The New Scotland
Sponsored by the Herald, New Statesman
and The Fabian Society, the conference "The New Scotland' was organised
by the little-known Centre for Scottish Public Policy (CSPP). In the last
two days of May they hired out most of the arts venues in the Trongate
area in Glasgow and charged entrance fees of at least £10--presumably
to keep the riff raff out. There was almost no publicity for the event--most
venues knew next to nothing about the organisation they housed. Press reports
of the conference told us nothing of the CSPP--they barely mentioned their
name--even although simple investigation reveals them to be the organ grinders
and suppliers of most of the monkeys. Press reports offered no information
enabling anyone to judge the objectivity of the event. They did condescend
to report that during Donald Dewar's introductory speech there had been
a "demonstration by the National Petition Against Poverty" and that the
organisers had dutifully called the police. Thus the CSPP's first act was
to try to get people (probably violently) arrested. I heard that all that
happened was that a women had loudly and clearly pointed out the brutal
realities of poverty in the city. Donald Dewar had this to say:
"If they have a genuine complaint
to make, this is not the way to do it." 1
If offering people some stylistic
advice while behind their backs moves are made to get them arrested is
all Dewar has to offer, then it is another indication of betrayal; and
sadly, things to come. But it is not a case of "if" there is poverty. Poverty
is a self evident fact. The poor are the truth.
But in Scotland the Labour Party
are ruled by fear, not by truth. Their fear of "activism" or "direct action"
or even "the left" is simple cowardice--a fear of direct contact with the
people they have betrayed. This fear manipulates them. Their world is littered
with guilty secrets. People have been driven to suicide. These days adherence
to Orwellian double-think is practically in their constitution. There will
be no re-distribution of wealth, well certainly not downwards. Dewar, no
doubt, automatically apologised for the lower classes turning up and lowering
the tone of the proceedings. It frightens away nice rich upper-class people
who get queasy and nervous at the sight of beggars and begin to fear and
fret for the safety of their belongings. Best let the police deal with
that sort of thing, and then get back to endlessly talking about fighting
poverty with the managerial classes while de-regulating the bankers. This
conference should have been called "Criminalising the poor--how can we make
money out of it?"
Against boardrooms even the gods
contest in vain
The CSPP used to be called The John
Weatley Centre, and was named after the respected Independent Labour Party
MP who passed through legislation enabling government action on Glasgow"s
Housing Problem, arguably the chief cause of misery in the city at the
time. Old socialists (and their socialism) are not welcome round these
here parts no more2 --
so the name has been changed. There are similar organisations like this
springing up like poisonous mushrooms and the new Scottish parliament is
acting like a vicious fertiliser.3
Their web page for the event states
that: "The centre is not aligned to any political party." Their brochure
describes the CSPP as "independent of political parties." and "...managed
by a Board drawn from a wide cross-section of Scottish society." Judge
for yourself-- this is the board according to the Centre:
Dr. Alice Brown: Dept. of politics
Gordon Dalyell: Solicitor, Wheatley
Centre on Law Reform.
Mark Lazarowicz: An Advocate, and
former Labour councillor. He stood in the '92 election as a Parliamentary
Labour candidate in the Edinburgh Pentlands seat, losing to Malcolm Rifkind
by 4,290 votes. It had previously, in 87, been a Labour majority of 1,859.
He is the convener of the CSPP.
Anne McGuire: Labour MP, recently
appointed Donald Dewar's Parliamentary Private Secretary. Shortly after
the conference she was the principle "gate keeper" who drew up the list
of prospective (i.e. acceptably right-wing) Labour candidates for the new
parliament. An ardent sycophant she took the opportunity of PM"s question
time to ask: "Does the prime minister recognise that our emphasis over
the past year on the economy, health and education has kept faith with
Rosemary McKenna: Labour MP. On
the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee which is enquiring into
"welfare to work." The Herald of 24/3/97 reported that McKenna's appointment
to the seat of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth was accompanied by the purge of
the Home rule faction of the local party at the conference in Inverness.
