2007 - 2022

When…Not If? So now the question is “How?”

A map of Britain resized by house prices leaves the south-east looking like the yolk of a fried egg,By Peter Arnott

Well, here we are two days into the elongated Election Campaign, the one everyone is telling us is the most exciting and unpredictable in living memory, and, I don’t know about you, but I’m absolutely despairing already of hearing anything I haven’t heard many times before.

Cameron has launched into what is, even for him, an extraordinary impersonation of the School Bully character from Ripping Yarns, sneering at that peculiar foreign looking little tick who is daring to stand for House Captain. Ed Miliband meanwhile, (who I rather do like and think of as the most genuinely interesting left-wing soul Labour has had near the apex of power since…well…since Michael Foot…that other splendid Hampstead intellectual and electoral liability), despairing of being taken seriously even by the Alpha Males of his own Party, searches for an opportunity in the Paxo interview to say, “Hell, yeah, I’m tough enough” which had me behind the sofa hiding from the telly faster than I have since the Cybermen escaped from their plastic Tomb in 1967.

I think that even the buoyant SNP will struggle to say anything that will take anyone in Scotland by surprise, given the two years of the referendum campaign that happened just the other day. They may well feel that in Scotland they are so secure as not to want to say anything. They do, after all, have a whole bunch of untried and unpredictable prospective new MPs to chaperone. Anyway, I thought it was telling that the most interesting and exploratory things that Nicola Sturgeon talked about on Saturday were the things she was saying to introduce herself and the Party of the wider UK. Her message of “solidarity” has been predictably rubbished by the usual suspects, even before one gets to talking about Jim Murphy – who has apparently produced leaflets for East Renfrewshire that omit to mention that he’s standing for the Labour Party.

(Sorry, but WHAT is that ABOUT? I can’t even begin to imagine the mindset that would so carelessly or deliberately insult his own supporters like that?)

Anyway, all this is the froth floating over what I think might be the real story of this election, at least from a Scottish point of view. That all the stuff we were shouting at each other about last year is, however temporarily, on the UK agenda. So I want to react to a couple of thoughtful pieces that have emerged, of late, from the London media bubble. It does seem that now, for once, what Scotland votes for really matters in the course of a UK election, there is finally some proper thinking being done about what is actually going on, about what the context of what has been happening under the radar of the Mainstream Media might actually mean.

I don’t know if this will last, so I think we need to seize the moment., Remember, it was only that opinion poll that seemed to put YES over the top back in September that occasioned a rush of train tickets for journalists at Euston and King’s Cross, and it is only the electoral lassitude of the three main Brit parties that is affording us the rare arithmetical opportunity to signify in British politics, and that Scotland (as such) not mattering is still a default position to which we can very easily return.

(Incidentally, when someone eventually writes the book about all this, we are probably going to need to give the Lib Dems a major vote of thanks for the way in which their naked lust to wriggle their arses in the comfy seats round the big table on the first floor at number 10 led them to make legislation for fixed term parliaments a deal breaker when they decided to give the Tories cover for all but the most ludicrously appalling of their notions of government by the Best Sort of People. A five-year fixed term is going to influence the post-election negotiations in ways which we haven’t experienced before, either in the 70s or 2010. This plus their having committed suicide politically is the really decisive game changer in terms of sheer parliamentary bean counting)

Anyway, Paul Mason and Polly Toynbee, who themselves represent very different wings of the metropolitan left have both written interesting wee essays for the Guardian this week both of which I thoroughly recommend if you haven’t already read them. Paul’s ‘Three New Tribes’ piece is here –  Polly’s ‘No wonder the SNP are confident – the Tories behave as if they want Scotland gone’ is here.

Of the two, Mason’s is the more acute and the less surprising, in that he has written very well on Scotland before, as well as his being a thoroughly good head on matters economic and European. Polly Toynbee, whose work on social questions has been exemplary for thirty years, and whose loyalty to whatever time serving twerp Labour happen to have lumbered themselves with this time is normally unswerving, strikes a more predictably mournful note.

But both pieces seem to seriously and symptomatically accept (I hope) that the narrative the British establishment on the Left as much as the Right have been telling themselves about what has been happening to the Idea of Britain since the 1970s is not a uniform tale of adjustment to the “realities” of the global marketplace on the one hand, and to the inevitability that Finance Capital for the rich and heroin for the poor on the other. That the remodelling under Thatcher and accepted under Blair is not the inescapable and uniform recent story of life in the UK.

