2007 - 2022


Listen up Uncle Sam’s Auntie’s back in town;
Get on message (you can forget Plan B)
Wake up and smell whatever’s going down:
Close your eyes – tastes just like W.M.D.
Better Together with Land of the Free
Empirically bankrupt? The hell you are!
Paint Your Wagon negative equity
Catch a Falling (failed) Anglo-Saxon Star – 
Your’re our best little pal, buddy GB.
(Presidential photocalls look merry,
Crooning Danny Bhoy in The Auld Country
Nationalist dreams sailed from Londonderry).
Here’s heads up on Team Union’s Five Year Plan –
No shock Jock exits or Brit hits the fan. 

Comments (28)

Leave a Reply to michaelgreenwell Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Ronald. says:

    The lady is Jewish is she not? Presumably she likes the idea of an independent Israel, but doesn’t think the same rules should apply to the land that fought the Romans to a standstill. They were forced to build a wall just as the Israelis are doing today

  2. Macart says:

    The question is, would you buy a used car from this woman?

    Well would you? 🙂

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Or a used stealth bomber.


      1. Macart says:

        I’d have to check the logs and mileage first. 😀

  3. The question is, do you remember her defending the deaths of half a million Iraqi children?

    1. Macart says:

      Yes, I do remember that. Not a fan of either Madeline or wee Hillary, two of the most poisonous political reptiles out there. They’re already touting Hillary as the fav for next Democrat presidential candidate.

  4. Stui says:

    For info on the pre 2003 sanctions against Iraq a very good book is H.C. Von Sponeck – A different kind of war, The UN sanctions regime in Iraq. Also good is Robert Fisk – The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East where Fisk, if i remember rightly, makes the point that those half million children died prior to 2003 in the supposed effort to stop Iraq getting WMDs, then Blair and co. decided that the sanctions regime had not worked to stop Iraq getting WMDs, and therefore invasion was neccessary – to find in the end no WMDs and resulting in the death of even more Iraqi civilians.

  5. Les Wilson says:

    Funny how the gaining of Independence now has the ability to change the world. According to the doom masters Albright is apparently one of them.
    There is some things that sticks out to me in her talk and that is what good is all this to Scotland? Where do the aspirations of Scots figure in all this political manoeuvring. Perhaps she should go back in history and read about the Independence of the USA and the principles behind it, they are very like Scotland’s aspirations. Would she have made such rash statements to a selected few prior to their own American Independence campaign?
    Something she should perhaps reacquaint herself with, before lecturing us.

    1. muttley79 says:

      Yes, the irony from American politicians on Scottish independence is glaring, if unsurprising. They do not want to loss their bombing partner.

      1. When Washington decides to return to Westminster rule then they can talk.

      2. bellacaledonia says:

        Or their bombing ranges in the Scottish Highlands.


  6. David McCann says:

    I rather like John Pilger’s analysis in the New Statesman a while back. Here is an edited extract.
    “The same was true of the lawless attack on Iraq in 2003, behind which the cross-party Establishment and the political media rallied. Andrew Marr stood in Downing Street and excitedly told BBC viewers that Blair had “said they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right.” When Blair’s army finally retreated from Basra in May, it left behind, according to scholarly estimates, more than a million people dead, a majority of stricken, sick children, a contaminated water supply, a crippled energy grid and four million refugees.

    As for the “celebrating” Iraqis, the vast majority, say Whitehall’s own surveys, want the invader out. And when Blair finally departed the House of Commons, MPs gave him a standing ovation – they who had refused to hold a vote on his criminal invasion or even to set up an inquiry into its lies, which almost three-quarters of the British population wanted.

    The Guardian devoted the top of one page to a report headlined, “Blair awarded $1m prize for international relations work”. This prize, announced in Israel soon after the Gaza massacre, was for his “cultural and social impact on the world”.
    This was the same Blair who committed the same crime – deliberately planning the invasion of a country, “the supreme international crime” – for which the Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was hanged at Nuremberg after proof of his guilt was located in German cabinet documents. It is as if our public language has finally become Orwellian. Using totalitarian laws approved by a majority of MPs, the police have set up secretive units to combat democratic dissent they call “extremism”. Their de facto partners are “security” journalists, a recent breed of state or “lobby” propagandist. On 9 April, the BBC’s Newsnight promoted the guilt of 12 “terrorists” arrested in a contrived media drama orchestrated by the Prime Minister himself. All were later released without charge.”

  7. martinthorpe says:

    I ask again what has any of the above got to do with Scottish independence? I chanced upon this website a month ago and taking it at face value (you’d think I’d know better having spent years in sales and an equal time in and around leftish politics) I genuinely thought that it might actually do as it said on the tin.

