2007 - 2022

Back to the Future?

Jim-MurphyBy Cat Boyd

Last Thursday, it finally dawned on the remaining majority of Labour activists that they had lost all credibility as Scotland’s social democratic party. After years of complacently assuming that anti-Tory anger would guarantee their re-election every term in Westminster, if not Holyrood, this realisation stunned the British media- not to mention the new army of unemployed Labour MPs. Some of those MPs, of course, understood that this was not an overnight phenomenon: Labour’s isolation from its core supporters and traditional base has been growing for decades, while they increasingly ignored warnings from the trade union movement. This collapse was inevitable, and the Better Together debacle merely gave voters the final incentive they needed to ditch them forever.

Ed Miliband, for all his faults, gave Labour activists a temporary burst of genuine purpose: a few decent policies to campaign around, and a little hope for a “lighter” austerity. But he never broke from New Labour’s core ideas, and thus the reversion to 1990s Blairite nostalgia among Chukka Umunna and his leadership rivals was, in the long-run, unavoidable. New Labour is now the party’s default ideology, its standard response to “the middle England problem”.

Blair viciously transformed Labour, recasting it around the holy triumvirate of privatisation, financialisation, and deregulation, cutting its last links to the working poor, proudly declaring that we were “all middle class now”. By contrast Miliband tiptoed around New Labour, never setting out alternatives to any of this, gently snubbing Blairism rather than killing it off, barely even apologising for Iraq.
Ironically, Miliband’s one decisive break with New Labour was over public spending. He conceded, far too readily, that Brown’s lavish spending on such flippant luxuries as schools and hospitals was the cause of the 2008 crash. Miliband’s retorts to these accusations lacked both guile and principle; and these mealy-mouthed platitudes, rather than Scottish nationalism, cost him his election.

Labour’s problems are by no means unique. Most traditional centre-left parties made their pacts with the neoliberal devil in earlier decades, and as with New Labour, selling out to world markets seemed to help social democrats get elected as long as the finance-led boom continued. But come 2008, Labour and their sister organisations had no answers. Across Europe, the centre-left has tailed the neoliberal right, attacking their own supporters with brutal austerity measures, while not-too-subtly shifting the blame onto migration. The result is a Europe-wide legitimacy crisis.

In many countries, the beneficiaries are the radical right. And indeed, Britain seemed to follow this pattern for many years, as shown by UKIP’s stunning results in the European Parliament. While UKIP has fallen back, xenophobic parties are still growing in many other countries, largely at the expense of the centre-left. By contrast, in Spain and Greece, and arguably also in Scotland, radical left movements have occupied space traditionally held by barren social democratic parties.

Of course, I have reservations about categorising the SNP with Syriza and Podemos. Although all achieved success on the back of similar movements, the political nature of these parties is highly distinct. While Syriza and Podemos do use modernising language, they are still essentially rooted in radical left traditions: I cannot imagine they would voluntarily adopt a policy of cutting business taxes or arming the police, for instance. They also emerged from countries experiencing much harsher austerity, and much heavier state repression, with the spectre of fascism still haunting them. Nonetheless, the SNP has undoubtedly occupied similar anti-austerity space, spurred by a broad movement that had geographical roots in traditional bastions of Labour social democracy, rather than Tartan Toryism. The comparisons are not simple, especially given the SNP’s highly centralised internal structures, but they are plausible.

Three lessons follow from this. First, voters will punish centre-left parties that sold their principles to multinational corporations. Second, a well-positioned and plausible radical left can take advantage of this, given the right conditions. But third, there are no guarantees: social democracy’s legitimacy problems can equally benefit the radical right. And so we must act.

Labour made half-hearted concessions to their traditions under Miliband. That short era is now over, with all leadership candidates offering a similar “aspirational” message, combined with mandatory homilies to the “emotions” of the nation, by which they mean Britain of course. Scottish Labour had already sought to reconnect with the nation’s emotions by plumping for the “very aspirational” figure of Jim Murphy.

The grinding inevitability of a return to New Labour only highlights the significance of what we’ve achieved in Scotland. We’ve shown the absolute nonsense of their central notion that “Red Ed went too far”. Scottish voters are not fundamentally different from their English counterparts. The difference is that we’ve got used to countering the politics of fear, after an unprecedented scare campaign to destroy a mass democratic movement. Having been rewarded for our perceived obedience with arguably the most extreme Tory government in history, I think Scotland wouldn’t look twice at a second chance to get rid of Westminster. Standing up to Project Fear has become a matter of pride, as well as principle.

The SNP landslide has shown a glimpse of what ordinary people can do when they realise their own power. Now, the social movement must hold them to account for their promises.

Our next step must be to build a second force in Scottish politics, to ensure that the SNP is not “the left” of Scottish society. A diverse Scottish Parliament, with a pro-independence consensus, will ensure that there’s no return to the horrors of the feeble fifty.

