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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  • Republicofscotland

    “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,”

    Trump is lying when he says the vote was rigged, you on the other hand Craig, know fine well the vote is rigged even before it begins.

    • g m

      The election of the office bearers is the important part of the conference this year, I’ve not checked the resolutions yet right enough but don’t expect much there of any real importance but I paid my 30quid in good faith and expect those elected reflect votes cast.

      • Ian

        Lol, alt right BS editing. He is saying the opposite of what you think, and what you want people to believe. #trump loser fail.

  • ewan

    How about: “When it comes to Scottish Independence, there are those that wear masks and those who do not.
    Show your face, raise your voice fi’ freedom.”

    And after a rendition of ‘You’ll never walk alone ‘, in case Scotland joins the EU after

    • John McFadden

      It would be a huge own goal to elect an snp president who advocated such an extreme and regressive demolition of a publicly funded and owned NHS. It repellently rejects the the largely social democratic consensus in party policy and members views and would be an open sore targeted not just by labour but even the hypocritical tories would relish the opportunity to undermine the accepted snp policy on the NHS.

  • g m

    ha ha, Cmon now Craig, running a wee hatchet job on Mike Russell your opponent because of something he wrote a couple of decades ago?

    I nominated you last weekend btw and would like you to win and tilt things in our direction a bit I don’t think Mike Russell is part of the problem.

    • Greg Park

      Yeah, what does it matter if he wants to get rid of the NHS so much he writes a book about it?

  • Greg Park

    Scotland is in poir shape if you are considered a more dangerous figure than this gentleman. Not even Ayn Rand nuts like Farage say stuff like this out loud anymore.

    • g m

      What’s that got to do with my comment? I very much doubt that Craig Murray believes that Mike Russell would promote the privatisation of the NHS today. It was brought up for another purpose.

      • g m

        ..and another thing. I’ll be at that conference having paid my 30 quid and I’ll be voting for Craig Murray for president having nominated him already. I’ll be voting for every candidate that to my knowledge ( I do not know them all by any means) will promote the aims stated aims of the Scottish national party before anything and everything else – Scottish Independence and the furtherance of all Scottish interests.

        • craig Post author

          Up to a point, g m and I am very grateful for your support. Of course the purpose of my post is to tell those in glass houses to stop throwing stones at me. BUT those really are very, very right wing views on the NHS – I don’t think even any senior Tories have ever published anything quite that rabidly right wing about the NHS. And while I accept that Mike Russell does not advocate such views now he is bound by Scottish cabinet responsibility, he was 53 when he published that, and is now 67. It would be unusual for anyone to undergo a really radical change in their political thinking between the ages of 53 and 67. I suspect he is still just as right wing at base. I expect he would prefer to call it libertarian.

          • Indywaspi

            I’ve only met him once but got the impression he was right wing straight away. I’ve nominated and will vote for you Craig. Good Luck.

          • Goose

            14 years ago…hmm, that places us under New Labour(1997-2010) and its NHS marketisation drive. Those reforms laid the foundations for and were cited in justification of Andrew Lansley’s controversial reforms in the Coalition Government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012.

  • Dave

    The meaning of the first line is not clear and I’d scrap it or rework it completely.

    25 words is not a lot, but Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite (or Get Brexit Done) is even less.

    Some don’t like the word “take”: I’d emphasis it – “TAKE”. It’s what sets you apart from the gravy boat politicians.

    If you want to stand on a ‘left’ wing ticket “scrap Trident” and something akin to health before profit are possibilities. e.g.

    “The Tories will never give us a referendum they will lose…
    We must TAKE Independence, scrap Trident and put health before profit!
    Awake Scotland, awake!”

  • Coldish

    By using all 25 words you are playing by their rules. I’d make it snappier, say “Independence is ours to take, not Westminster’s to give! Vote Murray!”

    • Tatyana

      I’m not Scottish, but the slogan appeals to me! I’d vote. Clear, simple, emotional, short, easy to remember and recite, contains the idea and even some circumstances reminding of … Well, appealing and calling for immediate action.

      To reach broader audience, I’d replace ‘take’ with something less active.

        • Tatyana

          yes, maybe, I’m not sure because English is not native but learned language for me. I only can feel basic emotions behind the words.
          ‘ours to choose, not Westministr’s to grant’ – very good, I really like it. But, in the whole it loses urging power, looks more like a piece of philosophy, statement. People would see it and think to themselves ‘okay, so?’

    • Andrew Ingram

      Very good. Plenty of words for the sovereignty of the Scottish people or something…..

  • PhilM

    Here is my suggestion for you Craig…

    “I am the God to deliver independence. Come unto me and make known your discipleship. Free bread and circuses. That Murrells a wrong’un.
    Cheers Craig

  • Margaret

    Leave off the first 2 bits. They seem quite cryptic. The 3rd and 4th, on the other hand, say it all.

  • pasha

    Here’s my contribution, for what it’s worth.

