It’s Only Words 149


Mike Russell has responded in a tweet that his book is a dialogue between the two authors, implying he did not subscribe to its views on the NHS. Unfortunately, having read the full book, this is demonstrably untrue.

It is certainly true that the Introduction states that not all the ideas are agreed by both the two authors. As the Introduction also notes (p.14), in some places these disagreements are noted in the text. But unfortunately, in the entire section on the NHS, indeed the entire section on privatisation, there is no sign of any disagreement between the authors and certainly there is NO dialogue. No counter-argument is given. In fact the entire text at this juncture is written in the first person plural. The book states:

We would encourage the private sector to compete with established NHS hospitals, clinics and other services. We would encourage NHS management and staff to buy out existing NHS facilities and services under favourable financial terms and join the private sector. We would require NHS facilities that remained in government ownership to be run at a profit.

Here the “We” used at the start of each of those three sentences can only mean the two authors, Dennis MacLeod and Michael Russell. It can mean nothing else in the context of the book. It is not a dialogue. Plainly Mike Russell signed up to these views. If he wishes to say he sincerely recants, I would accept that. But he cannot pretend he did not sign up to it.

I also reject the puerile idea that because the Labour Party criticised him for his views on the NHS, it is wrong for anybody in the SNP to criticise him. As for his outrage at being questioned in this way, this is what democracy looks like. We are in an election. Expect to be scrutinised. Actually, I am just starting.

In the contest for SNP President, you are allowed only 25 words for your electoral statement to voters. Yes, 25 words. Approximately half a tweet. Obviously intellectual debate is not being encouraged. There are no official hustings (though kudos to the SNP trade union group who are trying to organise one).

This is my best shot at 25 words so far:

2014 no gold standard. Biased BBC, the Vow breaking purdah.
Tories will never agree a referendum they know we will win.
We must take Independence.

Grateful for your suggestions.

In the interests of public knowledge I wish to publish, entirely unedited, some of the writings of another candidate for President, Mike Russell. As I showed, when I announced my candidacy I faced a storm of very unpleasant social media criticism from what I might term the Scottish media and political Establishment, which insofar as it was not purely abuse, centred on the “accusation” that I hold non-mainstream opinions. I am proud to affirm that I do indeed.

I therefore thought you ought to know the opinions of Mike Russell, the establishment’s candidate. There is no trick here. The below passage is complete and unedited from his book, Grasping the Thistle (Argyll Publishing 2006), by Dennis MacLeod and Michael Russell. It is jointly authored and the passage I quote is written specifically as “We”, indicating both authors agree (not true of the whole book, as is made clear in it, but plainly applying to this passage of “We” proposals on the NHS).

I am not attacking Michael Russell. I make no comment on his views on NHS Scotland, other than to say mine are very different. I merely publish his views as the large majority of SNP membership have come into politics since 2014 and may be unaware of them. I should say I had no idea Mike Russell held these opinions, and when first told a week ago, I did not believe it until I bought a copy of his book. He is of course perfectly entitled to his view, and an Independent Scotland will include people of all shades of political opinion. Indeed, he may have changed this opinion, perhaps at the first sight of his Scottish Ministerial limousine. While I shall not comment, you may wish to comment below on what you make of his opinion on the NHS. I encourage you to do so.


Take health first of all. We would encourage the private sector to compete with established NHS hospitals, clinics and other services. We would encourage NHS management and staff to buy out existing NHS facilities and services under favourable financial terms and join the private sector. We would require NHS facilities that remained in government ownership to be run at a profit however modest. Those that failed to maintain profitability over a reasonable time frame would be privatised. In each geographic area the government would solicit bids from the area’s medical facilities and GPs for the various services it required for its citizens. Fragmentation of services may well see the redundancy of large general hospitals and their replacement with privately run clinics specialising and competing in particular medical procedures and services, at least in the more populated areas.

One idea that is worth further consideration is the possibility that some provision may be supported by “Payment vouchers” made available free of charge to citizens in order that patients would receive treatment wherever they wished. Citizens who wished to make their own arrangements with medical service suppliers would be free to do so. Armed with their voucher they could shop for the fastest and best service and if they so wished add to the value of the voucher.

