Sep 232014
 

The Scottish independence referendum was ‘won’, Alex Salmond has resigned, ‘Loyalists’ roam the streets of Glasgow attacking Yes supporters and burning Scottish flags . . . danger over, what was all the fuss about? That, I’m sure, is how the less sophisticated among us will interpret – and be encouraged to interpret – the events of the past few days. They couldn’t be more wrong. After settling back into Chateau Jones, and collecting my thoughts, here’s my report, starting with a wee travelogue.

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Don’t misunderstand me, I love Edinburgh, but in the murky weather my wife and I experienced there last week those big and imposing brown buildings can look ever so slightly oppressive. And if a few are somewhat architecturally overwrought then the Scott Monument is positively hysterical. I’ve looked at it from many different angles over the years and I can only conclude that the architeScott Monumentct finished designing it before realising he’d only used up half the budget; so from then on it was a case of more knobs here, more fol de rols there, and let’s squeeze on another excrescence . . . to the point where the whole thing is so overburdened with adornments that it looks more like a Thai temple than a memorial to the man who ‘invented’ Scotland for foreign readers. (I have even read someone blaming Sir Walter Scott for the American Civil War. For being the most popular author in ante-bellum Dixie he stands accused of implanting the ‘chivalric’ outlook in Southern menfolk, and encouraging the ultimately destructive delusion that being true to these values would overcome the North’s greater wealth and superior manpower.)

That said, Edinburgh is a great city and a real capital. Princes Street, the Royal Mile and other thoroughfares were still swarming with people – mainly high-spending overseas tourists – at seven in the evening, stopping to have their photographs taken with pipers that could be found every hundred yards or so. (One of whom played Calon Lân for us!) Of course there was the tawdry and the kitsch, but if you’re from Canton, Cracow or Chicago then you may not recognise what is authentically Scottish (and nor will the people back home you’re buying presents for). Even the architecture is different. Look around Edinburgh, or any Scottish city or town, and you know immediately that you aren’t in England. Finally, there are the centuries-old institutions embedded into Scottish life, making devolution, and even independence, a natural progression for a nation in everything but a seat at the UN, whereas Wales has political devolution sitting top-heavy and almost unworkable on a country otherwise integrated with England through countless cross-border institutions and ‘Welsh’ civil servants taking orders directly from London.

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My original plan for polling day had been to take the train to Dundee, but £60 each seemed too much to pay for just over an hour’s train journey, so I drove to Stirling. (Ah! that Cardi blood, coursing close to my wallet.) First stop, Bannockburn; then Stirling castle; finally, the Wallace Monument.Bannockburn poem

The equestrian statue of the Bruce at Bannockburn is big, and in its way it’s impressive; though I suppose similar, slightly overbearing statues to national heroes and liberators can be found from Bratislava to Bogota. Though the whole site was recently rescued from the realm of superheroes by the addition of a poem on a new timber ring atop the rotunda. Written by Kathleen Jamie I reproduce it for you here. The references to “mere transients” and “Small folk playing our part” tell us more of national struggles than huge and dominating statues ever can. (No, I’m not turning socialist.) Bannockburn was such a crushing defeat for the English and their allies that the only sizeable number of foot soldiers said to have made it alive out of Scotland was a detachment of Welsh spearmen, who had the good sense, or leadership, that helped them stick together and fight their way to safety.

The castle at Stirling overlooks the town and the surrounding countryside and is still used as a military barracks. It has regularly played a part in Scottish history, not least in 1314, for the English army the Scots defeated on the plain below was attempting to relieve Stirling castle, the laStirling Castlest English garrison in Scotland. The arrangement agreed was that if the castle was not relieved by mid-summer then it would surrender to the Scots. Great though his achievement may have been, I suppose that for those of a leftward political persuasion Robert de Brus, being an aristocrat, does not arouse the same levels of affection accorded William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace, whose memorial was next on our agenda.

There is, fortunately, a minibus service to the base of the Wallace Monument from the car park and visitor centre below, but after that, you have to climb the 246-step spiral staircase. Which is not as daunting as it sounds due to the regular exhibition rooms you’ll encounter on the climb, these present welcome opportunities to get your breath back. The Wallace Monument is also in the Gothic Revival style but more restrained than the Scott Monument in Edinburgh. It was completed in 1869 and funded by public subscription from within Scotland and thanks to a number of foreign donations, one of them by Giuseppe Garibaldi. It stands on Abbey Craig, from which Wallace is said to have watched the English army (with its Welsh levies) taking up positions on the plain below before the Battle of Stirling Brig in 1297. An army that might have outnumbered Wallace’s forces by as much as five to one, making us realise what a great victory the Scots achieved that day.

