sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul

Wings Over Scotland


A letter to Tony Benn

Posted on January 29, 2013 by

Dear Mr Benn,

I was in Glasgow Concert Hall on Saturday for your interview, and the preview of the film about your life. And what a life! You are inspirational to many, as the crowd made clear. It’s easy to see why. You talk passionately of hope, of belief in a better future, of anger at injustice. Of engagement and democracy.

You recognise, too, that New Labour became right-wing, almost a second Tory party. You must understand how this played in Scotland.

It’s for these reasons I was depressed and perplexed by your answer to the question on Scottish independence. The question was a good one: would an independent Scotland be more socialist? It’s a question many in the independence movement grapple with. Can we cast off Westminster’s neoliberalism, corruption and corporate greed? There is no answer; no one knows.

Stephen Maxwell dedicated a whole chapter to the question in his book, Arguing for Independence. It will depend how people choose to embrace their new-found independence. We have the opportunity of a new country, a clean slate, a constitution.

As a small country, can we use this to re-build, engage people, and create something better? Many of us sincerely hope so, and the SNP and Yes campaign are trying hard to take us in that direction. But alternatively, we could sleep-walk, disengaged and cynical, either into independence or a no vote, then remain apathetic. In this way, with either result, we would allow politicians, a biased media, and the wealthy to set the agenda and lead.

I would have loved to hear a “Tony Benn” answer, considered and thoughtful. I always imagined, as a Labour MP in England, it would be a Unionist answer: it must be one of the easier questions for a Unionist, given there is no certain answer.

Instead, you offered only the bleak, dismal, all-too-familiar put-downs of the Telegraph and UK establishment – an off-hand dismissal of the right of people in Scotland to decide for themselves; a patronising portrayal of anyone pro-independence as a narrow, dangerous nationalist. And the same nonsense Alistair Darling used some months ago about your mother “becoming a foreigner”.

People here deserve so much better than this. The independence movement is not born from narrow nationalism but stems from those very ideals you cherish: anger at injustice and democratic deficit and hope for a better future. A small country with a close, accountable government, elected in Scotland, making decisions for Scotland. It is an internationalist, outward looking movement, desperate for Scotland to take its place in the world as a real country – because we are a country, not a region – speaking with our own voice within Europe, the UN and internationally.

We watch Borgen, where the government of an independent country of five million souls is able to project a voice for peace on the world stage. And we wonder why Scotland, uniquely, should be different? Incapable, necessitating rule from London with others to speak and decide for us? Decisions such as we will pay a fortune for the privilege of storing Europe’s biggest stock of nuclear weapons on the doorstep of our biggest city: a decision we had and have no say on. Benefits policy created to deal with over-heated London rental prices, which needlessly impoverish people here.

To denigrate hopes, aspirations, ambitions and attempts to deal with injustice as “dangerous nationalism”, then follow up with a phrase like “you’ll become foreigners” is a divisive, small-minded and, in fact, nationalist, argument. It seems in direct contradiction to everything you stand for.

If one of the best politicians Westminster has offered us, of your stature and humanity – one entirely aware of media demonisation of politics deemed “dangerous” to the status quo – is unable to deliver a more positive message and better debate for Scotland, you remove any lingering hope Westminster can do so at all.

It is no surprise SNP support surged after New Labour and Iraq. Labour let down heartlands it has too long taken for granted. This is not unique here; it also applies to Wales and areas of England. And here too, there is a whole debate about whether an independent Scotland could radically change the UK, sweep aside its outdated, anachronistic political structures, and in the process transform England and Britain.

The Yes campaign engages people like no other campaign I have ever known precisely because it offers the chance of real, transformative change. It is the only event on the UK horizon which does. Will it happen? Or will we end up a smaller, neoliberal copy of the UK? The answer, uncertain as it is, lies in all our hands.

This is why I despair when  politicians on the left casually dismiss and denigrate us. Change needs people who can embrace opportunity when it arises. There are those who seek independence solely for its own sake, believing any country needs self-determination. Independence is, after all, the natural state for a country. Others swither dependent on whether they believe they’ll be better or worse off. If the referendum is won or lost only by these people, it’s hard to see where the drive for real change will come from.

