The Dark Heart of Union

We must focus on the positive and ignore the doomsayers is the Yes mantra, although it’s never really been true. It’s what we tell ourselves but you can’t debate without pointing to the other’s weaknesses, so we’ve done that while inculcating a perception of relentless optimism.


I think it’s working but there are times when a positive can be unearthed inside a negative and here is one such example. One of the ethereal themes is the nature of our political culture and how we feel it to be our own, distinctive enough from the prevailing attitude in much of the rest of Britain – but by no means uniquely so. We narrow our eyes mostly at the home of the ruling elite, the centre of the British state, in Whitehall and the billowing blue swathe of seats reaching from the Wash down into the Home Counties where the nature of governments is decided. We judge that their collective me-first mentality and rejection of communal values does not correspond to our own (higher-minded, don’t you know) egalitarianism.

You can knock that about as much as you like because it can come apart in your hands if you talk immigration, benefits cheats, private schooling and mortgages in many a social gathering in the Socialist Republic of Scotia.

There is a Unionist response to all of this which can be paraphrased from the mouth of Boris Johnson – it’s a pile of piffle. This riposte insists that we are no different, we just like to kid ourselves that we are and therefore stand accused of self-delusion and hypocrisy. And that’s no foundation for a nascent state. Personally, I’m open to this debate because it has a basis in truth and cannot be dismissed as ranting by outflanked blimps lashing out blindly.

However, there is an article by Rory Stewart MP in Time magazine which takes this to new depths and carries an alarming advisory for all whose inclination is, despite it all, to retain faith – and their vote – in the British state.

Rory is regarded in this house as a thoughtful and principled Tory who used Eton and Oxford as a route to public office rather than a slot at the money trough.

His CV is eclectic and run through with public service in Army, cultural work in Afghanistan, charity and parliament. We indulged his enjoyable if quaint concept of Middleland as representing Border history.

But if you read the Time piece you hear the voice of man unravelling as the folds of moderation and wit fall away to reveal a desperate and belittling figure verging on the edges of bigotry.

For, you see, Scottish Nationalists only pretend to be egalitarian, open to immigration, non-acquisitive and reasonable in order to hide our true identity as small-minded protectionists and reactionaries. Rory has worked us out.

“…like all nationalisms, it has a reactionary core. It assumes that one people – the Scots – are somehow, although they would never state it, intrinsically separate and superior and that the answer to their problems is to cut off a group of fellow citizens and treat them…as foreigners.”

Let’s set aside the first glaring irony. A Tory MP is calling US reactionary…he is a member of the most right wing government in modern British history whose bedrock policy is slashing public spending to 1948 levels by targeting the poor and the disabled. Depends on your definition of reactionary…


If Rory is right, does his description apply to Britain? Is flag-waving Olympia-mania not nationalism? Is ‘standing up for Britain in Brussels’ against every other EU country not nationalism? Is fighting in the Black Watch for Queen and country as Rory did, not nationalism? When he asks (and fails) to get 100,000 to link arms along the Border to declare their love of country – the UK – is that not nationalism?

Are the Norwegians who voted by over 90 per cent for their independence, not nationalists too…those same Norwegians not too intrinsically separate and superior to have open, friendly cross border relations with the rest of Scandinavia?

What about every country which gained its independence from Britain because its people wanted to go their own way (Rory was born in Hong Kong, lived in Malaysia etc)? Are they also superior in their own mind because their love of country – their nationalism – drove them to seek self-determination?

It goes on. The French are unashamedly nationalistic and make little allowance for others’ opinions yet joined with Germany to form the original EU. Where do they fit in Rory’s political atlas? Or indeed the Americans he was writing for? Is there a more nationalistic nation on earth than the star-spangled, war-mongering Americans?

He trots out the weary line that opinion polling shows our views aren’t really different at all and no less xenophobic, reactionary and right wing than the English population so what are we talking about? Well, if that’s true why does Rory’s party have only one MP here?

If it’s true, why do we vote for a party which provides universal benefits, free university education, no prescriptions, a living wage, no redundancies in the public sector, no PFI, for immigration, for keeping foreign students here, for the EU, against illegal wars, against nuclear weapons…? I think even Rory on reflection would concede there are one or two small differences with his Tory-led government’s policies, no?

