Devolution roundup: GB’s moment of truth

I have long believed that Gordon Brown’s aspiration to be Prime Minister would be fateful for the United Kingdom.

Recent events have made it clearer than ever that the Labour succession is closely bound up with the outcome of next May’s Scottish elections. So perhaps now is a good time for another of my occasional round-ups of devolution-related news.

The key story of the last couple of days is the Sunday Times poll showing that a plurality of Scots support independence. However, this caveat is worth noting:

Although the poll is a major success for the Nationalists, it has to be seen in the context of recent Scottish opinion polls, all of which have failed to show any sort of consistent pattern, either of an SNP lead or of a buoyant Labour Party. (Scotsman)

James Mitchell looks at some of the possible ways in which the situation could unfold from here:

If Tony Blair remains in power until after next May’s elections his unpopularity will damage Scottish Labour. At least as important will be the consequences of the convulsions caused by frustration and division. Blair may hope time will provide a credible alternative to Gordon Brown, but such a contest is unlikely to show Labour at its best. Brown will be desperate not to allow his boyhood dream to be snatched from his grasp again.

But what if the Chancellor forces Tony Blair out of the premiership? There are reasons for doubting that this will be the unequivocal good news that many of his Scottish supporters imagine. (Scotland on Sunday)

Joan McAlpine asks what is the point of the union?

There is no British empire to serve or exploit. Our manufacturing industry has all but disappeared. Our great natural resource – North Sea oil – was exploited by Westminster in a shameless fashion. Petroleum revenues, which could have helped reposition the Scottish economy, have disappeared into Whitehall’s melting pot. Concentrated on Scotland, with its small population, oil revenues could still tackle the "scar of poverty" Wendy [Alexander] says is the challenge facing us today (after almost 10 years of Labour rule, I could add). (The Herald)

Ruaridh Nicoll promises that an intellectual counter-offensive is on the way:

May’s election coincides with the 300-year anniversary of the Act of Union. It’s perfect timing, given current attitudes on both sides of the border…

…I have read three of the forthcoming books and large chunks of two more. I will go into their contents in more depth later this year, but it’s noticeable that, in all cases apart from one, the nationalism that has marked attitudes to the union over the last 30 to 40 years is dissipating. (Observer)

Unfortunately, that’s not the only offensive being promised:

A BANNED Scottish terrorist organisation has threatened to poison the public water supply in England, endangering hundreds of thousands of lives.

The Scottish National Liberation Army (SNLA), dedicated to establishing an independent Scottish republic, sent the warning to the offices of The Sunday Times in Glasgow. (Sunday Times)

Now, why would Scottish nationalists threaten the English public at a moment when the SNP has a real chance of victory and some in England are warming to that prospect?

An August 2005 Herald article cited in Stuart Dickson’s blog Scottish independence might suggest one answer:

”Rumours about agent provocateurs within nationalist ranks in the 1970’s have raged for decades. It has been claimed that one such figure was Major Frederick Boothby, an ultra-nationalist who set up the 1320 Club – named after the date of the Declaration of Abroath. Boothby who began recruiting young men to the extremist cause in the 1970’s, published a magazine which contained instructions for bomb making and began a terror group called the Army of Provisional Government, giving himself the code number 01 and the nom de gurre, Clydesdale.

Adam Busby, the founder of the Scottish National Liberation Army, was another recruited by Boothby in the 1970’s. Busby too, it is claimed, was working forSpecial Branch.

It is known that government and police agents were used within the trade union movement in the 1970’s and nationalists believe, similar tactics were employed to stop any further gains by the SNP. By the end of the two general elections in 1974, the nationalists had 11 MP’s and 30% of all votes cast in Scotland.

Labour, meanwhile, had just scraped a workable majority and the party in Scotland had suffered a major split. (Herald via Scottish Independence also available at Findarticles)







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