The attack begins…
Wing Commander Guy Gibson, V.C., D.S.O., D.F.C: Hello, “M Mother” are you there?
Flight Lt. J.V. Hopgood, DFC: I’m here, Leader
Squadron Leader H.M. Young, DFC: Here, Leader.
Flight Lt. D.J.H. Maltby, DSO, DFC: Here, Leader.
Flight Lt. D.J. Shannon, DSO, DFC: Here, Leader
Squadron Leader H.E. Maudslay, DFC: Here, Leader.
Flying Officer L.G. Knight, DSO: Here, Leader.
Gibson: Hello, all Cooler aircraft. I’m going in to attack. Stand by to come in in your order when I tell you….
He points the nose down towards the dam wall. Cue music…
Isn’t it telling that the Coalition is calling the latest stage of its terror campaign The Dambusters after a Second World War murderous attack that flooded the Ruhr and killed over a thousand? Identifying a political campaign with the British war effort is one of those unthinking moments that provides an insight into how the British machine still regards itself. And, in passing, it confirms what people like me have been saying – that this is a political campaign in which the finance sector is participating, whatever Standard Life’s allegedly neutral words indicate.
After the Currency Denial comes the bouncing bombs of the financiers and bankers crashing into the credibility of the plan to free Scots from the control of the profiteering classes and create a more equal Scotland. Boom! Goes your currency…Crash! Goes your financial centre…Take that you blighters!
We call it the Dambusters after the movie but the operation was, even more appropriately, called Operation Chastise. Oh yes, that’s the Union game right there…teach them a lesson they won’t forget.
The history is also a metaphor because there were two unforeseen side effects. First, the largest group killed as the Mohne and the Eder poured millions of tons of water into the Ruhr Valley were on our side. They were nearly 800 Ukranian prisoners of war held in a camp just below the Eder Dam. They were collateral damage, just as those Scots will be after a No vote who are again left at the mercy of the Tory government, unprotected by their allies the Labour Party. Others to suffer will be Scots embittered at the closing of the ranks among the Unionist elite who finally realise that the partnership of the Union was a myth.
Secondly, the raid failed. It was initially seen as a success in that it hit key dams and released torrents of water and disrupted German engineering. The crews – those that made it, 50-odd men didn’t – came home, rightly, to heroes’ welcomes and, for Guy Gibson a Victoria Cross. But they failed to hit the third Sorpe dam which would have been devastating. Instead the water levels were back to normal in six weeks and war production resumed. So sometimes, what appears to be a success at first, turns out in time to be anything but.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Unionists are having a morale boost and on the BBC it is now a sly joke among presenters to drop in a final question to…well anybody, really. ‘What’s your take on independence?’ It is as if it is now safe to ask since the great cloud has been lifted and the powers to which the Unionists defer, the City, the Treasury and, bizarrely, Barroso, have hit back and stopped the movement in its tracks. (I liked the airline boss’s reply which didn’t follow the script by telling them passenger duty and landing fees would probably reduce so it would be good for business). That answer inadvertantly gave one small perspective on the wider question which hasn’t occurred to any BBC commentator I’ve seen or heard. They have no idea and no interest in SNP or the wider Yes policies and have minds closed to anything other than the conventional, deferential rote of honouring establishment power. If you have a title, you get automatic respect from the national broadcaster, no matter what you actually say. I think only Scot Angus Roxburgh in the London media (Guardian) and hardly anyone in Scotland actually tackled the content and implication of what Barroso said and challenged his role in saying it, not even the accoladed Andy Marr. Instead of fawning, it is their duty to us, the licence-fee payers, to challenge and scrutinise and it is proving beyond them.
There is too the long-term close association between Scottish media and the financial sector. When I was in newspapers we went to virtually every company announcement by banks and insurers, were treated royally and in return their pronouncements were given prominence. At that time there was some justification as some of these outfits were historically successful and, while boring, a source of pride. Connections forged then have influenced many of the commentators you read today. Financial institutions could afford lavish largesse in the form of lunches in the boardroom, golf outings, sponsorship and match tickets, some of which still goes on today…buying loyalty or at the very least making it that little bit harder to write a strongly critical piece. One well-known Edinburgh-based financial journalist told me how reporters were made aware of a building society – I think it was Abbey National, now part of Santander – who quietly offered them low interest mortgages. In return, he said, nobody ever wrote a bad word about them.
Longer term, on the ground, does a millionaire financier warning of leaving really scare the mass of Scots? Will banks who ruined people’s lives and still receive life-changing sums every year provide the leadership for people stuck on poverty wages, eking out a living on two jobs, surviving in stressed-out families? Will these people look to the Labour party leaping with joy at such threats along with the City and the Tories and imagine they remain on their side?
It wasn’t the feeling at the Yes meeting in Gilmerton in Edinburgh that I chaired last night where there was an anger and a resentment at being put in their place, kept down and lectured by politicians who have abandoned what they regard as the core values of their lives. There were stories of friends and family fighting to retain much needed benefits and an openness to egalitarian ideas that, far from being impossible to put in place, simply require the political will to introduce once the power is returned into the hands of the Scots. There was also news which I won’t repeat in detail because it’s likely to feature in the weekend press, about canvassing returns from some our housing estates which suggest a rising tide of support for a transformative Yes. These are Scots untouched by Standard Life pension and insurance policies. Their war generation parents probably expected that when the war was over they would live in peace, the peace they fought for. For too many thousands of our fellow Scots their daily life is a war and in six month’s, for the first time in their lives, they will hold the power in their hands from 7am to 10pm to change that world for ever.
Now, how does that Dambusters theme tune go?