In or Oot, Whit’s it a’ aboot?


I’m conflicted. I feel passionately that I want independence for Scotland from the UK, yet it seems best to remain in the European Union. But why leave one large union yet aim to stay in another larger “union”? Undoubtedly there would be some advantages in leaving the EU, particularly for the fisheries and agricultural industries who have suffered from restrictive practices. But any such benefits would be heavily outweighed, I believe, by the benefits arising from relationships built with other European nations, which surely account, to some extent, for 70 years of peace in Europe? In the event of war with countries outwith the EU, I believe it would be better to be part of the EU as we have forged a relationship with member countries and can count on some kind of support.

A further reason to remain in the EU is the employment protection afforded to our workers by EU legislation. Tory governments, when in power, tend to reduce the power of trade unions and rights of employees. Just look at the zero-hour contracts introduced. These give no protection whatsoever to employees who don’t even receive sick pay if they are ill. Wages, in real terms, have fallen. So currently, the balance of power lies with employers and this is bad news for the younger generation. Yet, I can recall bathing by by candlelight during the miners’ strikes in the 1970s and feeling angry that any union should possess so much power. For a trade union to topple a government meant that too much control was held by employees and, in fact, I grudgingly agreed with some of the legislation introduced by Maggie Thatcher. But now the situation is reversed and big business calls the shots. My fear is that if we leave the EU, the government will have sole control of employment rights and, given that this is not a socialist government, that would be bad news for the poor and the vulnerable as their rights would be further eroded.

The big issue for those in favour of leaving the EU appears to be the fear that we will be over-run with immigrants who will claim our benefits, take our jobs and housing, and take up places in our educational system. The very small percentage of EU members coming to the UK and claiming benefits, perhaps attracted by the higher rates, although concerning, is heavily outnumbered by those coming here to work and pay their taxes into our system. Given our aging population, we need them to contribute to our economy. They also enrich our country by introducing their cultures. So, I see the free movement of labour as a good thing, particularly where they have skills which are in short supply. The Health Service and many care homes, for example, could not function without EU employees.

My reasons for favouring independence for Scotland from rUK will resonate with other SNP supporters. Scotland is a separate country with its own history and a tradition of socialism, with champions such as Robert Owen and Keir Hardie aiming to improve the lot of the poor. The election of 56 SNP seats out of 59 in Westminster suggests that Scottish people want Socialist policies and as the only viable party offering this, SNP has gained the Scots’ support. In recent years, UK governments (even Labour ones) have become increasingly capitalist and self-interested, encouraging an attitude of “look after number 1”. How could they be otherwise when the Prime Minister and her cabinet are millionaires? They think that the poor just have to work harder to be better off and, unfortunately, it’s more complex than that. I have friends and family who have moved to the south-east and I have detected a gradual change in their attitude. Self interest seems to replace any thoughts of collectively caring for the poor and the vulnerable. They seem unconcerned that food banks are multiplying and employers are exploiting youngsters with unpaid internships, low wages and temporary contracts. I’m lucky, having had a secure job with a good pension scheme. But my children’s generation don’t have that, and their future is uncertain. Our Scottish government is at least attempting to alleviate the poverty that is Scotland’s heritage.

Free college and university tuition is vital. I was the only one of 4 children who made it to university. Had fees been payable, I wouldn’t have gone. Like many students today, I supported myself with two part-time jobs. Education was my passport out of poverty.

The question I want to ask unionist supporters is, what has this Tory government done for you? How will this government make life better for you and for those living in poverty?

Scotland wants the government we elect, with socialist policies, not a London-centric privileged, old school tie, private club. When independent, we will make mistakes but they will be our mistakes and our solutions. No doubt, rUK will seek devolution when they see how we fare.


A Union of Equals


In 2014 Scotland was ‘love bombed’ by a seemingly endless supply of celebrities and politicians from the major Westminster party machines. We were ‘valued’, ‘equal members of the greatest Union in the world’ and even ‘respected partners’. These messages of support and goodwill toward the Scottish nation were tempered with dire warnings of doom, gloom and despondency should we do the unthinkable and vote to leave the protection of our benevolent partner nations. The oil was running out, we would lose our place in the European Union, our pensions would only be safe with Westminster and, according to Phillip Hammond the Defence Secretary at the time, defenceless Scotland would be invaded within minutes by the Russian Imperialist Army and/or aliens as we would not have the ‘protection’ of a nuclear arsenal. These joint arguments swayed a majority to vote to retain the status quo and on the 19th September 2014 we remained part of the loving benevolent Union.

What has happened since that date ? Let’s deal with the ‘dire warnings’ issued by Westminster if we had voted Yes.


It appears that our oil has not run out. Less than three weeks after Indyref BP suddenly announced that not only had they discovered a massive deposit of oil west of Shetland at Clair Ridge, the largest single field found in the northern hemisphere, but that they had invented a new technique called LoSal to extract it. BP had commissioned a massive floating crane called the Thialf to install the required infrastructure on the oil field and that they expected full commissioning of the field in a very short time indeed. All of this happened inside three weeks of Indyref so BP really got on with it didn’t they ? The one little problem that Westminster had was that many of us were aware of the Clair Ridge discovery, and Hurricane, Bentley and all the other named fields west of Shetland. Westminster had denied that any of those existed but the fact remains that they did. Could the silence from BP have anything to do with Cameron’s flying visit to BP in Shetland, using a plane from the Queens Flight, shortly before Indyref ? Cameron missed a Cabinet meeting to go there for five hours. Immediately afterward the work on Clair Ridge was suspended and the workers sent home on full pay. If you research the Thialf floating crane you will discover exactly where it was from July 2014… weirdly it was ‘parked’ right on top of the Clair Ridge oil field. The Thialf is estimated to cost £100,000 a day to hire so who picked up that bill ? The LoSal extraction technique BP had invented was mentioned in Oil Trade magazines and bulletins from 2012 onward yet it was made out to have been invented AFTER Indyref to coincide with the ‘discovery’ of Clair Ridge. Have the Tory party and Westminster deliberately lied to the public ?