Fears were voiced that this had been "engineered to give a clear run to
councillor Rosemary McKenna, who is a leading figure in Network, the pro-leadership
grouping which orchestrated the Inverness slate". The Network has been
described as "garrulous college leavers anxious to be seen doing the leader"s
bidding."4 Its origins
are said to be in Jim Murphy, another new MP and responsible for the acceptance
of student loans while President of the NUS. He was assigned as "special
projects officer" by those in the Scottish Labour Party hierarchy anxious
to bee seen as Blairite. The big "success" of the network was McKenna's
election. Jim Murphy also spoke at the conference.
Henry McLeish: Labour MP. Donald
Dewar's second in command. Minister for Home Affairs, Devolution and Transport,
was opposition spokesman on social security--now the country's chief exponent
David Martin: Labour MEP and has
been Vice-president of the European Parliament, (which funds the CSPP)
for ten years--an ex-stockbroker"s assistant.
David Millar: Formerly a clerk in
the house of Commons, then director of research at the European Parliament,
now with the Europa Institute, Edinburgh University.
Kenneth Munro: European Commission.
Matt Smith: Scottish Secretary of
Unison one of the biggest unions in Scotland and the UK.
The Thatcher period was marked by
scores of "non-partisan" but ideologically directed research institutes,
who financed and publicised the work of approved "experts." The CSPP's
pathetic disguise of their political connections relegates them to similar
forms of intellectual prostitution. That period also witnessed a huge increase
in what was officially called "public diplomacy" a new doublespeak term
for what used to be known as government propaganda. We can now re-name
this "public policy."
As a result of the conference, the
CSPP has an advisory board and a board of directors totalling thirty-eight
people. There are eight new directors including Paul Thomson: the editor
of "Renewal" (a magazine devoted to pushing New Labour propaganda), Ronnie
Smith: the General Secretary of the EIS, Grant Baird: the Chief executive
of Scottish Financial Enterprise, and some academics. The advisory board
has been padded out with Councillors from Glasgow and Edinburgh and more
academics. Twenty-nine of the total of thirty-eight spoke at the conference,
which had fifty-five speakers on day one and seventy-four on the other.
CSPP members were scattered throughout the three sessions each with eight
different seminars per day. More or less half of the talks were non-political
and largely arbitrary cultural themes and these ones they avoided.5
Some talks contained nothing but CSPP members. I think it is fair to say
we were somewhat shepherded into hearing the views the organisation is
pushing. No one mentioned this in the press.
The CSPP aim to set agendas for
the Scottish Parliament, attack home rule, advocate coalition politics
and promote the EU--where the Social Democrats and the Labour Party merge
into one in the European Parliament.
They are in the business of manipulation.
I think they are a part of larger manipulative attempts within the Labour
party to push the party towards the right in Scotland and silence any criticism.
There are no attempts--one begins to doubt whether there is even the capability--to
understand this within the mainstream media. Complicity (perhaps unwitting)
could easily be argued. The Herald and New Statesman (who are desperate
to re-invent themselves) were after all joint sponsors of the event. It
could mean nothing, but several journalists from the Scotsman, STV, Scotland
on Sunday, Sunday Times and the Economist all chaired seminars at the conference.
'Follow the Money'
On their web page it states that
they receive money not only from the EC but also from an organisation called
the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. This is another example of covert government
sponsorship and funding. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation focused on involving
trade union leaders in "independent" programmes for Third World unions.
Its board comprises of "high ranking members of the Social Democratic Party
and [it is] financed by government, business and unions. A parallel Christian
Democratic body exists, the Konrad Adenuer Foundation...About the Friedrich
Ebert foundation...there are quite clear parallels between the expansionist
German foreign trade policy and the work of this foundation."6
They told me that they received
this funding to stage a members meeting with the European Movement. Back
in the early 60s:
"The European Movement, the elite
international pressure group which takes much of the credit for the founding
of the Common Market, took secret US funding...about £380,000 of
US government money passed secretly from the CIA-controlled American Committee
to the European Movement." 7
The CSPP are to an unknown extent
funded by government or quasi-government organisations, some of whom have
since the 50s moved the Unions and the Left towards the right--by semi-covert
and covert means. They are (perhaps unwittingly) straying into territory
dominated by the non-parliamentary right and the psychological operations
of the secret service.
