2007 - 2021

The Politics of Junkie Scotland

john-mcternan-gettyBy Mike Small

Of course David Starkey should just be treated with complete cold contempt for his recent comments spewed forth into the public domain by an atavistic media addicted to lowest common denominator shock-journalism.

But there was one striking thing in his mad mutterings about the SNP ‘seizing control of a whole country’ * that caught our eye. His assertion that the SNP hold a “passionate belief  in economic self-sufficiency” – conjuring visions of Nicola Sturgeon emerging as a resplendent figure floating somewhere between Felicity Kendall and Leni Riefenstahl – struck a chord with this dumbstruck organ.

As the Labour Party struggles in soul-searching north and south of the border, the essential message from the People’s Party is the same as the lime-lit historian. As Ian Bell writes about Junkie Scotland and FFA: “As it turns out Scotland would be daft to wean itself off the alleged subsidy. One of those hellish black holes has appeared. Fiscal autonomy is a crackpot notion that can lead only to spending cuts, tax increases, or both. The message, loudest from Labour, is to cling to the Barnett Formula no matter what. It’s not what you’d call ambitious.”

As we laugh (or rage) at Starkey, consider this. His message is the same as Labour’s: don’t have ridiculous ideas of any sort of financial responsibility, autonomy or control over your own economy. Even within the union.

This isn’t new. Remember  John McTernan’s outburst of 2011?. “This is the first dirty secret of Scottish politics: that Scotland is doing very well, thank you. When it comes to public spending, it is a mendicant nation, always looking for more” (the term mendicant, from Latin: mendicans, “begging”, refers to begging or relying on charitable donations).

The idea is predicated on a simple idea of the wealthy south and the barren north; giver and recipient. Any challenge to that framework is unacceptable.

It’s essentially the same as  the repellent Kelvin (‘The fact that anybody is in work in Scotland is due almost entirely to the wealth created by the clever and resourceful people in England’ ) or Ross Clark  describing how “The message for English voters is: Granny McTavish is living it up at your expense.”

As Labour politicians and unionists scribes prostrate themselves in gleeful over-excitement about the ‘facts’ of the OBR and IFS projections – the sad truth is that, when we get back to basics, the dismal prospects are not for long-term Scottish economic stability, but for political parties who’s vision is still wedded to a message saying: ‘this is as good as it gets’ – ‘don’t change a thing, everything’s fine’. This abject lack of vision, hope, aspiration or urgency will destroy Labour futures, north or south, and is far more relevant than whether Gordon Matheson or Ken McIntosh – Andy Burnham or Liz Kendall – head the party.

It’s a repressed state of managed decline. It states: “You have no economic future (no reason given), you are reliant on the benevolence of your larger neighbour. Our advice: hold on tight.”

Sometimes this is distilled to the simple, handy: ‘pooling and sharing’ code or the even handier: ‘UK:OK’ initials. This normcore politics is now hard-wired into the Unionist politics and a declining oil price is greeted with unconfined jubilation – it’s the heavenly hallmark of this dead certainty. Game over. Shut up and eat your cereal.

Yet as Bell points out, there’s an uncomfortable reality that, in fact, the OBR hasn’t been right yet. And, more worryingly for the narrative of despair: “Despite its peaks and troughs, the average oil price has increased in every decade since the Second World War” and poor old narrow-shouldered ‘separatist’ Norway has (foolishly) “acquired a trillion dollar piggy bank out of it.”

God knows there’s a billion reasons other than economic insecurity to shift the Scottish economy – or projections on the Scottish economy – away from oil. Just ask the Pope. 

But it’s the total lack of innovation that is galling – and reflective of a political enclave void of ideas. Think of the story of Nokia in Finland, or of wine making in New Zealand as parables of how countries can innovate change and inspire. Labour and Tories don’t want to think big, they want to cling-on to dead and dying models of proven failure, so, for example, ship-building equals, and can only equal defence contracts.  More handouts.

Scotland has resourceful businesses, social enterprise and innovators all over the place. Dundee’s booming computer gaming sector and world leaders Rockstar  are more Minecraft than Mein Kampf.

The myth that Scotland’s viability is predicated solely on oil is widely upheld by our media. It’s up to us to explore the alternatives for ecological sanity and the ‘long game’ of creating the grounds for a viable economy, not one based on exploiting our natural resources and causing catastrophic emissions, but doing a lot less a lot better. Make less, create more.

Many of us have a ‘passionate belief  in economic self-sufficiency’- because it could and should mean divorcing ourselves from an economic system that creates and sustains mass poverty and immiseration next to obscene wealth whilst raising a national debt of £1.533 trillion to £1.617 tn, as we’re told George Osborne intends.