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Enough has already been said about the referendum and its result, so I’ll avoid adding yet another lengthy post mortem and limit myself to just a few general observations.

As the debate went on it became increasingly clear that ‘The Union’ is not some wondrous creation bestowing benefits on all, something to be defended from sacrilegious maniacs wishing to dismantle it; no, the Union is, more than anything else, about prestige – England’s prestige. For with Scotland gone ‘England’ would lose a third of her territory, and this would lead to all sorts of dangerous questions, such as whether ‘England’ should retain her seat on the UN Security Council, or whether, in the EU, ‘England’ – now situated, in population terms, somewhere between Spain and Italy – should still be counted alongside Germany and France. And then there’s those nuclear weapons on the Clyde – with them gone Uncle Sam would find a new best friend.

There is a minority in both Scotland and Wales that understands this, and buys into it, often for reasons of personal advancement. Then there is a much larger constituency that will support the Union because they can be persuaded it offers them more than independence can deliver, or perhaps they can be swayed by purely emotional appeals to ‘shared history’ or ‘standing together against the Nazis’. Support for this interpretation comes from a poll taken just after the referendum which shows, among other things, that 59% in the 25 – 34 age bracket voted for independence, but only 27% in the 65+ age bracket. The shared experiences, whether WWII or British Steel, are largely meaningless for most Scots under the age of 55. Then there’s devolution itself, which for many in the 65+ plus age bracket is something they’re still unfamiliar with, and perhaps uncertain about, whereas for younger Scots, for whom ‘the shared experiences’ belong to the distant past, having a Scottish parliament is normal and – as I mentioned earlier – makes independence almost a logical progression.

This threat to English prestige is the reason we saw political parties, media, banks, businesses, Orangemen and other elements that benefit (or can be persuaded to believe they benefit) from Greater England, unite to oppose Scottish independence. Equally obvious was the strategy of isolating Alex Salmond and presenting him as the sole advocate of the policy. For how often did we see anyone else interviewed? Would anyone know from the media coverage that the influential Scottish Green Party was supporting independence? Or that over a third of regular Labour voters were switching to the Yes camp? And where was Tommy Sheridan, or would his face on the screen have reminded viewers of the perfidy of the London media? No, the independence debate was all about that megalomaniac Alex Salmond. By comparison, there were countless rational and unbiased voices, urging Scottish people to vote No – in the interests of Scotland, of course – voices amplified by a complaisant media and supported by other reasonable voices such as those of Deutsche Bank warning that Scottish independence would precipitate another Great Depression.

Now there is a price to be paid for this unholy and unnatural unity prompted by blind panic when it was thought that Alex Satan might prevail. It’s falling apart now before our eyes. The Tories, under pressure from their own backbenchers and Ukip, have to hold out the prospect of English votes for English-only legislation if not a separate English parliament. Labour cannot accept this due to its traditional reliance on Labour MPs from Scotland (and Wales). But as I’ve mentioned, and as this poll I linked to earlier shows, 37% of those who voted Yes last Thursday voted Labour in the 2010 UK general election . . . are they going to vote Labour again in 2015? Given that we can reasonably assume that most of the Labour voters who supported independence belong to the younger age groups then it’s also reasonable to conclude that Labour is facing a demographic time-bomb in Scotland – yet Labour is the only party that can maintain the Union. Making Labour’s opposition to an English parliament understandable, but hopelessly optimistic, based on a flawed and outdated premiss.LD Voters

The tactic of isolating Alex Salmond may have won the referendum, but the longer term consequences are all positive for both the Scottish National Party and the wider cause of Scottish independence. The SNP is increasingly perceived as the only party that can stand up to the liars and the bullies down in London, a gang to which the #RedTories clearly belong. And this is not just me spouting off – since the referendum the SNP has signed up over 20,000 new members, giving it more members than the Liberal Democrats, a UK-wide party. We were told that the referendum was not about Scotland v England, and of course it wasn’t . . . but it is now, and an increasing number of Scots feel that the only party representing Scottish interests is the SNP.

Scottish independence is guaranteed within a decade, and it probably won’t need a referendum.

