by the way…

By the way, as we say here in Glasgow, I’ve been told my reference to David Cameron’s late son Ivan has provoked the social conscience of some readers to outrage. There is a view that I am using Ivan’s death to make a political point. Well, of course I am. That, for me is exactly the purpose. Let me explain.

As a father I was moved by the family tragedy of the Camerons and felt my heart go out to them way beyond any political misgivings I have about Tory policies and – yes – about Old Etonian sons of millionaire bankers running the country. It was a straightforward human emotion to a family tragedy which I thought Cameron handled as well as any public figure could be expected to…with quiet dignity.

When I heard him speak of his respect for the NHS in the light of his loss and how it was one of the great institutions we should never lose and it was safe in his hands, I cried. I thought, at last, someone in power in the Tory Party who gets it. And one of the most important organisations in my life would be spared any of the usual Tory divide-and-rule policies to make their business pals rich at taxpayers’ expense.

I held that thought until it became impossible to ignore the truth of the systematic re-organisation, marketization and privatisation of the service in England. It is at that moment you realise you have been had…lied to…your emotions misused by another Tony Blair salesman.

In my eyes, it was Cameron who used his son for political ends and misled me and the country into believing him.

Since I hold dear the principle of a free NHS and believe it to be something worth fighting for in a political sense, and as it is a beacon of civilisation in our society, I am furious with Cameron for betraying that principle, as are millions of English people. I repeat: It was his use of Ivan and his subsequent betrayal of what appeared to be his intended legacy that is the moral crime here.

If that still isn’t enough for those with a social conscience, they may recall Cameron speaking at the 65th anniversary of the NHS just over two months ago when he gave another – presumably not intentionally ironic – eulogy to the health service and praised the hospital where Ivan was looked after…again bringing his son into the public domain. This time I don’t blame him, but it does rather demonstrate his capacity to make what is a political point (in the light of the controversy over his NHS reforms) by using his son’s name.

In other words, even for those with a social conscience, it is clear that he is prepared to put Ivan and his death in the public domain, so why not any citizen who feels aggrieved at being let down by Cameron having taken at face value his promises in the light of Ivan’s experience?

Also, is it necessary, do you think, to point out that this is a blog not a mainstream media outlet? A blog is for the expression of personal views, unrestrained by questions of editorial guidelines or artificial corporate attitudes to public taste of the kind imposed by media managements on journalists and contributors. (Although constrained, I hope, by standards of legality as in libel laws.) That is what a blog is for.

I appreciate some readers will know me from the BBC and expect institutional even-handedness, but if anyone thinks what BBC journalists say on air represents their personal politics or opinions, they need their head examined – on both sides of the independence debate. I probably sound outspoken because people expect the opposite after years of hearing me do my job. In fact, it’s probably being tied into producer guidelines for over 20 years that makes me want to speak out now. Isn’t that what you want?

On day one of this blog I was honest. I said I wouldn’t hold back. I wanted at last to be free to speak my mind and I intend to continue. If you don’t like, don’t read. If you want the usual humdrum, say-nothing witterings of MSM commentators who seem incapable of breaking out of the uniform mould of an outdated and dying media sector, buy the rags.

OK, I admit I have three papers on the ipad and check the Scotsman on line every day!  But I can tell you that of those, I can think of three writers on Scottish affairs I never miss. The rest I may or may not read, some I positively avoid. But three out of all those pages – and all that cash – is a poor return. I find my brain is engaged much more easily and I am stimulated more fully by browsing the online sites which we all know. I think the debate should be owned by the people and it is online where that is happening, not in the contrived uniformity of the broadcasters and the newspapers.

and another thing…

And all this leaves Alistair Darling as the Tory Prime Minister’s puppet. When Cameron can’t front up, it is a Labour MP who steps forward to do his work for him. Darling has just become the Tory Party’s Save the Union mouthpiece. Leading a united campaign of Unionist parties including Cameron’s Conservatives is one thing, replacing him is quite another.

If a televised debate is now an essential aspect of our politics, it is a Prime Minister’s duty to participate and represent his side – on behalf of all the people he represents.  In fact, look at it another way, Darling should have told Cameron that it was his duty to speak up against Salmond head-to-head and should have made clear that he (Darling) would only debate with Salmond after the Salmond-Cameron programme.

It rather proves my point that Darling is the willing stooge that he hasn’t done so. The words: “But it’s your responsibility, Prime Minister,” should be ringing in Cameron’s ears. So the deal clearly is that Cameron can’t stand up in part of the United Kingdom, which he governs, because he is a Tory who can’t command respect. What better evidence could you have of a failing United Kingdom…of a kingdom which is in decline and no longer represents Scots?  Our county, Scotland, is a NoGo Area for the leader of the United Kingdom. He requires an anointed placeman to state his case on his behalf. Darling is now the Tory Prime Minister’s Lord Lieutenant. No doubt, like the Queen’s loyal representatives, he will be on hand to greet his Chief when he deigns to turn up on foreign soil.

