Farewell

May 11th, 2013

I close my blog with my favourite piece:-

Civilisation

Civilisation comes in different ways in different places.

This morning I went across the Loch to Connel Village Store to get the papers. Rosie Stevenson, who owns the Store was standing outside. She was carrying a bag and a fiddle case. She was waiting for Peter. They were taking two tractors thirty miles away to Glencoe to help the harvesting. Rosie was to drive the big tractor. Her job meant quite a bit of waiting so she had a specially shortened bow and could sit in the cab and play her fiddle to herself as she waited.

‘Play me something now’, I asked and she took out her fiddle and played The Flower Man by Jenny Smith and The Westcoaster by Angus Grant of Lochaber. My car was blocking the road but when the bus came it waited until she had finished. Then I drove away and the music of her fiddle sang in my head all day long.

Next day I asked her how she had got on in Glencoe. She told me that the fields had been small and some of them far away. She had a lot of time to play her fiddle. Nobody seeing a big tractor sitting alone in a small field in Glencoe would know there was civilisation there.

Indeed I think we also found it in the street outside Connel Village Store.

Here in the West Highlands we do not claim a monopoly of humanity or of civilisation. It just happens. But I think of different places. I think of the frenetic offices of Canary Wharf where money is made.

When I hear music in the street I doubt the pursuit of money for its own sake. I cannot judge. All my life people paid me for what I loved to do. A different life makes me fear for the happiness of those who see making money as an end. They have lost the time to listen to a friend making music in a village street. They prefer a Walkman. The cab of a tractor in a Highland glen may not have the acoustics of a BBC studio yet Rosie made the music for herself. Our busy life has given much but it has taken much. ‘We have no time to stand and stare; no time to stand beneath the boughs, and stare as long as sheep or cows’.

There is no money in civilisation. It is too precious for money.

FLEE! FLEE! SCOTLAND HAS STRUCK MORE OIL

March 10th, 2013

The last time we struck oil we were left worse off.

More oil will impoverish us completely.

THE EMPTY CUPBOARD

January 17th, 2013

By Ian Hamilton
 
Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard is as bare as Scotland Says No’s. Both are without a bone. Why is Scotland better off in the union? What is the argument for the union: facts: figures: illustrations: arguments? There can be no true decision without knowledge of what we are deciding. Yet! Nothing!
 
This is disconcerting. The NOs are led from London. I don’t mean to be insulting but they are hardly the type to draw crowds to Hamden Park. Even people interested in the union find it difficult to place a name or a face. They are all discontinued goods. I think one was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He held up his red box and the banks played ‘ALL FALL DOWN.’ Not much confidence there. Then there’s wee George Robertson who said the way to get rid of the SNP was to give Scotland devolution. It wasn’t the welfare of his country he had in mind. It was the welfare of his   party. A nice wee chap and I’m glad he’s done well for himself. I wish he had done as well for his country. But he did. He’s the true author of devolution even if he proponed it for perceived party gain.

There may also be a Secretary of State for Scotland but does anyone know his name? Can anyone quote a word he ever said? The unionists are simply relying on the inertia of the unthinking masses. What is the case for the Union? We want to know.

In the interest of us all the case must be stated. SCOTLAND SAYS YES speaks no louder. It started off with a two million donation and hasn’t been seen since. Have they bolted? Are they dead? Or, like the Spring, do they merely need a touch of warmth to come awake and send forth details about all the other countries that recently became independent? In the last hundred years most of the countries of the world have become independent from someone. An attempt must be made to see how they did it and how they have fared since. The need for change convinced them it was time to go. What is so different about us that we must peddle furiously to stay the same?
 
History is against continued union. History is on the side of independence. I have no room to list the countries who gained their independence last century. There are all the British Empire countries for a start. That is not quite correct for Norway came first, gaining independence from Sweden just over a hundred years ago. Does anyone know how many countries escaped from the Russian Empire, both Tsarist and Communist? Far more than a dozen, I should think. How are they doing? Is a case for reunion noisily advocated in any of them? I suspect that the United Kingdom is one of the few large countries left in the world where its smaller neighbours still struggle to escape the centralized grip.