Cynicism and apathy are self-defeating, creating exactly the kind of result you fear – nothing will change because those who wanted change were so busy hand-wringing that “it won’t change anything” and “England and Scotland will become foreign countries” the chance passes. This is precisely what the Westminster establishment wants: no change.

As you alluded to yourself, change needs some kind of national movement. We had the beginnings of that in Scotland with the Scottish National Party (note, “Scottish national party”, not “Scots nationalist party”). But the independence movement is far broader and wider, encompassing the greens, CND and the radical independence convention on the left, as well as many in business and on the right.

If we do vote for independence, the answer to whether we will be more socially just is a lot more likely to be “Yes” if the left are engaged rather than on the sidelines pouring scorn on the project. Similarly, Scotland and England will remain better friends if those in England are engaged with how change – whether independence or federalism – could work for all of us in creating a new and better country.

So please, rethink the response you gave on Saturday. By all means remain unionist, and fight for a Scotland within the UK. But find an argument that is true to your own ideals, one that provides hope and encouragement to people in Scotland. If you achieve this, a debate between you and, say, Dennis Canavan would be a fantastic contribution to people’s decision making.

If, on reflection, you are unable to find such an argument and Saturday’s answer is the best you can do – or you simply have no interest in the issue – you could be honest and conclude “it’s up to people in Scotland to decide”.

Whatever happens in 2014, it’s ludicrous to suggest you will suddenly become “more foreign” to us. It would be sad to think you would see political independence making us foreigners to you, and sadder still if you really feel that matters.

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69 to “A letter to Tony Benn”

  1. Sunshine on Crieff says:

    Tony Benn’s response to the prospect of Scottish independence is truly depressing, although, looking back, perhaps he always was a (dangerous?) British nationalist.
     

      

  2. Craig P says:

    Tony Benn was energy minister when the oil taps were turned on. He knew about the McCrone report and that Scotland would be far richer independent. He knew Britain was in a financial mess, with the IMF bailing the country out and a 3-day week. He knew his duty, and he helped do Scotland over for the greater good. That was his right as a UK minister, but I have never seen him as a friend to Scots.

      

  3. AndrewFraeGovan says:

    Is this the same Tony Benn that hid the McCrone Report?

      

  4. Dcanmore says:

    There is much I like about Tony Benn, but he is a Unionist and an International Socialist, which means he regards Scotland as a mere region, not an aspirational country. His perfect world is one made up of federal socialist regions existing to serve a central office. His position is one where people are not independent but dependent, from “cradle to grave the Labour party will look after you… and your wealth, and don’t even think about making a decision without the Party’s permission.” It’s the nature of the beast.
    I’m all for universalism and a just and fair society, but Benn represents a suffocating State where bureaucracy and the Party line is a way of life.

      

  5. Ghengis says:

    So really he cares less about the betterment of humankind and more about the British establishment. Why is it unionists lose their integrity when it comes to Scotland?

      

  6. JPJ2 says:

    Tony Benn was the Labour Energy minister who presided at the ceremony for the first coming on stream of North Sea oil.

    He knew all about the McCrone Report and, whatever his qualities, he is, was, and always will be a British Nationalist like so many on England’s left not just England’s right. 

    I am not remotely surprised by his standpoint, but it is a dire warning to any on the left in Scotland who cling to the fiction that a Labour victory in 2015 for Westminster will help Scotland in any way.  

      

  7. Holebender says:

    Tony Benn is, and always has been, overrated. He’s a windbag.
     
    And never forget he was heavily involved in stealing Scotland’s oil and ensuring we derived no benefit from it. He was Labour’s energy minister when the first oilfields were being discovered and developed.

      

  8. Iain says:

    Great piece.

    Benn is yet another example of the debilitating effects of knee jerk Unionism; it knocks 20 points off your IQ and reduces you to a moral pygmy.