    Westminster will never agree to another referendum. They know we will win.
    Enough evasions! No more lies!
    Independence must be seized!
    Independence now!

    Melodramatic perhaps but this is politics we’re talking about, not the school debating society.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    My advice to you Mr Murray is to start with:


    Then come up with ten adjectives to describe you as a person, as a diplomat, as a future President.

    Then say: Craig Murray: actions, not just words.

    That would be 24 words. 25 if you include your middle name.

  • Johny Conspiranoid

    Perhaps MacLeod and Russell would like their book’s contents to remain unknown to SNP members. What’s a word that means that?

  • N_

    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.

    If “going independent” reduces a desire for achieving stuff in the future to a procedure (namely becoming independent, which might not achieve what’s desired but who cares), then this goes further down the same path by reducing the procedure to a procedure for a procedure (“taking” independence).

    “Don’t bother about holding a referendum” will only win support from nutcases.

    “For a republic, a constitution, and military neutrality” might win some support from members capable of cogitating about what kind of social change they want (assuming mentioning social change isn’t anathema for them, a colonialist conspiracy to distract from racial destiny).

    Alternatively, Edinburgh’s Castle Rock could be twinned with a famous beer hall in Munich, or better still with Mount Masada.

  • Mistercorzi

    Here’s your 25 words Craig:

    “I Swear To Tell The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But The Truth so let me help the SNP to win Independence for Scotland”

  • Carrots

    Hyphenated-words-count-as-one-so-all-this-is-my-first! Put-it-in-your-word-processor-and-do-a-word-count-and-you’ll-see! For-my-third-word-i’ll-just-suggest-a-link-to-your-site-be-included.

  • Contrary

    Craig, that must be the most rubbish 25 words you have ever written – how could you hope to ever win anything with that? Far too negative; it doesn’t flow; no idea what you stand for at the end of it – did you think breaking purdah was a grand idea?! Far too many small words used as well – that’s not making the best use of the 25-word limit. It’s not a limit on characters after all.

    Unfortunately I’m also rubbish at slogans. I’ll give it a go though (taking a guess at what you mean in yours):


    The independence gold standard will be our rights upheld; democracy prevailing; Keeping fairness, legality, central to strategy; preventing purdah-breaking vows; media bias; illegality by Westminster.


    Well, I kind of had to count purdah-breaking as one word; not sure of the rules here. Oh aye, and better use of punctuation is a must. I could have missed out ‘will be’ in the first line and used a colon after ‘standard’…. So we could have:


    The new independence gold standard: our rights upheld, democracy prevailing, keeping fairness, legality, central to strategy. Preventing purdah-breaking vows; media bias; unlawfulness by Westminster.


    Obviously, we all know that ‘legality’ is a loose term as applied to constitutional matters.

    Using words like ‘you’ and ‘our’ are essential for keeping your audience included too.

    Best of luck Craig – you never know what way the wind might blow on Friday the 13th eh.

  • Cubby

    Craig, you are attacking Russell – why deny it. Nothing wrong with that. You want to do well in the election and you have found a weakness to highlight – nothing wrong in that – it is not a personal attack – it is on his political views. That extract you publish could have come direct from Thatcher. I always found Russell to be a very good performer on TV but to be honest I am now suspicious of many in the leadership of the SNP – how many actually want independence?

    It crossed my mind to join the SNP to vote for you but not for very long. I hope you do well in the election but I do not think it will change much in the SNP if you do well. It looks like certain people will need to be crowbarred out of the SNP because they have no shame. If they did they would have left some time ago.

    • Cubby

      “Expect to be scrutinised. Actually I’m just starting.”

      Now that’s more like it Craig. As you say, if Russell just said it was a long time ago and I have changed my opinion then fine. But to bring the Labour Party in to it is – well just out of order.

  • Leif Sachs

    The SNP as a broad church, based on a single issue that then becomes merely symbolic, is untenable in the long run. The party currently has (at least) two faces. One as a means to achieve Scottish independence (which I support). The other as a means of running a devolutioned (but not independent) Scotland as a de facto one party state, with a blurry set of policies that will prove to be increasingly removed from those traditionally supported by the electorate. I’m guessing the Scots voted for the former SNP with enthusiasm, but then got the latter. Hopefully they will quickly wake up to the bait and switch performed on them.

  • TheBAG

    I am allowed 25 words, I need only sixteen.
    We must take back our independence.
    We shall take back our independence.
    Nemo me impune lacessit.

  • DiggerUK

    “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.”

    * The reference to a gold standard is too cryptic for me to know what you mean. I suspect it could be a bit of a mystery to anybody under 24 in the SNP as well.
    * “Biased BBC” tell voters something they don’t know, not what they do know.
    * “the Vow breaking purdah” again, too cryptic for me. But if you’re convinced your voters will comprehend, go with it.
    * Why do you think only the Tories are against independence? Most of the SNP at Westminster are against independence as well.
    * “We must take Independence” ok, you got one workable sound bite, run with the précis…_

    • Tatyana

      The same with me. If I saw such a slogan, I’d think the author is too complicated a narrator, caring more of self-expression and speech decoration, than of his audience. There are standard words, we expect to see it in short slogans, that’s how we know the author cares of their idea being well delivered to the people. That’s how we understand the author speaks about the most common necessity, common, amongst any strata. Clear simple words, understandible by any class, education, background.

