Tag Archives: Unionism

The Hypocrisy Of Labour’s Anti-SNP Smears

I realize the Labour Party sees Scotland as its natural territory. For decades, Labour has dominated the country politically. However, it has, to use Johann Lamont’s words, treated Scottish Labour as a branch of the party at Westminster. Furthermore, Labour has ignored the wishes of their voters and regarded them as errant children when they complain about neoliberal policies being enacted in Westminster and forced down Scottish throats. This has all come back to bite Scottish Labour on the arse. The Scottish National Party saw the void left behind when SLab slid to the right by adopting the neoliberal orthodoxy and filled it. What party wouldn’t do that? This is called ‘politics’ and the SNP played a blinder.

I saw a tweet earlier on my timeline from a Labour activist that read something along the lines of “The SNP’s right wing roots”. However, as I pointed out in this blog, the SNP was formed from the larger social democratic National Party of Scotland and the smaller, centre-right Scottish Party. Labour has always had its right-wing and they have worked hard to marginalize the left in the party, even going as far as to sign up to Atlanticist projects initiated by the CIA. And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Jim Murphy on the political council of the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society?

What Labour activists conveniently forget is how, in 2012,  local party branches in Scotland formed coalitions with the Tories in Stirling and Aberdeen City Councils. Selective memory loss or bald hypocrisy? Maybe it’s a combination of the two.

In Aberdeen.

Labour and the Conservatives have joined forces to form an administration in Aberdeen.

Labour had the most councillors on the city council after last week’s elections.

BBC Scotland revealed that as well as the Conservatives the coalition will rely on the support of three Independents. Labour’s Barney Crockett will be the new council leader.

The SNP and Lib Dems will form the opposition on the council.

In Stirling:

Labour and Conservative members on Stirling Council have agreed to run the local authority together.

Both parties said their priority would be balancing the local authority’s books over the next two years.

The deal comes despite the SNP returning nine councillors at last week’s local election compared with Labour’s eight and the Tories’ four.

The Nationalists ran Stirling Council as a minority administration between 2008 and May 2012.

The SNP condemned the coalition deal, calling it a “betrayal” for the people of Stirling.

To SLab and all Labour Party activists who spread this nonsense about the SNP: isn’t it time you admitted that you’ve taken Scottish voters for granted and would even do a deal with Satan himself to grab power? As far as Scotland is concerned, you’ve lost it. Try focussing on the real enemy instead: the Tories. You messed up in Scotland. Have the good grace to admit it and move on. That means dumping Murphy as leader of SLab. One more thing, Unionism is a form of nationalism whether you want to admit to that or not.

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The Labour Party Doesn’t Work With Nationalists? Pull The Other One

Last night, Ed Miliband confirmed that he would not do a deal of any kind with the Scottish National Party. In the event of a hung parliament, Miliband and his Labour Party would seemingly prefer that the Tories formed the next government than seek a confidence and supply arrangement with the SNP. Yes, you read that correctly, Miliband is apparently happy to condemn the voters to five more years of Tory cruelty. Thanks a lot.

If the Labour Party has a problem with nationalism, then it is a selective problem. Labour has traditionally relied on the support of The Social Democratic and Labour Party of Northern Ireland – an Irish nationalist party. During the Lib-Lab pact of the late 1970s, the SDLP supported the Labour government of Jim Callaghan but withdrew their support over Sunny Jim’s concessions to the Ulster Unionist Party that gave them more seats. The SDLP voted with the Tories in the no confidence motion that triggered the 1979 general election. Yet it’s the SNP that is still castigated for ‘ushering in’ the Thatcher regime. This is nothing but a myth. The last time I checked, the SDLP still wanted a united Ireland too. During the 2010 election, there was even talk of Labour doing a coalition deal with the Lib Dems, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Greens. This came to nothing.