Why not turn this debate scenario round…if Salmond had refused to debate with  Cameron on television, can you imagine the apoplexy in the Unionist media? If  Salmond said he would stand aside and let Dennis Canavan debate with Cameron, because he is the leader of the Yes campaign, can you picture the jeering headlines, the endless laughter and incredulity that would have caused?

Darling is getting Cameron off the hook, acting as his agent and front man in Scotland. However Miliband tries to distance himself from the policies – and that’s a limited effort – Labour is standing shoulder to shoulder with the London neo-cons and their right to introduce their policies throughout the Union. In fact that is what this referendum is about. Labour is saying: We disagree with Tory policies but we will defend to the death their right to make them – here in Scotland.

The current myth is that Cameron shouldn’t debate with Salmond because it’s a decision for the Scots alone. But this isn’t a decision, it’s only a debate.  We will decide for ourselves, all we’re asking is that Cameron does what he did for the General Election and appears on television with his opponent. He can’t argue it isn’t important either, as those debates won Clegg a place in government. And, surely his argument about it being a Scots-only affair falls at the first hurdle because he himself says this a matter for the whole UK. So one day it is, the next day it isn’t.

And if it’s true only the Scots who are the voters should be playing all the key roles, why doesn’t he condemn the donation of £500,000 to the No campaign by Ian Taylor of Vitol who doesn’t have a vote in the referendum? Double standards, perhaps?

So we now have the disgraced Chancellor, a man whose morals evaporate when money is mentioned – half a million from the revolting Vitol source, more than the First Minister’s salary in outside earnings and flipping his house four times – on the stage as a Tory puppet, his mouth opening and closing as Cameron pulls the strings.

There is something of the music hall grotesque about this unedifying old pals act embarrassing themselves this way. And for what? To prevent the Scots standing up for themselves and implementing policies that suit them. Independence is about self respect, something Alistair and Labour seem to have misplaced.

Who will fill a coward’s grave…

We learned two things today. One, that David Cameron is a coward. Two, that the No campaign isn’t nearly as sure of itself as it likes to pretend.

The latter is the more significant because it could have a lasting impact as Scots realise –all  Scots– that the Unionist  champion hasn’t the stomach for the fight. He says he has of course, but here in turning down a televised debate, is proof positive that Cameron’s clever words cannot be trusted and when presented with a challenge, he will blink and back down.

This, remember, was the man who used an appalling personal tragedy to pledge a commitment to the health service, a pledge he has systematically broken.

He is a bunker PM, happy to sit in the Quad in London dictating political strategy to Osborne, Moore and Alexander, dispensing instructions to each and every department of state to devise schemes to defeat independence, and when asked to step outside, asks his mate to fight for him while he holds the jackets.

All nationalists should cheer with derision the man who holds all the powers over them and who sits at the pinnacle of the Union but hasn’t got it in him to face up to the cameras alongside his opponent…this, the man who was ready to send others into a real war in Syria. But even a war of words is too much for Brave Dave. He has wriggled out like a Bullingdon Boy squirming when the Master comes calling after complaints from the police over a wrecked dining room. “Not me, old boy. It’s Boris you’re after.”

Having the measure of your opponent is half the battle. Knowing that any vainglorious statement he makes about straining every sinew for the Union is bluster, opens the door to more vigorous and enthusiastic campaigning for a Yes.

He was prepared to intervene and threaten like an Eton bully with his gang of legal lackeys when he wanted his way over the legality of the referendum but where is the follow-through? Faced alone  by a bigger boy, a smarter opponent, contemplating a humiliating beating this time, he did what all bullies eventually do – he backed down.

This should put air in the independence movement and bring home the truth – that for all the patronising, dismissive comments and promises to fight to the bitter end, they haven’t the will. If their leader folds as easily as this, their case is a house of cards.

And consider, too that if the head of the British Government wishes to slink away from the confrontation, then he should delegate his deputy in Scotland, Michael Moore, to take his place. A moment’s reflection on the quality of the Scottish Secretary will resolve why that isn’t going to happen. But it should. Cameron could have made a plausible case that “Scotland’s man in the Cabinet” is the right opponent, representing the UK government, a Scot holding a Scottish seat. It is a naked mark of how short the Unionists are of genuine political talent that proposing Moore is a non-starter…for Cameron and for the broadcasters.

Of course, Salmond should now debate with Darling. He will be able to ask him which of the current unionist government’s policies he approves of and ask him how much power he himself holds in the British Government. If none, then what he is he doing debating on an issue which can only be resolved by the British Government?

Historians will marvel at how a Conservative Prime Minister allowed a Labour backbencher to take his place in what may prove the defining event in the campaign to save Britain. They will deduce that Cameron lacked the skills and heart for the job of taking on the First Minister and that Salmond was handed a victory by default. The pressure is now piled inexorably on Darling who has been given a soft landing by the media so far and who looks flustered the more he is questioned.