Comments (32)

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  1. Stevie Anderson says:

    Interesting SSP and SLP meeting last night in Glasgow. The opportunities are there, as is the hope. The trust comes over months and years of shared campaigning for shared goals. For all manner of reasons the onus is on socialists to find and bind to socialist activity and objectives. I am hopeful, cautiously and realistically hopeful

    1. fionan says:

      I had been thinking about supporting SSP next year in the list vote, but if they are in cahoots with SLAB, I will not vote for them. After what the foul Slab has done to Scotland over decades in their own self-interest, I want to see their corrupt nasty self-serving networks throughout Scottish society smashed forever. Shame, I thought there might be a chance of a genuine, honest and caring left party emerging in Scotland.

      1. Jim Bennett says:

        I think that the SLP is the Scottish Left Project not Scottish Labour.

  2. john young says:

    We have to break the mould of globalisation/corporations who,s modus operandi is to get as much out of countries and their resources human or otherwise,then when they have got as much out as they can will just move on.We have to look at how we can create sustainable worthwhile employment for all,we have to utilise the energy and creativity of our young,no fit body should be left on the scrapheap we have to give and create worthwhile conditions/respect and encouragement for the young that they can contribute not only for the commonweal but for themselves,that is why I think that our education system has to change as it is geared for those of academic capabilities leaving so many floundering,we should be looking as to how those that are not particularly academic can still contribute hugely,this would ensure that they would grow in self esteem/confidence,this small country can effect change that might bring hope to others of this world that have toiled under a yoke for so long.

  3. florian albert says:

    Cat Boyd hopes to build a second force in Scottish politics to hold the SNP to account. How is this to be done ? How will the ‘social movement’ achieve this ? Examples cited, such as Syriza, have achieved democratic legitimacy by participating in elections. The radical left in Scotland has failed to do this.
    The SNP has strengthened its already strong position by the ballot box. A significant higher proportion of Scots voted last week, in comparison to England. There is no evidence that those to the left of the SNP have significant popular support.
    I never voted for Blair’s Labour Party but it is worth remembering that in 1997 and in 2001 Labour won 56 seats in Scotland.
    I, for one, retain my faith in ‘barren’ social democratic parties. They have a distinguished record. Those to their left do not.

    1. Jon Buchanan says:

      That’s the whole point though isn’t it, none of the usual voting demographic rules apply in a Scottish context now. The article makes the point that the movement is towards a left of centre social democratic politic, how that is described or defined, the spectrum of political representation from left to right within it is ongoing as we speak, subject to the checks and measures of an engaged and informed electorate. Thankfully we have a growing and vigorous fifth estate in sites like Bella too; we only have to hope that the least partisan party in British politics if the deference to the movement shown in GE2015 is anything to go on, the Scottish Greens are paid in kind with due SNP support for second on the list across the board at Holyrood 2015, surely they’d be the only genuine contenders for a left leaning opposition now anyway!

    2. Andy Borland says:

      The second force in Scottish politics who can hold the SNP to account are obviously the Scottish Greens.
      I believe & hope they’re destined for a spectacular Holyrood result next year.
      There’s a growing momentum to reward this pro independence party at the Scottish election & a real opportunity exists next year to be the biggest party after the SNP.
      That’s my desire. I’m sure I’m not alone.

    3. Mark Coburn says:

      NB: In 2001 Labour won 56 seats out of a possible 72. (Same for 1997).

    4. Philip Thomas (@PhilipThomas_45) says:

      I have to say I agree. I’m not entirely sure how the far left expects to successfully operate in the highly interconnected world we now live in. There are fundamental human needs that socialism just doesn’t address and seems to want to ignore. To my mind, human nature is substituted with the very best of intentions; there’s a hope that we somehow become better than we’ve ever proven to be in the past; that we somehow evolve in a social-dynamic sense. Having once sat much further to the left, I think I understand where this comes from but after half-a-life of travelling, living and working abroad (in the developed, developing, and third worlds), I think I’ve arrived at a simpler truth.

      And that is that markets are a necessary and natural component of human existence. We’re none exist, we’re compelled to create them – not nasty, evil corporations but us: normal everyday human beings. To seek to constrain them is to seek to constrain human nature.

      However I didn’t argue that human nature, left to it’s own devices, was an entirely benevolent thing; quite the opposite actually. We rarely if ever live up to our best intentions, especially when we find ourselves in highly stressful situations, such as when we’re forced to scrape around at the bottom of Mazlow’s pyramid, or when we’re employed in a high-stakes game of risk. When stresses are so high that we devolve into sub-cortical, pre-hippocampal, inconsiderate and irrational creatures, the very best of intentions become an after-thought.

      And so, in my view, some kind of medium has to be found; a balance between our nature to create markets and our nature to act on impulse and behave recklessly and selfishly when subjected to high amounts of stress. And that’s when I look around and consider that the least-worst option I can see is social-democracy attuned to the Nordic model (a model that finds itself pitted against the same dark forces that have made significant progress in tearing down our own welfare model), a form of society where stressors are in lesser abundance and most of the citizens claim to be ‘happy’. A society where the purchase of property, for those relative few who seek to do so, is assisted by credit unions; where collective bargaining is still effective enough to exclude the need for a statutory minimum wage but where an effective minimum wage exceeds $20 (over 12 quid); where disposable income, particularly for those at the lower end, is greater and goes further; where social provision remains high and leisure facilities remain numerous and accessible; where students are *paid* to continue working towards making a greater contribution to society; and where entrepreneurs are supported and inspired to succeed. My list could go on.

