Opinion: I sat on the fence for a long time

Alex Salmond - License Some rights reserved by Ewan McIntoshIn history independence (or partition) often leads to a rise in racism, disaffection, poverty, hatred and instability.  I was looking for evidence that Scottish independence wouldn’t do that.

I was looking for intelligent leadership with a coherent vision which would unite Scotland to reassure me that the positives of independence (which would include faster and more sensitive feedback loops for Scottish policy) would outweigh the negatives.  In the early stages of the campaign I saw signs of what I was looking for.

My first big wake-up call came with Alex Salmond’s reaction to Cameron, Clegg and Milliband pointing out that a currency union depends on political union.  Now the honest conversation could begin.  Unfortunately Salmond’s immediate response that this was Westminster bullying set out his store for the rest of the campaign.  Since then wherever there were issues to be discussed the people raising those issues were ‘the bullying Westminster elite’ or just plain ignorant.  Alex Salmond’s only relentless tactic has been to attack the characters of those who raise issues to ensure the issues are not discussed.

I looked for a positive vision which could unite Scotland and found all attempts other than the whipping up of a collective hatred or resentment of Westminster to be as robust as rice paper.

“We’ll have a fairer society and a Nordic economy”.

Since education is already a devolved power there’s nothing whatsoever to stop Scotland having an economy like Finland where a fairer society has been built by closing private schools, stopping most examinations and operating in an egalitarian way.  Independence is irrelevant.

The Swedish state is built on extreme privatisation and very high taxes.  Do Scottish people want that?

The Norwegian oil fund was only made possible because there was a collective national decision to shut down the old industries and invest in the future rather than to spend all the oil money propping up the old industries.  Collective Scottish hatred of Margaret Thatcher is based on her decision to stop propping up loss making industries.  Like that or loathe it you can’t have it both ways.

Ghandi won the argument for Indian Independence because he paid due respect to who and what had been before and carefully argued how things could be better.  Alex Salmond has focused instead on whipping up resentment because he has no real vision to engage either the voters who understand the issues in depth.  He’s also lost those who see bullying as being the process of attacking people in ways which ensure they have no voice and who therefore point the finger of blame for that offence in the correct direction.

It’s painful to watch.  Whichever way the vote goes the resentment and anger which has been nurtured for decades and which is now being whipped into a frenzy will not easily subside.  I feel desperately both sad for everyone who can see it all clearly and who therefore can’t even have the joy of hubris.


* Rebecca Hanson is a teacher, a lecturer in education, an education adviser and a member of the LDEA committee. She was the Liberal Democrat candidate in the Copeland by-election in 2017.

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  • Denis Mollison 17th Sep '14 - 4:06pm

    The “honest conversation” on currency never began because the unionist leaders adopted a rigid but implausible attitude that currency union was impossible. A conversation would have involved them saying “you can have a currency union but it will severely curtail independence in the following ways” or “we would need limits on how far (if at all) we would support rogue banks”, not simply imitating Ian Paisley’s “Never! Never! Never!”.

    And as to Alex Salmond “whipping up resentment because he has no real vision”, I can’t believe you’ve been following the same debate as I have. He has not whipped up resentment that I have noticed, instead consistently referring to rUK in friendly terms. Also, you shouldn’t personalise it that way. It’s not just Alex Salmond, but thousands of Scots that have set out their vision – largely on online sites such as Bella Caledonia, National Collective, Women for Independence, Business for Scotland, not to mention many individual blogs – for independence, in contrast to an almost-total lack of vision on the No side, typified by Labour’s latest advert on the lines of “If you don’t know, vote No”.

    Of course these positive visions don’t agree – and I can find a lot to disagree with in some of them – but they suggest to me that political life in an independent Scotland would be a refreshing change from the present. Which visions would win out would be decided through our fair electoral system, in contrast to Westminster’s unreformable FPTP Commons and unelected Lords.