"The main organisational focus points
for the trade union right in recent decades have been Industrial Research
and Information Services (IRIS), the Jim Conway Foundation [JCF] and the
TUCETU (formerly the Labour Committee for Transatlantic Understanding).
One single funding conduit links all three organisations...the Dulverton
JCF facilitated contacts between
anti-Scargill factions of the NUM and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the
wealthy foundation for the promotion of social democracy linked to the
Historically a main thrust of this
was to establish connections with the anti-Communist efforts of the USA.
Both US and UK governments were willing to help Union leaders from both
sides of the Atlantic get together. The years after the war saw the forces
which would become NATO (the military, foreign policy and multi-national
wings of the USA, UK and German State) exacerbate moves towards concentrated
subversion of Union organisations and the left in general; all as part
of the "cold war." In Germany secret funding helped Social Democrats "solidify"
the German Federation of Labour 9.
CIA funding came into Europe to encourage the Unions to be anti-communist
--they had themselves more or less set up the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the International Labour Organisation
(ILO). Besides domestic subversion this nexus also operated as an attack
on South American, African, Indian and Indonesian workers organisations
attempts to resist the effects of multinational exploitation which operated
under the sanction of the foreign policies of the large industrial nations,
and which worked closely with numerous dictatorships, as they still do
"The importance of this network
in stabilising and pacifying workers' organisations in countries where
the transnational corporate operations are flourishing has never been adequately
dealt with. The strategic value of this network, as a fifth column, waiting
with cobra fangs to strike out to poison, and where possible, to destroy
popular attempts to terminate transnational corporate domination has never
been realistically weighed. The massive nature of the training programmes
which successfully inculcate US-government political and social values
has a dramatic importance even before one considers the plots and counterplots
which make up the daily life of the US labour network in Latin America."
The Guatamalan election of 1984
was won by the Christian Democrats. The election was proceeduraly fair,
but the population lived in permanent fear. The US press, when they both
to look, selectively focused on one to the exclusion of the other and termed
the new government centrist, moderates, who were troubled with 'rogue elements'
within them--the death squads they just somehow couldn't manage to control.
The history of centerist parties--whatever their guise--has been as a front
for coruption of the worst kind. The South and Central American US puppet
states run by dictators all had moderate centrist, consensus-loving 'political'
parties. Anyone can run them--for any reason.
The German government of the sixties
and seventies that, while its security services were run by Hitler's ex-security
cheif, outlawed parties of the left was also a centrist party. These facts
elude the vast majority of British politicians used to the lies and bribery
of their own party and who generally have no socially usefull political
convictions anyway. Centre parties are especially usefull to society's
institutionalised financial exploiters since the social order remains unchallenged,
despite utter abuse of the democratic system. Centre parties are not alone
in being open to the influence of think-tanks and factionalism. Since politics
is no longer required, in Japan political parties donít really have
policies as such , politicians need something to say and do. The post-war
tradition has been a roll back of political freedom. The rhetoric which
surrounded this is of 'a tinkering with reform'--in reality an effort to
spend the taxes drawn from the people on the rich rather than the poor.
The accent is on proceedure--as it was in Guatamala.
"Truth is there's nobody fighting
because nobody knows what to say"
In "A Parliament for the Millennium,"
the first talk I attended, the panel consisted of: David Millar of the
CSPP executive committee who wrote their "definitive publication" entitled
"To Make the Parliament of Scotland a Model for Democracy." He was joined
by Robert Beattie--also a CSPP director but here wearing the mask of an
employee of the multinational IBM--who has similarly produced a CSPP "report"
called "A Parliament for the Millennium". The third speaker, Mark Lazarowicz
as mentioned before is the CSPP convener and one of the organisers of the
weekend. His "CSPP Policy Paper" is called "Proportional Representation".