      

  9. redcliffe62 says:

    Perhaps Mr Benn can respond? I would like to hear his views as a riposte.
    I have also waited for Mr Buchanan to respond but he is strangely silent after his attack of Creightonitis.

      

  10. Holebender says:

    Practically all my closest family are “foreigners”. They at the very least live in other independent countries, and most of them are citizens of those other countries. What’s the problem?
     
    What does it say about a self-styled internationalist socialist that he sees “foreigners” as a negative?

      

  11. Semus says:

    Is this the same Mr Benn who as a Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was happy to oversee the first flowing of SCots oil money into his Jerusalem in Westminster?
    Aye I think so.

      

  12. Jeannie says:

    Thanks Cath.  Really enjoyed reading this.

      

  13. Doug Daniel says:

    *hovers over second picture*
    *reads caption*
    *struggles to avoid bursting into laughter in the office*

    Excellent letter, Cath. It’s almost frustrating reading this, because it just makes me think “why is there even a debate here? Why is it not just obvious that we need to do this?” I’ve long admired Tony Benn, but his attitude towards independence highlights the massive blind spot on the left towards independence. It’s disappointing, but at least we have folk like Dennis Canavan to argue the case that Tony should be arguing.

      

  14. Peter A Bell says:

    If anything is going to make Tony Benn “foreign” to me, it is his attitude to Scotland’s independence movement.

      

  15. Pa Broon says:

    Tony Benn is one of these folks we’re supposed to respect by default because of age and an imagined elder statesmanlike bearing.

    He’s been doing these talking tours for years but to me its self indulgent, an opportunity for him to have his ego stroked.

    Tony Benn is no different from any other product of Westminster, he may talk the talk but when it comes down to it, its all about self-preservation and the continuance of the British State.

    I put Tony Benn in the same category as Menzies Campbell and Paddy Ashdown: overly verbose windbags. (Campbell still has the top spot, as soon as he starts droning on… I mean, he was a non-entity when he was current, he’s a politician who conflates being ancient with being wise.)

      

  16. cath says:

    I like Tony Benn, and it was really obvious the audience on Saturday did too. That’s why it’s frustrating. I don’t mind him being a unionist: I love a good debate. I’ve given up on the positive case for the union, but there are still huge debates around the issues, and we should be having them. That’s why I find that kind of response depressing. Between the Westminster parties and the media, we’re not being allowed to have those debates, but constantly side-tracked into mud-slinging or dead end “uncertainty” scaremongering, with no willingness to help address those uncertainties.

      

  17. Luigi says:

    There are two ageing dinosaurs that I really hope are still around to see Scotland become independent in 2016: Margaret Thatcher and Tony Benn. Nuff said.

      

  18. Alex Grant says:

    I witnessed the same comments when Tony Benn previewed his film at last year’s Edinburgh Festival. I had planned to ask him about the McCrone report but I would have been lynched by a room full of Labour apparatchiks! I could also have mentioned the ‘foreignness’ of his beloved American wife and presumably half American children? i think he also said his son was married to a Scot and she and his grand kids would become foreign if Scotland became independent! It was all very depressing as I held him in similar high esteem to Stu – despite the oil!
    is there anyone in our wonderful London parliament who either ‘gets it’ or who actually treats us with respect??? 

      

  19. scottish_skier says:

    Since he apparently considers my wife and extended family/friends as ‘foreigners’ in a pejorative sense, I’ve no time for the guy, never mind the McCrone stuff.

      

  20. Hamish Henderson says:

    For my part I am at one with Wallace at his mockery of a trial at the hands of the English court in Westminster Hall when he was accused of treason the import of his reply was “I cannot be a traitor to Edward, England is foreign to me”
    If they want to call me a foreigner and it was good enough for Wallace— Bring it on.

      

  21. Laura says:

    Tony Benn, Labour MP – says it all really.

