SNP Skye and The Debate

Difficult to know where to start, really. Negotiations to attract corporate sponsorship for the fledgling Skye Independence Party (SIP) are at a bit of a standstill. Well, to be frank, they haven’t really started. At all. I keep meaning to have a word with the people at Arran Brewery Plc (incorporating Arran and Isle of Skye Brewing Company) but as you’ll remember, they are having a few fund-raising issues of their own as the meanie Scottish government refuses to authorise grant aid to them for their expansion. I think a lot about Talisker too. A lot. Aye well…

Then there’s the SNP who had a meeting recently on the island attended by about 80 people. Is that a lot? For a wet, windy Wednesday night I suppose it might be. As far as I can tell from their Facebook page, the SNP Skye Lochalsh branch is run from Portree. Who knew? Bit cagey, actually that FB page; lots of photos of the branch’s Burns night shindig, snippets of nationalist news from here and there, that kind of thing, but nothing too specific on addresses, phone numbers, membership details etc. By that I mean, actually nothing.


I am aware that feelings on the whole Scottish independence debate run high for both the Ayes and the Nays hereabouts, and that is understandable. Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch is based in Dingwall as, indeed is our erstwhile Westminster Lib Dem MP, Charles Kennedy. Never mind. On Thompson’s website, he gives what I can only assume is his ‘mission statement.’ As with so many in his party, the springboard for his passionate nationalism was a painful experience at the hands, literally, of a brutal teacher of English. Who may, or may not, have been English, by the way.

He writes: “I have been very conscious of my Scottishness ever since it was drummed into me in school by a teacher of English who took great delight in rapping my knuckles with a ruler every time my Doric [North east Scottish dialect] emerged in class.

The Independent Scotland I want will have none of that discrimination and our differences will be celebrated. Whether we are from the North, South, East or West; whether our Mother tongue is Gaelic, Scots, English or another; whether we were born here or not – we will all be respected.

That teacher of English did this wee loon a great favour when he taught me to love Scottish justice and decency. We are a small and diverse nation but our diversity is our strength. My Independent Scotland [sic] will be a shining beacon in a darkened world, a force for good and a caring community, where all are valued.”


It is not clear whether his Independent Scotland is the same as Alex Salmond’s Independent Scotland as I know the latter has some very strong personal views on the matter his self. As does Nicola Sturgeon. I imagine the lady in Portree who runs the local SNP (for ’tis a she, that much I do know) also has an opinion on the matter, and I hope to learn how Skye and the Western Isles fits into this New Promised Scot Land!

In the meantime, step forward a group of economists and academics who have waded into the independence (enough of the CAPITALS, already!) debate with their own vision of how Holyrood could transform Scottish society after a Yes vote in the referendum. They argue that Scotland can become a new Nordic-style country based on only the finest fruits of the Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and German systems and implementing them under independence.

Instead of the current UK model beloved of George Osborne and his public school chums which sustains a decline into a low-wage, low-skill economy in which the markets rule (OK, yah!), public services dwindle (or are killed off) and the gulf between the rich and poor expands exponentially, they say Scotland has an option on a new direction of travel; a fundamentally different model for society.

While not being utopia, it would involve six founding principles:

  • Tax reforms designed to reduce inequality;

  • A better welfare state;

  • Reform of the finance sector;

  • More diverse ownership of industry;

  • More variety in business types;

  • Greater democracy at work and in communities.

The sting would be higher taxation – but not necessarily higher taxes for all – and the impact would be offset by better jobs with better wages. Where needs must, instead of state intervention being seen as a humiliating act of last resort, it would be embraced as contributing to the common good.

The proponents of this scheme call it the “Common Weal” model, after a much preferred concept of the late Clydeside trades union leader Jimmy Reid, based around collective endeavour. Whoa, there! In the teeth of the last 30 years of free-market neo-liberalism in the UK, this all sounds suspiciously like failed lefty la-la-land lunacy. Nevertheless, its advocates point out that the system is part of the furniture in the Nordic countries – they’re just not being tried here; if they had, it is implied, our economy and society both sides of the border might not have been in such a mess.

Officially, the Yes Scotland campaign says it’s an “interesting contribution to the debate”, but key players are quietly far more positive and keen to push the concept. MSPs are also showing interest.

However, the paper as presented by the Jimmy Reid Foundation is a double-edged sword. One sharp edge is an indictment: the fact that it exists at all implies that the SNP have failed to make a vivid, engaging, day-to-day case for independence. Well they have, haven’t they? People I talk to round these parts, whether for or against independence all agree on one point: we have no idea what any of this actually means. There is fear in both camps now.


On the other edge is an ambition to move the debate along, away from a straight Yes/No argument on separation along with the distractions bandied about by the Better Together campaign, towards a mature discussion on the various models for independence.

Indeed, as much as the SNP and the Yes campaign have yet to agree on anything substantial by way of concrete, costed, no-nonsense proposals, news emerges today that that rare bird indeed, Gordon Brown, is fronting a breakaway movement – United With Labour – within the Better Together campaign! (Oh the irony, the irony!) Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, and her deft deputy, Anas Sarwar MP, are also on board pushing for a “different view” of Scotland’s future. Has “One Nation” Ed Miliband given this his endorsement? Presumably not, if Brown is the spokesperson!

Sarwar, who is the embryonic schism’s campaign co-ordinator, has said: “The Labour movement has a different view of Scotland’s future from the Conservatives and Liberals.” He went on to say: “The referendum is the biggest decision the people of Scotland will face for 300 years and it is important that we have strong Labour voices speaking for the majority of Scots who believe we are better working together with our neighbours in the United Kingdom [he means England]”

Well that’s all very clear then, isn’t it? Who’s going to get into the ring next then, UKIP? Oh. They’re around our parts already, based on Orkney. Shiver me timbers! Close the gate; I need a sip! Have a good week, now.

 Follow me on Twitter: @StRemeze

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