Both Mason and Toynbee seem now to accept what we’ve known in our bones here in Scotland since the sixties, since the great run down of British Industrial Policy began with the closures on the Clyde, and the decimation of the economic base of “the regions” gathered pace in the steel mills and the coal mines (well before Margaret Thatcher came along to give it the Coup de Grace, by the way) has radically transformed and skewed the balances of economic and political forces in the UK at a far deeper cultural level than seems to have been apparent from the counting houses where one simply has had to switch one’s portfolio of investment around a little bit..

Before the Second Worlds War we had an Empire that used to disproportionately employ the sons of the Scottish bourgeoisie just as its workshops and factories employed, rather less comfortably, the sons and daughters of everyone else. The near collapse of industry and Empire in the thirties and forties was held together with the glue of national industrial and employment politics along with the welfare state after the war. For people of my generation, for every political generation before Blair, the British Deal after the war – that everyone was included and to a degree protected by the aspiration of full employment, of universal health care and education and of protection from the worst ravages of poverty – was what “normality” looked like. The British State had a role and purpose that was thought of as the maintenance of a minimum standard of decency as the guarantor of social peace. There were always those who doubted this was sustainable, and the edges of the social contract were never entirely unfrayed. But it took the oil price shock of 1973 to give the likes of Margaret Thatcher and her ideologues the license to tear the social contact up. They dismantled the whole structure, starting with engineered unemployment and bargain basement de-nationalisation, letting the breezes of the market blow, and vastly enriching their own class and their hangers on in the process, thus normalising a concentration of all political and cultural as well as economic muscle around the financial and stock markets that were to be, from now on, the only true successors of 19th century imperial power.

The new idea, enthusiastically embraced by Tony Blair and HIS acolytes, was that you could entirely reconfigure the shape of Britain in every way but one. You could abandon the whole for the part without the people who lived there noticing. You could remove the industrial and social policies that underpinned the holistic, inclusive Idea of Britain without any impact on what “Britain” meant to the people who lived there. The thought was that politics would be completely unaffected. That you could substitute borrowing for wages, pfi for public investment, and that the rich would get SO rich that their increased tax receipts would keep politics exactly as it was, that the Great British Consensus would shift to the right, away from the state and towards the Greenspan-esque version of the market as democracy, and that nobody would really notice because we still had the Queen and all her horsey progeny to gawp at. And that even an economic crisis that meant that Capital went “on strike” for a few years – that the markets would no longer pick up the slack of the diminished state – had no implications beyond a need to renew blaming the poor for being screwed so you could screw them a bit more tightly.

Well, it hasn’t worked out that way. Scottish self-assertion (like other things) is a delayed reaction to the murder of the British State by the rulers of that state. The Break Up of Britain was initiated in Whitehall every bit as much as in Edinburgh. Rather more and rather earlier, in fact. The rise of the SNP is not a cause of that Break Up…it is a symptom. Ever since the seventies, the assertion of a distinct Scottish political settlement is as a response to the fact that the “British Idea” has become a joke, a posture, the “prestige” of a seat on the UN Security Council Security Council that seems to depend on Nuclear Weapons being kept near my house, and a promise of Socialist Solidarity that has been less than credible for a couple of decades, and when emerging from the sepulchral thrapple of Jolly Jim Murphy is just plain ludicrous.

When David Cameron appeals to us to stay in the name of our Shared Greatness, and Jim Murphy in terms of Shared Solidarity, they both make themselves look ridiculous. The Empire and its succeeding welfare State are both dead and buried. And it wasn’t us that killed them. And there is little point in evoking Churchillian metaphors to defend Little England from that Big Bully Alec Salmond when the very first response to the No vote was the incredible short-sighted stupidity of the “punishment” of English Votes for English Laws. On grounds of competence as well as principle, the British State is wholly responsible for its own demise.

“We voted to stay with you, you bastards. Get used to it.” becomes the typically emotionally complicated battle cry of the latest trainload of radicals we’ve sent to Westminster.