      

  22. muttley79 says:

    Tony Benn looks like he is a British Nationalist with these comments (particularly the peculiar notion that being a ‘foreigner’ is somehow bad?).  I am not really sure about what I think about him.  I am generally left-wing, but to be honest a lot of Socialist politicians have turned out to be unpleasant people.  Examples such as Tommy Sheridan, Scargill, Galloway spring to mind.  I think as a person Tony Benn is of a far higher quality than that, as is Dennis Cannavan.  However, as others have said Benn does not have a good record in relation to Scottish self-government.  Unfortunately I think he is a Westminster man, who cannot see its faults at all.  Consequently, I cannot say I take his opposition to Scottish independence seriously.  It just seems the usual knee-jerk response, typical of the No campaign. 

      

  23. Galen10 says:

    I’ve never had any time for Tony Benn, and have even less now given his views. I can’t for the life of me see why you are so surprised and disappointed by his views on Scottish independence. Here is a man who doesn’t know, or particularly care, about what is distinctive about the civic nationalism which motivates calls for Scottish independence. 

    However radically he may differ from the Tories, LibDems and Blairite Labour on many issues, he views Scotland and calls for self rule and nationalism through a unionist prism. The fact that he is not alone in this is not surprising; the lazy assumption that ANY nationalism is ipso facto bad, and that the increasingly different “moral landscape” in Scotland is trumped with reference to a curious mixture of appeals to socialist internationalism and solidarity on the one hand, and ties of shared history, culture and social values on the others.

    At base, Benn and all other unionists, whether in England or Scotland, have to own up to and even embrace the charge that they would rather see Scotland poorer and contributing to the UK than richer and making its own way in the world. Little better can be expected of the Tories of course, but much, much better can and should be expected of the progressive left; a positive case for at the very least a principled alternative to independence reflecting the settled will of the Scottish people, not a glib thoughtless dismissal which does him little credit.

      

  24. scottish_skier says:

    That’s the boundary changes legislation blocked.

    Dave, looks like you need rid of Scotland if you’re going to have any chance of winning in 2015. Don’t want that jock tail wagging the dog again like 2010 do we. Hell, imagine it was the SNP that held the balance of power next time around – they are ahead of Labour for Westminster intention after all. That would be a laugh wouldn’t it.

      

  25. Training Day says:

    @Holebender

    “What does it say about a self-styled internationalist socialist that he sees “foreigners” as a negative?”

    He’s in favour of foreigners just so long as they’re British ones..

      

  26. Andy Simpson says:

    Tony Benn may not recognise the description but he is a British nationalist.Obviously not in the same sense as the less savoury types but none the less he is a British nationalist.
    They see socialisim as the great saviour however that socialism has to be done in a British sense and Scotland can’t be accepted, and any ideas to the contrary are met with lumping the working class of Glasgow  in with the working class of for example Liverpool.However mention the working class of Rome or Paris and you’ll get the arrogance of the British nationalist just under the surface.
    Scottish nationalism is much more internationalist than British socialism.

      

  27. Christian Wright says:

    Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn the former 2nd Viscount Stansgate, is and always has been a Unionist establishmentarian.

    Unionism is his religion and Westminster his church. He is not now, nor has he ever been, a friend of Scotland.

    Despite his impeccable leftist credentials, he is, like most of us, a creature of his age, both beneficiary and victim of the values inculcated as a card-carrying member of the British upper crust.

    There is much to admire in his service to be sure, but that should not blind us to the shadows of his deep-seated prejudicial attitude to anything that might threaten the British unitary state.
     
    I admired him greatly from the splash he made as Postmaster General through the halcyon days of his tenure as Minister of Technology – we were going places and Wilson and Benn were the modernizers in chief (it may be hard for some of you to think of Wilson as dynamic, but he was . . then).

    Benn has been his own man on many issues, but he is deeply conservative (small c) when it comes to preserving the Constitutional settlement.

    Nice man, but in the end not sympathetic towards Scotland’s struggle for independence, nor enamored of the values upon which that desire is borne. 

    Indeed, Benn is antagonistic towards our core values and beliefs and he is not and never will be our friend. Nor will he ever play the role of indulgent uncle who, while he disagrees with our mission, still respects and honors our right to find our own way. 

    That ain’t him. It never was, and never shall be.