We all know what has happened.. we are out of Europe thanks to Cameron and the Tory party calling the European Referendum. Brexit is coming. The Westminster Unionist party machines told us in 2014 that we could only stay in Europe if we voted No. The Scottish people did that and now we are out of Europe. An overwhelming majority of Scots voted to remain in Europe yet we are out. Westminster refuses to acknowledge that simple fact and ignores the approaches from the Scottish parliament to have a say in the Brexit negotiations with the European Union. We are to put all our faith in the Tory party and Westminster and blandly accept whatever they negotiate with Europe. So much for being ‘equals’ and ‘valued partners’ in 2014. Less than two years after the ‘lovebombs’ of Indyref, we are again completely ignored. It is immaterial what sort of Brexit the Tories negotiate with Europe, hard or soft, it will harm Scotland and it is against the wishes of the Scottish people.


Much was made of the loss of our pensions if we had voted Yes. The pensions are only safe if we stay in the Union they said, Westminster has instigated a ‘triple lock’ to make sure that pensions keep up with inflation they said, pensions will fall in value if we vote Yes they said. Look at what is happening now. The Tory party are making noises that the ‘triple lock’ on pension is unaffordable and will be scrapped as soon as they think they can get away with it, certainly by 2020 anyway. The retirement age for women has been raised without any prior notice leaving hundreds of thousands of women with inadequate provision from Westminster and virtually forced into working for another two or three years until they are ‘entitled’ to the pension they had contributed to all their lives. The Daily Express newspaper published in Scotland in April 2014 carried the banner headline ‘Pensions Only Safe in the Union’ together with a warning of the dire consequences of voting Yes. This will have swayed a number of pensioners into voting No. However in the same newspaper, on the same day but published in England, the banner headline was ‘Pension Bombshell’ and detailed an alarming insight into the lack of affordability of the State pension and the lack of personal provision among millions of people heading for retirement. More duplicity.


The SNP, Green Party and a number of other partner groups in the Yes movement all advocated the removal of the Trident nuclear weapon system from Scotland in the event of a Yes vote to Independence. Westminster party machines warned of the dire consequences of that move citing an invasion by Russia should we remove ourselves from the ‘protection’ of Trident. It all sounded very scary, we were doomed to eat cabbage and drink vodka if we voted Yes. There is a flaw in the argument Westminster put forward, a fact that scuppers the threats made in 2014 and that is Norway. Norway is almost the same size as Scotland. It has a Sovereign Oil fund worth somewhere above £800 billion from oil revenues collected since the 1970’s. It has a small standing army with a completely non-nuclear policy… and a land border with Russia. IF Russia were the great Satan that Westminster paint them to be then why have the Russians not just jumped into their tanks and driven into Norway ? The invasion could be over inside a day and give the Russian Imperialists control over oil in the North Sea and an £800 billion oil fund. However Russia has not done so… why ? Westminster would say because we have Trident, but really, what would Westminster do if Russia did invade Norway ? Nuke it ? Wipe it off the face of the earth ? No because that would be deemed a ‘First Strike’, a weapon of attack, not defence. Westminster have consistently stated that Trident would only be deployed if we were attacked with nuclear weapons first. So why do we have it then ? IF we were attacked first then we would be wiped out, launching a counter-attack would be pointless, an act of retribution not salvation. We would still be dead. Nuclear weapons do not protect us from terrorism and we will not be attacked by Russia so why do we have them again ? Westminster repeatedly claimed that tens of thousands of jobs at Faslane depended upon Trident in 2014, they were lying. Freedom Of Information requests from the MOD revealed that only 550 jobs are directly related to Trident and those jobs would transfer with the weapons system wherever it went. Simple fact.

The comparison between the Westminster attitude to Scotland in 2014 and the present day is like comparing chalk with cheese. The love has gone, we are back to being ignored. We have no say in the running of the ‘United’ Kingdom, we have no say in the direction that Westminster is taking us, our collective wishes are ignored. The warnings dished out as a consequence of Independence have all come to pass since we voted No. Some of us who lived through the first Independence Referendum in 1979 can recall the warnings dished out by Thatcher concerning the consequences of Independence then. She said we wouldn’t be able to keep the coal industry going, we wouldn’t be able to keep our steel industry going, we would lose our car industry because we were too small, too poor and too stupid to succeed. That vote was declared to be a No vote. Guess what happened then ? Thatcher destroyed all of those industries anyway, SHE shut them down. Now look at the similar warnings from Westminster in 2014 and look at what has happened. Westminster cannot be trusted, not at all. We have to get away from them, we have to take our country in another direction, not for our sakes but for our children and grandchildren. We have to be Independent.


My Long Walk!


Thank you, Playgroup, for suggesting the idea of pulling together members’ “journeys” to Scottish Independence. I think it is an innovative idea and, who knows, someone might one day think it’s of significance when they look back and reflect on how Scotland re-emerged as a nation state of Europe and the World.

I too am in the OAP category, having been born in a very different United Kingdom in the year 1951. It is worth reflecting on that period, immediately after World War 2; I still have my rationing book which records my entitlement to milk powder and orange juice concentrate. Clearly both worked well as I grew to over 6 foot tall!

As with all born of that time, we enjoyed probably the best of all things “British”. The Welfare State had been formed in the period between 1945 and 1947, the mood was extant in the country to make “A land fit for Heroes” and, unlike after World War 1, this time the political consensus was for real change to honour that wartime pledge to the British People.
Free health care, dental treatment, massive council house building programmes to eradicate slums, full employment, and improving living standards, not forgetting working people developing “aspirations”, however modest, to acquire a recently invented black and white TV or part share in a motor car.

My father was a police officer and “our” first car was bought second hand between my father and two other officers. This was around 1958.
We had the use of it every third week and for the two weeks of annual leave. There was an elderly couple in our street who owned the only TV. I can still recall being in their living room with half the residents of the street watching what must have been the first episode of Coronation Street- yes, it has been running that long!

What has any of that got to do with Scottish Independence?
Well you see 1955 was the last time that the majority of the electorate in Scotland voted for the Conservative and Unionist Party, the Prime Minister of which was a Scot, Harold MacMillan. He probably made one of the truest economic statements of any Tory Prime Minister to date when back then he said “You have never had it so good” the “You” he referred to being the British Working Class.

