Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

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”.

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3 Legs of “No”: Sentimentality, Fear and Central Banking

August 16, 2014

I have been following the Scottish independence referendum campaign and regret to say that I have yet to hear or read much of a positive case for retaining the Union. The “No” campaign seems to stand on the 3 legs of sentimentality, fear and currency/central banking. Little in the way of positives has come from “Better Together”, just “Project Fear”. After all, many of the leading figures in “Better Together” stood by as Scotland, the West in particular, was deindustrialized. Its harder to say “better together” and address the evisceration of core industries, such as steel making in Lanarkshire or shipbuilding on the Clyde, that occurred under Westminster.

“Yes” has made propaganda, too. That I wouldn’t deny. But “Yes” has outlined a positive vision of the future. Generations to come would benefit from a reinvigorated, reindustrialized Scotland. There isn’t much to be sentimental about in post ’79 Scotland.

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.