Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Political identity of Galloway?

Fifty votes that are key to the state of the Union
In the two-horse marginal seat of Scottish constituency, Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, the fight is over one issue - the constitution
Lorna Martin, Scotland editor
Sunday April 15, 2007

On a map of Scotland, published recently by the Scottish Executive, an entire swath of land appears to have disappeared and fallen mysteriously into the sea. Coincidentally, it happens to be the country's second most marginal constituency. A mere 50 votes are at stake in Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, the sprawling constituency in the south-west of Scotland that stretches from the former mining communities of Kirkconnell and Sanquhar in the north, through the hills, valleys and rolling farmland around the thriving market town of Castle Douglas, to the busy port of Stranraer in the west.

On the face of it, Labour has little to fight for here anyway. It is a clear two-horse race between the Tories and the SNP. At the last Holyrood election, Alex Fergusson, a farmer turned Tory MSP won the seat with a majority of only 99. He took 11,332 votes over the SNP's Alasdair Morgan, who got 11,233 votes.

But in many ways it is the disaffected Labour voters who will decide what happens in this constituency, as in the entire election. As such, it is a key target for the Nationalists.
Fergusson is acutely aware of this and has made the battle to save the Union, rather than simply holding on to his seat, the key issue in his fight with his opponent. In the last election, his campaign slogan was 'Keep Galloway SNP-free in 2003'. This time it is 'Keep independence at bay, vote Alex in May.' Interestingly, he admitted than on many issues, such as local transport, health and housing concerns, there is no 'clear blue water' between him and his SNP opponent. The one fundamental difference between them is the constitution.

'The constitutional question was not something I was planning to make a big deal of,' he said. 'But it has been raised so often with me. A lot of non-SNP voters are seriously concerned about the consequences of an SNP victory. Non-Nationalists are afraid that we are in danger of sleepwalking towards independence. I don't want that and I don't think most people in this constituency want it.'

Even Fergusson conceded that it's too close to call, admitting he wouldn't be surprised if he won or lost. However, he said: 'I keep reading of this massive SNP lead all across the country, but I don't find it on the streets. Genuinely. You can't be certain of anything when you have a majority of 99, but I'm increasingly confident that we can hold onto this seat.'

Not surprisingly, Morgan, who was the MP for the area after defeating then Tory Scottish Secretary Ian Lang in 1997 and who won the seat in the first Holyrood election in 1999, does not agree. He accused his opponent of 'gilding the lily'. 'In his campaign leaflets and posters, he's not emphasising his unionism. He's stressing that he's a local. In fact, on posters, his name is in huge writing, but you would need a magnifying glass to read the tiny letters at the bottom saying Conservative party. This is simply because the Tories are still seen as an anti-Scottish party.'
As well as seeking out the 709 Scottish Socialist Party votes from last time, Morgan also believes the Nationalists will take votes from disgruntled Labour voters as well as Tories. 'People desperately want a change. The south-west cannot and will not progress until Scotland does and people are realising that there is only one opposition to Labour. I have spoken to voters who have previously voted Tory but who realise now it is a wasted vote. There is only one option to get Labour out and that is the SNP.'

Ian Livingston, a co-owner of an antique restorers and furniture makers in Castle Douglas, said in the past he had voted SNP but was undecided this time. 'I'm not convinced anything tremendously positive would come out of it,' he said. 'Instead I think it would just result in more political in-fighting and there would be a huge cost involved. As a businessman you want stability.'
But Roddy MacLeod, 31, who moved to Castle Douglas from Edinburgh seven months ago said 'it's time' for a change, mimicking the SNP's campaign slogan. 'I will definitely use my vote tactically,' he said.

If the Scottish Executive thinks this area has ceased to exist, angry locals, who have long felt neglected by their political leaders in Edinburgh, feel differently. A spokesman said the map was merely a guide and not a representation of Scotland. 'This is no way meant as a slight against Dumfries and Galloway,' he added. 'We definitely want to hear people's views.' On 3 May they will.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Anarchy in the UK: 4th May 2007?

4th May 2007 - Anarchy in the UK, coming some time - maybe?[Quote from this record >>>>>>>>>]

It is spring - new green leaves exploding out of the tips of branches and the sun (today at least) blazing forth. The surge of springish energy can easily lead to over enthusiasm , especially when there is an election on the go. So many promises of a brave new world just a few votes away ! Suddenly the politicians are out on the streets talking about a revolution , oh what bliss to be alive and to be young must be heaven! [Wordsworth/ Prelude]

Upon our side, we who were strong in love;
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven; 0 times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute took at once
The attraction of a Country in Romance;
When Reason seem'd the most to assert her rights
When most intent on making of herself
A prime Enchanter to assist the work,
Which then was going forwards in her name,
Not favour'd spots alone, but the whole earth
The beauty wore of promise, that which sets,
To take an image which was felt, no doubt,
Among the bowers of paradise itself…

… and then? Its back to politics as usual, excitement over and the same dull round of ‘today in parliament’.

Could it be different this time? Maybe. There are some interesting possibilities emerging. We could be heading for ‘anarchy in the UK’. By this I don’t mean hordes of middle aged punks rushing out into the streets waving scratched copies of records by the Sex Pistols in the air. Rather that a very slow process of structural change could be about to trigger a constitutional earthquake. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland could be about to fall apart. The centre cannot hold … more poetry, Yeats this time:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand…?

All a bit clichéd? I suppose so. But what I have found from reading through almost every newspaper article (and comments) and every political blog (and comments) is that there is an increasing level of ‘English nationalism’ entering the equation. A sensible and mainstream consensus newspaper article about the constitutional future of the UK ‘if the SNP become the biggest party in the Scottish Parliament’ which in the past would have only attracted comments from a few hard core Scot Nats arguing with a few hard core Unionists now seems to provoke as many, or even more, comments from advocates of an ‘English parliament’.

The Conservatives in particular seem to be splitting along national lines. Scottish Tories may still be trying to prop up the Union of 1707, but many English Tories seem happy to dump their Scottish cousins in order to have a clear field of fire against - as they assume- Prime Minister Gordon Brown ahead of the 2009/ 2010 UK general election. It is all being done on a ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ basis at official level, but get down to English Tory activist level and the picture gets clearer. These Conservatives are no longer Unionists [which in any case = the Union of 1801 between Ireland and GB not that of 1707, and the 1886 split in the Liberal Party over Irish Home Rule which created the Liberal Unionists who merged with the Conservatives in Scotland in 1912... I think. All a bit confusing, since also a National Liberal faction].

The English Tories reckon they can win in 2009/2010 - but only by denying New Labour’s ‘Scottish as British’ unionist credentials. Which effectively means dumping the Union of 1707 and breaking up the UK. So the Tories really want as many Sots as possible to vote SNP to create maximum chaos post 3rd May.

But to further confuse the situation, there are arguments going on about ‘federalism’. Should there be several regional English assemblies with real powers? Or should there be one English parliament as part of a federal union including Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland ? If there is one English parliament, dominated by the Tories, where does that leave north England which is as strongly pro-Labour as Scotland and Wales? Should the Cornish have their own regional assembly? How will the Welsh and Northern Irish react if Scotland goes her own way? What about the European Union? Is ‘devolution’ part of an EU plot (from the UKIP/ BNP end of Tory spectrum) to break up UK regions which the EU can then absorb into their evil plans?

Confused? I am. Do I believe any of this? Or is it all spectacular hype designed to confuse and bewilder innocent voters on May 3rd? Am I an innocent or a cynic? If voting could change the system, it would be illegal, as the more radical politicos say. But from where I am here and now, it looks like the way myself and other Scotch folk vote on May 3rd might just undo 300 years of history.

If (and only if?) the SNP emerge as the biggest political party in the Scottish Parliament on May 4th will there be ‘Constitutional anarchy in the UK’?

To be boring, I don’t think anyone really knows. We will just have to wait and see.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Scottish Identity as Myth

Mouse click to read

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Covenanted Union?

Did the Westland Whigs become today's south west Tories?


The role of religion in the political construction of the image and identity of south west Scotland.

On the 15th February 2007 a debate took place in the Scottish Parliament which may yet prove to mark a significant development in the ‘image and identity of south west Scotland’. The debate was important since, for the first time since the advent of the devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999, MSPs representing the south west acted as a ‘regional bloc’ in defence of the region. Uniquely, the issue which united the MSPs was not a threat to close a hospital or a factory, but a threat to higher educational provision. Specifically, as every one of the MSPs involved mentioned, the threatened loss of access to higher education in the ‘Liberal Arts’ . Furthermore, as the MSPs also all drew attention to, in defending this educational opportunity, they were responding to concerns raised by individual constituents, the local business community, the regional council and regional economic, development and community service agencies - to an unprecedented strength of public and institutional opinion in support of the Crichton University Campus.

In my Oral Presentation, I reflected on the Scottish Parliament debate, asking if it represented a new development in the ’image and identity’ of the south west, or if it was rather the latest development in a historical sequence of shifts and changes in the region’s image and identity.

