Good Times for Alex and his Nationalist Army

Support for an independent Scotland is at its lowest for years. But Alex Salmond is riding high in the polls. The Scottish National Party which he leads stands an excellent chance of winning more seats than its lacklustre Labour opponent in the fourth election for the Scottish parliament being held on 5 May. This means that it will be entitled to form the next government, in all probability continuing to rule alone as it has done since 2007.

A blizzard of carefully-timed concessions have been made ranging from medical prescriptions to student fees. The aim is to convince Scots attracted by Labour’s paternalist message that the SNP can look after them just as well. Reliant on a block grant from Westminster which is due to shrink from this year, the SNP knows that it will be unable to implement some of its tempting promises.

Perhaps it has a double aim. It will widen the sense of grievance that many Scots have towards London and it will wind up English voters who already regard Scotland as a land of milk and honey paid for by them. England is now increasingly resembling Scotland – a small neurotic nation, insecure and resentful about issues it would have laughed off in more confident times.

The SNP is a humdrum party that has the good fortune to be run by a first-rate political talent. ‘Re-elect Alex Salmond as First Minister’ will appear on the ballot paper and it is likely to sway many Scots averse to going it alone. He has become a semi-regal figure who towers over the leaders of the opposing parties, each of which currently faces major difficulties.

A recent biography showed that Salmond pinned his hopes on becoming a BBC journalist before getting a job with the Royal bank of Scotland. Arguably, he remains obsessed by the media and its 24/7 news agenda. He has surrounded himself with people possessing media skills who increasingly dominate the ranks of the SNP at Holyrood, home of the Scottish parliament. He has built a mutually reinforcing relationship with the serious end of the Scottish media, particularly print titles like the Scotsman and the Herald.

They deliver regular criticism of the party’s failure to implement its 2007 manifesto and with spending time and money on preparing for an independence referendum, only to withdraw the idea at the last minute. But they help to sustain what has become the first personality cult in Scottish political history.

Without Salmond, Scottish politics are likely to be drab and predictable, his party becalmed at no more than 25% of the vote. By goading Westminster, antagonizing the USA over the release of the Libyan convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, and seeking investment deals with the Gulf states and China that will reduce the hold of the Treasury, Salmond is a constant provider of news. His acolytes and sympathisers dominate the opinion pages in a way that would be viewed as unsettling in the press on both sides of the Irish border.

His low-key challenger, Labour’s Iain Gray has been savaged across the Scottish media for failing to measure up to the buccaneering Salmond. Labour and the SNP are both left-leaning and, to differing degrees, pro-self-government, but the degree of animosity between them is unusual in any country yet to experience a civil-war.

Both of them place their hopes in a managerial state and those capitalists who interact with it. Citizens and local communities are to be kept away from real power and managed by an army of bureaucrats.

Alex Salmond is uncharacteristically silent about the architecture of a sovereign Scotland. His attachment to the EU, increasingly an entity dominated by France and Germany, suggests that he is inclined to swop an increasingly benevolent British overlordship with a European one that towards Ireland has been Cromwellian in its fiscal severity. But however much growing numbers of Scots enjoy the Alex Salmond cabaret show, they are unlikely to cut the umbilical cord with the rest of the UK.

It is in England that the largest body of Scottish separatists are now to be found and if Salmond can sufficiently infuriate these Little Englanders, maybe they will enable General Alex and his motley army to be the ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ who control the fate of Scotland in the decades to come.

The SNP’s first stint in office has revealed a populist party keen to align with business and keep the unions and local government quiescent. Fianna Fail may have crashed to earth in the Republic but the SNP looks to be a Scottish reincarnation, averse to warnings about the fate cronyism and cute ‘hoorism’ reserved for Ireland with the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.

Tom Gallagher’s book The Illusion of Freedom: Scotland Under Nationalism was published by Hurst and Co in 2009 and an expanded North American edition is due to be published shortly by Columbia University Press.

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  • Dewi

    “Fianna Fail may have crashed to earth in the Republic but the SNP looks to be a Scottish reincarnation, averse to warnings about the fate cronyism and cute ‘hoorism’ reserved for Ireland with the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.”

    What a strange conclusion to the piece. As far as I can work out it’s incongruous to the rest of the article….I really liked this though:
    “Labour and the SNP are both left-leaning and, to differing degrees, pro-self-government, but the degree of animosity between them is unusual in any country yet to experience a civil-war. “

  • Alex Salmond is uncharacteristically silent about the architecture of a sovereign Scotland.