I was brought up and schooled in Galloway. My father was from Uig in Skye and he met my mother, a Borderer, when, after joining the City of Glasgow police before the War, he had transferred to Annan in Dumfriesshire. Just after the Declaration of War he had to attend the bombing of a dance venue in the munition town of Gretna. The scene he saw that night ensured he enlisted the following day. Being a “Skyeman” he joined the navy and was immediately put on a battleship taking supplies to our then ally, Russia, in Murmansk.

This experience, as a Petty Officer at the age of 22, left a lasting impression on him. My mother was deployed to an armament factory in Powfoot, Dumfriesshire. Long after the War she used to say that she “made the bombs and Donald fired them!”. They married in 1946 and his career subsequently took him all over Dumfries and Galloway.

As a very young boy I was totally unaware of even the concept of Scottish Nationalism; all our play was about shooting the “Gerries” as we called them and, of course, our schooling told us that “The sun never set on the British Empire”. Even my primary school teacher had been with the diplomatic core and, on a Friday afternoon had us all enthralled with her stories of distant lands like Sudan and Egypt where she had seen service. Yes the 1950s were probably the time, looking back, when I really was “proud to be British”.

My first recollection of “Scottishness” was when we, as a family, obtained a rented black and white TV, probably in the early 60s. My father and his two colleagues would come to the house to watch Scotland play England at the home internationals. I wondered what all the shouting was about and wondered what they were getting so excited about- so what who wins its only football? It had no impression on me as my pals and I were still flying Union Jack flags and fighting the Battle of Waterloo in our games or even with our sets of Timpo toy soldiers.

The early 60s saw continued rises in general wealth and wellbeing. Life was good – and then, of course, into the mid to late 60s we also had the Beatles, Stones, The Who and The Animals, The Six Five Special and Top of the Pops on TV. It was the “Swinging Sixties” and it was cool, Britain led the way in all things Pop.

As a boy in my early teens life was good; first dates, kipper ties, regency jackets, hey why worry about politics?

I had, however, had a strange moment of awareness of Scottish Nationalism, surreal to recall it now, but at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis my father came home and, at dinner, mentioned that we should prepare for war. He had received instructions to ready people for the worst and to round up all known Communists and Scottish Nationalists at the first outbreak of hostilities, they both being classed as “Enemies of the State”. Thankfully Russia backed down and war was averted.  However, it was many years later before air raid sirens stopped being “tested” at one o’ clock on a Saturday throughout every town in the UK.

On a lighter note, and in the midst of this “modernity” and threat of a nuclear war I had, thanks to my father, an acute awareness throughout my childhood of a very different place, a place “removed”, in as much as all my holidays were back to the homeland – idyllic times spent at my grandmother’s home, with uncles, aunts and cousins all in close proximity here in Uig, Isle of Skye. Uig in the 50s and well into the late 60s was a Gaelic-speaking village. Most families were related and all were active crofters with hens, a milking cow, vegetable plots, and potatoes. In my own families case even a couple of pigs to eat all the leftovers! My earliest memory of this time was all the able bodied men of the village helping Effie MacPherson, a war widow as I recall, bring in her hay, indeed hay making took place on every croft around the Bay. It is sad to see their relative dereliction today. That experience, one of seeing shared endeavour, has remained with me all my life and undoubtedly was an early sowing of my belief in the need for common purpose and fairness in Society.

My “Scottishness” was always there but “politically” it was not until 1967, when Winnie Ewing was elected as a Scottish National MP for Hamilton that I suddenly took a political interest. The Labour Party in Scotland was outraged, claims of “Tartan Tories” were hurled at the Party and she was given a rough time in Parliament. Nothing new there then!
On my trips to Skye I still see, in my mind’s eye, the rock faces painted over with “Do you know Winnie?”- which was the buzz at the time. She was such a charismatic person, ahead of her time really, and no wonder that across Europe she was referred to as “Madame Ecosse”.

There was also another influence on me that, looking back, was more a “re-action”, not an action on my part. England’s football team won the World cup in 1966. The endless media hype, about the simple winning of a football tournament came over more akin to England, single handedly, winning World War 2 a second time. Commemorative postage stamps were even issued throughout the UK. I found this excessive “triumphalism” very irritating as it lasted for years! Seems trivial really but many fellow Scots felt the same and undoubtedly the legacy remains as even to this day very few Scots would support an English team.

At this time I was in my final and fifth year at Kirkcudbright Academy where my biology teacher was George Thomson, also standing as an SNP candidate in Galloway and the Head Master was Peter Cook, father of the late Robin Cook Labour MP. School debates were often on political subjects and I enjoyed these immensely.

Influenced in no small way by my parents’ background – my mother’s father had been mortally wounded by a rivet while working in a steel plate mill, and my father’s crofting background – together with my own observations of the social equality in that crofting community, I found myself being of a left of centre persuasion and that has remained so ever since. George Thomson was subsequently elected as the SNP MP for Galloway. This was an amazing achievement given that that area was a long standing fiefdom of the Tory Party.

On leaving school I worked in a private forestry at St Mary’s Isle, Kirkcudbright where I encountered my first party member of the SNP. He persuaded me to join, at the age of 17. I loved working in the forests and this was another influence that has stayed with me all my life. I am a keen advocate of reforesting Scotland. Over time the jobs created would far outweigh those of upland farming.

Even though I loved the forests and really enjoyed the comradeship of being part of a work squad the reality was that the wages were poor at £5 a week so I joined the Royal Bank as an office junior at the princely sum of £8 per week. On an aside and interestingly enough, St Mary’s Isle was the only part of Britain invaded by the American Navy in their war of independence. John Paul Jones, a Scotsman who is credited with founding the American Navy, landed here under the Stars and Stripes with the intention of kidnapping the Earl and Lady Selkirk for ransom- sadly they were not at home that evening!

