Monday, 1 September 2014

Does Labour's History In Scotland Justify Trusting Them Again?

This blog is simply an update on the one I wrote in April this year entitled, "If Scots Choose Labour Rather Than Independence, They Can Expect Another Kicking". With only two weeks to go until we make the most important political decision any of us have faced in our lifetime, a long, hard look at the alternatives to independence, is absolutely essential. Shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran, issued a statement today, warning Labour voters who might be tempted to vote for independence "to escape the Tories", to remember the "threat to Scottish shipbuilding jobs" that independence would bring. For ANY Scottish Labour MP to warn against independence because we might lose jobs in shipbuilding, really is beyond parody.

Don't be put off by the list of figures below, because they tell an important story about Labour's record in Scotland, particularly how they have rewarded the trust placed in them by Scotland's population. The wastelands that are still there in parts of West Central Scotland - better known as "Labour's Heartland" - tell the story much more graphically than any list of numbers and figures ever will, but the numbers really are important, because they represent the historical record of Labour's betrayal of the people who trusted them and put them back into office time, after time, after time.

Year of Gen Election                    No of Scottish Seats Won By Labour
  1951           Tory Gov                                    35
  1955                  "                                           34
  1959                  "                                           38
  1964           Lab Gov                                      43
  1966                 "                                            46
  1970            Tory Gov                                   44
  1974 (Feb)   Lab Gov                                    40
  1974 (Oct)         "                                           41
  1979             Tory Gov                                   44
  1983                  "                                            40
  1987                 "                                             50 (The Feeble Fifty)
  1992                 "                                             49
  1997             Lab Gov                                     56
  2001                 "                                             56
  2005                 "                                             41
  2010              Tory Gov                                  41

Labour won the general elections in 1945 and 1951, the period where they have to be given credit for the setting up of the National Health Service and the massive restructuring that took place in the immediate post war years, but what followed, at least as far as Scotland is concerned, is massively different. What the figures show is that since the general election of 1964, when Harold Wilson led Labour, the party has never had less than 40 MPs which have been sent to Westminster to represent Scottish seats. That could have been a serious and effective Scottish pressure group but party loyalty always came first. They also show that Labour has held office in Westminster for thirty years out of the last 63, therefore they are as much to blame as the Tories, for whatever has happened to Scottish industry and the failure to deal effectively with the deindustrialisation of the Scottish economy.

In the coal industry, employment in Scotland fell from 89,464 in 1951 to 2,370 in 1991, but the carnage took place in three stages. Between 1951 and 1961, the numbers fell from 89,464 to 80,410 and between 1961 and 1971, the numbers fell from 80,410 to 34,315 and finally to 2,370 by 1991. The Tories were in power for all of the first stage but Labour was in power for seven years out of the ten years of the second stage when 46,000 jobs were lost and the real damage was done. There is a similar story in the rail industry where jobs in Scotland fell from 55,393 in 1951 to 11,870 in 1991. Again, there were three stages when there was a small reduction from 55,393 in 1951 to 53,990 in 1961, then a loss of 31,000 jobs from 53,990 in 1961 to 22,910 in 1971 and finally to 11,870 in 1991. Again Labour was in power when the real damage was done and although the Beeching reports were published in 1963 and 1965, when he returned to ICI, the bulk of the cuts he suggested were implemented during Labour's term of office.

One resource that could have saved Scotland much of the pain associated with the various periods of substantial unemployment since 1945, is oil. Had Scotland had the power to control the rate of extraction and proper management of the resource, in other words had we been independent, there would be no queues for second hand food as we are currently experiencing.The McCrone report on the effect oil would have on Scotland, if we chose to be independent, was written in 1974 for the Heath government but was given to the Labour government on April 23rd 1975. Both governments agreed that it would not be in the interests of UK governments if Scots were told the truth, therefore the report was kept secret, until the SNP were able to get it through Freedom of Information in 2005. There is no doubt Scots would have taken an entirely different attitude to independence, had they been told the contents of the report, which stated that an independent Scotland would be as rich as Switzerland with a currency which would have been the hardest of any in Europe, with the possible exception of the Norwegian Kroner.

In July 1986, with the Tories in government, I attended an unemployment summit arranged by the STUC, as part of an SNP team, together with representatives of the TUs, Churches, Local Government and other groups in Scottish society. This was nothing new as the STUC had called an "Assembly on Unemployment" in February 1972 when unemployment was 85,000; a "Convention on Unemployment" in December 1980 when unemployment was 250,000 and then this "Economic Summit" in July with unemployment at 480,000. Unemployment at this level was a national disgrace as Scotland was the fifth largest oil producer in the world the previous year, 1985. Contributions from the floor suggested that the nature and representation at the Summit, was a clear indication of the "power of Scottish society". Gordon Wilson, then leader of the SNP, pointed out that the Summit was "a sign of weakness rather than power". No one openly disagreed. Jim Callaghan predicted that oil revenues would be around £4 billion by the middle of the 1980s but they were £12 billion in 1985. Dennis Healey admitted on May 19th 2013, that they had quite deliberately reduced the true wealth in the North Sea "because of the fear of giving the SNP a boost."

Scotland has little to thank Labour for, as my previous blog shows in more detail, and when Margaret Curran has the gall to warn us that we will lose shipbuilding jobs if we vote Yes, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.


  1. Hi jim, this is more personal than political. You taught me economics at phs around 1973 and your successor took me on to my o level and higher grade. I used to speak to your dad (if memory serves) on the perth busses. He was the nicest bus driver I knew. Humble, warm and kind. Never forgotten either of you. Atb
    Eric paterson, golspie.

    1. Hi Eric,

      Have sent a personal email


    2. Hi Jim, i seem to have missed the email you sent (under the multitudes of indy emails and Facebook notifications). If you were able to find and resend I would be very grateful. All the best for the next few days. Eric (