And never again should any Yes supporter accept questions demanding information and answers from those whose chief spurned the single best platform for providing information.

To be clear, the undisputed line-up between protagonists in terms of convention is as follows. First Minister v Prime Minister, (poss. Equivalent Secretary of State for Scotland); Chairman of Yes Campaign (Canavan) v Chairman of No Campaign (Darling); chief executive of Yes Campaign (Jenkins) v chief executive of No Campaign (McDougall). It is not disputed and it is the protocol the BBC would normally follow.

Lastly, as a journalist, let me make a plea to all those engaged in my trade. Any attempt by editors or commentators to pretend that Cameron’s actions today were not an abrogation of responsibility will shame the independence of their paper. I accept that an editorial line is taken by editors for one side or another, but if anyone commenting  contrives an excuse about it not being the PM’s job to lead the movement to save the union, he or she is doing a disservice to the media and to the Scots. There can be no excuse for Cameron on this issue and attempts to defend him will underline – if it is needed – that both journalist and newspaper are biased beyond redemption and should never be trusted again.

Meantime independistas have been handed a new poster slogan: Cameron is a Coward.

Dateline: September 19 2014

Today I have two glimpses into the future. This is my own version of how the day after the referendum might be reported and further down I have a guest column from Simon Heffer* of the Daily Mail. This one is by Derek Bateman Broadcaster.

For the media camped outside the government offices at St Andrews House there was a early reward just after 7 am when the First Minister arrived grinning and carrying a sheaf of papers. He held them up: “Messages from 20 different countries around the world,” he declared. “They came in overnight. Each one congratulating the Scots and saying: Welcome to the club of Nations” He turned at the door, looked at the cameras and said in a serious voice: “The Independence Project starts today.”

SNP Ministers began arriving and word emerged that after a congratulatory phone call, David Cameron had agreed to come to Edinburgh on Monday morning to discuss the details of the handover of power. However, he was upstaged by his own side when a two-man team from the British Treasury arrived just after nine. They didn’t speak to the media but at lunchtime Mr Salmond’s adviser briefed reporters.

“We thought they were coming to warn us again that there would be no support for us using the pound. In fact, it was completely the opposite. They said the currency question had been commandeered by the politicians – by that we presume they meant the Chancellor – and as soon as the idea of Scotland using the pound was put to the civil servants they jumped at it.  To them it made perfect sense. If Scotland was to leave the UK, the last thing they wanted to see were barriers to trade and movement as it was against the rUK’s national interest. There was a significant amount of cross-border trade which would be compromised by currency changes and bureaucracy, and they had been heavily lobbied in private by the CBI and British business to ensure the pound was in use in Scotland,” he said.

They also revealed in discusssion that the Foreign Office had intervened to say that, if there was a Yes vote, it was essential for Britain’s overseas image that Scotland and the rUK shared a common currency. They recognised that losing Scotland was a blow to the credibility and perception of what remains of Britain and everything must be done to shore up that image. One of the strongest ways of doing that was for diplomatic staff around the world to be able to say something along the lines of: “The Scots have exercised their ancient right to independence but they are still securely within London’s sphere of influence. They are, for example, using our common currency and meeting our compliance standards. We get the benefit of the oil and gas to the balance of payments and we sign off on their spending plans so in a meaningful way, Britain still operates as a unit.”

The second team of visitors was from Brussels. A small group representing both the European Commission and the Council flew in yesterday and stayed overnight to watch the vote. They met John Swinney, Fiona Hyslop and Humza Yousaf and were joined later by Mr Salmond.

The First Minister’s spokesman outlined what had been said. “Like the Treasury, they said the time for politics was over. They said there had been the inevitable political games before the vote but now the people had spoken they wanted to impress on the government that there was unanimity across all member states and the institutions that Scotland must be accommodated as a full member of the EU. They were very keen to cast doubt on the possibility of overtures being made to EFTA and said it was essential that steps begin immediately to ensure Scottish membership. The Council representative gave us details of the membership plan to be adopted for our entry, which they are not calling Enlargement which is a specific legal process requiring unanimity but Inlargement which is a different process evolved specially for Scotland and which only requires qualified majority voting. It cannot be used for any other part of a member state like Catalonia as they are not yet party to a process recognised by the Spanish state, unlike London’s recognition of Scotland.”

By the time the EU team left, it was clear that Scotland would remain technically a member through the UK’s membership until London and Edinburgh reached an agreement which Brussels could accept. The specific terms of Scottish membership including financial contributions would be negotiated as part of this process from within the EU.

“They said they couldn’t throw us out even if they wanted to,” said the spokesman. “There is no treaty provision for expulsion and no time nor desire to create one. Equally they confirmed what the treaties say: That all member states agree to the principle of the common currency but no one can be forced to use the euro.” However Scotland had to brace itself for losing some UK opt-outs. Brussels will accept keeping the Schengen derogation because the UK-Ireland travel zone works well but the Thatcher budget opt-out is non-negotiable.