I had joined the Party in July 1969 really more as a “romantic” gesture than from any real political thinking. Things changed dramatically in the early to mid-70s, however, when vast reserves of oil and gas were discovered in the North Sea. This “blew away” the endless references to Scotland being a “dependency” of England. Yes even way back then the rhetoric was always to make Scots feel dependent on our larger neighbour. Britain had by this time lost most of its colonies under the founding Charter of the United Nations, itself set up in the aftermath of WW2. It is a founding principle of the UN Charter that all peoples and countries have a right to self-determination. Nicola may require reverting to this UN obligation to secure our own ScotRef?

By 1969 the Sun no longer “never set on the British Empire”!
These developments in Scotland and in the former British colonies now determined that independence became a real economic and political possibility not just a romantic dream.

By the mid 70s things were really happening, the then Labour government started to panic, a report was commissioned, called the McCrone Report. This was intended to re-emphasise Scotland’s continuing dependency. It was an “independent report” when such things still really were produced by UK Governments. However, its findings were “incendiary”. Scotland, if independent, could be one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, a bit like Norway today. The report was never officially published although its contents were “leaked”. It remained under wraps for 30 years only becoming available in 2005.

I, like many others, became energised to become really active. I became Branch Secretary and Treasurer, helped run a weekly draw, leafleted, even canvassed round the doors, went to National Council and Annual Conference – heady times.

There was another “ecclesiastic” element. The SNP candidate for Dumfries shire was Laurence Wheatley, son of the eminent theologian and minister, the Rev Wheatley of the Church of Scotland. Laurence failed to win the seat but went on himself to a distinguished career in the ministry.

The optimism and enthusiasm at this time was palpable, we really did think that independence was just round the corner. This was the period 1974 to 1979.

An amusing anecdote of the time- I was now a bank teller and had my own car which carried my much loved stickers declaring “It’s Scotland’s Oil” and “It’s time for Independence” plastered all over it. One day I was called into the manager’s office and told that a customer had reported me to him for displaying political posters and allegiances. It was pointed out to me that I was expected to be politically impartial.  Indeed, I was in breach of my contract of employment and could be disciplined if I didn’t remove them! I, of course, had to “comply” or lose my job! However, during the election campaign of 1974 I saw the very same manager driving around Dumfries with a public address system on the roof of his car and campaigning openly in support of the Conservative and Unionist candidate. That was another defining moment in my life, and taught me an early lesson in politics- never trust a Tory! My stickers went back on!.

You took a lot of abuse back then for supporting the SNP. There were the usual “Tartan Tory” jibes, the “Scottish No Point” party, the “Scottish No Hope Party”, etc. However, support continued to increase and then!

In 1979, in response to this growing support, there was the referendum to see if the Scottish People wanted a Scottish Assembly. This, as I recall, produced a majority support of circa 52% for an assembly but there was a second hurdle put in by Westminster. The enabling legislation had a second requirement. It wasn’t enough to get a majority vote. In addition, because this was classed as “a major constitutional change”, Scotland uniquely would have to demonstrate that the majority of people in the country supported the Proposition.

Yes that’s right, even those who don’t vote- the notorious “40% Rule”.
By this it was devised that, in addition to getting a voting majority, over 40% of the total electorate must vote in favour of creating a Scottish Assembly. So, for the first time ever, people who didn’t vote would be counted as against the Proposal. This was devised by a Labour government.

The 52% in favour failed the 40% Rule. Had the same rules been applied to the UK Brexit Vote of 2016, when only 37% of the electorate voted Leave, Brexit would not be happening.

This was a devastating result and put the Party and its activists like me into a tail spin. I withdrew from active participation although kept my membership. I had a young family by now and was progressing well in my career so made a conscious decision to devote myself to improving my life and that of my children. In some ways sad but it wasn’t clear what could be done faced with the resistance of Westminster and the poor showing from Scots.

And then Thatcher!

The General Election of late 1979 saw the emergence of Margaret Thatcher and a very right wing Tory Party. She famously said, on the steps of Downing Street;- “where there is discord may I bring harmony”- nothing could be further from the truth!

I ived in the Midlothian mining belt at this time and saw, first hand, how she destroyed those once proud communities. Indeed Thatcher destroyed Industrial Scotland. Arguably she achieved more in terms of destroying Industrial Britain, not just Scotland, than Adolf Hitler could ever have dreamt of and then, for good measure, she sold off all the nationalised industries.

The Harold MacMillan referred to in the introduction, former Tory Prime Minister, now a very old man, condemned her actions as “selling off the family silver”, the “family” being the British People. He knew, only too well, that these assets and the revenue they generated were key to creating the general wealth enjoyed by the people of Britain during his Premiership, indeed the very basis of funding the National Health Service relied, not only on income tax, national insurance contributions, but also on the profits generated by the Nationalised Industries, like Steel, Coal, Hydro, BP and BT.

It was another “Tory Lie” that described these State assets as “Dead Duck” industries- The Tories invented “Fake News” way back then and continue to do so to this day.

The period also saw what I call an “attack on Scotland” from the right wing, free market Tories of Thatcher and her London centric government.
All regional aid was removed, not only from Scotland of but from the North of England and Wales. The response in Scotland was to look at an ever less effective Labour opposition and beyond to the Scottish National Party to counter this onslaught. The “attack” also manifested itself in the unfettered free market wiping out of established successful quoted Scottish companies. This resulted in massive job losses as plants here were closed, no references to the Monopolies commission or, if there was, these were dismissed by and large on the basis that Scotland wasn’t unique but part of a bigger entity, the UK. You only need to think back to Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, Stakis, William Low, Distillers, Goldbergs, etc.

The Labour Party seemed to be incapable of opposing these Tory led attacks on the Scottish economy; their MPs at Westminster were called “the Feeble 50”, such was their ineffectiveness. Thatcher was waging war, a class war, against industrial workers and their trade unions throughout mainland UK and “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland were at their peak with both sides resorting to armed violence. Based on her “success” in the Falklands War, and her reputation as “The Iron Lady” she appeared to relish conflict- so much for her “where there is discord etc”.