We’ll see how that works out. Meanwhile, given that the election campaign isn’t going to hold any surprises, let’s start our own surprising conversation about the social values that could underpin a new Britain (not great anymore) as well as a new Scotland. Both Paul Mason and Polly Toynbee, and the progressive opinion in the metropolis for which they stand, are now, I hope and believe, recognising themselves as provincials, that we are ALL provincials. That new alliances need to take shape across an altered landscape. That we are all still going to live on the same bit of green turf in the azure sea, but that this Sceptred Isle is going to have to look like a very different place from now on. And most of all that progressive values are no longer predicated on a unitary condition. That Union became an illusion in the real world long before Nicola Sturgeon came along.

It is the Labour party for whom this is the hardest lesson. the Party is itself structured on a Britain that no longer exists and to which it still clings, meaning that it is out foxed and out fought both by the Tories (who don’ give a shit about anyone very much including the English – and most Londoners, come to that) and the SNP, who are yet to face the structural challenges that will surely fall upon them very soon.

Now that “independence” or whatever we end up calling it – in any case, fundamental political change is a matter of “when” and not “if”, all of us on these islands need to start exploring new models of society and power well beyond mere politics. And if it really was cultural change in Scotland in the eighties that led us up here to where we seem to be arriving now, then I suspect that it is in the sphere of cultural exchange and ideas that we will find the emerging shapes of the Atlantic Archipelago we all want to live in when the future, long worked and hoped for, comes.

Comments (54)

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  1. Barraload says:

    Best article I’ve read on here in some time. I still think that the idea of a revived post-Thatcher social democratic UK as a political, social, cultural and economic force in the EU has a lot of potential. People who believe in this across the UK would do well to unite and keep striving forward and oppose the various efforts to break up the UK and the EU into ever smaller units (being the common aim of SNP, UKIP, Le Pen etc) which are all based on individuals identifying with a smaller idea of “nation” than the big idea of a united Europe.

    1. Brian Fleming says:

      In case you hadn’t noticed, the SNP is pro-EU.

      1. Barraload says:

        I did notice but also noticed that the SNP were not sure how an independent Scotland would stay in when other members states like Spain harboured their objections. That worried me but instead of finding a good enough answer it was cast aside as “scare tactics” and those when felt that this form of nationalism could harm Europe were weak minded and stupid people. I don’t buy into the “everything will be OK’ dream of nationalists which is allied to the “we’ll get what we want (stay in Europe) because we want it” as it ignores the power wielded by other stakeholders.

      2. David Agnew says:


        I said naughty not haughty but moving on.
        You’re doing it again: conflating the SNP with race hate politics. I also pour scorn on UKIP and frankly Le Pen – but he’s French. He’s for the French to deal with. The dark side of nationalism – take a good long hard look at BNP, UKIP NF, and all the rest – that is the dark side of British nationalism and please do not use that Britishness is not a nationalism. It clearly is.

        Yes the Tories come in for a lot of abuse, but that is directed at a political party, not an ethnic group. And going on their record in Scotland, its pretty much justified. Hell, labour has used that hate for almost 40 years to keep itself in power here. Just what is it you think labour are doing everytime they say a vote for the SNP is also a vote the Tories? Lets also take a quick peek at their all encompassing hatred of the SNP as well, so great it is, that should it come down to the wire, Scottish labour would fully expect Miliband to meekly go into opposition than do a deal with the SNP.

        Also consider Westminster doing right now if not monstering Scots. Thanks to the stupidity of Cameron and Miliband. England is scared that we might impose a government on them they didn’t vote for. Labour/Tory it makes no difference, there is almost no party now that Scots could vote for and not have those pish merchants in Westminster portray it as an attack on democracy. That’s the greater threat to your Union right now. Not the SNP.

        But by all means, keep waffling on about the dark side of nationalism in Scotland, and keep ignoring the very real darkness unfolding south of the border.

    2. david agnew says:

      And who exactly should we unite behind? Since we entered europe, every major UK party has used Europe as its favourite Bete Noire and whipping post. I believe in a united europe but I don’t believe that westminster and the UK parties are even capable of acting like adults when it comes to Europe. Also its very naughty of you to lump the SNP in with UKIP and Le Pen who want to break Europe up, when the SNP want Scotland to be a closer part of it. Like the SNP I don’t trust Westminster to argue Scotlands case, let alone the UKs if it involves parties like the conservatives or the labour party. The idea of the SNP being labours conscience and moral compass appeals to me far more than the thought of trusting in labour “one last time”. Will it work out that way? I don’t know, but i think considering the alternative its worth a shot. The idea of voting for any UK party right now, makes me feel sick to the very core.