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So where does all this leave Wales? Well, among the many promises made to the Scots was that there would be no revision of the Barnett Formula which sees Wales short-changed in comparison to Scotland and the Six Counties. So Wales looks set to gain nothing, although vague promises of extra powers have been mentioned. Carwyn Jones has, I believe, made a few statements. I say ‘I believe’, because no one listens to Carwyn ‘the veto’ Jones, whether in Wales, England, or Scotland. The man is a weakling and, consequently, a nonentity universally ignored. There may even have been contributions by some person called Crabbe, who’s about as relevant to Wales as Jones is to Scotland.

Though Jones’s predecessor had something to say in his weekly column in the Wasting Mule. If I understood it right, Rhodri Morgan knows that Northern Ireland does well out of Barnett because of the Troubles, and Scotland does well because of the fear of Scottish nationalism. There his reasoning cannot be faulted. But then he goes on to argue that Wales should also be rewarded because we ” . . . didn’t put the whole of the UK through the mincer via referendum or civil war . . . “. So, in other words, we should be rewarded because England has nothing to fear from us. Doesn’t this clown, after a lifetime in politics, understand how it works!

His argument may have self-destructed but it still says a lot about him, and his party. As I have made clear, I detest the Labour Party. I regard the Labour Party in Wales as nothing but quisling scum that have held Wales back for a century. There is no hope for Wales until there is no hope for the Labour Party in Wales. It would be easier to achieve that happy state if we had a party like the SNP. But instead we have a party most of whose leading members still dream of a coalition government with Labour in 2016. Which suggests to me that the Labour Party might not be the only obstacle to Welsh progress.

  21 Responses to “Beginning of the End”

  1.  

    “Red Tories”? I think that the correct term is “True Blue Socialists”!

  2.  

    We need a new party – GROWL – Get Rid Of Welsh Labour – and all the Hains and Bryants who have done NOTHING for Cymru. Plaid seems to be an offshoot of Welsh Labour.

  3.  

    I don’t see any sign of independence of Scotland in the next ten years or the next hundred years. There just is not the will for it, as the referendum showed. Things are already getting back to normal.

    In reply to Terry Breverton I would say, “Build a movement”. Work out some aims. Get one friend to join you, then perhaps another. Start a little newsletter, put up candidates for community and county elections, select a parliamentary candidate, and go around talking to electors. This is what the Welsh Labour Party has done, although Jac may not believe it. Every week, in great heat and in the rain, Labour activists go out campaigning, recruiting new members, finding out about local issues, telling people who the Labour candidate is. In this selfless way, they neglect painting the front windowsills, giving the lawn its last cut, and so on, heroically giving up Saturday mornings and rushing straight from work to a canvassing session in the evening. These same activists inflence the local and national agenda by sitting in meetings discussing policy. The free parking at hospitals, for example, started as an idea in a room in the Labour Club in Llandudno Junction a few years ago. You may not like it, but the Labour Party has the hearts of many, many of the people of Wales. Independence for Wales? You have probably seen the report at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-29331475 Three per cent for independence? I think that is a slight exaggeration.

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      What “the referendum showed” was that support for the Union is concentrated in the older age groups. In the over 65 bracket only 27% voted Yes. You don’t need to be a statistician to beleve that as older people die off . . .

      What’s more, there has been a re-awakening, an engagement, in Scotland that will not just go away. The SNP’s membership has more than doubled since Thursday. Greens and SSP have also seen a massive rise in members. And when it becomes clear that the pre-referendum ‘Vow’ will not be honoured, then Scotland could become ungovernable.

      As for your Labour Party, over a third of regular Labour voters wanted independence, GLASGOW VOTED YES. You and your comrades have to hope that you can get these voters back by next year’s general election. You’ll get some, but many are lost forever as working class voters in the Central Belt, Dundee and other places increasingly see Labour as a foreign, middle class party.

      The biggest loser from last Thursday’s referendum will be Labour and, as I say in the post, Labour is the only party that can maintain the Union. Or it was.