Now it is pretty well a certainty that Mike Russell will win the SNP Presidency. The voters at Conference are a very controlled base and these days the payroll vote is a very high percentage of conference votes. There is very little chance I shall get over 20% of the vote. I am standing to give those ordinary members who are free to do so, a chance to express their concern at lack of focus on getting Independence and particularly to protest at the acceptance that Westminster has a veto on Independence via the S30 mechanism. There are also deep concerns at the way the party is being run.

I am standing because this is what democracy looks like, as my friend Clark reminded me.

There is also a third candidate, Corri Wilson, a former MP. I spoke to her and she seems a very decent person.

Dennis MacLeod, Russell’s co-author, was a multi-millionaire Canadian mining magnate and highly respected SNP member and party donor. Mike Russell has a record of decades of impeccable service to the party. They were perfectly entitled to publish their personal opinion on the NHS and indeed they were entitled to argue for a ultra right economic policy, as their book does. These opinions of Russell and MacLeod do not represent SNP policy and are most unlikely ever to represent SNP policy. Just as I have published personal opinions which are not SNP policy nor likely to be.

My point is simply this. As people, including paid SNP staff, have pointed to my opinions and said they make me unfit to be SNP President, I am entitled to point to Mike Russell’s opinions so that people may make a fair comparison before they vote. You can characterise it as you wish, but it is a fairly plain left/right choice.

At the moment we are in the nomination phase which lasts until Friday 13th. Then voting takes place at the virtual conference.

Nomination phase: Any SNP member can nominate me. I need 100 nominations to stand. Go to and login with your membership number. Then go to My Account top right, then next menu Elections, then next menu Nominations. You will find you have to click the nominate button by my name several times until the “remove nomination” button appears. There have been glitches, so if you have already nominated me I would be grateful if you could check the “remove nomination” button still appears. I know people who have rejoined the party in order to nominate, and been able to do so immediately.

For the actual voting you need to be a conference delegate to the virtual conference. I understand almost all branches still have open slots, so contact your branch secretary and say you wish to be a delegate.

This is the first election of any kind I have ever entered where there is no mechanism at all for the candidate to verify nominations or ballots. You are simply given the results of the electronic polling, as passed through the hands of SNP HQ staff – including some of those directly involved trying to fit up Alex Salmond on false charges and send him to jail. I therefore will feel much more confident of avoiding shenanigans if I receive well over the minimum 100 nominations.

UPDATE Mike Russell has responded in the following tweet:


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149 thoughts on “It’s Only Words

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  • Ilya G Poimandres

    2014 no gold standard. Biased BBC. Vow breaking purdah.
    Tories will never agree – they know we will win.
    Take Independence by force of our will.

      • Drew Anderson

        I don’t understand why you, or anyone else, is trying to express as much as possible in 25.words. Keep it down to a single sentence, or even just a soundbite. Taking inspiration from your Hallowe’en blog, how about, for example: “Independence in two years”?

        Harking back to Indyref 1 & the Vow, then stating the obvious re Spaffer can all be dispensed with IMO. By treating 25 words as a target, you’ll end up with contrived, smart-assy nonsense that singularly fails to get your core message across.

  • Carl

    Look at the bright side, having a neoliberal berserker as president would strengthen any application to rejoin the EU.

  • Mist001

    My tu’ppence worth is that I don’t like the use of the word ‘Take’.

    I’d go with something rousing, such as ‘We must declare what is ours, we must declare Scottish independence!’

    Something along those lines.

  • Lorna Campbell

    I always liked Mike Russell, on hearing and reading him, but I did not vote for him as leader of the SNP, against Alex Salmond, because I did not think he would advance independence in the same way that Mr Salmond would, and I always suspected his heart was not in the left of the party. Although I also, on a personal level, again, having heard him speak, thought that John Swinney was a decent person, a conservative manager and talented, I did not believe he was an effective leader.

    I voted for the duo of Salmond-Sturgeon. Nicola Sturgeon was going to stand against Alex Salmond for the vacant leadership when John Swinney stepped down, but Mr Salmond persuaded her to join him in a partnership because: a) she would have lost; and b) her female perspective and talents would add to his masculine perspective and talents to make a formidable leadership. I think he was right – up to a point. It seems that he did not weigh up her ambition and very different approach to independence quite well enough.