“We will have to let it go,” he said. “But recognising the difficulty that gives us both financially and politically as a new member, the EU team will propose a phased withdrawal starting over the seven-year life of the budget to minimise the impact. It’s the principle they want to establish because it irritates the other members and this way it puts pressure on London.”

To cap a promising start to the prolonged negotiating stage, Mr Salmond emerged to announce that he had been called by the NATO secretary general Anders Rasmussen who said it was unthinkable for Scotland not to be in NATO as it would threaten security in Northern Europe particularly in the Greenland Gap (Giuk) which the UK was failing to police properly. It was through that route that any airborne or maritime invading force from Russia or China would come.

Asked about earlier claims that a country could not gain membership if it had an unresolved issue with a current member, for example with Britain over Trident, Mr Salmond smiled. “As soon as we agree and London agrees, there is no dispute, according to the Secretary General, and the way is clear for our membership.”

That is being taken to mean that a lease deal to allow nuclear-armed submarines to continue to use the Faslane base for a specified time will be struck almost certainly in return for a write-down in Scotland’s share of the UK national debt.

It was a positive and promising start to Day One of the Independence Project. Through the drizzle and the evening lights of Princes Street, saltires waved and drums thundered as the thoroughfare was closed to traffic to allow the all-night street party which is expected to bring out 100,000 delighted Yes supporters.

*As told to Derek Bateman Broadcaster

Dateline: September 19 2014

Today I’m offering a glimpse of the future…What will happen on the morning of September 19, 2014? This version is written by a guest columnist, Simon Heffer* of the Daily Mail and is in the style of him filing his copy after Scotland voted No. 


It came as no surprise to those of us accustomed to the bellicose bluster of our northern neighbours to find that when it came to rising – I paraphrase from the SNP  Book of  National Oppression – from their knees and standing on their own two feet on the world stage, the Scots opted instead to remain in the supplicant pose, praying for English charity.

The blue and white flags hung limply in the drizzle around gloomy Edinburgh as still-Unionist citizens also kept their heads down as if scurrying away in shame.

How could a mighty world state like Britain have expended so much of its world-class intellect and resources on such a tawdry exercise? When our great nation needed a total focus on economic growth to reverse the catastrophic impact of Labour incompetence, we were instead forced to fight on two fronts by the narrow self-interest of an unsavoury cabal of nationalist extremists, socialist agitators and actors.

That the pantomime pretence at sovereignty was crushed with humiliating ease can hardly come as a surprise. It has been evident from the moment the overwhelming forces of the Union gathered themselves for the fight that Salmond’s insurgents would fall like the Jacobite hoards at Culloden…outwitted, overpowered and put firmly in their place. The task now is to follow the example of Cumberland and execute a programme of cleansing from which there can be no return so that the dangerous creed of so-called Scottish nationalism is legally curtailed forever.

Those who wish to break up this country – the SNP, the IRA and the Welsh extremists – must now be outlawed as anti-social, disruptive elements just as jihadists are. There may be no overt violence in the Scottish movement but inciting others to agitate against the state, to disrupt economic recovery and to hijack the lives of decent people for a political aim is a form of violence. It is seen as such by those vast numbers of fair-minded and tolerant English men and women whose only “nationalism” was to stand firm against the Blitz and to cheer heartily for competitors of all colours in the Olympics. They have had enough of the petty, grasping and opportunistic secessionists who stain our nation with their resentment.

For make no mistake, it is those same men and women of England who pay for these celtic rabble-rousers with their massive taxpayer subsidies. Why should they not say: “We will subsidise your unhealthy addicted lives but only if you accept your subservient role in our society and refrain from trying to break up Britain with your expensive and futile claims to statehood. Decent Unionist Scots must isolate and cast aside the nationalists otherwise the blood transfusion of payments will stop.”

The English have had enough of the hate and Anglophobia. They cannot understand how those who have benefitted so much from their largesse could turn against them. As they prepare for the next bill to arrive, they must demand an end to political agitation as their price for coughing up yet again.

There are deeper cuts still to come to reduce the deficit and now that the faint spectre of separation has been lifted, the way is clear to demonstrate that there is no never-ending lifeline of cash. Budget cuts should fall most heavily on those most reluctant to pay and with their constant complaint and whining, the Scots have made themselves the target for reciprocal treatment. Spending increases should be tied to targets being met, for example in health. If drug addiction and obesity numbers don’t fall, then the budget allocation should stall until they do.

Unless Salmond’s grotesque administration falls in line with sensible spending priorities, he will have nothing to spend unless he puts up taxes. We should insist for example that tuition fees are introduced immediately to create a level playing field.  Free personal care and concessionary travel are bribes that ought to be cast aside.

While the world turns away and shakes its head at the punctured balloon of the Nation Afraid of Itself – even Southern Sudan voted Yes – the patience of the English nation has run out.