    Because?

    But however much growing numbers of Scots enjoy the Alex Salmond cabaret show, they are unlikely to cut the umbilical cord with the rest of the UK.

    Salmond is the most astute politician in UK politics today and has taken that fact on board; unfortunately for him many activists in his party still believe that ‘independence” is but one small push away.

    That, I think, is a much bigger problem for him than managing to convince the wider electorate that he is a more competent “Governor-General” than the laughable competition.

  • Mick Fealty

    He’s on about a huge blind spot in nationalism generally; namely, trust ‘us’ because we’re not ‘them’.

    ‘The Plain People of Ireland’ (as opposed to the ‘twittering classes’) took Fianna Fail on huge trust and, in the end, they’ve been hugely burned.

    If I were to finesse it in a slightly more SNP friendly way (and away from Tom’s main point), Scottish nationalism can (and probably should) surf the tide of populism for so long, then it will have to face the tough choices that *might* make independence a more realistic proposition in the minds of the Scottish electorate.

    The trouble is that those same tough choices might have the effect of sending the electorate scrabbling back for the comfort blanket of the UK state.

  • Brian Walker

    A pretty good assessment of the Scotitish elections, I reckon. Alex is a natural leader and this could be decisive before the cuts begin to bite in earnest

  • Henry94

    A Scotland and a NI with a nationalist parliamentary majority but a unionist constitutional majority is a strong future possibility. It would say to the English “we are only staying for the money and there is no affection in the marriage”

    I wonder how they would react.

  • Mick Fealty

    Very poetic Henry. 😉

  • pippakin

    If the English were to cut loose, and its not impossible, would they bring public service jobs back to England? The British government has sent thousands of public sector jobs to areas of high unemployment over the years. I can’t see that it would make sense for England to be independent and leave jobs relating to England in what would be independent nations. If they wanted to do that there are many cheaper options, including cutting their own unemployment rate.

    It seems to me that whenever this subject is looked at the actual nitty gritty, apart from oil, is left out of the Utopia nationalists portray but I doubt if the potential is lost on Scottish or Welsh voters.

  • “General Alex and his motley army”

    A strange metaphor for an organisation that has no guns and hasn’t and doesn’t kill police officers.

    The Westminster ‘stormtroopers’ have recently been led by two Scotchmen, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Does Alex have any of the characteristics of either of these robust fellows? Even David Cameron might have some Scotch genes. Cam- is Gaelic for ‘bent’ or ‘crooked’.

  • Tom Gallagher

    Thanks for these comments.

    Alex Salmond would be doing his cause a great service if he was courageous enough to admit that in many ways Scotland is currently in a sorry state and that the emphasis needs to be on tough choices now that lead to social renewal and a more diversified economy.

    However, he is no ‘Braveheart’ and he coasts along using his kingsized persoanlity to evoke a feel good factor that is based on very little; (perhaps it matters little but this Alpha male personality is one that leaves a lot of female voters cold).

    No Fianna fail politician (de Vaera excepted) has been as good as pulling strokes as this smart operator, but he is essentially a clever tactican rather than a mature strategist. Like the Gaelic chieftains of old he hopes that England’s difficulty will prove to be Scotland’s opportunity and maybe he will be proven right as the storms build up on numerous fronts.

  • Dewi

    “Scotland is currently in a sorry state and that the emphasis needs to be on tough choices now that lead to social renewal and a more diversified economy. ”

    To some degree he has.

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2010/09/23134359

    Real ambitious targets for renewables.

  • I’d diffidently suggest a less-rosy view of Salmond as the Great Engager. No more than anyone else has he managed to involved the next generation — and, ever since the days of Billy Wolfe & co, my recollection has it the younger members of the congregation were the cutting edge of the independence movement.

    Consider John Curtices’s recent dander through election stats:

    … the age gap in people’s willingness to vote is much wider now. In the 1997 UK election, 70% of 18-24-year-olds in Scotland voted, while 87% of those aged over 60 did so – a difference of 17 points. In contrast in last year’s general election just 44% of young people voted, compared with 84% of the over-sixties – a gap of no less than 40 points…

    Nevertheless, some of Scotland’s politicians do seem to be more successful than others at reaching out to younger people. As one might anticipate, Annabel Goldie’s matronly manner is less attractive to younger voters than older ones — as indeed is Alex Salmond’s charm.

