We are forever being told how beneficial it is for us to be Better Together as one Happy Family in the UK.
I and many others have been asking for those who support remaining in the political union of the United Kingdom to tell us..We really want to know!
Most of the answers (if you can call them that?) have been to tell us that we make a stronger unit together,and it allows Britain to have more influence in the world. Things like top table in the UN,a senior partner in an EU which half of Westminster are vying to leave, a seat on the IMF,NATO, World Bank, and added security against other countries wanting to attack us..stuff like that…But none of that really matters a hoot to most Scots..we want to know how it serves us personally,as well as Scotlands interests.
The arguments made in the 1970’s that there really wasn’t that much oil in the North Sea,and it would run out in 30 years anyway, seems ever so slightly shallow, when they repeat the same mantras all over again now. Particularly once we found out that the Mcrone report had been hidden from us for that length of time,and its revelations!!
So the question remains, what has the Union done for us?
I have decided to have a wee trawl through recent history back to 1979, when we were first denied devolution by Labours cowardly 40% rule! What has the UK done for us since?
well lets look at the Governments and Prime ministers and their record of benefiting Scotland, of benefiting you and I and our communities..First Up, Margaret Thatcher.
Margaret Thatcher: Conservative
It has to be admitted that Britain was in one hell of a state prior to Maggie taking charge. Labour had been making an absolute shambles of things as usual. The Wilson/Callaghan government had seen the pound decrease in value to such and extent it was nearly worthless on the World market and had to be bailed out by the IMF (Just like Greece today) , The UK was stony broke,and Industrial disputes were rife, ending with the Winter of discontent, power cuts, and a population in utter misery. But Oil had been discovered during Wilsons term, unfortunately for them, it came too late to bail them out.
The McCrone report divulged wonderful news about the fantastic amount of wealth there…but with a resurgent SNP with a record 11Mps at Westminster, they couldn’t risk them or the Scottish people knowing…We wouldn’t just have been ensuring devolution, we would have been having our Independence!
The report was stamped TOP SECRET once Callaghan had it shelved, and when Maggie had her hands on it, it was filed away forever, only not quite… The dirty secret and duplicity against Scotland was carried by successive Labour and Tory governments until freedom of Information came into being,and a SNP Mp having heard a whisper requested the information.Had that not happened,we would still never know!
Callaghans government which was a minority one, required an assortment of MPs from the Ulster Unionists,SDLP and SNP to prop it up. When Callaghans Government did the dirty on the SNP by reneging on its support for Devolution, and Labours Bill Cunningham spiking it with the introduction of the 40% rule,meant that despite over 51% of those who voted for devolution, Labour failed to implement it,as there had not been a 40% turn out..When shortly afterwards a vote of no confidence on another matter was tabled by the Tories in Westminster, SNP withdrew their support of Labour,and It heralded in a general election which the Tories won.
Labours Scottish Secretary Willie Ross labelled the SNP tartan tories, and they have been using that insult against the SNP ever since. And from there sprung up Labours sometimes vitriolic hatred of the SNP, not helped any by the SNPs successes in the Scottish parliament ousting them from their accustomed seat of power. So bad is this enmity, that Labour have even voted against proposals they would ordinarily support themselves, simply because the SNP propose it. I would go so far as saying some of them would vote against independence, not because they think its a bad idea, but because its the main SNP policy.
Had Labour played fair, and not reneged on their agreement, Scotland would have had devolution in 1979,and would not have had to wait another 20 years to have it,against Tony Blairs judgement, who compared it to an English Parish council.So for Labour to describe themselves as the authors of devolution is utter nonsense, further more we may not have had Thatcher without their duplicity, we will never know?
So this was what Maggie inherited, and she used it all up very well…It bailed the UK and the City of London out..it built projects like the M25, it was well used up in London and the South of England, but Scotland never saw the benefits of it.
When Scots started shouting, we were told that there wasn’t much oil,and that what we had would only last about 30 years. The promise given to Scots by Sir Alex Douglas Home, when prime minister, that if Scotland voted against devolution would mean that Westminster would give us something better(jam tomorrow) never came to pass when Maggie came to power, that promise was quickly dumped, and we were made to suffer instead.
When she had arrived in Downing street, she made her famous speech paraphrasing St Francis of Assisi,”Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope. ”
For Scots, they could be described as …destroying any harmony to bring discord..Whatever ever errors that we made was in trusting Labours feeble 40 Mps when they promised to stand up for Scotland,and Maggie brought a number of Truths home..namely that Westminster cannot at all be trusted to tell the truth to Scotland! ..as for doubt turning to faith? She really made us doubt,and we have no faith left in her party or any of the other Westminster club….and any Hope we may once have had in any of them, has long since gone….and she started our Great Despair with the actions which followed.
I will give her some credit though for her attitude to expenses…which is in complete contrast to the bunch of chancers we have in Westminster now. During her time in office Thatcher practised great frugality in her official residence, including insisting on paying for her own ironing-board..So we can’t accuse her of milking the British public purse anyway.