      1. Barraload says:

        It’s not haughty; each is a form of nationalism – one right wing and the other left – and both define insiders and outsiders by reference to a smaller nation state than the ones we already have. Just listen to the hate abuse directed at Tories on here. Why is that OK when no other other minority group would be treated in that way. Le Pen and UKIP hate immigrants; it is the dark side of nationalism – to have and to hate some form of outsiders because it makes the converts more self righteously convinced that they nation is for folk like them

    3. er …the SNP is strongly committed to EU membership and “the big idea of a united Europe”.

      1. Barraload says:

        yes and how will they deliver it. being committed to an idea is easy

    4. bringiton says:

      Scottish independence is about having the right to elect a government of our choice and not about the break up of the UK/England.
      England always gets the government it votes for and unfortunately,so do we Scots (England’s government that is).
      Thatcherism was born in England and has survived there thanks to England’s preference for political parties who support that ethos.
      It would never have gotten off the drawing board here in Scotland,let alone being allowed to become the destructive force that it now is.
      Scotland voted Labour hoping that England would see sense and reverse most of that dogma but regrettably that seemed to be a task too far for them so Scots are now turning to the SNP as the only major party (in Scotland) determined to put people first.
      Scotland is not a region of Greater England but a country/nation and as such have the right to self determination should we so choose.
      For now,Westminster has been given a last chance to deliver for Scots,the sort of governance we wish to see.
      Should that fail (very likely),then another referendum is inevitable and a very different result will occur.

      1. Barraload says:

        This however is a general election and not a referendum on independence

        Nationalists seem happy with the following:

        Vote SNP and reduce Labour seats. Labour are the bete noire of Scottish nationalists so much that nationalsist are happy to accept the following.

        Give labour a bloody nose – HURRAH

        This as we all know is more likely to result in a Tory govt of some sort in the current UK. This is an arithmetical and not an ideological point so there is not a lot to argue over

        Hence more austerity and misery for poorer people across the UK

        You would think that in a general election the savvy and pragmatic would see sense in trying to instal a more left leaning party in Westminster but no, nothing can get in the way of pursuing the ideological goal of independence and if as a consequence a lot more poor people across the UK are ground down and we get a EU referendum etc etc then according to nationalists this is a price worth paying

        This is truly mad. Unless the rest of the UK sees sense and instals Labour – for better and worse – they can thank the SNP for the mess. But maybe that is what they want – a mess. More opprobrium heaped on Scotland by folk whose already difficult lives are made worse may move us nearer to being cut off or independent and remember nothing but nothing can come in the way of this goal. Who cares about a few poor English when we the proud Scots can exploit them to get what we want

        Dark days indeed for the UK (and remember that this is a general election)

      2. gralloched says:

        Dear barraload. I’m English, living in n!e England. We too have had seven shades kicked out of us since 1979. Pits, factories, foundries. Shipyards, gone in an ideological, class warfare holocaust.
        The sole glimmer of hope here is an SNP landslide north of the border, followed by a determined confrontation with the catastrophic. Neo-con ideology that has poisoned this country.
        Don’t fret about us. Well be cheering from the sidelines. !

    5. tartanfever says:

      ‘oppose the various efforts to break up the UK and the EU into ever smaller units (being the common aim of SNP’

      and in so doing preserve the elitist institutions of monarchy, Westminster, the House of Lords and a political voting structure which are the very heart of all that blights any progressive way forward. No mention of those institutions on your list ?

      Also, what difference, in reality, would it make to having 29 EU states (with an independent Scotland) rather than the current 28 states, especially when compared to the threat of an EU membership referendum being offered to the British electorate by Westminster parties ? Which one of these would be more damaging – an extra state with Scotland or the complete withdrawl of the UK ?

      1. Barraload says:

        No interest in preserving them. Would like to change them and think we could do this eventually if we stick with reform in the UK rather than going off in a tartan huff.

        Do I remember the First Minister saying we;d have the Queen as head of state anyway. Was this a bit of political expediency – surely not since nationalists don’t play such politics.