    In contrast, both Tavish Scott and Patrick Harvie do at least have something of a fan club among younger people. Evidently a younger, fresher face can sometimes win through.

    Now why am I not surprised that Curtice picks out a LibDem and a Green?

  • Tom Gallagher

    Dewi
    I think it’s fine to invest in renewables but the bulk of informed economic analysis indicates that Scotland will still be heavily reliant on other energy sources, which means importing nuclear energy from elsewhere.

    Both Alex salmond and his party lack the appetite for dealing wth formidable social and economic prblems that, before possible independence, are now very much its own responsibility as the party in government.

    This does not pass unnoticed among a lot of Scots who otherwise would be far less averse to going alone.

  • vanhelsing

    Alex might be able to provide smoke and mirrors for a while and perhaps a little dance routine but the Scottish people are too smart to be sucked in forever.
    http://www.snp.org/node/240

    “There is no question that the Scottish economy has been underperforming under devolution. The Scottish Parliament does not have the economic powers that our competitors have, powers which are necessary to tackle Scotland’s cycle of low economic growth. Rather than accept this state of affairs, the SNP wants to implement an economic policy that moves our country forward. Independence would give the Scottish Parliament the powers to transform Scotland into a high growth economy and a prosperous society.”

    Clearly alex seemed to have missed some of the economic turmoil surrounding ‘scottish’ banks and perhaps they sent back the barnett funding by mistake this year! They may as well tag on the end of that statement ‘and then we will rule the world’ 🙂

    As Mick pointed out they can Braveheart all the want but when it comes down to the economics they will have nowhere to run. I also don’t believe for one moment that UK PLC would consider giving up North Sea oil as part of any independence deal.

  • Dewi

    “I also don’t believe for one moment that UK PLC would consider giving up North Sea oil as part of any independence deal.”

    Well – that would be a first in the history of British decolonisation…what’s the diffference between Scottish Oil and Indian Tea for instance?

  • Alias

    It isn’t neccessary for a foreign state to own the resources of the colonised country post-colonisation, and to thereby extract the wealth from them. It is sufficient for the foreign state’s corporations to own them, and to thereby extract the wealth from them. Almost all of the tea plantations in India were British-owned. Of course, the fact that Indian tea manufacturers now own iconic British brands of tea is testament to the ability of the Indians to run their own affairs in their own interest rather than proof that the British state had no interest in retaining India’s wealth. The best thing the Scots could do is get rid of foreign rule – EU and British – and run their national affairs in their national interest.

    Here’s what Noam Chomsky had to say about the virtues of being ruled by a foreign state:

    “…in the 18th century, India was one of the commercial and industrial centers of the world. England was a kind of a backwater – it had much greater force, but not commercial or industrial advantages. It was able to forcefully impose on India what was now called the neo-liberal program of free-market, tariffs, etc. etc. Meanwhile England itself, which was a powerful state, raised high protectionist barriers to protect itself from superior Indian goods…textiles, ships, and others. There was massive state intervention in the economy, the United States later did the same thing – stole Indian technology. Over the next 200 years, that tyranny led to an impoverished, agricultural country, while England became a rich, industrial society. The mortality rate in India after 200 years of British rule was about the same as when they took over. There were railroads, but they were run from the outside – they were there for extraction of resources. Meanwhile, tens, if not hundreds of millions of people died in famines – the famines were horrendous. So that’s the history of the British in India. After India won its independence, it began a path of development, picked up again where it was two centuries ago. It’s true that while under the imperial system, some of the better features of Western society leaked through, but India had a rich literature and culture long before England came in. Basically it was a murderous, destructive, several centuries of history, which India then got out of. Then it began to develop where there were no more famines, and the infant mortality rate began to improve enormously. There are still a lot of problems, many traceable back to the English days. That’s the history of English imperialism.”

  • Dewi

    http://news.stv.tv/election-2011/242470-by-election-victory-a-major-breakthrough-for-snp/

    A pretty stunning by-election win for the SNP in Wick last week.

  • Dewi

    And Malcolm – I think your link is wrong?

  • The Curtice link is to:

    http://www.scotsman.com/holyroodelections/Analysis-John-Curtice.6749112.jp

    Don’t go overboard on that Wick poll. By all accounts, politicking is distinctly odd in the Land of the almost Midnight Sun.