Post-feedback shift in emphasis
In the ‘critical feedback’ to my Oral Presentation on 5th March, Dr. Bold suggested that the central strand of my presentation - in which I suggested the Reformation and popular support for Presbyterianism in the south west in the 17th and early 18th centuries played a key role in shaping the image and identity of the region - would benefit from a comparative analysis of the importance of role of the pre-Reformation church in the shaping the historical image and identity of the region.

This suggestion is very useful. When considered in the historical context of the south west, and of Galloway in particular, the discontinuity I suggested occurred with the Reformation becomes less marked. Indeed, it may be possible that what appears to be a discontinuity is in fact a continuity, suggesting that the south west has a greater degree of historical consciousness and identity than I allowed in my Oral Presentation.

I have therefore expanded on the ‘religious identity’ theme in this written version of my Oral Presentation.

The Christian religious identity of the south west can be physically traced back to at least AD 450. These physical traces of Christianity are a series of carved crosses found at Whithorn. Unfortunately, despite successive archaeological excavations at Whithorn (most recently 1985-93, see Hill: 1997) the earliest phase of Christian settlement remains obscure. The most that can be said is that the evidence can be interpreted to support a direct link with the monastic settlements founded by St. Martin of Tours (died AD 397] at Liguge and Marmouiter in what was then still Roman Gaul, modern day France. Even if no trace of St. Ninian has been found, the archaeology supports later, Northumbrian, accounts of a link between St. Ninian and St. Martin.

With the Northumbrian period at Whithorn, the archaeology [ Hill 1997] has confirmed the historical record which covers the period AD 730 to 840 [Brooke 1994, 1997]. There was a very significant Northumbrian presence at Whithorn. At Hoddom in Dumfriesshire, archaeology has confirmed a similar Northumbrian take-over of an earlier British Christian settlement, in this case one associated with St. Kentigern [Lowe: 1992]. Unfortunately, important fragments of a Northumbrian carved cross at Hoddom were destroyed in the 1940s, but similar fragments were preserved at Ruthwell near by.

Although the extent and depth to which British and Northumbrian Christianity informed the religious identity of the south west is difficult to establish, Craig [1991] has shown that it survived beyond the apparent collapse of Northumbrian power in the late 9th century. This suggests that the appointment of Gilla-Aldan as bishop of Whithorn in 1128 was a continuation rather than a revival of the See of Whithorn. No less significantly, Gilla-Aldan’s superior was Thurstan, Archbishop of York . This link between the See of Whithorn (I.e. Galloway) and York was not finally ended until 1472. [Oram : 1997: 75]. Fergus of Galloway, who had been instrumental in the appointment of Gilla- Aldan, was keen to maintain the link with York, which had been established in the Northumbrian era, as a way to maintain the independence of his kingdom of Galloway against the territorial ambitions of David I of Scotland. David wanted to establish an Archbishopric of St. Andrews which would have religious authority over all of Scotland.

Although fully part of European Christendom, the fact that the See of Whithorn remained outwith the Scottish church meant that the many religious houses founded by Fergus and his descendants - at Whithorn, Dundrennan, Soulseat, Lincluden, Glenluce, Tongland and New Abbey - provided Galloway with its own distinct (as in not Scottish) religious identity through the 14th century Wars of Independence. This distinct religious identity reflected and supported the challenges to the Scottish crown posed by the Balliol and Douglas lords of Galloway in the 14th and 15th centuries. Indeed, the unofficial declaration of James I in 1430 that Whithorn’s ‘subjection’ to York was ended prefigured the destruction of the Douglas lordship of Galloway by James II in 1455.

Stringer [2000 ] argues that the introduction of reformed monasticism (Cistercians Augustinians, Premonstratensians and Benedictines) into the south west in the 12th century had a ‘civilising’ effect on a people previously regarded as ‘barbarians’. However Brooke [1994, 1997] and Oram [1997, 2000] show that the alleged barbarity of the inhabitants of the south west has its origin in Ailred of Rievaulx’s support for his patron, David I, in his struggle against Fergus of Galloway

What the 12th century religious ’revival’ achieved in the south west was to link the region with European wide developments. Particularly in the case of the Cistercian abbeys of Dundrennan, Holm Cultram(in Cumbria but with extensive land holdings in the south west), Glenluce and New Abbey the impact was as much economic and educational as spiritual. The Cistercians farmed their huge estates via lay-brothers drawn from the local community to produce wool and other agricultural products for export, using the most ‘modern’ farming techniques. The 12th century also saw the division of the region into numerous parishes, each with their own chapel. This parish structure became the cornerstone of the 16th and 17th century religious ‘revival‘ of regional identity.

According to the Dictionary of National Biography [Stephen, 1901] , Alexander Gordon of Airds (1479-1580) “was one of the first to introduce the principles of the reformation into Galloway. He read Wycliffe’s New Testament to his tenants and others in a wood at Airds.”. Robertson [1963:107] suggests these readings began in 1530. This was only two years after Patrick Hamilton was burnt at the stake in St. Andrew’s for heresy, I.e. for advocating ‘reformation principles‘. In 1543, important south west landowner Robert, lord Maxwell persuaded the Scottish Parliament to pass an act legalising possession of Scots or English translations of the Bible such as the one owned by Alexander Gordon. Macdowall [1867] identifies William Harlow, a lay-preacher, as the first person to publicly ‘denounce the Mass as rank idolatry’ in Dumfries in 1558.

From these beginnings, by the 17th century the Scottish Reformation had become deeply rooted in the south west. But the reformation added a new element. It encouraged, even demanded, active rather than passive participation in religious life. Furthermore, in the presbyterian form of Protestantism which the south west embraced so passionately, this active participation in religious life required critical and literacy skills. The minister’s sermons were lectures to be reflected on, analysed and critiqued. The bible was a book to be read, discussed and debated in the home, not just in church.

Although limited and constrained by its reliance on scriptural sources, the effect of the reformation on the south west was to create a literate and argumentative popular culture, one which felt empowered by its religious knowledge to dispute the ‘divine right’ claims of the Stuart monarchy. The regional development of what began in 1644 as a theological attack on the ’divine right’ claim by Samuel Rutherford in his ‘Lex Rex’ [Colley:1997] can be traced through Richard Cameron’s 1680 Sanquhar Declaration [Whitley : 1977] to the political support the Cameronians gave advocates of the ‘Revolution Settlement’ at Edinburgh in 1689 and the military support they gave William of Orange against the Jacobites at Killiecrankie and Dunkeld in that same year. [Whatley: 2006]

This is an interesting shift and can be followed through into the 18th century. Although John Hepburn of Urr did protest against the Union of Parliaments in November 1706, the Act of Security passed in the same month firmly established the position and rights of the Church of Scotland ahead of the Union. As a result we find that in 1715, the wider south west mobilised its political and military forces in defence of the Revolution Settlement and the Hanoverian Succession against the Jacobite threat. Dumfries, supported by a militia raised in Galloway, successfully held off the Jacobites. Even John Hepburn offered his support, although this came with so many conditions it was not taken up. [Rae: 1718]

To summarise. In the 17th century, the south west witnessed a people’s protest against political interference in their religious liberties. Had the Stuarts not attempted to impose an Episcopalian structure on a presbyterian church, there would have been no conflict here. But there was a conflict and this conflict had the effect of transforming the south west’s religious identity into a political identity. It led the south -west to politically identify with first with William of Orange and the Revolution Settlement of 1689 and then with the Hanoverian Succession and the Union of 1707. When this new political identity, which remained closely linked to religious identity, was threatened by the Jacobites, the people took up arms against them. The ‘religious- political- historical consciousness’ of the south-west, which can be traced back to the 5th century foundation of a Christian monastic settlement at Whithorn was still alive in the 18th century and remained influential into the 19th century.

In so far as this regional ‘religious-political -historical’ identity overlapped with what Kidd [1993] has described as the ‘Scottish construction of Anglo-British identity’ (after the defeat of the Jacobites in 1746) , it was also part of a new ‘Scottish as British’ national identity. The extent of the overlap between regional, Scottish and British identity can be illustrated :

Lord Ardwall then submitted “The Imperial Forces”, and in doing so he said - Mr. Chairman , croupiers and gentlemen, the toast I have to propose is one that is always well received in all companies of patriotic citizens, and specially of patriotic Scotsmen. [Harper:1907:146]

The occasion for Lord Ardwall’s toast to ‘The Imperial Forces’ was a public banquet held in honour of local author S.R. Crockett in Dalbeattie in 1906. Later the same evening, Crockett himself asserted:

I think a man ought to feel a special love for his little fatherland- for Galloway, for Dumfries, for the Borderlands. He is all the more a good Scot because of that. We will not be the less but the more good citizens of the Empire, because we love our village more than your village!