I remained a member of the SNP and interested in advocating the case for Scottish independence whenever and with whoever I met but on an informal basis really right through the remainder of my career in the Royal Bank. In 1990 that career took me out of retail banking and into the emerging world of card and electronic payments. This saw me working with associates not only across the UK and Europe but in North America as we established international electronic payment networks. We take electronic payments for granted today but the infrastructure was created through a truly international collaboration. It was very interesting work and a world removed from my forestry work all those years ago. I well remember coming out of a business meeting when one of my colleagues said “Have you heard about Thatcher” , well I hadn’t but she enthusiastically said that she had had to resign and John Major was now the Prime Minister. Scotland rejoiced!

At the next General Election Tony Blair stormed to victory with his “New Labour” Party. This was great news as he had campaigned, among other things, on creating a Scottish Parliament and devolving many domestic powers to Scotland. Whatever Blair is remembered for I for one salute him for returning to us our Parliament. It was, of course, believed, in the corridors of power at Westminster, that this would “kill stone dead” the desire for Scottish independence and more particularly the SNP – not so, even despite the contrived voting system at Holyrood which was designed to ensure perpetual coalition governments.

The mood of the country was changed by the return of Labour. There were hopes of better things to come.

Thatcher was bizarrely also to be thanked in a black type of acknowledgement. Her actions against blue collar coal and steel workers, and the ineffective Labour Party response in Scotland, had recruited vast numbers of former staunch socialists to the Cause of Scottish Independence – there was a general recognition that politics in Scotland were diverging so fundamentally from those in England, a drift that continues to this day.

I retired in 2005 when I was a Senior Manager, I had been made a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers in Scotland in acknowledgement of my contribution to the reputation of Scottish Banking (yes changed days after 2008) through my role as the UK’s only representative on the Global Advisory Board of MasterCard and as Deputy Chairman and Board Director of the Switch Card Scheme in the UK.

Where was my Scottish Nationalism at this time? It was still very much a part of my psyche. I took great pride in being Scottish in all my professional dealings. During the period that I worked in RBS the organisation had grown from a relatively small “regional” bank to being the fifth largest in the World. There was no indication at that time of the disaster to come other than that the organisation was losing swathes of experienced staff through a deliberate policy of redundancy and early retirements for those in the 50+ age category.

I was still only 54 and therefore used my knowledge and experience in the setting up my own consultancy company. I really enjoyed being self-employed and worked as such over the next three years with contracts with MasterCard in Brussels and the Irish Payment Services Board in Dublin. My role, in both locations, was reviewing draft European Union regulations on the Banking and Payments industry. This experience reinforced my belief in the European Union as I got a very intimate knowledge of how the EU drafts into Law its Directives. Contrary to the image created in the British Press the process is very consultative.

The 2008 Banking Crisis saw me leave the Banking Industry for good. I “retired” to Skye and set up a “hobby job” as a sport fly fishing tutor and guide. All my career I had enjoyed fly fishing and hiking as a means of seeking relaxation away from things like Blackberrys, phones, emails and all aspects of corporate endeavours – I enjoyed introducing others to the sport.

This took me through the period to 2014 when we were progressing the Cause of independence. Many clients, from all over the World, asked me about the movement to Scottish independence. I was always pleased to tell them about Scotland, not just the Independence movement, but our history and culture. Some would be bemused, others interested in a polite way, others really understood while occasionally others would be hostile. Strangely, the later tended to be fellow Scots.

Like the other 45% I was totally bereft at the September 2014 result. The morning after it was as if there had been a death in the family – I recall looking out the window that morning of the 19th September and thinking that all that wass missing was watching tumble weed blowing down the road – Scotland had committed a grave self-harm – an opportunity missed – it even seemed that those Unionists in the local area had gone to ground. Such sorrow!

That sadness was then followed by outrage; the “Brown Vow” was worthless as we in the Movement knew. English votes for English Laws was introduced, making Scots MP’s second-class at Westminster. The allegations of Vote rigging were credible particularly the Postal Voting where both Cameron and Davidson claimed they knew the result of these before polling booths closed- an illegal act in itself. Then of there was the reflection on the Media, particularly the BBC. Throughout the Campaign their bias was a key opinion former for the “Better Together” camp, giving them a critical advantage against the Yes Movement.

This experience of political failure reminded of 1979. Where do you go from here?

Well, the answer would be delivered in a most unexpected way!
The subsequent General Election saw the election of a majority Tory Government. Scotland returned 56 of its 59 MPs as Scottish Nationalists. Cameron stood on a promise to hold a referendum on the UK’s continuing membership of the European Union. The result of the Brexit Referendum in June 2016 was a narrow win for the Leave Campaign who took 51.7% of the votes cast. Cameron stood down and was replaced by Theresa May!
Only 37% of those entitled to vote actually supported Brexit – as mentioned above, under the Scottish Assembly enabling legislation the infamous:- “1979 Major Constitutional Change 40% Rule”- Brexit would not be happening!

Scotland now faces the actuality of being taken out of the European Union despite voting by 62% to stay in and, within the UK, the likelihood of at least 10 years of Conservative and Unionist rule from Westminster. This is not democracy by any standard. Scotland has not voted for a Conservative Government in 62 years. The last time a majority of Scots voted Conservatism was in 1955!

Thankfully, unlike the rest of the UK Scotland has the hope of retaining its connections to the European Union through a second independence referendum. On the 13th March 2017, our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced the Scottish Governments intention to hold a second referendum to be held once the details of the Brexit Proposition becomes clear- most likely to be during the period Autumn 2018/ Spring 2019.
Such are the terms of the Scotland Act, which created the Scottish Parliament that Westminster needs to grant a Section 30 Order to allow us to hold a legally binding and internationally recognised second independence referendum. This compares unfavourably with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland whereby in that territory there is a guarantee of entitlement to hold a referendum on re-unification with the Republic at any time that the majority in the NI Assembly wish to hold one. It would therefore be quite wrong for Westminster to apply different criteria to Scotland. Hence May’s “this is not the right time”, code for “there will never be a right time as long as I am Prime Minister but I am not admitting it”.

It is as well that we fully understand her position.
She will have the backing of the Royal family.
She will have the backing of the British Establishment.
She will have the backing of the UK Media.
She will have the backing of some serious Unionist organisations.