  • Julian Tisi 17th Sep '14 - 4:28pm

    An excellent article. Just a thought – but I wonder if one of the reasons that far more women are opposed to independence is that they can see that much of the Yes campaign has been built around bullying people into accepting a certain vision and if you don’t share that vision, being attacked as not patriotic / not Scottish if your Scottish or being attacked as part of some Westminster / Tory / English conspiracy if you’re not. How can I say this… women often tend to be better at identifying bullying and don’t respond well to it.

  • Rebecca
    Why do I fail to recognise some of your descriptions of Scandinavian countries?
    Why do you personalise a decision about the long ter untrue of Scotland as if it was all about one man?
    How do you account for the fact that very many Scots have found that coherent vision for independence thatbyounfailed to see?
    And finally are you too young to remember Thatcher as Prime Minister and therefore unaware why Thatcher was really hated on both sides of the border?

  • Rebecca
    Apologies for typos, here is the cleaned up version —
    Why do I fail to recognise some of your descriptions of Scandinavian countries?
    Why do you personalise a decision about the long term future of Scotland as if it was all about one man?
    How do you account for the fact that very many Scots have found that coherent vision for independence that you failed to see?
    And finally are you too young to remember Thatcher as Prime Minister and therefore unaware why Thatcher was really hated on both sides of the border?

  • Richard Dean 17th Sep '14 - 4:44pm

    I get more or less the same impression. No real vision about what independence would mean. No attempt to address the issues of currency. Highly contestable assertions about how things will be better, facts distorted on oil, the NHS.

    My impression is that many people in the “Yes” campaign interpret “independent” to mean “free from rules of civilized behaviour”.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Sep '14 - 6:28pm

    An informative article. To do my bit for the No campaign in the final hours I will say that I worry a Yes vote will embolden nationalists across the world, especially in Europe.

    However, for the sake of unity I think it is important to wish the Yes campaign personal good wishes and hope they have a good celebration if they win.

  • Rebecca Hanson 17th Sep '14 - 6:42pm

    Am reading on the move. I will attempt to respond to comments fully as soon as I can (hopefully by 8pm) and will reply to further comments throughout the evening.

  • Rebecca, you are a bit too harsh with Mr Salmond and his party. They are whipping up nearly as much resentment, as was whipped up in some other places (Latvia in the 90ies comes to mind – their statehood is still poisoned).

    However: one thing about SNP/Yes is obvious: they are as monomaniac as UKIP and prefer to hide their heads in the sand of their White Paper, rather than face reality and work on Plans B. The Currency Union is a prime example.

    I recently had a correspondence with the Scottish Government over another issue that Mr Salmond failed to address. There are some 160,000 EU citizens working and living in Scotland. Not nearly all of them are naturalised or married to British citizens , and if Scotland finds itself outside the EU, they will be in limbo. At the same time, they can vote tomorrow. I submitted a question to the Yes Campaign: “Do you expect people to vote themselves out of their jobs and homes? What do you plan to do, if Scotland is temporaily out of the EU?”.

    Half an hour ago I got an official answer from the Scottish Government. The gist of it: our White Paper says “There is no point in this transition process where Scotland requires to be, or will be, outside the legal and institutional framework of the EU.”

    So, again – no Plan B, just avoiding the reality.

    I’m looking forward to an independent Scotland (I know they can), but not now, not with this pathetic leadership.

  • Rebecca

    I am an Englishman living in Scotland and will vote Yes. The simple fact is that your party was instrumental in denying me the opportunity to vote for devo max and the campaign has shown that England has a veto on substantive constitutional change in the UK. Independence is the only option with vision an d the idea that the campaign is based on resentment shows that you have no understanding of Scotland or the campaign.

  • The SNP is exploiting the vulnerable. Their case for separation is economically illiterate and fraught with extreme danger. The middle-class has seen straight through it, which is why the large majority of better off Scots is voting “NO” tomorrow. But the poor and least educated lack the skills to do so. And they are the ones who would suffer most. The facts have been pointed out to the Scottish people by economists, leading businessmen and the Governor of the Bank of England. But the response of the SNP is that this is the wicked “Westminster establishment” attempting to deceive them, and that Scots should believe the SNP. Sadly, many do. If you examine the collected outpourings of cybernats, and listen to the abuse meted out by “YES” bullies on the streets, there is a complete lack of intellectual engagement. It is a cocktail of anger and frustration mixed in with football terrace chauvinism and xenophobia. I have yet to see a coherent, properly argued case for Scotland being separated from the United Kingdom. That may well be because none is possible.