The SDLP was formed in 1970 from two parties: Gerry Fitt’s Republican Labour Party and the smaller, but no less nationalist, National Democratic Party. The latter practised abstentionism and the former disagreed with that position. The Republican Labour Party had, itself, been formed from Fitt’s Socialist Republican Party and Harry Diamond, the sole representative of the Irish Labour Party north of the border, who’d left that party to join Fitt’s party. Confused? Don’t be. The joke going around at the time was “two one-man parties had become a one two-man party”.

Curiously, in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the SDLP refused to do a deal with Sinn Féin (the third largest party in the 1918 General Election) and is now quietly supporting the Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party at Stormont.

SDLP rejects Sinn Fein’s proposal for a progressive pact.

SDLP rules out SF election pact to counter unionist deal.

SDLP ‘silent partners in unionist election pact

If the SDLP carries on at this rate, it will go the same way as Scottish Labour.

Labour also worked in coalition with Plaid Cymru in the Welsh Assembly from July 2007 to December 2009. It was called the One Wales agreement. My, what short memories we have!

The three main parties (and UKIP) seem content to alienate Scotland which, ironically, works against their best efforts to cling onto the decaying union. The attitude towards Scottish voters has been nothing short of contemptuous. It’s as if to say “If you vote SNP, we’re not going to listen to you”. It would seem that Labour is prepared to work with nationalist parties, as long as they’re not Scottish nationalists.

If the union is broken up, it will be mainly the fault of the three main parties (and UKIP) for whipping up fear and anti-Scottish hatred among English and Welsh voters.

Unionists: they can’t even shoot themselves in the foot properly.

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The SNP, Scottish Labour, Loyalism and Scotophobia

Striking fear in the hearts of Unionists

There are some folk, mainly Labour types, who have a visceral hatred of the Scottish National Party. I have heard all kinds of characterizations of the SNP and all of them are wrong. “Well, the SNP are a nationalist party and nationalism is bad” is one such complaint but is all nationalism bad? Isn’t there such a thing as left-wing nationalism? Then there were the many liberation movements in the former colonies. Weren’t they nationalist and left-wing? I’ve also heard people characterize the SNP as “Nazis” (melodramatic) or  as the “Scottish version of UKIP” (absurd). Hysterical, hyperbolic and delusional. But whoever claimed Unionists were rational? They will do anything to cling onto the leaky boat that is the Union.

The SNP was formed in 1934 through a merger of two parties: the larger centre-left National Party of Scotland and the smaller centre-right Scottish Party. The latter was really little more than a discussion group and was a breakaway group from the Unionist Party, the ideological cousins of the Conservative Party. Furthermore, the Scottish Party was not a nationalist party; it advocated Home Rule. The former was the older of the two formations and contained, among others, Hugh MacDiarmid, who was later expelled for being a communist. Ironically MacDiarmid would be expelled from the CPGB for holding nationalist views.

Initially, the SNP wasn’t always nationalist and advocated Home Rule in its early years. This changed in the 1970s after the successes of Winnie Ewing in 1967 and Margo MacDonald in the Glasgow Govan by-election in 1973. The Govan seat would later be won by her future husband, Jim Sillars, in 1988. Disgusted by the lack of progress towards devolution, Sillars left the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1976 and formed a breakaway Scottish Labour Party. This party, along with the 79 Group formulated a left-wing vision for the SNP. The 79 Group, which included a young Alex Salmond, Roseanna Cunningham and Margo MacDonald, attempted to pull the SNP further to the left. They were expelled by the SNP, though they would return in the late 1980s and their platform would be adopted as a political position first, by Gordon Wilson, the SNP leader and then, when Salmond won the leadership contest in 1990.

Currently the SNP is described as “social democratic”. They are to the left of Labour on many issues. This does not mean they are a socialist party. Far from it. However, they are genuinely progressive and offer the possibility of smashing the Westminster sham democracy once and for all. I am not an SNP supporter but I can see the attraction in voting for them and I can also see how an SNP majority in Scotland could lead to a change in the way the United Kingdom is governed. I am no supporter of the union and I believe that it has run its course. The countries of the UK need a new constitutional settlement and a different voting system. If the SNP are successful, then this is more likely to come about.

