sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul

Wings Over Scotland

If you’re away from the zeitgeist

Posted on December 24, 2012 by

Fewer than one in ten of our readers follow us on Twitter, which is a bit annoying as it’s a great way of passing on interesting stuff quickly without having to put together a whole post on it. (We don’t really understand people’s objections to using Twitter. Some say it’s full of daft trivia about what celebrities had for their tea and suchlike, but that’s only true if you choose to follow those people. There’s no law that says you have to follow 1000 folk, you can follow just one if you like.)

Anyway, the point is that while everyone on Twitter is talking about it, if you aren’t you might well not have come across this piece by baby-faced left-wing wunderkind Owen Jones for the Independent yet. Called “The Strange Death Of Labour Scotland” (in a nod to Gerry Hassan and Eric Shaw’s recent book of the same title), it doesn’t contain much we haven’t been saying here for the last year. But it’s always interesting to see the English left slowly starting to notice what’s going on in North Britain. Their assessment is rarely kind, and currently readers are approving of Jones’ analysis by a margin of around 15 to 1. It’s well worth a read.

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30 to “If you’re away from the zeitgeist”

  1. Erchie says:

    Did you see his tweet after the “something for nothing” speechifying by Lamont?

    Apparently his folks, life long Labour supporters, said they were finished after hearing that 


  2. Doug Daniel says:

    It’s a good piece, but at the end it just highlights Owen’s blind spot when it comes to independence. Which is kind of funny since he’s writing in the Independent…


  3. Rod Macfarlane says:

    I am personally not a fan of twitter.. I suppose its the Marmite Principe at work.. It suits some but not others… I tend to use fb a lot more.
    I do pick up some things on twitter, but It’s a case of having a quick glance and off again.
    I did read the aricle in question  and it was fair enough.. But obviously I disagreed with his unionist sympathies.


  4. MajorBloodnok says:

    Twitter?  Pshaw! I still type my emails on an old Remington typewriter, send the carbons by pneumatic tube to my secretary who ‘inputs’ them (or whatever it’s called) into the whizzbox and three days letter I get a reply by carrier pigeon.  They still use that system in the House of Lords, I understand, so that’s good enough for me.


  5. Derick fae Yell says:

    It’s hard enough keeping up wi the blogs and fb.  Twitter simply would waste owre muckle time


  6. Oldnat says:

    Interesting that Owen Jones wholly excludes Northern Ireland from his Union.

     “Working people in Scotland, England and Wales built the welfare state together” and “a new federal Britain”.

    As a Unionist analysis of why they are likely to fail, it’s an interesting piece. However, his inability to even consider whether or not his (partial) union should even exist or no, makes it a bit like a  religious tract.


  7. G H Graham says:

    Twitter is rubbish at finding real people and identities are invariably stolen/misused/abused ad nauseum.

    But if you are a celebrity and believe 14 year olds & the media are interested in what colour your stools were this morning after drinking 9 Cosmopolitans last night & shagging your ex boyfriend while his ex boyfriend watched, it’s great.


  8. Training Day says:

    Meh.  A reasonable read, but a mindset still stuck firmly in the Union.  I’d ask Mr Jones what would be the point of uniting with workers in England to fight for the NHS (a tough task given the direction of Tories, Lib Dems and Labour in the South) when we can retain a Scottish Welfare state far more easily by simply voting Yes?  In other words, why expend huge effort in a cause that is likely to fail (convincing Westminster of the benefits of the NHS) when, by merely putting a cross in the Yes box, we will almost certainly succeed in retaining the kind of NHS most of us want to see in Scotland.  It’s a no-brainer, young Owen..

    Merry Xmas all, and onwards next year to independence..


  9. Pa Broon says:

    From his column:

    “Her [Lamont’s} argument that Scottish colleges were being hammered by SNP cuts had merit, but a progressive Labour leader would have called for devolved income tax to raise new revenues.”

    It gives him away. This isn’t radical. kicking trident out of the Clyde and using that cash to pay for colleges (among other things) is radical but Labour have long been beaten to it.

    I just get the impression he doesn’t realise that Labour’s goose is already cooked in Scotland, it isn’t a case of becoming toxic like the Tories, they already are.

    The idea of a devolved income tax is a nonsense anyway, Westminster would’ve found a way to claw any gains back. Besides, we already pay our way, why should we pay more money (over and above what we cough up for Westminster to spunk on international vanity projects) for something we’re already easily paying for: if we had a government who chose to spend our tax money a bit more sensibly.

    These unionist types just don’t get independence or they’re falling for the SNP pretending it’ll only tinker things round the edges of the current settlement… It sort of will but it also sort of won’t, in a pretty big (and exciting) way.


