Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Vote “Yes” for Reindustrialization of Scotland

August 16, 2014

The following was published on August 28 2014 as a letter to the Lanark and Carluke Gazette, the local newspaper where I grew up, in the run up to the referendum on Scottish independence. 

As a child in the late ’60s/early ’70s, I well remember taking the train from Carluke up to Glasgow.  By the time Wishaw was reached, the signs of heavy industry were obvious.  Engineering and steelmaking were to the fore, with the Ravenscraig steelworks at the core.  Hallside was passed, then onto Glasgow with its rail yards and shipbuilding.  The scale of it all left a huge impression.  I could only imagine what was happening around the glowing furnaces.

I soon began to appreciate the degree to which friends’ families were working in and around these, and related, industries.  The presence of Ravenscraig, an integrated steelworks, meant employment and job opportunities.  Oil and gas had just been discovered in the North Sea, the extraction of which would require vast quantities of steel for production platforms, pipeline transmission systems, processing facilities, and related infrastructure.  Entering my teens, with an admittedly abnormal interest in politics for my age, I felt the future looked bright for my generation – despite the ongoing malaise within the broader UK economy.  I doubt I wasn’t the only one to feel such optimism, a new dawn for Scotland; maybe wider complacency began to set in.  After all steel making would always be there and had been for generations.  Scottish steel had helped defeat the Nazis.  In the ’80s even BMW used Ravenscraig steel!  And now there was a new end user, requiring thousands of tons of steel largely destined for offshore.  When I left Lanark Grammar in 1979, days after the election of the Thatcher government, pessimism did not enter my head.  This soon changed.

The rest is history, scarring Lanarkshire.  Essentially, Ravenscraig was sacrificed.  There was no will to retain it, despite valiant efforts and its relative productivity.  After hundreds of years, iron and steel making was eliminated from Scotland.  An industry, generations in the making, essentially wiped out during the years of Thatcherism.  Simultaneous to the need for steel for developing North Sea oil and gas fields, too.  Such severe deindustrialization would not have happened in an independent Scotland.  Employment opportunities gone forever.  Personally, my reluctant emigration.

It is now 2014 and if I am accused of living in the past so be it.  I have heard it said that voting “No” in the coming referendum is tantamount to agreeing to the legacies of Thatcherism.  I think that is harsh as I recognize why, out of self-interest, nostalgia and/or fear, people would choose to vote “No”.  But make no mistake voting “No” has risks that economic potential will again fail to be realized, and that generations to come will again be failed.  That Scottish soldiers will be repeatedly committed to further acts of overseas adventurism masquerading as foreign policy.  That nuclear weapons will remain on the Clyde estuary.  That Scotland’s natural resources will continue to be squandered.  That the pound will continue to lose value.  That Westminster will continue to govern for the benefit of the City of London, rather than for the nations and regions of the UK as a whole.

Voting “Yes” to independence has risks, too.  Any action does.  But, make no mistake, many of the politicians focused on these risks would stick a proverbial knife in your back, their purpose is in manufacturing propaganda for “Project Fear”.  Their goal is to keep Scotland’s resources tied to Westminster and the City of London.  After all, the Bank of England is able to generate pounds out of thin air to maintain a debt-based economy.  Natural resources and energy, particularly oil in the North Sea and Atlantic Shelf, cannot so be created.  The political establishment at Westminster is terrified of the macroeconomic consequences of a “Yes” vote; no tactic will be too low for “No”.  But Lanarkshire and Scotland needs reindustrialized, long term the best way to achieve that is with a “Yes”.

My 7-year-old understands “blowback” – so why can’t Rudy Giuliani or Rick Santorum?