    No such luck, every day my in-tray is filled with obtuse and utterly formulaic non-articles that illicit the same obtuse and formulaic responses. More than anything this exposes the real motives of those contributing (in the main) to this site: namely it offers them an echo chamber where there naive, half-baked opinions are reflected and amplified back to them, in the process giving them the illusion of intellectual rigour and sophistication. Sadly folks the reality is a little less edifying, regurgitating mainstream leftwing “thought” from the likes of NS, John Pilger, The Guardian, Chomsky, Fisk, etc., is no substitute for original thought.

    One thing that Chomsky said probably best illuminates what I’m getting at; talking about how during the Vietnam war opinion polls in the States showed a clear working class bias against the war which he contrasted with that of the middle class managerial class that was (until almost the end) generally in favour of continued American military involvement he concluded, admittedly by implication but the implication was clear that the former were therefore demonstrably more morally upright and intellectually informed. It took me many years to realise what an utterly naive, spurious and self serving interpretation this was. The working class have no inherent “wisdom” when it comes to Vietnam or anything else for that matter, but they did have (at least in the case of the Vietnam War) a highly developed sense of self preservation which in my opinion explains why they (as the major recruiting pool) might have been less well disposed to the war, but recognising this would mean questioning one of the central tenets of left wing ideology, namely the saintly nature of the working class and their unique perspective and place in historical process Chomsky (without any supporting evidence) presents this as an expression of inalienable working class moral superiority. Now as I have alluded to in other posts I unlike I suspect most of the contributors to BC have actually spent time, to much time with Scotland’s working classes and sadly I have to report that I couldn’t find any inherent wisdom there. Instead you’ll find exactly what you do with every other social class (in every society on Earth) that the vast majority are a pretty ignorant bunch, but that there are a small group in any human population, 10-20% who actively give a shit, think about things using (degrees of) abstract thought which in turn allows them to move beyond the 1st person singular and into the magical realm of the theoretical, and therefore the possible as opposed to the merely actual. These attributes have nothing to do with class, they exist quite independently of of it, basically you’re either part of the vast majority of passive consumers or you’re in the small rump that likes to think, discuss and occasionally participate in politics.

    This site needs to focus on the core issues at hand. Filling its pages with the tangental and downright irrelevant might generate a bit of ad traffic and Google revenue for the hosts but it won’t help the cause of Scottish independence not one little jot.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      I’m loving the idea of Google revenue, yep, this is a huge cash cow

      1. I want my cut!

        Seriously though, what it has to do with Scottish Independence is simply that Madeleine Albright’s views on the matter were asked and then trumpeted as if they were something that should be listened to.

    2. Stui says:

      Have a look over at Better together (the recent video featuring young persons), or at the Darling speech (from the Mackintosh speech “Scotland is far better represented abroad as part of the UK than we could ever hope to be as a separate state”) Better together are using foreign aid and foreign policy as one reason for the Union. Now you have a situation where in the recent past these UK foreign policy professionals made huge decisions on sanctions that led to the death of half a million Iraqi children, then they said – ah actually the policy against Iraq getting WMDs did not work and now we need to invade Iraq anyway, with all resulting chaos. Why is this not relevant to the independence debate? Foreign policy of independent Scotland will hopefully post 2014 be controlled by Holyrood instead of at Westminister. Not sure what the relevance is of the authors you do not like, I find Robert Fisk to be accurate – cant speak about the others. The situation described by Hans von Sponeck in Iraq during the sanctions is worth a read. I work in overseas aid and although i never worked in Iraq it sounds plausible to me. The decisions taken on my behalf by the UK gov lead me to a situation that when i am abroad in mid east or north africa I will not admit to being from the UK – from fear and from shame.

    3. Macart says:

      Awe thae big wurds tae say yer no happy. That’s edjicashun that is.

  8. David McCann says:

    Martin Thorpe.
    What a pain in the arse from a self styled ‘original thinker’! It took me five minutes to realise what an utterly naive, spurious and self serving interpretation your contribution was. Presumably you consider that you are one of the 10-20% who actively give a shit? You could have fooled me!
    Original thought? There is no such thing. All of us ordinary mortals – (of which you don’t count yourself as one,) simply reflect on and are influenced by what we read, watch or experience.
    In John Pilger’s wonderful film “ The War on Democracy’ http://vimeo.com/16724719
    Duane Clarridge former Chief of the CIA says ‘Get used to it world. We’re not going to put up with nonsense. If you don’t like it lump it”
    I urge you to watch it. Even you could learn from it!