It is also an aspiration. We dream of being better. We have ambition to prove ourselves. We feel pride at the idea of solidarity with neighbours, of an internationalist outlook, of arguing for peace without nuclear weapons. What’s wrong with aspiration? Isn’t that exactly what the No side lacks?

He tells us that we apparently believe that political attitudes are permanent, fixed aspects of national character. Do we? I think I believe that in today’s Scotland there is a broad left of centre consensus and that as late as the 1960’s we had a Protestant Unionist hegemony and that the Labour decades of the last 30 years are giving way to a more home-grown proudly Scottish philosophy which all the parties now embrace – Tories, Labour, Lib Dem, Greens and Socialists, not just Nationalists. Permanent and fixed it ain’t, if you simply check the history.

Then he writes: Their solution therefore is to simply exclude the ‘English’ (his apostrophes) whom they perceive as a fixed bloc of right wing voters, from voting by changing the electoral boundaries…

How could a peacemaker in Afghanistan fail to understand self-determination and what it means to people who identify with their home? Just how we exclude English voters needs too long to unpack.

We don’t have an English problem, we know they don’t all vote Tory, all English people are welcomed to live, work, vote and take nationality or otherwise. There is a nasty undercurrent here that he doesn’t have the evidence or the guts to flesh out but he does say we just blame London. Perhaps he should have a quiet word with his own voters in the North East about their views of London and its taxpayer funded featherbedding. He might get a surprise.

We desire, he says, to treat the English as foreigners. This is always a giveaway. Never in my life have I heard Scottish Nationalists refer to other UK nationals as foreigners. It isn’t SNP policy and nor is it the voters’ instinct. It comes only and alone from the Unionists who regard it as pejorative because they believe British people hate foreigners. Rory trips out the sly old lie.

But his killer point is that we are selfish for wanting to deny our natural resources to the rest of Britain and that we should be big enough to share. That’s right…the country that could have voted to be independent in the early 70’s and taken all of the oil and much of the gas to become, as the government’s own adviser wrote ‘as rich as Switzerland’, wants to scapegoat the English and punish them by keeping hold of what’s left. We really are an ungrateful bunch.

Aside from the obvious point that surely the ‘oil is dwindling and volatile’ and therefore virtually worthless (get on message, Rory), you’d think contributing £300 billion to London and paying in more than we get out over the last 30 years – plus bankrolling Thatcher’s Tory policies – would merit even a cursory thank you from the principled one.

Taken together, this inaccurate and prejudiced diatribe from a Member of the British Parliament gives us a glimpse into the barren interior of our country and how even the most intelligent and sensitive simply fail to comprehend that Scotland is our home and we want to run it our own way – among the most basic of all human instincts – not to be separate or superior but to be equal with others, sharing our resources and our people. It is Rory who concentrates on the frontier that is the Border. We have said there will be none.


But like nationalism, he his blind to it, except his own. He imagines anything up to half the Scottish population is essentially racist, no doubt hypnotised by the demotic Salmond. I don’t object remotely to Unionists explaining their beliefs and standing by them but I do resent being characterised as selfish, inward-looking and quasi-racist for wanting what every other country has.

And yet again this message of denigration and hostility is beamed by a Scot across the world through an international magazine while he claims to be interested in goodwill and harmony. Go and build your cairn, Rory and don’t insult our intelligence.

For me, the article marks the end of respect for Rory the Tory but thanks to him for reminding us all why we must vote Yes in order to regain our self respect and national dignity which so many care so little about. That’s the real positive…to know that even those who pretend love-bombing have the same dark heart that just can’t accept Scotland and Scots for what we truly are – a modern, multi-cultural, open nation on the cusp of statehood.

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The Rabble Rouser

So the BBC runs with a story on Radio four based on Jim Murphy’s claims of mobs and physical threat – so far none of which are confirmed by the police – and ends with one sentence about an actual conviction in court of an individual for threatening the First Minister…AND didn’t mention the offence was a threat to assassinate him.

One egg versus a threat to kill.

Excellent news for Better together…all over Britain the impression is given of angry mobs intimidating a member of the shadow cabinet when the big story about the campaign is its peaceful, intelligent nature.