        Anyone want to mention the Irish Card of reducing Scottish corporation tax to attract some big business HQ to us rather than Dublin? Tax and benefits arbitrage is what nationalist had in mind, based on this evidence

    6. robert graham says:

      Scottish Parliament building =Labour
      Edinburgh tram project =labour
      Glasgow airport rail link =labour
      PFI public/private finance link =labour
      the list could go on and on and on common denominator yep you guessed it all failed and the root cause your friendly hand in yer pocket useless always have been always will be Labour . dont bother replying i aint listening to anymore guff like we had during the referendum oh how is the VOW progressing oh be along shortly will it ?
      By the way thats my real name i don’t need to hide behind some stupid mask

    7. My Cocaine says:

      Would that be the united Europe that told Ireland to vote again until it got the result it wanted? That united Europe, that beacon of democracy…

  2. emilytom67 says:

    Barraload alter/break up /re-organise what do you have against US determining how our country should be governed,every country in the world seeks this why are we any different.

    1. Barraload says:

      We aren’t but I have a UK passport and like the idea of Britishness. you don’t so there you go

  3. Fraser says:

    Really interesting piece which chimes with my thoughts recently about why we have come so close to independence now and not before. My answer to that is very similar to Peter Arnott’s but expressed in terms of the withdrawal of the state from people’s lives as a result of Thatcherism and subsequent governments.

    Throughout the years of empire and right up to the 1970s Scotland worked in the service of the state, either as agents of empire or participants in the social consensus of the welfare state. If you didn’t work for the state in a nationalised industry you still might have been housed by it, your electricity and gas were supplied by it, your mail delivered by it, your health cared for by it, you travelled around on transport provided by it…

    Bit by bit through the 80s the state was withdrawn from its most significant points of contact with working people, and its unavoidable relationship with non-working people changed from supportive to antagonistic. In place of the state the market was allowed to infiltrate public services and take over public utilities. Gas, electricity, telecommunications, water (in England) and public transport were all privatised. However much some of these utilities may have been the butt of disdainful humour, they all constituted part of the glue that bonded people to the state, and their privatisation further detached people from the state, regardless of whether the privatisations improved services or not.

    In a country where such a high proportion of people worked in the public sector surely that should have preserved the bond between the state and the Scottish citizen? Here devolution undermined the vestiges of state engagement because most people in the public sector effectively worked for the Scottish state, not the British one managed from Westminster. If asked who ran Scotland most Scots would point to Holyrood.

    Thatcherism’s enduring legacy is the erosion of the state across the whole of the UK and that this was the crucial factor in weakening the Better Together appeal to a sense of Britishness which was the campaign’s only positive argument. How could you feel loyalty to a state that barely figured in your life any more? What emerged from the referendum campaign was that there is strong support in Scotland for state engagement in the social and economic life of the nation, a relic of the time when the dominant Labour Party supported socialist communitarian values and a strong public sector. The referendum exposed the fact that Labour no longer stands for those things, because it was unable to argue that the British state could offer them, even if it were in power. The offer of Britishness was a feeble and insubstantial vision of historical irrelevance and vague cultural heterogeneity. As the only positive weapon in the unionists’ armoury it was a gun with no bullets.

    1. Peter Arnott says:

      That’s a terrific take on all this.

      1. John Souter says:

        The fundamental issue is choice was removed from British politics when Labour wasn’t up to the job of challenging the privatisation and de-industrialisation of Britain opting instead for the dog-day surrealism of neoliberal anarchy to be ingrained by a jackboot state.

        From that day to this Labour became the courtesans, no soul. no commitment, no legitimacy and screwed in every orifice with only a tinkly smile of consent to being, not part of the establishment, but a tool of it.

        In effect, Labour choose to hang itself on the establishment’s petard.

      2. Fraser says:

        Thanks Peter. I have a fuller article length version of this if anyone’s interested. 1,900 words. Any takers?

      3. Peter Arnott says:

        Send it to Bella…or to me…I’m on Twitter if you want to send a direct message.

    2. Barraload says:

      How about rebuilding the state by ensuring the Conservatives are not re-elected. Conspire in delivering a Tory govt and you get more austerity. This is after all a general election and not a re-run of the referendum

      1. The Long Decline says:

        SNP have said they will not vote in support of Tory so how can a vote for SNP conspire to deliver a Tory government?

      2. Ian says:

        Have you not been listening to the news ect the labout party has backed the austerity plans of the conservatives.

    3. MBC says:

      You can’t shrink the state then expect people to stay to it. Loyal to what? A chimera? Loyalty has to have tangible ‘goods’.