  9. martinthorpe says:


    You’ve made my point for me. “Get used to it world”, and what precisely do you intend to do about it? Watch Mr P and get in a lather like all you armchair Bolsheviks. Look I don’t like the way the world is, in fact I don’t like the world full stop, but it is what it is, and it is that way largely (not entirely I admit, but largely nonetheless) because that’s the way that people, yes people – the 80% I referred to like it. The capitalist system provides them with (just) enough resources to indulge their inane tastes and appetites. You may not like the message David but pasting the messenger isn’t going to alter the facts on the ground one iota. This Saturday night millions will park their arses in front of the tv and watch Strictly/X Factor/etc., and for them that is LIFE. No amount of sermonising from you (or I) is going to change this fact. What those on the Left need to do is develop strategies that acknowledge this and execute them without wasting precious intellectual resources on trying to recreate life as we’d like it not as it is.

  10. Sneddon says:

    David T

    And what is your point caller? I might read stuff like yours from 1st year students but your point is. You don’t like lefties or the working class? Popular culture? TV?

  11. martinthorpe says:

    And your 1st year students would have a point, and why not, what pray is wrong with the opinions of the young. The recurring theme of the responses to my posts (scattered throughout BC) aren’t to rebut or debate but merely to crassly dismiss. Is the idea that because this is a site dedicated to Scottish independence that all opinion expressed therein must (by definition) fall within a wooly liberal Left ambit? If that is the case then why bother, lets just leave it to the letters page of the Scotsman, GH and The Guardian.

    I appreciate that for most of the contributors to this site life on balance is pretty good, you’ve probably had steady and reasonably well paid employment for the last couple of decades working in and around the public sector in jobs that don’t tax you unduly. You’ll have paid off the majority of your mortgages and be looking looking forward to an index linked pension for your troubles. Now compare that with me (and countless other poor sods in the private sector): no house, no pension, no job, no savings, are you starting to get the picture Sneddon.

    Scottish independence isn’t some kind of dinner party conversation piece. No quite frankly it’s the last roll of the dice. Forget for a moment your obsession with the under and working classes, if an economy (like Scotland’s) can’t create employment for people like me – well educated, articulate, intelligent and committed then fundamentally it has no future, and before you reply that just because that has been my fate it says nothing about the wider society think for an instant about what you’re saying and reflect on it’s veracity. Graduate unemployment levels in Scotland may be less than the average (though I would strongly dispute the methodology and accuracy of these figures based on my anecdotal experience) but that isn’t because we’ve found well paid skilled work for the products of our higher education system, no the reality is rather that you have a sizeable percentage, perhaps a majority of graduates doing mundane, low skill, low paid work. Unless the Left (and I still count myself amongst it’s number) is willing to confront the limitations of post-war Keynsian economics and accept that profound economic change isn’t a choice but an absolute inevitability then there really is no hope. The Right have no answers bar a reversion to Darwinian economics of the pre-modern era (though they tend to be pretty hazy about the specifics) but the Left to be honest aren’t much better.

    I don’t claim to be saying anything remotely original here, I strongly encourage to grab a second hand copy of any of Andre Gorz’s books from Amazon and familiarise yourself with the impending future.

    1. Stui says:

      Hi Martin, I did reply to one of your previous posts, but it was I hope not crassly dismissive. I come from a working class background, now i suppose i am middle class. I left Scotland in 1996 and have been working around the world, now settled in Switzerland. I suppose my motivation in joining the debate through sites like BC is seeing the difference in workers conditions here in Switzerland compared to how my family back in Scotland is coping. My Scottish family are or were in private sector employment and you are right pensions working conditions etc are poor in Scotland. But Switzerland is managing ok during this recession, and people are relatively well taken care of here, pensions are much better organised for example. Are there lessons that Scotland could learn from other small European countries? I think so and when i see the wealth around me in Switzerland I cant help but think that a neutral foreign policy and not getting involved in expensive and brutal wars or paying for nuclear weapons are examples that would be good to follow. When I go back to Scotland i talk with my very Labour family about things like strong local democracy, Swiss foreign policy etc we have great and sometimes very heated discussions. Most of them are also addicted to Strictly and Dr. Who by the way. It also seems to me that the referendum is a great was to involve and develop discussion amongst people who are not engaged in politics at the moment. When i listen to any questions on the radio or brians big debate it is clear there is a lot of confusion about what living in a small independent country in Europe could be like. I am not an economist (engineering-science background) so i cannot comment on different economic models but it seems obvious to me that you have to export as a country, Switzerland has a strong banking sector, and a strong manufacturing sector, whereas UK seems to me to be too biased towards financial services. Engineering and science are valued here in a way that I never saw when i was studying and working in Scotland. I am out of time and have to stop but I hope you keep on contributing to the debate, I welcome it.

  12. martinthorpe says:


    With my abet limited knowledge of things Swiss I would have to concur with you on all of the above. By way of a response the following are my thoughts on a couple of the more repetitively annoying aspects of the “Independence Debate” as conducted on this site and beyond.