These publications were shamelessly endorsed. If this talk was about contributing
to the constitution of the new parliament then it was as if they were saying
"and just to save some time here's one we made earlier". One would simply
have to be crazy to imagine that this was a genuine objective discussion
Unleashing the "bow-tied-affable-old-duffer
routine" Millar's talk was on procedure. He assured us that: "parliamentary
procedure grantees the right of minorities." He informed us that back in
the days of the Scottish Constitutional Convention11
it was decided that the "Scottish parliament should have as little to do
with Westminster as possible". On reflection it would seem that this was
where he, a retired clerk in the House of Commons, began pottering with
the perverse hobby of dreaming up guidelines for the Scottish Parliament.
He used to be an information officer-- the Director of Research at the European
Parliament and perhaps cannot come down from the high. A lifetime of shuffling
papers has on its own initiative qualified him to "not just come here and
tell you how it's going to be." No no no, "give us your views". He described
everything as a clean sheet then rhetorically asked "how have the government
started off putting some things on the clean sheet?" Eventually once all
the "consultation" is in from conferences like this the Constitutional
Steering Group will make the big decisions. It has at its head the Minister
for Devolution, Henry McLeish who is a director of the CSPP. I couldn't
stop myself from wondering why they couldn't have done all this at the
last CSPP committee meeting? Millar read to us what they the Constitutional
Convention--or was it what he--or was it what we--have all agreed to. He said
it has thought up four key principles (this quote includes his theatrical
"(1) Parliament is to embody and
reflect the sharing of power between people, legislators and the government.
That is as far as you can get from Westminster as possible.
(2) The Government to be accountable
to Parliament--that's a change from Westminster too--both it and the government
to be accountable to the people. This is red revolution in parliamentary
(3) Parliament is to be accessible,
open and responsive. Procedures enabling participation in policy making
(4) Parliament to recognise the
need for equal opportunities for all in the widest sense of the term, ahem!"
Millar insisted that the Scottish
parliament will not suffer from the folly of Westminster: "...the absurd
confrontation will be transformed into accountability...the buck stops
in Edinburgh... Proportional representation creates a climate of coalition...All
that left and right stuff, we and them, employers and workers. All that
stuff will, over a period, change - its absolutely certain." 12
So is Mr Millar terminally naive,
wilfully ignorant, a "lone assassin", a useful idiot for others or what?
On the issue of equal opportunities--he sees the task ahead as "meaning
sensible working hours" for the people in parliament. The big struggle
it would seem, is to ensure that those inside parliament do well out of
all this, the rest of us hopelessly outside this Athenian Democracy are
on our own. He went on: "start at ten, finish at five, home to have your
tea at seven, no overnight sittings, no nonsense about hours which exclude
long hours [sic]." Oblomov couldn't have put it better--so much for the
price of democracy being eternal vigilance. He thanked the CSPP for "very
kindly agreeing to publish his and Bernard Crick's work," without mentioning
the fact that he is on the board and that the guy they will send it to,
McLeish is also on the board of the CSPP-- why burden us with meaningless
The next speaker was Mark Lazarowicz,
the convener of the CSPP. He believes that if a parliament is "more responsive"
it is "therefore more democratic." Responsive to who? Probably the class
of people and their associations who set it up. He also believes that:
"The government and all the political
parties should be congratulated for responding to the public wish for there
to be this type of thinking about what kind of parliament can there be,
how can it be different. The Constitutional Steering Group...which are
the party leaders, and also key people in the eh ...academic em... constitutional
convention campaign, trades unions, business community..."
He started to tail off there...
I was going to prompt him with "the CSPP", but he picked up the threads
and outlined that "the Steering Group has not just been speaking to itself."
There has been "a mail out of 800" asking for "views." That leaves about
4,999,200 to go. He tried to appear business-like:
"One of the things that we want
to do--as the CSPP--from today's discussion is we're going to put in a proposal...em...I
mean a response to the government...after Sunday."
