“Scotland draw your sword—for you’ve drawn the dole long enough!” This cry of the ’thirties echoes again throughout Scotland today. The Scottish people feel that they are getting the rawest of raw deals and that this is due to the incompetence and indifference of Whitehall and Westminster. This explains the large Nationalist vote at West Lothian where the Scottish Nationalist Party candidate came second and caused both the Tories and the Liberals to lose their deposits.
It is no use telling the Scots that their economic problems are similar to those of Lancashire or Durham. They will agree, but will add that if the English can’t run their own affairs properly that is no reason why they should continue to mismanage those of Scotland. They believe that the answer lies, ultimately, in the restoration of a Scottish Parliament. When young Scots are politically enthusiastic today they are to be seen sporting Ban-the-Bomb badges or “Free Scotland” badges, or both at the same time.
Random interviews by Scottish Television have indicated almost unanimous support for the Scottish Plebiscite Committee which is very actively raising cash for an all-Scottish plebiscite on the selfgovernment question.
Socialists should not dismiss this feeling as an amusing piece of quaint, Celtic revivalism. Its economic and psychological roots are deep and its relevance to the problem of democratic government and social planning is immediate and significant.
Since the first World War Scotland has had to bear a disporportionate share of Britain’s unemployment. With 10 per cent of Britain’s population, she usually has 20 per cent of its unemployed workers. This is mainly due to the fact that her traditional industries—coal, steel, shipbuilding and heavy engineering—which once gave her a relative advantage, have been in decline for over 40 years. The planned introduction of new industries and the rationalization, integration, and modernization of existing ones, which could have cured her chronic economic condition, either never took place or if it did was started too late. Even before 1914, the writing was on the wall, for her economy centred more and more on the coal-producing
This year’s Report on Industry and Employment in Scotland describes the outlook for shipbuilding and marine engineering as “far from promising”. Partly because of this, the Scottish steel industry is operating at only 60 per cent of its capacity. Beeching’s rail closure plans threaten to leave practically the whole of Scotland north of Perth dependent on an inadequate network of roads. The N.C.B.’s recent review indicates that only 46 of Scotland’s 106 remaining pits will be left by 1966, if Lord Robens has his way. One hundred and seventy of them have been closed down since 1945.
In September, 1962, unemployment reached nearly 83,000. The Scottish Council for Development and Industry has warned that the figure will reach 100,000 by January, 1963. The Council, which contains representatives of Scottish industry, the banks, the local authorities, and the Scottish T.U.C., completed at the end of 1961 its own enquiry into the Scottish economy—now known as the Toothill Report. Dominated as it is by Scottish capitalists, the Council rejected any proposals that involved extended public ownership or Scottish self-government. Nevertheless, their criticisms of Scottish industry and of the failure of the Westminster Government to give adequate inducements and assistance to it, strengthen the case for social control of the economy and for a degree of self-government sufficient to overcome the evils of bureaucratic centralization.