This piece first appeared in THE SCOTTISH REVIEW WHICH EVERYONE SHOULD READ
by Ian Hamilton QC
I made my vote count. I withheld it. I have always voted for independence. When there was no candidate I spoiled my paper.
It is clear that independence is upon us. The SNP should now define it. Once it meant being another Albania. When I first joined the SNP in 1942 its motto was Scotland Free and Neutral. There was a war on which I was soon to join. Now independence means something different.
Firstly it means we renegotiate the union with our neighbours. We have too many interests in common not to share them. The SNP should tell us what things are to be shared.
No one in Scotland wants to share England’s foreign policy. They think they’re still an imperial power. They want aircraft carriers even if they don’t have aeroplanes. They want nuclear submarines even if there’s no nuclear threat. We don’t want these things. (We don’t mind being paid to build their useless junk.) We must join NATO and the UN. These two bodies are our great hope for the future of our species.
Likewise we must join the European Union. The deal England made on behalf of the UK was a betrayal of Scotland’s interests, particularly the fishing industry. What terms does the SNP have in mind? Is there in England anyone wise enough to comment on how these terms will affect England? The same goes for our oil. How will England cope without it? England is so wrapped up in its own affairs that it has little time for its nearest neighbours. We must chap more loudly on their back door.
On all these policies the SNP are silent. Soon the unionists will turn. A nation, like a woman, takes a long time to change its mind. To do so is the prerogative of both. So far neither Scotland nor England has had the vision to look into the future and where there is no vision the people perish. I won’t vote for independence until it’s more clearly defined for me.
I have also a compelling domestic reason to withhold my vote. The SNP record on legal issues is disgraceful. We have had the worst lord advocate for 60 years. She failed to prosecute the RBS for the most blatant fraud. It called for investment in its shares when the directors must have known they were over twenty billion (yes billion!) in debt. Then there was the Sheridan case. The police investigated only one side of that notorious perjury. From the beginning the News of the World were held to have been wronged. I know of no prior case where big business so blatantly used the police and the Crown Office as its tools.
Further, as an act of vindictiveness, Mrs Sheridan was put through the ordeal of a trial. Then Ms Angiolini, the lord advocate, said it wasn’t in the public interest to convict her. Why then prosecute her? Why did no one in government or parliament ask Ms Angiolini what she was about? Were they all afraid of the News of the World?
As if that weren’t enough we have had a minister of justice who has done nothing to open the civil courts to us all. Only the rich can afford our law. There is a small claims court that could settle many a dispute at trifling costs. Alas it has an escape clause! If the sheriff thinks the case is ‘too complicated’ he can remit it to his ordinary court where the costs can reach millions. This power should be repealed. It puts a government gauleiter in every court. No citizen can bring a case which might embarrass the government. Sheriffs can be leant on and I suspect often are. They are a poor lot. Power of their appointment must be given to a committee of senior judges.
Lastly no one in this election has spoken for the 25% of our children who live below the poverty line. I got a free tertiary education. My father taught me that education gave me duties. One of these was to look after poorer people. A scatter of so-called socialists, a Labour Party with Thatcherite principles, and Tommy Sheridan silent in jail. These are the only people who claim to care about my country’s dispossessed, or say they do…only one of them has a voice for caring and our hand is over his mouth.
‘To each according to his needs.’
Don’t make me weep.