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      May I correct you, Bill, the free hospital car parking campaign was started by MacMillan, a cancer charity, and initially was targeted at hospitals providing in-patient oncology, (cancer treatments) with a specific reference to Morriston. Llandudno does not offer in-patient oncology. It is true that the Labour administration of the Welsh Government (along with Plaid) introduced free parking as a policy. There may have been a local campaign based at Llandudno, but it should be noted that it was the Labour Party which introduced parking charges at most hospitals and the two remaining hospitals in Scotland who have parking frees, have them due to the PFI revenue streams introduced by Labour. PCH in Merthyr, of course, has never charged for parking. The last hospital in Wales to charge or parking was UHW in Cardiff, but this was introduced by Labour as part of a privatisation contract, which was reversed by the last ‘OneWales’ government involving Plaid Cymru. It should be noted that while Carwyn Jones was running around Scotland last week claiming independence was not necessary as devolution protests Scottish hospitals from the bad Tories in London, he’s been blaming the Tories in London for cuts in the NHS in Wales on his own turf. It is also devolved, currently run by Labour.

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        Jac is very generous with his web space. You’re absolutely right that Llandudno does not offer in-patient oncology, but this saga has no particular link with oncology or cancer and you are wrong to think it does. I do not mind being corrected when I’m wrong, but I’m not on this occasion. I don’t doubt that the charity you named campaigned in a limited way.

        A report in the Daily Telegraph on 3 March 2008 runs : « Free parking is to be offered in almost all NHS hospitals in Wales by 2011, the Welsh administration will announce later today. In what is the first scheme of its kind, some trusts will begin offering free spaces to patients, staff and visitors as early as April 1 this year. It means that by the end of the current Welsh Assembly term in 2011 just four hospitals will still have parking charges in place. Trusts where the parking is controlled by an external company will be forced to reduce the amount they charge for parking until the contract expires and they can offer it for free…. The move follows growing pressure from campaign groups.”

        The primary campaign group was Welsh Labour itself. A motion to amend a draft document included the words “A third term Labour Assembly Government will therefore prohibit the charging at hospitals for patients’ or visitors’ parking.” In a letter dated 10th October 2006 to the Welsh Labour Party by the then Aberconwy Labour constituency secretary accompanying the amendment, he wrote “our CLP has very strong views on the subject!” Of course democracy moves slowly, and the suggestion from Aberconwy overcame all the hurdles and became Labour Party Policy in Wales – although not in England. The abolition of parking charges for all hospitals was as a direct result of an initiative started by Aberconwy Labour and finally making its wayt into policy.

  4.  

    off at a tangent but relevant to the future struggles, did you have anything to do with the “account suspended ” status of UKIP Wales or has someone else intervened and put a spanner in their works ?

    I was rather hoping to find out what line of drivel was being trotted out in respect of our country as UKIP now think they have a total mandate rather than just protesting about European bureaucracy and profligacy ( with which stance I had a mild sympathy until we found that UKIP snouts were just as far into the trough !! )

  5.  

    Plenty of GROWLers in Plaid.

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      Then they’ve been keeping a pretty low profile. Before the 2016 Assembly elections I shall ask Plaid Cymru to give a promise that – in the event of no single party having a majority – they will not go into coalition with Labour, but will consider an alliance with Conservatives and Lid Dems (but not Ukip).

      If Plaid can give such a promise then I shall vote for Plaid, and encourage others to do the same. If no promise is given then I shall not vote for Plaid and urge others to follow my example.

      Of course, my position re the election of 2016 could be influenced by an attractive nationalist alternative being available.

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        Hopefully UKIP will take a few seats off Labour, giving room for a potential Plaid/Tory/Liberal coalition.

  6.  

    A number of politicians have said of the Scottish referendum result: ‘Things will never be the same again’.
    I’m afraid that I’ve heard that phrase many, many times over the past fifty years, and never once did it describe what happened. I was told at a bus stop when Harold Wilson became Prime Minister in 1964: ‘Things will never be the same again’. They were. Milk still arrived on our doorsteps, buses were invariably late and /or overcrowded.
    I remember the tremendous victory of Gwynfor Evans in 1966, and the euphoria which resulted and the surge in support for Plaid Cymru. Things have changed a little in that we now have an Assembly (a long way from anywhere, in Cardiff), but there’s no sign of the independent Wales by 1980 which was predicted to me in the Bangor Celtic Congress in 1971.