I have to laugh at those unionists who complain about Scottish and even Welsh nationalism, but unionism and its Northern Irish cousins,  Ulster Unionism and Loyalism, are actually forms of nationalism. There is no self-reflexivity on the unionist side. None whatsoever.

What struck me as odd is how Labour shared a platform with the Orange Order (and the Tories) during the Scottish Independence Referendum. Orangemen, Loyalists and Unionists are a backward-looking, nostalgic bunch who are forever trapped in their flawed rendering of history. It’s a version of history full of mawkish sentimentality and constant flag (or fleg) waving. And it stinks.

Some critics of the SNP may complain that the party has a distant history of anti-Catholicism, but that is nothing compared to the sectarian bigotry of the Orange Order. Yet, Scottish Labour was happy to jump into bed with the Orangemen and Loyalists.

Remember this scene after the “Better Together’ campaign won? This is what your union looks like.

Gerry Braiden, writing in The Herald wrote:

THE Orange Order’s anti-independence campaigning has support from within the Labour Party, a leading Northern Ireland politician has claimed.

 The DUP’s Sammy Wilson said one Scots Labour MP told him he was grateful to “see the Lodge on the street” in the weeks and months running up to the September 18 poll .

Just days before tens of thousands of Orange Order members take to Edinburgh’s streets opposing Scottish independence, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland’s most senior official, Dr David Hume, has claimed it would be “failing in its democratic duty” if it did not stage a Referendum rally.

I was probably about 10 years old when I saw the local Orange Order march through Liverpool City Centre. I asked my mother who these people were. “They’re the Orangemen”, she replied . “What’s an Orangeman, mum”? She had no answer. “Is grandad an Orangeman”? “No” my mum shot back. But I found the triumphalist spectacle rather threatening. Men in bowler hats and orange sashes marching as bold as brass along a main thoroughfare didn’t sit well with me. Many years later, I discovered what they were. I also learnt about Loyalism and how closely connected Loyalist paramilitaries were to both the state security services and the far-right. Britain First, for example, was founded by Loyalist and former Calvinist preacher, Jim Dowson, and uses Loyalist motifs.

In Scotland, the Orange Order was closely associated with the Scottish Unionist Party (now called Scottish Conservatives), but its influence has waned in recent years because of the Tories’ diminution of seats north of the border. More Orangemen are likely to be members of the Scottish Labour Party these days, Peter Geoghegan writes:

According to the current Grand Master, Henry Dunbar, the Order even encouraged members to vote SNP in the 2011 Holyrood elections in protest over a Glasgow City Council policy to reduce parades. The SNP won a number of Labour strongholds in Glasgow in its landslide victory, though it’s not clear what, if anything, the ‘Orange vote’ contributed to that.

But the relationship was short-lived.

The Order’s putative flirtation with the nationalists didn’t last long. Before May’s local elections, the Labour group leader in Glasgow, Gordon Matheson, appeared at an Orange Lodge hustings, apparently telling members that the council’s parading policy was ‘flawed’. The Orange Torch praised Matheson for his attacks on the SNP – ‘the kind of bullish talk we need to hear more of from unionist politicians’ – and claimed that Labour held control of the council thanks to the help of ‘thousands of Orangemen and their families’.

There are still people who will persist with the accusation that the SNP is fundamentally anti-Catholic. That accusation is feeble and the SNP’s critics will do anything to smear them.

The success of the SNP has brought with it a concomitant rise in anti-Scottishness.  Mind you, this anti-Scottishness is nothing new and has been around ever since the Middle Ages. Indeed, the stereotypical image (constructed by the English) of the Scots and other the Celtic peoples of these islands has been unremittingly negative. Ironically, no such stereotypes of the English exist. The Scots, however, are depicted variously as drunks, junkies and tramps, who are a drain on the UK economy. Ray Winstone, appearing on Have I Got News For You, infamously claimed:

“To be fair the Scottish economy has its strengths – its chief exports being oil, whisky, tartan and tramps.”