  • Keith Browning 17th Sep '14 - 9:27pm

    If roles were reversed and the English were being governed by a bullying elite in Edinburgh, the vote would only go one way. I cannot see why the Scots will vote anything but ‘yes’. Short term financial obstacles are just a long term irrelavance. Scotland – go for it..!!

  • Rebecca Hanson 17th Sep '14 - 10:19pm

    @ Keith Browning.

    Scottish people are not being governed by a bullying elite in Westminster. They are being governed by a stable system of liberal democracy which elects representatives – many of whom are people of tremendous dedication, ability and integrity.

  • Rebecca Hanson
    thank you for that very full reply. I accept your point about the 500 word limit.

    I don’t think you have answered my question about personalising your decision around one man. The future independence of Scotlaof or continuing with London rule are surelymore important than that?

    Your view of Thatcherism seems somehow odd to me — you seem to see part of the picture but not the hatred for the finger wagging arrogance of Thatcher herself removing free school milk, the poll tax, the politicisation of the police during the miners’ strike, giving a green light to racists with her “swamped” PPB, condemning people as “the enemy within. I could go on …

  • Rebecca Hanson
    I have just replied to your comment but something Ihave written has fallen foul of the automatic software.
    I also thanked you or your earlier very full reply. Hopefully my reply to you will not remain in limbo for too long.

  • Rebecca Hanson 17th Sep '14 - 11:06pm

    @ John Tilley.

    I’m sorry your comment hasn’t gone live. I’m working a long day tomorrow so may not see it until the evening but I’ll try to check in earlier if I can.

  • @Sesenco
    Having let my membership lapse (after so many years in the student movement, I could not cope with £9k tuition fees), I have been considering rejoining after the referendum is over – looking forward to rebuilding the party, starting with a by-election in York next month.

    Looking at the working class support for independence I am reminded of Bob Dylan (If you aint got nothing, you aint got nothing to lose). Let me just quote from Sesenco’s message on this topic:

    “The middle-class has seen straight through it [independence], which is why the large majority of better off Scots is voting “NO” tomorrow. But the poor and least educated lack the skills to do so.”

    So…. poor, working class Scots lack the financial resources and the education to make an informed political decision about the future of their country do they? Perhaps we could go back to the good old days when the working classes were excluded from the franchise – bless them but they don’t understand what is in their best interest do they….

    The fact that this remark has gone without being noticed or challenged on this forum leaves me very depressed indeed, and reminds me why so few Lib Dems grew up alongside me in Drumchapel….

  • Rebecca Hanson 17th Sep '14 - 11:41pm

    @ John Tilley – it’s live – great.

    Could you give me examples from other key SNP figures who have responded differently to Alex Salmond on the key points I raise? BTW the photo makes this piece look far more personal than was intended. I actually submitted a photo of Scotland in the mist across the Solway which I took on Sunday with the article but the powers that be changed it.

    I understand what Thatcher was trying to achieve and why she was trying to achieve that aim. She had challenges to deal with we struggle to imagine now – I remember the endemic mob violence of 80s UK high on lead additive. I remember the challenges of effecting structural economic change in an age where people were not informed by the web and mass online discussion feedback loops did not exist.

    I remember why Margaret Thatcher commanded the personal respect of people who criticised her policies, most obviously by the way she responded to threats on her life, the assassination of her friends and many of the other challenges of that time.

    I see the things which were achieved as a result of the reforms. I see the good and the bad.