    4. ian says:

      There was once a time when you could depend on the state should you fall but now i’m not so sure.

  4. Peter Arnott says:

    How about people identifying with small countries in a United Europe, rather than deluded old dithery Empires a that don’t work anymore who can’t make up their minds whose hand they should be holding?

    1. Barraload says:

      By dithery empires do you mean a united Germany, France, Italy (unified in the 20th century) Spain – in fact who in the EU are you referring to

  5. A fantastic and insightful article!

    I dont think its that long an article at all, it took me, a slow reader, 5 – 10 mins. I understand what you are saying though, it is a sad state of affairs when people are not prepared to read for 5 mins to educate and inform them selves before a general election… and therein lays part of the problem with political disengagement.

  6. tamdeanburn says:

    O Peter, never say never…I’ve a feeling that the statement this election campaign won’t produce any more surprises might come to bite you on the arse!
    It’s not just Nicola and the SNP reaching out to the rUK but Plaid Cymru and the Greens coalescing as an anti-austerity front. Hopefully this will be the big talking point at Thursday’s leaders debate, putting pressure on Miliband to agree too. That would be a surprise!

  7. Drew Campbell says:

    Superb Paul. Particularly loved the skewering of that maddening conceit of the metrocentics that they are not provincial, when in fact they’re more self-obsessed and inward looking than most of the green inkspots who write to the Evening Standard… or the East Kilbride News, for that matter.

    1. Drew Campbell says:

      Sorry, I meant Peter!

  8. Davie says:

    And how do you propose we “unite and keep striving forward and oppose the various efforts to break up the UK and the EU into ever smaller units (being the common aim of SNP, UKIP, Le Pen etc)”?

    Voting for Jim Murphy’s Scottish Labour Party candidates? It’s a genuine question Barra.

    1. Barraload says:

      I’d answer that one Yes. I don’t expect many folk on here to believe Labour offers a better choice than Tories or SNP (the latter not being sure just how they’d stay in the EU when some member states would object but still believe that everything will be OK). For pro Europeans I think it is better to vote for the party who represent a country that is in the EU and instead to stay there and not have a senseless referendum. Does the EU need reform – YES again – but nationalism ain;t the way to achieve that

      1. Drew Campbell says:

        Voting for mendacious, cynical and corrupt representatives of the Labour Party will do no one any good, barra – that’s the point. Labour has gone far beyond the point of being redeemable, not just because of the enduring baggage from the bellicosity and neo-liberalism of the Blair-Brown years, but in Scotland because Labour’s near one-party state has left it eaten from the inside by time-serving dullards and self-serving gangsters – sometimes one in the same people.

        Some present Labour positions are on the face of it perfectly acceptable social democratic policies but there is simply no trust in the party’s capacity to deliver not least because their is no belief in the sincerity of their utterances. How can we trust Jim Murphy when we know he serves on the council of the shadowy neocon infiltrators The Henry Jackson Society? When his political stances have (apparently) swung so sharply left in just a few short months? Murphy has offered no intellectual justification for his volte-face on tuition fees, for example, no contrition for cheerleading Blair’s false prospectus on Iraq. Without that, people simply conclude he is an opportunist who’ll say what he thinks will get him elected then dump or dilute every policy when he has power – and they’re right. There is no honesty in the Labour campaign in Scotland, simply an extension of Project Fear. At the core of this is the endless repetition of the “Vote SNP, get Tory” slogan founded on “the biggest party forms the government – fact!” when everybody knows that is not a fact but an outright, barefaced lie.

        Yet you ask us to trust Labour, trust Murphy? How the hell can we? Why the hell should we?

        Regarding the SNP, I’m not a member or supporter but in the iniquitous FPTP system they appear to be the best option to unseat the rotting carcass that is Labour in Scotland, and have the added advantage that they’re more left leaning than any other candidates likely to get elected. They’ve done a decent job in the governance of Scotland for seven years, and their leaders – whatever their shortcomings – still hold to core principles because, unlike Labour’s hierarchy, they didn’t join the SNP to fill their boots; they joined because they believed in an idea so dangerous that the apparatus of the British State would smash them individually or collectively if they so much as dipped a toe in the kind of murky waters where Scottish Labour MPs and councillors love to wallow.