But this Edwardian continuum of identity, in which Crockett’s representations of locality -‘Galloway’- flowed smoothly into the ability of Ardwall’s ‘patriotic Scotsmen’ to identify with the ‘Imperial Forces’, was challenged by the Great War and the emergence of Scottish political nationalism in its aftermath. The Scottish National Party was formed in 1934 but had to wait until 1974 to achieve significant popular support. The election of 11 SNP MPs in that year (including one elected by Galloway) set a process in motion that ultimately led to the creation of a devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999. Although Scottish political nationalism has yet to undo the Union of 1707, the ‘Empire Unionist’ continuum of local-Scottish-British identity which existed in 1906 has been undone by the rise of popular-culture nationalism.

For the south west, the political shift from unionism towards nationalism and the corresponding cultural shift in identity from ‘Scottish and British’ to ‘ Scottish not British’ poses a challenge. Although the south west today lacks a distinctive religious identity, for a thousand years, from the foundation of a religious settlement at Whithorn in the 5th century to the final breaking of the link with York in the 15th century, it did. In the 17th century, the region’s (presbyterian) religious distinctiveness brought it into conflict with successive Stuart kings. These conflicts forged religious identification with Presbyterianism into a political identification with the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 and the Revolution Settlement of 1689. Although there was local opposition to the Union of 1707, fear that the anti-Union Jacobites might restore a Catholic Stuart king created strong and deep support for the Union and the Protestant Hanoverian kings.

Up until the Devolution Settlement of 1999 effectively undid the Revolution Settlement of 1689 and placed the Union of 1707 in question; the historical ( religious and political) tensions which had so often existed between the south west and Scotland had been defused by the existence of a shared British/ United Kingdom identity. Unfortunately for the south west, or rather for Dumfries and Galloway, whilst the mainstream of Scottish political opinion shifted towards devolution between 1979 and 1997, Dumfries and Galloway voted for the anti-devolution Conservative and Unionist Party. In the 1997 devolution referendum, Dumfries and Galloway was one of only two Scottish regions (Orkney was the other) to vote against giving the new Parliament tax raising powers. In the 2001 UK election, Galloway and Upper Nithsdale returned Scotland’s only Conservative MP. In 2005, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale had this honour.

Although political identity is only part of the image and identity of the south west, I suggest that in the context of the apparent reluctance of voters in Dumfries and Galloway to whole heartedly embrace the Devolution Settlement, responses to the ‘Crichton Crisis’ are very revealing. As the debate in the Scottish Parliament on the 15th of February showed, support for the Crichton campaign has overcome national party political divisions and united MSPs in a so far solid bloc in defence of the regional interest.

This new regional political bloc has in turn emerged as a direct result of widespread popular support for the campaign. The depth and passion of this support seems to have taken everyone by surprise. No other campaign has managed to mobilise and motivate such levels of support from across the whole region. However, this development is very recent and, in time, may yet prove to be less substantial than at present it appears.

As I have argued ( following Whatley: 2006), three hundred years ago the politics of religion led the south west, if somewhat reluctantly, towards support for the Union of 1707. Subsequently this support ( see discussion of 1906 S.R. Crockett public banquet above) became embedded in regional image and identity. Up until 1997, the two UK parliamentary seats of Galloway and Dumfries were as solidly Conservative and Unionist as those of any of the English ’Home Counties’.

Post-1997, the region’s political identity has been in flux, electing SNP, Labour and Conservative MPs and MSPs. This confusion of political identity, I suggest, reflects a tension between the south west and Scotland, one which, as I have attempted to show, was historically expressed in the south west‘s distinctive religious identity. My underlying hypothesis, suggested by the Scottish Parliament debate - that the politics of education may become as significant as the politics of religion in shaping and defining the image and identity of the south west - will be tested in the forthcoming elections to the Scottish Parliament on May 3rd 2007. Will the south west continue to support the Union of 1707? Or will voters choose the SNP who seek to undo it?

Sources and References
Brooke, D. : Wild Men and Holy Places: Canongate: Edinburgh:1994
Brooke, D. : The early History of the Diocese of Whithorn from its foundations to 1100 : McCluskey (ed) : 1997
Coffey, J. : Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions :Cambridge University: Cambridge: 1997
Cowan, E. J. and McDonald, R.A. (eds) : Alba: John Donald :Edinburgh: 2000
Craig, D. : Pre-Norman Sculpture in Galloway : Some territorial Implications: Oram and Stell: 1991
Harper, M. : Crockett and Grey Galloway: Hodder and Stoughton: London: 1906
Harvie, C. :Scotland and Nationalism: Allen and Unwin: London: 1997
Hill, P. : Whithorn and St. Ninian: Suttton: Stroud: 1997
Kidd, C. : Subverting Scotland’s Past : Cambridge University: Cambridge: 1993

Lowe, C.E.- Craig, D.- and Dixon, D. : New Light on the Anglian 'Minster' at Hoddom : Transactions DGNHAS : Series III : Volume 66 : 1991
McCluskey, R. (ed) :The See of Ninian: Burns and Sons: Glasgow: 1997
McDowall, W. : History of the Burgh of Dumfries : 1867: Fourth revised edition: Faries: Dumfries : 1986
Oram, R. : Heirs to Ninian: the medieval bishops of Whithorn (circa 1100-1560): McCluskey (ed) 1997
Oram, R. : The Lordship of Galloway: John Donald : Edinburgh: 2000
Rae, P. : History of the Late Rebellion Raised against His Majesty King George: Rae: Dumfries : 1718
Robertson, J.: The Story of Galloway: Maxwell: Castle Douglas: 1963
Scottish Parliament : Minutes of Proceedings : Vol. 4, No 56, Session 2: Motion S2M-5444 : 15 February 2007
Stephen, L. :Dictionary of National Biography: Oxford: 1891
Stringer, K.J.: Reform Monasticism and Celtic Scotland: Galloway, c.1140-1240 : Cowan and McDonald :2000
Whatley, C. : The Scots and the Union: Edinburgh University: Edinburgh: 2006
Whitley, E.: The Two Kingdoms: Scottish Reformation Society: Edinburgh : 1977

State of the Union: IPPR North Project

To step back from the immediate politics, here are details of an interesting research project. It connects with the themes of this book>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The State of the Union: Anglo-Scottish Relations in 2007

The Union between England and Scotland is often considered one of the most successful the world has known. Yet paradoxically, few seem set to celebrate it as it approaches its 300th birthday. The devolution settlement, designed to preserve the Union, has thrown up a number of anomalies and tensions that look set to test the strength of Anglo-Scottish relations, while recent trends in public attitudes also raise serious questions about the health of the Union in 2007.

Public debate about the Union in the media and beyond often seems ill-informed and conducted in crude terms. Whether one is pro- or anti- Union, some of the recent tensions in the relationship should cause concern, and all sides share an interest in an informed debate. This project will set the terms of debate about the future of the Union in both England and Scotland.

Often wrongly regarded as a ‘Scottish issue’ this project will place the state of the Union into its proper UK-wide context. It will take a thorough and objective look at what is often an unhelpfully polarised and politicised debate, and highlight the challenges that both Unionists and Nationalists must answer. The project will also seek to move the debate forward by looking at different types of Union – economic, political, social and cultural and public attitudes towards the Union.

Key Questions and Themes

The Union in Perspective
It is generally accepted that the Union was a marriage of convenience for economic (Scotland) and security (England) interests. However, these motivations have lost their purchase and changed over time. The context for the Union has changed substantially, particularly as a result of European integration and globalisation, which have changed the nature of statehood and challenged identities. Within a UK context, the resurgence of Scottish nationalism in the 1960s and the creation of the Scottish Parliament in the late 1990s have also challenged the Union in different ways.

Key questions
What was the original purpose of Union and the aims and ambitions of the authors of the 1707 Acts?
Have attitudes towards the Union changed over time and who supports the Union today?
What is the new social, economic and global context for the Union?
What does the Union stand for today? How has it evolved over the past 300 years? Why do we need it?
What forces hold the Union together and what challenges it, and why?

The Union in a Post-Devolution UK
A key rationale for devolution for Unionists was that it would undermine the arguments for Scottish independence. However recent opinion polls in Scotland have indicated that public support for independence is certainly no weaker, and if anything stronger, than it was before devolution. Furthermore the so-called ‘anomalies’ of the devolution settlement – particularly the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula – are gaining increased coverage in England. Polls seem to suggest that English opinion may be shifting from one of contentment with the devolution settlement to one of concern. While the ‘English Question’ remains unanswered the prospect for tension grows. Meanwhile in Scotland debate about greater powers for the Scottish Parliament and greater fiscal autonomy are ongoing.

Key questions
Has devolution strengthened the Union, or opened the door to the separation of the two nations?
What has been the impact of devolution on national identities and public attitudes towards the Union?
Does policy variation in different parts of the UK, enhanced since devolution, undermine common standards and a sense of UK-wide solidarity?
How serious are the challenges of the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula? What can be done?
Has devolution saved the Union but undermined Britishness?

The Union in 2007
The political and constitutional aspects of the Union are often debated at length, but there are other factors that bind Scotland and England. States are not simply held together by legal agreements but by a sense of identity, social, cultural and economic ties. New research will bring together a range of indicators to identify the most important factors shaping and challenging the Union in 2007. Furthermore, new research, using focus groups, will assess the relationship between the English and the Scots, and their attitudes to the Union in 2007.