      It’s by no means a utopia, since like our own society its run by human beings that suffer from the same frailties and weaknesses as we do; but its significantly better than what we find in Scotland today and I know this from having lived there for a long period before returning home of late.

      So for me, neither socialism nor capitalism are the answers in and of themselves but rather a carefully managed equilibrium, wilfully maintained and managed, is the order of the day. Markets and market forces need to be regulated where necessary – strictly so – to ensure that we don’t let them fall into the hands of sub-cortical cartels, but left to find their own way when doing so presents to risk of endangering the public interest. That, in a way, is what I consider to be social-democracy and, unlike socialism, it has a a track-record (a long-lasting one) to speak of and a track-record to be proud of.

      Now that said, having ascribed to a socialist ideology before gradually moving towards a social-democratic one, I’m not oblivious to the achievements of socialism that were achieved during it’s brief and intermittent flourishes. They’ve been significant. We don’t need to hark back to the creation of the welfare state to see that socialism is an important contributor to the ideological lexicon. Our own SSP made a valuable and significant contribution to our society but a short time ago, and so I hope that voice can be included once again in the national discourse. My wish is, like Cat’s I think, to see the political centre-ground in Scotland move decisively and permanently to the left and that voices like those in RIC’, the SSP’, and the Greens, serve as our anchor, holding the good-ship ‘Social-Democrat’ at station and ensuring that it never forgets about those who need it most. This isn’t the first time I’ve such things and it won’t be the last. As an SNP member, I know I’m not alone amongst that constituency who feel the same way.

  4. Colin McFarlane says:

    An argument deployed during the referendum when labour were asked if they would rather live in an independent Scotland run by labour or the uk run by the tories, was that labour would win a majority in the 2015 election.

    I wonder what those people would say now?

    If labour does implode entirely in Scotland, and those in labour join the nationalist cause, does that provide the conditions for a referendum?

    I ask myself is it just me, but I see no one within Scottish labour with the intellect, presence or drive to lead a serious party in Scotland. Who is there to inspire new recruits, who’s is there to take the tough policy decisions contrary to HQ in London and who is there to provide confidence to the voters of Scotland.

    Conclusion I have arrived at is no one.

    A sad state of affairs for labour, but completely deserved. The nationalists should make quick capital with a view to a vote in 2 to 3 years hence.

  5. douglas clark says:

    This is an interesting analysis. Could I suggest that it is important that we get our independence first before going our separate ways?

  6. Cullen Skink says:

    I agree with that. There’s a lot of talk of the “one party state” as a problem, and I agree it’s not ideal – I miss the Holyrood “rainbow Parliament” as much as anyone. But this is a crisis situation – Scotland’s voting has adapted to the need to protect the country’s interests from austerity politics. That seems to me to be the reason smaller parties are not doing so well right now. I for one hope the electorate holds the line at least until we have ffa if not independence. There’ll be plenty of time after that to settle back into political diversity that fully represents the spectrum of opinion.

  7. Mark Ryan Smith says:

    Cat’s article is spot on. I’m pleased the SNP did so well, but we should be wary of creating a climate where they are beyond critique. They have shown that there is a place for leftist politics in this country, but where we’re at now is a starting point, not the solution to all our problems. Hopefully the progressive direction they have opened up will be reflected in the next Scottish parliament, and radical thought and action will become more possible than they have been for years.

  8. Neil says:

    What the radical left really needs is an honest appraisal of why they are struggling to get 200 votes in a constituency like Glasgow East, because that really does highlight their achievement.

  9. Douglas says:

    Cat, a terrific post, a really fine appraisal which I mostly agree with and, vitally, one which locates Scotland in an international context, which is to say in a comparative context.

    You are right about the need for a political party – Republican obviously – on the Left in Scotland. My belief is that RIC can fashion that, but there is a need for imagination, a need to look forward and not back, a need for a new language. The language of the old left turns people off. It´s the young who should be leading that new party and doing what they did before Podemos was formed. Sitting in circles, talking, exchanging ideas (okay, it´s not so easy in the rain).

    This is a hinge moment in Scottish history – a door which opens or a door which maybe closes. When the desire for independence is fused with the desire for social justice, the movement becomes utterly unstoppable, as we have just seen last week. How to maintain that momentum? The SNP will do their job in London I am sure, but we need to keep the ball rolling in Scotland, so I am right behind you there.

    Today is 15-M, the day, four years ago, the first 40 protesters sat down in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid and pitched their tents, calling on people over the social networks to come and join them, the day that mass movement known as “Los Indignados” was born, the movement which gave rise to Podemos and an upsurge in participatory politics with no precedent in Spanish democratic history.

    Spain may have one of the most right-wing governments in the history of the EU, but the 15-M has changed the landscape for ever, and not just Podemos. New voices have emerged, progressive social justice fighters like Ada Colau (a woman to watch), currently running for mayor of Barcelona under a platform called Barcelona En Comú, or Manuela Carmena, running for mayor of Madrid under a platform called Madrid Ahora (Madrid Now). These are broad alliances, comparable to the RIC, spearheaded by two formidable women and they might just win Barcelona and Madrid for the progressive left later this month when local elections are held.

