Independence: Stick or Twist?


By instinct I am a nationalist and believe an independent Scotland would prosper. My conviction is borne out of my own experience of succeeding in business.

I left school at 15 (with no qualifications) and worked for others in various capacities as a steelworker, but it was not until I was blacklisted after a strike at Methil and faced the prospect of having to scramble for jobs in a much smaller market place that I took the plunge and set up my own engineering business.

It was only when I set up Kingdom Engineering, (with no money other than a few hundred borrowed from friends) that I realised my potential. Faced with a sink or swim choice I thrived and succeeded in a very competitive industry, against the odds.

My belief is that a country is no different to the individual and that when the chips are down and an independent Scotland is faced with challenges and difficulties, it will overcome and excel just as I did.

I believe independence will succeed despite the fact that devolution hasn’t been the success many of us hoped for when the vastly over-priced and late Holyrood opened to the strains of “Freedom come all ye.”

Sadly the promise in Hamish Henderson’s lyrics that our nations name would no longer be cursed by the victims of our joint imperialism was heartening, but the reality was that Scots are still fighting all over the globe in illegal wars determined in Westminster.

Such contradictions ensure that there is still a feeling of alienation between the people and government and the Holyrood parliament is still seen by many as a talking-shop with the real business being done at Westminster.

Similarly the early signs were that the Scottish Parliament would be open and accountable to the people, and the people’s representatives would not be like their greedy discredited Westminster cousins, grabbing every penny they could claim in expenses, but instead would be transparent and honest, reflecting the inherent fairness of Scots. Again, sadly we haven’t seen this happen.

Nor have we seen our elected representatives come from all the strands of a diverse society, able to act as individuals and not as a whipped flock of sheep. Again Westminster Light seems to be the order of the day.

The Scottish parliament’s decline into mediocrity has seen strong, outspoken and experienced characters who promised much, such as Margo MacDonald, Dennis Canavan, John McAllion and yes Tommy Sheridan, sidelined and replaced by selected nonentities; generic manufactured political apprentices who wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

The forces that ensure Holyrood politicians are simply a watered-down version of Westminster are also mirrored in the policies they pursue. Nothing too radical or likely to rock the boat with those potential voters used to decades of UK rule. Politicians trying to be all things to all men and in doing so, diluting the spirit that is the very essence of independence.

Despite the failure of devolved government I firmly believe that once we have independence there will be a new beginning. People who are presently apathetic and believe that “we can’t change things” will engage with the political process and bring about real change and a new dynamic to the Scottish political scene will take hold.

Once people realise that we are the sole drivers of our own destiny and there is no anonymous power in Whitehall guiding then, the right people and policies will emerge and evolve.

Why, you may ask when comfortably retired do I not settle for the status quo, but instead rail against perceived unfairness and injustice and write blogs such as this?

Because I care. Care when I see how, in my lifetime Scotland has gone from being a proud, industrious and prosperous, nation to become a basket case. A nation largely dependent on North Sea oil, or what little of that revenue eventually trickles down from London after the wars are paid for.

Looking back over my working life I am depressed by what I see. I started work as an engineering apprentice in 1960, a time when there was almost full-employment for school-leavers in Scotland.

I then went to sea with the Clan Line of Glasgow, sailing down the Clyde in a ship built in one of the many, busy shipyards that lined its banks. My ship part of a fleet owned by one of the biggest shipping companies in a British mercantile marine that was still a world force.

Then, walking the streets of foreign ports in Europe I enjoyed the purchasing power of a strong pound and laughed at the poorly surfaced roads and basic public facilities. Now travelling throughout Europe the laugh is on me as I see much better amenities and infrastructure than we have here.

This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. In 1972, I was one of many skilled tradesmen who left good jobs in the old, traditional engineering/construction industries for the new – building the Auk jacket at Methil – at the very forefront of the North Sea oil boom.

At our induction lecture we were told that we were lucky to be experiencing the beginnings of a bonanza, jobs for life. And to emphasise the point, a senior oil-company executive said that our children would inherit wealth that would surpass that of the small, fabulously wealthy, Persian Gulf states. Those Gulf States we read of, where kids drove Cadillacs and changed them when they were bored with the colour!

Our oil-man made Alec Salmond’s recent oil benefit estimate of £300,000 per head seem paltry by comparison.

A few years later in 1975 – with “cheap and cheerful” kit flooding into the North Sea from every corner of the globe— the workforce was told that due to lack of orders the yard may have to close.

We must be one of the few countries in the world to discover an abundance of wealth generating natural resources and became poorer.

Looking across the North Sea to Norway I see a country that was in a similar position to us when discovering oil, but which has stewarded her windfall wisely.

Norway hasn’t allowed most of her wealth to be siphoned off to support wars or nuclear weapons systems in an attempt to strut the world stage. Instead Norway has used her oil revenue to good effect building up a huge fund as a bulwark against any future downturn in prices. Norway has also, wherever possible, made sure that Norway, and not some far off financial centre controls her policies.

Norway also has openness in her judiciary that we in Scotland can only dream of. There all judges must declare all financial benefits outwith their jobs and also declare membership of the freemasons.Scotland must learn from this and move away from the old clique system where the same good old boys belonging to the Speculative Society of Edinburgh or the Masons run the show and appoint their chums into positions beyond their ability.

A Scottish meritocracy is not too much to ask for, in fact it would be demanded in an independent Scotland where the people have a tangible stake in their nation’s success.