Speaking from London, Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, last week told Scots we must shun the opportunity to become a normal, independent nation. Just for good measure, Mr Miliband also told us to support England at the Euro 2012 football tournament.
What is it with English politicians that they think they have the right to dictate to Scotland? Oh yes, that’s right, they do have the right to dictate to Scotland. While our country remains just a region of the UK, we forfeit the right to fully govern ourselves. Within the UK, ultimate power over Scotland rests with the UK Government, even one made up of politicians we rejected at the ballot box.
Under the terms of the Scotland Act (1998), which established the Scottish Parliament, Westminster has the right to overrule any decision taken by MSPs, and can even abolish Holyrood. Of course, it is unlikely Westminster would ever take such a decision – if it did, Alex Salmond would call the Independence Referendum for the next day – but that does not change the fact: the current devolved Scottish Parliament is answerable to the one in London.
Only re-taking our political independence will allow Scots to live in a normal nation, where we govern ourselves, take decisions in our interests, and represent ourselves on the world stage. Most people take such rights for granted. In the UK, however, we are told allowing Scots to govern themselves in an independent nation would be ‘disastrous’ for us. Even in the second decade of the 21st Century, the British Unionist argument hasn’t moved much beyond telling Scots we are “too wee, too poor and too stupid” to govern ourselves.
Of course, the British Unionists can only get away with such distortions and lies because they control much of the information that feeds into what passes for debate on our nation’s future. In the early 1970s the Conservative Government led by Prime Minister Edward Heath commissioned a report into what an independent Scotland would look like. The purpose of the report was to spike the guns of the Scottish National Party, which was growing in support, mainly thanks to a campaign proclaiming oil found in the North Sea was “Scotland’s Oil”.
A UK Government economist, Professor Gavin McCrone, a Scotsman, was given the task of investigating the issue of Scotland’s potential independence, and delivering a report showing the oil would make little difference - Scotland would still be an economic basket case, dependent on hand-outs from the benevolent English through the British Unionist parliament in London.
By the time Professor McCrone’s work was complete, the Tories had been defeated at the 1974 UK General Election. The McCrone Report was therefore presented to a Labour Government led by Harold Wilson. However, instead of finding independence would be ‘disastrous’ for Scotland, McCrone’s research showed an independent Scotland would have budget surpluses so large as to be “embarrassing”.
Other findings concluded that the currency of an independent Scotland “would become the hardest in Europe, with the possible exception of the Norwegian Kroner” – Norway had also discovered oil in its sector of the North Sea.
In addition, the McCrone Report made clear an independent Scotland would be much wealthier than England, which meant that, in order to maintain spending levels in England, our southern neighbour would have to borrow heavily from the independent Scottish Exchequer, a situation Professor McCrone said “could last for a very long time into the future”.
Scots were not told of the McCrone Report’s findings. Instead, the then Labour Government of the UK marked it ‘Secret’ and buried it in Whitehall’s cavernous files.
Today, we only know the contents of Professor McCrone’s work because the report was finally released in 2005, following a Freedom of Information request submitted to the UK Government by the Scottish National Party. In the intervening 30 years, successive UK Governments have continued to tell Scots we are subsidy junkies and our country is an economic basket case, dependent on hand-outs from London.
We continue to hear the same lies from Westminster politicians. There is more oil still lying under the North Sea than the total extracted since it was first discovered in the 1970s, yet British Unionist politicians still trot out the line that it’s running out.
Westminster Government’s have stolen Scotland’s oil wealth every day since the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dennis Healy, ordered the McCrone Report to be buried in Whtehall’s vaults. Today’s British Unionist politicians – Tory, Labour, Lib Dem – know the same situation exists: without the oil wealth lying in the Scottish sector of the North Sea, the UK would be even more of an economic disaster-zone than is presently the case.
London-based politicians don’t want Scotland to remain part of the British Union from some sort of paternal feeling towards Scots: the reality is they know that without Scotland’s wealth, UK plc would be stuffed. If Scotland really was an economic basket case, as we have been told for the past 30 years, Westminster would have cut us adrift long ago.
Do you think I’m being harsh? Do you think things have changed? Do you believe we can now trust politicians in London?
Tory MP Dominic Grieve, the UK Government’s Attorney General, has just blocked the release of Cabinet committee papers dating from 1997 and 1998. The papers were from the time of the previous Tony Blair-led Labour Government and relate to issues involving devolution for Scotland.
Two Freedom of Information requests were submitted, asking for the cabinet committee papers. Both requests were refused by the UK Government.
Following an investigation, the Information Commissioner ruled the papers should be released.
Dominic Grieve, however, has exercised a UK Government veto and the papers will remain secret. Mr Grieve said, “My decision to exercise the veto in this case was not taken lightly but in accordance with the Statement on Government Policy on the use of the executive override.
“In line with the policy, I have both assessed the balance of the public interest in disclosure and non-disclosure of these minutes and considered whether this case meets the criteria set out in the Statement of Government Policy for use of the veto.
“I consider the public interest falls in favour of non-disclosure and that disclosure would be damaging to the doctrine of collective responsibility and detrimental to the effective operation of Cabinet government.
“I have concluded, in light of the criteria set out in the Government’s policy, this constitutes an exceptional case and the exercise of the veto is warranted.”