    The smug assumption that a post Independence will automatically take its inspiration from the Scandinavian model, unfortunately given Scotland’s terrible economic plight, it’s entrenched sectarianism and political factionalism/cronyism, class divisions and general malaise this is simply a non-starter. The model we’re doomed to follow is a little closer to home and a lot more familiar – the Irish Republic. Salmond is little more than the thinking mans Bertie Ahern, Holyrood = Dail in just about every respect, from quality of membership to institutional delusions of grandeur. The same kind of self satisfied, clubby, small town parochialism that typifies virtually every corner of professional Scottish life whether it be the professions themselves, local government, the NGO’s, the media (in particular) or the unions. To this day it takes my breath away that when meeting someone for the first time in Edinburgh the first (and only, for although I possess a disarmingly “BBC English’ accent I actually attended Boroughmuir) question asked is that classic “what school did you go to?” Much has superficially changed in Scotland over the last two decades but the deeper realities remain; public school = a professional career/state = a junior job in the bank or the civil service.

    The abject corruption embedded within the Irish Republic and the smoke and mirrors reality of its Celtic Tiger economic “success” should be a salutary lesson for us here, but sadly there is little evidence that the political class have given it a second thought. The rampant, ingrained but almost entirely unreported and un-remarked upon corruption that runs throughout local government in Scotland would I fear become further entrenched under the kind of business as usual, jobs for the bhoys and girls settlement proposed by BC and the rest of the mainstream.

    Oil, the Scottish “economy” as it is currently constituted is utterly incapable of digesting this “bonanza”. The poverty of thought on this issue from the SNP and elsewhere borders on the criminal. With a banking system whose business model is the original one trick pony – domestic and commercial property lending to the exclusion of just about anything genuinely productive what we’ll see in short order is all to predictable; rampant house price inflation leading inexorably to another round of debt-funded consumer sending, the vast majority of whish will end up being spent be on imports, because as we know we in this country don’t actually produce anything (of any consequence) anymore. This I hope point illustrates one of the central fallacies of the establishment pro-independence camp: namely that oil revenues can be captured and recycled into (so called) Green technologies, socially useful projects like public housing, education, mass transport, etc. All of which sounds very laudable in theory but will I fear given the aforementioned socio-political realities will fail at the first hurdle. Instead of productive investment to ensure long-term economic viability the money will be squandered on vanity projects that will merely lead to spiralling inflation and unwelcome demographic change.

    The harsh reality is that Scotland doesn’t have the inherent capacity to deal with even the depleted oil revenues as they are. Instead we should take one very important lesson from the Nordic experience; to their considerable credit the Norwegians when faced with a similar situation a generation ago recognised this and in a (unique) self denying ordinance that we should take note decided to allocate the majority of their windfall to what is essentially an enormous trust fund intended largely for the use of future generations. Providing people with meaningful employment and a stake in society doesn’t require an oil bonanza, in fact on the evidence from the Gulf and elsewhere oil wealth is very much a two edged sword, one to be unsheathed and used with extreme caution. That the politically engaged on this site and elsewhere are prepared to place this golden egg in the hands of the likes of Swinney (a small town solicitor if there ever was) or worse the likes of the Labour Party’s municipal mafia beggars belief, well at least in me.

    However when all said and done the above is utterly academic, as we aren’t going to get a Yes vote, not this time around. The Scots aren’t yet desperate enough and a national consensus is decades away. This is fundamentally because there isn’t yet a Scottish nation but rather a collection of disparate groups occupying a given geographic space. Those nations that not only achieve independence but also crucially harness it to build better societies for themselves look very different to contemporary Scotland. Much as I would desire it independence isn’t what we should be fixating on but rather where we go next within an economically disintegrating United Kingdom whose trajectory is one of terminal decline. Once Scots have a clear decision in front of them akin to that of the Czechs in 1992 and the Catalans today will you see decisive movement towards independence. In the meantime those on the Left need to stop dreaming and get to work figuring out alternatives to the EU/IMF/Westminster consensus.