They might find in themselves a degree of pity for a people so confused by history, led mute into self-aggrandizing dreams by the unscrupulous, and today so utterly beaten that they are the laughing stock of civilised people everywhere. The history of the Scots tribe is littered with such disasters as they tried to emulate their southern betters or to defeat them in commerce and in war.

Surely, at last, the fantasy of nationhood will end and they can accept their seat round the table as a friendly but dependent partner in our great United Kingdom. An acknowledgment of English pre-eminence is a small price to pay for such acceptance and for such material benefit. As a sop they can keep their separate football and rugby teams whose performances are an accurate reflection of their country’s true worth.

So, the game is up and the old order triumphantly restored. And still the English prepare to pay up.

*As told to Derek Bateman Broadcaster

I’m getting nothing done

I’ll have to go shopping soon. There’s nothing in the house.

I realise the way this works is that you read the last bit first, as it were. So if you’re interested enough you probably have to go back to I Didn’t Mean To Do This to get the main thrust. Otherwise I’ll try to make this self-standing if you haven’t the time.


I’m picking up on Douglas Alexander who is the last thing approaching a political thinker in Scottish Labour. I’ll gloss over the Damien McBride claims he was ready to jettison his sister in the wider cause – which may have included his own advancement. Frankly, I’d have done the same. In fact I have done, many a time when she threatened to get what I wanted. Come on. That’s what sisters are for.


Douglas Alexander is promoting the idea of a national all-party convention if there’s a No vote, and he’s right. It is exactly the right thing to do. When there is a national disagreement about how to proceed, the needs of all, but especially the majority, have to be respectfully treated. All parties, all opinions and representative groups should take part, just as they did in Iceland to find a new constitution.

I never dismiss any idea from any source out of hand. The foundation of my political belief is that I am a democrat. I am one among many. All views are relevant. I am not always right. And Douglas is never less than worth listening to.

At the same time Douglas is Labour’s election strategist, a man given to longer-term thinking and clever calculation.  He has mastered the arts of statecraft and can take credit for wrong-footing opponents. He is one of that breed of political exponents you can’t take your eye off and every time I hear him, I listen between the lines, if you see what I mean. We all learn not to take at face value the words of salesmen and manipulators even – especially – when they are offering something attractive. To put it another way, Douglas has earned our scepticism.

So, apart from a good inclusive idea what does Douglas’s convention tell us? First, if he is truly interested in the views of all, why didn’t he argue that the views of the known majority be placed on the referendum ballot paper? If we are genuinely trying to find a consensus way forward why deliberately deny the single largest group of voters – call them Devo Max – their choice in this great event of democratic history-making? It seems the views of the many only count when Douglas’s tribal enemy is first eliminated, then we can get down to democracy. I find that unconvincing.

My second thought is that Labour will struggle to produce anything credible on more powers before next September. This is partly because Johann has no devolutionary impulse of her own. She is not driven by it the way Dewar eventually was. It is not her cause. She is suspicious of what she calls the politics of boundaries. Her commission is motivated more by necessity than desire and will reflect that. I predict more powers to local government than to parliament. I’m also doubtful that Miliband will sanction whatever she produces in the face of a deeply sceptical English electorate furious at Scottish spending. (It’s a pity then the Scottish Unionists haven’t bothered to correct misleading impressions).

In that case, to get Labour off the hook, Douglas’s Convention is the perfect diversion. We don’t need too much detail on new powers or too much commitment to implement because we will all get into a big tent after a No vote and sort it out there.

That has the added advantage of suggesting the detail will have to wait for civic Scotland and others to thrash out because it’s only fair and democratic to do it that way. And if the Nationalists say No they won’t be interested in the people’s option because they were beaten.

Then there is the post referendum reaction. Enough Scots may well not be convinced of the case for independence yet but it would be a gross error to believe they will stop voting SNP. On the contrary, the polls indicate the opposite, that Scots will express their appreciation of Salmond’s gallant fight for what he believes in and, assuming he hams his way through a humble concession speech, I think there will be a sympathy vote thrown in. There will be no return to power for Labour.

In that same loser’s address I expect Salmond to thank the Scots for their thoughtful and trouble-free constitutional debate unmarred by violence or any of the nasty conflict Johann Lamont ascribes to their nationalism and then to point in her direction and demand: “It’s over to you now, Johann. You said Vote No. You promised something better. You’ve had plenty time to come up with it. In fact you said you were fed up waiting for the referendum vote. Well, we’re waiting now. The Scots are waiting. And they won’t wait much longer.”

All the pressure will transfer overnight to Labour. Instead of Unionist demands on Yes for detail after detail, it will be nationalists demanding detail and action from a Labour party unable to deliver and very possibly unable to win at Westminster. The tables will be turned and I suspect there will little support from the media who will also begin a relentless pursuit of Ms Lamont, producing a pressure she shows little sign of being able to handle.