Key questions
What are the most important demographic, sociological, economic, cultural and political factors shaping the Union?
Is Great Britain moving apart or closer together?

The Economic Union
Prosperity was one of the key rationales for the establishment of the Union, and economic relationships form an important aspect of the ‘glue’ that holds states together. Flows of trade, migration and capital increase interdependence, they also increase the need for coordination of economic policies. But how economically interdependent are Scotland and England?

Key questions
How important has the Union been for economic success?
Is there a business case for the Union, or indeed for separation?
How interdependent are Scotland and England in terms of goods, services, capital and labour?
Are England and Scotland any more interdependent than other neighbouring European countries?
What are the implications of the European Union for the economic relationship between England and Scotland?
What is the case for and against greater fiscal autonomy? What might the implications be for the Union?

The Social Union
Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron have emphasised the social ties between England and Scotland recently, in order to make the case for the Union and Britain. But what does the social union between England and Scotland look like, and how important is it?

Key questions
What impact has increased mobility had? What do the migration flows between England and Scotland look like? How often do people from one country visit the other?
What level of inter-marriage is there between the English and the Scots?
How interconnected is the Union? Has this changed over time?

The Cultural Union
Cultural factors are very important in terms developing and maintaining a sense of shared values, identity and solidarity. Factors like popular history and how the Union is perceived in the popular consciousness, how this is reflected in the media and taught in schools are all likely to have an impact on how the Union is viewed. Scotland and England have always maintained separate identities and institutions to one degree or another – in terms of politics, the arts, media and sport –but what impact does this have on the Union?

Key questions
How is the Union popularly viewed? Do the Scottish and English education systems treat it differently through history and citizenship lessons?
What is the role of the media? Is it fuelling a sense of separateness in the way devolution and politics are covered? Do English people know or care what happens in Scotland and vice versa? Does this matter?
What is the role of sport in reinforcing or challenging the Union?
What are the values and institutions that reinforce the Union and those that challenge it?
So far, has devolution had the effect of focusing on the differences between Scotland and England rather than what binds the two nations?

Public Attitudes to the Union
Both sides of the Union debate rely on public opinion to put their case, however surprisingly little detailed work has been conducted on how the public view the Union and the relationship between the English and the Scots. While there are a number of polls available, and more will conducted in the run up to the anniversary, we propose to use the expertise of ippr’s People and Policy team to gather richer data through focus groups. Four focus groups would be held in Scotland and four in England to find out how people respond to the idea of the Union and the relationship between the English and the Scots. What are the factors that people see as being in common and what do they think divides the two nations? Furthermore the groups would test opinion in different parts of England and Scotland to see if, for example, people in the North of England have a different view to those in the South East; or if opinion in the central belt of Scotland differs to that of the Highlands. We would also aim to explore whether people’s view of the Union is affected by their age or socio-economic background. Eight focus groups would be the minimum with which we would be able to draw reasonably robust conclusions.

While we do expect a number of polls to be conducted during this period, bespoke polling would also add breadth to this work and inform the areas where it would be most interesting to drill down for more detail. Ideally we would like to conduct both polling and focus groups, although our ability to do this will be dependent on fundraising.

Key questions
What do the English think of the Scots and the Scots think of the English in a post-devolution UK?
What are public attitudes to the Union? Do people think it has a purpose in 2007?
What are the implications of public attitudes for the future of the Union?

Is Britain Facing an Identity Crisis?
Historians cite the growth and evolution of Britishness and Britons as integral to the development of the British state. So strong was this in the late 18th century that the Edinburgh elite referred to themselves as ‘North Britons’. Yet the key forces identified with Britishness have either disappeared, as in the case of Empire, or declined substantially, as in the case of Protestantism. Contemporary concern with the meaning and state of British identity seems to be reflected at the highest levels of British politics, in both government and opposition.

Key questions
What is the state of Britishness today? Is it in crisis?
Can a growth in Scottishness and Englishness be reconciled? What is the relationship with English and Scottish identities?
Is a Union without a shared identity or Britishness workable?

Prospects for the Union: Moving forward
The project will conclude with an overview of the key influences pushing the Union together and pulling it apart, and an assessment of the health of the Union in 2007. Furthermore it will set the terms of debate in both England and Scotland about the future of the Union, and highlight the challenging questions that both sides – Unionist and Nationalist – must answer.


Conservative Divorce - Groundhog Day?

This story is from 22 May 2005 - although some names have changed, Francis Maude 's name crops up again. I wonder how close Francis Maude is to David Cameron? Found this in Independent following Cameron's election as new leader:


Party chairman. Former shadow chancellor and shadow foreign secretary, who became an arch-moderniser, managing Michael Portillo's bid to win the Conservative leadership. He will be central to Mr Cameron's hopes to make the party look and think differently and is charged with driving through the new leader's plans to shake up candidate selection to encourage more women to become candidates and MPs.

Also found that at recent Scottish Conservative Party Conference Francis Maude had to urge the delegates to accept the reality of the Scottish Parliament :

Internal critics claim the fundamental problem is a lack of direction in the party. Even accepting the reality of devolution remains a problem for many: last Friday, party chairman Francis Maude felt it necessary to urge party delegates to accept the reality of the Scottish Parliament. This is a little like the Pope telling his Catholic flock that they really had better start getting used to the Reformation. The referendum on devolution was 10 long years ago, but still - it seems - the Conservatives are torn over whether or not to live with it. It is a measure of their lack of progress.

Scottish Tories split over calls for break from UK party

Sunday Herald 22 May 2005

Paul Hutcheon Scottish Political Editor

THE Scottish Tories were immersed in a bitter cross-border row last night after one of their leading MSPs said they should declare their independence from the UK party and its leader Michael Howard.

Murdo Fraser believes the creation of a "separate party, separately funded, with separate responsibility for policy" is one way of changing the perception that his colleagues belong to a branch of an English-based organisation.

The idea was immediately dismissed by Scottish leader David McLetchie and frontbencher Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, who said it was against the principles of the party.

But in another twist, Francis Maude, the newly installed Conservative chairman and key party moderniser, backed Fraser and insisted that his plan ought to be "considered".

Fraser's controversial idea was a response to the resignation last week of shadow Scottish secretary James Gray, who was forced to quit on Thursday after suggesting that MSPs should be abolished.

The North Wiltshire MP's eight-day spell as shadow Scottish secretary proved hugely embarrassing for McLetchie because the Pentlands MSP has spent the past six years turning the Scottish Tories into a prodevolution force.

Fraser, who is widely tipped to be the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the episode demonstrated that a discussion on the party's relationship with Howard and his colleagues was long overdue.

"The events of last week show that a debate on the links between the Scottish Tories and the UK party is required, " he said. "We don't have anything to fear from looking at ways that would give us greater autonomy from central office." The Tory MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife said cutting the link would allow McLetchie's party to reassert their Scottish credentials and distance themselves from the excesses of the UK Conservatives.

"I think there is a problem with perception, in that we are seen as a party that are not sufficiently Scottish. Greater autonomy would be one way of changing that perception, " he said.

The Tory enterprise spokesman wants to import the "German conservative model", in which Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) co-exists with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which fights elections throughout the rest of the country.

While the parties are ideologically similar, the CSU are a distinct organisation with their own symbols, policies and constitution, an arrangement Fraser backs.

"It is a model that is sometimes suggested and I think it is worthy of consideration. It would entail a separate party, separately funded, with separate responsibility for policy.

There would be two parties united by conservatism, " he said.

"It seems to work in Germany and I would be relaxed about a similar structure over here." But an angry Rifkind, recently appointed by Howard as shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, hit out at the idea.

"Murdo and anyone who feels like him should remember that we are not only Conservative, but also a unionist party. Any ideas should be framed around that principle, " he said.

Rifkind was backed up by a spokesman for McLetchie, who reiterated the leader's total opposition.

"I think David's thoughts on that have been stated a few times. As he said, we are the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. That is what we are, " he said.

McLetchie and Rifkind were contradicted, however, by Maude, who told the Sunday Herald he was relaxed about the Scottish Tories becoming an independent party: "Things have changed since devolution, " he said. "We want a revival in Scotland, and if that means making the Scottish party more independent, then it is something we are going to have to talk about." Unprompted, the chairman of the Conservative Party said the German model promoted by Fraser should be considered. "There is the idea of the Scottish Tories becoming completely independent, similar to the relationship the CSU has with the CDU. It's not an absurd idea, " he said.

Asked about Maude's view, McLetchie's spokesman said: "Well, there you go. I am not going to sit and argue about what Francis Maude has said." The "independence" question is a touchy subject for the Scottish Tories, because it would involve an embarrassing public divorce from the UK Conservatives.

Although the party in Scotland have operational autonomy and control devolved policy-making, the UK central office provides funds and has much influence in appointing the Scottish chairman.