    It was an SNP gain (and aren’t the trumpets out!) in a patch where “independent” can mean anything — there are three distinct “independent” groups on Highland Council. For at least one group (don’t ask me which) “independent” implies SNP-leaning (and this seat was a former Indy one): note, too, how the Indy transfers tended to SNP.

    The SNP is the opposition on Highland Council, and thereby the beneficiary of any local cuts: the resignation was a reaction to the cuts, anyway. Another of the Indy candidates this time round was a former Labour candidate, and seems to have alienated a chunk of Labour votes — and Labour were a very, very distant shout here, but were still up by 7-8% by the time of the final count. A third Independent was a SNP candidate last time round. The big cheer has to be for the Tories: 33 first preferences out of 2,091, and bottom of a heap which included an “independent independent” standing on a pro-drugs ticket.

    And we thought FST was complicated.

  • Alias

    So, Dewi, as much as I hate to draw attention to the gaff, how could it “be a first in the history of British decolonisation” when virtually all of India’s tea plantations were owned by British corporations post-decolonisation? You ignored the reality that control of wealth occurs through corporate entities rather than political entities. The key process is always to ensure that the foreign state’s corporations gain control of the resources, and repatriate the wealth to the foreign state.

  • Tom Gallagher

    The discussion has all too rapidly morphed into Higher Chomsky nonesense; in our post-modern times just the kind of thing SNP culture vultures like Mike Russell or Joan McAlpine will try to make compulsory on the Modern Studies curriculum given half a chance . At least, in de valera’s case he only tried to revive the beautiful but near-moribund original language of the island,
    Alex salmond & co await the FlannO’Brien. capable of satirising their efforts.

  • Tom Gallagher @ 3:38 pm:

    Flann was for a more optimistic age. The future’s darker now; but [e.g.] Christopher Brookmyre is making a fair fist of the contemporary social satire thing.

    When you’ve got John Arbuthnot, Sir David Lyndsay, and Thomas Carlyle at the head of a tradition which continues down to the likes of Armando Ianucci and Alistair Beaton, perhaps comparisons with Flann are otiose.

  • vanhelsing

    “It is in England that the largest body of Scottish separatists are now to be found and if Salmond can sufficiently infuriate these Little Englanders, maybe they will enable General Alex and his motley army to be the ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ who control the fate of Scotland in the decades to come.”

    – this is good Tom I agree with your arguement.

    On the subject of North Sea Oil – didn’t want to open up a Chomsky debate – was just making the point that [the SNP] will never get the oil 🙂 and Scotland PLC will never be able to afford to run itself…

  • Tom Gallagher

    I’m going to flee Scotland during the last ten days of the election campaign so i’ll track down an example of Christopher Brookmyre’s humour to see if i’m absorbed by it.

  • Tom Gallagher

    Vanhelsing,
    The British state is far less resolute than in past decades when even it had to allow the Icelanders the fish they claimed in their very generously defined territorial waters.

    there are conditions in which Scotland could potentially make a respectable attempt at running its own affairs. But as long as the SNP envisages Scotland as a kind of Greater islington with a seat at the United Nations, I don’t think the environment in which statehood will succeed will be created any time soon.

  • Dewi

    Alias – when you are free you can nationalise the companies. Like what Saudi has done with oil.

  • nconway

    For all your talk Tom have you seen the latest poll,personally I can see Scotland becoming like the Isle of Man first, being financially independent and giving a sum of money to Westminster for defence etc before it becomes completely independent
    http://www.newsnetscotland.com/scottish-politics/2050-independence-and-greater-powers-for-holyrood-neck-and-neck-in-opinion-poll.html

  • Eire32

    Excellent post mate, good read.

    “It is in England that the largest body of Scottish separatists are now to be found and if Salmond can sufficiently infuriate these Little Englanders”

    Good point, this should be his main plan of attack if he gets in again.

  • Tom Gallagher @ at 5:24 pm:

    Whence came the notion that there has to be (funny, ha-ha!) humour in satire? J. Swift (clerk-in-holy-orders of this parish — well, actually, 7 Hoey’s Court, back of the Castle, Dublin) thought otherwise; and he didn’t do too badly.