How to reduce such scrutiny? By pointing to Douglas’s big tent, of course. You take the heat off by simply saying that this needs us all to decide together. It’s not just up to Labour. It is Scotland’s issue to solve. In that scenario Johann is just one of the contributors who will all be in it together. She doesn’t need to lead, doesn’t need to innovate or inspire. She only has to sit nice and let others do the work.

Is Douglas Alexander capable of devising such a plan? Sorry, that is rhetorical.

I’m away for the messages now. Next, I’ll layout what Johann should really have done to win the referendum for Labour all on its own without the Tories and hand oor Alex a bloody nose…

please…somebody stop me….

If you are looking for the kind of insidious, nasty nationalism Johann ascribes to the Scots, try Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail. I hesitate to put up a link as there is something repellent about it but he contrives to make a case for all the myths about Scotland that have shored up the London elite’s scorn since the Thatcher years.

You know, subsidised by English taxpayers – happily for them, not the Welsh nor the Irish – being ungrateful feckless junkies living in a dump with workshy unhealthy shirkers who are so stupid they want to leave the mothership until their oil runs out and then they’ll be back with the begging bowl. Nice, eh? To say this is wrong on so many levels, even hardened Unionists would agree. The subsidy part is disproved systematically by the official figures. The irony here is that the subsidy junkie myth originated in the late 80’s when Scotland’s oil was flowing at its fullest, gushing cash into the London coffers and paying Mrs Thatcher’s unemployment bill. Self- awareness isn’t a strength of the British elite.

The piece is not so much journalism as an incitement to hate. I try to test this sometimes by substituting, so that Scot is removed and replaced with Black, Jew or Woman. It can be revealing as to the author’s real intent. I’m not sure that legally you can be racist towards Scots if you are English and vice versa although it is an aggravating factor in a case of criminal violence. At any rate, this article smelled like anti Scottish racism to me, designed to be gratuitously and viciously offensive.

Similarly, Andrew Gilligan, for whom many of us in the BBC were ready to go to the barricades years ago, works very hard in the Telegraph – headline: Hatred at the heart of Scotland’s struggle to be free – to link the Yes Campaign to European neo-fascists and anglophobia, picking up on the somewhat discredited Vicky Featherstone claims that her professional problems were down to discrimination and then applying the same tag to Alasdair Gray’s call for arts administrators to understand the Scottish tradition before taking influential appointments. (Jonathan Mills, anyone?)

Even the Observer had Catherine Bennett saying she was in favour of independence but warning Scots not to descend into tartan, Bannockburn and anglophobia.

Is there a common trend here?

Well, there is one I can detect. It is an irresistible temptation to English-based writers to think the independence movement is all about them. In trying to write for a largely English audience they frame the discussion around themselves, rather than the Scots. So independence is a rejection of the English. It is a snub, a slight against well-intentioned Unionists who have agreed to share their wealth and allow Scots into the upper reaches of their society. It seems to be the only way they can interpret what is happening. We are essentially irrational quasi racists. So that explains it then. Is it asking too much that our neighbours give us credit for independent thought, for having a separate history and cultural tradition, distinctive politics, and ambition? Why on earth is self-determination – part of the preamble to the United Nations charter – only comprehensible if it’s seen as rejection of someone else? Rather stunted, petty nationalistic thinking, wouldn’t you say?

Which brings up another point, best represented by Heffer. (I know you can dismiss his rantings as bigotry best ignored but if you add the circulations of the Mail, the Telegraph and Observer you have a few million readers.) It is this. He writes with such sadistic relish in trashing the Scots – and it is all Scots by the way, not just Nats…no escape here for Unionists – that he reveals what I think is a deeper truth. I think Heffer and his tribe actually enjoy the idea of subsidising the Scots. They derive real satisfaction from feeling they lord it over us and brush crumbs from their table. A characteristic of the self-selecting British elite is an effortless assumption of superiority and an epic sense of entitlement, so that even when Britain is mired in one of the world’s worst debt crises – public and private – even when it is deeply uncompetitive, hopelessly unequal, dependent on one main income source, with a medieval parliament, they still believe – utterly – that they know best. Anything else is to be disparaged and derided and if you can add in a dash of ethnic inferiority you further bolster their self-esteem as the Chosen Ones.

Here’s a thought. Why do Scottish Unionists never stand up and condemn this kind of anti-Scottish and indeed, anti-Union, ranting? Douglas Alexander is in the papers warning of the dangers of nationalism. I know. He means Scottish nationalism but is it acceptable for those like Douglas who present themselves as thinkers and leaders to stay silent when those who pretend to be on his side damage his cause and insult his constituents with their British nationalism? Wouldn’t it do him a lot of good in the eyes of all Scots to condemn anyone who writes off his nation and accuses a movement which contains a fair number of his own natural supporters of being racists? Where are you, Douglas? Do you agree with Heffer and Gilligan?

One of the unreported moments from our day on the hill was the speaker who said explicitly that anyone of any nationality was one of us, a fellow Scot, that all were welcome. It got one of the biggest cheers of the day.