  • he means being elected

Comments (17)

Join the Discussion

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

  1. Muscleguy says:

    Ah yes, wine making in NZ. To which we must add the conversion of the humble Chinese gooseberry in the midst of the Cold War into the mighty kiwifruit. The expertise gained in growing it commercially spawned an agribusiness that sells various forms of ag-knowhow across the globe.

    NZ has a wine industry thanks to Continental immigrants, largely but not limited to Dalmations from the Croation coast indicating that immigrants and their different ideas and practices can enrich the host nation very much.

    If NZ can pull off the kiwifruit then iScotland can sell something else to the world, given the right levers and not being reliant on the UK’s diplomatic corps to notice us.

    1. FraserP says:

      Wine in NZ has grown exponentially over the years and it’s a high profile industry (swally gets more press than widgets) but it still only makes up about 0.6% of NZ GDP. At its peak Nokia accounted for a rather more impressive 4% of Finland’s GDP. NZ is rather over reliant on its agriculture, particularly dairy – parts of the country are in danger of drowning under a fearsome tsunami of coos’ plaps. Scotland in contrast has a more balanced range of industries, but is over reliant on financial services rather than oil. Funny how we don’t hear much about that any more now the referendum’s over.

      Little known McFactoid: the first vines in NZ were planted by James Busby, the ‘British Resident’ at Waitangi in the 1840s. He was a Scotsman.

  2. muttley79 says:

    Good article Mike. Unionists want to keep Scotland in a state of dependency, that is why they have fought so hard to keep us from getting significant taxation powers.

  3. bringiton says:

    No expense spared by london when it comes to saving us Scots from ourselves.

  4. Grumble Mcgrumble says:

    ‘But it’s the total lack of innovation that is galling – and reflective of a political enclave void of ideas. Think of the story of Nokia in Finland, or of wine making in New Zealand as parables of how countries can innovate change and inspire. Labour and Tories don’t want to think big, they want to cling-on to dead and dying models of proven failure, so, for example, ship-building equals, and can only equal defence contracts. More handouts…’

    Really know a lot about the subsea tech industry, the highly innovative marine engineering supply chain interconnected down the East Coast of the UK among many other high end manufacturing industries like bio sciences, not to mention the reliance of renewables on UK market subsidy.

    Oh and the reason we don’t build entire ships is because of financing power of Korea, Singapore and China. Could an independent Scotland stump up 80-90% down payments on multi million construction projects that cover the price discrepancy where any bid would be ’10 times’ more expensive?’

    And make up your mind. One minute it’s NZ and flogging wine to the world, the next it’s ‘self sufficiency’. Can’t have both!

  5. Anton says:

    David Starkey is an attention-seeking bully. I’m surprised that Bella gives his views any credence whatsoever.

    Wait a minute. I withdraw that. If we’re to achieve independence I guess we have to challenge and confute his arguments, insane though they may well be.

    1. JBS says:

      No, we don’t. His ‘arguments’ are nothing more than the knee-jerk reaction of a firmly-embedded member of the establishment who loves tradition and the monarchy and can’t bear to see irreverent Scots upsetting his precious applecart.

  6. John Page says:

    Good piece which I enjoyed reading. There are 3 elements continuing the shift to independence.
    A widespread loathing of the “too wee, too poor, too stupid” narrative.
    The unfairness and obvious decline demonstrated by Westminster.
    The complete antipathy of ordinary Scots to the likes of McTernan. (Surely, with his track record of very public failure, he must now be facing a mendicant future)
    After 5 more years of this shit, a clear majority will be up for independence……..
    John Page

  7. Broadbield says:

    I’ve just read the Starkey link – what has the UK come to when on the one hand a professor makes a tasteless, sexist “joke” and is pilloried and resigns his post and another (visiting) professor frequently makes offensive and despicable remarks and continues to be “persona granta”? My only consolation was in discovering Godwin’s Law and it associate “Reductio ad Hitlerum” – that anyone bringing up the Nazi analogy only does so because they have lost the argument.

    While I agree the economic basis for Independence is important many of us want it because we want to be in charge of our own affairs, even if that means we are a bit poorer or pay a bit more in taxes. Personally, I don’t think we will be poorer and I’m quite happy for those of us who can afford it to pay a bit more to a Scottish Exchequer to create a fairer and more caring society.

  8. Saor Alba says:

    If they think we are subsidy junkies and a mendicant nation, then the answer is obvious. With these repellant comments from the South, you would have to wonder why they want us to be a part of their odious union. Why do they not want us to go?

    The truth is different. They cannot let us go, because they know that it is not we who are the mendicant nation. It is as simple as that. They drain US of OUR resources.

    Their lies are coming at a rate of knots now as they begin to sense that the sovereign people of Scotland are now awake and are becoming truly aware of their history, power and identity. This very same sovereign people also have recognised that they have an alternative in pro-independence and progressive politicians, who have integrity and in whom they trust.

