Not falling for it this time

It’s time to shake off forty years of establishment manipulation says Andy Anderson

I was born in Glasgow just before the outbreak of the Second World War. My father was a coal miner and a socialist and I grew up in a socialist environment, later when I became a miner myself I graduating into a Marxist. For most of us socialists, who grew up in this time period the idea of nationalism was anathema to us. It reminded us of the horror of the Nazi regime; of savagery, brutality and murder on a state basis, something that our families had fought against and something we wanted no connection with whatsoever. So many Scots, like me, were dead-set against Scottish nationalism because of the concept of “nationalism”; we prided ourselves in being “internationalists” and above all that. However we worked for, and in some cases, like my own, we served in the military for an imperialist State, and sometimes failed to see the contradiction. We were content to play our part in a democratic country which we felt we could influence, in spite of the fact that it was an aggressive, nuclear-armed colonial empire which held millions in bondage.

I remember reading a short booklet about Nguyen Van Troi, a young electrician in South Vietnam, who was persecuted tortured and executed by the South Vietnam puppet regime in the mid 1960s. While he was being interrogated the CIA “advisors” asked the South Vietnamese interrogators to question him about being a Marxist and internationalist yet being involved with a Vietnamese nationalist organisation. They put it to him that there was a contradiction in his position and to explain it. He told them clearly that he was a Marxist and an internationalist. He explained that Vietnam could not play its proper role in the international community until it threw off the yoke of the imperialists who dominated it. He supported the nationalist movement which he believed would be able to throw off the imperialist yoke and allow the Vietnamese people to have a national state and an internationalist presence. That explanation taught me something about my own position in Britain. We on the left were being led along by a Labour party which seemed to offer real choice when it offered in reality no such thing. I am looking at the 1974 Labour Party Manifesto “Let us work together”. In the foreword to this document Harold Wilson promises to solve the economic crises which he said the UK was in, to stop house prices rising, stop the Common Market from forcing up prices and taking more control of Britain’s affairs, and to solve the miner’s dispute with fairness. He was elected you will recall.

In the mid 1970’s the British establishment was in a panic about the strength of the British economy, the weakness of the pound, the balance of payments, and British “standing” in the world based on the old imperialist view of “Great Britain”.

For most in the British Government, Civil Service and the media, imbued as they were with imperialist ideas, Britain was facing a real crisis. The British economy was just not keeping pace with other advanced economies, and indeed some backward economies such as China’s were catching up. They could see that Britain was going to lose its place as a “world power” because it would soon not be able to afford the high profile. At this crucial time developments were taking place in Scotland which very much caught their attention and two developments in particular. Oil was being discovered in great quantity in the North Sea in Scottish territorial waters, and the SNP were gaining in political strength. The civil servants wanted to make a careful examination of the former, and to assess the implications of that on the latter. The senior economist at the Scottish Office at that time Mr Gavin McCrone did a study of the implications of the new oil industry to the economy of the UK and of Scotland as an independent country. That study was completed in 1974 and forwarded to the Cabinet Office in London in April 1975.

The contents of this important McCrone Report were of such significance, and so devastating to the Westminster Establishment that they made this report, and all correspondence relating to it ‘Top Secret’ and kept it out of sight of the Scottish people for over 30 years. That however is only the start of what they did. They followed that up with a widespread, sustained and well funded campaign in the public arena to deceive and mislead the Scottish people about these economic matters.

In that obscene anti-democratic campaign the Unionist political parties, particularly the parties of Government, played a full and dishonourable role and are continuing to do so to this day. This campaign which, because of documents released under FoI, we can now expose was based on the economic foundations of the McCrone report, but it extended into other areas in an attempt to undermine the SNP such as inserting ‘agents provocateur’ into the SNP and attempts to associate the SNP with violence. Another of the tactics employed by the British secret services was to try to create internal divisions in Scotland. That good old imperialist trick employed by Edward the First against the Scots. The Gaelic programme, “Dìomhair” (Secrets), shown recently on Alba TV for which George Rosie did the research, exposes much of this and is well worth watching. (It is sub-titled for those who do not have the Gaelic)

In this paper I want to concentrate on the economic issue, for it was this that caused the Westminster Establishment to start the campaign against the SNP and indeed it is in this field that they have been extraordinary successful. We are told, and I have no reason to doubt it, that the majority of Scots would vote against independence for their country if given the chance to-morrow. Now that is very strange, so why is that?