    There are severe laughs in Brookmyre; but only if you have a particular bent. Try the opening chapter in Brookmyre’s first Parlabane story (Quite Ugly One Morning</i): you'll either heave or be hooked.

  • Reader

    Dewi: Alias – when you are free you can nationalise the companies. Like what Saudi has done with oil.
    Wouldn’t Scotland need to leave the EU *and* put Scottish assets at risk to do that?

  • Tom Gallagher

    nconway
    The picture is even rosier for Alex and the SNP than I assumed!
    But I suspect that Mr salmond might be just as surprised as i am by this poll. In 2010 the plan was for a referendum bill to be unfurled on Burns day (jan ) and a refrendum to be held on St Andrew’s day (November).

    but despite a melodramatic build-up, he abandoned the whole scheme against the background of a run of polls showing weak backing for independence.

    Let’s see whether he throws away the scri[pt and offers the voters a full-throated case for independence. persoanally, i’ll be surprised if he does but I could find myself caught out.

  • Alias

    Dewi, how did that one work out for Mugabe? Once you surrender legal title, you won’t get it back. India didn’t nationalise the tea companies, and for good reason. Likewise Ireland had to buy its assets back from their legal owners. For example, 98% of the land was owned by British folks and just about all of its significant businesses, e.g. banks and drink factories.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, Ireland will also have to buy back its assets from its new colonial owners – the EU – since they how hold legal title to all that the banks hold legal title to. i.e. just about everything in the state.

  • Alias

    “It is in England that the largest body of Scottish separatists are now to be found and if Salmond can sufficiently infuriate these Little Englanders”

    I’m not convinced that using derogative references to those who properly believe in national independence such as “separatists” and “Little Englanders” will gain support for a bizarre (and failing) constitutional arrangement as the UK.

    Essentialy, the UK is 4 nations out of over 5000 nations in the world, so those 4 are by definition “separatists” and “Little Britishers”.

    It might have some relevance if global government or some broader supranational arrangement was being proposed but it isn’t. As best as I can see, it is the weaker members of the 4 nations who support the arrangement, mainly out of fear of independence but also out of a misguided sense of British nationalism.

  • Dewi

    Reader – is nationalising things illegal? Alias – independent countries have economic choices, colonies don’t.

  • Alias

    In theory, Dewi. You suggest that a country can simply nationalise its foreign-owned business post-colonisation and, ergo, this device by-passes the negative longterm affects of the transfer of a colonised countries assets from state ownership (by the foreign state) to foreign-owned corporations.

    If this device was so easy, why hasn’t it been used? What did South Africa nationalise, for example? Why didn’t Ireland use it to regain control of its corporations? Was it that these countries were simply ignorant of the means of releasing themselves from the clever legal means by which colonisers retain control of a country’s wealth post-colonisation or did they know something you don’t? So I ask you again, how did it work out for Mugabe?

  • SoapieSoutar

    “Support for an independent Scotland is at its lowest for years.”

    It doesn’t bode well when an article starts off with something that isn’t true.

    A poll yesterday showed the difference between independence and support for the Scotland Bill at:

    Independence: 39%

    Scotland Bill: 41%

    I’m surprised that wasn’t known about.

  • Were this to become a serious discussion, we could usefully start with Tom Nairn’s mid-70s polemic (and his quarter-century-on review). We could then assess where he got it aright (and, in my view, that would amount to a great deal) and why it didn’t quite happen.

    For the obvious example, and it’s strictly relevant here, why did the SNP become the bulwark of the Scottish establishment?

    I’d join with Gerry Hassan in noting, with curious regret, how the energetic debate of the ’70s and ’80s has petered out:

    There has been no equivalent of ‘The Red Paper on Scotland’ or the nationalist ‘The Radical Approach’ which we saw in the ferment of debate in the 1970s, or even in the 1980s with the ecumenical home rule journal, ‘Radical Scotland’.

    What Nairn characterised as the ‘neo-nationalism’ of the ‘thistle-patch’ has proved to be a rather sterile environment. The strains within the SNP are between Salmond’s natural (not so small-c) conservatism and what Hamish Macdonnell depicted as:

    … some SNP MSPs who are unhappy with this and would prefer their party to be an old-fashioned, left-wing, tax-and-spend organisation, a party with a clearly defined place on the left-right spectrum.

    The punch-line of Macdonell’s piece there, now three years gone, was that the SNP might actually come to embrace the insult of “tartan Tories”.

