My original notes for SOS article:
“In 1999 I was elected to the Scottish Parliament as a Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, in my first speech to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 as a callow inexperienced politician, I levelled the charge at Donald Dewar that he lacked ambition for Scotland. My words then were “If you never raise your eyes above the horizon you will never see the stars.” Today nearly 15 years later the stars are not only firmly in focus but almost within reach. A yes vote on 18th September next year will put them firmly in our grasp.
The economic arguments will continue to be batted to and fro and the negative campaign of the No group will continue to paint the future black. I am not an economist and no one can predict what lies ahead absolutely, but my simple question is this, will Scotland be any worse off by grasping self determination? Is it credible to believe that we could possibly fail to prosper solely on the basis that our own decisions are made by Scots for Scots in Scotland?.
But there are wider issues than economics and those wider issues are the ones that matter more to me than if we may pay a penny more or less tax or save an extra shilling on a dram. These issues are founded on the type of society that my grandchildren will inherit. Look at what we seem to be unable to achieve under the current union, not just because of legislative restrictions but of a lack of will and purpose. There is evidential certainty that the inequalities inherent in British society fester in the social divisions exemplified so strongly in Scotland. There is little doubt that there are issues that we acknowledge but appear to ignore, issues such as land reform and ownership, issues such as access to the levers of power, issues such as the raft of NGO’s peopled by a select elite whose decisions affect the lives of millions, issues such as substandard housing in sink estates blighting the lives of children. My hope is that once independence is gained the people of Scotland will feel more inclined to participate in matters which directly impinge on their wellbeing.
The apathy that seems to infect the Scots , with scottish voter participation steadily declining in recent elections is perhaps a reflection of the perception of the Scottish Parliament as a kind of Super Council, where worthy bores drone on about the mundane and parochial, interspersed with a shouty wee Labour woman from Glasgow berating awbody, a Lib Dem forgotten somewhere amongst the blond wood and Minnie the Minx firing her Tory peashooter at the Chieftain tank that is the First Minister. It is true that a lot of Parliamentary business is, of its nature, attending to detail, but changes must be made to increase the participation and engagement of the voters. If Scotland is to really benefit from independence it may need to rethink the way it rules itself. Not least in the way that prospective MSP’s are selected for a start.
The Yes camp draws its support from across the political spectrum, but the preponderant impression projected by commentators is of a left/ soft left bias flavour to the vision it articulates. There is a a lack of expressed enthusiasm from the centre right or those who don’t believe that centralisation is the only method of arranging society. However this voice needs to be raised and heard. To desire less state intervention in peoples lives is not to emancipate the worst excesses of Toryism, to encourage people to think for themselves and influence the decisions that affect them directly is not to abrogate responsibility rather it increases and strengthens democracy. In an Independent Scotland there would be a direct incentive to be involved, a right to claim “move over, you, it’s my country too”. It is time for all Scots to embrace those latent feelings of pride and patriotism to enable us all to work together to build a better land. Perhaps a good place to mention “wealthy Nation”?
And yes there will be things to be arranged, negotiations to take place, compromises will have to be tholed, disappointments swallowed. The sticking points of sentimental attachments to armed forces links, shared history and familial ties are not obstacles to running our own lives but treasures to be archived and valued. As we make our way independently into the wider world we will make new links, new alliances and new attachments , not to replace the old ones but to add to them.
So by voting yes we have a chance to redress that 1999 accusation of lack of vision, to create a society free to rearrange itself in the way that suits it best, a society where innate fairness is the basis of behaviour of government to its citizens, a society where inequalities of opportunity are eliminated over time, where people have influence over their environment, health and education, where we all work towards commonly agreed goals whilst being guaranteed individual liberties and freedoms. In short a wish list of aspirations for a better country, one that a No vote not only won’t deliver but can’t deliver.
Tomorrow sees the launch of the Yes for Scotland campaign, the cross party grouping urging a yes vote in the 2014 referendum, to enable Scotland to take its place as any other modern country does in speaking for itself and determining its own way of dealing with its neighbours.