This is surely the crux of the argument. Union is the exception, not the rule. Unionists see separation as apocalyptic. History shows it is normal. Nothing is permanent and change is the order of nature. But curiosity persists. Some of these countries became independent by convulsion; some peacefully. SCOTLAND SAYS YES should be studying them. The YES people have the money. There are plenty of researchers out of work. They should be sent to a representative half dozen states to find out how they managed their separation and how they have managed since. There is the mystery of ignorance here. We want to know how all the others did it and why none have wanted reunion.

The lack of any calls anywhere for reunion is a mystery. If unionism is right then why has no newly independent state ever agitated for reunion. If BETTER TOGETHER is a principle then let us hear why it isn’t asserted anywhere except by the pale cries of those who may lose their jobs in Whitewall. Times change. The centre cannot hold. A new order is needed and over the world new orders are being created if not daily then with great frequency.

The Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom may be a special case. If so we should hear the argument for this case. The Union may have had its successes in the past, but times change. I have lived through more than a third of the Union and I have seen the change.

Union is no longer strength. Separatism is the rule among nations. Let us hear the argument from the NO people. They may have one. So far they have done nothing but shout stale slogans in the streets of Westminster.

Scotland deserves better. 

 
This piece first appeared in The Scottish Review

News Flash

December 10th, 2012

When Scotland breaks away England will have to re-apply for membership of the EU.

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The most important thing is that Scotland also will have a choice to make. Will we have the self confidence to make it?

The Rat Race is for Rats and We’re Not Rats

December 6th, 2012

By Ian Hamilton             

These words by Jimmy Reid should be engraved on the walls of our parliament. They should be engraved on the walls of every parliament. They are the words of hope.

I come from the generation of hope. Seventy years ago on 1st December 1942 Sir William Beveridge brought out his report on social security. It was accepted by all parties. It led to the welfare state. One of our aims was full employment in a free society. My generation, now approaching our nineties, believed in the welfare state. We believed in full employment in a free society. We still believe in them. Yet look at us now.

I charge you, the generations which have followed, with betraying our lost dream of a successful society. We nearly made the dream real. We wanted to see a society where success was judged by how we served one another. You have lost that ideal. You measure success by wealth; you measure achievement by the social position it gives you. You don’t measure it by the happiness of those around you.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote LIFE LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS it wasn’t the petty life you now pursue he had in mind. He wasn’t worried about your new car. He had surely read Francis Hutcheson and Adam Ferguson of the Scottish Enlightenment. Their writings offer guidance, other than God’s guidance, in the affairs of humankind. Taken in this context Jefferson’s great words are a guide for government not an urge towards greed. It was happiness he urged his new state to pursue, not wealth.

We believed in these ideals in wartime. Many of my generation died for them. I had hoped to see them more fully developed in a new Scotland. Now as I approach the end of my days I see that I live among people who have turned our ideals into a guide on how to get rich, on ‘how to get on’.

In your greed you have brought destruction on your own possessions. You have fulfilled the famous prophesy that capitalism has within it the seeds of its own destruction. I assert that in doing this you have done a disservice only to Western society where greed is at its greatest. We need a new society. Yours is done. You have become obsessed by such conceptions as GNP, by the creation of wealth and not by its distribution. Your vision grows narrow. Now you look at the future, searching for more wealth through the wrong end of a telescope.

Since 1945, we have found new ways of food production so that no child anywhere need go hungry. But there is one thing we haven’t tried to find. We haven’t tried to find how to distribute the wealth we’re capable of creating. Think of the poorest of the poor. You don’t have to look far. Daily they hold out their begging bowls to the riches of the west, unconscious that no life lives for ever and that our society is imploding in on us. Our false belief that things bring happiness, that shopping is a therapy, have a price that all must pay.