    But I also see the complete hypocracy of blaming her for there not being an oil fund. The money went on keeping alive loss making industries and the decision that it should be spent in that way was made by the unions. Do you think Scotland would have shut down all its loss making industries in order to direct oil revenues into an untouchable fund instead as Norway did John? Of course it wouldn’t. The electorate wouldn’t have allowed it. Yet somehow that same electorate now believe it’s Thatcher’s fault we’re poor. How has that happened? Have SNP politicians honestly narrated history? Or do they just lie in order to whip up hatred which will serve their interests? Some people believe that’s justified but I don’t. Hatred and false promises breed problems.

  • Rebecca
    Thank you again for a full and considered response.

    On independence for Scotland, I see it in terms of self determination. In historical terms, a logical next step following the independence of Ireland. I do not see it in terms of Alex Salmond or any of the other characters in the SNP. For me the SNP blew it when years ago they decided against a republic and starting talking about Elizabeth Queen of Scots, I reached for the sick bag. But independence for Scotland hs to be about more than the temporary holders of office in the current devolved parliament. There is absolutely no reason why after independence the SNP should not wither away or simply become a centre right party always assuming that the Labour Party could re-establish itself north of the border as a party of the left — which may be already impossible,

    As for Thatcher, my perspective seems so different. I find what you say interesting , genuinely so perhaps because I have not before come across anyone who sees it as you do. Maybe I should get out more. Thatcher is the only politician in this country certainly in my lifetime whose funeral attracted demonstrations across the country from people whose bitterness towards her had not subsided one jot even though it was decades since she had been in power.

    In recent years she had been an elderly frail woman with dementia, but people were blind to that they could only see the dogmatic Tory who ruined the lives of millions.

    I am still struck by the people who made a trip to London on the day of her funeral to stand in the street as her coffin went past so that in a dignified and silent protest they turned their backs on her to show their contempt for her and all her works. This sort of protest is completely unheard of in this country. One has to ask why she triggered such emotion and animosity in people who in many cases had no interest in politics.

    It was as unique as it was to me understandable but I am still slightly shocked but also admiring of those who protested in this way.

  • Neil Sandison 18th Sep '14 - 1:05pm

    If nothing else the Scottish referendum on independance has re-opened the debate on how we are ruled and how much should be devolved to the most appropiate local level .However what it has also indecated is how broken our local and regional democracy is..Lets be honest voter turn out is appalling .with most councils elected by around 30% of the electorate with little powers given to their representatives to make a real differnce The Localisn Act needs more teeth to be a potentially more useful tool for local communities to gain greater control over their own local outcomes..
    PR at local government level wold ensure every vote counts and would break down one party fifedoms with little real scrutiny over the executive . devolved powers at English Welsh Northern Irland and Scotish level are fine but how do the regions hold the Westminster Executive to account ? W

  • Neil Sandison 18th Sep '14 - 1:28pm

    Perhaps one way to hold the Westminster Executive to account at a regional level would be to disolve the House of Lords and create a House of the Regions elected for a 5 or 7 year term which could be contested but for a minimum of 3 terms of office to ensure ongoing democratic renewal. LIke the current Lords it would have a scrutiny role of bills but special responsibilies for policy consultation and harminisation to esure coherance of delivery for each of the parlaiments,assemblies accross the union.

  • @rebecca

    You are clearly an Orange Booker through and through. You have a unique recollection of the 80s (mob violence cased by lead additives – really?) but you seem to have forgotten the Thatcherite tax cuts.

  • Rebecca Hanon 18th Sep '14 - 6:35pm

    @Tommy HQ

    I think he got away it it because is comment didn’t go live until about the time you saw it.

    Thanks again to everyone for all comments.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Sep '14 - 12:13pm

    Rebecca Hanson

    I understand what Thatcher was trying to achieve

    Yes, selling out our country to foreigners while pretending to do the opposite.

    and why she was trying to achieve that aim. She had challenges to deal with we struggle to imagine now – I remember the endemic mob violence of 80s UK high on lead additive

    As others have suggested, this is a gross exaggeration. Sure, there were occasions when Trade Unions went a bit over-the-top, and I felt they often had an arrogance which ignored those who weren’t in jobs where it was easy to form strong unions, but that did give us a balance in society we lack now. Now we are pushed around by the bankers much more so than we were ever pushed around by the Unions.

