in Scotland. We apparently believe in social provision and the community and the public ownership of certain key industries. We look after the working man, the elderly, the young and the infirm. The problem is, while Scotland and to an extent the Labour Party in Scotland still value much of this tradition, the Labour Party of Britain/England does NOT.
Tory Blair realised this some considerable time ago and knowing this, did not use any of this outdated and essentially rose-tinted political mythology in much of England to win support. However the "old red flag" or at least a very dark pink one, was waved frantically in Scotland by Mssrs Cook, Dewar, Wilson & Co to great effect.
This said, what happens when you are elected on the back of - whether we like it or not - an outdated concept and now have to hear from your Boss that everything you pledged to your electorate was no more than bilge? It is at times like these that you see the true worth of the career politician and most pointedly the Unionist, London-loving, career politician. The "Scottish" Labour MP now has to approach the Boss and say to him "Hey Tory, I was elected by promising the voters that I would fight their corner, represent their interests kinda thing, but how can I do this when it's so obvious to even the most ranting Labourite that we are adopting Tory values? " "Never mind Robin, have a seat on my Cabinet, once you get a taste of this power, and the nightlife down here, you will soon forget the bullshit that passes for electoral integrity and vision you gave those idiots up there ". The only problem facing West Lothian's little red-bearded ambassadorial gnome is how to spend his thirty pieces of silver. Perhaps George, the Forces' sweetheart, could give some advice.... Harley St. plastic surgeons stretch even the most generous ministerial remuneration, you know. Talking of Caledonian beauty and thrift, the "arch-socialist" Lord Chancellor of ALL England, "Derry" Irvine (how frightfully plebeian, how gloriously chummy in its Eddy "Bank of England" Georginess) might not know a lot about Hamilton oil paintings but His B&Qness does know a tax-payer's bob or two about wallpaper. "Only the best will do, Darling. Alistair?" "Where the devil has he gone? Ah, there you are Darling! Get up off your knees and start doing some work around here; in any case I feel a Lordly headache coming on, I just don't know how I'm going to be able to match Tory's admirable little collection of Scotch art borrowed for his little residence in D. St. Absolutely plunderous ! Quite "Bootiful". Of course in all matters financial yet another "canny" Scot (the word positively drips with Presbyterian conceit) can be consulted. Dunfermline's very own Iron Chancellor may have ditched some of the more overtly working-class credentials which still burden, say, his twin brother Hen, but he's still a proud Scot, an honest-to-goodness Jock who will never forget his misty northern homeland, always ready at each Budget review to throw open the coffers of North Sea Oil revenues and generously slash a penny off whisky duty. Ah, the benefits of Union, the benefits of being a full and equal partner nation in Her Britannic Majesty's "peerless" realm (well, apart from the several hundred congenital pederasts and port-dribbling Anglo-Saxon and Anglophilic throwbacks soon to be replaced in the House of Lords by the equally urine-sodden and terminally ineffectual Millbank-vetted appointees of reassuringly British sexual deviancy.) Wha's like us, eh?
Even the PM has a few links with Scotland, though quite how the old Fettesian manages to keep up the pretence of affection for the land that saw his birth is anybody's guess, given his concerted attacks on our country's self-confidence and ambitions. The Honourable Member for wherever in England he chooses to call home would have us recalcitrant and ungrateful Jockos believe that a ministerial Cabinet chocajock with Caledonia's finest Labour apparatchiks should be a source of immense pride and a sure sign that along with the "sufficient measure of self-government" things couldn't get much better for us.
This of course is a pile of patronising pigswill and comes with all the attendant scaremongering about national independence which fills the festering speeches and column inches of Unionism in its party political (to all intents and purposes in Scotland: Labour) and media varieties. "Vote for independence and your granny who moved to Piddlington-under-the-Wolde twenty years ago will become a foreigner overnight, " Vote for independence and we'll all lose our pension funds in a tartan-crazed computer Armageddon", "Vote for independence and we'll all lose our jobs to Kenneth McKellar impersonators", "we'll all be force-fed haggis and Irn-Bru and miss Coronation Street for ever and ever, and the weather will be rainier, and Arran will sink and the price of a pint will go up to £17.50 and what about "The Horse of the Year Show" and we won't be able to get any decent judges for the Monster Marrow contest and that nice couple from Buttoxeter won't ever lend us their deckchair for the Blackpool Illuminations, and I'm no good at "Strip the Willow" in any case...and...and...God, I loved my Yorkshire Pud so much, and they wouldn't confiscate my Morris Minor owners club badge, would they...tell me they wouldn't...and..sniff..my Rotherham United replica shirt...surely it would only be a matter of time before it spontaneously combusted or exploded or something........blah.......blah......blah..."