    Google the phrase ‘Things will never be the same again’ and you’ll find it in connection with recent events but also in almost constant use for the past 50 years. Here are a few random examples:
    The Himalayas may never be the same again. New Scientist 18 May 2006
    NHS IT will never be the same again – Computing 21 Jun 2007
    Tuesday, March 10, 2009. Things Will Never Be The Same Again The Magistrate’s Blog (2005-2012)
    Westminster will never be the same again FT May 5, 2010
    Coins – Spending Review 2010: things that will never be the same again, Daily Telegraph, 2010.
    Şanar Yurdatapan on Turkey: ‘Things will never be the same again’ By Sean Gallagher / 20 June, 2013
    Britain will never be the same again (about fracking) By: Bengt Saelensminde 13/11/2013

    I think you’re a bit of a closet Marxist, Jac. I bet no one has ever accused you of that before! Karl Marx spoke of “the inevitability of the transformation of capitalist society into socialist society”. Of course, we now know that there is nothing inevitable in what happens. Could anyone ever have imagined that Guto Bebb, a former Plaid Cymru activist who was chair of the party in Caernarfon would become a Conservative MP – and Lord Bebb in about 20 years.?

    I don’t doubt that people have been energised and enthused by the debates and activity. That’s great. I really wish we had something similar in Wales. Where I differ from you is about the conclusions one can draw from that energising – and how long the energy will last. My deduction about the increased membership figure for SNP, Greens and SSP differs from yours. These people have joined a party, but it probably won’t be the one they stay in. The Labour Party is packed with people who used to be LibDems (my local county councillor switched from LibDem to Labour earlier this year). The Labour Party has members who cut their political teeth in various communist and trotskyist sects and in Plaid Cymru. There is a seething mass of political movement at the moment in Scotland. People are leaving the SNP (a MSP has just done that), people are moving from SSP to SNP, from SNP to SSP and so on. A lot of these people will find their political home in the Labour Party when the dust settles. You don’t mention it, but a lot of newly active Labour Party people, now energised, will want to work for the Labour Party for the good of their homeland.

    I could be wrong, of course…

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      . . . and I think you are.

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        Agree! The ‘traditional (Old) Labour’ supporters just couldn’t stomach the sight of UK New Labourites campaigning shoulder to shoulder with Tories, that finally opened their eyes. The whole landscape seems to be shifting. I can see Scotland ending up with it’s own range of purely Scottish parties. Tories are history already, the LibDems will not be forgiven for giving up every principle they ever had at the first whiff of power in coalition, and now Labour are about to be culled. Interesting Times 😉 Btw, the SNP look set to treble their membership within days, c70k now and the flood continues. All bets are off IMO.

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      Members of the SSP will never find a home in Labour because it was the Labour Party HQ in London who expelled them from Labour party membership in the first place. While Labour was refusing to turn up to votes in the Westminster parliament to oppose the poll tax, Sheridan and Co were occupying tenement households in Glasgow protecting residents from bailiffs at the same time the Labour Party, who were in control of Glasgow council at the time, were sending out the eviction notices. The Labour Party are so damaged in Scotland they recently had to resurrect Gordon Brown from his stupor as a last ditch attempt to save the union. Labour having lost Glasgow and the surrounding industrial areas, the SNP, most notably in Fife, have had a huge influx of new members from Labour from under the very fat arse of that stinking Labour corpse.

      A note for Plaid Cymru, and it is evidenced by the Scottish referendum, it was Glasgow, Dundee, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire and West Dundartonshire who voted Yes, and most notably, places such as Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Perth and Angus (where the SNP have MPs) who voted No. The lesson for Wales is that when given half a chance it will be the likes of Rhondda and the central valleys, Neath, Cwm Tawe, Llanelli and Wrexham which will secure the future of Wales and it’s wrong to assume that the areas of Môn, Dwyfor, Meirionnydd, and Ceredigion will lead the charge for independence. This IS a lesson for Plaid Cymru, and the elephant in the room is colonialism, tourism and retirement influx into Y Fro Gymraeg, same as it is in Sgìre Gàidhlig. Is it just me who’s noticed this aberration/correlation?

      Note – Recognising this fact is not specific to a point on the political spectrum.

  7.  

    I’d be seriously worried if i was a Labour MP in Scotland.
    I’ve never heard such bitterness at street level towards them.

  8.  

    I wasn’t wrong about Labour in Scotland.
    The Scottish Labour took it in and 40 days after the referendum, walked away.
    And not before she opened up on the “dinosaurs”.

  9.  

    […] in Scotland last September for the independence referendum I wrote a few posts on Scotland, and in Beginning of the End on September 23rd, I wrote, “Scottish independence is guaranteed within a decade, and it […]

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