      • DiggerUK

        Craigs miserable piece oozes the courage of a Jelly Baby, nobody will vote for a snowflake in a kilt. He should take a leaf out of Putins vote for me script.

        Here is my vote for me pitch:-

        “Scotland is ours, independence is our birthright.
        Now is the time for our independence, get Westminster out of Scotland”…_

        • Tatyana

          I’m not that radical as ‘get Westminster out’ – that’s another step, maybe ‘get’ or maybe ‘not’ it needs further consideration, (psychological and simply logical).

          I’d take the most immediate goal for the slogan. Independence seems anticipated by many, I suggest focusing on it. Less radicalism, more good-will, positive change, assurance of being on the right side, no violence, just achieving what is yours by law.

  • Leftworks

    How about thirteen words (with apologies to Irvine Welsh):

    “Westminster n Boris the Cloon kin git tae fuck. Scotland fir the Scottish!”

    • Iain Stewart

      I think you should be apologising to Pegida or AfD for pinching their xenophobic rally cry.

  • Faux Pas

    Did I read correctly in an earlier comment that you need to pay £30 to be able to enter and vote?

    Probably not. My verbal reasoning doesn’t confirm it, but if so, I think I’d say something along the lines of:

    £30 to vote? 25 words to win that vote? Well that’s all kinds of wrong right there. I’ll put that right, but independence first.

    If you can shave a word off and repeat ‘independence first’ all the better. It can be used to reignite the focus in the party and the voter which should have been the party’s unwavering focus all along. The clue is in the title.

    The £30 thing is likely not true though. I can’t believe it would be, but I’m just passing by and that is what sprang to mind.

    All the best

  • doug scorgie

    Craig. How about something like this:

    If selected I promise to pro-actively promote Scottish independence, swear allegiance to the people of Scotland, tell the truth and hold power to account..

  • Kangaroo

    “No fascist New World Order. Fight not for glory, honours or riches but freedom alone which an honest person surrenders only by death.”

    There you go 25 words exactly.

  • Ian

    That first line is terrible. it is so gnomic I had to read it several times to try and disentangle what on earth you are on about. Keep it simple, not like a cryptic crossword clue.

  • M.J.

    If I were living in Scotland and had to choose between a pro-independence activist (Craig) and someone like Mike Russell who is apparently in favour of privatising the NHS, the latter which to me is anathema, that would be a tough choice. It would be a bit like Boris vs Jeremy Corbyn. I’m glad I didn’t vote for either!
    Is there any candidate who is something like the Lib Dems?

  • Giyane

    The views expressed in the book are kinda Brownite Scottish , 2006 Labour, corporate speak, conveying a PR message that the authors are progressive modern practical and sensible left wingers.

    For comparable meaningless PR speak in 2020 look no further than Johnson’s simplistic expressions of reliance on market forces. Easy to remember and well worn soundbites of Thatcher speak.

    Of course Mike Russell is irritated by the regurgitation of meaningless waffle he concocted with a friend who better understood how to concoct corporate gobbldygook. Since everybody hates this meaningless tripe and it looks awful when served cold they’ve limited it to 25 words of useless soundbite.

    If I were to wear the flares I first got married in in 1978, apart from the fact they wouldn’t fit, they wouldn’t look nice. imho, all politics is an I sultan to human intelligence, not just this piece of drivel from the dregs of 2006.

  • Tatyana

    What about:

    I stand here today to work on making Scotland an independent state. I believe that together we can achieve it sooner. Join me, vote Murray.

  • intp1

    I don’t really have a dog in this fight but my 2c
    KISS, Make sound bites/slogans that pop, not high brow, Scotland irrelevant, what aboutery

    2014 no gold standard.
    -I own Gold but I don’t understand this and what does it have to do with Scotland. 2014? If you want to talk about currency then “Scottish control of the Scottish Pound” if that is what you believe.
    Biased BBC, the Vow breaking purdah.
    – You have to think too hard to connect this to the SNP. What are you suggesting? that policy should reform the BBC? Which vow and I had to look up “Purdah” and when I did, I still didn’t get it. (And I was educated in Edinburgh)
    Start with the second two statements and relegate the first line to the bin for me.
    Finish with a Slogan.

    The Electoral Statement is a highly condensed job application and a career consultant once told me, Look at the job description and strip out of your CV ALL that doesn’t speak to the requirements.

  • nevermind

    Thistles are Scotland, for Independence, Now. For a sustainable future, global cooperation for our children’s children to survive, and, I repeat, for Scotlands total Independence. NOW!

    I make that 25. Good luck

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