    She could not have been much above thirty, if even that, when she was inclined to stand for the leadership, and, as we have witnessed in the cases of other thrusting young politicians like Blair and Cameron, self-belief are no match for hubris. I think the Nicola Sturgeon we are seeing now was always the Nicola Sturgeon who was part of that partnership: full of personal ambition; ‘progressive’ in what usually means ‘regressive’ for society at large; and utterly intransigent in her self-belief and belief, deep-seated and hidden for years, that independence is not the be-all and end-all of the SNP.

    The situation we are in, where independence is still on the back burner and no change on that score even imminent, and where pseudo ‘woke’ (in reality, regressive) policies are the main focus and thrust of the SNP parliamentary party and leadership, and a neoliberal economic approach (they all require power in 2021, but not independence, to implement) is entirely consistent with Nicola Sturgeon’s early years.

    Good luck, Craig Murray.

    • pasha

      Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not ‘cos some watery tart threw a sword at you!

  • Ian Watt

    2014 no gold standard. Biased BBC and billionaire-backed media.
    Tories will never agree a referendum they know we will win.
    We must take Independence.

    – breaking purdah is a nice line but I had to look up what purdah meant and I reckon a lot of other people might have to as well.

    • Mighty Drunken

      I agree, purdah is too obscure. In fact the entire first line, “2014 no gold standard. Biased BBC, the Vow breaking purdah.” could go as it doesn’t describe you or your ideas.

      In regard to Mr Russell opinion, I feel that they may align very well with the current political orthodoxy in the UK and Scotland. Politicians cannot get away with doing away with the NHS, but they have been privatising parts off for decades. I find it rather surprising that the idea of “free market everything” has become so prevalent. I suppose people like simple ideas and then apply them everywhere.

    • Prasad

      If you followed the 2014 Indyref that is good indication about how the MSM stifles the truth.

      I know next to nothing about party politics but i find it astonishing that anyone who followed the 2014 Indyref doesn’t know what ‘breaking purdah’ means. No criticism of you but just shows how we are being very successful brainwashed by corporate/state media.
      I suggest TalkingUpScotland for daily de-bugging.

      • Prasad

        What did you call the period ‘During an election campaign, [when] there are restrictions in place … to ensure the impartiality of the civil service,’ ‘preventing central and local government from making announcements about any new or controversial government initiatives … that could be seen to be advantageous to any candidates or parties in the forthcoming election’?

  • Reliably

    25 words? Who needs that many?

    Here you go: ‘Independence is ours. We must take it now.’

  • Mist001

    ‘The time has come.
    ‘We must declare what is ours.
    We must declare Scottish independence!’

  • Stuart MacKay

    Well, you don’t strike me as the sort of person that would go for something contemporary like “Get independence done!” or “Make Scotland Great Again” so how about something more traditional:

    It is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that I am standing, but for truth and freedom.

  • Mr Shigemitsu

    As can be seen by the massive amounts that Rishi Sunak has spent in his various attempts to mitigate the economic damage from the Covid pandemic, the UK Govt, with its own sovereign, fiat, free-floating currency, is never financially constrained – it can literally create as much currency as it wants. (And a post-independence Scotland, will be able to do the same, as long as it adopts its own currency and doesn’t peg it to another.)

    However, the UK (and post-indy Scottish) Govt is very much “resource-constrained”, which means that, if it wishes to avoid significant amounts of inflation, it can only spend into the economy what can be adequately absorbed by the real resources (labour, materials, energy, land, etc) that are currently available in the economy.

    Since the govt, and the economy, is resource-constrained, it is inexcusably immoral to distribute the very finite level of real resources in the health sector according to any priority other than medical need. Allocating finite national health resources according to depth of wallet, or access to generous private medical insurance schemes, is beyond evil – and is why the entire private health sector needs to be nationalised and its resources (medical personnel, hospital buildings, equipment etc) permanently absorbed into the NHS as a matter of urgency.

    Contrary to popular belief, “going private” does not relieve the NHS of a burden; it simply allows the wealthy or meritocratic middle class, to queue jump when their medical need may not be the greatest. In a world where real healthcare resources are always going to be finite, private health provision is an abomination, and cheats the poor out of their health and longevity.

    You are quite right to alert the people of Scotland to the appalling health-privatising proposals of this SNP candidate.