        And, finally, your assertion that reform of the EU won’t be achieved by “nationalism”. Well, that depends how you define that word. Certainly it’s clear Scotland would be far better represented as an independent nation within the EU rather than as an afterthought of metrocentric mainstream ministers. Catalonia may soon see their future that way too, not to mention the component parts of Belgium. Indeed the logic of the EU structure actually demands it.

        Such movements will not of themselves bring the desperately needed reforms to democracy and accountability the EU is crying out for, but the growth of the phenomenon is undoubtedly in part a reaction to that very state of affairs. If the EU can’t or won’t democratise itself, then having our representatives closer and more accountable to us is a perfectly valid way ahead.

        You might have swallowed the BT scare story that the EU would summarily expel 5.5 million of its citizens in one of the most resource-rich areas of the continent, but not many others did. In Realpolitik this was only the UK Government using its undoubted influence amongst the more biddable to beat that hollow drum but very few could get with the beat.

        Realpolitik is all about the reality of power and the Germans who coined the word will have already noted things have changed and likely change further after May 7th. The Weltanschauung is changing too and question now is how to accommodate the new Zeitgeist coming over the horizon. However that is to be done you can bet your bottom Euro the power brokers and bureaucrats of the EU will not be prioritising their most tiresome member, the haughty, foot-dragging, belligerent but badly listing Britain. The Germans coined a word for that attitude too: Schadenfreude.

  9. Stevie says:

    What a marvellous piece. Thank you. The analysis and conclusion is spot on. There’s some grunt needing to be employed in whatever it is we’re struggling for, and some very powerful people needing to lose a fair degree of their power and wealth. It doesn’t come through Blair-esque rallies and “we demand nice things!” either. Thank you.

  10. BigAl. says:

    The SNP are advocates of European Union membership. Fact.
    Scotland is currently ( as part of UK) a member of EU. Fact.

    1. Barraload says:

      Well said. Yes as part of the UK it is and it should remain in the UK and the UK should remain in the EU Vote Labour and you get both

      1. BigAl. says:


  11. Frederick Robinson says:

    Jim Murphy’s pamphlet omits that he’s a Labour candidate? That sounds not a bad idea generally. All the electorate are REALLY able to vote for is their local candidate, who may/may not toe whatever happens to be the relevant Party line. Not to be distracted by the comparative irrelevance of which party the candidate represents could encourage voters to pay more attention to the candidates themselves, and the candidates be less inclined to mouth the Party line, comfortable in the knowledge that it’s the Party that’s being voted for, not them personally. They, after all, would be the ones going to Parliament, where, particularly on recent evidence, ‘Party loyalty’ is, thank goodness, becoming less important than individual MPs’ personal voting, speeches, and other contributions. We could have 650 genuinely independent MPs representing their local constituents and whatever they personally committed themselves to during the Election campaign. Instead of the schizophrenia of having to abide by Party policies, even if these were at variance with the MPs’ personal convictions and commitments, we would have an extension of the complexity that small-parties holding the balance of power creates. Not Our Gang, Your Gang, but Our Representative.

    1. Drew Campbell says:

      Or we might get 650 rampant egotists with no coherent idea of how to co-operate and actually effect change through the mechanisms of the Commons.

  12. The leaflet I have in front of me has a heading “Re-Elect Jim Murphy” and underneath, in much smaller print, “A strong voice for East Renfrewshire” .Nought about Scottish Labour but it’s full of Jim doing this and that as well as several messages of support from voters. Have not seen or heard of a Lib Dem candidate but have been told a UKIP one has been canvassing up in Mearns. Just thought I’d share that with you. Situation interesting in E/Ren with a lot of talk of tactical voting being bandied about….Good piece as usual, Peter.

  13. Iain More says:

    I am utterly bored with this election already. My initial observations when I am not yawning are


    I pick up on the two different Project Fear campaigns running in it. In Scotland it is we are too wee and too poor etc to have even Devo Max. Meanwhile south of the border Project Fear is targeting the Labour Party. Labour I guess fail to see the irony of that.


    I see Tories, Lib Dems and Labour all falling over themselves to appeal to an English form of Nationalism despite UKIP seemingly languishing in the polls. I conclude that they must all think the pollsters are telling porkies about UKIPs support and or they are lying about how Immigration and Europe have become issues of less importance in how the residents of England will vote.

    With any luck the residents of Scotland will get fed up with the moronic crap being shovelled at them via the Brit Nat Press and Media and shove down their throats by the Brit Nat that finally they will say enough is enough were awf.