It's high time Unionists grew up, got their snivelling snouts out of the miasma of emotional imbecility which their spurious justifications for Union unquestionably are and if only figuratively - for God forbid that they actually did so - "went forth and procreated". Time also rational Scots, the overwhelming majority of our compatriots, finally let go of any vestiges of respect for a discredited party machine whose monolithic institutional squalor has blighted so much of Scottish public life - and far beyond the sole confines of Monklands or Renfrew districts. We need to let go. We need to render manifest the true scope of our difference.
For the truth of the matter is plain to see, Scotland and England ARE different. We all know the fundamental often obvious cultural differences. No less evident however is the extent to which our political culture is so deep-seatedly at odds with the equivalent patterns in England. We all saw what happened time and again when Scotland voted en masse to oust Thatcher, only to see her re-elected on the strength of English votes. In many ways the English view politics far more sensibly than we Scots, insofar as sense and self-interest are inextricable constituent factors informing decision-making. In England the only question voters seem to ask themselves is "which party will do the most for me personally? " They appear to display little or no feelings of loyalty to any party their parents voted for. Not that social mobility is unknown, it is merely the fact that, empirically at least, tradition and family ties play a greater structuring role in our country than in the generally more fractured society that is England. Hence the "We have always voted Labour, they are the party for the working man" cry of the ex-working class. "The party of moral decency" bleat the well-meaning middle class. The point is, no matter how staunch a Labour supporter you are, as long as you stay in Scotland you must accept whatever legislation is passed in Westminster by the British/English Labour Party who will always judge matters on the strength of votes and promises made to get those votes from the central and southern areas of England even if it is to the detriment of Scotland and the Scots. Whatever the north of England votes, it has to be said once and for all that simply because the industrial and post-industrial areas of that part of that country also support Labour disproportionately, it does not follow that we are in any way the same people. Either Scotland is a Nation or it is not, Arkwright. The line is oft repeated; the denizens of Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool supposedly have more in common with us enlightened Scots than with greedy, selfish Essexman. Trouble is, the latter is now voting Labour, New Labour. All this hogwash about electoral and social/socialist solidarity with the "North" (their revealing terminology) serves only to undermine Scottish national aspirations. There is NO putative country encompassing Scots with any assortment, however constituted, of flat-capped, whippet-racing, pork-scratching-eating workshy Mancunian Dalesmen or gritty straight-talking Scouse Fog-on-the-Tyners or whatever else they call themselves. Enough of this self-sustaining British inanity, be it from the left or the right of their political spectrum. The English in their majority know who they are and on what side their political bread is buttered.
The Tory party knew all of this and that is why Rosyth had to lose out in favour of an English rival - the list of similar occurrences in industry is endless, both in the state sector and in the currently mollycoddled High-Tech sector for example (Viasystems springs to mind.) Whether these decisions to relocate to or concentrate a company's activities in England are taken by the State or by the boards of private companies, the impetus behind such moves is demonstrably linked to the far greater risk of political fallout in the populous core economy that is England as opposed to the rather more expendable periphery. Colony anyone?
Scottish Labourites will point to the promise made by their party to end such perceptions by creating a Scottish Parliament and the fact that they are honouring it. Firstly, the Labour Party in Scotland were forced into making some kind of offer because of the huge rise in popularity of the SNP. At the current time, Labour and Tory Blair were not too sure how they would do at the General Election, and as always, they therefore needed Scotland on their side. Now that they are in government, let us look at the forthcoming Scottish Parliament.
Donald Dewar that paragon of well, um, Calvinist, um, um, integrity, well, um, declined to consider any Parliament set up on Calton Hill, that notorious "Nationalist shibboleth" plumping instead for his OWN choice at Holyrood; very impartial Donald, very democratic no doubt. The next thing we hear is that Donald has decided to turn the whole thing into a three-ring-circus. The momentous occasion of the creation of a Scottish Parliament, the first legislature for nearly three hundred years and the pride of the Scots in this however ultimately inadequate body - all of this was somewhat overshadowed by Donald's informing us that the design for the new Parliament building would be awarded to a Catalan fantasist. Before the pseudo-internationalists protest, it is not our view that this is unacceptable per se. What is, is the fact that no meaningful public consultation was ever undertaken and that in the end we will get a predictably modernist (and by implication devoid of indigenous architectural reference) pile of hideous boat-shaped concrete and steel on a site salvaged from a brewery. About as traditional and contextually appropriate as any imitation of Pugin's English Parliament building would have been in the same place. Eventually we will be able to boast that our transitional (for it must be so) Parliament was generously granted by an English fiat after due consultation of the "populace", inspired in its design by the egotistical delusions of a Barcelona breezeblocker and if current trends are to continue, we will probably be shown round by some Englishman of impeccable Catalonian bent, employed by the Scottish Office to enlighten the ignorant natives of the workings of North British democracy.
