Being There

doc20060130_pic11Seems Margaret Curran is early for the Don’t Know Week – this level of feigning ignorance is unacceptably stupid.

DEREK BATEMAN ( BBC Radio Scotland): What do we make of Denis Healey admitting that when [North Sea] oil was discovered, Labour – a Labour government, ahead of a referendum, interestingly, on the constitution of Scotland – misled, deliberately misled the Scots about the value of oil?

MARGARET CURRAN MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland) : Well, Derek, I don’t know anything about that, those times, I don’t know the basis on which Denis Healey said that, I don’t know the argument, I don’t know the papers around that.

DEREK BATEMAN ( BBC Radio Scotland): But you’re the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland! You’re a senior Labour figure, I mean, he was a Labour chancellor.

MARGARET CURRAN MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland) : I know I’m getting on a bit, but I wasn’t around in Denis Healey’s days.

Oh yes she was.

Unless it was another Margaret Curran I met who was Secretary of Glasgow University Labour Club, the biggest in the UK, when Healey was Labour Chancellor in the Callaghan Government. This would have been in 1978, two years after Healey had made global front page news and labour movement noteriety after he went to the IMF for a bail out in exchange for huge public spending cuts.

Indeed not only did 20 year Margaret know who he was, but was sufficiently angry with him to be calling for his resignation. Because, difficult though it may be to imagine, Margaret was at that time was a prominent supporter of the Labour left opposition . And her, “not around” line is as credible as David Cameron claiming he was “not around” when Thatcher introduced the Poll Tax: As credible as would the current Secretary of Oxford University Conservative Association claiming in 30 years time he was “not around” when George Osbourne slashed welfare budgets.

So what is it about today’s Scottish Labour Party that makes decent enough people, spout such untruths on Scotland’s national radio station? Deny their own past? Be “not around?”

I think on this one it is obvious. Because Margaret well remembers that, in addition to being in the middle of an economic crisis in 1978, the Labour Party in Scotland, and grassroots activists like her in particular, were under immense political pressure from the SNP, which with 11 MPs at Westminster and opinion poll rating s touching 40% threatened to wipe Labour out whenever the next UK General Election came around. It had already near done it in the Council elections on May 1977, where for the first time in decades Labour had been swept from office in Glasgow. Or were you ‘not around” for that either Margaret?

Like, me she will certainly remember spending the best part of the Spring of 1978 campaigning for Donald Dewar in the knife edge Garscadden by-election, where the SNP started as clear favorites to take Labour out in one of its west central Scotland heartland seats, a success that would have left every last one of them vulnerable. The SNP rallying cry at the time? “It’s Scotland’s Oil”, backed up by detailed proposal on how a national oil fund in an independent Scotland could transform our country and deliver prosperity and social justice for folks in places like Garscadden and beyond. Folks like Margaret indeed.

Scottish Labour, with an able candidate in Donald Dewar, set about the nationalist claim with some gusto and effectiveness, and as a participant, I went along with this, genuinely believing the SNP claims were way over-hyped. I am sure Margaret then was little different from me in this respect.

But we now find – 36 years down the line – not only that the SNP was correct, but that the entire Labour Cabinet at the time, Healey, the Chancellor of the Exchequer especially, knew this but decided not to tell anyone, including Labour activists like me and Margaret.

Now I am long out the Labour Party, and have been lied to so often by Labour that I feel I am kind of immune to being shocked or outraged. But this one is so close to the bone, so central to my first experiences of serious political campaigning that it has shocked even me. “I spent all that time, all that energy, money I barely had, took all those early morning buses to Drumchapel, missed out on all these social events, that Elvis Costello concert in Edinburgh, to campaign on a lie, a lie known to the people who led that campaign?” And not just the 1978 Garscadden by-election, but the 1979 Referendum too. Our best argument was denied to us – by our own side.

But Margaret was “not around”.

Yet she most certainly was. Because I do remember, even if she chooses not to. At that time Glasgow University Labour Club, with over 300 individual members, was the largest in the UK by far. It was “on the circuit”. Everyone who was anyone spoke there – Tony Benn, Neil Kinnock, Michael Foot all regulars, as were all the leading lights in the Labour Party in Scotland. And Margaret, as Labour Club Secretary was their first point of contact, the facilitator. But according to her”not around”. Maybe she organised it all on the internet!

