Positively Independent

I am speaking at a conference in Glasgow on Sunday to promote Scottish Independence.

There are many reasons I support Scottish independence (and Welsh independence and Irish reunification). But among those reasons, and the one which I shall be expounding on Sunday, is that the United Kingdom as an entity is fundamentally tied to US military and neo-imperial interests. Neither Robin Cook nor Lib Dems in government have been able to separate the UK from aggressive foreign occupations, ruinous military expenditure, addiction to weapons of mass destruction and a contempt for international law.

The UK must be broken up. I want to see a Scotland that accepts it is a proud and equal nation among other nations, but has no desire to be more than equal, that plays an active part in the UN and in strengthening the framework of international law, does not possess WMDs and which will never attack another country unless it or an ally is physically attacked,

A Scotland like that is acheivable. A UK like that is not. Part of the reason may be that the UK was in truth in itself an imperial construct, with Scotland, Wales and Ireland the first conquered people. Their later absorption into the imperial culture (which still infects unionists) does not alter that truth.

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The 4.45pm Link

Conan the Librarian cheers me up a lot. His parodies of The Scotsman are much less rabid than the real thing.

I can best explain how bad the Scotsman now is, by saying that Andrew Neil was but a step in its decline. Those of us who thought it could only get better after Neil left, were proven astonishingly wrong. We should make more use of the phrase “self-hating Scots”.

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The 4.45pm Link

George Monbiot may be a self-confessed hard-hearted bastard, but along with David Leigh, Simon Jenkins and Marina Hyde he prevents the Guardian from being only a NuLab propaganda machine.

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Speech To Scottish Independence Convention

THE United Kingdom is not an entity that deserves to exist because it has lost any moral authority it had.

With these words Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador who exposed torture and murder in Uzbekistan, made his case for the break-up the United Kingdom at the Convention’s February plenary.

Tony Blair’s failure to consider the human cost of war has brought us to where we are today, he said, and the only way to right the situation is to split up the UK.

Someone kindly made note of my speech to the Scottish Independence Convention, which is helpful as I don’t use a text. You can find the gist of what I said here.

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Lord Goldsmith Was Never The Attorney General

…in Scotland.

One of the things that makes Scotland a nation is that it has its own legal system. This is not only quite separate from the English legal system but has a distinctly different origin, in Roman as opposed to Anglo-Saxon Law.

Lord Goldsmith was never Attorney General in Scotland. His legal writ carried not a milligram of weight in Scotland.

Scotland has a Lord Advocate.

It speaks volumes about the reality of the so-called Union, that the English Attorney General advises the Cabinet on whether to go to war, and in so doing he travels to Washington to consult the opinion of US legal authorities, but he does not travel to Edinburgh to consult the opinion of Scottish legal authorities.

As a matter of urgency, the Scottish parliament should now request the Lord Advocate to produce a review of Lord Goldsmith’s opinion on the Iraq War in the light of the Scottish understanding of international law. He should also produce views on the constitutional questions which may arise when the Scottish Lord Advocate takes a different view on the legality of war to the English Attorney General.

The Parliament should make plain that the notion that Scotland does not have a view on the legality of a war in which Scottish troops will be involved, but is bound to follow the English Attorney General, is not an acceptable position.


(I initially proposed that the Advocate General undertake this, as he is the officer who normally advises the UK government on Scots law. It has been suggested that the Lord Advocate would be more appropriate, and after consideration I agree, despite sharing the concerns about the wide range of the Lord Advocate’s powers. The key point stands that Goldsmith’s writ did not run in Scotland).

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Gie’s A Pint O’ Heavy

I have been reading Maggie Craig’s Bare Arsed Banditti, which is a highly revealling collection of personal stories from the ’45. I recommend it. Together with Fitzroy MacLean’s brilliant life of Charles III, it is now my favourite book on the Jacobites.