September 27, 2011

In the GOP primary debates, with the exception of Ron Paul, it seems to be anathema to discuss how blowback was a major cause of 9/11. This is as much the case in 2011 with the likes of Rick Santorum as it was with Rudy Giuliani in 2007, with their ignoring of both a key finding of the 9/11 Commission and of CIA analysis. Blowback was a predictable response to US foreign policy decisions largely relating to the Middle East, be it support of autocratic regimes in Arab countries, military bases in Saudi Arabia or disregard for the plight of the Palestinians. One would assume that obliviousness to blowback betrays an ignorance that would be unthinkable for a President tasked with making the biggest decisions of state. I doubt that to be truly the case with a great many blowback deniers, the likes of Giuliani and Santorum are clearly smart guys, rather they are simply continuing their pandering as a matter of rote. Anything to appeal to the base to try and win the primary, no matter how outrageously ignorant they sound. But it doesn’t really work with the swing voter does it?
In talking to my 7-year-old about bullying, I asked him how he would respond. He said he would tell the bully to stop. “But what if he doesn’t stop?” “I’d tell my teacher.” “But what if that doesn’t help?” Long pause. “I’d trick him.” At 7 he knows that if you try to fight a bully fair and square, it ain’t going to happen and you will very likely get pummeled. You may deck him, but you’ll likely get jumped soon thereafter. Growing up in darkest Lanarkshire taught me that, but I was super impressed by my sons answer. “I’d trick him”. He is clearly way smarter than I was at the same age!
Is it really so hard for people to understand that people don’t attack us because “we are free” but because we are bullies? That we are letting ourselves be tricked into responding in ways harmful to our national security and ultimately self-destructive? That we are bankrupting ourselves, mortgaging our children’s future, polarizing our society and, by casting the Bill of Right onto its funeral pyre, destroying what makes America truly exceptional? Sure, I supported our response after the violence and fatalities of 9/11. But after we overthrew the Taliban we engaged in a militaristic adventurism that has fuelled further blowback. We let ourselves be tricked. After all, the primary goal of terrorism is not to kill as many people as possible. Rather, it’s to change the political environment in which the terrorists and their supporters are seeking to function. Be it the Stern Gang, IRA/INLA or Al Qaeda. This is not a difficult concept to understand. Look around the world today, and how America is regarded. With all the billions we expend on so-called national security and defense we routinely walk into traps that a 7-year-old can understand.
No blowback denier for me. I do not want a Commander-in-Chief that is a dupe and unable to grasp even the simplest manifestations of blowback, let alone to ultimately have the authority to one day send my son and daughter off to war. I do not want a President that is a blatant panderer that would blithely expend our strength on militaristic adventurism. I will never vote for such a candidate in 2012. I do want a President that recognizes the magnitude of the mess we are in and stops this madness.

Downfall usually sprouts from the seeds of error sown in the flush of success.

May 10, 2011

As occurred in 2007, the Scottish Parliament elections of 2011 yet again bore out the old adage, “Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them”. The SNP governed competently, if not perfectly – no mean feat given they formed a minority administration. Unlike Labour in 2007, they were unburdened by the Iraq debacle and, fair or not, the image of Tony Blair in particular as George W. Bush’s poodle. This made shortcomings as a Holyrood administration more likely to be forgiven and a return to power more likely.
Recent events have clearly shown that Labour learned little after their defeat in 2007. Going negative, with the same failed strategy as 4 years ago, severely backfired. What is it that is said about people that do the same thing expecting a different outcome? Faced with a choice, the electorate went with the positive over the negative in droves. The unthinkable – a SNP majority at Holyrood – occurred.
The danger for the SNP is now overreach. Many that voted SNP want caution and could switch their vote as quickly as they did this time. Downfall usually sprouts from the seeds of error sown in the flush of success. It is easy to focus on the errors of others and be blind to your own. Softly, softly on a multi-option independence referendum, methodically work towards expanding devolved powers and, above all, don’t fixate on constitutional issues. Continued competence in government, expansion of renewable energy as a route to Scottish reindustrialization and prudent stewardship of public institutions should be the fixations. It will be a challenging five years in government.
The danger for Labour is that they will do the same as after the 2007 election, and that is willfully fail to recognize reality. An inquiry into their recent failed campaign overseen by current leader Iain Gray, or almost any sitting Labour MP or MSP for that matter, would have as much public credibility as Tony Hayward investigating the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Perhaps a call to Henry McLeish would be in order? And why limit any inquiry to only the recent campaign? The sad reality is that the Labour Party I knew growing up in Lanarkshire has drastically morphed over the last 40 years. Keir Hardie would be birling in his grave. In his quest to “modernize”, Tony Blair put the final nails in the coffin of the cohesiveness inherent in Labour tradition. If the Labour Party in Scotland is serious about addressing its shortcomings it must look to reestablish itself with a “new” identity, ironically based on its traditional, core values. Otherwise they could be a long time coming back, even planting additional seeds of their electoral destruction. With Alex Salmond as First Minister, I would not gamble on SNP government missteps as a route back to power.