    We’re coming closer to that by the day.

  • Dewi

    It didn’t work out well for Mugabe..but Alias as you constantly point out sovereingty is economically important – how it’s used is tactical.

  • Reader

    Dewi: Reader – is nationalising things illegal?
    Not unless you force a sale for less than its market value. But if you buy an asset for its market value it’s difficult to make a pile of money out of it – unless you can manage it better than the sellers. Who will manage Scottish Oil Inc?
    Mind you – I would be interested to hear the SNP’s estimate of the future market value of North Sea revenue. Now you have let the cat out of the bag they will have a job deciding whether to talk up the value (for the voters) or talk the value down.

  • Tom Gallagher

    SoapieSoutar,
    My piece was written and submitted one day before the appearance of the poll showing a surge in pro-independence sentiment in Scotland.
    Actually, I’m unfazed by these findings: the disappearance of an effective opposition and the pro-SNP ‘boosterism of most of the Scottish print media creates the context in which a lot of people , when confronted with a polster will say ‘Yeah I’m certainly up for that’.

    The paradox is what I started the post with – the previously low backing for independence while the SNP and Salmond maintaining high approval ratings. That paradox may (or indeed may not) now be at an end. 5 May will provide some more clues.

  • Before total boredom sets in (unless one or other of you gets interesting), three points:

    1. Different pollsters, different strokes. Much of the assessment that the SNP is on a roll derives from surveys by less well-established pollsters. That latest poll, “proving” the SNP advance, comes from Panelbase, which is an on-line organisation to which anyone can sign up — and get paid for it, and with (as far as I can see) no previous political poll for direct comparison. Lest we forget: those extravagant Tory leads “measured” by Angus Reid before May 2010 and “featured” by “apolitical” Mike Smithson.

    2. As the Herald pertinently remarks,

    … there is a definite trend in Scottish politics ahead of May 5: Labour and the SNP, the big beasts of the Scottish Parliament, are significantly ahead of the other players, with Labour first in many polls, but the SNP drawing level in others. The Tories and the LibDems are significantly lower in the ratings, perhaps in part as a reflection of the austerity measures being rolled out by their UK colleagues in the Westminster Coalition. In short, the polls reflect what many commentators would intuitively guess to be the public mood.
    However, while Labour and the SNP jostle for top spot, the two other parties will argue that a Scotland-wide snapshot poll, even of the widely accepted minimum of 1000 voters, can never reflect local strengths, an argument no doubt endorsed by independent figures like Margo MacDonald on the Lothians list, or George Galloway in Glasgow.

    3. Before we all wave our knickers in the air for “independence”, I’d want to go back to what I tried to raise earlier. It’s Tom Nairn’s essential question: what kind of independence? Clearly Salmond’s cuddly global-capitalist brand (the authoritative view from his base at the … errr … Royal Bank of Scotland?) is significantly at variance with mine (and, I suspect, Dewi‘s).

  • Tom Gallagher

    Malcolm Redfellow,
    Thanks – you’ve put this particular poll in helpful perspective and your other remarks guard against the simplification which is the stock-in-trade now of so much of the Scottish media in its print and electronic forms.
    The last time I looked, the nationalist blogs were not crowing about this poll; maybe the party’s strategists fear allowing the debate to centre around the independence issue.
    Better by far to sedate the voters with various trinkets that will be snatched away later, by which time they will have sleepwalked into the fabled Nirvana.

  • Dewi

    Ok – to counter the boredom.

    1) “averse to warnings about the fate cronyism and cute ‘hoorism’ reserved for Ireland with the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.”

    Applying “cronyism” to the SNP as a comparison to the antics of Fianna Fail needs to be backed with some evidence. I have some none.

    2) “In 2010 the plan was for a referendum bill to be unfurled on Burns day (jan ) and a refrendum to be held on St Andrew’s day (November).
    but despite a melodramatic build-up, he abandoned the whole scheme against the background of a run of polls showing weak backing for independence.”

    The abandonment was due to a majority of MSPs stating quite categorically that they would vote against. Why waste everyone’s time?

    Malcolm – all you can do with by-elections is blasted win them…and when you win with 47% of first preferences that’s surely a pretty positive outcome…..

  • Dewi

    I have “some none”. – sorry I have seen none!

  • Tom Gallagher

    Cute hoorism – rushing through a planning application for Donald Trump’s golf and leisure resort in an area of natural beauty in Alex Salmond’s electoral stronghold .

