CAMPAIGNING FOR SCOTLAND
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Issue 737 - 18th July
Compiled by Fraser Hudghton
Dispatching Dark Arts
Anyone watching Channel 4’s recent Dispatches, usually a forum for
investigative journalists heading out to uncover dodgy dealings or abusers
of the vulnerable and weak, may have been dismayed on tuning in last week to
see it entitled The Great British Break-Up. The dry territory of politics
seldom offers anything worthy of juicy gossip columns unless it involves
floating duck mansions or John Prescott’s late nights in the office.
I actually came across the programme post-broadcast while looking up
information on my alma mater, the University of Dundee. A little over two
years ago I had flagged up to me something which was on the horizon at my
former home of study - their Five Million Questions project. The reason for
its being highlighted to me was that in charge of the steering committee
would be Professor Christopher Whatley, former head of the institution’s
(outstanding) History department, and an academic well known for his
pro-Union stance on Scotland’s past. Concerns were expressed at the time to
me by a member of university staff querying whether this project was being
run with the best sense of academic impartiality. I will make clear at this
juncture - I am indeed biased; the History department at Dundee stands
second to none.
Full circle to Dispatches and the University of Dundee’s Professor Whatley
forms a main segment as an individual who has been threatened into silence
by SNP Minister Shona Robison, MSP for Dundee East. Her intervention came
following Professor Whatley’s chairing of an official No campaign event in
For those who did not watch The Great British Break-Up , it featured a heady
mix of political intrigue and subterfuge - that was, at least, the intent.
According to programme editors not only did the SNP Minister for Sport lean
heavily on an impartial academic, but SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson
also attempted to ‘neuter’ the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) from taking a
public stance. John Swinney, Scotland’s SNP Finance Secretary, was also
identified as the man apparently in charge of a number of companies, and
unnamed business figures contacted by Channel 4 also noted they have been
contacted by SNP Ministers, who must be lurking in the cupboards of
boardrooms and CEO’s offices across the land. Maureen Watt in addition
caused quite the stooshie by noting Scottish Fisheries Federation (SFF)
Chair Bertie Armstrong was on a “sticky wicket” in the heat of a
parliamentary debate after he and the First Minister had a public tet-a-tet
over EU policy. Not discounting the potential for intemperate language to be
thrown around in a legislative Chamber - has anyone watched the House of
Commons since television cameras were allowed in…? - what light does this
shed on the referendum campaign in Scotland, asked Channel 4?
Put simply, however, these claims are far from so clear cut. Professor
Whatley is charged with overseeing the impartial Five Million Questions, and
in addition convenes an official No campaign event in Dundee - one suspects
Ms Robison won’t have been on her own in raising an eyebrow. Angus Robertson
MP is accused of attempting to silence the SWA in the referendum campaign by
its former Chief Executive - something since
by the current inhabitant of the role, David Frost. John Swinney oversteps
his remit and orders public bodies to resign from the CBI in an effort to
score a political point - except this is precisely the point; these are
public bodies, and as the Minister responsible, Mr Swinney is alerting them
to their own operational obligations to remain independent from the
political process. Not to do so would be negligent. SFF Chair Bertie
Armstrong is sent a stinging written rebuke by the First Minister -
indicative of a government silencing its critics on policy - except perhaps
if Alex Salmond hadn't been MP and MSP for Scotland’s lifeblood fishing
communities for over 20 years - and notably has been returned with
stompingly greater majorities each time - then his knowledge of EU fisheries
policy and the needs of our maritime towns and villages could be questioned.
The response of elements of Scotland’s media to the claims outlined -
particularly those which raised challenging questions of current Scottish
Government Ministers - is at the heart of the other side of the Dispatches
programme - and for me, the very argument which fuels the drive for full
autonomy for Scotland.
Reference was made to the the UK Government having access to a monumentally
vast pool of resources which it can call on to, in effect, ‘neuter’ those
advocating an independent Scotland. Far from faint-hearted is the believer
that Scotland ought to regain control of its own affairs, dissembling the
current UK nation-state.
To the undecided voters - think about this - if you were in charge of the
UK, an area made up of constituent parts now operating under various stages
of devolved government and with an unpopular central administration in
London - what would you do and say to stop Scottish independence happening?
What lengths would you go to if your population was ten times that of your
difficult northern neighbour, with its popular second-term government still
trouncing your parties in the polls, and driving an agenda of grass roots
social change whilst you were drawn into boorish pub rhetoric by the fringes
of your political scene?
If you had ten times the size of Scotland’s army of civil servants and a
heaving bureaucracy ready to put the boot in - would you sit back and or
call every one of your friends to make sure that you didn't lose?