Here’s a challenge, Douglas. Could you stand up at the Labour conference and say the same. Could you say people of all backgrounds are welcome in our country – Britain – as equals with equal rights? Would delegates cheer as they did on the hill or would you be met by silence, then whispering from the advisers and hysterical, racist headlines followed by demotion?

The rise of UKIP and a glance at the rapidly developing anti immigrant agenda of the Coalition and Labour points an accusing finger at the real petty nationalists and quasi racists in modern Britain.

I didn’t mean to do this

I do want to draw my own agenda in blogging not merely respond to what others say but when the belief of the largest section of the voting public at the last election is described by a constitutional politician as a virus, it’s difficult not to get side-tracked.


Vilifying opponents is stock-in-trade in politics and stuff like: Letting down the people, misleading them and getting priorities wrong is fine. It may even be right! I also think barbed and biting is good when anger is required but the insinuation that one creed is insidious, spreading among people who don’t want it, and is like an illness eating away at the collective psyche is quite a charge. It makes it sound as the voters are too stupid to be aware of what they’re doing.


Even the racial hatred of the BNP is unlikely to be considered a virus since it seems to be identifiable and contained, hardly spreading unseen throughout the land.


But nationalism – supported by the majority of voters in Scotland last time round – in the hands of Unionists becomes a sickness sneakily associated with…with what? After all a virus is a contagion that transforms those it touches even, in its political form, against their better judgment. Isn’t that what historians say happened to the German people in the 30s and 40s? Didn’t nationalisms erupt among the state-lets of the Balkans in the 90’s, a model beloved of George Robertson?


What did run through both these examples was hatred and an embedded and long-concealed drive for revenge for the wrongs of history. A warped version of common interest was imposed on those sentiments by the unscrupulous to give wings to the hate.


That nationalism can be abused is like saying socialism was distorted to justify Soviet communism, that capitalism can be turned from freedom of choice for the individual into a vehicle for the enrichment of a few at the expense of the many.  Any common force or ideology falls prey to the unprincipled. Some even think that may have happened to Labour.


But what is nationalism? Is it Gordon Brown telling us all to run a Union Jack up the flagpole? Is it David Cameron telling us Britain is great during the Olympics? When British politicians talk of a history of fair play as a national characteristic, is that nationalism?


Just consider modern Germany as the best example of the transforming effects of this virus. During the national election this week there was a lot of talk about how the Germans organise their economy. A key element is the mittelstand, the vast array of small and middle-sized companies, many of them family concerns, generations old, often funded with equally long-term loans from regional banks, concentrating on quality manufacturing in niche markets. They provide local employment and stability in the community and healthy exports. It is a pan-German phenomenon for which there is no British equivalent. This system is an expression of German collective philosophy to which they all subscribe, a nationally agreed method of business which enriches all Germans, which is specific to them and from which they derive national pride. This is nationalism.


Over the border to the North is Denmark which has a century-old tradition of design in furniture, household goods, architecture and accessories. The people of Denmark embraced a functional design philosophy which still exits today and is supported by the government. Collectively, the Danes invested in an identifiable model of design which is an international badge of national identity. They take pride in it. It expresses something about who they are to the world and helps their economy. This too is nationalism.



Were you on the hill? (We’ll be asking that for a long time to come after the independence rally). When I was there I heard Elaine C Smith describe with blinding clarity what modern Scottish nationalism is about and she told the story of her family, of their aspirations, of the people of the east end of Glasgow with a barely-controlled fury.  I realised as she spoke that there isn’t a single Labour woman I can think of who could have made that speech. She described a Scottish way of doing things which used to be owned by Labour but to which they have lost any rights. It was of a collective, a shared knowledge of need for all, a refusal to be dominated by the self-aggrandizing which first made its appearance in 1320 in the Declaration of Arbroath which warned that even the king would be overthrown if he defied the people. The concept of the people’s sovereignty was born. That is nationalism.


The only hatred I see is that – synthetic or not – generated by Johann Lamont and the British supremacists in the media whose cartoon bile this week showed how the Unionist image of a family of nations is a sick joke for a section of British society. I need to get on with the day now and I’ll come back to this later but don’t you wonder if Johann really believes this hate-filled claptrap? Or is it another example of someone perennially unsure of her own underlying beliefs searching for a way of getting media attention? If any of this really is her world view, rather than machine politics, you have to feel for her.


Generation X

There was an eccentric bloke at the Glasgow Herald many years ago who confused me by changing his style every time I saw him. Collar and tie one day then tee shirt to work; one day pony tail, next day not. One of the hacks summed him up: “He opens the wardrobe in the morning, looks along the hangers and selects a persona for the day.”


He came to mind when I heard a Yes voter say the referendum isn’t about identity, a view supported by the No side who complain about a false choice between Scottish and British.