Fraser believes there is a "strong case" for his colleagues appointing their own chairman, as does fellow Tory MSP Brian Monteith. McLetchie, however, has said: "It defies belief that a party that regards itself as the prime unionist party would sue for divorce from its partner."


Friday, April 06, 2007

Anglo-Scottish Velvet Divorce

Mouse click on text to read

Senatores boni viri, senatus autem mala bestia

WWF Hustings Castle Douglas Thursday 5th April

Phew, that was a relief. The audience did outnumber the candidates - but only just . There were 12 of us …

Chaired by Richard Dixon , we had Chris Ballance for the Green Party, Alasdair Morgan for the SNP, Alastair Cooper for the Lib Dems, Alex Ferguson for the Conservatives and Stephen Hodgson for Labour.


All the candidates had two minutes to give their ’environmental’ (not ’green’) pitch and every one agreed that climate change is a reality and all agreed ‘something must be done’, quoting from relevant party policies.

Climate change and environmental problems sorted then?

Not quite, the devil was in the details of their answers to questions from the floor. Apart from Chris, who was playing to a home crowd as it were, the problem of ‘how do we get there from here’ still remains. For example, John Schofield (D and G Green Party) asked a road transport question and the consensus was ‘ we still need to build more roads/ bypasses / extend the M 74’. On the M 74 extension both Alasdair Morgan and Stephen Hodgson made similar points - practically we can’t just leave it as it is.

Yes there was support for improving public transport, including rail, supporting rural bus services [a good and detailed point from Alex Fergusson] but…

But… gap between rhetoric and reality. The rhetoric is ‘green’, the reality is ‘business as usual’. The difficulty is that if the politicians get too far ahead of the voters - on the car/ road transport issue for example - they worry the voters will say ‘No’.

Realistically, Chris Ballance was and (I hope) will be elected on the regional list vote, but a Green constituency candidate would not. Although, since there was unanimity about how lucky we are that Galloway (and Upper Nithsdale) is such a green and pleasant land, a campaign which applied Green theory to local practice might work.

With my question, I tried to shift the focus from the global to the local - I asked what would be the most effective arguments to get funding for converting a section of disused railway [ CD to Dalbeattie] into a cycle route to connect up with the 7 Stanes mountain bike circuits in Dalbeattie Forest. Unfortunately, it was not quite as concise as it should have been and got lumped in with a ‘nuclear power -yes please or no thanks?’ one.

Stephen Hodgson was a bit vague , but suggested I should highlight the need for a cycle path network to help the niche marketing of Galloway , but said he goes on cycling holidays.

Alex Fergusson reckoned I would be pushing at an open door, but should emphasise that transport policy should take the need for non-motorised transport into account . A useful technical point to make and one I will bear in mind.

Alastair Cooper felt this was not an MSP/ Scottish Executive issue, but one which local government needed to decide on re funding. I should have challenged him on this - from experience such a project needs support from MSPs and local government spending is constrained by Scottish Executive priorities.

Alasdair Morgan said we need to be much more determined on cycle routes - that local advocates have to push harder to get them taken seriously. He also made pertinent and practical points based on his local knowledge - that parts of route were lost to the CD Dalbeattie road, land had been sold off to farmers and that bridges were missing.

Chris Ballance suggested that arguments based on health and tourism benefits would be strongest, but that reduction of pollution and related arguments are not yet useful/ accepted .

Conclusion : Senatores boni viri, senatus autem mala bestia
(The senators are all good men, but the senate is a beast)

Green issues are now motherhood and apple pie issues - in theory.

In practice… we are not yet at the tipping point. Which is worrying. What ever the ‘big’ outcome on May 3rd, the next Scottish Parliament and next Scottish Executive is likely to pursue a set of ‘business as usual/ carry on regardless ‘ policies which prioritise economy over environment. But the economy is the superstructure and the environment is the base. If the environment fails, there will be no economy …


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Spectator source English/ Scottish Conservative split

Found the source of the ‘Conservative Party to Split’ story - main/ cover story in this week’s Spectator. But note : Annabel Goldie has denied it.

However, the Spectator is an important Conservative magazine and to have given the story such prominence must be a bit more than ‘idle speculation’.

No sign yet on of any speculation about impact on D and G Tory vote at which has speculated on D and G situation e.g.

Any analysis of these 2 seats should take account of the very different character of their rural areas. Much of Dumfriesshire - particularly the south - consists of large mixed farming units, while in general Galloway has hill farms in the east and dairying in Wigtownshire. While prosperity has declined to very low levels in Scottish farming, Dumfries has always been a much more prosperous county. Also, the influence of Hector Monro was enormous.

The town of Dumfries - the Labour stronghold - is in the D&G Westminster seat. The rural parts of the Dumfries Holyrood seat are in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale. David Mundell ran Labour a close second in the 2003 elections in Dumfries - Labour holding on because they managed to increase their share of the vote at the expense of the SNP. WHich is what they did in Dumfries and Galloway in 2005. Doubt this will happen this year which is why the Tories might well take it.

As well as Scotsman article, also pieces in Guardian,,2050475,00.html

And Telegraph, but lost the link.

Also on a few blogs

Revealed: the Tories’ plan to separate Scotland from England and Wales
Fraser Nelson

For the son of an Aberdonian stockbroker, David Cameron has had an uneasy relationship with Scotland. It is a land of massacred Conservatives, even less hospitable to his party today than it was during the great Tory wipe-out ten years ago. In his visits north of the border, the Tory leader has not so much tried to lead the remaining Scottish Tories to victory, but to check their pulse. In London, there is serious concern that the patient is not responding.

No clear protocols exist for declaring a political party dead, but the Scottish Tories offer a few clues. Some of its candidates, for example, have been campaigning for the Scottish Parliament elections on 3 May using only their own names, knowing that the word ‘Conservative’ is a liability. With only four weeks to go to voting day, the Conservatives have dropped to a mere 11 per cent in the polls. Strip out staff members and their blood relatives, and this is as close as a supposedly national party gets to rock bottom.

It is never difficult to distinguish between Francis Maude and a ray of sunshine, and the party chairman — as ever — is warning against false optimism in Scotland (not much of that about, it must be said). But, I can reveal, he has gone one further. Mr Maude’s officials have been secretly drawing up the outline of a ‘velvet divorce’ with the Scottish Conservatives, which would give the Scottish Tories a new name, a distinct identity, and make the Conservatives officially as well as in practice a party exclusively devoted to seeking power in England and Wales. However benignly it was presented, such a split would, in effect, mean the final Tory retreat from Scotland, a historic fissure in British Conservatism, and the death of a party defined in many minds by its One Nation Unionism.

But the harder one examines the situation, the clearer it is that there is little left to salvage and little face left to save. As Sir Malcolm Rifkind puts it, being Conservative in his motherland is now seen as ‘something done by consenting adults in private’. The party is no longer hated, as it was in 1997 (when its share of the vote was 18 per cent), nor even pitied, but simply ignored. Voting Tory is seen as a harmless perversion, like Morris dancing or cricket. A despised party could at least repent. But there is no hope for a forgotten party.

Those involved in the secret break-up plan describe it as a win–win situation for Mr Cameron. Should the new Scottish party slide into extinction, then he would not be blamed. In the event that the new movement triggered a centre-right revival in Scotland, and started sending MPs to Westminster, they would sit and vote with the Tories. And — in strict historical fact — the proposal is not, in fact, a betrayal of Conservative heritage at all, but implies a return to the pre-1965 arrangement when the Scottish division of the party was independent and …

Article continues - 2034 words….


Voter profile Dumfries Galloway

I have been looking here

And on same site for other mentions of Galloway and Dumfries on the same website. It is a ‘to see oursels as ithers see us’ experience. For example

Any analysis of these 2 seats should take account of the very different character of their rural areas. Much of Dumfriesshire - particularly the south - consists of large mixed farming units, while in general Galloway has hill farms in the east and dairying in Wigtownshire.
While prosperity has declined to very low levels in Scottish farming, Dumfries has always been a much more prosperous county.
Also, the influence of Hector Monro was enormous.

The town of Dumfries - the Labour stronghold - is in the D&G Westminster seat. The rural parts of the Dumfries Holyrood seat are in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale.
David Mundell ran Labour a close second in the 2003 elections in Dumfries - Labour holding on because they managed to increase their share of the vote at the expense of the SNP. WHich is what they did in Dumfries and Galloway in 2005. Doubt this will happen this year which is why the Tories might well take it.

So how will votes go on May 3rd?

Assuming the Spectator 'Scottish and English Tories to separate' story is a storm in a Westminster tea cup... here are some incomplete thoughts...

Well, if I was to adopt a UK Polling Report approach, I would look most closely at the 2003 voting patterns at council ward level. However this is a bit confusing - how should one allocate the votes for Independent candidates? Can they be thought of as Conservative votes? Not necessarily.

But I am not in a number crunching mood, so lets try a different approach. When I was doing the Tesco campaign, I was told by a usually reliable source that Tesco had picked on Castle Douglas after doing a bit of socio-economic research which pointed to CD as at the centre of an area of high disposable income which Tesco wanted to tap into. From memory the data came from and took the form of a whole set of different regional ‘consumer profiles’- still have the hard copy buried in my files somewhere.