    1. Stui says:

      Hi Martin, Some of yours I agree with, some I cannot comment on since i have been away for too long from Scotland. Agree is on the lines of what is the capacity of Scotland to really reform itself. Talking to relatives recently in Scotland I really had the feeling that the idea of e.g. decentralised and direct democracy Swiss style was too frightening for them to contemplate. OK they are Labour but they kept saying things like “the people will make wrong decisions”. It is true that in Switzerland there have been some populist referenda which I dont agree with (minarets ban, anti immigrant policies) but generally it works well. Also the decentralised Cantun system, with tax raising at Cantun level (even corporation tax, it varies from Cantun to Cantun, yes Johann it is possible) works very well. Why should all the money go to the center then be redistributed? it is a recipe for corruption. I just wish someone would start talking about this in Scotland, I see no point to replicate the centralised Westminister model in Holyrood. I would hope that there would be a different system in Scotland post Yes vote but so far the signs are not good. For example there was the discussion about crown estate comission taxes this year, if it should be collected by Holyrood or by London based CEC TANGO. What was missing was the fact that the money should surely be staying with the local councils. This would encourage local development of renewables/fish farm/ etc
      It was a chance for the Scottish gov to show a direction of travel, a clear statement that when CEC taxes are repatriated it will be collected by local communities/councils, that they understand a centralised system will not work, a missed opportunity for Swinney. However, a Scottish parliament will be more open to change than Westminister. As far as the likeli-hood of a Yes vote goes I am not sure. When i last visited (Sep 2012) It seemed that most of my family were in the no camp, but it is clear they have not considered the arguments in any depth. I also visited Scotland in Easter 2011 and had no impression talking to my family that the SNP were going to get the win. It can be that there is a No vote – people might be frightened by the scare tactics of the better together people, but i think this anyway makes an eventual Independence likely, although there would be several more painful and wasted years. Westminister and Labour cannot improve the lives of Scottish people, of that I am sure.

  13. martinthorpe says:


    I was listening to Robin McAlpine on the BC podcast (Episode 13) this afternoon, an exercise that was illuminating and frustrating in equal measure. Leaving aside his somewhat naive conspiracy theory analysis of the NeoLiberal project (he really should consult a few more sources before making the kind of sweeping generalisations so beloved of the Left, in particular his take on the Nixon administration and its machinations certainly don’t tally with the account I’ve just read in Andrew Scott Cooper’s excellent “The Oil Kings”.) Anyway I digress, McAlpine’s central thesis is that Westminster is incapable of the kind of structural political and economic reform that is so evidently required, therefore SI offers the only realistic mechanism for achieving these ends. He makes a couple of interesting (but hardly original) observations on the role of right wing think tanks and lobby organisations in forming and steering political debate. I say hardly new because if like me you’ve spent a bit of time studying the US this trend has been readily apparent and pretty well documented for many years. Needless to say as with most things this country has increasingly taken it’s cues from the US as evidenced in the veritable explosion in the numbers of institutions like DEMOS, IPPR, NEF, and their rightwing counterparts. Now I really am digressing.

    Right, back to the point of the post. While there was much I could agree with in McAlpine’s analysis, the problem and it’s the same one I’ve alluded to before is that I don’t need some well remunerated politico telling me that things are crap, I’ve lived with the reality (in ways that he and his ilk can barely imagine) for the last nearly three decades. Pointing out the bleeding obvious isn’t whats required here, what is are concrete practical proposals. Merely repeating the nostrums of investing in public services, jobs, etc., and the rest of the trade unionist corporatist agenda should surely by now been seen for the bankrupt drivel that it is. I agree absolutely with you that top down, big government solutions of the type historically beloved of the labour movement (that employs lots of the brothers and few sisters in nice cosy sinecures) isn’t the answer to a systemic democratic deficit and economic destitution that faces Scotland today.

    Genuine local participatory democracy will have contradictions and conflicts, some embarrassing and others dangerous, just think the school curricula (particularly biology) in the Isles or access to abortion in parts of the West. But, that as you point out is the price you pay if you’re half way serious about this stuff. Swapping one pack of shysters in London for another lot in Edinburgh and Glasgow surely can’t be the ambition for those serious about SI.

    If the Left is serious about a Left vote then it should be serious about explaining in some detail what an independent Scotland would look like, and I don’t mean here the waffly, wooly feel-good claptrap espoused by the likes of Blair and Brown (who will ever forget Gordon and his “moral compass”, I ask you!). At the risk of repetition; I’ve mentioned a couple of these in previous posts, but how about:

    – 2nd home for all Scots. Nationalise the big estates, divvy up the land, allocate by lottery and provide subsides, advice and building material for improvement and construction. This measure would go somewhere to undoing the vandalism of the Highland clearances and give many occupants of the Central Belt a real and meaningful stake in their own country.

    – With the skills duly acquired provide the urban under and working classes with the means to “self build” their way out of their current decrepit housing stock. Again the benefits in terms of quality of life, and enhancement in workforce skills are obvious but most importantly this is a mechanism for reinstating a sense of personal and national pride in a population that has been on the receiving end of the most savage de-industralisation in Western Europe.

