This speech delivered by George Galloway MP, at a debate sponsored by ‘The Spectator’ at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on Tuesday 24th June 2014. The transcript can be found here.
If Scotland votes Yes in September you will be handing the prize for which 100 years the SNP has fought.
First line, first mistake: The SNP was founded in 1934 so only 80 years. Of course, the desire for Scottish independence goes way back to, oh, 1707 (and perhaps to 1286 and beyond).
They have fought for it despite everything and anything that was happening. When London was burning under the Blitz, their poet laureate (Hugh) MacDiarmid said: “London is burning, I don’t care.” They said it was England’s war.
They want you to refight a battle 700 years ago between two French-speaking kings with Scottish people on both sides.
It is the No campaign who continually bring up the past, especially past wars. By this logic, all No want to do is fight Hitler again. News flash, he’s dead.
I prefer to remember a rather more recent battle when this small island of English-speaking people stood alone and if we had not stood but capitulated like others had done before us we would be having this meeting in German if we were going to have it at all.
What did I tell you?
And not one person asked in that summer and autumn of 1940 and into 1941 if the pilots who were spinning above us defending us from invasion from the barbaric horde were from Suffolk or Sutherland. We were people together on a small piece of rock with 300 years of common history. That’s what they want to break up and all the rest is balderdash. That’s the truth of it.
And a good few of the pilots were Polish or Canadian or some other nationality. While not knocking the heroic efforts of the British during those early years of the WWII, as a part New Zealander this sort of comment irritates me to the extreme as it totally discounts the other Allies in the fight. The ANZAC (Australians & New Zealanders), the South African, the Indians, the Pacific Islanders, the Canadians and of course the Americans – all former colonies of the the UK and now (and then) independent nations.
How come so few women are in favour of independence? Why are Scotland’s women the most resistant of all the demographics in this contest? And the reason is that women simply don’t like gambling.
That is maybe what the opinion polls say just now but it appears, from previous years in Scottish politics, that women make up their minds about political issues a little bit later (more carefully perhaps?) than men so I wouldn’t say that woman are predominantly against independence so much as undecided about it.
And everything in their (the Yes campaign’s) project is about gambling – for your future, your pension, your children and their children’s future. And you are right not to like gambling.
Life is a gamble. What George is saying is that voting Yes is a vote for uncertainty while voting No is a vote for certainty. That may be true if you recognise the certainty of more austerity measures coming our way, the privatisation of the NHS, the certainty of Trident being replaced, the near certainty of the UK following the USA into more wars and so on. But then there is the uncertainty of whether or not the UK is going to remain within the EU or not or who is going to be in government in 2015 and beyond. So which is it, George, certainty or uncertainty? What we have by way of contrast is the certainty that Scotland wants to remain in the EU, wants to retain a fully free and public NHS, wants to get rid of Trident and wants a more democratically accountable government. I agree that there is a degree of uncertainty about how these things are going to be achieved but only with regard to the details and not about the general principle of the thing. Do you honestly believe that we Scots couldn’t figure out how to make these things work?
But just a few hundred yards from here on the North Bridge, one of Scotland’s women, one of our highest achieving women in the history of our entire country, JK Rowling sat in a café and wrote books that people all over the world love.
I like JK Rowling’s writing. I read all the Harry Potter books and loved them. But the woman is not a genius as far as I am aware, simply someone who has a talent for writing. There are many, many more important and influential woman who have come out of Scotland or the rest of the UK so let’s not elevate her to sainthood just yet. What we can say is that she is a very, very rich woman but that had as much to do with luck as much as talent. Many, many authors have produced much better works over many more years but simply haven’t had the luck or the approach that leads to Hollywood film rights being offered to them. It should also be acknowledged that had JKR been a budding writer on benefits in today’s austerity climate I imagine she could well have faced sanctions for not doing enough to find work. Would it be cruel to suggest that perhaps the DWP should be looking into her previous benefit payments and recovering them as she was clearly not out looking for work while she was sat in a café working on a future best seller. Or does that sound like sour grapes? Maybe, but I am sure you get the idea that whatever JKR may be in terms of writing fiction, she is no more special a person than the rest of us.