I am not sure how useful such an approach is, but it does suggest that rather than seeing voters as existing as uniform ‘blocs’ (which is the problem with analysis based on voting figures) , they are made up of smaller sub-groups. So here is a bit of political social anthropology.

Labour - Old and New

Old Labour voters can be found in our ‘urban centres’ - Stranraer and Dumfries plus the old mining area around Sanquhar (the ‘Upper Nithsdale’ that got added to Galloway to dilute the anti-Conservative vote in the bad old days) and where there were/ are pockets of unionised workers e.g. Chapelcross nuclear power station. Also , but more spread out, in NHS and D and G Council - the region’s largest employers.

New Labour - not so sure on this, but likely to be employed in more managerial positions in various ‘agencies’. I’m thinking here of someone like Norma Hart, who was a Labour candidate and had been head of local EU Partnership Agency and then DG Tourist Board. So most likely to be employed by SNH, Scottish Enterprise, DG Council, SEPA etc - part of Scotland’s Labour voting middle class. That in Scotland, Labour are ‘the establishment’. This group more likely to be incomers rather than the Old labour group. Also critical in tipping balance for Labour post 1997. Old Labour never strong enough on its own to threaten Conservative hegemony.

However, more likely to be annoyed by New Labour shift to right - e.g. Iraq, Trident etc. And - maybe - by failure of Jack McConnell / Scottish Executive to back Crichton Campaign. Therefore more likely to vote SNP as protest vote than Old Labour supporters? Perhaps.


Interesting. Were D and G Conservatives ever Thatcherites? I suspect not. They were and are , no less than our Old Labour voters, traditionalists. D and G Conservatives as equivalent to the English ‘shire Tories‘. A mix of almost Edwardian style ‘old money’ landowners with merchant banking links , farmers and small businesses men and woman (Of which there are many - region has very high level of self- employment). Possibly, probably, added to by many of the regions’ English retirees.

On the whole, comfortable with traditional (see previous blogs) ‘Scottish as British’ identity and very nervous of Scottish nationalism.

This is a difficult one to analyse - D and G was described to me by a Labour voting incomer/ retiree as ‘still feudal’. I disagreed on ‘feudal’ as a technical term, but it is in many ways still a ‘pre-industrial’ rural society and is therefore socially conservative. The social cohesion this creates is highly valued. Voting Conservative is seen as the best way to ‘conserve’ social cohesion, as a defence against ‘everything solid melting to air’ - as Marx and Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto.

Ideally, I suspect, most of the regions’ Conservative voters would like to see devolution undone. They see the Scottish Parliament as run by urban, central belt socialists who know nothing of rural life and do their best to ignore its existence. .

I wonder - am I exaggerating here? I don’t know.

Scottish National Party

The recent history here is of the SNP as being focus for opposition to the Conservatives. SNP victories in 1974 and again in 1997 (in Galloway, never Dumfriesshire) have always come as ‘surprise wins’, requiring tactical voting by Labour and Liberal /Lib Dem supporters.

Traditional SNP voters mostly drawn from rural ’working class’ mixed with a few of the self-employed middle class and including (unfortunately) an element of ’anti- wealthy English incomers’ sentiment. Has devolution changed this?

Possibly to the extent that the rhetoric of ‘independence ‘ as a personal and economic aspiration fits with the motivation of the regions self-employed and small business. There could be a shift here towards the SNP and away from the Conservatives (whose rhetoric involves a similar idea of ‘independence’, ‘standing on our own feet‘ etc).

There is an element of confusion here. The farming community are strongly Conservative, but are seen by the small-business/ self-employed as having been feathered bedded by the state for generations. Indeed, viewed from this perspective, Dumfries and Galloway’s economy is highly reliant on the state - for example through the Forestry Commission (largest landowner in Galloway) the NHS and Council plus government agencies as well as support for farming.


Conservatives to split- Union already dead?

This report from Scotsman 5th April, not 1st April.

Where does all this leave Conservatives in Dumfries and Galloway? Has anyone asked them what they think?

The 'comments' on the Scotsman website are are based on the assumption that the Conservatives are already 'irrelevant' in Scotland - which the London party seem to agree with.

But here in D and G the Conservatives are the majority party - in 2003 the combined Dumfries and Galloway constituency votes were:

Conservative 23 061 (regional list : 20 293)

Labour 17 123 (regional list: 14 529)

SNP 15 164 (regional list 12 807)

Lib Dem 4 241 (regional list 4996)

It is as if D and G was a true blue English 'shire' some how misplaced by history on the wrong side of the Border. [Historically there are good reasons for this, going way back into the middle ages, including support for the Balliols against the Bruces and in 17th/ 18th centuries for the Union against the Jacobites]

And again in the Thatcher/Major years...

If I was a D and G Conservative I would be furious - 'stabbed in the back'? Or 'made redundant ' as part of a rationalisation of the Conservative Party?

But then I am not a Tory ( as the title of this blog indicates). So maybe D and G Conservative voters will just grit their teeth and think of England on May 3rd. And vote SNP...

Logical - if the Cameron Tories want to maximise damage done to Gordon Brown ahead of UK general election in 2009/10. But then, where is the benefit of a future Cameron win for D and G Conservatives? Would such a win not be more likely to break up the Union?

Hmm. I suggest the conclusion is the Union is already broken, and no-one (apart from maybe D and G Conservative voters and Gordon Brown) want to fix it...

Here is the article - have I misunderstood it?

Tories planning cross-Border split for party


London Conservatives in secret plans to split from Scottish arm
Move would allow Cameron to play anti-Scottish card against Brown
Scottish Conservatives would be free to re-brand themselves

Key points
"There have certainly been talks around this issue. We have to wait for the dust to settle after 3 May and see where we are. If we don't at least hold the same number of seats, there will be more of an impetus for change of this kind." - Senior Conservative source

Story in full SENIOR Tories are considering secret plans for a "velvet divorce" between the party north and south of the Border after the Scottish polls in the event of electoral disaster.
Conservatives in London believe that hiving off the Scottish party would allow them to exploit Gordon Brown's Scottishness in the run up to the next UK election.

Officials working for Francis Maude, the Tory party chairman south of the Border, are already looking at the idea of making the Conservatives a party operating only in England and Wales, according to reports in today's edition of the Spectator.

This would allow the Tories in Scotland to adopt a new name, possibly "The Unionists", while giving David Cameron the opportunity fully to play the anti-Scottish card against Gordon Brown if, as expected, the Chancellor becomes Prime Minister.

A senior Conservative source told The Scotsman: "There have certainly been talks around this issue. We have to wait for the dust to settle after 3 May and see where we are. If we don't at least hold the same number of seats, there will be more of an impetus for change of this kind."
David Mundell, the shadow Scottish Secretary, last night refused to deny that the idea was being discussed. He said there were "no plans" to alter the structure of the Conservative Party.
However, he added: "It is inevitable that, after the election, people will reflect on the result. But at the moment, talking about party structures is a distraction - only of interest to those people in the Conservative bubble."

Mr Mundell pointed out that the same idea had been floated many times in recent years before Scottish and Westminster elections. Tories at Westminster are coming to the view that splitting the party could increase right-of-centre electoral representation on both sides of the Border.

At the last general election, Mr Cameron's Conservatives won the largest share of the vote in England and it is largely Labour's dominance in Scottish seats that gives Labour its comfortable House of Commons majority.
And if the Scottish Nationalists win at Holyrood, a resurgence in English nationalism is expected, which could benefit Mr Cameron.

A split would also allow the Scottish Conservatives to re-brand themselves, distancing themselves from the Thatcherite legacy of poll tax and economic decline in Scotland.
It would be formally presented as a reversion to the pre-1965 position where the party was formally separate and candidates stood under the Scottish Unionist banner.

If the move helped the Tories north of the Border and the new party began returning more MPs to Westminster, they would vote with MPs from their sister party in the Commons - in the same way that right-of-centre parties co-operate in countries like Germany.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

WWF Hustings Castle Douglas 5th April 2007

Only just spotted this in today's D and G Standard.

Hope it gets a mention in tomorrow's Galloway News!

Castle Douglas

Castle Douglas, Lesser Town Hall - 5th April - 7 - 9pm

Chair: Richard Dixon, Director, WWF Scotland

The panel:
  • Chris Ballance, Scottish Green Party,
  • Scottish Labour Party, To be confirmed
  • Alex Fergusson, Scottish Conservatives
  • Alastair Cooper, Scottish Lib Dems
  • Alasdair Morgan, Scottish National Party


Labour/ Conservative Unionist Alliance?

I thought it was an April Fool joke when I read somewhere on Sunday that the Conservatives had offered to help Labour keep the Scottish National Party at bay.

But according to Ian Bell, writing in today's (not April 1st) Herald, Annabel Goldie is working towards this outcome.

We already have one here in Dumfries and Galloway - a minority Labour Executive propped up in power by Conservative votes.

Here is relevant bit of Ian's piece...