Perhaps the qualification should be added that a man with a microphone shouting at passers-by on the street – and the filmed evidence is of Murphy really shouting and firing up spectators – is itself provocative. It’s meant to be…


But when his rabble-rousing rouses a rabble, he departs the scene complaining that people reacted. Perhaps that’s job done. I see Jack McConnell, who has falsely accused Yes before, decried the campaign too for chasing poor Jim away. Why does this smell like a stunt?

Is it because nobody believes what they say? Is it because it fits the serpentine mind of Murphy to turn black into white and to stick in the barbs at every turn? During the Catholic Church Peter Kearney-led campaign a couple of years ago to whip up ill feeling with claims of anti-catholic attitudes, Murphy was quoted saying someone had called him a Catholic when he was canvassing. Dearie me…imagine someone who backs weapons of mass destruction, illegal wars and Tory policies that impoverish the weakest being cat-called…Is there no decorum any more…no respect for honourable and honest men to speak out?

I don’t agree with physical attacks – even if the law does decide to define an egg as an object of violence – nor do I like crowd chanting of words like traitor but, to be honest, the question comes to mind: What did he expect? The evidence is that No people just don’t turn up, don’t engage or debate – I read that Murphy has pulled out of an event this very night in another of the long list of Better Together let-downs – and if you stand on a crate in the street and shout in the middle of a massive political campaign during an age when people can’t afford to eat, do you really expect a throng of smiling, doe-eyed Christians to gather round shaking tambourines?

Still, looks like it worked…Honest Jim, the brave trier, has been forced to retreat by the mob while his security is re-arranged.

Know what I really hate about Jim’s behaviour? It’s not about Yes and No – it’s that he has successfully tarnished the image of Scotland when we should be at our proudest.

The best word for Jim isn’t patriot (Catholic or otherwise) – it’s intellectual crook.

Just remember, when the history is written, It is Yes that will be recalled with credit and Yes that is studied as a worldwide example of how real democracy can work.

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Fresh from her critical success in Alan Bissett’s play on the Festival Fringe, Elaine C Smith had her stardom further enhanced by an appearance on batemanbroadcasting! Next week it’s Angelina Jolie (I think she’s a No).


Elaine has twinned her performance career with politics for a couple of decades now and never fails to impress with a combination of intelligent analysis and down-to-earth language. It is a gift that is reminiscent of Margo.

She gives free rein to it in our free-wheeling chat over half an hour in which she talks about her parents break-up, her realisation that the UK political system couldn’t or wouldn’t protect working class Scots and gives me the low-down on how famous Scots are planning to vote – oh no, that bit was after we switched of the mics…

We also hear what she thinks of Patronising Woman.

The difference between her and so many other celeb endorsers is that she isn’t endorsing so much as putting her heart and soul into the entire movement for Yes. Among her roles is a seat on the Yes campaign board and she can also field questions on any aspect of the debate as she proves to me when I press her. And she wouldn’t be on any questions of Radio Four unless she could fence with the best.

What I also admire is that, like me, she’s decided to go for it. She isn’t taking prisoners because this debate is too important for pussyfooting around and putting personal advantage ahead of political need. We can all preserve networks of mutual interest by not speaking out but if we can’t stand up and be counted when our independence is at stake, what are we worth?

Have a listen

And let me know what you think. And its on Youtube at


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Three Cheers for Us!

Can I drag you away from the sight of Gordon and Alistair acting like old mates to point you in the direction of the latest dire warnings of our imminent national demise should we join the world community as a sovereign state? (Doesn’t seeing the old comrades arm in arm bring back memories of the time they were in power together building up the British economy and securing prosperity for working class people…how did that all end?)


I refer of course to the long list of business types who have signed a letter warning of the implications of independence – and quite right too. I welcome all contributions no matter how self interested and nutty. For instance if they haven’t worked out how Scotland will remain in the EU by now, they need to replace their internal comms department. That is now laid to rest and only the utterly ill-informed still wring their hands over it. The argument has moved on – as the foreign banks are now showing – into the very real fear that the UK will vote to come out voluntarily. Wake up in Business Class…


Currency, their other concern, is descending into farce and makes me wonder if these people agreed their letter maybe six months ago when this stuff was hot. More than a handful of these signatories are from global firms who have offices around the world and who trade in every conceivable currency. It seems they also trade in overblown bullshit because that’s what the thick jocks will fall for. Wouldn’t it have shown a capitalist’s courage if they’d stated their own currency option instead of the nakedly political ruse of asking questions that their own research people could answer inside an hour?