One other detail I must mention before I conclude. Margaret was a leading light on campus in the “Labour Yes” campaign for the 1979 Referendum. The “Labour Yes” campaign mind, not “Yes for Scotland”, the all party campaign, where those pesky “nats, liberals and commies” were also involved. But her direct university and Labour club comrade and friend, Johan Lamont was not. She was a leading light in the “Labour Vote No” campaign. You read that right: Johan Lamont, in 1979 actively campaigned against the ever so modest measure of devolution her own Labour Government offered the people of Scotland.

Go ask Johan. Or maybe she was “not around” either.

But believe me, they both were, and very much so. Key Labour student activists, earmarked as ones to watch by Helen Liddell the then Scottish Secretary of the Labour Party, situated in Keir Hardie House just 5 minutes walk away from Glasgow University. And Margaret and Johan, even in these days were on relaxed first name speaking terms with Donald Dewar, John Reid, Brian Wilson, Robin Cook, John Smith, George Foulkes, Bruce Milan……the list goes on. “Not around?” They were part of the show.

Which comes back to my initial question. Why is Margaret denying this?

Simple to answer: Because she needs to. Without that denial, her credibility and the credibility of her entire generation that is now running the Labour Party in Scotland is shot. They were mugged. We were mugged – because I was part of it too. Scotland was mugged. Poor working class people in Garscadden were mugged.

Some folks learn from history.

Others deny it. Repeat it.

One is the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.


Alan Smart: Glasgow University Labour Club 1976-82. Chairperson Glasgow University Labour Club, 1980-81, Chairperson of Scottish Organisation of Labour Students, 1981-82. President NUS Scotland 1984-86, (elected on Labour Student ticket)

Margaret Curran: Glasgow University Labour Club, 1975-80. Secretary Glasgow University Labour Club. 1978-79. Chairperson Scottish Organisation of Labour Students 1979-80

For Margaret (That history degree she got don’t seem too have done her much good) :

Denis Healey. Chancellor of The Exchequer, 1974-79. Deputy Leader of the Labour Party 1980-83.

Here in full is what Dennis Healey told Holyrood Magazine in May 2013:

Footnote: Many have commented that, with the exception of the bold Derek Bateman on his BBC Radio Scotland programme, and unlike the rest of the media, including STV, BBC Scotland’s coverage of this major admission by arguably the most important Labour politician of the late 1970s early 80s period has been near non existent, especially on TV. There may be many explanations for this.

Here is a possible one:

John Boothman, Present Head of News and Current Affairs, BBC Scotland: Chairperson of Strathclyde University Labour Club 1979, Chairperson Scottish Organisation of Labour Students 1980. Chairperson of the National (UK) Organisation of Labour Students 1981.

Around at the time? For sure.

Comments (39)

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  1. Doug Daniel says:

    Wow, I knew she was speaking mince by pretending she wasn’t around at the time, but this article is absolutely devastating to her credibility. Of all the fibs told by Labour politicians over recent months, this one’s the absolute daddy of them all.

    And John Boothman’s Labour credentials really cannot be emphasised enough. It’s ludicrous having someone with such close links to a political party being in charge of political output. Next thing you know, they’ll be putting a former government minister in charge of the BBC Trust at a time when his party is the current government! Oh…

  2. David McCann says:

    If there were any doubt about self serving politicians looking after their own interests, this article will surely dispe
    l them forever. Well done Alan. Please forward to John Boothman c/o BBC Scotland, Pacific Quay, Glasgow

  3. Juteman says:

    Fantastic article.
    The incestuous relationship between Labour and the BBC in Scotland needs to be laid bare to the ordinary man and woman in the street.
    Maybe loss of memory and principles is one of the side effects of incest?

    1. Kat Frac says:

      Isn’t this just what the SNP have been waiting for, surely it is, now they can really let go, come on SNP let’s hear some of that lions roar from you now

  4. An Duine Gruamach says:

    Margaret Curran is a liar. It’s as simple as that.

