Willie Rennie made a bit of an idiot of himself last night. He appeared towards the end of the final instalment of Iain Macwhirter’s largely-excellent STV documentary “Road To Referendum”, with the empirically wrong assertion (in the name of the fabled “positive case for the Union”) that “the National Health Service is a United Kingdom institution, it was created by United Kingdom people.”
This, as alert Wings Over Scotland readers will know in some detail, isn’t true. The NHS has never been a “United Kingdom institution”. From the first day of its creation, it was two independent institutions – the Scottish NHS and the English/Welsh NHS.
(It’s now four separate national bodies – Northern Ireland having its own service, with a different name and different responsibilities, and the Welsh NHS having been “divorced” from the English one and devolved to the Assembly in 1999.)
To the Scottish Lib Dem leader’s embarrassment, the NHS therefore proves the exact opposite of what he’s trying to use it to prove – namely, it shows that Scotland can deliver better health services for its people (free prescriptions, personal care, eye tests, dental check-ups, hospital parking) via independence, yet still co-operate smoothly and productively with the rUK where necessary without the sky falling in.
But Rennie’s clanger triggered off another interesting exchange.
From the one-man gaffe goldmine that is Central Ayrshire Labour MP Brian Donohoe:
We do sympathise, and not just with the unfortunate (but alert) constituent of Mr Donohoe’s who sent us this recent press release. It can’t be easy for poor Brian either, constantly having to remind himself “Commemorate… not celebrate. Commemorate… not celebrate” like a low-rent version of Viz’s immortal Eight Ace.
It’s not the first time we’ve had to raise this subject. But as the rhetoric ramps up from an increasingly nasty and unhappy No camp, we have to ask again – just what is the Labour Party’s problem with foreigners?
We stumbled across this quite by accident yesterday. We think you’ll enjoy it.
The clip is from last year, and was aired on Canadian national news channel Sun News. Douglas Murray is a British writer who claims to be half-Scottish on account of unspecified links to Unionist breeding ground the Isle of Lewis, popular haunt of No-camp luminaries like Alistair Darling, virulent anti-devolutionist Brian Wilson and controversial “Better Together” donor Ian Taylor.
Murray studied at Eton and Oxford and writes for august UK journals like the Spectator and Guardian, as well as appearing on numerous BBC TV political programmes. For some reason, the Canadians consider him an expert on Scottish politics, qualified to inform and enlighten their viewers on the subject. See what you think.
(Our emphasis, as usual.) To be honest, we hope “Better Together” don’t hand back Mr Taylor’s £500,000 donation. We imagine Yes Scotland will rather enjoy hitting them with this particular oil- and blood-soaked stick all the way to September 2014.
The calmer heads found in the Scottish independence movement – and in our better moments we like to consider ours among them – can often be heard cautioning against over-deploying allegations of bias, and citing Hanlon’s Razor in doing so.
(And to save you clicking on the link, that’s the one which runs “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.)
It is, of course, possible and frequently the case for BOTH to be present – a glance at any Scotsman column by Michael Kelly or Brian Wilson will verify that – but this morning we’re going to focus on the latter side of the equation.
Last week (Feb 28th, to be precise) marked the anniversary of the founding of arguably the most successful mass anti-nuclear protest movement the world has ever seen. We’re talking, of course, of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk Anti-Nuclear Movement, which was active between 1989 and 1991.
If – for some unaccountable reason – you haven’t heard of it, then read on, for it’s a tale of how the ordinary people of a provincial part of the former Soviet Union found that a mass protest movement, well-organised and with right on its side, forced an intransigent, distant government to concede its demands. Are there lessons for the people of Scotland in their story? Let’s find out.