What do they mean? I get the bit about inclusion…that your place of birth, antecedents, colour, culture and beliefs are no exclusion. I live in Kelvinbridge  which is one of the most multi cultural places I’ve known. The connections of people I meet, excluding other Brits…. NO! Sorry…NOT excluding other Brits. That’s not what I meant. I’ll rephrase. Counting all nationalities, with English, Welsh and Irish folk – North and South – included, there is a constantly changing United Nations of North Africa, West Africa, South Africa, Kosovo, the sub continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), Germany, France, Iceland, Canada, Spain, Korea, Iran, Iraq and Govan. That’s before we count the Polish contingent and the annual influx of foreign students.


Not only do I not exclude them from my view of my country, I wholeheartedly embrace them being here. Immigrants, asylum seeks, refugees – welcome. Few things make me as proud as knowing that when persecution gets intolerable, a beaten-down and crushed human thinks of my country as a refuge. If they are here and their heart is here, then they are Scots like me.


That means they have invested in this place, brought their skills, humanity and commitment and put them at the service of all. They are doing their bit. Just like me.

So I don’t worry that in being Scottish I am somehow against others. I don’t resent anyone from England. Well, not because they’re English! I am English on my mother’s side and a childhood spent partly in the Newcastle area has ingrained in me a love of the working class warmth and camaraderie of the North. And oh those accents.


But I’m a Scot. Whatever my feelings towards others, I’m not confused about my identity. I am Scottish. Yes, I know I’m a British subject with a passport but I can’t avoid that. It was inherited.  As many have said before, whatever it says on my UK records, I am a Scot where it matters – in my heart.


And that’s where it ties in to the immigrant community because that is their option too, to regard themselves as Scots and their home as Scotland. As my mother came here with her accent, her Methodism, her different ways and Yorkshire puddings (family tradition), so new arrivals bring their distinct self-image and traditions too.

It just isn’t an issue, having a multiple identity as countless Irish folk in Scotland can testify. You can have both if that’s your choice – Pakistani and Scottish.


But the question in the referendum does require a choice. It is in essence asking who you are because it is inherent in the preference of status you choose for your country. When presented with the option, it is the clearest expression of nationality to choose statehood. To deliberately decline to do so is to downgrade your nationality.


The question asks, assuming you see yourself as a Scot, if you want your country to have the full range of government powers to run its own affairs and acquire the internationally acknowledged status of independence. In other words, do you aspire to be like every other member in the United Nations where all nationalities take their place as normal sovereign countries? Or, do you prefer to think of your country as Britain in which Scotland plays a subsidiary part as a regionally-administered  province subject to policies largely decided for the needs of a  majority based elsewhere? (By a parliamentary system in which Scotland now has 4 per cent representation)


A No vote accepts Scotland has subservient status in a larger entity and while there may be advantages to that arrangement, in order to receive those benefits, it is necessary to concede secondary status to your own country. By doing so, you acknowledge the superior status of Britain over Scotland. By voting No you make Britain, not Scotland, your country of choice.


No other people do this. It would be unthinkable for, let’s say, an Australian to spend more than a nano second on it. A politician in Canberra suggesting Australia couldn’t handle its own affairs and should let London decide monetary policy, defence and foreign affairs would be a laughing stock. Would a Frenchman or German put European government ahead of their own? I am a European first and a Frenchman second would be ridiculed even in pro Europe France.


Your double identity may be confirmed by a No vote but for the first time in our lifetimes and in the existence of the Union we will have been confronted with the choice and you will have chosen the UK over Scotland. In a No voter’s mind, the UK is the preferred country. Of course you retain a Scottish identity but only within the context of the UK.


It surely means your belief in Scotland and the Scots is compromised. Your Scottishness is expressed in limited terms. You are saying you are Scottish but only up to the point where you have to choose between Scotland and Britain. Then you opt for the UK.


So in terms of identity, that decision makes you a Brit first and a Scot second. How could it be otherwise? Asked to endorse the globally accepted credentials of nationhood, you will have declined, downgrading your country – Scotland – to provincial status.


In Scotland we have muddled along seemingly forever fudging the issue of who we are and what our country is. We say to ourselves we are Scottish and British – best of both worlds – and we’ve got away with it, although I suspect it has engendered in us a dispiriting inferiority complex or at least a cringe-worthy confusion alien to every other nationality.


In a year’s time that fudge, that awkward compromise, won’t do. We are the generation who get to choose. We are Generation X. And choose we must. There is no hiding place.


The national pride, the easily summoned passion for the icons and history, your genuine love of Scotland, won’t be enough. This is the moment of truth for every Scot. How much do you believe in Scotland, even at cost to yourself? If the answer is: Not enough to accord it the rightful status of every other country, then vote No. Vote for Britain. But remember that the next time a blue jersey or a pipe band or a nostalgic journey home or a Hebridean ferry stirs that familiar deep feeling in your heart.


You, alone among the Scots over 300 years, had the chance in your hands to do for Scotland what generations in the past gave their lives for and you said No….