I await with interest Nicola’s proposals to take Scotland forward.
The UK is now seriously dysfunctional, terminally so in my opinion, and within my capabilities I look forward to working on taking forward the Cause as I am sure the next time is certainly the last time, not only in my lifetime, but because, if we lose again the British State will dismantle everything that implies the potential for Scottish Nationhood.

With independence I wish to see a new nation state of Scotland, a new Nova Scotia, where we who live here decide on our priorities and use our people and resources to create a better and fairer society aligned more to the models of democracy of our Nordic neighbours. A nation state that plays its part as a member of the European family of nations in a World where competition for resources across an ever growing population will need all the combined intelligence and endeavours of the many to ensure the survival of all, it is not the time for introspection and isolationism favoured by the Brexiteers.

That Scotland cannot be just a smaller version of our southern neighbour; it is not just about economics, it is about the fair distribution of wealth. Such a process of change, after independence, will challenge many, as to achieve such a goal we will, ironically, need to look to that Britain of which I was once so proud. The Britain of 1945 which created the Welfare State, which committed to increased taxation of the rich, which endeavoured to establish full employment, gave everyone the right to housing, provided free education and was an example to the World.

I look forward to being a part of the Campaign.

Ian Stewart
48 years a member of the Scottish National Party.
April 2017.


A New Start


Amongst the many different ideas, plans and proposals put forward by political parties and organisations, Universal Basic Income (Citizens’ Wage) has been coming up increasingly often. But what is it?

Put in its simplest terms, it means that, instead of most benefits currently available, every adult receives the same amount, regardless of their status. Sounds too simple? It is. There are a lot of different options, restrictions, and conditions which are likely to apply. I could write a very long article with lots of facts and figures, but that might be quite boring, and I think it is far more important to firstly explain why I think UBI is a good idea. (If enough people are interested, I will happily write another article sharing the information I have gathered about the ins and outs of who gets what, how and when)

Universal Basic Income is intended to be set at an amount which would cover basic, essential, life expenses. From models currenty used elsewhere, this would be anything between £500-1500 per month, depending on what it does and doesn’t cover. As there is no means testing, there would be less forms to fill in, and probably no interviews, assessments, etc.

Beyond that basic income, everyone makes their own life choices depending on what sort of life/work balance they want. As there is no loss of benefits if an unemployed person finds work, regardless of how few hours, or how little pay is received, people will always be better off in work.

With UBI, all earnings would be taxed, and possibly at a significantly higher rate than they are now. But you will need to work if you want to afford luxuries such as cars, holidays, and bigger mortgages. People on much higher salaries might feel that they would be unfairly penalised, but the point of UBI is to create a more equal society, with less poverty, resources more evenly shared, and people having more freedom to make different life choices. It is also likely that many employers, especially larger companies, would offer staff different incentives instead of higher salaries. This could mean a scheme where you can choose things like extra holidays, pension contributions, gym memberships, dental/eye care schemes, travel passes or bicycle purchases, or additional training/education. I’m sure you can think of other possibilities too. From the employers’ perspective, happier staff, with better life/work balance, are more productive, and less likely to leave.

UBI models acknowledge that there is a small minority of people who don’t want to work, and removes the need to spend lots of resources on (often pointless) administration, interviews, assessments, compulsory courses, etc. In the case of those who can’t work through illness, disability, etc, the most likely option is that they would receive an additional payment. Those in residential care would most likely have their care paid for and receive a small allowance. This would be fairly similar to how things work out now, but it would take pressure off of some families when they have to make difficult decisions about care and support.

Another, often overlooked, positive with UBI is that it would offer financial freedom to those who might otherwise struggle to gain it, such as those in all types of abusive relationships. UBI is paid to each individual, not to households, so even if an abusive partner has taken control of bank accounts, this can be changed as soon as the partner chooses to make that break. It would also increase choices for young care-leavers, who often have less support and lower life outcomes.

It is also accepted that, whilst UBI will offer some the freedom to go off on their own, it is far more likely that many more would choose to pool resources, more shared tenancies, etc, to make incomes go further and offer more freedom. This is seen as a positive in terms of socialising, mental health, etc.

For the majority of people, what UBI offers is an opportunity to assess priorities, and make life changes accordingly. Some people might decide to reduce the hours they work, which would potential lead to the creation of more part-time jobs, giving other people greater choice. Parents could decide to take longer breaks after the birth of a child, or to work less hours while their children are younger. People may decide to take career breaks to retrain, to work less hours in order to study, volunteer, or pursue an interest or hobby. There are many seasonal industries and jobs, so people could choose to work long hours for part of the year, then enjoy a few months catching up on family, travel, studies, etc. I’m sure there are some reading this who are thinking ‘I could already do that’, but for most people these choices are just not financially viable – UBI makes these, and so many other options, a real possibility.

Perhaps the key question now is, how and when would such a drastic change be implemented? In the UK, Brexit means that a lot of things are going to have to change, so this would seem like an ideal time to consider it. However, given the current Westminster government’s approach to welfare, etc. it seems highly unlikely to be on their list of possibilities. They have previously rejected the SNP’s calls for such a scheme.

By contrast, if Scotland votes to become independent, there will need to be new tax and benefits systems anyway, so this would be an ideal opportunity to consider such a radical change. This would be one possible way to create the fairer, more equal society that so many desire.


Greece without the sun


In the wake of the most last GERS (General Expenditure & Revenue Scotland) figures, which showed a deficit of £14.8 billion pounds for the financial year 2015 – 16, there were howls of derision from pro-Unionists. Scotland was said to have a ‘basket case economy’ which was like ‘Greece without the sun’  This latter slur was based on the assertion that Scotland’s annual debt as a percentage of GDP (9.5% ish) was higher than Greece’s.

First some perspective; Scotland’s GDP per head is approximately twice that of Greece, whilst our unemployment rate is about one quarter.  There’s been a lot of scrutiny of GERS recently, notably from Richard Murphy,  Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City, University of London, who stated: ‘There are no facts to discuss on the Scottish economy… 25 of 26 income figures in GERS are estimates… there is no financial data for Scotland’  Startling stuff. As a former small business owner I find it extraordinary that there are no proper accounts for Scotland. Accounts are a basic business tool with which to make effective budgets that can then be used to track performance. The culprit for the lack of data appears to be the UK Government who, rather than create effective data capturing systems, prefer instead the highly questionable GERS methodology.