    The notion that Scottish voters should vote SNP at every election is seriously flawed thinking. No, seriously….

    I´d like to see the RIC form a party which tried to win Glasgow and Dundee for the progressive Left at the local level. Local politics is where Scottish Republican voices can start making a difference and SNP people who tell us to keep quiet until indie is won are doing a disservice to Scottish democracy.

    1. Philip Thomas (@PhilipThomas_45) says:

      Like all modes of thinking it has flaws but it also has merits. The argument that an SNP consensus is damaging places us in an idealistic environment that’s yet to be realised. We can’t pretend that there aren’t powerful forces ranged against all of us, indeed forces more powerful than we ought to be able to muster.

      Let’s not kid ourselves that the SNP is in a position of power-dominance. It isn’t. It dominates in a landscape that’s largely been rendered powerless and it’s seeking to change that landscape. To rail against it, to me, smacks of ignorance as to who our common foes are. If we truly want a diverse political landscape in Scotland then we must first seek to unshackle ourselves from the bloated neo-liberal behemoth that’s in possession of real power over Scotland. Without a consensus; without a powerful vehicle of our own; that battle will quickly be lost when its barely only begun. The SNP knows this. It’s members and much of its support know this. Realistic and pragmatic minds within other parties know this. Socialism argues for solidarity. If you believe, like I do, that independence is a means to an end and not the end in itself; that it is really self-determination that we seek in order to create a landscape where the left has a meaningful voice and can exercise it free of the threat of right-wing overtures; then you must first accept that we are not yet in a position of strength. Our voice, while stronger than it was, remains weak. Before trying to win the peace, we must consider that there is still a war to be won.

      The right doesn’t dominate because it’s strong. It wins because the left is weak. The left ever seeks to destroy itself from within before it ever has a chance to establish its roots and give permanence to its institutions. It does so because of the vanity and ambition of its own proponents who can seldom agree amongst themselves.

      The SNP has attempted to centralise what little power we have in Scotland because it realises this, not because it’s ideologically driven to do so. It’s ideologically inclined to localise power but knows that our fragile consensus is threatened by that notion. Should we devolve power into the hands of Labour-Tory administrations so that they and others can attempt to once again throw us off course? Should we do so at a time when electorates are largely unenthused by local politics and barely take notice of who runs for election to local councils; when local government remains completely unreformed and is plagued by cronyism and naked self-interest? Our political foes would certainly like us to do so. They argue strongly for further devolution, realising that the gathering consensus would be shattered and our parliament would be rendered inert in the face of their London-based power structures.

      Some of our noted (and perhaps notable) thinkers argued post-referendum that we should behave as if we were already an independent nation, and in some respects this has been and continues to be a useful exercise. It serves to change the national mindset and boost the confidence of the populace in general. But let’s not, by the act of behaving it’s so, forget that we are *not* an independent nation and that the direction of travel can be reversed if we’re not careful and pragmatic in our approach going forward. We can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel but in waking now we’ll still find ourselves in the real world where we still live under the hand of a right-wing hegemony that exercises the mindsets of a large proportion of our closest neighbours and wields authority over most of the power structures that dominate our lives.

      There is nothing to suggest that an independent, self-determining Scotland must (or will) be dominated by the SNP. There has been no gerrymandering of the system to ensure it skews towards keeping it in power, largely because the SNP has no effective power to change the system. But even if it had the power, there’s no sentiment within the party that I’m aware of that would seek to do so even given that power. The creeping notion that because the SNP now dominates Scottish political discourse it must therefore be a threat is baseless and, I fear, grounded in ignorance. It’s reached a position of dominance because individuals and collectives have placed their trust in it – and one imagines for good reason!

      In any case, the SNP needn’t dominate the discourse. Just by lending one’s support to the SNP to further a shared objective does not mean surrendering all of one’s principles or keeping one’s mouth shut. Your principles will still be there and that support may easily be withdrawn at a later date. The SNP isn’t oblivious to the fact that a sizeable proportion of the support it received but a week ago was lent to it on a conditional basis. Even as a long-time member, my support is also conditional and doesn’t preclude me from supporting other left-minded projects that seek to exert pressure on my party.

      You’re, I guess, probably aware of all this. I’m inclined to think that you doubt whether your fellow citizens are. That’s the danger if we allow ourselves to fall into the media narrative that the Scottish electorate are somehow spellbound and not thinking rationally. Give your fellow countrymen and women the same respect you demand for yourself and consider that many share your sentiments and judgements but might come to different conclusions.

      1. Douglas says:

        Okay, Philip Thomas, so you want everyone who wants indie to vote SNP at all elections until indie is secured. Maybe for 20 or 30 or 100 years? It´s bonkers. And what does indie have to do with how local government is run or some of the good candidates how are not in the SNP? It´s so stupid it is staggering…

        And I dispute the idea which frequently appears these days that indie is not a goal in itself – the hallmark of an independence supporter with a bad conscience. Of course it is a goal in itself!!!