    – Which brings me to a wider point, to quote Andre Gorz, “The rate of unemployment among the unskilled is due NOT to their lack of professional skills, but to the fact that one third (today [he was writing twenty years ago] I would suggest this figure is nearer one half) of skilled or highly skilled people are in unskilled occupations -for want of being able to find anything better- and have thus elbowed out those who ought normally to be able to fill these jobs. Instead of subsidising unskilled jobs by way of basic income (Brown’s American inspired Family Credit), it is the redistribution of skilled jobs that ought to be subsidised by considerably lowering the hours of work in those occupations”. In practical terms this means awarding every citizen an annual “social wage”, enough that at the very minimum it covers the basic necessities of life. This isn’t utopian dreaming but very practical politics. Our wage labour system is on a one way road to oblivion driven not so much by NeoLiberalism but by technological change and basic dynamics of capitalist accumulation. Developing and executing a socially informed response to this inexorable and profound (and I can think of nothing more profound) process should be at the heart of politics of an IS.

    – Free education and health-care for the first two children, after that you pay. The moral and ecological grounds in favour are irrefutable. My ex-partner and I decided not to have children largely on the grounds that with her being self employed and me being in a crap job we simply couldn’t afford it. I have no objection to paying a fair level of taxation but asking single or childless men and women to provide for children you can’t support yourself is simply unconscionable, period.

    Any constructive thoughts are as ever greatly appreciated.

  14. martinthorpe says:

    A couple of subsidiary points. Credit where credits due, McAlpine’s observations on London and the London elite are spot on, no doubt the product in part of his close proximity during his tenure with George Robertson MP – you can never say never but I don’t know even in my most desperate of times whether I would have worked for someone quite as oily and obviously on the make, but you never know.

    On the debit side of the ledger; in a classic case of the lady doth protest to much; McAlpine when explaining his professional background admits to having being a lobbyist, but qualifies it by adding that his job was to lobby on behalf of (Scottish?) universities and not (and I quote) “the corporate sector”. Now I don’t don’t know where Mr McAlpine has been these last couple of decades but by any objective criteria the UK university system is about as corporate as its gets. The only point of difference being that the executives are even more greedy and incompetent than their mainstream private sector counterparts. I only mention this because I think it illustrates a wider problem with people in Mr McAlpine’s position, namely that in order to get on either in academia, the unions, political parties or a combination there of they inevitably end up compromised, often beyond redemption. As I said I don’t think I would have ever worked for Robertson or his ilk and it sticks in the craw somewhat that guys like McAlpine always end up occupying all of the very the small number of plum jobs in the “Left” political sphere. OK, that might just be life but a little humility and a slice of contrition from these fella’s once in a while would be nice.

    Oh and for the record I’m on record in The Scotsman (in a 1997 pre-election vox pop piece by a former friend/journo) as saying that Blair was in my opinion worse than Thatcher, with her at least you knew she was screwing you, but with him as with Clinton (and again I quote, this time from a former Arkansas union official) “he’s the kind of guy who can shake your hand, smile in your face and piss down your leg at the same time”. I think history proved me right and the likes of Mr McAlpine wrong.

  15. martinthorpe says:

    McAlpine in common with many on the Left sees the current socio-economic settlement in London (and the Home Counties) as a relatively recent phenomenon; dating in its current form to the Thatcher era and the Big Bang. Anyone labouring under this misguided analysis would do well to read David Kynaston’s epic four part history of the City (or if you haven’t the time the abridged single volume) which eloquently supports the claim of my old FE college economics lecturer that the pernicious influence of the “City” dates back at least a hundred and fifty years and that this current crisis is but one of many that have coloured the history of this remarkable parasite. Here’s a lovely quote I dug out overnight which I hope should provide some substance and context to this claim. Ignore some of the phraseology and this could have been written yesterday, and it perfectly describes the ‘South’ of today, just perfectly:

    “The Home Counties, the numerous seaside and other residential towns, the cathedral and University towns, and in general terms, the South are full of well-to-do and leisured families whose incomes, dissociated from any present exertion of their recipients, are derived from industries conducted in the North or in some overseas country. A very large share, probably the major part, of the income spent by these well-to-do residential classes in the South, is drawn from investments of this nature. The expenditure of these incomes calls into existence and maintains large classes of professional men, producers and purveyors of luxuries, tradesmen, servants and retainers, who are more or less conscious of their dependence upon the goodwill and patronage of people ‘living on their means’. This class of ‘ostentatious leisure’ and ‘conspicuous waste’ is subordinated in the North to earnest industry: in the South it directs a large proportion of the occupations, sets the social tone, imposes valuations and opinions….. Most persons living in the South certainly have to work for a living, but much of their work is closely and even consciously directed by the will and demands of the moneyed class.”