As a social conservative, but never a fervent unionist, and always a firm supporter of power devolved to those affected by its use, I have listened carefully to the arguments. Whilst the economic case is always subjective, what cannot be denied is the emotional attraction of belonging to a nation with a common cause and purpose, where all have something to be proud of and all can feel able to make a contribution.
However the most compelling reason for me in voting yes, will be the possibility of dispensing with the slimy deceit that is being shown by our current UK government as it seeks to appease all sections of society, but in fact benefits only the rich and abandons so many people to a life of unemployment, poverty and fear.
The greatest betrayal is to crush aspiration. It is my belief that the purpose of government is to provide a platform and framework to enable people to reach their potential. A side mission must be to sweep aside any hindrances to advancement and to replace ancient and entrenched privileges with a genuine open portal to enable everyone to achieve their dream.
If by voting yes we can move a little way towards letting people realise their own destinies, then all of our land, and all of our country will ultimately benefit.
As the wheel of life slowly revolves, around comes Buggins turn in the small wierd world that is the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, but not for long it appears. My successor in the Scottish Parliament, Murdo Fraser, for so long the bridesmaid to the ever unwedded Miss Goldie is about to don the wedding veil and elbowing aside the maiden lady take his proud place at the helm of the Titanic , but not for long it appears. For this blushing novitiate is about to pull the chain and flush the not so ancient party away to the seaside.
Master Fraser has decided that if the Tories elect him as leader,he will abolish the Party and form a new one , in an attempt to gather into one unholy tent the ranting, wild eyed, flashing toothed remnants of the right, he is prepared to fling out not just the baby with the bath water, but the soap, rubber ducks and the bath itself. In the way of all those that allah has blessed with madness, he appears to have neglected to think through any practicalities and like any shoddy do it yourselfer, has neglected to properly prepare before applying the anaglypta.
In the manner of a bus driver elected by the passengers to set fire to the charabanc, he has lost sight of the the fact that the vast majority of his colleagues in the Scottish Parliament owe their seats to them being placed on a list by those very members of the club that he proposes to bar the doors to. What legitimacy will there be to any sitting MSP who replaces a retiring member, as is the current system, when they belong to a party which no longer exists. And what of current members? Fraser's rivals, and fellow candidates, including those opposed to his plans are what? expected to turn on their heads and join a new grouping which they didn't want in the first place? Or do we expect all the Tory (as was) benches to resign en masse and be replaced by whom? Or in the case of constituency members will they provoke a by election? To march back in, triumphant under a new crimson and black banner ( most of the colours of the spectrum already claimed by other parties).
Whilst all this carping may seem a bit in the esoteric realms of navel gazing, and dismissed as mere detail, the whole proposition has been hailed by some commentators who even the loathed former Tories found unpalatable. Certain hisuitely challenged pseudo journalists and dicredited historians no doubt relish the prospect of their re-entry into the ranks of the foam flecked. Suddenly a new asylum has appeared to give shelter to the mad, the bad and the dangerous. Whether the majority of basically decent but misguided eldery conservatives will wish to join a movement that welcomes back the traitors and denigrators of the previous party we will have to wait and see. I don't believe they will all roll over and let the
I wonder if there is a place in the new dawn for me, the Scottish Conservatives refused my subscription when I left the Parliament, maybe because I was rude to the ruby lipped Raymond, the former chairman. Will I like all the other backsliders,and there are more than a few, be ushered back through the portals? But what sort of future will it promise, what vision can it proffer?
I still believe there is room for a right of centre view, what I am not sure of is whether I like the view, Perhaps I will wait and see what happens, no rush. There is a time for all of us, not sure whether that of Murdo has yet arrived though.
It was a question on twitter from @Skelptarse that led my mind to wander. She asked if people agreed with the sentence passed on Jim Devine for fiddling his Parliamentary expenses. As usual I dashed off an answer without thought, and then like wisps of mist on a summers morn threads began to unravel and I started to really consider whether the interest of anyone is served by banging someone up at public expense.