First off she lowered Direct Taxes(Seem familiar?) and issued indirect taxes…So the Rich didn’t pay as much tax on their huge incomes,and Indirect taxation meant even the poorest paid more than they would have done. A current example would be..Someone on disability benefit wouldn’t pay tax on it, but they would be paying vat and other taxation making them worse off than direct taxation without indirect taxes..So a gain for the rich and tax on the poor.
She cut public spending and money spent on Social Services,Education and Housing. (seem familiar?)
With inflation running at a high level in the early 80’s she set about closing factories,shipyards,mines and other industries at a phenomenal rate in her first 4 years, as a result whole communities were collapsing, unemployment rose to 3.3 million, with the worst effects in Scotland and Northern Ireland,where unemployment was as high as 20%..In comparison the South East of England was in single figures. These figures remained at that level till the late 80’s. It took till 1990 for recovery,and unemployment halved through the establishing enterprise zones,business tax breaks, and capital projects(just as the Scottish Government have been telling Westminster to do for the past 2 years!)
Throughout the 1980s revenue from the 90 per cent tax on North Sea oil extraction was used as a short-term funding source to balance the economy and pay the costs of reform.But in Scotland our strong skilled manufacturing base had been shredded. Instead of being able to use that wealth to improve and upgrade our industry, we had been shorn of it. Whole communities were on the scrap heap and below the poverty line. Glasgow was particularly badly affected..where there had been high employment, there was now mass unemployment. The loss of the Shipyards, The Steel Industry, The car industry in Linwood, the Truck manufacturers in Bathgate, The coalmines in Fife,The smelter in Fort William,and much more besides.We lost our engineers and so much more. With such deprivation forced on a populace, with it comes poor health, both physically and mentally. The loss of hope,everything becomes bleak, families break down, communities broken, support networks lost..The damage is incalculable.
To add insult to Injury, she heaped the poll tax on us, then from 1983 she started the process of privatisation..and started selling off National Industries.
British Gas,British Steel,British Telecom,British Aerospace,British Rail(Under Major),Brit Oil,Electricity and Water(England),Jaguar,Rolls Royce and so on.. These were sold off for over £29Billion,and another £18Billion was made from the sale of Council Houses. Some of these Industries should never have been sold off under any circumstance…So if you are suffering from the continual price rises for your Gas and Electric..Thatchers to blame! The opposition in the last Holyrood election were all for selling off Scottish Water..Lucky for us, you voted the right ones in, or we would be facing increasing water bills just now.
The closing of Ravenscraig was the closure of a business which was operating profitably,but thanks to these policies we had no defence against it..Scotland could still have a profitable skilled Steel Industry bit for Thatcher,and we would not be having to buy Steel from China for the new Forth crossing.
Instead of selling off profitable or socially essential Industries,where we the people end up having to pay more for our heating, in a country which is rich in oil and gas, these market driven policies mean that the priority is for making rich shareholders and investors richer, It doesn’t matter what happens to us plebs.
Yes..certain Industries could have been sold, but Thatcher took a hatchet to the lot.
Norman Lamont then came up with the wheeze of PFI….and we know who made the most of private finance initiatives..It wasn’t him or the conservatives, but Labour! And we will be paying through the nose for many more years to come because of these!
These measure all took place in tandem with financial deregulation. Geoffrey Howe abolished Britain’s exchange controls in 1979, removing many restrictions on the London Stock Exchange. The Thatcher government encouraged growth in the finance and service sectors to compensate for Britain’s ailing manufacturing industry.
What had been the manufacturing workhouse of the world had become almost solely service based, for the first time ever, the UK imported more than it exported. Which meant that the manufacturing bases in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, North of England and the Midlands were decimated,and wealth centred on London.The financial deregulations put in place by Howe, were to be further deregulated under Labour,and we are living with the results and excesses of Browns policies now!
And to top off her 3 reigns in power, she had the Falklands war, which saved her bacon at the following election as she milked all the jingoism associated with the war to it’s fullest extent.
She was finally toppled by her own party in 1990 and replaced by John Major.
So ends part one of What they have done for us…Tune in next time for Blair.
Bearing all of the above in mind, and considering all that we still continue to be force fed by Better Together, consider where Scotland could be now, and how your life could be, if we had been given the truth of the McCrone report in 1975, rather than hidden from us.
Consider also the damage done by Thatcher to Scotland and Scottish Industry and Society, and compare what could have happened.
Norway had the same resources, in fact less so, as we have Whisky which rakes in Billions for the UK.
We have had more Nobel prize winners than any other nation on earth per head of population since its inception,the 4th biggest Financial Sector in Asset management, and two Universities in the Worlds top 50.
Norway has about the same size of population as we do,and tops the world now in societal wealth.
Have a read at the Norway Post today. They are not too wee, or too poor, or too stupid…But some of us might be!