        Or, in a hypothetical future, if an indie Scotland votes Tory three times in a row, or an alternative party which left Scotland to the right of England, are all you “pragmatic” nationalists going to go running back to be ruled from London? Aye, right…

        Indie is a goal in itself. The sovereignty of the people of Scotland is the goal, no ifs, no buts, no excuses…

        1. Philip Thomas (@PhilipThomas_45) says:

          You seem to be a very angry man, Douglas. You also seem keen to form my opinions for me…

          I never said that everyone should vote SNP in every election. I thought that was implicit when I stated that support for the SNP was lent on a conditional basis. I think you’ll also find elsewhere btl of this article as well as others on Bella that I’ve strongly advocated the inclusion of more voices of the left in Holyrood and a continuing strong role for pluralist and/or non-partisan leftist civic groups in wider society. If that includes councils then by all means go for it; you might encourage people to actually take an interest in local government if you succeed. I’d only argue that it would be misguided to use it as a platform to throw muck at the SNP when it’s the SNP that’s trying and succeeding more than any other party to ensure you become more enfranchised than ever before.

          My objection to your comment is that you imply that the emergence of the SNP as a mass-movement is by definition an unhealthy outcome and therefore a threat that must be challenged. Perhaps it is, but there’s been no evidence whatsoever to suggest that except some vague historical throwbacks that can’t quite be put into words – ‘it’s bad because I’ve remember hearing vague sound bites about this kind of thing being bad’; ‘didn’t all the bad guys start out by forming mass-movements?’ Yes, they did, but so did all the good guys (non-binary)!

          The inference is that people should challenge the SNP’s position of (extremely modest) authority for that reason alone, without any resort to the ideological position or direction of the party. Just because.

          The point of my comment was to argue that it would be rather premature to launch some sort of leftist incursion against the SNP based on some misguided notion that just because they’re now a mass-movement with widespread support they therefore represent some sort of entrenched power structure i.e. the establishment. They’re nothing of the sort. They remain an insurgent movement with relatively little influence over your life in terms of the grand scheme of things.

          But I guess there will always be someone who just wants to fight the nearest thing he can find that can represent ‘the man’. The real ‘man’, meanwhile, lives in the high castle and needn’t worry about his enemies since they’ll inevitably destroy each other in a vain struggle to decide who gets to challenge him.

          As to your last points, from what I can derive from your hyperbole laden rant, you seem to be suggesting there’s some sort of insincerity at play within the SNP – given that Nicola Sturgeon espouses the same viewpoint I have – and therefore at play from myself. Let me make it clear for you: independence is not the end in itself for me or, I believe, Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish people are already sovereign; I have no need to fight for something I already have. National sovereignty is a form of relative tokenism in my view. Self-determination is the end I pursue, and that’s something that’s quite distinct from independence but may, of course, follow from that. You can throw nonsensical hypotheticals into the argument all you like; no one who has won their right to self-determine over the course of the past century has voluntarily sought to give it up.

          Self-determination, or “home-rule” as I may be minded to call it, provides us – in my view – with the tools and mechanisms we need in order to permanently fix the political centre-ground in Scotland firmly to the left of that in the UK overall and to pursue a social-democratic model more akin to that of our Scandinavian cousins with whom we have close historical links in all aspects. Scotland was once a firmly established part of the Scandinavian world and should be so again in my view. If I found myself in need in the future, it would be Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm I would be looking to for guidance; not London. When you ask me to consider a Tory domination of Scotland you may as well ask me to consider the implications of aliens landing.

          Again I’ll say, you seem like an angry man and I’ve met many angry men who sit far to the left of where I sit now. And I’ll say what I realised a long time ago when I was minded to listen to what they had to say: hardly anyone wants to vote for them. Thank God they’re being usurped by level heads like Jonathon Shafi, Cat Boyd, Robin McAlpine, Colin Fox and many others.

          If you feel that that’s an unfair representation of who you are then all I can suggest is that you measure your rhetoric and make an attempt to provide some reason for your sweeping assertions in future.

          Yours sincerely and in peace,


          1. Douglas says:

            Aye, Philip, I´m turning green and tripling in size as I write….

            …but if we´re going to get personal, you sound like a very boring man.

      2. Douglas says:

        “Indie is not a goal in itself” is the kind of line London based Scots come out with at dinner parties when they are too tired or just cannay be bothered to explain 300 years of Anglo domination – political, cultural, social, all are symptoms of the same malady – to their friends or hosts or whoever…those who use it and really mean it are on the thin edge of the Scottish cringe wedge…

        …one of the oldest nation states in Europe – older than Italy, older than Germany, older than Spain; only Portugal is older in Europe – apologizing for wanting their country back.

        I tell ye…

        1. Philip Thomas (@PhilipThomas_45) says:

          No, Douglas, not London based; just quite well educated on what sovereignty means and what its implications are in the modern world. Practically all nations lend aspects of sovereignty to collective institutions in the world we live in today, be they the EU, the UN, NATO, the COE, the ECOJ, the ECHR, the ICC, and so on and so on.

          I didn’t realise you’d lived through the past 300 years, or the millennium before that. I didn’t, so it’s hard for me to share your sense of pain and outrage brought on by events that happened generations before I was born. I can only look to now and consider the kind of future I want for my fellow Scots, whatever their backgrounds and ancestral roots. My roots reach out to Ireland and to the Nordic sphere. The name of my father once dominated the isles and offered no quarter to Norman lords and their southron ways. Shall I hark back to a time before Wallace and the Bruce and yearn for what was ‘taken from me’?