The worth of Labour's promise as regards a Scottish Parliament should be measured against the stature - if that is not too grand a term - of those who sit in it. Siol nan Gaidheal were the first to call it a powerless Parliament, a charge needless to say denied with self-righteous indignation by Labourites, lickspittle (Labour) trade unionists, deluded churchmen, the sycophantic Brit press which has the audacity to call itself "impartial" and even the occasional and ultimately naive nationalist (with a small 'n'). It continues to be our firmly-held belief however, that if the barely concealed prejudice against ANY form of Scottish autonomy on the part of the leading lights in "New Labour" is anything to go by, then Scotland can expect conflict with these people sooner rather than later. To all intents and purposes English "Third Way" control freaks have opened the Pandora's box of constitutional unravelling and, let us be frank, don't like what they see. The Scottish Nation has a new, if only modest for the moment, confidence in its own sovereignty and that is something Blair, Brown, Robertson, Wilson, Cook and Dewar did not fully anticipate. The future possibilities are becoming only too apparent for more and more Scots and therefore the British State is being suddenly pushed into self-preservation mode a lot earlier than could have possibly ever been envisaged. The fact, however, remains that this same British State will deploy whatever legislative, material and propaganda strategies are necessary to stifle the ambition, curtail the power and control the direction of the body they, to their undoubted regret now, were instrumental in creating. The Parliament can only work if it is allowed to work and the concern of Siol nan Gaidheal has always been that the ingrained Unionism of the British Labour Party in Scotland will conspire within the ranks of Labourite MSP's (a ridiculous regionalist appellation) to rubber-stamp any diktat from Westminster. The quite hysterical panic which currently characterises Labour regarding the drift towards "separation" as they call it and the quite abysmal piss-take which their scaremongering inevitably constitutes, can and very probably will turn somewhat nastier given impending Independence. Let there be no complacency on the part of anyone in Scotland least of all Nationalists as to the lengths Blair or his successors will go to maintain Scotland within their Union. Put bluntly, the economic stakes are such that the words "at all costs" might justifiably be added. The first steps to this end are already being implemented, the more obvious of which are the moves to prevent Scotland having its own National News broadcasting service, produced in and reflecting the worldview of our own country ("too much propaganda value for Nationalism"/"Scots might actually wise up" etc.) and the deselection of perennial troublemakers from the ranks of Old, Scottish (however deluded) Labour. Principled men, again however much enthralled to obsolescent dogma, have no place in the soundbitten corridors of modern Lobby government. It is a pity that a certain Denis Canavan cannot articulate his latent nationalism in more strategically constructive ways than standing as an independent. That, however, is a matter for him and it is to be hoped that his erstwhile colleagues and friends (who needs enemies eh ? ) in "Scottish" Labour will have the "stature" previously mentioned to stand above their own petty interests in remaining loyal to Blairite neo-Toryism and will decide to fight on a platform where constituency and National interests come first. Those interests will thence move their loyalty, quite logically, to Scotland...the only "ideology" worth fighting for in our own opinion. Party considerations can on the point of Independence resume currency, with the proviso that Scotland stands to gain from any such resumption of party political sectarian hostility. Nothing could be less certain. In order to reach that point, however, when Scottish voters can be asked to make genuine and informed choices, on the basis of an unrestricted socio-economic and cultural foundation, in order to reach that point prospective members of a Scottish Parliament, not least of which the members of Scotland's (for good or for ill) biggest party, must declare themselves first and foremost for their country and work unstintingly and unconditionally to secure and exercise her political dignity and sovereign scope of action. Anything less, any other betrayal constitutes abject treachery and dereliction of duty for which the Scottish people, among whom Siol nan Gaidheal stand strongest, will seek commensurate and timely redress.
|Return to Politics||Return to Index|