My former colleague Michael Fry, distinguished historian and recent convert to the bright side, used to like to take arguments for a promenade. Before the Tories frustrated his ambitions - such is the fate of smart in the stupid party - Fry used to observe that European conservatives tend invariably towards nationalism. He used to wonder, too loudly for his own good, whether Scots Tories were missing the point.

In those days, I launched a bobbing cliché of my own. "It isn't actually compulsory to have a Tory party," I would write, through the dark years. I suggested that Scottish Conservatives were an accident of history and land-ownership. I forgot about stupidity. I hadn't bargained for Annabel Goldie.

She knows that we know. In the era of the David Cameron quiff, the deputising Murdo Fraser is the next hairstyle in town. Equally, in the intellectually problematic world of modern Conservatism, the sten-torian Fraser will have to sort out what, if anything, the Scottish Tories are for. Ms Goldie says they are not for coalition because coalitions - you know that I paraphrase - are the last resort of very bad lots. First, is she kidding? Our hybrid system demands pacts and deals if government is not to become unstable, and if - a detail worth noting when electoral rumps hope to wag dogs - old political tails need to avoid docking. Everyone makes an arrangement.

Secondly, Ms Goldie has expended a lot of Holyrood time explaining that devolution isn't "working". Scotland's Tories have gritted their teeth, swallowed hard and accepted that their chums in the cutty sark press were wrong: the people do not want to be rid of a parliament. That was a myth. Bury the headlines and stop all the clocks: home rule and democracy are the same. So what follows?

If anything, the people wish to see democracy expand to occupy the available political space. "More powers," in the paraphrase. How is that to be reconciled with a Unionist party declining all responsibility for government just at the moment when Unionism, albeit of a Labour sort, most needs help? Thirdly, how does this abstentionism make devolution, in the Tory styling, work "better"?

Those of us who observe Holyrood, now and then, know what Goldie is about. Here's a minor party, failing steadily, hoping to tease and cajole Labour - dread word - into a marriage of inconvenience and duvet-theft. She hopes that her party will be able to pick and choose, demand legislation, cosset Labour while denouncing Labour and escape all blame.

That sounds like a plan. That sounds, equally, like the sort of plan capable of allowing a minor (very minor) Scottish party to throw Scotland into upheaval for four years, with power sans responsibility, while making home rule work "better".

Only a pair of wholeheartedly Unionist parties survive in this country. They are being picked off, one by one.

The historical interest lies, meanwhile, in the fact that each of these stalwarts has fallen in the self-same, self-determination ditch. The immediate relevance has to do with dim, Poujadist Scottish Tories, and their ineffable impertinence.

Ms Goldie will suck-and-see at legislation, given the chance, thanks to 13% of bothered-to-vote? I don't think so. Ms Goldie will adopt political clients as whim, Cameron, expediency and circumstances demand?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but how does that make devolution "work better"? How does that make devolution work at all?

Seriously: is this the best the Union has got? In my lifetime, the eradication of Scottish Conservatism was the first and greatest straw in the wind. It turns out that Labour now needs ancient enemies merely to shore up the ruins. Yet the old enemies don't, can't, won't see the obvious. Care? I come from another country.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Scottish Elections 2007 Dumfries and Galloway

Present catching up with the past…

I started Last of the Westland Whigs last October as a place to shove pieces of writing inspired by my M.Litt : Scottish Cultural Heritage course at Glasgow University’s Crichton (Dumfries Campus). Which until January this year it was. But then what had been a minor background worry - that Glasgow were not getting the support they needed to carry on at the Crichton - became a major bombshell.

Glasgow University announced they were to quit Dumfries.

So most recent blogs here have been on that problem.

Now? Now we have an election which could undo the Union of 1707. Not only that, but two of the most marginal Scottish Parliament constituency seats - Galloway and Upper Nithsdale [ GUN] and Dumfries(shire) are right here.

Will the Crichton Crisis be a factor in deciding who wins these seats on May 3rd? Possibly - but it has to be said that all of the main constituency candidates - Alex Fergusson (Con) and Alasdair Morgan (SNP) in GUN and Elaine Murray (Lab), Michael Russell (SNP) and Murray Tosh (Con) in Dumfries fully and actively supported the campaign to keep Glasgow University in Dumfries.

I have been reading through various political blogs to see what predictions have been made. There is not much consensus. What most have picked up on is that historically - for over 60 years - Galloway and Dumfries were true blue Conservative strongholds. Apart from a ‘blip’ 1974/79 when the SNP gained Galloway but lost it again in 1979. There was another ‘blip’ in 1997, when the SNP took GUN and Labour (shock horror) took Dumfries, but Peter Duncan got back in as Conservative MP for GUN in 2001 and when he lost in 2005, David Mundell took over as Scotland’s only Tory MP - for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale. In the same election, Russell Brown took the new seat of Dumfries and Galloway for Labour … it is still very confusing to see Galloway as ‘red’ on the political maps. Generations of D and G Conservatives must still be rotating furiously in their mausoleums.

Dumfries and Galloway (along with Orkney) was dubious about devolution in 1997 - voting against giving the devolved parliament tax raising powers.

It is therefore assumed that either Murray Tosh or Alex Fergusson ( but confusingly not both) will be able to draw on the region’s essential conservatism and win on May 3rd.

Why is Dumfries and Galloway such a Conservative heartland?

I won’t go into the historic details, but from my research into the 17th and 18th century history of D and G it is clear that the locally strong (to the point of virtual civil war) conflict between presbyterian covenanters and the Stuart kings in the 17th century carried over into resistance to the Jacobites in the 18th century, especially in 1715. This in turn led to support for the Hanoverians and (grudgingly at first) for the Union of 1707. From the late 18th century and on through the 19th and into the 20th, the Union helped the region prosper.

Although the region failed , despite its best efforts, to directly benefit from the industrial revolution, its ’agricultural revolution’ was highly successful. But this success as a rural region led to the social conservatism which still persists. The downside of this has been a tradition of out-migration. For generations, those who felt constrained by the region’s social conservatism, those who had a bit of ‘get up and go‘ - got up and went.

Unfortunately, the region’s social conservatism (which has its positive side in a high degree of social cohesion) has had a political consequence. Whilst the rest of Scotland, including other rural areas like the Borders and Highlands which voted Liberal/ Liberal Democrat, participated in the slow shift towards devolution, Dumfries and Galloway did not. Dumfries and Galloway was not part of the new Scotland which came into existence between 1979 and 1997. My argument here is more subjective than objective, but my impression is that the region has failed to adapt to the new political reality of devolution.

My analysis of the Crichton University Campus Crisis is that at regional institutional level, the sixty years of a conservative/ Conservative ‘paternalistic’ model of political and economic decision making has not been changed, has not been challenged. That Dumfries and Galloway as a region has not yet begun to engage fully and effectively with the ‘new’, post-devolution, Scotland.

As a result it is effectively relegated to semi-detached status. Yes, the Crichton Crisis managed to pull the region’s MSPs together as a regional bloc in the 15th February debate in the Scottish Parliament, but it was too little and too late.

This regional bloc should have been in existence and supported by D and G Council, Scottish Enterprise D and G, the Crichton Foundation, D and G Chamber of Commerce, D and G Tourist Board and every other regional agency and grouping and pushing ‘pork barrel’ politics such as support for the Crichton project right from the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999...

But it wasn’t. The region’s political identity in the crucial years 1979 - 1997 was Conservative and British/ Unionist not Scottish. This led to a reliance on paternalism. That the regions’ MPs Hector Munro and Ian Lang could, with a nod and a wink, ‘fix’ any problems which arose without any need to engage in crude politicking.

But if a week in politics is a long time, ten years are an eternity. The great and the good of D and G have got to grasp this, as do the less great and less good (or voters as we call them in a democracy) .

Of course, all the opinion polls could be wrong. Of course, Scotland’s National Party may fail on May 3rd. But even if they do, and even if ‘independence’ is put on hold -again , the process of devolution is not going to go away. Holyrood, not Westminster is the place where decisions affecting Dumfries and Galloway will continue to be made. As William Blake said 200 years ago ‘Empire is No More’ - and now it really isn’t .

Finally, to speak historically, the devolution process has also been a nationalist process. The Jacobite interpretation of the Union of 1707 - that it was a ‘betrayal’ of Scotland’s essential identity - has become the popularly accepted version. The restoration of a Scottish parliament is therefore linked to the restoration of a Jacobite interpretation of Scottish history.

If Dumfries and Galloway and the wider south west are to become fully part of Scotland, this Jacobite version of Scotland’s history must be challenged. Somehow the progressive and radical political heritage of the south west’s Covenanters - which can be traced from Samuel Rutherford through Richard Cameron to the Galloway Levellers Uprising of 1724 - must be reclaimed as part of Scotland’s political heritage.

As James Renwick ( born at Moniaive in D and G in 1662) put it in 1688 ‘Scotland must be rid of Scotland before the delivery comes’.