Kelvin Mackenzie, himself of Scottish descent, appears to hate his own genes.

Scotland believes not in entrepreneurialism like London and the south east… Scots enjoy spending [money] but they don’t enjoy creating it, which is the opposite to down south.

The myths and tropes keep piling up.

Only yesterday, while I was watching the BBC News Channel, a woman in a vox pop interview expressed her ill-founded fears that Scotland would “run the country”. Her level of ignorance and paranoia was staggering. Thus we find that the hatred felt by some English people isn’t confined to the SNP and extends to Scotland itself. The recent independence referendum has brought all of this hatred and bile to the surface and much of it is stirred up by the media and by English politicians. The Tories’ recent poster of Alex Salmond with Ed Miliband in his pocket was designed specifically to play on people’s ignorance.

The union came into being with the Acts of Union (1707 and 1800) and yoked Scotland and Ireland to England for the purpose of creating an empire. The ‘partnership’, as the Union is often called these days, is supposedly an equal one. But that’s not how many people in Scotland and Ireland see it. Even in Northern Ireland, there is a general feeling that Westminster doesn’t understand the Six Counties. In spite of protests to the contrary, England has dominated the Union politically, economically and militarily. It imposed direct rule in Northern Ireland and denied the right of the Scots to organize their own affairs, while Wales is practically ignored.

The union is finished and any attempt to hang on for dear life to, what is in effect, a corpse is only delaying the inevitable.

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The Scottish Independence Referendum: Some Historical Perspectives

The closer we get to the date of the Scottish independence referendum, the more bizarre and ludicrous the Unionists’ arguments (well, narratives actually) become. One such argument concerns an independent Scotland’s continued use of the pound sterling. “No, you can’t use it” screams George Osborne but hang on, don’t the Isle of Man, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands, all of which are independent, use the pound? Yes, they do. Then there’s the question of national borders. Last week, The Mail on Sunday interviewed Ed Miliband, who apparently claimed if Labour win next year’s General Election, his government would consider putting guards on the border between Scotland and England. But I wonder if Mr Ed, in his moment of petulance, realised that the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland is effectively open and this has officially been the case since 1993? Even when the Irish Republic was declared, the border was lightly patrolled, if at all. Consequently, Labour members have been quick to claim that Miliband’s views had been “misrepresented”, but I suspect that they’re being dishonest.

I have seen some Labourites and self-described socialists complain that a vote for independence is a vote for the Scottish National Party. It isn’t. In case they weren’t paying attention, this is about independence and nothing else. Others make even wilder assertions, claiming that Scottish independence will lead to fascism north of the border because the SNP is really like the British National Party (sic). Really? This is a country where the far-right have fared worse than their cousins south of the border. Fascism has no traction in Scotland. Many Unionists on the political Right, like historical revisionist, Niall Ferguson, try to channel the Darien Scheme and summon up the ghosts of Scotland’s single failed colonial episode to deal a hammer blow to the idea of independence. This is an event that happened over 300 years ago. Isn’t it time to move on? Apparently not. A peevish and newly-bearded Ferguson, appearing on Newsnight on Monday, went from comparing a potentially independent Scotland to the US state of Colorado (presumably because it legalized the sale and consumption of cannabis earlier this year) to making specious connections with Belarus and Moldova. The desperation! Iain Martin of the Telegraph moaned that Newsnight had “finally found a historian other than Tom Devine”. He, of course, meant Ferguson, who’s defended neoliberalism by rewriting the history of capitalism from the perspective of the powerful, and writing out those on whose backs great fortunes were made. Devine, on the other hand, was a Unionist but defected to the Yes camp a few months ago. Given his slippery grasp of history, Ferguson is not a man I’d trust to make a logical and reasoned case for the continuation of the Union. But this really is the best the Unionists can offer. Have you seen who else they’ve got onboard? Uh huh, look away now.