One thing which Craig brings out very well, with ample documentary evidence (though I deplore her lack of footnotes) is the extremely strong Scottish nationalist aspect of the rebellion and the strong nationalist sentiments expressed by many of the clan leaders and footsoldiers. This is an element which was not just ignored but deliberately falsified in history as it has been taught for generations – I still recall the scoffing at John Prebble. In fact an independent Scotland was almost certainly the desire of most of the Jacobite army, from the evidence available to us. Craig also demolishes the myth that there were as many Scots on the Hanoverian side as on the Stuart side at Culloden. I had known that was a myth, but just how overwhelmingly the Hanoverian army was English I had not fully taken on board.

The truly great Jacobite general, Lord George Murray, knew he was joining a disastrous enterprise, but felt he had to do it. His touching letter is often quoted:

My life, my fortune, my expectations, the happiness of my wife and children, are all at stake (and the chances are against me), and yet my duty to Scotland in which my Honor is too deeply to withdraw —– this matter of principles outweighs everything.

But historians have routinely overlooked the obvious – his duty was to Scotland, not to Britain. Maggie Craig does not quote this letter in her book, but the nationalist sentiment she records pervaded the army to the very top. It was of course true then as now that the ancestors of the New Labour numpties of Strathclyde gave not a fig for anything but cash, but the rebels were nationalist.

Scotland is not unusual. National independence is something which people have been prepared to give up their lives for around the world, for as long as the concept of a nation has existed (and the Declaration of Arbroath is arguably the first documentary assertion of a modern concept of nationality).

It is infinitely better to resove these matters without violence, but the desire for national freedom still ought to stir the blood. Which is why I am puzzled by Alex Salmond’s tactical decision to make independence as boring as possible, in the hope that nobody will be scared of it. It is of course true that independence should not necessitate physical border controls or economic barriers of any kind; it is quite extraordinary that unionists still talk as if independence would necessitate a return to mercantilism and a new effort to colonise Darien. But Salmond’s independence lite, where Scotland keeps the Queen, the pound, the British army to wage illegal wars, and doesn’t even have a proper diplomatic service, is just a further measure of devolution. Why should anybody work for a change on the grounds that nobody will notice it?

Forget independence lite, gie’s a pint of heavy. A republican Scotland where we can jail our own bankers.

Oh, and before anyone points out I was born in Norfolk, let me point out that Robert the Bruce was almost certainly born in Essex. I see no intellectual dilemma in myself being part English and part Scottish and wishing both to enjoy independent nationhood.

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Scottish Labour Shame Again

New Labour can always depend on the unswerving corrupt money-grabbing loyal support of its high-living Scottish numpty MPs. All of them voted against the Gurkhas. The ever excellent Subrosa Blonde is hosting a good video on Tom Harris, the trendy blogger who costs the taxpayer a fortune.

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Kosovan Independence

Kosovo is apparently about to declare its independence from Serbia, against resistance from Serbia. I have mixed feelings about Kosovo, which is run by a particularly nasty Albanian mafia, but then if the people want self-determination, they should get it.

There is a very important point here for Scotland. We shall see how the EU and UN react. Gordon Brown, his tame UK government lawyers and the New Labour hack academic establishment in Scotland continue to argue, against the last twenty years of international experience, that it would be impossible in international law for Scotland to claim independence unilaterally without the agreement of the UK authorities. Kosovo is about to show that is not the international legal position in 2008.

Given that the UK will recognise Kosovo, it is ludicrous for the same people to argue that for Scotland to do the same as Kosovo would be illegal.

Meanwhile the citizens of Berwick Upon Tweed allegedly wish to rejoin Scotland, according to an opinion poll. Of course they are Scottish. But we certainly shouldn’t formally expand any further South after that for a while, or we’ll get lumbered with Northern Rock.

I love railways, and travel often over the main East Coast line on that beautiful curve over the glistening Tweed. But it still amazes me that the Victorians drove the track right through the keep of Berwick Castle, one of the most historic sites in the UK.