    Surprise disappearance of pre-2007 proposals to ensure the public get a better deal from bus transport companies when Brian Souter, the owner of Stagecoach, wrote a fat cheque for the SNP as he has done in 2011.

    When I see the Countess Markievicz of the SNP, Joan McAlpine saluting Scotland’s business moguls for their long-term ‘patriotism’ and charitable instincts, the direction of travel is fairly evident.

    Re. withdrawing the devolution bill, it was evident from the word go that the majority was not there but huge amounts of cash were nevertheless piled into the ‘National Conversation’ andthe publicity machine was prepared for the great announceemnt, only for the whole thing to be suddenly mothballed.
    The decision was down to Alex salmond, no wider debate seems to have taken place , and the issue did not surface at the succeeding conference.

    But that’s evangelical nationalism for you.

  • Dewi

    “rushing through a planning application for Donald Trump’s golf and leisure resort in an area of natural beauty in Alex Salmond’s electoral stronghold”

    hmmm – almost five years of negotiations, nine planning applications and one public inquiry – rushed through??

    “Surprise disappearance of pre-2007 proposals to ensure the public get a better deal from bus transport companies when Brian Souter, the owner of Stagecoach, wrote a fat cheque for the SNP as he has done in 2011.”

    Matching indivudual donations in 201. Perhaps when Mr Souter says it’s about time the case for independence should have sufficient funding as the Unionist message he’s being sincere.

    On the referendum I’m sure you recall the confusion amongst Labour on policy for it…”Bring it On” indeed…As soon as Alex realised that the votes were not possible then he delayed the idea.

  • Alias

    “But that’s evangelical nationalism for you.”

    And that’s propaganda masquerading as academia for you.

  • Tom Gallagher

    Alias,
    Unlike Ireland, a debating culture is sorely lacking in Scotland, not least in academia. What there is in abundance is conformism and a desire to cling limpet-like to whoever is ahead; look at the celebrities tripping over themselves – from artists like jack Vettriano, novelists like Iain Banks and a brace of actors – to touch the hem of Alex’s garment.

    I suppose it is fine and dandy for British academics not only to criticise Zionism but to move heaven and earth to enginerr the destruction of Israel> But talking back to the quasi-regal Alex salmond; well that has to be lese-majeste.

  • Dewi

    Tom – you started off as quasi-neutral – now you have gone bonkers….Zionism? Where on earth did that come from?
    Lack of a debating culture? Kirsty Wark? your bloke Curtice? Asherson?

  • Tom Gallagher

    Dewi,
    ‘Bonkers’ to raise israel/Zionism and the loathing for both in British universities – well i rest my case.

    Hectoring Kirsty Wark on BBC, Neal ascherson retired years ago, the number-crunching John curtice. The high priests on the op ed pages for the Herald and Scotsman are (in no particular order): Joyce Macmillan, Gerry Hassan, Lesley Riddoch, Joan McAlpine, Harry Reid, Iain McWhirter, George Kerevan.
    on most Scottish-related.issues you couldnot find a sliver of a difference between them .
    it’s not that i’m jealous: for the past 7 years i’ve had a weekly column in the Romanian daily paper Romania Libera (www.romanialibera.ro), but i’d like to see some diversity of opinion as scotland perhaps approaches a defining fork in the road .
    Fat chance i fear.

  • Time to move on, I suggest.

  • Before this thread went doolally-tap, Dewi @ 12:41 pm wrote of the Wick 3 by-election:

    all you can do with by-elections is blasted win them…and when you win with 47% of first preferences that’s surely a pretty positive outcome…

    Which is unanswerable.

    So I went back to the figures and found that the SNP were 28.6% up at the expense of the various independents who were, hardly coincidentally, 29.2% down. Apart from that, the only shift was +6.1% for Labour. And that was my earlier point.

    However, one swallow and an early summer … and all that.

    For other psephological addicts, may I strongly recommend a regular fix at http://britainvotes.blogspot.com/ which — off-hand — I believe to be the brain-child of Professor Chris Rawlings at Plymouth. [I’m prepared for correction on that; but it’s still an excellent site.] Britain_votes has just run through the Welsh Assembly seats; and is currently embarking on Scotland. Worth, as Michelin says, the trip: it unfailingly saves me doing the maths.