    1. Kat Frac says:

      The thing is we always knew that, just never had the proof before, now we do, surely it can be used against her now, as it would be if it were an SNP person

  5. Kat Frac says:

    Oh my god!!
    Surely we have HER & Lamont & Boothman by the short & curly’s?

    I mean, surely they can not be allowed to get away with this?
    There HAS to be a way that the Scottish Government can now raise this BIAS from the BBC & ensure the LIES told by the likes of Curran ARE made public by it being announced on every BBC news or political program as it would, IF this had been an SNP MP/MSP. And Lamont?

    I expect to hear the First minister challenge her on her NO campaign of past, how she campaigned against the people of Scotland she now says she will work for.
    IT is time to get out the boxing gloves, the SNP have been playing too quiet a game with these people BBC & Politicians alike. People who are NOT politically minded or on the computer, have to hear about these people & their Lies, (loss of memory maybe) NOT!!! But more importantly the head of the BBC News & Current affairs in Scotland.. This has got to stop..

  6. Rod Mac says:

    As a former duped Labour Voter ,I get more sickened every day as more and more comes out.
    It makes me so angry to know how I was duped , how i lied to people albeit unintentionally .
    I let down my country in the belief I was with the good guys.

  7. Macart says:

    Oh dang!

    That’ll leave a mark in the morning. Live in denial if they will, what they did or did not know then, they sure as hell know now. They are to this very day complicit in misleading not just the Scots electorate, but the entire UK electorate. There’s no hiding, no denying and no blaming it on a big boy who ran away.

    Vote YES and consign these people to their place in the dole queue they’ve so richly earned.

  8. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Fabulous stuff and must be given the widest possible circulation. But Margaret Curran is only one of the liars. Every person who has held any significant position in the Labour Party in Scoland, elect3d or otherwise,since the 1970s has been implicit in this massive and deliberate decit of a whole nation.
    We have to hit them all.If they knew they were liars. If they did not know theywere not fit to hold public office by virtue of infantile incompetence..
    We should put this in the hands of our people. This should be made into a leaflet with an account of the McCrone report included whichshould be distributed toevry home in Scotland and our people should be urged to ask their local plitical leaders why they were part of the huge lie


  9. Wullie says:

    Anent “Ignorance”, Curran is my MP she doesn’t do “Feigning”, I can assure you.

  10. Braco says:

    Dave McEwan Hill,

    I am building up a small but killer collection of documents and articles such as this one, as items to print out and distribute to folk who I talk with about voting YES.

    They are invaluable as follow up material after a discussion during which I consciously tee up the subject. The more incredulous the person is about the scale of the deceit perpetrated on us all, the more powerful the reaction they have when faced with the follow up evidence.

    When I start going door to door, canvassing after the White paper is published, I will be carrying hard copies of these articles, McCrone Report etc.. to hand out should the subject arise.

    The McCrone Report in particular has been an incredibly powerful tool in converting my parents, (and friends of theirs who my parents passed the report on to).

    The more face to face interactions we all start having with the general electorate highlighting this stuff along with the evidence in black and white the less important their lack of coverage in the MSM becomes.

    In fact, in my experience the lack of coverage simply enhances the newly informed’s feeling of being the subject of organised deceit. A very effective motivator! (smily)

    Citizen Smart, thank you so much for this article and also the analysis of your brother’s antics on twitter (hard as that must have been). No wonder SLAB have such a problem with you. Without understanding the concept of integrity your actions must seem totally alien to them.

    1. Braco,

      Would it be possible to share your killer articles on Dropbox or similar ? I’m sure we could all benefit from printing them off for unbelievers to read.

      1. Kat Frac says:

        Great idea Andrew I would love to be able to SHOW people proof of what I am talking about.

      2. Braco says:

        Andrew and Kat,

        Unfortunately at the moment my collection is not small! I have just been cut and pasting articles and documents such as this one (or their links) for the last year or so. They are all over the place at the moment! I know where and what each is but there is no real discernible system to them yet.

        I am planning to return to Scotland to campaign full time on the publishing of the white paper and so have been collecting in order to have a wide range of documentation and articles that could then be pared down, before I leave for home, to the small campaigning tool that I talked of.