There is an important point in all this. Bringing Berwick into Scotland would of course move the potential lateral maritime boundary between England and Scotland. You may recall that, as Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Maritime Section, I personally negotiated the UK’s current maritime boundaries with France, Denmark (the Faeroes) and Ireland. I calculate that Berwick would bring an independent Scotland about 1360 square miles of hydrocarbon rich seabed, when the oil price is making marginal and residual production increasingly attractive. So this is less frivolous than it sounds.

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John Milligan – Another Dodgy Donor


The News of the World has the dirt on another dodgy Labour donor, John Milligan, who has made a very good return on his Labour donations from planning applications made possible by New Labour when they ran the Scottish Executive.

As readers of this blog know, Milligan got more rewards for his Labour donations, including the Chairmanship of the court of Dundee University, where I am Rector. Milligan, together with Sir Alan Langlands, tried to use the University blatantly to influence the election in the marginal Dundee West constituency. Had they succeeded, Labour not the SNP would now be in office in Holyrood.

This was, of course, not the first prestigious post that Milligan had got from New Labour. Here is an appointment of Milligan by that well known criminal and liar Wendy Alexander:

It is perhaps not the most obvious of the problems we face, but there is a very real danger to the whole philosophy and basis of higher education, from having it under the increasing control of philistine Nulab control freaks. Please have a look at my recent Rectorial Installation address:

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Thank You, Gordon


Is Gordon Brown a secret supporter of Scottish independence, or just crassly concentrated on getting votes in South Eastern England? Recently he has been at pains to promote the idea that he, not David Cameron, is the true heir to Maggie Thatcher. He has been assiduously putting Tories into key jobs. And now this wonderful picture.

Thank you very, very much Gordon. You are doing infinitely more to advance the cause of Scottish independence than 500 of me ever could.

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I had to do some serious journalism tonight, but took a break to watch the France-Scotland game. Now I am going to have to wait until tomorrow when I sober up. Tomorrow may not be long enough.

21 points from 9 games, including beating France home and away, is an astonishing result for a Scotland team widely regarded as largely talent-free, and drawn in an apparently impossible group including France, Italy and Ukraine. Only seven teams have ever won the World Cup, and to face two of them in a European Championship qualifying group is ridiculous.

I grew up in an era of Scotland teams gloriously endowed with talent. In 1974 Scotland went to the World Cup with the best team in the world. I googled to try and find a squad list, but I couldn’t discover one. Amazingly the Wikipedia entry for Scotland’s football team doesn’t give 1974 a mention.

So I have to try and remember the squad, the backbone of which – David Harvey, Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer, Joe Jordan – came from Don Revie’s Leeds United team. Scotland were so outrageously talented that Jimmy Johnstone didn’t get off the bench, and another truly great winger, Eddie Grey, wasn’t even taken. Any team that can put Kenny Dalglish and Denis Law up front was something to marvel at. For me the team was best exemplified by the full-backs, Sandy Jardine and Danny MacGrain, the two most talented players in that position I have ever seen paired for any team anywhere, who helped invent the modern wing-back concept. And what a majestic player Davie Hay was.

That Scotland became the first team in the history of the World Cup to be undefeated yet not win it. They outplayed Brazil in a 0-0 draw. I have looked down the barrels of guns more than once (and I mean that literally, not as sportng hyperbole), but the longest half second of my life was when the ball bobbled agonisingly just past the post, after Billy Bremner stabbed at it with his left foot when a corner, from Willie Morgan I think, whipped through the crowded six yard box (Jordan and Holton were a crowd in themselves) and suddenly flashed in upon him. I remember his forearms around his ears in agony when he realised what he had done. And I recall the hopeless long shot, bobbling gently, that the Zaire goalkeeper let through his legs to knock Scotland out on goal difference.

Tactical naivety was part of the problem. Why on earth didn’t we unleash Willie Morgan and Jimmy Johnstone to run at Zaire? Over-confidence, perhaps. Lorimer was a wonderful player, but we developed an over-reliance on his pile-driving free kicks.