Election 2007- D and G on the blogs

Selection of entries re Dumfries and Galloway and election 2007, but also - see No.6 discovered that Professor Christopher Harvie is standing as an SNP candidate.... very interesting.
small parties will be the bane of the scottish conservatives in may's elections. take alex ferguson msp over in dumfries and galloway there, he's conservative and won last time round by 99 votes only. thanx to this summer's entertaining implosion by the socialist's it's a real possibility that the ssp will not stand there in may and instead concentrate on shoring up their core support along in the clyde. the ssp took around 280 votes in d&g. that's 280 or so votes going back to labour are maybe even the gnats. either way they wont be heading to the conservatives. alex fergusson thus starts his re-election campaign in second place!
Recently, Russell Brown MP sent a letter to constituents in the Galloway part of his Dumfries and Galloway Westminster Constituency on House of Commons notepaper in a franked House of Commons envelope. The cost of this single mailshot has to have been more than the entire SNP campaign budget for the Scottish Parliament election in Galloway & Upper Nithsdale, and, furthermore, it appeared to have been met from the public purse. I thought that the content of the letter amounted to electioneering support for Labour's Scottish Parliament election campaign, so I sent it and the envelope to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Philip Mawer, complaining that the mailshot broke the rule that House of Commons resources should not be used for party political or campaigning purposes.
Sir Philip investigated. As a result, Russell Brown apologised to Sir Philip on behalf of his volunteer workers, who, he claimed, had mistakenly used House of Commons envelopes for part of the mailing, having run out of the plain envelopes they should have used. Russell Brown has offered to repay the House of Commons for the pre-paid envelopes that were used. I haven't been told how many plain envelopes were sent out before they switched to pre-paid ones.
Sir Philip did not agree with me that the content of the mailing broke the House of Commons rules, so he did not uphold my complaint.
I guess this works out at a draw. Nevertheless, I'd be interested to hear from anybody in Galloway who got a copy of that mailing in a plain envelope.
South of Scotland - Regional vote
Note first of all, that of all the regions I am finding the South hardest to call but more on that later.
The results, as my prediction stands, are:
Mike Russell (SNP) - 18,792
Claudia Beamish (Labour) – 17,403
Derek Brownlee (Tory) – 17,015
Chris Balance (Greens) – 16,657
Adam Ingram (SNP) – 15,033
Lib Dem candidate (Lib Dems) – 14,213
Jalal Chaudry (Labour) – 13,923
John Lamont – (Tory) - 12,763

Now, let’s see:
John Scott, Cathy Jamieson and Aileen Campbell I have as comfortable wins. Irene Oldfather also fairly comfortable.
Murray Tosh is somewhat more controversial but I still back him to cause a surprise, and I also urge SNP voters to back him as Mike Russell winning in Dumfries would lead to the same result anyway, but it’s more likely for Murray to unseat Labour’s Elaine Murray here.
Based on newspaper report…
Labour admits meltdown in crucial election seats
LABOUR is set to lose some of its key battleground constituencies, according to senior campaign figures who fear the party is facing a meltdown of popular support ahead of May's Scottish elections.
Key marginals in Dundee, Edinburgh, Dumfries and in rural Scotland are also slipping away, they fear.
Such is the shift of support that SNP leader Alex Salmond is understood to have ordered his own polling figures in the key constituencies to be downplayed for fear it will lead to complacency. One source said Labour had all but given up in some areas where previously it felt it had a strong chance.

There are also warnings that Labour is under severe pressure from the Lib Dems and the Tories: junior minister Sarah Boyack is under threat from the Lib Dems in Edinburgh Central, and in Dumfries MSP Elaine Murray is facing a strong Conservative challenge.
In both cases, Labour campaign chiefs warn the full-frontal attack on the SNP is diverting attention away from the main threat.
One source said: "It's typical Jack: attack the Nats and just hope it works out. But they are not the main challenge in most of the Central Belt, for example. It's those Libs we have to watch out for there."
5. From Michael Russell - SNP candidate Dumfries’s blog -
Last night the students at the Glasgow University part of the Crichton campus in Dumfries - along with some others including staff - staged a demonstration before the University Principal, Sir Muir Russell, spoke in one of the "Crichton Conversations".
It was a noisy, strongly felt but good natured. Then some students trooped in, heard Muir Russell make a weak defence of the decision, questioned him and left.
They had the best of it. His actual lecture , billed to be on "The Future of Higher Education" was painfully cautious, utterly lacking in vision and totally process driven. It exemplified the real problems both of Scotland and of Scottish Higher Education - multiple failures in leadership and ambition. And of course Muir Russell is well placed demonstrate both ; now in charge of one of our leading Universities, and formally in charge of the civil service in Scotland.
A depressing evening but one which should stir anyone with half a brain and half a heart to every effort in the coming six weeks, so that Scotland can at last start to change. We can do better than this - in fact we must.
6. From
Professor Christopher Harvie is standing as an SNP candidate
Next to Lampedusa's The Leopard, a favourite novel is Bulgakov's The White Guard. In Kiev, during the Russia civil war, the Chekhovian bourgeois - heroes, naifs, rotters, charmers - flirt and fight and grow up, while out on the plains. Kuropatkin, threatened Ukrainian strongman, broods in his armoured train. The book was, weirdly enough, a favourite of Stalin's, and he let Bulgakov live.
The constellation has some parallels in the Scottish situation, flickering wanly on the edge of the London telescreen.
My experience on the stump as an election candidate is pretty positive, even in areas not supposed to be good for the SNP. I talked on March 6 to the Burntisland Speakers Club, on the Rotary level and reckoned by our local councillor to be natural Tory territory. But they were friendly and I found later that some were spreading the word about quite enthusiastically.
Labour isn't being seen around much. Posed photos of Gordon Brown, Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy's MSP) and local councillors show up in the Fife Free Press, but there's no leafletting in the High Street, and no mention of the Holyrood campaign on the party website. Scotland on Sunday on the March 25 had a tirade against Blair by Tom Brown (no relation to Gordon).
The Gordon uptake was "a crusade for the Union". Not well timed. Twelve thousand Orangemen were around Edinburgh on the Saturday, banging the Lambeg Drum to celebrate 1707, which wouldn't have helped. Not too reliable as an indicator, blogging response to even pro-Labour stories in the Scottish press seems overwhelmingly nationalist, roughly 200 to 20 in response to Tom Brown's Scotland on Sunday piece. Labour ought to give as good as it gets, but it seems torpid. Is this because of long-serving councillors (often the last of the activists) quitting in advance of PR in the local elections?
The blogging was too home-made to be prompted by the SNP, though the week up to March 19 was good for the party, with the news of support from Sir George Mathewson, former governor of the Royal Bank (nine billion in profits) and Brian Souter of Stagecoach.
What's behind this? Are we approaching a stage at which there will either be a smooth transition to independence or a dreadful crashing of gears in which there's no clear decision either way, but a maximum degree of tension? Big-business backing plus cash can boost the SNP percentages and make a coalition on SNP terms viable, matching up with Alex Salmond's activist "Hundred Days" agenda. Assume Gordon to be PM after May 4 but dead in the water, or not there at all, and Cameron in the ascendant in England, and you'll have the momentum for a successful independence referendum.
My hunch is that Mathewson-Souter have no illusions about the UK's real economic condition and think that for Scotland to get out while the oil's still around (and into Europe, which interests Gordon not a whit) is the lesser risk. If you were a clever Anglophone European, would you reject this sort of scenario?
On March 9, I had an email in response to a letter to the Herald on the sale of Weir Pumps to the Swiss firm Sülzer (it later fell through) from the Wall Street Journal of all places. Reporter (Alistair MacDonald, Geordie unionist) rang, agreeing that UK manufacturing is in a dreadful state; Brownite claims of economic dynamism trickling down from finance to industry are so much flam, at best completely anecdotal. Why should the WSJ take this hostile line to Brown? Because hot money is flowing from Sarbanes-Oxley-supervised New York to London, where supervision has been cut to a (dangerous) minimum, and it wants to put a stop to it pdq?
In the Bulgakov scenario Gordon is the doomed Kuropatkin. His ineptitude in dealing with his clientèle astonishes. His economic record overall is dubious, let alone his crassness in matters European (not a cheep on the jubilee of the EU: this will be remembered). I can only put his survival down to the press barons' desire to have him around: reliably anti-Brussels and pro-property-and-retail, which keeps their own parasitical ad-driven world of housing, travel, sport, media supplements whirring around. But Rupert Murdoch, always hyper-intelligent, doesn't back losers and I notice that Private Eye is speculating that if he's confronted with a Scottish political situation which would bite chunks off the circulation of the Scottish Sun, he'd ditch Brown.
Who reads the Bun for the politics? True, but George Pascoe-Watson, its political commentator and dauphin of the legendary Trevor Kavanagh, is a Scottish Tory, a near-extinct breed, and presumably desperate enough to contemplate some such strategy. Acutely embarrassing as it will be, I would have to back "Murdoch, Rupert: Prince of Darkness" (his index-entry in the fourth edition of my Scotland and Nationalism, 2004) should he decide thus.