Even as the organiser Lazarowicz
was having trouble with all the underlying twists and turns of who is who
in this conference. The exact point where the CSPP is a consultative body
representing independent viewpoints, a Labour Party front, the Labour party,
the government or the voice of the people depends on who they are talking
to. The big message is democracy need not involve all of us. Lazarowicz
eventually got to the point: "quangos and the business community should
draw up proposals...and be at the start of the policy making process,"
adding seconds later, "matters might take a few weeks to go through parliament."
After leaving it wide open he offered to close the stable door after the
horse has bolted:
"There is also a danger of course
that coalition politics can become a bit too cosy. One of my nightmares
is a situation where the three, four, five thousand members of what is
effectively the Scottish political elite... the five thousand people or
so who have a lot of influence in different ways on the political process
--and are the ones who run Scotland; and they'll have a lovely time taking
part in all these little forms of discussion and communication...."
I don't remember anyone voting for
a coalition and consensus, but according to Lazarowicz that's what we're
getting. What will offset any danger of this "amorphous coalition" is:
"The need for this process of openness
to go not just to those within the political process in various ways, but
in... in... in... at a wide level as well." Following this line of thought
the economic need of the people will automatically displace the economic
reality of the elite--the rich. We would be as well to wait for a shooting
star and make a wish. This man stood for parliament.
After all that the person chairing
the meeting then addressed us with a taste of the bathos to come:
"In the spirit of participation
I'm not expecting the audience to ask questions of the panel. We'd have
very little time if everyone would respond."
"Did the Scottish rejection of
Thatcherism indicate a class-based devotion to real socialism or a nationalism-based
rejection of anglocentric centralism? Is this a new dawn for the left,
or a false dawn?"
The above quote-- perhaps my favourite
one--is from the conference brochure and introduced the next talk, amusingly
called "What's left of Labour." The speakers were billed as:
"Tommy Sheridan, the Scottish Socialist
Alliance Councillor; Jimmy Reid The Herald; Robin Harper, Scottish Green
There would be no problem picking
this up on the tape recorder. Sadly Jimmy (There will be no bevvying) did
not turn up. Tommy (Brothers and sisters I'll be brief) Sheridan thinks
he is a dead cert for the Parliament. Robin is not so sure about his chances.
You need a certain percentage. That was about the gist of it. For his amusing
anecdote on the difficulty of getting people to actually vote Tommy regaled
the nice middle-class audience with a tale revealing how stupid he thinks
the electorate are in general and his are in particular:
"I remember being outside giving
out leaflets encouraging people to vote for myself as the candidate, and
these two guys came out and says "Tommy where do we put the mark. Do we
just put it beside your name" Because what they'd done is went in the polling
station and brought out the voting slips [laughter] they marked it outside
and then took it back in [louder laughter]. The point about that was they're
twenty-nine years old and this is the first time they've ever voted."
Both speakers, if elected--obviously
they were only here to punt themselves --will fight poverty. Everyone in
the whole weekend seemed to have pledged themselves to this cause. That
and ignoring the distinction between what people say and actually do.
I knew the last talk of the Saturday
would be on my home ground as it were.
"A New Deal for Scotland's Unemployed
Venue: Transmission Gallery
Speakers: Alan Brown, Director,
Employment Service Scotland, Dr Fran Wasoff, Dept. Sociology, University
of Edinburgh, John Diownie, Scottish Parliamentary Officer, Federation
of Small Businesses, Alex Pollock, BT Scotland Executive Team
Chair: Agnes Samuel, Executive Director,
Alan Brown the director of the so-called
Employment Services will be the man in Scotland enforcing the "New Deal".
He had this to say:
"This government strongly believes
that the best form of welfare is to seek to get people into work, and I'm
happy enough to speak here this afternoon and take part in any debate that
takes place. But as a Civil Servant--I'm quite happy to explain and defend
government policy--but Civil servants have to be careful in one sense that--you
know there are certain areas I think where the conversation goes where
you probably won't find me able to express my personal opinion about things..."