David Cameron and the UK Government will not want to be the ones who let
Scotland go on their watch - not a chance. The world is watching and whilst
UK television audiences are introduced to the referendum via hastily thrown
together documentaries on the ‘nasty’ campaign, the reality on the ground
couldn't be more different - certainly from the Yes side.
Yes campaigners want only to articulate why Scotland would be in a better
position if independent. Not in their interest is an independent Scotland
become a laughing stock. Which is why the suggestion of Dark Arts and
manipulation are so ludicrous. Ask yourself this - what would be the point
of a Scottish Government silencing legitimate concerns about the future - in
an attempt to draw a veil over the country becoming a basket case if
independent? It would be futile and an epic pyrrhic farce.
Years of London sucking in all of the UK’s wealth have left Scots - and
other regions of the UK - asking why we continue to have postcodes in the
country where life expectancy is on a par with some of the poorest and most
war-torn countries in the world - whilst vast natural and industrial
resources sit at our fingertips.
For 18 September the intellectual battle has been won for Yes. Let’s now get
out there and remind everyone exactly why that’s the case.
Jimmy Halliday’s contributions
to the Cause
Jimmy Halliday –
To put matters into context, in
1955 the SNP contested only two
Parliamentary seats in Scotland.
Dr Robert McIntyre fought Perth
and East Perthshire and Jimmy
Halliday fought Stirling and
Falkirk Burghs. Jimmy then
became the youngest ever SNP
Chairman and served 1956-70; in
1956 the entire SNP Conference
delegates were photographed on
the steps of the Allan Water
Hotel, Bridge of Allan.
There will be a Referendum for
Scottish Independence this year,
which was unthinkable in the
dark days of 1955. Jimmy died
on 3rd January 2013
at the age of 85, and we will be
publishing all his articles in
the Scots Independent, all those
we have electronic input for. It
is anticipated we will publish a
book with all his contributions
over many years but this will
have to wait until after the
Unrelenting hostility of all Britain’s media
To English eyes, Mr Clegg’s inclusion looked so jolly just and fair.
We always hope that we can heed lessons taught us by our mistakes and that
we will always learn from experience no matter how unpleasant. We like at
all times to be capable of self criticism. In the past, as elections have
come and gone, we have generally maintained these qualities.
But the General Election, now mercifully a thing of the past, provides us
with few positive lessons to be learned and no obvious blunders to be
corrected. Self criticism hardly arises. Our failures sprang from no defects
of our own but were the outcome of either ruthless determination or quite
incredible stupidity on the part of the controllers of British television
channels. Between them these three skewed, distorted and rendered farcical
an election which for the first tedious and witless fortnight of the
campaign seemed destined to be the most boring contest in electoral living
Then commitment to political education was swept away as the channels
adopted their preferred identity as branches of show biz. Wouldn't it be fun
to stick England's party leaders in front of TV cameras, allowing viewers to
imagine themselves free to throw nasty things at them? Call the show "Prime
Ministerial Debates", and have all three of OUR parties' leaders exposed
each to the gibes and attempted traps of the other two. of course no one
seriously imagined that Mr Clegg had the proverbial snowball's chance but to
English eyes it looked so jolly just and fair even though his presence was
just for the sake of appearances.
None of the organisers, we must assume, saw the possibility of complaint
from Scotland, but at any rate there would be no complaint from anyone whose
opinion they valued. Mr Salmond would not, could not, be Prime Minister.
Right? Well, what makes you think he was relevant to the show? No one from
the Labour, Liberal or Tory parties in Scotland is complaining. You are just
proving yourselves poor sports, just a bunch of whingers. We have been far
too reluctant to acknowledge that we are the target for the unrelenting
hostility of all Britain's media. A few individual journalists interject
protests and correctives, but far more happily serve their owners' whims and
prejudices. The fact that the SNP has no Press support must now be faced
squarely and some tactic must be devised if we are to have any better
prospects in future.
These biased scoundrels did not feel in the slightest degree guilty that the
elevation of Mr Clegg to parity with big parties, not only gave Mr Clegg the
simpering affection of millions who had never heard of him but it also gave
to every Liberal candidate a puff of stardust. SNP candidates might fairly
assume that their Liberal opponent, in all constituencies except those where
they had become a bad habit, would poll 1500 or so. Post-Clegg each of these
glowworms stood to poll maybe 4000. By the time TV had done its worst,
voters had little reason to remember the SNP, a factor, probably, in Ochil
and other places. Our failures occasioned joyful Labour hysterical
swaggering. When a Nationalist candidate once victorious, loses next time
round, Labour joy is comparable to Heaven's joy over a sinner that repenteth.
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