        I have not done the boring work to reduce it down yet, sorry. (sadsmily)

        Your idea is a very good one though, so once I have pared it down and got them into some sort of system perhaps I will try and publish a short article, with it as an attachment, on A Site like Bella or Wings Over Scotland? (if they would be interested)

        Sorry for not being able to help at the moment, although most of the stuff needed to prove/disprove the arguments folk are forwarding are easily googleable on specific subjects such as pensions or job loss from removal of Trident etc. (Wings has a brilliant and easy search facility and each of those articles, like Bella’s, usually has many links within to follow up for source material)

        But I agree totally that what I have been trying to compile would be so much easier to get started with on the door step. You have both given me that extra push to get started on the boring task I have been putting off for too long, so thanks for that and sorry again that I I am am not in a position to help at the moment.

        1. Kate says:

          Thanks for reply Braco. You have also pushed me into ensuring I keep & print off, A lot of the good stuff we get via Bella & other blogs. Cheers.

    2. Sam Mitchell says:

      Can I add that McCrone used these words… “” chronically in surplus “”.. I knew this from a part of a leaked report that a fellow nationalist working in the then Board of Trade office in Hope Street had copied. It also stated that heavy manufacturing in Scotland would be significantly reduced. So… the argument that senior labour people did not know this & other relevant facts is completely false. But I would go further and state that it would have been known inside the STUC offices in Glasgow. Unfortunately… the labour party held an IRON grip on Scotland, which has fueled my detestation of them & their dogmatic followers ever since. I also regard the lies that A.Carmichael told to be of a minor significance with regard to the scale of the deceit that these so called socialists used when betraying the Scottish population.

  11. Dave McEwan Hill says:


    Its the fact that it is a big, deliberate lie by government that is the important element in this. The fact that the people that Scotland elected to look after Scotland’s interess are willing players in it is the killer fact.
    History will record that the Labour Party in Scotland was destroyed
    by the lie. Margaret Curran makes much of her Irish roots. Ask her if she can name any one of the unionist Irish MPS elected in Eire between 1916 and 1920.
    If she is very lucky she will enjoy similar anonymity in the years ahead.

    1. Braco says:

      Dave McEwan Hill,
      I think you are correct about the fate of SLAB. It seems to me to have parallels with the way the BBC’s reputation in Scotland is also becoming untenably tarnished by the uncovering and slow public realisation of it’s collusion in decades of establishment lies to the electorate (and the serious detriment of Scots interests).

      The simple process of this referendum has lifted that big monolithic SLAB that was never meant to be lifted and now we are seeing the base corruption that has always been needed and used as standard procedure to save the status quo’s ruling political class’s vested interests.

      I think this grass roots YES campaign will have very serious political and social implications for a great many of what we once thought of as the ‘great’ and ‘widely admired’ institutions of Britain in Scotland. I really don’t see many surviving. (Thank God!)

      Vote YES in 2014! (please)

  12. Juteman says:

    Can you imagine the uproar if this occured in a country with an honest media?
    FFS! Scottish Labour politicians lied to the country, and others went along with the deception!

  13. Brian Hill says:

    Brilliant article from a leading insider. This information is Gold Plated. I hope Derek Bateman has a copy of the entire article including the Labour credentials of the man who wrote it.

    Shame more of the young idealists of the day don’t have the same moral depth of the author to walk away from this party whose sole raison d’etre is now to its own advancement at the expense of the people it claims to serve.


  14. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Great article.

    Does Margaret “I don’t anything about that” Curran know about The McCrone report published in 2005, after being kept top secret by The Labour Government for thirty years?

    Does she know about the OECD’s prediction for another massive oil explosion producing value between £2.2n tn to £4tn?

    Well Margaret if you don’t know about the latter, you do now. With that Knowledge combined with the vast potential of renewables etc are you still going to campaign against Scotlands best interest, and promote a NO vote?

    Wait a minute, maybe the OECD are just a front for the SNP. That must be it, eh Margaret?

  15. Derick fae Yell says:

    Trying not to swear but that was a f**** fantastic article. Respect!