    • OzTones

      Please may I quote your comment in full elsewhere, Mr Shigemitsu, in support of the NHS? With my limited knowledge of national finance / economics I often struggle to explain the importance of nationalised public services. Your comment explains it concisely and (for me) comprehensibly. Thank you (whether you give your permission or not).

    • Lorna Campbell

      Mr Shigemitsu: couldn’t agree more, but I would take it further and add in most, if not all of the utilities, travel, public resources, etc., because they, too, impact on public health – physical and mental – in ways that we are beginning to understand. I do think there is a role for capitalist enterprise, but it is not in our public areas – or, at least, not in making vast profits from them at source. Private enterprise so often translates into state socialism for the private sector, and costs the public purse much more than state control ever did. The only proviso I would put on that, would be to factor in efficiency as a common aim that has to be answerable to the people via the state. I do not mean that resources should be cut to the bone, but that the people responsible for overseeing the efficient use of those resources should, themselves, be answerable to the people via the state, in a democratic, legal and fair fashion. I have always been of the opinion, too, that, if politicians had to answer for their venal or utterly stupid decisions, they would be far more careful. Too often, they slip off into the sunset with gold-plated pensions and straight into lucrative second-life sinecures.

    • Mr Shigemitsu

      It follows on from this analysis, that it is encumbent on every UK (+ post-indy Scots…etc.) Govt, given that it is not finance-constrained, to maximise the *capacity* of the real economy – crucially, to include the health sector – such that the maximum amount of public money can be spent into it, providing the highest possible standard of living and care for the population, without overheating and inflation becoming a risk.

      This means condemning and abandoning the austerity narrative for the vandalistic and destructive attack on the population that it has been, and instead making sure that the maximum amount of real resources are provided and utilised at any time.

      UK Govt splurging on cronies, and diverting funds and resources to failing, private sector vanity projects, is not optimal, however, and needs to stop.

  • John O'Dowd

    I knew Mike Russell was right-wing since his days at Edinburgh University. But I had forgotten just how right wing.

    Like so many of the Tartan Tory tendency in the SNP, he has kept these views under wraps in order to become electable in the former Labour heartlands of central Scotland. These views are anathema to most of the people who now vote SNP.

    In a way, if the SNP is being true to its founding and ostensible purpose, it doesn’t matter. We sink our ideological differences in the interests of our one common aim – Independence. After that we can dissolve the SNP as having fulfilled its one and only purpose.

    But there are now at the head of the SNP people who put power above independence. In hiding their right – and in some cases far-right views, the are obtaining that power under false pretences.

    I have already nominated you, Craig, for SNP President. I do not share some of your views, but I do agree with your very simple message that the SNP is about independence as soon as is practically possible.

    The fact that this will make the SNP redundant appears to be the paramount concern of the ruthless power-seekers who have captured the SNP under our noses – apparently in some cases by hiding their true views in books that few would read.

    You have done true members of the SNP a great service in highlighting these matters.

    Thank you.

    • SF

      I agree with most of your comment, but Argyll & Bute has never been a “Labour heartland”. Nor is it in the central belt.

      It has had Tory MPs, LibDem MPs (for ages), and an SNP MP; Labour has never been in contention. At Holyrood, it has had LibDem and SNP MSPs. Before becoming a constituency MSP, Mike Russell was a regional one in South of Scotland, which is also in general not a happy hunting ground for Labour, though they do get some representation.

      So I think Mike’s hiding of his views might be more about progressing through the party ranks than about charming the electorate. (cf Fergus Ewing, who hasn’t bothered to hide his, and has stalled at a lower level, aided only by his name, perhaps.)

      • John O'Dowd

        Sorry SF, didn’t make that clear. I wasn’t thinking about Russell’s personal campaigns in his various constituencies, but the overall input of the SNP right into party strategy these past few years.

        Under Salmond his thinking and that of the likes of others who were subject to expulsion for ‘left-wing’ thinking in the eighties was rehabilitated and brought about the party’s surge into Labour territory.
        Deep in its bowels were those biding their time – which they think has come. Hence Salmond’s disgusting defenestration- and an attempt at worse!

        We need to get back to what we are supposed to be about. INDEPENDENCE.