      

  28. Tinyzeitgeist says:

    I like many others who favour independence and a left agenda in Scotland will be disappointed with Mr Benn’s views. However it should be a wake up call to those in the labour party in Scotland who still think that a westminster led labour government would offer anything different for Scotland under Mr Milliband who is not as left leaning as Benn. If Benn cannot offer a vision for Scotland beyond narrow british nationalist interests, there is absolutely no chance that the current labour leadership will improve the governance of Scotland within the UK – ever!

      

  29. muttley79 says:

    I think Tony Benn’s views are very similar to many other British Nationalists.  They have never really recovered from the end of the British empire.  Such a large number of countries achieved self-determination in the last 50 years or so that it is very difficult to come up with arguments why Scotland should not have the same status. 
     
    @s_s
     
    Can you imagine the scenario where Scotland votes No, and at the general election in 2015 the SNP hold the balance of power.. :D  Imagine the reaction of the London media and the shires?!  Fireworks. 

      

  30. MajorBloodnok says:

    Why does the phrase “And then the shopkeeper appeared” keep popping into my head?

      

  31. Cameron says:

     
    The 20th century was certainly one of socialism, with the bulk of humanity living under either Communistic socialisms, or Welfare socialisms, or Nationalistic socialisms. Though taken as representing a spectrum of political inclination, there is remarkably little difference between the societies which these apparently different systems produce. This is probably because all three systems of government have traditionally been dominated by private bankers. These bank usurped the Bolshevik Revolution, the usurped Rosavelt’s New Deal

      

  32. Tris says:

    I find Benn’s attitude to independence incomprehensible

    He has long fought against anything undemocratic, including the EU. Why would he think, given the most recent voting figures, and that he agrees that New Labour is a right of centre party, that Scotland wouldn’t be more democratically served by being independent?

    Does he, I wonder, think that the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland are being served well, when all our MPs (save the dozen that form the ruling coalition in Westminster), voted against the welfare reforms, and yet they will be forced upon us by English MPs and Lords. 

    And from where does an international socialist get the idea that being foreign is a bad thing. What a disgusting and sickening notion. If he would love his mother any less because she was foreign, then I’m sad for him. This is particularly ironic when you consider that his wife, for whom he had such a deep love and respect, was American.

      

  33. Craig Evans says:

    Well done Cath, 

    An excellent letter, you’d have my vote,

      

  34. cath says:

    Also he’s 87. Surely his mother is in a more foreign place than Scotland already?

      

  35. H Scott says:

    Tony Benn is history. Independence is the future.

      

  36. Cameron says:

    cont.
     
    and they usurped the global economy through the IMF and the World Bank. Once the ground had been prepared, the Chicago Boys were let out of the asylum and the world turned neoliberal. If it looks like Oligarchical Collectivism…..
     
    Benn and the left are aware of their position in life, and it suites them rather well.
     
    Sorry for the broken post, I hit return by mistake.
     

      

  37. EdinScot says:

    Tony Benn is Westminsters man through and through.    He is also yesterdays man and history will prove us right as Scotland and its people go forward to vote in our first ever Independence referendum, a referendum that has seen Westminster misrule us and thwart our attempts at normalising our country. Its took us 300 years to get to this moment. 
     
    Many Unionist politicians especially the Westminster ones are like leopards who will never change their spots.  It makes no difference whether they wont or cant.  Its sad Cath that we will have to leave Mr Benn and others like him behind but its our turn now.  Stop the world Scotland wants to get on as Winnie Ewing famously said has never been truer.

      

  38. Cameron says:

    @ MajorBloodnok
     
    So long as it is the shopkeeper and not his daughter. :)

      

  39. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    I always thought Tony Benn was full of shite! I’ve heard the phrase Bennite before. Fuckin’ sick if anyone is an “ite” of any politician.  

      

  40. Seasick Dave says:

    He’s an old windbag.

    If he had any morals then he would renounce his membership of the Labour Party.

     

      

  41. Christian Wright says:

    Semi-OT, though maybe not, really.