Robin McAlpine of The Common Weal has also commented on GERS. His view is that the UK Government isn’t out to diddle us, rather that GERS illustrates a lot that’s wrong with our relationship with the UK. To illustrate his point he used the hypothetical example of The Netherlands joining the UK as a devolved country. In such a scenario The Netherlands would immediately be worse off because it would outsource some functions previously carried out ‘in-house’ to the UK, like defence and foreign affairs, for which they would then be charged by the UK via the Barnett Formula. The expenditure would be similar to that previously incurred directly by The Netherlands so wouldn’t unduly affect expenditure. The major change would occur on the income side as the staff and infrastructure required to run the services in-house transfers to other areas of the UK. So while still paying its share of the costs (via Barnett) The Netherlands would no longer receive the tax income and economic stimulus previously generated by the Dutch staff. McAlpine estimates that around 20% of Scotland’s expenditure is for services provided outside Scotland. Given that these services would be repatriated to an independent Scotland there would be an immediate positive change in our balance sheet irrespective of any other changes we might make.

Be that as it may, I’m more interested in the processes that contribute towards prosperity. These aren’t data driven, quite the reverse in fact as it’s the underlying foundations that get the results that the data illustrates. Prosperous Western nations share a number of common characteristics. They’re all democracies, underpinned by the rule of law and an independent judiciary. They have low corruption, high standards of education and a mixed economy in which R&D is a key function. They have robust and trusted financial institutions; taxation is fair and respected as a common good. Finally they have strong civic institutions and a free press.

By contrast with prosperous nations, Basket Case economies (sometimes referred to as Banana Republics) have few, if any of the aforementioned characteristics. Greece, for instance, falls short in a number of key areas.  Its financial structures are notably weak. Greece joined the Euro when it was known that corruption and tax evasion were rife. It was then unable to manage inflation by controlling interest rates and is now in a debt spiral from which there appears to be no escape (not the EU’s finest hour).

Scotland has nearly all of the characteristics of a prosperous nation, the only missing piece being control over the entire economy. However, some would have us believe that our economy is as broken as that of Greece. Scotland has even been likened to a Banana Republic. So on the one hand we are very similar to other prosperous nations, yet on the other hand we are a Banana Republic. This would make Scotland unique in being the only country on the Planet that inhabits both these worlds simultaneously. This is nonsense and I’m confident that Scotland’s economy is fundamentally strong and that with Independence, a proper set of accounts and a firm grasp of the economic levers, we’ll be able to demonstrate this to the World.



Dear Angus


Dear Angus,

In response to your article this morning about how older people find change difficult, yes, sadly, the mere mention of the word ‘change’ makes some people feel uneasy, especially the over-50s. We all like the familiar and don’t want to be moved out of our comfort zones. We don’t want to be forced into making decisions that we don’t feel equipped to make. We are all after certainty and composure, but what we forget is that the nature of life itself is change! And the biggest changes we have to make are within ourselves.

When it comes to big changes, being in denial, as long as it’s not a permanent state, is not necessarily a bad thing and may be a necessary phase of the journey to something new. When we face any change in life that’s uninvited and threatening, denial is often the first phase of the process of dealing with it. It helps us to get used to an idea gradually without being overwhelmed by the chaos of it.

I agree with you that we shouldn’t give up on the older generation. I believe that some may just be taking longer to come to the decision that independence will be a genuine force for the good in Scotland. After all, not all caterpillars yield to the cocoon at the same rate. When the moment to spin the chrysalis arrives, some of them actually resist and cling to their larval life. They put off entering the cocoon to the following Spring, postponing their transformation for a year or so. This state of clinging is called the diapause, and maybe it’s where a lot of older people are finding themselves as we speak.

Ironically though, some of those who found it difficult to vote for the uncertainty of an independent Scotland, might have been quite happy to fall for the xenophobic Brexit line of ‘taking their country back’ – a deliberate tactic used by the Leave campaign to appeal to older, less flexible people.  They knew full well that the millions who believe the tabloids – who have been deliberately fed anti–EU rhetoric for decades – would only be too keen to return to the myth of the good old days, where we did things without ‘Johnny Foreigner’ and things were so much better.

By now they will know how badly they were duped.

The falling pound – at an all time low- may be good news for the likes of HBSC and GlaxoSmithKline, who love volatile markets and are all seeing nice boosts to their share prices, but what about normal families and pensioners? Very soon the weekly shopping bill is likely to be much more expensive due to the increasing costs of imports, as will high street prices. The more the pound depreciates the bigger impact on families.

The Great-British-Bus-Lie, which promised 350 million a week to the NHS was just a ‘mistake’ as Farage said the day after the referendum. No extra money will be going the way of the NHS. In fact many now believe Brexit, with its right-wing power grab will leave the NHS more vulnerable to privatisation than ever before.

I wonder how many of them know that the Conservative Party clearly stated in their manifesto that staying in the single market was a priority?  I wonder how many of them know, despite the relentless lies by right wing tabloids, how very well we have done out of Europe and that since the formation of the EU, Britain has had the highest cumulative growth of any country in the EU – 62 % – compared with Germany at 35%?

I wonder how many of them know how much our financial services depend on operating freely in the EU and how the UK benefits from exporting tariff-free to every EU country? And that this is now in real jeopardy.

I wonder how many of them knew how little control we would actually have over immigration? When Theresa May was asked by Andrew Neil the other day if it would be significantly lower after Brexit, she couldn’t give him a straight answer, because, as she well knows, reducing immigration comes at a real cost to Britain and it’s one we can’t afford. Like it or not, we don’t produce enough people in the UK to care for our elderly population. If you reduce the numbers to tens of thousands, as she claims to want to do, it means lots of women will have to give up their jobs to look after elderly relatives.

I wonder how many of them knew that voting for Brexit would undo all the incredible good done in the last 40 years of European co-operation such as manufacturing, financial agreements, scientific partnerships, cultural and educational exchanges, scholarships and grants.