Anyway, I took them at face value and looked at the first handful identified by the BBC…and googled.

Let’s start with HSBC. Take a bow, boys…

 Failure after failure at HSBC led to the London-based bank being used as a conduit for “drug kingpins and rogue nations”, a 300-page report compiled for a US Senate committee and has found. The July 2012 report and investigations by US authorities led to the UK-based bank being fined almost $2bn for failing to stop criminals using its banking systems to launder money. Mexican drug barons – the bank’s subsidiary had drug traffickers as clients and processed millions in suspicious bulk travellers cheques and resisted closing doubtful account. “In an age of international terrorism, drug violence in our streets and on our borders, and organized crime, stopping illicit money flows that support those atrocities is a national security imperative” – Senator Carl Levin. US laws prevent banks doing business with what it regards as the most dangerous individuals and countries. HSBC frequently circumvented the rules designed to prevent dealings with Iran, Burma, North Korea and Iran. (Friendly countries all)

Actions taken to get around these safeguards in the system “may have facilitated transactions on half of terrorists, drug traffickers or other wrongdoers”, it said.

Nearly $20 billion work of transactions involved Iran but information was changed to avoid disclosing that.

Terrorist financing links

HSBC did business with Saudi Arabia’s biggest financial institution, Al Rajhi Bank. The report claims that after the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, evidence emerged that Al Rajhi and some of its owners had links to financial organisations associated with terrorism. HSBC Middle East was one of a number of affiliates which continued to work with the bank.HBUS closed the accounts it provided to Al Rajhi, before resuming some ties with them in 2006. The report claimed it had done this after pressure from HSBC, after Al Rajhi threatened to withdraw all of its business from HSBC globally. (Nice. After all that hand wringing about the horrors of the Twin Towers the bank went right on dealing with terrorists. Must make you Labour voters proud of your Better Together backers, no?)

Suspicious travellers’ cheques

Between 2005 and 2008, HBUS cleared $290m worth of US dollar travellers’ cheques which were being presented at a Japanese bank. The daily transactions were worth up to half a million dollars, with large blocks of sequentially numbered cheques being handed over. After prompting from US regulators, HBUS found out that the travellers’ cheques were being bought in Russia – a country at high-risk of money laundering. Three cheers for HSBC and its support of the Union!

Next comes BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, which “has been dragged into an Iraqi corruption scandal amid revelations that United Nations contracts were inflated by $8m (£4.5m) to recover a debt the previous Iraqi regime owed the London-listed group. An Australian inquiry into local involvement in the abuse of the UN’s oil-for-food programme has revealed that BHP provided $5m worth of wheat on credit to Iraq in the 1990s to secure oil exploration rights. The Australian Wheat Board admitted to the inquiry last week that in 2002 it inflated the price of a 1m tonne shipment to Iraq to recover the money owed to BHP. This was to hide the payments from the UN. AWB has admitted it paid $A300m (£140m) worth of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime under the oil-for-food programme, in breach of UN sanctions.

In 1995 BHP, which owns gas fields in the North Sea, provided $5m worth of wheat to Iraq, in what it has described as a “humanitarian gesture”. At the time BHP was negotiating with Iraqi oil ministry officials for rights to develop oil fields in southern Iraq once sanctions were lifted. Andrew Lindberg, the managing director of the Australian Wheat Board, told the inquiry: “BHP had paid AWB for the wheat on behalf of Iraq in exchange for the grant of oil exploration rights in Iraq.”

Hey…this is the kind of Scotland we want to build together, isn’t it? Immoral behavior, bribery and corruption and lying to hide the truth. Three cheers for BHP and the Union.