The answer is obvious. Over thirty years of distortions, half-truths and outright lies about the Scottish economy from London controlled Governments, Civil Servants and Media have had an effect. A large part, possibly a majority of the Scottish people believe that Scotland would have great difficulty surviving as an independent economy, and in an economic downturn such as now this insecurity increases . Yet not only is this idea entirely false, it is in fact the opposite of the truth. If independent, Scotland to-day would be much stronger economically as all unbiased opinion shows, and the people who have been persistently spreading that falsehood have been well aware of that for two decades. Indeed the Westminster establishment have been so successful at making this distortion stick that it is now emerging that there is pressure coming from English voters for the Scots to have independence because they quite reasonably do not feel that they should continue to keep subsidising the Scots. The Unionist political leaders know that this is untrue so they are caught on the horns of their own dilemma.

The McCrone report and the correspondence between civil servants relating to it, show quite clearly that they had no hesitation or misunderstanding about the findings of this economic study. They knew that McCrone was correct to say that the Scottish economy, with the expected oil production level would, if independent, be one of the strongest economies in the world. Indeed Scotland’s ‘problem’ which they discussed would be how to deal with its economic riches. They even took the view that the SNP assessment of Scotland’s oil wealth was far too low, and history proved them right on that. The UK however, if Scotland had gone independent in the 1970s, would have been in real trouble, and the pound as a world trading currency would have collapsed.

Over thirty years of distortions, half-truths and outright lies about the Scottish economy from London controlled Governments, Civil Servants and Media have had an effect. A large part, possibly a majority of the Scottish people believe that Scotland would have great difficulty surviving as an independent economy

It was not a question of the UK saving Scotland economically; on the contrary it was very much understood by them to be the other way round – the UK could not afford to lose Scotland.

It is clear in the correspondence between top civil servants that they had accepted the McCrone report as being valid, it is equally clear that they were united in keeping this information from the Scottish people, and indeed assisting in feeding them the very opposite information – the lie that Scotland could not make it as an independent economy. One very revealing set of communications in 1976 is between Brian Willott, then Assistant Secretary at the Dept of Industry, and Gavin McCrone where they are faced with the “problem” that North Sea oil revenues could strengthen the pounds exchange rate to such an extent that it would cripple UK exports while sucking in imports. The answer they felt was to spend the new oil money on UK infrastructure projects. Here are Willott’s suggestions:

(a) The road net-work between Tilbury Dock and the English Midlands

(b) Dealing with trade-union “restrictive practices”

(c) Building a London outer ring road

(d) Supporting the proposed Channel Tunnel

McCrone pointed out that the Scots would be less than pleased if they saw the new oil money from Scottish oil being spend entirely in the south of England. We now know from history that this is exactly what they did do with much of the oil money while some of it went into the military spending black hole. Thatcher dealt with the trade-union issue by abandoning Keynesian economic policies and embracing a monetarist position. Using the oil-backed strong pound she allowed a depression to drive up unemployment while her Government refused to help what they called “Lame Duck” industries and forced their closure. This gave them an ideal position from which to attack the trade-union movement. She drove the UK unemployment rate up to 3 million using the strength of oil revenues to keep the pound steady. Of course this made Thatcher very unpopular for a time all over Britain, but the Falklands war helped restore her political popularity in England, although it never did recover in Scotland. Scotland, having a higher proportion of heavy industry than the UK average, suffered very badly by this attack. What is clear though all this period, irrespective of party allegiance, all unionist politicians joined the big lie in talking down Scotland’s prospects as an independent country, as did the whole UK establishment, some of course were ignorant and knew no better while trying to be seen as sophisticated but the leadership knew very well what the true position was.

At the recent Glasgow by-election while Labour claimed a great victory, two out of three voters did not bother to vote while this is an area of social deprivation among the worse in Europe. Are our people so subdued and depressed by the propaganda that they have given up trying? The Unionists are trying to divert us from dealing effectively with this issue by claiming that it is not important ‘we have no time for relooking at constitutional matters while the economic situation is so poor’. The truth however is that unless and until we deal with this matter, we will be unable to deal properly with our economic or political problems. If we as Scots are prepared to confront the Imperial nonsense of Britain retaining nuclear arms, of Britain being second fiddle to the USA in armed conflicts world wide, and Britain playing “super-power” in the UN Security Council, then we need to take this on at its lifeline, its Scottish economic base.

What McCrone identified in 1974 is still valid to-day. The UK economy is in dire trouble without Scotland’s assets. If therefore we can move the debate around to the real issues this will be of benefit to the people everywhere in Britain, and it will kill off British imperialism. The Thatcher attack on the trade-unions was planned by civil servants before she was even elected leader of the Tory party and was financed by Scottish oil. Britain’s nuclear weapons, her overseas military adventures, and her super power posturing has all being financed by Scotland’s link to the UK. It is crystal clear, if we as socialists want to put an end to this, we have to expose the lies and the case for Scottish Independence in the interests of all people in Britain.