    J.A. Hobson, ‘The General Election: a Sociological Interpretation’ Sociological Review, 3/1910, p.113

    The problem as the more astute of you will readily recognise is that the above also accurately describes much of Edinburgh (and bits of Glasgow), where a similarly parasitic mindset, nurtured by a self perpetuating private school network and fed by a bloated financial services sector and state/health/education bureaucracy has inculcated the same form of self serving social formation. Freeing ourselves from Westminster’s clutches will be the easy part, building an equitable but dynamic economy is going to be a much, much harder task.

  16. martinthorpe says:

    Just in case you were wondering what had become of me……

    It’s been a blast but like all good things it has to come to an end, and for me that end was matriarchy in the tropics. So sorry that I won’t be around to read ally max bruce’s Marxist epic but as they say; things to do, people to see. Just a couple of thoughts before I sign-off…..

    Walter Benn Michaels in his excellent book The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality points out that only 20% of new jobs created in the US require a degree level education, and that the fastest growing employment sector (in the US) is personal care for the elderly. Which I’m sure you will agree may require many attributes but a university education isn’t necessarily one of them. Add to this what Andre Gorz has to say about structural un/underemployment:

    The rate of unemployment among the unskilled is due not to their lack of professional skills, but to the fact that one third of skilled or highly skilled people are in unskilled occupations -for want of being able to find anything better- and have thus elbowed out those who ought normally to be able to fill these jobs. Instead of subsidising unskilled jobs by way of basic income, it is the redistribution of skilled jobs that ought to be subsidised by considerably lowering the hours of work in those occupations.

    Gorz wrote this nearly twenty years ago and even Michaels book is nearly a decade old, things have inevitably got a lot worse since, but you’d never know it, unless like me you’ve experienced it at first hand. The inability and/or unwillingness of the political and media mainstream (and most of the non-mainstream for that matter) to acknowledge these simple truths is staggering, but demonstrates an abiding tendency amongst our species: the greater the problem, the greater the denial. It also illustrates another general tendency, namely that history is written by the victors, which in this context mean that those who govern and those who report (including those on the Left) are invariably also those invariably for whom the system has worked.

    Unsurprisingly the attempts by UK governments of both hews have to tackle the problem of structural un/underemployment through a combination of family credit, mass university enrollment and workfare, with the implicit assumption that if we can only improve the educational level of the workforce we can get the buggers into work and off welfare as proved to be an unmitigated failure, as yesterdays announcements clearly demonstrated. The reality is however (as Michaels points out) that we could send every eighteen year old to (in his example) Harvard but it wouldn’t have any appreciable affect on employment patterns, wage rates or poverty levels. This is certainly my experience of the labour market; I spent years working in retail, earning little and sharing the experience predominantly with graduates and doctorates, the majority of whom like me never advanced wage-wise much beyond 20K, and with many over time (again like me) going significantly backwards from even this sub average UK salary figure. When one adds into this prolonged periods of straight unemployment and scale it up you begin to see just how serious the crisis is facing us. I have no property, no pension and no savings and I’m far from alone. How on earth are you going to sustain current levels of social spending let alone that required to account for the coming demographic revolution on such a precarious tax base. Well, the answer is pretty simple: you grow the public sector workforce, shower the underclass with family credit and other subsidies and borrow, borrow, borrow and hope for the best. As I have alluded to elsewhere on this site the concern expressed by the Guardianista classes with the plight of the underclass is all well and good but it really misses the point, if an economy fails to harness the talents of people like me the fate of the functionally illiterate at least in economic terms is an irrelevance.

    Mainstream political parties are essentially driven and sustained by patronage; the leadership is basically the gatekeeper to well paid employment that offers a host of ancillary benefits; post retirement media career, gold platted pension, directorships and straight forward graft. Therefore it should come as absolutely no surprise that the majority of those drawn to such institutions are by and large on the make. For a brighter than average working class kid with few prospects the career path of the trade union movement and then onwards and upwards into the local and then parliamentary Labour Party was and still is about the only legal method of significant social and financial elevation.

    The Labour Party uncannily resembles the military in its hierarchal organisation; with a cadre of working class/lower middle class trade union types doing the heavy lifting, and from whose numbers a lucky few are promoted to senior NCO status (MP’s), and an Oxbridge officer corps that monopolise the really important positions of state, (Cabinet ministers).