Scotland now have probably not a single player, other than Craig Gordon, who would have even been considered for the 1974 squad. The outrageous talent has peculiarly dried up, despite McFadden’s glorious strike. But we have a very tough-minded management, a team spirit untroubled by preening superstars, and that gallus quality which works better in an underdog than when we were fancied.

Excuse me, I have to pour another whisky…

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Scottish Independence

Alex Salmond has endeavoured to launch a “National conversation” on Independence, with a White Paper leading to a referendum if he can get the Scottish parliament to legislate for one. New Labour has predictably responded that all this democracy is “A waste of money”, while presumably the ’50 billion they have squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan is money well spent.

I hope to contribute to the conversation myself by the publication of my next book. It is called Influence Not Power – Foreign Policy For An Independent Scotland, and will be published by Birlinn/Polygon in late Autumn. I will be finishing it over the next fortnight.

I strongly favour Independence for two basic reasons.

Firstly, Thatcherite economic and social policies were anathema to the Scottish people and convinced them they needed more control of domestic legislation, leading to the devolution settlement. Blairite foreign and defence policy – Iraq and Afghanistan, Zionism, Bush poodle, the hideous waste of Trident – is also anathema to the Scottish people and should lead to the realisation that we need our own foreign and defence policy as well.

Secondly, as a diplomat I worked beside excellent and effective Irish, Portuguese, Swedish, Slovenian, Slovakian, Danish, Norwegian and other diplomats. They were protecting their countries’ interests and playing a full and constructive role – often much more so than the UK – in mutually beneficial international cooperation. What is wrong with us Scots that we think we can’t handle the responsibilities and opportunities of Independence, if they can?

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The Location of the Holy Grail

I am really not that bothered about the Holy Grail. If my next door neighbour Rafa had irrefutable genealogical evidence, backed by DNA testing, that he was a direct descendant of Jesus I would say “So what”? Actually if Jesus did have children, there is a good chance he has many thousands of descendants wandering around. If someone could produce a drinking vessel he used, I would think that was a great historical artifact, but I wouldn’t be inclined to use it to cure my varicose veins.

So I neither know nor care much what the Holy Grail is, but I do know where it is, and it is in Scotland. For those feverishly studying the masonry at Rosslyn Chapel, you are less than an hour’s walk away. The Holy Grail is in Shillinghill in Midlothian, formerly known as Temple and before that as Balantrodoch, with numerous variant spellings. Dan Brown addicts will find the clues on the gravestones a particularly thrilling place to start.

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Blair is no Democrat

Blair’s profound anti-democratic tendencies are no secret, particularly given his increasingly open campaign to overturn centuries of our legal tradition and profoundly tilt the legal system against the accused. But a small exchange in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, between Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister, and Annabel Goldie, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, illustrated just how undemocratic Blair’s instincts are.

Since Alex Salmond became Scottish First Minister – over two weeks ago – Tony Blair has not been in touch with him to congratulate him on his victory or his appointment, or to discuss Scotland.

This shows a profound contempt, not just for the SNP, but for Scotland and the Scottish Parliament. More than this, it shows a profound contempt for democracy. Blair is only in favour of it when it gives the “right” result – ie the one he wants. That has been evident in Iran and Palestine. It is now evident in Scotland.

Blair and Brown are also showing just how unpleasant New Labour in Scotland have become. They still refuse to acknowledge that they lost Scotland after fifty years of dominance. Blair and Brown’s failure to congratulate Alex Salmond on his victory is a denial of all the politenesses and decencies that are necessary to the smooth running of a democracy, and which are understood by democratic politicians everywhere. They are showing both their nastiness and their pettiness.

In contrast the Conservatives – including David Cameron and Annabel Goldie – have behaved well and graciously.

It should not be forgotten that key to the SNP’s vcitory was their profound opposition to the War in Iraq and to Trident nuclear missiles, and their replacement. The SNP showed what happens when a genuine choice on these issues is given to voters. That is a huge threat to the conservative establishment in the UK, and explains Blair’s arrogant hostility.