          The thing I always find with blood and soil types is that they have very little knowledge of Scottish history and how to interpret it. Constantine and the House of Alpin; Macbeth; the Canmores; Wallace and the Bruce; any Stewart before James VI: the depth of knowledge regarding any of them is either shallow or non-existent.

          Do yourself a favour and learn the history of David I, Scotland’s greatest ever King (yes, I said that), and his mother Margaret. Look at how they built a nation that could withstand the assaults that would inevitably come its way. Study them and their actions. Learn their significance. Without them, Wallace and the Bruce wouldn’t have had a country to fight for and the country you know would be a historical footnote and about as politically distinct as the Kingdom of Wessex.

          P.s. I grew up on a scheme Douglas. I’ve never lived in London and I’ve got no plans to. I learned my history from a brilliant teacher and vocal patriot who grew up in the tenements. Neither of us had excuses to be ignorant.

          1. Douglas says:

            Philip, my reference to London Scots was not directed at you needless to say – why would it be?

            I try not to make PERSONAL remarks or inferences about other posters, unlike yourself it would appear, but a pretty good rule when posting on Bella I would say.

            As for the rest, think what you like, you obviously don´t understand the points I am making and misread me and I can´t be bothered explaining it to you and having to read another one of your VERY LENGTHY replies.

          2. Philip Thomas (@PhilipThomas_45) says:

            “…bonkers”. “So stupid its staggering”. That post felt pretty personal, Douglas, I have to say. I guess I *am* a pragmatic ‘nat’ but the inference that I’d be running back to London, as if I were somehow beholden to a former master, strikes me as somewhat of a personal challenge if not a character attack. Yes, I do respond personally under such circumstances. Elsewhere in this thread too, but when people attack entire peoples’ with offensive ad hominems then I think they occasionally merit the same kind of treatment.

            By all means tell me what you mean. It seemed clear from your posts but if I’ve misconstrued then please correct me. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that your posts are so abrupt and to the point that I’ve missed the underlying subtlety somewhere, no offence intended.

  10. ian says:

    With labour moving to the right in England they realy have no place in Scotland unless Scottish labour brakes completely from the main party.We all hope that the SNP has some serious competition to keep them on their toes in the Scottish parliament, otherwise i’m quite happy to have one dominant party for WM until independence is achieved.

  11. One Baw Shaw says:

    Any comparison of Scotland with Greece, and the SNP with Syriza, is laughable.

    The Greek people persistently voted for their corrupt Governments controlled by Greek and international oligarchs and plutocrats over decades, in return for their salaries, pensions, short working hours, early retirement and handouts, funded by debt and other people’s money. (Particularly, but not limited to, Greece’s enormous public sector).

    In Greece, paying your taxes properly (for people from the top to the bottom) was more of a voluntary arrangement than a rigorously enforced regime. They were collecting 50% – 60% of taxes due (UK currently collects 93%, which comparative to other european nations is pretty good).

    These Governments and their oligarch and plutocrat controllers were democratically elected by the Greek people (and why wouldn’t they elect them, who wouldn’t vote for all those handouts paid for by other people in the EU?). These were not totalitarian regimes, forcing their will on an oppressed people.

    The democratically elected Greek government also gained entry to the EU and the Euro under false pretences. Though as much blame for this and the consequences for Greece – and the whole Eurozone – lies as much with Greece as it does the EU, who were fixated on expansion through accessing countries.

    The Greek people are now going to return to something of an agrarian society, with any useful productive money making assets owned by the Chinest and the Russians.

    And even to make the transition to that state, there are only two options for Greece; to get there slowly and painfully, or get there really, really slowly and really, really painfully.

    The Greek people destroyed their own country.

    Any comparison with Scotland and Greece, or Scotland’s people and Greece’s people, or between the SNP and Syriza, or the need or justification for any ‘solidarity’ between the people’s around this, is LAUGHABLE.

    1. Philip Thomas (@PhilipThomas_45) says:

      I’m just wondering, roughly how many words do you change when you copy-paste these cookie-cutter, primitive and jingoistic arguments from your favourite right-wing tabloids; you know, to avoid accusations of plagiarism? Or is wholesale copy considered fair-use?

      Or are you so well versed with all of the underlying socio-and-economic data that backs up all of your assertions that you’ve just happened to arrive at precisely the same conclusions (not to mention the same prose) as your fellow travellers of the right-wing-Pravda persuasion?

      It might serve you to know that the average reader on Bella is a little more discerning when it comes to analysing what the right-wing press says and forming their own judgements. In most cases their judgement has been that the arguments presented are so shallow and without basis that they’re simply not worth engaging with. They don’t tend to spend much time on the Daily Mail comment threads, for example; somewhere, I imagine, you’d feel right at home.

      Don’t get me wrong. There might be some thin strands of truth buried somewhere deep within your hyperbole loaded pronouncements, but the effort required to extract those strands and then try to substantiate them hardly seems worth the effort – no one wants to get *that* dirty. This sadly means that your copy-paste exercise, which I appreciate was probably not very labour-intensive, has been a rather futile exercise and your comments only really serve as a minor irritation in the sense that we have to scroll past them so we can return once again to useful and interesting discourse.