Since the beginning, the ‘No’ campaign has used hectoring, threats, petulance, outright bullying and yes, lies to try and convince the Scottish people to side en masse with their dismal campaign. Indeed their behaviour is reminiscent of English Unionists in the months before the passage of the Act of Union in 1707.  The idea of union was so unpopular with the common people that when the draft of the Act was made public, riots ensued. Aware of the Act’s unpopularity, the English bribed and cajoled the Scottish nobles into accepting it. The poet, Robert Burns, observed:

We’re bought and sold for English Gold,

Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation.

The gold was distributed to aristocrats and some of the money was used to hire spies like Daniel Defoe, who reported “A Scots rabble is the worst of its kind, for every Scot in favour there is 99 against”. Today, the Unionists offer more devolution, which is no doubt backed with more gold for wealthy landowners and businessmen. As for spies, they may well be operating on the ground. Plus ça change.

The 1707 Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament by 106 to 69 votes. By doing so, Parliament had ignored the wishes of the people and effectively voted for its own extinction. The Treaty of Union contained 25 articles, most of these were economic, while the other articles dealt with symbols. Many Scottish nobles, like the Campbells of Argyll (Archibald Campbell, the 3rd Duke of Argyll was even educated at Eton), were absentees and had taken up residence in London and the South-East, but still ruled over their clan from afar.

The Act of Union was so poisonous that it invited insurrection in the form of the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745. This reveals something else about English motives behind the Act: it was designed to prevent Scots from choosing their own monarch – even if the monarch was Protestant. In the aftermath of the rebellions, the Highland Clearances forced communities from the land . The wearing of tartan, the playing of bagpipes and the speaking of Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) were proscribed by law. Thus, the Union was enforced culturally as well as economically. There were similar clearances in the Scottish Lowlands.

Yes, Scotland was poorer than England, which had overseas possessions and material wealth (partly through legitimizing piracy with its privateers armed with guns and letters of marque). It is true that the Darien Scheme bankrupted Scotland, but the idea that the Act of Union was promulgated on the basis of English altruism is patently absurd. This lie has been magically transformed into a handy myth to be invoked in response to the case for independence and I’ve seen it used many times. England had always wanted to dominate Scotland and, indeed, it continues to do so, economically, to this day. North Sea oil, which was discovered off the Scottish coast in the 1960s was later used to finance tax cuts for wealthy, mainly English, capitalists. A sovereign fund could have been established with the royalties (Tony Benn had proposed this when he created the British National Oil Company in the late 70s), as Norway had done, but Thatcher and her Tory ministers regarded it as an opportunity to have a piss up at the expense of ordinary people. In other words, the money made from this Scottish asset was used to shore up the same kind of people who supported the Act of Union in the first place. Ordinary Scots, aside from those working in the oil and gas industry, haven’t fared so well. The heavy industries like shipbuilding that had so dominated cities like Glasgow are but a memory.

The Poll Tax was first introduced in Scotland, apparently because, according to Ian Lang, the Rugby School-educated Tory Secretary of State for Scotland, it would appeal to the Scottish ‘sense of fairness’. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The Poll Tax ensured that Scottish Tory MPs became less common as the 1990s wore on. Only one Tory was returned to Westminster in 2010. The Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament are also in decline. Most Tory MSPs sit in the chamber thanks to the regional lists.

One thing that I have always found amusing when travelling across the English-Scottish border is the difference between the national signs. If you’re travelling from south to north you will be greeted by signs that read “Welcome to Scotland” but if you travel in the opposite direction, the sign simply says “England”. What? No welcome? In some small way, this sums up the difference between the two countries. One sign is friendly and welcoming, while the other may as well say “You’re in England now. What more did you expect? A hug”?

There’s talk that the Scottish independence referendum will finally prompt long overdue debates on the way politics is done in the rest of Britain. It is clear that the current Westminster arrangement is damaging the country. Westminster politics, for the most part, are corrupt; rotten to its core and is in desperate need of a good kicking. The Union is stale and backward-looking, and draws on an imagined past that is replete with the redundant symbols of prestige (think of the honours system and the House of Lords). Scottish independence could change all that.

Vive l’Ecosse! Saor Alba!

 

 

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