    Wonderful piece in BBC Scotlandshire’s Och Aye the News 

     “Blow for Salmond as poll shows “literally no support” for independence”

    In it Prof, John Poltice of Strathclyde University discusses the results of a poll he’s fixed – I mean conducted, which has more than a passing resemblance to the SSA survey.

    http://www.bbc.scotlandshire.co.uk/index.php/city-news/154-blow-for-salmond-as-poll-shows-literally-no-support-for-independence.html
     

      

  42. Spout says:

     
    Good letter Cath – thank you.
    Mr Benn is an irrelevance sadly, part of an outdated Westminster establishment we are leaving behind…..Jimmy Reid was correct about the Labour Party leaving us all….it speaks loudly that Mr Benn did not feel the same way…..
     

      

  43. Aplinal says:

    I have to agree with most of the sentiments here.  I forget exactly when it was that I started to really doubt his credibility.  Perhaps about the time of his stand for the leadership in 1981 (?).  Things just didn’t ‘sit well’ with me. Of course we now know abut the McCrone report etc. etc.  As he got older he simply became more “small” c conservative, and even more ‘establishment’. I suppose “heritage” comes to the fore in the end. 
     
    As others have said, he was never a true friend to Scotland and is as much a Westminster establishment figure as darling, Blair, Cameron and the rest of the motley crew.

      

  44. Christian Wright says:

    I’ve be reluctant to ask this in a thread but are there instructions on how one can upload an avatar? As much as I like the Atari Space Invaders bot I think a photo would be more relevant and more readily identifiable.

     

      

  45. Adrian B says:

    Christian,

    I you go to en.gravatar.com you can sign up using your e-mail address and upload a chosen picture.

      

  46. Seasick Dave says:

    Christian

    I signed up last week and its really quite simple…

    Find a nice piccy of yourself and follow the instructions:

    http://en.gravatar.com/

     

      

  47. muttley79 says:

    Tony Benn has become as much of a threat to the establishment now as when the Hanoverians started toasting Jacobites way back yonder.

      

  48. Vronsky says:

    If Benn had been true to his claimed political position he would have departed New Labour along with Clause Four.  He didn’t, and I mentally tuned him out after that.  Probably before, but I don’t really remember.  As someone said: “Viscount Stansgate as he was, Anthony Wedgwood-Benn as he is, Tony Benn as he would wish to become.”  You fooled nobody for long, Viscount.

      

  49. Sunshine on Crieff says:

    What is also strange is that Benn seemed, on the surface anyway, to be so enthusiastic about Irish self-determination. Why, when he is so against the same thing for Scotland?

    Does the struggle for Scottish independence, involving, as it does, peaceful campaigning, elections, voting, seem puny when compared to his romanticised view of the violence and destruction the Irish people had to endure?
     

      

  50. Peter says:

    For those who care about such things, Benn was the man who authorised the construction of Torness and cut the funding for wave power research.

       Not a nice man at all.  

      

  51. Aplinal says:

    re BBC Scotlandshire
     
    Apologies if this is not allowed, but the link to the details of their poll revealed this
     
    <The poll was carried out by Professor Poltice of Strathclyde University, along with a posse of guys dressed in black carrying crow-bars. It mostly focussed on dark back alley areas, and asked the question:
    You willnae be voting for that daft, lying, slimy Salmond and his stupit separation, will ye?
    Where there was uncertainty about the answer, for example it was deemed to be mumbled or unclear, a follow up question was then posited:
    Ye want a doin’ ya separatist bastirt?  Cos if you’re saying anything but no, you’re getting wan.
    There is a margin of error of +/- 0.5% and three folk ended up in the Clyde with concrete boots for refusing to supply the correct answer. Their families were notified.>
     
    Classic stuff!

      

  52. Marcia says:

    Apinal

    I did like the concrete boots quip – I wonder if Yougov do the same?  

      

  53. mogabee says:

     
     Cath
     
     Another good post, full of passion. But I must admit that I felt for you in your discovery that this man you admired had feet of clay.
     I looked at him differently after McCrone, and occasionally  I wonder who else will be in that category in 2014, though on the other hand there’s bound to be some surprising heroes, surely?

