“Scotland Yes to Independence, No to Nationalism”: a Socialist Worker pamphlet by Keir McKechnie. £2. a comradely reply by Donald Anderson.
From the start it is fair to say that this has been a long time coming. When I asked Keir McKechnie, Scottish Organiser of the SWP, why the SWP have come out at last for Independence. He said it was now the “only logical conclusion” to take. I replied that it always was. On the whole it is worth buying and reading. Because of the overall impact I am loath to make a few minor criticisms, that should not detract from the impact of this pamphlet and the courage it must have taken for SWP members to finally reach this conclusion. Gone are the bad old days when the SWP used to say “Vote Labour with Illusions”. The defunct ‘Workers Revolutionary Party’ used to say, even more humorously, ‘Vote Labour with Socialist Polices’. I am glad to say that most realise that you only get one ballot paper to vote Labour with: ‘No Politics’ other than careerism. My criticism is only of certain historical points, which I am sure is just lack of knowledge and being subjected to Unionist propaganda inside and outside of educational circles, as we all were. I am grateful to Alan McCombes and Tommy Sheridan for their honesty in acknowledging this fact when they came over to support Scottish Independence. I am sure Keir will through time, as we always got on well together despite the SWP’s old Unionist stance. I was even, pleasantly, surprised to hear, if that is correct, that Neil Davidson, SWP Unionist author, has changed his mind. And hope that is true.
Keir’s criticisms of the SNP I suppose is fair in that many SNP activists will agree with him, but see the SNP as the only Party this side of the Referendum capable to deliver. SNP support has remained almost static at 30% for the past 30 years and they have to convince almost that amount again to achieve Independence. Without it we can achieve nothing. Milibend, for once, told the Union Jack bedecked Labour Conference in Blackpool the truth, when he said only Labour can save the Union. Scotland only has one Tory MP in Westminster and no Tory Councils. Keir acknowledges this by saying that Cameron had to take a step back from, openly, interfering too much. Even Lord Forsythe had to advise him to leave it to the other Tory Party and allow Alastair, the Unionist, Darling to lead the campaign. You just don’t get any more right wing than Darling, Broon and Blair, the Labour mad bombers. Johann Lamont is not even on message and they don’t always bother to phone her up when they keep changing their minds in London.
I just hope that my main criticisms will be taken on board in the comradely spirit intended, mainly on historical inaccuracies. First Keir repeats the assertion flying about the last decade from Unionist “historians” about Scotland and the Slave trade, founded by an English sea Captain Smith, in the Americas. It was Liverpool, Bristol and other English towns that were compounded on the slave trade. Ironically, Dublin, which was founded by Danish pirates as a slave centre, also owes many of its great buildings to the Anglo slave trade.
The Eastern US seaboard was dominated by English and Dutch plantation owners, with the aid of African chiefs, who had African Coastal slave garrisons trading for English manufactured goods and English gold, even at the height of the Deep South Squirearchy, visiting black chiefs and agents were given honorary and “legal” white status. The poor white trash were encouraged to believe in white supremacy. The manufacturing North, who had wage slavery, used the issue for propaganda purposes.
The Scottish tobacco Lords were engaged in an entrepreneurial trade and did not own the cotton estates. They were able to save a round fortnight in the journey from the Clyde and English ships in the Bristol Channel also had to face attacks from the French, Dutch and Spanish. The Scots drove the tobacco in wagons from Greenock to Glasgow and then to Leith to be shipped off to France, who supplied the whole of Europe and beyond. The merchants bought land on the Upper Clyde, building the new port of Port Glasgow, next to Greenock. The Tobacco Lords were Presbyterian and had contacts with the French Huguenots. Both were opposed to slavery, as was the Kirk in Scotland. The first black slave to land on Scotland was freed amid a public outcry. Some Scots had to move to London to indulge in the slave trade. One returning merchant brought a freed black slave to Scotland as a companion, but tried to virtually claim ownership when the black person married a servant girl. The merchant lost his case in the ensuing outcry. The merchants often gave credit to the Anglo plantation owners for a whole year, supplying them with tool, hardware and luxury goods. The Scots were able to trade over the honest names of their Presbyterian families. The slave owners lost no chance making excuses to renege in their debt whilst fighting for Liberty in 1777, that did not include Blacks: Native Americans, Jews or Catholics.
Keir also makes too much of the Scottish regiments that fought against them. Most had no choice. Flora MacDonald and the Highlanders who moved to the Carolinas to escape the oppressions at home were threatened again with their homes being burnt out. Flora was taken prisoner by the American “Revolutionary” Anglos, who treated her just as badly as the British did back home. The Carolinian Highlanders charged an open bridge, with pipes and broadswords. The Yankees had loosened and greased the slats the night before and the Scotch Irish sharpshooters took their toll on the Highlanders. Incidentally, the South Carolina Highlanders were given the privilege of guarding the New York Cameron Highlander POWs in the US Civil War. It is too easy to make asides about the Scots regiments and belies their whole story. After Culloden and the Proscription and disarming Acts forbidding the carrying of weapons, “war pipes”, kilts, tartans and Highland greatcoats, etc., the only way they could wear their native dress was to join the newly formed Highland regiments raised to fight the colonial wars in the Americas, first against the French, then the colonists. Many stayed there and never came home.