    What is much worse for the Unionists is that they now are beginning to recognise that this progressive movement is now spreading South of the border, albeit slowly. This is a massive danger to the self-serving and corrupt establishment and unionist parties.

    The tide is moving and if the unionists don’t clear out of the way, they will simply drown.

  9. James Dow says:

    The union is dead, not quite, but it’s death knell will be ushered in with the passing of the generation that denied their descendants a Sovereign Scotland. Their extinction will be their finest contribution to the land that nurtured them.

    1. deewal says:

      Do you mean us YES voting members of the SNP and other Parties who are Pensioner’s or do you think we will escape the Wrath of the Grim Reaper for our finest contribution to the land that nurtured us ? Will He recognise us by our Tartan Halo’s ?

    2. John Page says:

      I wonder if the reference to that particular generation could have been phrased more elegantly……..I have just come back from holiday during which time I read MacWhirter’s most enjoyable Disunited Kingdom. He mentions the plethora of Yes groupings and noted the absence of Pensioners for Yes………an idea worth thinking about now ……….. how about Pensioners for Yes(EU)+Yes(Scotland)?

      John Page

  10. Kenneth G Coutts says:

    Like all historians of the union they write it and contort the facts,how does it go , history belongs to the victors, well folks! let us change the contorted facts ,let us change history.
    Once again we hear the english complaining wanting EVEL ect, here we are, the english and unionists voting down amendments to the Scotland bill and one wee nyaff holding the power of veto over progress.
    What other indignities do we have to suffer , before those that are blind and refuse to see wake up and walk with us to change history for the better.
    Starkey is thrashing about in his own spume, the man is a raving lunatic.

  11. Donald Mitchell says:

    I’m guessing Dr Rude has a book to sell? Its a bit disappointing that Bella pays any attention to an old man’s havers, we should be confident and sophisticated enough to treat provocation for what it is.
    On the wider issue of FFA i’m not convinced, just because we support independence doesn’t mean we have to accept any deal Westminster offers at any time. We’re now at a stage when we don’t need Westminster’s permission for anything, the focus should be on the Scottish Parliament and Home Rule.

  12. arthur thomson says:

    I am a ‘pensioner’ who has supported Scottish independence all my life. I take no offence, however, at the suggestion that many Scottish pensioners sold out my country. I toyed with the idea of starting a ‘geriatrics for Yes’ group during the referendum. I just didn’t have the confidence but I would be happy and proud to part of such a group if someone wants to start one.

    The defining of the Scots as a nation of scroungers, living off the rest of the UK, is thoroughly offensive to me and will offend more and more decent Scottish people as it repeated and elaborated on. People will conclude that either they are being lied to or that it is time they stopped living off others. Prior to the explosion of intelligent Scots onto the political scene the timid might have wondered if they were actually part of an inferior group of people but not now.

    Sadly, there are a significant but decreasing number of Scots who accept that the negative view of Scotland is accurate. These are the ‘unionists’. In particular they include the closet tories who are what is left of SLAB, as epitomised by Murphy, Dugdale, Lamont etc and the handful of actual members they have left. I believe they actually think they are superior to other people and that this explains their offensive rejection of any idea that Scotland has normal people and could be a normal country. It is these people most of all who stand in the way of Scotland moving forward. These are the people who think that the insults being hurled at Scotland are not directed at them. They take the view that the nationalists have brought this upon Scotland by having delusions of normality. They have nothing to contribute to hope over fear. They are the people who complain, when the sun comes out, that it is too hot. They need to be exposed for what they are and marginalised. The GE was a first brilliant step. It needs to be followed up at Holyrood and at the most local level. Then the insults will just be a spur to the vast majority of Scotland’s citizens to make their country independent once again.

  13. Paul Cooper says:

    I am a English person who votes SNP. History is an evil magician who likes to destroy political systems for its own amusement. I am aware of a national vice, that is trying to sell hypocrisy as a virtue, and snobbery. I am aware that the Scots are able to move forward but the English cannot somehow. The grand retreat to 1955 that was the core driving force behind 1979 is leaving them marooned, or at least people like Starkey are because somehow as they look at their watches the hands never run backwards. Everyday they deal with it by demanding a return to a past which itself is an endless looping trap because somehow tomorrow turns up anyway. I do not mock but merely sadly observe. English identity is in a perilous muddle. Is an Englishman some kind of American?
    I think that slowly the North of England will come into the gravity well of Scotland. I also wish to say to my former countrymen that it is no use wanting 15 people to have absolute power and negative climates produce negative climates. History is not the chronicles of the Order of the Bath.
    My ancestors in Manchester brought down the Confederate States of America by boycotting their cotton. They starved and sadly the people of the Confederacy starved. It is a serious thing to make history. Scots just made history but that is dangerous and three times best vigilance is required. David Starkey is a stage conjuror who tries to push an audience into Henry VIII’s hat.

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.