And what happened when she dared to opine as to how people should vote in September? She was subjected to a torrent of abuse and hatred online and in the post.
I really would like to see the evidence of ‘torrents’ of abuse. I know she had some pretty obnoxious comments directed her way but, according to the media, the one chap who was singled out as being the worst offender was an Englishman living in England and clearly not part of the independence campaign.
And that is the second reason why women don’t like independence – because they can see that it has already generated and will generate a politics of grudge and division based on where one stood.
I am tired of being called a quisling or a traitor or – I was ordered last night from the rougher end of the trade – “get back to England”.
Such terms are unpleasant to hear and I don’t think they help the argument at all. But would calling George a hypocritical, self-serving, paranoid, bigoted, political weathervane of a man make him feel less put upon? I used to respect (see what I did there?) George, back when I thought he really was a principled socialist who was willing to stand up to the powers that be, but I soon realised that George stands up for whatever will make George look important and secure him another year dining at the political trough. He left Scotland when it was clear he had a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected to represent any constituency north of the Border. I am not quite sure what the people of Bradford have done to deserve him, but if they like him they can keep him.
I’ll go wherever I like in these islands or anywhere else and speak my mind and you see that is the authentic voice of those that seek to break up this country.
I am a bit confused by what he means here; does he mean he is the ‘authentic voice of the country’ or that those who tell him to go back to England are?
I have been divorced more than once. Trust me it is never ever amicable, whatever anybody tells you. But you can make a deal. You can give the partner who is walking out on you all the CDs the DVDs, the dog, the car – you can give them everything, but the one thing you will never ever give them is the right to continue to use the joint credit card.
Getting divorced once could be seen as one of life’s unfortunate occurrences; getting divorced more than once suggest a) a lack of judgement about the people you get married to, or b) that you are not a particularly nice person once you get past the first impressions, or c) both. But that aside, the ‘divorce’ of Scotland from rUK may not be pleasant or amicable but that is hardly an argument for remaining in this ‘marriage’ which is serving Scotland so badly. If this were not the case, George would be saying he got divorced once but, despite being in a bad marriage, has decided to remain in the relationship to avoid the messy divorce proceedings. But no, he has divorced ‘more than once’. Do as I say, not as I do…
And that is what their plan A – and they have no plan B – amounts to.
They want to use a currency issued by the Bank of England – the clue being in the name; they want to continue to use it and they imagine that the people that issue it will allow them to do so; to use the joint credit card, even though and as they are walking out the door.
George, George, George. The Bank of England in name, the Bank of the Union of the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England in reality. Check your historical facts. Yes, the SNP want a currency union with rUK but have said that they will opt to use sterling even if the rUK don’t want to enter into said currency union. That is Plan A and Plan B. And back to the divorce metaphor, if George is such an expert in divorce proceedings, as he surely must be now, he will know that there has to be an agreement between the divorcing partners about financial arrangements, including the joint credit cards, and one partner cannot unilaterally dictate to the other what they can or cannot have. If things get rancorous, this is where the lawyers and courts come into it, as I am sure they will in any future negotiations about Scotland leaving the UK.
So this is the first time ever that people in a small country, where everyone speaks the same language, are being asked to break up and break up on the basis that they don’t have a currency to use.
Huh? Czechoslovakia managed it. Ireland did too. Norway, Sweden and Denmark also…
There will be no pound. Trust me on that. I came yesterday from Parliament (where) the leaders of the mainstream parties have not changed their minds. An independent Scotland will not have the pound.
If you say that we can’t possibly trust you George, because you are wrong. These leaders of these mainstream parties may not last until the next general election in 2015, never mind beyond. These politicians, whomever ends up in power in Westminster in 2015, will have to make the decisions that are in the best interests of the rUK and there is a lot to benefit to rUK for keeping Scotland close in monetary terms. But, accepting the possibility that a currency union might not happen, there is no earthly power that can stop Scotland using the pound sterling as its currency. Live with it. Scotland will, in the immediate aftermath of independence, be using the pound.