    1. Barraload says:

      How do you propose that Scotland goes “awf?”

      Just declares itself independent? Some form of UDI like Rhodesia/Zimbabwe?

      Another referendum? How do you get one from a UK govt. let alone how do you win it?

      Meanwhile in relation to the General Election you hate but which is the one we are talking about, I am now having to accept what others have told me all along.

      The SNP want a conservative govt. preferably one that is supported by UKIP because they think it will push Scotland closer to independence. I can’t see that type of govt agreeing to a Scottish referendum, can you? Meanwhile we get £12 billion of austerity cuts and the poorer in our society are a lot worse off

      Nationalists seem happy to vote in a way that enables this. I don;t see how it gets you nearer to a referendum so I don’t understand the tactics. And I don’t like the political calculation that says the poor across the UK have to suffer as the cost of getting Scottish independence.

      Some might not be as calculating as this or not see it. but making this election into a rerun of the referendum out of a sense of frustration has political consequences that cannot be ducked.

      1. Drew Campbell says:

        Yeh, barraload. I notice you haven’t had the guts to reply to my post. You should, you know. We’re all dying to hear what you’ve got to say to convince us we should trust the Labour Party.

  14. arthur thomson says:

    Can’t let a barraload of machiavellian rubbish be the final comment on this.

    The SNP has no interest in engineering the election of another tory government. Only someone who would promote the election of Jim Murphy and his likes would ever suggest otherwise. Having said that, a very devious UKipper might.

    1. Barraload says:

      OK sorry for suggesting it was being engineered. But is the rest not still true. Voting SNP and reducing the number of Labour MPs increases the chances of a tory govt and reduces the chances of a referendum.

    2. Barraload says:

      I should have also suggested that we leave aside the personal insults about Jim Murphy and people who vote for him. Assume each party has some good ‘uns and some not so good apart from UKIP who are clearly all barmy. It’s arithmetic and the snp vote aimed at “getting’ labour seems likely to improve the chances of a tory govt

      1. Drew Campbell says:

        Reply to the points in my post above and I’ll consider it.

  15. Barraload says:

    Drew, I’ll try

    The first para is about calling folk names (liar corrupt, some are gangsters even, my my). it is little surprise that you don;t like Labour. Hate would be a clearer word and there is certainly a lot of hate among nationalists on here especially aimed at that minority in Scotland called Conservatives. Is this how you treat minorities or are they marked out in your nationalists nirvana as special. OK I get it but not sure what to say other than I disagree.

    Second para is much the same. It is tiresome to repeat that I didn’t vote against independence out of fear but this Project Fear/scare story is so embedded in the nationalist narrative (its a conspiracy, always) that you and others won;t believe it which makes me a liar too as far as you are concerned. Thanks.

    Para 3 – see above

    Para 4 – go ahead and unseat Labour. I assume you feel good about yourself if you can find ever newer ways of being rude about other humans. My local labour mp is a decent guy who does not deserve to be called a “carcass”, in fact no-one should be called that in civilised political discourse. I don’t believe he is in politics to fill his boots and as an educated guy i guess he could probably earn more doing something else.

    I don;t suppose it is worth my while asking you to deal with the arithmetic of the democratic system that you think is iniquitous. Less Labour mps here or anywhere else in the uk makes a tory govt more likely. That is simple arithmetic not ideology or level politics

    Or asking how we’d get into the EU as an independent country when it requires unanimity among all existing members. Oops i forgot that is fear mongering and everything will be OK in the end.

    My european social democratic views fears nationalism in Europe wherever it arises and whether it is left or right This is from wiki; Nationalism is a belief, creed or political ideology that involves an individual identifying with, or becoming attached to, one’s nation. So whether it is UK, France, Scotland etc all nationalist, first and foremost, put their nation first, even if and when that means beggaring others; it is a beggar thy neighbour approach.

    Anyway I did my best, but I doubt you’ll agree. I am no doubt to you an example of all the following taken from your post. Neither I my family or friends would agree but this is your way of having a discussion. It has not been an edifying experience and I’m saddened that his makes you feel good

    I am:
    Not redeemable
    Neo liberal
    A dullard
    A gangster
    A rotten carcass
    Foot dragger

    1. Drew Campbell says:

      Well, at least at last we know.

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