    Bella Caledonia joins the dowdy pantheon of self-described “radical and inclusive” organisations that litter the history of the post-war Left. The reality is that you like they are nothing of the sort; this is amply demonstrated by the proceedings of the recent Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow. Now imagine if you will; you’re passionate about Scottish Independence and you decide that this is just the kind of event for you, but there’s only one snag, you’re Jewish (and before you even think it, no I’m not) and you find yourself in less than complete agreement with the opinions of the organisers. What do you do: go along, keep your head down and say nothing; go along and get harangued or most likely not bother at all. The point I’m making is that this talk of inclusion and respect is bullshit plain and simple, it’s inclusion and respect but only if you agree with me and the comrades, which would be bad enough if it was on the central issue at hand, but of course it isn’t, it’s on an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with the matter in hand. What it does do however is demonstrate the wonderful logical disconnect that affects so many on the Left; we can debate just so long as no one actually disagrees on anything of substance. That striking the right poise is all matters. That blatantly playing the race/religious card while condemning others for doing likewise is done without the merest twinge of hypocrisy. That what is important is to get a few like-minded friends from faraway places to come over so you can all join in a big, backslapping love-fest, whilst ignoring the downtrodden on your doorstep. How seductive it is to search out cut and dried, black and white, good versus evil conflicts in faraway places that you know little about and can affect even less, make them your litmus test for participation and then wonder why nobody in the wider population takes your even remotely seriously. Instead of developing practical proposals and communicating them to a wider audience its much more appealing to sit in a room with a bunch of carbon copies and congratulate yourselves on what a bunch of Bravehearts you all are. This also has the great advantage that it means you don’t have to spend any time in your own back yard, populated as it is with a boorish, uneducated, and ungrateful working class that never ever seem to appreciate all the good work that you put in on their behalf. All those conferences on expenses, working parties at Holyrood, the endless hours spent sitting on this quango and that, oh yes its altogether eminently much more productive (and a whole lot more fun) to chew the tapas fat with your new Catalan chums than get on a bus to Coatbridge and try and persuade a few of the great unwashed how posturing in support of Hamas (a nastier bunch of fascist thugs its hard to imagine) is going to help transform their life for the better.

    Pat Kane inadvertently let the cat out of the bag with his wonderfully surreal suggestion that the next step in building on the “success’ of the RIC was some kind of Adam Curtis type documentary! Now I like Adam Curtis, and obviously Pat Kane does too, but the vast majority of the electorate, no I don’t think so. In fact why not just recycle the wonderful Off-Kilter by Jonathan Meades, it’s ready made, eminently relevant and watched by about the same number of people. This kind of navel staring cobblers is sadly the meat and drink of the so-called (at least by the participants) Radical Left. The reality is that they are neither radical nor particularly Left. The causes they gravitate towards invariably have little or nothing to do with the lives of most ordinary Scots, and consequently are largely ignored. Stephen Dorril, one of the founders of that fine periodical The Lobster summed it up very nicely some years ago, the exact quote I don’t have to hand but basically it was that after years plodding round the doorsteps of Hull on behalf on the Labour Party he had concluded that far from it being the case that what was required was for the majority to have the blinkers removed from their eyes and the prospect of socialist paradise revealed, the vast majority of the population simply weren’t interested in politics, and never were going to be interested. A statement that if made in connection with stamp collecting, train-spotting, Bridge or buggery would one imagines illicit nothing more than mumbling agreement by the readership of this site, but if one were to suggest the possibility that politics might fall into this ambit you’d be denounced as some kind of bourgeoisie sell-out or worse. Folks, the uncomfortable truth is that the vast majority of you’re fellow Scots aren’t capable of even the most basic level of abstract thought, without which sophisticated political debate of the kind that you endlessly indulge in is simply impossible. They don’t know what the hell you’re talking about and they don’t care. If you’re serious about Scottish independence then you have to accept this fact and tailor your message accordingly, but that assumes that you’re motivated primarily by your stated objective, but sadly from all that I’ve seen on this site and my wider experience of and in the Scottish Left I sincerely doubt that this actually is the case.

    By bye Bella, I wish you well.


    PS My posts may to some have been somewhat intemperate in tone, but as you may have guessed I’m pretty pissed-off with my lot and have been for many years. Talking amongst yourselves is all well and good as is meeting-up for the occasional conference, not least as it offers the opportunity for the odd bit of leg-over Olympics but at the end of the day that shyster Salmond has for reasons of pure ego and hubris propelled the nation to a point of premature decision. I don’t think the vote has a cat in hells chance of going our way, for that you’d need to have at least five years of +70% polling figures. So, the question to be asked and answered is how quickly and in what form can you reconstitute another vote, and in this if nothing else I’m rather optimistic. The global economy and the Eurozone in particular are buggered and no amount of central bank financial chicanery will alter that. The long term employment trends in all the advanced economies (Germanyincluded; there are only so many machine tools you can sell the Chinese before they start making and selling their own) a permanent structural change that ensures that capitalism at least as we’ve known it for the last couple of hundred years is as dead as the Dodo. The Left needs of get of its mental knees, look beyond trade unionist slogans and embrace a future that will be here a lot sooner than you or I can imagine.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.