In case you doubt me I want you to think of a ship that sails all round the world. Unlike the Flying Dutchman it is a real ship, but like the Flying Dutchman it can find no port of permanent rest. It is called THE WORLD. On THE WORLD the very rich own a stateroom or a suite. Do not ask what it will cost. The cost is your humanity. The richest people in the world sail on that ship. They have done nothing to be rich yet at a guess they own 90% of the world’s wealth. Maybe they own it all. Nobody knows because they won’t tell. That’s why they’re aboard. They’re so wealthy that any taxes they paid would lift an African state from poverty and give hope to our whole species. But they don’t pay any taxes. That’s the idea of the Cruise Ship, THE WORLD. It doesn’t stay in any one port long enough to allow for a domicile of taxation to be created. Pray for them, if you have prayers. Pity them if you haven’t. They have lost their nationality, their homes, their neighbours, their identity and only kept their wealth.

And still the rat race goes on. I don’t think national pride is a bad thing. I’m proud that I can draw on people like Francis Hutcheson, Professor of Moral Philosophy in my own University of Glasgow, who died in 1746 and on Adam Ferguson, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh, who’s Essay on the History of Civil Society, published in 1767, must have been in Jefferson’s mind when he wrote his great words. The mind has no frontiers. To these names add William Beveridge and his report of 1st December 1942. Thomas Jefferson would have loved it.

The words of the humble shipyard worker are just as great:-

THE RAT RACE IS FOR RATS AND WE’RE NOT RATS.

Jimmy and I were friends but I didn’t go to his funeral. Neither would Jimmy if he had known who would be there. 

 

( This piece first appeared in The Scottish Review. )

 

A NATION’S NAY DOTH STAND FOR NAUGHT

November 15th, 2012

This piece first appeared in The Scottish Review

The union was only about 200 years old when I was born, so I have lived through nearly a third of its existence. I can speak with experience of its rule. If there is anyone who thinks Scotland was well served by the union let them read the history of the 20th century. That will change their mind.

Mind you, we might not have been much better on our own. Try to think of any 20th-century Scottish politician and you will be pushed to name more than one. It took devolution to produce the best front bench in Europe. Even in the mid-century, when we first suggested a mild form of devolution, they told us we weren’t fit to govern ourselves. We looked around us and agreed. We weren’t.

But later in the century when we began to get a little self confidence the unfitness line didn’t fit. So they told us Scotland was too poor and too small for self government. That was a lie. We now know that with our oil we would be the sixth richest country in the world. Not that that matters. It’s not the wealth of a country that matters: it’s how the wealth is divided. In this we do better than the English. We have kept the welfare state; the only good thing to come from the union in the whole of last century. If we don’t vote ‘Yes’ we will lose that. Labour has promised to take it away.

Yet independence or union is not a matter of what we will give and what we will get. It is less substantive and more important than that. The greatest asset of any people is not oil or pushing money around or whatever makes up a country’s gross national product. The greatest asset is the people themselves. So long as our people adhere to our long habit of gazing across the border to see what we will get then we have no right to expect anything except a deep-fried Mars Bar because that’s what they think we eat. A people who depend on another people to rule them is not fit to rule itself. It is like a person not quite all there, who must be in curatory, both financially and physically. So long as we remain in tutelage we are not fully responsible for what we do.

How futile it was to say ‘Not in my name, Mr Blair!’. What was done was done in our name because we did not rise in revolt to stop it. Trident has existed since before my grandchildren were babies because we have only protested. We haven’t rebelled as we should have done. Do not ask for whom the rockets are for. They are there for us.

Against that background they give us a referendum. But what happens if we vote No? One generation will vote and then it will be No forever. People do not change their lifetime habits in one vote. We change our government every four years and it took us nearly 20 elections to get rid of the Conservative Party, but not of the Conservatives. All we have done is deprive them of a voice in the body politic and the same is likely to happen to Labour. I am far from sure that this is for the greater good. I dislike a one-party state.