      

  54. The majority of  Westminster politicians are in it for themselves as party comes first.

      

  55. Bill C says:

    My best mate used to be in the Labour Party way back in the eighties, he thought Benn was the bizz, full of left wing rhetoric, the socialist beacon of the Labour Party. Personally I never trusted the guy, always thought that he picked his moments to be a socialist, usually just as Labour looked as though they might actually win an election.  Finally came to the conclusion that he was an agent provocateur of the Brit Establishment.
    As far as Scotland is concerned, I think Benn was brought up to believe that Scotland was an extension of greater England. A region of the Empire to be milked and used as a playground by the London elite.
    Benn was never a socialist and never a friend of Scotland.

      

  56. Holebender says:

    Sorry, OT, I just had a good belly laugh at a tweet from Duncan Hothersall; “we can’t afford universal everything”!
     
    The guy has no comprehension of the meaning of “universal”.

      

  57. Jeannie says:

    @Holebender
    “we can’t afford universal everything”!
    Brilliant! That’s the second one today, following on from “Do you agree with Alastair?”

     
     

      

  58. Willie Taylor says:

    Tony, as Minister for Energy in the 70′s, told Scotland the Oil would run out with in 10 years. He was part of the “McCrone” Big Lie”. I my opinion he is a complete fraud, and no role model for anyone. In the words of my late father-in-law, a “False Alarm”.

      

  59. Bill C says:

    Further to the discussion on Brit ‘spooks’ on the other the other post. Thought this might be of interest:
    Files prove that MI5 spied on SNP

    Published on Sunday 16 September 2007 01:23

    THE SNP was spied on by British secret service agents, previously classified Government files seen by Scotland on Sunday have finally proved.

      

  60. Cameron B says:

     
    I meant to say earlier that, Scotland need George Soros and his colour revolutions, like it needs a hole in head. I thought we are fighting for the chance to regain our powers of self-determination, not to become slaves to vulture capitalists who have a history of working with the CIA.

      

  61. peter says:

    Having never voted Labour in my life I am mildly amused at the surprise at Benn’s stance, much like the Dewar father of the nation stuff which I also never got. Labour politicians care not a jot for the people they represent, I would not class myself as a socialist, just an ordinary punter but it makes me boak at all these Labour politicians becoming lords, Sirs etc, surely that is against everything they believe in?

      

  62. Cameron says:

    @ Rev. Stuart Campbell
     
    I’ve just had a post removed, that I didn’t think was too inappropriate. It had to go through moderation, so it was probably because I had added a B to my name. I thought things were just getting confusing, with everyone talking about the PM. 
     
    Do I have to go through a set procedure to change my name?

      

  63. Keef says:

    In an interview Mr. Benn had this to say about the Westminster system of government “As a minister, I experienced the power of industrialists and bankers to get their way by use of the crudest form of economic pressure, even blackmail, against a Labour Government. Compared to this, the pressure brought to bear in industrial disputes is minuscule. This power was revealed even more clearly in 1976 when the IMF secured cuts in our public expenditure. These lessons led me to the conclusion that the UK is only superficially governed by MPs and the voters who elect them. Parliamentary democracy is, in truth, little more than a means of securing a periodical change in the management team, which is then allowed to preside over a system that remains in essence intact. If the British people were ever to ask themselves what power they truly enjoyed under our political system they would be amazed to discover how little it is, and some new Chartist agitation might be born and might quickly gather momentum” so he knew as far back as 1976 that the system had been overrun by outside influences and his answer was some form of “new Chartist agitation”. 

    He essentially knew it was corrupt yet despite this he continued to make a living from it and what’s more he encouraged his children and grandchildren to join in the ” gravey train” lifestyle and make a career of doing nothing as well.

    Asking him to countenance a Scotland free from this, is much akin to asking a barber if you need haircut when his rent is due.

      

  64. Barontorc says:

    Keef, I was at Tony Benn’s chat show on Saturday with a full house of over 1800 plus standing viewers and he was idolised at 87.