At least Pontius Pilate actually
produced a small bowl and physically washed his hands of things. Since
questions were thus rendered pointless no one bothered to ask Alan whether
the £3.5bn the government "took off" the privatised utilities would
be spent on the unemployed, people like himself who administrate the unemployed
or the privatised utilities who will get the money back. No one asked whether
the "New Deal" will achieve just as much as all the other workfare schemes
which have been discredited everywhere they have been tried. And no one
mentioned that the unemployed are criminalised under the new system--if
you're unemployed you do community service, if you commit a crime you do
community service. Brown laughed at the notion that the programme might
reduce the number of existing jobs because it will provide a dispensable
and cheap labour pool, and as such have a detrimental effect on the unions
and conditions of work generally--despite YOPS, YTS etc. becoming by-words
for this. It's not affecting his wages.
A few people who work in the "unemployed
industry" will admit that it is all "a load of shite and counter-productive".
After this talk I met up with a guy who runs one of these extra-tenner-a-week
courses where you get to play with computers. I had been on his and we
occasionally got into conversations. He had no illusions about it at all,
in fact he bent and broke the rules every day because they were impractical,
counter-productive or futile. As everyone (apart from the people paid to
lie) knows. The last time I passed his place it looked shut down.
This talk took place in Transmission
Gallery which some years ago I had been instrumental in building and running.
All the committee members were unemployed at the time and technically we
were all disqualifying ourselves from our dole cheque. Many of the other
arty venues the conference inhabited could say the same. The point is we
wanted to do what we did--it was purposeful, some people built careers on
the back of it. The new deal is little more than a punishment scheme. If
an individual refuses to comply s/he is reduced to complete poverty and
could easily end up homeless. The new scheme targets the young. As the
director of all this it is all very well of Alan Brown to wash his hands
of any responsibility--OK so he keeps his job and has a mortgage to pay--
but this is to just sit back and watch people suffer.
We could have also been spared the
disgusting spectacle of watching him defend what he seemed to earlier indicate
were lies, while one of his employees, sitting right in front of him, endlessly
nodded like a donkey and agreed out loud with every single word he said.
This typifies the level of degradation that this class of people have sunk
to and try to infect others with. A mentality depriving itself of all human
instincts towards self-respect. Hideous twisting of the brain and soul.
The nightmare of institutional "thinking". The Orwellian Ministry of Truth
came to the fore with Brown drooling over his power to cut people's benefit:
"Compulsion goes back a long way...always
been the case."
Is that what everything will come
down to with this new parliament? Is this the height of our political aspiration
--to make the callously indifferent the janitors of other people's lives.
I'm sorry we cut your money, I'm sorry you can't pay your fine I'm sorry
your in prison, I'm sorry your child died--but I don't make the rules. Meanwhile
those on a higher public subsidy--such as MPs and civil servants can bask
in the glorious rhetoric of the glorious parliament empowering the masses.
When do we get to live Mr Brown? 13
Sunday. Passing up on one talk with
A.L. Kennedy and Julian Spalding speaking as representatives of a "cultural
renaissance"; and another with "Tartan, haggis, bagpipes, Whisky, festival,
golf. Smack, razors, hard men. Is Scotland doomed always to be romanticised
or will we ever see more realistic representations of ourselves?" I had
decided to start the morning with:
"An Arts Agenda for Scotland
How can the arts best contribute
to the life of Scotland and enrich our culture and society? How can we
judge success; reflecting Scottish experiences or 14
proving to be major players on a world stage?
Speakers: Magnus Linklater, Chair,
Scottish Arts Council; Graham McKenzie, Director, Centre for Contemporary
Arts, Ruth Mackenzie, Director, Scottish Opera; Dominic d' Angelo, freelance
arts activist; Mary Picken, consultant."