What will it have instead? The euro – how’s that going? Anybody fancy that or are we going to bring back the groat?
The Euro, the Euro, why all the fuss about the Euro? First, the Euro is not nearly as dire a currency as we in Britain like to believe. Germany is doing just fine with the Euro. But that aside, we CANNOT be forced to join the Euro. We could, of course, decide to use the Euro just as we can chose to use the pound, but we cannot be forced to join it. To do so we have to be a member of the EU, and while this is highly likely to be the case, the details need to be worked out. If Scotland is forced to effectively leave the EU and re-join as a new member (and this is an argument that will require a legal ruling within the EU legal framework as there is no precedence for what Scotland is attempting to do) there is indeed a clause that requires new members to sign up, in principle, to join the Euro. However, to do so requires several economic steps, all of which would be easy to fail deliberately if Scotland wished, AND the joining of the ERM2 for two years, which is entirely VOLUNTARY. Sweden has yet to join ERM2 despite being in the EU (and ‘committed’ to joining the Euro) since 1995 so cannot join the Euro (yet) even if it wanted to (which it doesn’t).
I see one or two pensioners here, or people close to pensionable age. How do you fancy your pension in groats? How do you fancy a pension that is based entirely on the absolutely unstable price of a commodity that will be finished in 2050?
Who cares what a currency is called? But that main thing is, it is not all about the oil George. Believe it or not, Scotland has very healthy finances, even before taking oil into account. I also love his certainty that oil will be finished in 2050; I wonder if the oil and gas industry think the same? Answer, no they don’t (hello, Aberdeen resident here). I also note that if he is appealing directly to those of pensionable age in his audience, then most of them will be safely dead by 2050 so his argument becomes weaker by the second…
And in my lifetime oil has been as low as $9 a barrel and as high as $156 a barrel. Who wants to mortgage their children and their children’s future on a finite resource that will soon be finished and the price of which is simply un-calculable? Un-calculable.
The last time oil was $9 a barrel was in 1974 (and that adjusts to $44 a barrel in today’s terms). It has increased steadily in price since then (though the $156 a barrel must have been a momentary blip as the highest monthly average I am able to track down is $102 back in April 2011 with the average annual cost being $91 in 2008 and 2013). And, if, as George maintains, oil is getting scarcer and liable to run out, its price will go up rather than down. Granted that will bring other problems, but his scare story is running out of steam rather faster than the oil in the North Sea.
There will be havoc if you vote Yes in September. Havoc in Edinburgh and throughout the land and you will break the hearts of many others too.
Because, as I look at my fellow debaters on my side, I was reminded of the Duke of Wellington reviewing his own troops before the battle of Waterloo: “I don’t know what they do to the enemy but they don’t half frighten me.” “The difference is we have come together but temporarily at a moment of national peril.
The nationalists on the other hand are permanently together for they have only one purpose – to persuade you that [Stagecoach Group transport firm founder and prominent Yes campaigner] Brian Souter, the gay-baiting billionaire, funder of their campaign is someone more worthy of looking up to than JK Rowling.
I am not quite sure why Brian Souter gets singled out here, and I am prepared to believe that JK Rowling is a much nicer person to spend time with, but if you think that Yes have a monopoly on unsavoury characters, could I just refer you to this article?
I know which side I’m on. I’m with JK Rowling. Just say No.
On that note, I have this to say George; UKIP and the Orange Order.
It is worth noting that this speech was delivered to an audience of 194 high paid Edinburgh establishment types (accountants, lawyers, etc.) who all gave George a resounding cheer for his efforts. Think about that for a second; if one of the UK’s ‘leading’ socialist politicians with a reputation for sticking it to the powers that be, the great and the good, and yet those very same sort of people give him an ovation on this occasion, does that not suggest something a little fishy? The No campaign is producing some very, very strange bedfellows…