Why then do we have one vote for the future of the union? Are they afraid that if we vote No we might change our mind, as we often change our mind about the government we want?

There is no value in one vote. It cannot bind the future. Even a Yes vote does not preclude a re-union, although no country that escaped from Westminster ever wanted to return.

I conclude with two quotations:

‘I believe in freedom broadening down from precedent to precedent.’ (Edmund Burke) Since John Smith’s time that is what has been happening in Scotland.

Here is the other:

‘No man has the right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation; no man has a right to say to his country…thus far shalt thou go and no further.’ (Charles Stewart Parnell)

Neither has a referendum any such right. When we want independence it will be so inevitable that we will take it. The No in the referendum is hokum.

 

 

GPN >>>>>>>>>> <<<<<<<<<<<<<< GPN Part One

October 10th, 2012

It isn’t the GPN of a country that matters. It’s who owns it and how it’s spread.

In England 13% of the households provide the scraps of money for the other 87% of the households.

Scotland’s worse. Here 12% provide for the other 88%. (Not including our oil.)

As we get nearer and nearer to Remembrance Day remember what we fought for. (I volunteered in 1943.)

 FULL EMPLOYMENT IN A FREE SOCIETY. 

That’s what we fought for and every party supported it.

Now look what the sons and daughters of the servicemen get. Look what their children get.

All the monopoly money is in a few hands. It doesn’t help if the Prime Minister of England and his cronies are elbow deep in inherited and married money.

When you buy your Red Poppy think of what you are remembering. You are remembering:-

FULL EMPLOYMENT IN A FREE SOCIETY.

R I P

THE ADVENTURES OF SECUNTERLAND Chapter Two

October 5th, 2012

The capital of Secunterland is called Strataburgh. It is called that because the people there live in layers. In Strataburgh  your layer is forever determined by the school you went to. Despite this some impostors try to climb up by imitating top people’s accent. Thus while in other parts when you ask someone what school they went to you’re safe. Not in Strataburgh. ‘Humphrey!’ say the products of the Great Strataburgh Schools in mockery of your Scottish accent. This MSP’s experience may illustrate what living in Strataburgh is all about.

While passing one of the Great Schools he heard this conversation from the boys’ lavatory.

 ‘It’s bigger than yours.’ said a voice in an accent that was undoubtedly unmodified Humphrey.

 ‘No it’s not. It’s much smaller,’ came the other voice in clear Great School.

 ‘Bigger.’
 ‘Smaller.’

 ‘Bigger.’
 ‘Smaller.’

And thus the conversation continued and the MSP left them to it. Boys will be boys.

At this point the Heidie and the Deputy Heidie of the Great School came by.

 ‘I thought we had stopped that,’ said the Heidie.

 ‘No,’ said his deputy. ‘Until the parents objected we we’re trying to stop sodomy.’

 The Heidie went into the lavatory and in a moment reappeared, dragging two schoolboys.

 ‘Was it that then?’ asked his deputy.

 ‘Much worse than anything we ever thought,’ said the Heidie. ‘We should never have started that economics class.’

 ‘Bigger’, shouted the Scots boy in a last moment of defiance.

 ‘This is a flogging matter,’ said the Heidie. ‘This Humphry has the cheek to say Secunterland’s GNP is bigger than Seconderland’s.’

The flogging began there and then.

Meanwhile the MSP returned. ‘Was it sodomy after all?’ he asked.

 ‘Much worse, said the Heidie. ‘This Humphry has the cheek to say that Secunterland’s GNP is greater than Seconderland’s.’

 ‘Flog him until the blood flows,’ said the MSP.

 ‘I can’t make out your accent,’ said the Heidie. ‘What school did you go to?’

The MSP shrank until there was only a pool of slime on the pavement. From the pool of slime came a whisper. ‘Humphry Glasgow.’

Meanwhile the blood flowed from the boy’s back and the flogging went on, and on, and on.