  10. Bill C says:

    Thanks for the link Rev. interesting enough. All the best to yourself and everyone on here. Have a good one


  11. Celyn says:

    As has been said, it’s a good enough article, and is very interesting in that odd way of realising just how little English-based commentators seem to understand the issues.   

    I mean, it’s sort of odd reading an article and grumbling to oneself “aye, we KNOW that,  why write when you have nothing new to add?” then to realise that, of course, the writer is himself only starting to get up to speed on the ideas.

    But I do not intend to damn with faint praise:  I do think that at least Owen Jones, now that he has noticed why Labour is not automatically the choice of the “progressive” (or whatever) thinker, will learn more if he wants to.   Contrasted with  certain  commentators in certain other papers, he deserves a gold medal, and the article is a welcome change from the “Scotland is paid for by English taxes” foaming-at-the-mouth sort of thing which is more frequently published.

    I had read the article already, but I am grateful that is is mentioned here, because I might have missed it.   Ach well, I get the point, I really ought to learn to understand Twitter and/or Facebook.   Perhaps a New Year resolution.


  12. Juteman says:

    I can’t really get Twitter. I’ve almost signed up on a couple of occasions.
    Maybe i’m just too old. I don’t get Facebook either. If i want to speak to friends, i phone them.


  13. Tearlach says:

    Read it yesterday, and discussed it with the youngest son today, sitting by the Peat fire drinking rather fine bottle’s of IPA from our local Highland Brewery. He raised in fact, as he is active in the SNP Student branch of one of Scotland’s oldest Uni’s, but did raise that the killer question that will always demolish the “working class solidarity” arguments of left Unionists like Owen.

    “If ensuring that you campaign equally for workers in Livingston and Liverpool, why are you not out agitating for a single world government so workers in Lagos (both Portugal and Nigeria) can get the same deal?” 

    They never have any answer to that one.  


  14. Oldnat says:


    I was persuaded into Twitter by Newsnet Scotland.

    Once I realised that I could just see the tweets from those I wanted to see them from, it was fine. Even better, I then discovered I could avoid seeing tweets from them if they were crap!

    If I’m not too old – neither are you! 


  15. velofello says:

    The SNP aren’t hammering the colleges, the cutback in our Westminster pocket money are the cause.
    To study for a degree it is necessary to attend university. I’m not aware of an alternative route.
    To learn a trade in engineering – in the old days – the young person would be taken on as an apprentice, assigned to a journeyman, and learn from the journeyman the skills of the trade. The company I was with also had an in-house training school. It was a day-off lark from the workshop. Day release, when it came along, afforded the apprentice the possibility of progressing to being a draughtsman.
    So I question just what need is there for colleges in the engineering field? Enabling/encouraging engineering companies to setup apprentice training in-house isn’t that the way to go? A drawback probably is that today the said journeyman couldn’t call you a useless lazy ****ing **nt and swing his boot at you.
    I cannot comment on other trades. 
    Seasons greetings (a?) to you all. 


  16. uilleam_beag says:

    Nollaig chridheill, Rev (it’s after midnight in Shanghai)

    I can’t follow you on Twitter as the Great China Censors don’t like it, so thanks for putting something on here.

    Congratulations on an excellent year, with a week to go. To paraphrase the Bard, you’ve no been idle!


  17. Oldnat says:

    Xmas TV Guide in Ireland carries the schedule for BBC1.

    “3:00 The Queen :  The British monarch lectures her subjects”


  18. Seanair says:


    That must be Northern Ireland ‘cos if it were ROI they wouldn’t be able to watch BBC programmes ‘cos they are an independent country and so can’t be allowed to watch East Enders like we won’t be after we vote YES.  No? 


  19. Oldnat says:



    You aren’t suggesting that Better Together and their allies are a bunch of lying cretins are you?

    This is Xmas and we should think nice things about those with whom we disagree.

    They are nice people – just thick. 


  20. JLT says:

    Hi Rev,

    To be honest, Twitter is fine, for as long as you can avoid more than half the dross that IS posted out there.

    Personally, I prefer to sit and debate with people, rather than them reading a tweet on-line. Margo MacDonald was right. We sit down, we convert one person each, and we’re home high and dry. 
    So far the now, I believe I have managed to get at least 3 folk who are Unionist to sit and look at the facts properly. I haven’t converted them, but I have left them now with a feeling of doubt about the Union. You could say, that they are no longer truly comfortable with what they see in the Union now. Even just chatting with those 3 friends from work may end up with just 1 of them voting for independence. But if we all do this, then the vote will be won.
     I always quote your site to them. Tell them to come here and read …and I have promised them, that their eyes WILL be truly opened.
    So, for me …tweeting is fine…but I believe quiet, sensible debates with others, and showing them a place to go for REAL facts is the way to win. As you say, we give them the facts, and then we tell them to find the facts from the Unionists… and all they find is ….nothing.