I wonder how many would have voted to leave if they actually had known that they were voting for the great Repeal Bill – in other words giving the extreme right wing carte blanche to decide the future of the UK undemocratically, without recourse to parliament?

How many who voted out of Europe in Scotland understand what we are set to lose in funding and grants from the EU? Key university funding will dry up. The European Investment bank which helped fund roads railways and hospitals is under threat of being withdrawn. Scottish councils are poised to lose 46 million pounds a year after Brexit. That money will not come our way from Westminster after Brexit.

When people were asked to vote in the EU referendum, they weren’t asked what they wanted to get into, but only what they wanted to get out of. It was a campaign fought on misinformation and deliberate skewing of facts by a leave campaign that actively misled the public and fuelled irrational fears. Those of us who voted to remain did so not based on a plan set out by the Brexiters because there wasn’t one. We voted with our guts to remain because the Remain arguments were by and large evidence based and rational and because we had a good idea of the value added to the UK by the EU.

Thank Goodness we still have time in Scotland to come to our senses. We have another chance at a fairer society. We have a chance to rid ourselves of the worst excesses of neoliberalism that have dogged us for the last 30/40 years – the narcissism, entitlement, tax evasion, corruption in high places, unequal division of resources; in short, the political ideology that has continually put markets and money before people.  We need governance that is able to address the real issues of the 21st century, not some isolationist imperialist backwards empire which only works for the rich.

We need a society that works on the principle of “I – thou” mutuality; one that works for the many and not for the few and one that minimises wealth inequality. I sincerely hope those over sixties who fought the inevitable last time will be able to change their minds for the sake of our collective future in Scotland and help to make Scotland the kind of outward looking, progressive, fairer, more inclusive and more equal country that our children and grandchildren can be proud of in the 21st century.

Grace S






If Not For You?


As someone who has recently acquired the label of “Old Age Pensioner”, I am saddened by statistics and polls that show my age group as being the one least supportive of the natural aspiration of independence for Scotland. The last BMG poll for The Herald showed a whopping 67% as “No” voters. This was quickly followed by 2 others showing similar figures.

Obviously, I am not amongst those of my age sector who are against independence, but I have not always been so strongly for it.

I lost interest in politics roughly from the mid-70s until the mid-00s, but my early inclination was always towards independence. Back in the 1950s and 60s independence was very much a pipedream, but in a household in Glasgow with my Skye father and Ayrshire mother and grandmother, politics was often discussed. This made for many an amicable argument between my independence-supporting grandmother and my shop steward socialist father whose leanings were towards the union. I felt that my grandmother won the argument (although my father’s socialism has also remained with me) and so contributed to the shaping of my own views on independence. Although not educated to a high standard, she, like many of her generation, made full use of the public library and the radio and was incredibly well-read in history, politics and (Scottish) literature and was very difficult, as a result, to argue against unless you were sure of your facts. Following this, I ended up pushing leaflets through doors in Pollokshaws in 1967 for George Leslie, our local vet and SNP candidate. A good man, George was, nevertheless, beaten into third place by the winning Unionist MP and the Labour candidate.

After I attended university and subsequently left home for the north-east, my desire remained for independence, but my interest waned and – I hate to say it – I even stopped voting, as I saw no chance whatsoever of my voting for a winning SNP candidate. When I moved away from the north-east to my father’s homeland, our local MP was Lib-Dem Charles Kennedy, a charming and able man and I ended up voting for him, telling myself this was a vote for the person not the party.

(One anecdote concerning Charles Kennedy is worth relating, as it shows, in a small way, the type of person he was. During the time when I was a teacher of business education, a Young Enterprise team I was involved with had won the 1993 Young Enterprise Scotland Competition as best company. We went forward to the UK finals at London University and, as a result, spent a week in London. Whilst there I organised a few side trips for the pupils, one to the Houses of Parliament, where Charles Kennedy showed us around on the Friday afternoon. One of the pupils asked him, towards the end of our very interesting and entertaining hour-long visit, why the place was so quiet. Charles said that this was because Parliament didn’t sit on a Friday afternoon to give MPs time to travel back to their constituencies. When asked why he wasn’t doing this, he replied that it was because he wanted to stay on to show our group around. When we finished and he then headed off for the last train back to Fort William he left behind a group who were most impressed by this modest, knowledgeable and humorous man.)

In 1999, when devolution was finally won, I regained a real feeling of optimism and my enthusiasm was rekindled. With the SNP entering government in 2007, having proved to be a strong and formidable opposition, and consolidating in 2011 and 2016, my rehabilitation was complete and my old enthusiasm returned!

It will be pretty obvious that I voted “Yes” in 2014 and will vote “Yes” again “whenever”. However, whereas in 2014 I voted for “me”, next time round will be different. The vote will be the same, but the reason will not be.

When I see that the majority of those in the younger age groups than mine voted “Yes” (with the strange anomaly of the 18-24s who voted 52% “No”), and with polls since then showing the “Yes” vote in these age groups increasing, who am I, at my age, to deny the young their wishes? Why should those of us who will live fewer years under likely permanent toryism, force those who will suffer the most to do so? Now, I hope to be around for a few more years, but I would like my tiny contribution toward the future of my children, my grandchildren, their friends, their colleagues and everyone else of their generations, to be my vote for independence.

In today’s “National” (3 April) Caroline Leckie suggests that my age group may not be “worth it”, regarding spending time and effort in changing voting intentions from “No” to “Yes”. My immediate thought is that we mustn’t do this. Brexit has changed everything for my age group as much as any other. Many of the reasons for we oldies voting “No” in 2014 have melted like the proverbial snow from the dyke; those reasons and perceptions that remain can be worked on; it’s just a case of finding the right platforms to address them. (All suggestions are most welcome!)

I often joke about withdrawing the right to vote from those who are older than the national average life expectancy, with the logic that they may not suffer the consequences of their actions, but I would ask all “No” voters of my age and beyond to think very seriously again about their reasons for voting “No”. Is it for selfish reasons?  Have you considered those who come after you? I have, and so it’s “Yes Again”.