  16. Not related to the above,or maybe it is,but listening to the BBC news! about Syria,and the first thought to my mind was “I don’t believe them” that is the harm that has been done with the constant feed of lies,and I have never trusted Labour since I was a boy of 14,(61 in 3 weeks)

  17. ronald alexander mcdonald says:


    I feel the same way. Glorified version of Pravda. Happy birthday when it comes Charles.

  18. Nick says:

    Thanks for an erudite summing up from an insider of the period in question. Useful ammunition for when all the denials start…

  19. hamish burgess says:

    It’s not the first time that well-washed ferret has lied. She did it as the Labour candidate in the Glasgow East, Westminster constituency, by-election in 2008. She claimed that she had lived and worked in the East all her life. Can’t remember which, but either the Scotsman or Herald did an article, circa early July, showing she actually lived in a fancy house on the South Side.

    1. Kat Frac says:

      Can you prove she is well washed Hamish? A ferret there is NO doubt about. lol lol

  20. annie says:

    Oops! Maybe poor Mags is suffering from selective memory syndrome?

    “Selective memory really exists and we can train our mind to forget embarrassing moments completely, research claims.”

  21. Graham Ennis says:

    Lies, deceit,and Colonialism……She is a “Pied Noire”… lots of people like her around then. Brain washed colonialist. Sickening.

  22. Yes they will have to live with the consequences but so shall the rest of us,which is the pity of it all,the fool can be manipulated by the sleekit and the rest will have to pay.We need somebody with the charisma to have a following and he/she must have honesty and integrity,the record did their best to ruin Alex Salmond and have turned too many against him a brilliant man with honesty and integrity ruined by a cheap rag that has manipulated the people for the Labour party for 100years now,makes me sick to think that they never had to pay the price of their lies.Reporters with the excuse its the editor and the editors with the excuse its the owners who tell us to lie? what really none of them with a shred of decency nor integrity there is no honesty in the “Nuremberg defence” you did it for the money just like a common whore who at least has the honesty to tell you its for the money.

  23. Andrea says:

    The Big Lie …propaganda par excellence … espoused by Goebbels: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

  24. Political Tourist says:

    I can remember starting at one end of Kinfauns Drive Drumchapel in 1979 delivering YES leaflets to every door.
    An hour or so later i got a lift back to the starting point to see another lot of my fellow SLAB members delivering No leaflets.

  25. Blether says:

    The Holyrood article, “Still raising eyebrows”, 19th May 2013, is now here:

    ““I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism but that was mainly down to Thatcher. We didn’t actually see the rewards from oil in my period in office because we were investing in the infrastructure rather than getting the returns and really, Thatcher wouldn’t have been able to carry out any of her policies without that additional 5 per cent on GDP from oil. Incredible good luck she had from that.” I ask Healey if he had considered establishing a sovereign wealth fund with the oil revenues to invest in the country’s future when he was in office.
    “It’s true that we should have invested the money in things we needed in Britain and I had thought about an oil fund, like in Norway but it wasn’t my responsibility by then.” I explain to him that the oil has become a controversial focus in the current referendum debate and wonder if he thinks Westminster is afraid of the consequences of independence.
    “I think there are a lot of problems connected with it that haven’t been faced up to, either by Salmond or by the British and they are mainly to do with oil and the income it provides and yes, I think they [Westminster politicians] are concerned about Scotland taking the oil, I think they are worried stiff about it.
    “I think we would suffer enormously if the income from Scottish oil stopped but if the Scots want it [independence] they should have it and we would just need to adjust but I would think Scotland could survive perfectly well, economically, if it was independent. Yes, I would think so… with the oil.” I ask Healey what he thinks about claims that Scotland is subsidised by the rest of the UK given that Joel Barnett, he of the Barnett formula, was his deputy at the Treasury and worked out what share of the national income pot Scotland should receive. He says Scotland “pays its fair share” and that “these myths” are simply perpetuated by those that oppose independence. On Scotland keeping the pound, he says Scotland would gain but adds that so “would the rest of us” and he doesn’t see why Westminster could say the Scots couldn’t have it.”

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