In case anyone had any doubts about
just how obscenely smug we were going to get here, Magnus Linklater had
conveniently written something ingratiating about the conference overnight,
which appeared in Scotland on Sunday:
"...we were all there...talking
about the usual things. There was Alf and Ruth and Joyce and Peter and
Lindsay and Rosemary and Isobel and the others, collected together to discuss
the future. It was good to see them all again, though I must admit it doesn't
seem all that long since we last met."
He then describes the weekend's
conference as "the widest spectrum of Scottish society." For Linklater
a Saturday afternoon with all his chums is the "widest spectrum of Scottish
society". He should get out more. He ends the article by saying: "There
is nothing to be gained from being small-minded." Well, he ended up chairman
of the Scottish Arts Council.
Both McKenzie and Mackenzie (they
seem to be twins) gave talks which followed an identical pattern. First
they drooled over the preposterous amount of public money their organisations
receive, then they tried to impress on us how elite their organisation's
qualities were, then they engaged in a liberal, condescending patronisation
of the poor as a justification of their funding. The implausibility of
this led them to get caught up in lunatic flights of fancy and extravagance
with, for instance, Mackenzie stating that Scottish Opera is engaged in
"combating poverty". We were told that some of the millions her organisation
is in receipt of is occasionally used to fund stalwart missionary work
in the nasty bits of the city. The "poverty of aspiration" that she witnesses
motivates and touches her heart--she "caught them before they're out in
the streets joy riding...how many 16 year olds are burning cars?"
McKenzie's talk was similarly peppered
with allusions as to how culture will be brought into the city--as if it
was famine relief or oxygen in a cultural vacuum. This mind set seemed
a continuation of the moral squalor of the last talk on unemployment. The
working class are deemed criminal, they have no culture. I had thought
that this "missionary position" was a thing of the past in "community arts"--
but here it was loud and proud. Do they really have to pretend that they
find virtue in this--would they not be better off adopting a smarter way
to patronise us? Could they please rehearse the faking of sincerity a bit
more thoroughly next time?
Magnus Linklater of course is only
in it for the money, as he made clear in his petulant salary negotiations
before he got the job. I have nothing to say about the other two contributors.
I was getting a bit fed up by now.
There is only so much of this kind of stuff you can take. I felt like I
was sinking into a vat of stale porridge. Out of a sense of duty I dragged
myself up to the Women's Library to hear the next talk. They kindly gave
me some coffee and for a brief moment I felt quite comfortable-- the place
has quite a warm atmosphere. It was raining outside.
This talk was on the Scottish Media,
with Arnold Kemp, formerly the editor of the Herald 15
Jane Sillars from a media studies department and Maurice Smith the business
editor of BBC Scotland. In this as with all of the seminars everyone seemed
to know each other, speakers, chairperson and audience would all call each
other by their first names. To let some latecomers sit down I moved away
and ended up behind a library bookshelf. I couldn't actually see anything
and tiring of taking notes I started to look at all the books leaving my
tape recorder to pick up all the drone. Kemp thinks that there will be
no serious attempt to cover the new parliament and that the news is now
completely commodified. He is probably right. He also said that "the Scottish
press adopted a defiant stance against Thatcherism", there he is definitely
This event--timed as it was--just
before the party conventions, was in one way an attempt to merge various
factions together, to bury the hatchet and of course stab people in the
back: opportunists who extolled the virtues of Thatcherism are now welcome
to extol the virtues of Blairism. On the other hand it was an opportunity
to vet Labour people. I got to wondering what the press response would
be if in London a conference was organised by a group which contained Gordon
Brown, Robin Cook, Peter Mandelson and Jack Straw and was introduced by
a speech by Tony Blair and then tried to pass itself off as having "independent
of any political party," or a body which can represent the views of the
I dragged myself to the last talk.
"Where is Radical Scotland?
Is Scotland really a left-wing nation?
Why does the legacy of Red Clydeside remain potent to many on the left
and what was the lasting impact of Thatcherism?
Speakers: Isobel Lyndsay, department
of Government, University of Strathclyde; Pat Kane, writer and broadcaster.
Chair Mark Lazarowicz"
All I can bring myself to say is
that this one was a sick joke.