Also, assertions do not take into account the mutinies in the Highland regiments resulting from the broken terms of enlistment. At first recruited as local Militias and local watches, they were shipped out from Dover to fight in wars they had no interest in and nothing against the nations they were sent to attack. Rob Roy even had a Government paid local cattle watch, which he used for moonlighting purposes. The Grants and other clans were granted local watches. The Black Watch first mustered at Aberfeldy and became suspicious when told to muster at Perth, with many deserting, then Edinburgh and more deserting, then to the South of England, obviously to be shipped out, resulting in Mutineers being hung. Contrary to popular belief the Black Watch were not used at Culloden, after being accused of"dummy fighting" with their relatives at the Government defeat in the Battle of Falkirk 1746. They were in the South East of England during Culloden and ready to be shipped out as a line regiment. New research has shown Scots regiments siding with Irish "rebels" and will be published soon.
Keir briefly mentions the Scots in Ulster in another one liner, which does not explain their presence. They had no choice either and were sent there or be “hingit”, by James the Saxt in 1606. Lord Percy complained that the Scots Border clans were just not playing cricket and not accepting the Regal union by still assaulting his lieges and stealing his coos. Many did try to come back and were "hingit". Jamie tried to extend his colonisation by planting Inglische speaking Fifers, “The Fifeshire Adventurers” in the Western Isles, after the Statutes of Iona. Their heads were sent back pickled in barrels. The Border planters in the English plantation of Ulster were so successful as farmers that Catholic landlords imported more Scots tenants: Gaelic speakers from Galloway and Carrick. The Scots identified with the native Irish and were instructed by them to put “Scotch” on their lintels in every rebellion.
The United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798 was mainly Presbyterian led. The Anglican Orange Order was founded to counter the Catholic/Presbyterian alliance, which was compounded by the Queen Ann Acts of 1704, discriminating against Presbyterians in the Province. Presbyterians were forbidden to join the LOL till the 1840’s when the Government tried to ensure their loyalties by granting stipends to the Presbyterian Ministers. Most of the Scots Irish migrated from Ulster to the Americas, signing themselves over as indentured servants for seven years and being granted land on the frontier. These were the “Hill Billies” of the Appalachians and whom Washington went among when he was at his lowest, as he claimed his Scotch-Irish fought the British hardest. The Scotch Irish fired the first shots in Kings Mountain, Tennessee, defeating the hated redcoats. The redcoats had orders to burn Presbyterian houses, schools and churches, as hotbeds of revolution. I mention this in response to one liners about Scots and Irish as the British left have a history of playing the sectarian card on phoney Irish fronts, till the real Irish wised up to them.
In Ireland, Marx said, they cleared whole villages. In Scotland they cleared whole areas the size of German Principalities. He also said that the English Working class benefited from the oppressed workers of the Empire. Lenin and Trotsky were also pretty scathing about the British left being less radical than the Scots, Irish and Welsh workers. Lenin said the Communist party would not live and would not die. Churchill said that if they were ordered by Stalin to take over the railway stations in Britain they would all buy a platform ticket first.
Keith also quotes Lenin stating the difference between the oppressed nations and the oppressors, but claims Scotland was never oppressed. Keith will have to learn, like we all had to, the many acts of oppression. Scotland had the highest casualty rates in the two World Wars, with the exception of the Serbs and Turks, whose casualties were mainly due to frostbite and dysentery. The daft Jocks were sent over the top, as were the Ulster Volunteer Force at the Somme. Their masters were embarrassed at the Frankenstein monster they created, when they could easily control all Ireland through the banks and the City of London. Scotland had the highest rate of mass emigration in the past two centuries and worst slums in Europe. Marx spoke of the tall people of Sutherland who became small and pigeon chested, after a couple of generations in Glasgow slums. Tacitus claimed that Calgacus spoke of Roman invasion “creating a wilderness and calling it civilisation”. The 1820 insurgents carried a banner, proclaiming “Scotland Free or a Desert”. Today Scotland is unfree with one half an agrarian wilderness and the other half an industrial desert.
To correct and reply to all the established historical myths would mean replying almost sentence for sentence and writing volumes. Suffice to say, these can be corrected and the main thing is the political move towards the future, for which Keir McKechnie and his colleagues must be congratulated. To bring it up to date he mentions Souter and Farmer buying the SNP. They did not. The SNP took their own line against Souter’s anti-gay assertions and against Farmer’s on the Tame Unions. More should be made of the Labour’s Cash for Peers and their love of the House of Lords and of the Sainsbury capitalists cash and directions.
No mention of all the Scottish Trade Union being closed down in 1974 for London head offices and of the takeover of the SCWS farms, factories, stores, etc. by the Younger and less radical Coop. The only Scottish Union left is the ‘Educational Institute of Scotland’, thanks to our separate education system. Ironically, teachers were not allowed to join trade union’s in John MacLean’s days, who joined the SCWS.
The future is bright and the future is not Orange. It is time some more of the British left looked properly at the results of the bribery and corruption of this so called “Union” and fought against it as true internationalists, not as the Brit-left any more.