      Why have I gone to the effort to reply then (not that much effort has been expended on my part)? Well, firstly to let you know that you’re tedious – but no more than tedious – and, secondly, because I know that at least some people reading this will get a giggle out of someone pointing out to you how small (and small-minded) we think you are. What you think about it hasn’t been (and probably won’t be) a consideration.

      Yamas malaka!

  12. One Baw Shaw says:

    “While Syriza and Podemos do use modernising language, they are still essentially rooted in radical left traditions: I cannot imagine they would voluntarily adopt a policy of cutting business taxes”

    Given that both of them need every penny, sorry Euro Cent they can get, I’d say a policy of cutting business taxes would be plenty f*cking stupid anyway.

    “Across Europe, the centre-left has tailed the neoliberal right, attacking their own supporters with brutal austerity measures”

    They were all maintaining their generous ‘social democratic’ settlements with their populations through debt spending – even the nordic utopia of Denmark was at it.

    And accordingly, some ‘austerity’ has been inevitable.

    “while not-too-subtly shifting the blame onto migration”

    Isn’t it interesting that even the nordic utopias of for example Denmark and Sweden are having similar debates about immigration as in the UK and other countries?

    “The result is a Europe-wide legitimacy crisis”

    Some countries are recovering and doing better than others. The ones in ‘crisis’ are the ones where the socialists / hard left nutters have taken control (France, Spain, Greece).

    ” much heavier state repression”

    Bullsh!t. the people of Spain and Greece persistently voted for the Governments that have brought about their downfall.

    “Nonetheless, the SNP has undoubtedly occupied similar anti-austerity space”

    It’s thrived on easy populism, enjoying the comfort blanket of never having to take responsibility for things when they go wrong, and blaming all of those things on a range of ‘others’. (When Scotland becomes independent, I guess you will adopt the same posture with your fellow hard left nutters in Greece and Spain – where Brussels will become your bogeyman who is to be blamed for all Scottish failures and shortcomings)

    “Having been rewarded for our perceived obedience with arguably the most extreme Tory government in history”

    Err, no – you’ve made your choice, and we’ve made ours.

    And you can ‘chose’ to leave the UK at any time, through your government making a unilateral declaration of independence. What’s stopping you? “Hold your government to account”.

    “Our next step must be to build a second force in Scottish politics, to ensure that the SNP is not “the left” of Scottish society”

    Yes, and it will look like this:

    1. Philip Thomas (@PhilipThomas_45) says:

      You’re comments are new and interesting; unlike anything we’ve seen posited before. Why, these fascinating insights are likely to change the minds of all those who have the good fortune to read them, particularly those who frequent these pages. Thank you.

      Before you go, could you shed some insight on some figures I – as a deluded ‘lefty’ – can’t quite get my head around?

      Government spending as % GDP (Q1 2010)

      Denmark – 58.1%
      UK – 50.8%

      Government spending as % GDP (Q1 2014)

      Denmark – 57.2%
      UK – 46.9%

      Debt to GDP ratio (Q1 2010)

      Denmark – 42.6%
      UK – 78.4%

      Debt to GDP ratio (Q1 2015)

      Denmark – 44.5%
      UK – 81.6%

      Hopefully you can shed some light because it seems to me that Denmark actually *increased* government spending as a % of GDP significantly in 2010 as the effects of the financial crash set in. Government spending as a % of GDP rose markedly above the EU ten-year-average of 50.8% (Denmark had, in fact, hovered around the 52% mark for much of the previous decade while Labour were pushing upwards into the 40%+ range over the same period) to reach the level it’s roughly sat at ever since; at roughly 58% of GDP.

      Yet throughout this period, if you refer to the Google Analytics graph linked below (data sourced from Eurostat), it looks like government debt as a percentage of GDP began to fall at more or less exactly the same time as the Danish government *increased* spending.

      What adds to my confusion is that if you look at the UK statistics, you see that the UK government took precisely the opposite approach, beginning in 2010. UK government spending as a % of GDP gradually fell – not withstanding a small blip in 2013 when spending actually increased – from 50.8% of GDP to 46.9% in 2014. And this is where things begin to look topsy turvy. While the UK government was cutting spending, its debt to GDP ratio *rose* – edging above 90% (!) at the beginning of 2013.

      To further muddy the waters, Danish GDP growth recorded in the final two quarters of 2014 was 1.5%, while the UK’s hovered at around 0.6% before falling to it’s current (unrevised) level of 0.3% – use the last link and select United Kingdom using the “Compare” drop-down list on the chart; then select “GDP growth rate” using the “indicator” drop-down-list. Note that updated Danish GDP growth figures won’t be released until Q2.

      Now, I’m not technically a professional when it comes to these matters – petroleum economics are more my thing and for much of the period mentioned I was shuttered away in that Nordic utopia of Denmark working in a senior position for one of the world’s largest companies – so I’m hoping that you can clarify for me what these statistics appear to be saying vis a vis your statement above, which I’ve helpfully quoted below:

      “They were all maintaining their generous ‘social democratic’ settlements with their populations through debt spending – even the nordic utopia of Denmark was at it.”