Something strange must have happened at the next company on the pro-Union list, BG Group, because this is what Bill Campbell, former auditor, wrote about the CEO. “It appears that not just individuals but organisations have selective memory.  LK Hyman, BG Group, and others should bear in mind the facts that criminal neglect of maintenance over a prolonged period 1999 to 2003 caused the deaths of two men in Sept 2003 after the release of over 6000 m3 of gas into an enclosed space – that is what the Inquiry found and he needs to be reminded that ChrisFinlayson and Malcolm Brinded were responsible in Law for the well being of 1000′s of employees over that prolonged period. As stated in writing by the then Lord Advocate in a parliamentary reply the haphazard management of safety over a prolonged period contributed directly to the deaths and the Director of these offshore activities during this period was Finlayson. He had been forewarned in 1999 that a serious accident event was inevitable if actions were not taken and he failed, failed totally, to heed these warnings. We got lucky in a sense that the gas did not ignite which as a consequence could have led to a Piper or Deepwater type of catastrophe.  Hyman et al should be reminded that Shell pled guilty on behalf of its Directors to all charges placed before them. So whatever gloss you paint over the turd, Finlayson and Brinded failed as Directors in their principal duty to comply with the Law so that risks to those persons exposed to these risks offshore were minimised, as was their legal responsibility.” Bill Campbell

Blimey…this sounds murky and scary. (He was right – Finlayson was forced to resign) Never mind, the previous boss of BG Group was Frank Chapman and he’s not remotely controversial…is he?

“The furore over executive pay was ratcheted up over the weekend as it emerged that Frank Chapman, the chief executive of BG group – formerly known as British Gas – took home £28m in cash, shares and pension contributions last year.” Oops.

It is also interesting that I count 12 distillers or drinks interests on the list. These are the same people who are fighting not only minimum pricing which they regard as a global issue if Scotland is successful in its legal case, but the Scotch Whisky Association contests our parliament’s right to legislate…the neo liberal anti democracy lobby in action.

Here’s something else I found as the likes of Edrington try to tell Scots how to vote. Alcohol firms are adopting contentious tactics pioneered by the tobacco industry by funding charities in order to gain influence inside government, researchers claim in a new study. Drink manufacturers, retailers and grant-making trusts have given five alcohol charities donations of up to £1m each in recent years as they have deliberately “used corporate philanthropy as a political device”, according to research by academics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Mentor UK, a charity, said it had not received any money from the alcohol industry since 2012 and denied that the Robertson Trust and Gannochy Trust, themselves charities, were industry bodies. Robertson has a close relationship with the Edrington Group, which makes well-known whisky brands including Famous Grouse. Gannochy is funded by the profits from sales of Bell’s whisky. The two trusts jointly fund Mentor UK’s work in Polmont young offenders institution in Scotland. Prof John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: “The health messages and policies that the alcohol industry favours are frequently without an evidence base. Such policies are unlikely to have any real impact on the tens of thousands of deaths, or hundreds of thousands of hospital admissions, that alcohol causes ever year.” Keep up the good work, guys.

Also in there, as you’d expect from people who want to punch above their weight is Thales, the French arms manufacturer, firmly planted on British soil and indeed soil everywhere else…they can arm you to the teeth with all kinds of equipment which you little Scots might need when those jihadists arrive at John O’Groats to threaten the Bed and Breakfast business.

Oh, I almost forgot, our old friends at Weirs, your neighbourhood engineers, convicted of breaching UN sanctions… “The engineering firm Weir Group has been fined £3m after it admitted bribing allies of Saddam Hussein to win lucrative contracts in Iraq, in breach of tough UN sanctions against the Iraqi ruler’s regime. The Glasgow-based company, one of Scotland’s best known engineering firms, pleaded guilty this week to two charges of paying kickbacks of more than £3m to win contracts to supply £35m worth of pumps under the UN oil for food programme.”

Isn’t it fantastic to know such moral, upstanding and honest corporate entities have bosses desperate to look after our interests and worried we might make a mistake? I know all you Labour voters will feel a kindred spirit with the millionaires and boardroom executives who so clearly understand your needs and aspirations. Gives you a warm glow, doesn’t it?

I don’t have time to run through the rest on the list. I’m sure they’re the normal businesses we all know and good luck to them. But it’s sometimes worth asking a very business kind of question – Who are you and what do you really want? – before you buy. Caveat emptor.

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Podcast Latest

Enjoy the leaders’ debate? Still mulling it over? Have a listen to the views of Women for Independence members Susan Stewart and Ann Ballinger who are expressing what many of us were thinking. Is Darling connected to the Scottish working class? Does Labour know what it’s doing?

How easy was it for Salmond to squash him with simple questions? Had Better Together learned nothing fromDarlings recent appearances when he has failed to answer THE QUESTION which is what new powers will we get?

Have a listen at….

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