My first thought was to revive the stocks, a liberal dose of a conservative punishment would see Devine the recipient of addled eggs,putrid fruit and mouldy bread distributed free to firstly his constituents, secondly to his office manager, then to all the women he propositioned and finally the general public could take their turn. For fiddling £8000, perhaps 8 hours, then he would be released and for the rest of his 16 months he could be compelled to attend citizenship classes with the added modules of alchohol restraint and accountancy.
Once his debt has been paid off then he can return to useful life as a top level trade unionist, thus satisfying all the necessary criterea of retribution, humiliation, re-education, and redemption.
The principle could be extended to all non violent crime where prison will only serve to reinforce abhorrent behaviours. So self serving bankers could be set to emptying charity tins, flashers could be put on display in a refrigerated cabinet (to mitigate their offence), kiddy fiddlers could care for geriatric incontinent dole cheats, and drunken drivers should spend continuous 12 hour shifts as dodgem attendants with the cheeky girls blasting their ears at 130 decibels.
I am also reminded by @hollyjunesmith that the very nastiest transgressors and absolute enemies of decent folk are the dog poo spreaders. Their training will be on a large hamster wheel, filled with their own dog's mess, revolving at 60 rpm, and sprayed with a fine mist of water, each step would provide a large squelch and every so often a brake would operate, so that a stumble became a slip. They could gain redemption by wearing plastic bags on their hands and picking the detritus from between the bars, but would still have to trot for four hours before they could put on their shoes.
That'll larn 'em, they'll not do that again!
Emerging from a background of shouted Arabic demands for various despots to remove themselves, Scotland's minor political stramashes seem of little consequence this week, but the two phenomena are not unconnected.
We have Jim Devine who is about to be removed from our political ambit because of misuse of the power to falsify expense claims and who was then declared bankrupt.
We have Wendy Alexander removing herself from Parliament because (in the eyes of some, not entirely, unbiased commentators) she was to be denied a position of power in a future Labour administration. Or at least the position she told everyone she was getting apparently. This analysis ignores the considerable power of motherhood.
We also have Bill Aitken probably regretting he has the power of speech as his mouth was stretched beyond its limit by his insertion of his size twelve foot in his forensic examination of the morals and mode of employment of a Glasgow rape victim. His resignation was drawn out and painful and showed clearly that Tory leaders actually have no power of discipline over a member of the party who will be out of sight in eight weeks any way.
We also have the powerful in all political parties fastening on the supposed admittance by Colonel Ghaddafi, whose own grasp on power seems tenuos in the extreme, that he was indeed responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. The outsider may well be confused by the common cause shown by both current and former First Ministers in applauding the Scottish judicial system and averring that there was never any doubt in their minds that the conviction of Mr Megrahi was as sound as a bell. The Scottish Justice Minister was only exercising his considerable power of compassion to a dying man and that he had no power to exercise the transfer of the said prisoner under any shady transfer deal cooked up by the former powerhouse of the Labour Government, because that power was never on the table for this particular political prisoner. The said Justice Minister did have the power to get himself off to Barlinnie to discuss cancer care under the SNP administration and the escalating price of camels with Mr Megrahi. His subsequent explanation that he just happened to be passing also had the power to produce hoots of derision. Readers wanting a more balanced view of the Lockerbie affair should read the powerful blog of Robert Black, http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.com.
Firth of Scotland, William Hague has the power of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to lend power to his elbow. Like a modern day Palmerston he lost no time in issuing a powerful message to Libya by sending a gunboat. The subsequent suspicion that it was a late bargain entry in David Camerons travelling arms fair was heightened by the news that this particular frigate was about to be pensioned off. Perhaps the Southern Sudan may buy it cheap. Meanwhile his Cabinet colleague (for now) Liam Fox announced that he needed four nuclear powered submarines to play with in his bath because with only three he felt naked and unprotected. Useful indeed they have proved in the current Middle Eastern hoo har.
All in all then what is the connection between the power of the people in the despot ridden Middle East and the maunderings of the British political class. I make no excuse for summoning Rabbie:
"O wad some Power the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us!"
On the one hand a people struggling for power and here at home a people who cannot seem be trusted to resist the corruption that power bestows.