      P.s. you did bring a knife with you, I hope?






      1. Philip Thomas (@PhilipThomas_45) says:

        “To further muddy the waters, Danish GDP growth recorded in the final two quarters of 2014 was 1.5%, while the UK’s hovered at around 0.6% before falling to it’s current (unrevised) level of 0.3% – use the last link and select United Kingdom using the “Compare” drop-down list on the chart; then select “GDP growth rate” using the “indicator” drop-down-list. Note that updated Danish GDP growth figures won’t be released until Q2.”

        Should have read

        To further muddy the waters, Danish GDP growth recorded in the final two quarters of 2014 was reported at around 0.6% falling to a current (unrevised) 0.3%, while the UK’s began to fall from 0.6% to a current (unrevised) level of 0.3% – use the last link (correct link now added below) and select United Kingdom using the “Compare” drop-down list on the chart; then select “GDP growth rate” using the “indicator” drop-down-list. Note that updated Danish GDP growth figures won’t be released until Q2.

        Note: not to conflate annual GDP growth with GDP growth rate, there are interesting trends displayed in the former that might also be of interest.


  13. alister says:

    The SNP’s corporation tax rate cut is a race to the bottom. Far from being a good thing it is a cynical money grab, taking tax revenue that rightful belongs to other governments/peoples and adding it to a iScotland’s Treasury. Why do I say this? look at Boots/Apple/ Starbucks/ Google/Microsoft/Facebook/Amazon/eBay etc. all of whom have structured their tax arrangements to legally avoid paying tax to the UK by claiming to be based in Ireland/Lichtenstein/Switzerland.

    All this policy would do in encourage UK wide companies to suddenly claim to be “Scottish” and divert all their profits to Scotland rather than have them taxed properly. Once they have gone to the extent of doing this move, how long before they decide that they aren’t really “Scottish” they’re more “Irish” or “Swiss”?

    This simply isn’t fair. If you want to encourage small business then have a lower rate up to X (250K p.a.) and then a higher rate to claw back the reduction?

    “diverted profits tax” has been introduced, after failing to get international agreement on how to tackle these abuses. This is were the REAL abuses of the tax/benefits system is happening. Apple has $178 Billion of cash offshore and is using legal loopholes to return it to shareholders (rather than pay a dividend, it is taking a loan to buy it’s own shares – driving the price up, and paying off the loan with the offshore cash – that way it pays 3-5% interest rather than 35% tax)

    1. Philip Thomas (@PhilipThomas_45) says:

      You mention some genuine concerns Alister, but let’s accept that there are a variety of ways in which this could be implemented alongside new safeguards and anti-avoidance legislation. The fact is, in order to prevent offshoring profits, countries will need to work together (though I don’t see the will internationally to do this at the moment).

      The UK has a corporation tax rate of 23%. That’s 1% higher than in socially-democratic Sweden and a mere 0.5% lower than in Denmark. What I’d advocate is that any cut would be given in return for a binding commitment to pay all employees the living wage. If a company didn’t pay the living wage then it wouldn’t qualify for the cut.

      I think it’s important to say, the SNP has dropped this commitment, Alister. It was Alex’ brainchild and his thoughts at the time were to try and mimic the Irish Celtic Tiger economy. That would certainly provide a short-sharp burst in terms of economic growth but Ireland remains a low-wage economy. My thoughts at the time were that Alex would go for that short-term economic boost to announce to the world that Scotland was open for business before rowing back at a later date a few years down the line. That’s immaterial now. Nicola and Alex aren’t a hive mind and I don’t think she’s as enthusiastic about copying Ireland. I do think that some flexibility will be introduced in terms of business taxes in Scotland but I think that flexibility will come at a price for businesses as Nicola seeks to further reinforce the Scottish Governments ongoing personal commitment to the living wage and its lobbying of private commerce to
      follow suit.

      In short, continued criticism of the Scottish Government over corporation tax plans is somewhat harsh given no commitment to alter corporation tax is currently on the table.

  14. Gordon Mackay Common Weal says:

    The most effective way of shaping a new future for this country is to provide our newly energised electorate with easy to connect with events and activities that they can contribute to. I have spent a year going along to conferences which for the most part are all aspiration and no plan. Passionate people using big words to describe simple concepts, resorting to tired old right / left class war rhetoric that turns your average voter people off participating politics.

    We need a new vocabulary. All of us first means recognising the intellectual and language barrier in conventional politics; reaching out to people where they are; operating in workplaces, shopping centres, streets, communities, town halls; connecting those with power with those who lack power; unifying the Third Force of charities, churches, campaign groups and trades unions behind campaigns; Organising more street rallies, occupations and boycotts of state media.

    Can we use all our collective energies building the mass accessible movements that bring hope for change? With 56 local Common Weal groups is there not a foundation there to build on?

    Or will we do as the Left has done for decades and remain in our splinter groups and focusing on differences rather than common ground? Whilst our human rights, health and benefits systems get ripped up and destroyed will we spend more of our time sitting in small rooms and cafes preaching to the converted? Will we still be discussing Left alliances while the Tories cut and the rich get richer?

    It is a time for a new generation of leaders to step out from the shadows.

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