  21. pmcrek says:

    @Training Day

    I certainly agree with your analysis, thing that springs to my mind here is, its not up to the folks in Scotland to decide how others manage their public services. If people in England want to pay privately for education then that is their business.

    While I certainly feel sorry for those non-Scottish Lib Dem voters who were essentially sold out by their party on eductation, amongst other fronts, the reality is the vast majority of folks in England voted for Labour (The party that introduced fees) or the Tories (The party that wanted to triple them).

    While I think the Independent article in question does a good job laying out the current situation, the conclusions thereafter seem to be deeply flawed. What the unionist left in England seem to want is a centralised state with Scots and Welsh social attitudes forcing policy on England with some vague concessions to decentralisation in “the colonies”.

    If we dig down to the root though I think we find like all nation states and their proponnents, they simply dont want to cede any territory at all, this is frankly what is meant by “internationalism” from a “left wing” unionist context the straw man that cooperation not only happens but can “only” happen under a situation of political assimilation or subsumption.

    The main fallacy here of course is, Internationalism in any sense, can only truely exist in a spirit of cooperation not assimilation and to argue that the UK is or ever has been a beacon of internationalism is a feat of mental gymnastics reminiscent of the Fabien Society pro-Empire goons.


  22. Jeannie says:

    A very happy Christmas to Stu, Scott and to all the posters and readers.  Happy holidays to you all and thanks for a great blog.


  23. Cranachan says:

    Interesting, seems that Tory Hoose is no more – the link has been suspended. Could this be due to lack of interest, snide remarks by commenters, or budget cuts?


  24. Oldnat says:


    It’s much simpler. Why have two moribund sites trying to promote the UK Union from the minor party, when there is a marginally more active one in LabourHame?

    Joruth Lavison doesn’t need two websites! 


  25. kininvie says:

    Twitter, used as a newsfeed from the people you find interesting is unbeatable. I’ve been using it for @breichsnp for the past few months, and it’s a brilliant source. My only fear is that we are speaking to those who are either already converted or firmly of the No persuasion. The undecided, who are so important to the vote, are probably not lurking on #indyref, and I doubt that Twitter is the right tool to reach them.
    Having said that, this is a site that provides much that is stimulating and central to the debate. So, thanks, Rev, and please keep up the good work in 2013.


  26. douglas clark says:


    How then do we reach them? I am genuinely concerned that without them, we will lose.

    I don’t know about you, but it would be a very hard blow for me to take. We absolutely need to persuade that middle ground.

    From my point of view, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I doubt I’d be alive for the next time, if the generational idea takes hold.


  27. Vronsky says:

    I suppose the Jones piece is about as good as it gets from a Unionist, so let’s not be too unkind to him.  He sounds a lot like Gerry Hassan, insisting that there’s life in the Labour corpse (look – it moved!) like the pet shop owner in the Dead Parrot sketch.
    Like other Unionists puzzled at the different evolutionary path of Scottish politics he mentions the 1955 GE in which the Tories took more than 50% of the vote in Scotland.  It’s worth pointing out that this was a one-off result based on a single issue: the abolition of all remaining rationing.  Labour wanted it to continue, perhaps an early sign of their inherent authoritarianism.


  28. BillyBigBaws says:

    “….the shared interests of call-centre workers, supermarket assistants, and nurses north and south of the Border…..”

    Workers of the world, keep calm and carry on.  Everything’s fine as it is.

    Owen Jones is not a bad person, from what I can see, but his concept of radicalism is maybe a wee bit limited. 

    UNITE!  You have nothing to lose but your zero-hour contracts.


  29. McHaggis says:

    @training day…

    nail, head, hit.

    you’ve stumbled upon the real reason they want to preserve the union… It is nothing more than to save England.

    if Scotland goes solo, englands economics, welfare state, NHS and basically everything else will head to shit. Its the unspoken core of the “bettertogether” campaign. 


  30. scottish_skier says:


    Re 1955.

    Also worth nothing that the 55% vote share was for the Scottish Unionists; an independent Scottish, modestly right of centre economic, moderately liberal socially, protestant church associated and strongly nationalistic (‘strong Scotland within the union/empire’) party. They may have taken the old wet Tory whip at the time, but they were a Scottish party. A decade later, the English Conservative party went on to swallow up the Scottish unionists; a move which coincided with the beginnings for the long decline in ‘Tory’ vote share in Scotland. The Tories were already on the way out as the empire declined, long before Maggie came along and finished the job.


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