I’m fair enjoying the online debate on the right and I’m gratified it’s happening here. Thought I’d just put my tuppence worth in to the Vitol business as I think the acceptance of this donation is both the clearest sign of the unprincipled approach of Better Together and also will be a stain on the entire campaign once it’s over. It seems to me it epitomises the bullying, corporatist mentality of the Union itself in which big business dominates and politicians fawn.
I still wonder in amazement at a politician with, presumably, left-wing principles like Darling seeing no contradiction in banking a cheque from a major Tory donor, never mind one with such a dirty business track record. At what stage in a politician’s development does he simply throw off all his previous instincts and ideas and morph into the very thing he used to detest – hard-nosed, uncaring, greedy and arrogant?
As we read today of Labour people unable to work with Tories and detesting Better Together, it’s a reminder that out there all is not complacency and satisfaction. Surely one of the main reasons is Johann’s early mistake of refusing to consult properly on the course the party should take. Wasn’t this a case for a special delegate conference in which the issues could be thrashed out and the doubters appeased? That could have kept the unions closely on board and given the membership context to their campaigning. I’m not sure she even consulted her backbenchers to make sure she was on the same wavelength. It’s another sign of her failure as leader, however champion “a debater” she may be.
But on Vitol I’m still shaking my head at the attempt to link an SNP minister on behalf of the Scottish government holding a reception for a children’s charity which has among its donors a family trust including Ian Taylor with Ian Taylor in a personal capacity making a massive donation – half the total budget – to a political campaign. That is just puerile. One is charity to a good cause unconnected with the SNP or the government or politics in general and the other is partisan investment to keep afloat a political movement committed to maintaining a system from which the donor derives massive commercial and personal advantage. And he doesn’t even have a vote. Who needs one when you can buy the result?
The Unionist argument seems to be that civil servants should trawl through the accounts of every organisation and charity in the country and filter the results to avoid any that have money from sources they don’t like. And just how do you think Better Together would treat that news? The same way they treated Chris Whatley and Elliot Bulmer – with synthetic outrage and systematic mendacity.
The same point of difference applies equally to Taylor’s investment in Harris Tweed. However risky – Brian Wilson describes it as an act of faith – it is nevertheless a business investment, one that has paid off. Well done, Ian Taylor and well done, Brian Wilson whom I think should be knighted by his beloved British state for saving the industry. But it is in a different category again from a massive political donation. In truth, I’m not really bothered about low-level donations – below £7500 – from any legal source as no individual donation can in itself pay for enough influence to change or win the vote. So I would treat such an amount from Taylor with revulsion because of his company’s morally questionable behaviour and judge Better Together accordingly, but I would accept it was legitimate. It is the degree of funding from a single source with such an anti-liberal and anti human rights background that is wrong…wrong in social democratic Scotland, wrong in a debate about how our country should be run and wrong for every single Labour voter in Scotland, except Alastair.
By the way, I’m not happy either at huge sums that have and may still come the Yes campaign’s way from Brian Soutar whom I also regard as at the very least, socially illiberal, as in anti-gay. There are differences with Taylor such as Soutar’s residence and while his business empire has suffered criticism for putting rivals out of business, his commercial misdemeanours are petty indeed compared to the known record of Vitol. Nevertheless, any business type making a monumental contribution to a political cause has to be questioned because, however committed to independence Soutar is, does any businessman ever do anything for totally altruistic reasons?Personally I see these as in a totally different category from anyone who gets lucky on the Lottery for instance and back their favourite cause with cash but have no dodgy business background or commercial way of benefitting. Is that wrong?