The Scottish Parliament will merely
take over the work of the Scottish Office, and I don't remember anyone
ever getting that worked up about them. The Scottish Parliament will have
no power over:
"...pensions; abortion; broadcasting;
road transport; shipping; telecommunications; weights and measures; employment;
railways; airlines; the Crown Estate Commission; "all fiscal, economic
and monetary policy"; natural resources (Westminster reserves the right
to control the exploitation of, the ownership of, and the "exploitation
of ownership, and the exploration for North Sea gas and oil"); the issue
of banknotes (including Scottish ones); banking regulations; most aspects
of Scotland's minerals; electricity generated by nuclear power; trade &
industry; the transport of radioactive materials; drugs; immigration; what
is "an official secret"; firearms; film censorship; betting; gaming and
lotteries; trout & salmon farming; the civil service; the defence of
the realm; national security; social security; foreign affairs; and relations
with the European Union"16
Add to that the fact that a great
deal of former public sector activity was privatised by the previous government
(and will under the present one still be privatised under the Private Finance
Initiative). Thankfully for most of the people involved in this conference
that still leaves room for bullying and making money out of the poor.
1. Herald May 30.
2. When I phoned the CSPP to get
more information I asked them why they had changed their name and they
said that "nobody had heard of John Weatley."
3. The Scottish Policy Institute
is being funded by the Barclay Brothers who own the Scotsman newspaper.
It will advocate market-based policies for Scotland and probably make much
the same noises as Andrew Neil, the editor of the Scotsman.
4. Private Eye 920.
5. Some of the speakers although
not directly connected with the CSPP demonstrated the influence of their
material. John McAllion MP, for example, spoke at the seminar on (naturally
enough) coalition politics. On the Saturday in the Herald's reporting of
the conference, he is quoted as advocating a form of "politics by petition"
which came straight out of David Millar's talk at the first seminar I attended
and is itself expounded in Millar's CSPP publication.
6. Where were you Brother? Don Thomson
and Rodney Larson, War on Want,1978.
7. Dirty Work (The CIA in Western
Europe), Editors Philip Agee & Louis Wolf, Zed, 1978.
8. New Labour, New Atlanticism:
US and Tory intervention in the unions since the 1970s, David Osler, Lobster
9. "...the Americans sponsored and
funded the European social democrats not because they were social democrats,
but because social democracy was the best vehicle for the major aim of
the programme: to ensure that the governments of Europe continued to allow
American capital into their economies with the minimum of restrictions.
This aim the revisionists in the Labour party chose not to look at." Robin
Ramsay, Prawn Cocktail Party (The Hidden Power behind New Labour), Vision,
10. CIA and the Labour Movement,
Fred Hirsh & Richard Fletcher, Spokesman Books, 1977.
11. David Millar and Bernard Crick
(an academic, at London and Edinburgh University) wrote a work which purported
to revise the Standing Orders of the 1991 Scottish Constitutional Convention
and they are trying to 'revise' them again having written the pamphlet
'To make the Parliament of Scotland a Model for Democracy' in '95, which
of course was funded by the CSPP.
12. Millar & Crick have proposed
that the role of the speaker should be replaced by a presiding officer/president,
who should "enter the political fray." A "bureau" would work out the agenda
and a "Business Committee" would offer costed policy options. One can just
feel the layers of bureaucracy fall away. He ended with the exhortation
"go back to your political parties, to your kirk session, golf club, tennis
club start getting people talking."
13. The academic at this marvel
of doublethink, Dr Fran Wasoff, sat in front of the fire exit the whole
time - which will serve as a metaphor for her contribution (well meaning
- in the way). The guy from BT when "explaining" BT's involvement in the
scheme actually passed round a phone card which they are giving to the
18 - 24 year-olds who are forced to work for them. I now know what a phone
card looks like. That too will serve as another quick metaphor.
14. Notice that it is an either
15. When it ran all manner of disinformation
from Paul Wilkinson and Patrick Laurence.
16 Private Eye No. 948, 17th April