That can also be seen from the reaction of the other parties to the SNP’s new ascendancy, both nationally and in local councils. One of the worst examples is in Dundee, where an unholy alliance of all the conservative parties – New Labour, Liberal and Conservative – has formed an administration to keep out the largest party, the SNP, and incidentally to keep in power the people who have run for years one of Scotland’s most notoriously corrupt local administrations.

In the short term, it makes me puke. In the long term, this is not harmful. It will clarify that Scotland has only two real choices – Independence, or the conservative establishment, whatever they call themselves.

The attitude of the Lib Dems in all this is particularly appalling. Under the uninspiring leadership of Nicol Stephen – a man with all the charisma of a tailor’s dummy – they lost ground in the election. They then refused to enter into a coalition with the SNP.

The difficulty with this is that, if you believe in Proportional Representation, which I do, then that places a duty upon the middling parties to act responsibly in politics and help to form an administration. Otherwise the system just doesn’t work. Stephen had been very happy indeed with his coalition with New Labour, with whom he got on famously, having the same attitude with them on – well, everything. Stephen looks and acts exactly like what he is, a middle level management consultant with Deloitte Touche. Nobody can doubt that, had New Labour been the largest party, the Lib Dems would have re-entered coalition with NuLab with alacrity.

Instead, Stephen said they could not work with the SNP because of the SNP insistence on a referendum on Independence. Not Independence itself, just a referendum on it. Something to which most democrats would feel the Scottish people are entitled (opinion polls show consistently that a large majority of Scots want a referendum on Independence, but would vote against Independence). To make Stephen’s position still more ludicrous, the SNP were offering a three question referendum – the status quo, more powers for the Scottish Parliament or Independence. The middle option is the one which Stephen’s party pretends to support, and which all opinion polls show would actually win the proposed referendum by a mile.

Nicol Stephen’s real motive was simple; he is a deeply conservative supporter of the Establishment. He announced that “The Scottish Liberal Democrats are a Unionist Party, and the Scottish Parliament has a clear Unionist majority.”

I was brought up in the British Liberal tradition. If you are not from that tradition, it is difficult to explain to you how astonishing that statement is. Ever since Gladstone’s struggle for Irish Home Rule – which cost him two of his four premierships – there has been a profound antipathy between Liberalism and Unionism. Chamberlain led the Unionists out of the Liberal party and into the Conservative Party, which became the Conservative and Unionist Party. Gladstone’s successor Rosebery in many ways kick-started modern political Scottish nationalism.

Official Lib Dem policy is for a highly devolved Federal United Kingdom and a very strong, arguably Federal Europe. In this scenario the devolution of powers down from Westminster and the remove of powers up to Brussels leaves Westminster largely to wither away. But there is no shortage of Scottish Liberal Democrats who would go further and would wish one day to see Scotland as an acknowledged nation with its own seat on the EU Council and in the UN.

The one thing the Lib Dem position cannot be described as is Unionist. Nicol Stephen’s claim to be leading a Unionist Party is as shocking, to anyone with any feel for our political history, as if David Cameron claimed the Conservatives to be a Communist Party. Thatcher and Paisley are in the Unionist tradition, and proud to proclaim it. Liberals are not.

Sadly, of course, the Lib Dems at the UK level are also under deeply conservative leadership. I am worried about the ageism that surrounds discussion of Menzies Campbell. There are plenty of highly dynamic and effective sixty year olds. Mogadon Ming was a boring second rater when he was forty. Age has nothing to do with it.

To return to Blair, as we talk of his legacy, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are always high on the list of his achievements. This is ludicrous. They were key policies of John Smith which he inherited and could not ditch because of the powerful Celtic lobby in his party. Robin Cook and Donald Dewar held him to it. In fact he was always deeply hostile, and his real attitude was revealed in his attempt to impose a leader on the Welsh and keep out Rhoddri Morgan, and on his attitude to Alex Salmond now. Just as he stymied reform of the House of Lords by his profound belief it should be appointed (by him) and not elected.

Tony Blair is no democrat.

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