Who are Scotland’s Fianna Fail?

Scottish nationalists are often obsessed by the ‘unionist media’. Sometimes we are guilty of this at Bella. At times this all gets a bit tired. The Scotsman stable is poor but it’s more weird anything else, and it has a semblance of a mix: Duncan Hamilton in SoS, Joan McAlpine, Gerry Hassan all independence-supporting columnists, with plenty (well, two) Labour-questioning independents’ like Lesley Riddoch and Joyce McMillan. Though the paper will no doubt dutifully swing behind Labour come the election, and it’s editorial efforts to do-down the incumbent government and the SNP are sadly predictable, things aren’t all black and white. Having said all that, Wednesday’s paper was a doozie.

After I’d pulled out and mounted the Royal Supplement, I could peruse dutifully John McTernan’s dirge (‘Trumped Up Anti-British Posturing’). First he was re-treading the Executive versus Government debate that everyone else resolved two or three years ago (he seems to have forgotten the issue was initiated by Henry McLeish). He then went into a sort of catatonic enrage rant about Fiona Hyslop. As John writes ‘There is a pattern, there is a consistent stance’. Indeed there is John, it’s called ‘believing in something’. 

Finally, as if contorted by the sheer weight of his own dysfunctional logic he ends where he began exorting the Scottish Government to ‘act like a real government and look after the people.’ They surely should, but it’s deeply ironic that McTernan started his column decrying  the fact that our administration was re-named the Scottish Government not the Scottish Executive, and ends it pleading for them to act like a Government. Neither author nor editor seems to have minded.

Then we have Blessed Brian, who I’ve heard seasoned politicos actually refer to as a ‘Highland Communist’ with a straight face (‘Irish woes sound a warning for SNP’). Now Mr Wilson has done some great things. He’s been a great champion of Gaelic and founded and supported the WHFP for years. But this uber-Blairite is now out in the cold, like many of New Labour’s finest sons now finds himself with time on his hands. So you’ll find as well as scribing  attack-dog articles for the national newspaper he also picks up a nice cheque from Flying Matters (he’s Chairman) and various other dubious lobby groups (AMEC Nuclear Holdings plc, the UK’s largest private nuclear services business  amongst them) and lobbying for the 3rd runway for Heathrow. It’s fair to  say that Wilson has been the most vociferous fan of nuclear power in British politics and has the led the way in the propaganda to have it reconsidered as  ‘green energy’. The old slogan that ‘Under capitalism we are all prostitutes’ was always true, but Wilson seems to have got the wrong end of the stick and had it printed on his embossed business card.

Wilson’s role as Blair’s special envoy to Iraq might – you’d think – hold him in special regard in Scotland But it’s his misreading of Scots-Irish politics that is really breathtaking in his most recent Scotsman missive. Brian, older readers will recall, was a bitter opponent of devolution, and the basis of his article feeds off this hatred. Writing on the Irish elections and its backdrop Wilson’s essential point is: “The SNP is Scotland’s Fianna Fail”.

“It was a very Irish kind of catastrophe based almost entirely on the kind of small-country cronyism in which everyone knows everyone else and the wheels of business, like politics, are oiled by deals which produce mutual benefit, no questions asked.” No doubt he’s right, but the sentence could be so easily used to describe Lanarkshire Labour politics that it’s breathtaking that he has the gall to write it. You would also have to reflect that the economic basket-case of Ireland was pursuing exactly the kind of laissez-faire free market economics that Brian and Co championed for over a decade from No 10. If it’s convenient for him to put the boot into the SNP for celebrating Irish success, in economic terms it’s also deeply hypocritical.

Warming up Mr Wilson writes: “The most remarkable fact about the nationalists’ four years in power is that it has been almost devoid of any social imperative.” This on the day that prescription charges were abolished. A policy detail which led to the resignation of Nye Bevan. And this, from an arch-Blairite, who’s government presided over an unparalleled stretch between rich and poor? Now he’s interested in the social imperative?

If any party could possibly be compared to Fianna Fail it is ‘Scottish’ Labour, institutionally in charge of this country for decades, holding a grip on the poorest constituencies in the west coast for fifty years and more. If anyone has been at the heart of Scottish politics holding a hegemony of conservative tribalism for many years, that can only describe one party, and it’s not the SNP. Labour couldn’t protect Scotland from Thatcherism when you were one of the Feeble 50 and Labour can’t protect  Scotland any better today.

Banquetting in 1997 Tony Blair genuflected to the Queen that ‘only Britain could boast a thousand years of parliamentary democracy’. I blame Fettes History department, but what’s Brian Wilsons excuse for such a poor grasp of political history?

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  1. McTernan’s Scotsman piece this week was lamentable nonsense, for the main. I gave it a more thorough analytical gouging here:


    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Somehow had missed that LPW, very good

  2. Concerned says:

    I usually enjoy some bella coverage, but must say this is incredibly wide of the mark.

    Firstly, as you point out, there are plenty SNP supporting columnists at the paper, not to mention two candidates for the forthcoming election. Can you please point to a Labour equivalent? There isn’t one.

    Secondly, it is quite common for newspapers to put more pressure on a ruling administration rather than the opposition. We see this daily in EVERY paper in Scotland in relation to the coalition. Maybe this is just a bit nat paranoia? Surely keeping the SNP on their toes is no bad thing?

    The best thing to do at the forthcoming election is to work toward it rather than moan about coverage.

  3. bellacaledonia says:

    Concerned we remain the only country in Europe that has a government elected without any print media support.

    As I said its not all black and white, but the press is institutionally biased in ownership and editorial.

  4. Observer says:

    The Scotsman quite routinely prints Labour Party press releases as articles – you can find them on the Labour Party website to compare & contrast. Sometimes all the ”journalists” do is re-arrange the words, occasionally they don’t even do that.

    But the Scotsman, like the Herald, does print comment & opinion pieces from journalists who question the Labour party & who are quite prepared to consider independence as a reasonable option.

    I would say the real issue is with the tabloid press, the Daily Record etc. I am waiting for the day they really do print ”Alex Salmond ate my hamster”. I think it’s the drip drip drip insidiousness of that propoganda that is more dangerous, as people take it in whilst turning to the football pages.

    1. Ray Bell says:

      “I am waiting for the day they really do print ”Alex Salmond ate my hamster”.”

      That’s untrue.

      Alex Salmond eats babies, not hamsters.

  5. ayewecan says:

    A good balanced article.

    But I think Scotland is still awaiting its very own Fianna Fail – a pro establishment rump of an independence struggle, that trades on the honourable legacy of others but thinks flying flags and holding office is what it is all about. Could the SNP ( or the main rump of it) become just this? The jury is still out.

    But trading on the honourable tradition of others to justify holding office – whilst proping up the status quo and making dosh and rewarding cronies in the process? I think Labour in Scotland holds near all the badges of dishonour on this front.

    Re the Scotsman – the nats do have loads of columnists ( and you forgot George Kerevan ), but when the chips are down we know where the balance of column inches will go – and not to them.

    Brian Wilson, I have little time for, but at least he writes fluently and has “done something” What has McTernan done, other than “advised” Scottish Labour during the most disasterous period in its entire history?

    And his writting is just so turgid and boring. I know 12 year old who can write better prose. And our intellectual warrior doesn’t even allow comments on his own “blog” !!!!

  6. Ray Bell says:

    One reason why the SNP is not a Fianna Fail. It hasn’t formed most of the governments in Scotland. Labour has, and was the dominant force in Scottish politics for most of the second half of the twentieth century.

    The other near parallel to Fianna Fail’s problems would be the Tory wipeout in Scotland in the 1990s.

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