  • Father O'Blivion

    On the subject of candidates with questionable histories, I note that Michelle Thomson has been selected to represent Falkirk East next year.
    Ms. Thomson has my wholehearted sympathy for the fit-up job she suffered at the hands of Polis Scotland and the MSM. In that respect allowing her the opportunity to reclaim a salaried position as an MSP is commendable, but there are genuine concerns regarding her actions after losing the whip at Westminster.
    Thomson attended the annual conference of Mossad’s happy little assasins cult, Mogahedin-e Khalk in 2018. In the company of former LibDem MP and general perv Mike “handy” Hancock and Trump’s delusional lawyer, Rudy Giuliani no less.
    Don’t get me wrong, in Falkirk East, Harold Shipman would probably win in an SNP rosette, but how long before Thomson makes another disastrous faux pas?

    • craig Post author

      I know Michelle she’s a decent person, I believe. I shall ask her about it. Mike Hancock stood up and defended torture of terrorist suspects in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – a horrible man. But this idea of guilt by association with other people at a meeting is a right wing media tactic generally unjustified.

  • Goose

    Everyone here knows you’d make for a fine SNP President and were operating in a country with a rational, civilised media you’d be popular.

    But given the awful, immature unionist dominated media environment and shrill unionist political voices : Davidson, Rennie et al,.. all poised to distort and misrepresent your views. I wonder at the wisdom of even running? If you won, there’s a chance they’d simply make life hell for you, and far from generating a renewed laser-like focus on independence, it’d become all about what the media would claim are your ‘wacky conspiracy theories’. Grossly unfair, but denied a media platform you’d get the Corbyn treatment.

    • Goose

      We live in a UK where you can question things or be a leading politician. But you can’t do both.

  • Royd

    For what it’s worth, here’s my tuppenceworth –

    A free and independent Scotland
    A Scotland that is free to determine its future
    My vision, my purpose.

  • Cubby

    Vow breaking The Edinburgh Agreement not purdah.

    Yes it did break purdah but of far greater importance it broke the Edinburgh Agreement. Just another example of how Westminster cannot be trusted to honour any agreement that it suddenly decides it doesn’t suit them to do so. So why should we trust them to honour any future agreement re a referendum.

    It is a joke that only 25 words are permitted.

  • alexey

    Would it be fair to ask if the SNP is split between an independence backing, swashbuckling, break-free-of-the-chains-like-Hulk, free-trading neoliberal capitalist private interests SNP and an independence determined, fruit-of-their-labours, land-redistribution, share the surplus, socialist SNP?

    • Goose

      Like Starmer’s Blairite shadow cabinet, they’d no doubt say they’re a ‘broad church’. These narrowly drawn authoritarian cliques never promote those from outside who hold differing viewpoints, they’re all about domination and complete control, the ‘broad church’ lie is very fragile.

  • Squeeth

    Vote for me, I’ll grease the wheels of the looting industry, for thee and thee and thee….

  • Mike

    I am not scottish so not your target audience. I dont understand what it means. I would always prefer something positive sounding about the future, not complaining about past events.

  • Bob

    “To uphold the mandated sovereign will of the Scottish people given to this parliament and assert our right to decide our future without external influence.”

  • Stonky

    One, two, three, four, five
    Once I caught a fish a-lying
    Six, seven, eight, nine, ten
    Then I flushed it down the drain

    23 words. But it’s only really preaching to the converted.

  • Iain McGlade

    For your statement I’d just go with naming all the alphabet women and following it up with a simple Must Go

      • Christian Schmidt

        To be clear, I think the idea that gender is just a social construct is tosh, but I find the phrase ‘alphabet women’ highly problematic. Just like terf, it is usually used in a denigrating way, meant to be demeaning and insulting. I also found it noticeable that most of the abuse in this argument is targeted at women, and often by men, and wonder how much misogyny plays a part…

  • Christian Schmidt

    I’d gone for:

    “We’re limited to twenty-five words, which is silly. So here are my remaining eleven: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism Floccinaucinihilipilification Antidisestablishmentarianism supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Incomprehensibilities honorificabilitudinitatibus subdermatoglyphic Thyroparathyroidectomized Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia sesquipedalianism”

    Can anyone beat that? incidentally the last two are the fear of long words, and the tendency to use long words.

  • Republicofscotland

    I suggest.

    There was a young man from Dundee who got stung on the arse by a bee.

    No really, I’d say, A vote for me is a vote for Scottish independence, a vote for me, is a vote for Scotland, you know it makes sense.

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