    I was also at his last appearance in Glasgow at Aye Write five years ago, where he was a much stronger man and he answered the independence question from the audience with; ‘you don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to be independent – you decide that’s what you want to be and that’s it, no one can stop you if that’s what you want.’

    The spontaneous response was missing this time, as it has been over his last few sound bites when he trotted out the party line of better-together, and, that’s what makes it a farce. He said stick together while openly stating  the UK wasn’t a democracy any longer – it was run by neo-liberalism, but the only way forward was to keep Labour strong to fight it.

    All I can say, in due deference to his senior position in life at 87, is that he’s now too tired to think beyond his limits and independence doesn’t figure too highly.

    As to his political past, when in Labour, as a minister, it would have been truly extraordinary for him to fight the UK establishment view of oil ownership, but I admired his attacks on bias by the BBC and its pro-Israeli line and I think he did take principled stands that other lesser people would have baulked at.

    I’m sorry to read the comments made earlier in this blog – I think the UK we were enmeshed in would have been a much better run place if we had more of his ilk.

      

  65. Scotswhahea says:

     Tony Benn
     
    Speaking To Michael Moore (USA MOVIE DIRECTOR) in regard to how the governments Spend money & CHOOSE what to GIVE to the people….
     
    I think his words in the video this quote was taken from, stand for what a certain Westminster lot are trying to enforce on the people of Scotland today. See what you think….
    *********************
    “If you have POWER, you USE it. To meet the needs of you & your community.
     
    And this idea of choice which capital talks about all the time, in that you have got to have a choice, Choice depends on the freedom to choose & if you are shackled with debt, you don’t have a freedom to choose…
     
    People in debt become hopeless, & hopeless people don’t vote,
     
    See, they will say, that everyone should vote, but I think that if the poor in Britain or the USA turned out and voted for people that represented their INTEREST it would be a real democratic revolution. And so they don’t want it to happen.
     
    So keeping people hopeless & pessimistic…. See, I think there are TWO ways in which people are controlled…
     
    First of all, Frighten people, And secondly demoralise them.
     
    An educated, healthy & confident nation, is harder to govern & I think there is an element in the thinking of some people, we don’t want people to be educated, healthy & confident, because they would get out of control..
     
    The top 1% of the worlds population own 80% of the worlds wealth, it’s incredible that people put up with it.
     
    But they are poor, they are demoralised and they’re frightened, & they think the safest thing to do is take orders & hope for the best..”
     
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqHyXG7qWLM
     
    6.50 INTO Video…

      

  66. Christian Wright says:

    To Adrian B :

    Thanks for the info – I’d never have worked that out in a million years. 

      

  67. Christian Wright says:

    To seasick Dave,

    Thanks for the info Dave, between you and Adrian I’ve just about got it. 

      

  68. Braco says:

    ‘Even whores, ugly buildings and politicians get respectable if they get old enough’ Noah Cross, ‘Chinatown’

      

  69. DG says:

    This is my first comment on this website which I’ve been visiting for a while now, so thank you to the creators of and contributors to Wings Over Scotland, who make it such an interesting place to visit.
    The ‘British Nationalist’ label is an interesting one and one that many Unionists fail to recognise in themselves. I discovered the Effie Deans website the other day (via good auld Ian Smart!) and read her essay on this subject with some interest – it touches on some of the themes developed in the comments section above as well as in the open letter. Readers here may find it of interest too… http://effiedeans.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/is-unionism-form-of-nationalism.html
    I’m not suggesting that folk descend upon it and hurl brickbats at her, especially as I’ve already tried to articulate my feelings on the subject to her, which you’ll see if you visit the website. I’m sure the creators of Wings, and many of you seasoned campaigners above, could express a counter argument more clearly than I, but I hope you’ll find the discussion thought provoking and I’d be interested to read your thoughts on the subject. For me, I am always looking for folk on ‘the other side’ to debate with as so much discussion on the interweb is merely slinging insults and labels at each other or an echo-chamber of one’s own thoughts.
    Here’s to a YES vote in 2014 for all of Scotland.

      



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