    The idea that Margaret Thatcher had mass support owes a lot to the distortions of the electoral system. Just because the south elected almost 100% Tory MPs does not mean every southerner was a Margaret Thatcher fan. The distortion of FPTP meant that the millions of southerners who did not vote Tory went almost without representation. Many in the south voted Tory, or would have voted Tory as their second choice after Liberal/SDP (who did NOT split the anti-Tory vote as often said – second choice of Liberal/SDP voters was always evenly divided between Tory and Labour) not because they particularly liked Margaret Thatcher but because they disliked Labour as Labour seemed to be a coalition of northerners and urban intellectual types who neither knew nor cared about ordinary people in the south.

  • Rebecca Hanson,
    That is completely at odds with my experience of the period and completely at odds with what Thatcher and her ilk said at the time. It is completely in line with the rewriting of history that has gone on since. Thatcher was quite explicit in her view that spending the proceeds of North Sea oil on the costs of maintaining high unemployment in order to destroy the trade unions, especially the NUM, was a price worth paying. Many of those “loss making industries”, mining in particular, were nothing of the sort. Thatcher never claimed that her reforms were to avoid economic collapse, because they weren’t, the economy was demonstrably recovering when she was elected. She campaigned on high unemployment under labour, which had risen to a high of 900,000 and was falling. Within three year it stood at 3,500,000. Her reforms were all about returning control of the labour force to employers, she never claimed otherwise, it is those squeamish revisionists who claim that emergency and necessity forced her to be ruthless with the lives of others. She was happy to proclaim it to be a war with organised labour as they were the enemy within. Condemning millions to long term unemployment, if it provided a lever to reduce wage costs and discouraged union membership, was not to of concern because they were just casualties of this power struggle.

    “Reform was tremendously painful for those who lost their work, their dignity and their communities so the reasons to fight it were very real. Few saw the alternative but it became a vivid reality to those of us who bothered to watch the countries which didn’t reform.”,

    this suggests you also view this as a price worth paying and shows your comment about lead additives to be a callous and facile remark. There was no “mob violence” in that sense but there was significant violence from people defending themselves against direct oppressive assault. Thatcher made clear who her enemies were and made no bones about her desire to crush them, the victors in this war on organised labour have written its history and you peddle it as truth. It is not truth. How anyone could call themselves a liberal and defend the actions of Thatchers government beggars belief. Her reforms destroyed industries, destroyed communities, nearly destroyed the health service, oppressed minorities, put education under authoritarian centralised diktat, and her governments policies created the whole concept of benefit dependency which had not existed in any meaningful sense previously.

    Oh, and by the way, which countries do you have in mind when you refer to those that didn’t reform? And, of those industries that were reformed by forcing new employment law on them, which of them still exist on a significant level?

  • Rebecca Hanson

    My recollection accords with those of Matthew Huntbach and JRC.

    I do not think you could seriously defend your assertion that — “We had a choice. Reform or face economic collapse. Through Margaret Thatcher we chose reform.”

    The Conservative Party manifesto for both the 1979 and the 1983 tell a different story. You seem to have forgotten that after the 1979 election large numbers of Conservative MPs (derided by Thatcher herself as WETS) vigorously opposed her economic policy along with Labour, Liberal and Nationalist Parties.

    She gradually during that term weeded out the WETS and only appointed or promoted anyone she considered ONE OF US.

    In the first years of the 1980s Thatcher was very, very unpopular and was only saved politically by the Falklands War which she used to whip up a deeply unattractive nationalistic mood which was the bedrock of her election victory in 1983.

    Your assertion that people made a choice of Thatcher’s policy of ‘reform or die’ simply does not stand up to close examination. If anything Thatcher brought about her “reforms” by stealth.

    Surely a defining episode of Thatcherism was the miners strike. During the miners strike in 1984/85 the leader of the miners (the much maligned Arthur Scargill) produced the evidence that the government had a plan to shut down a long list of pits, most of which were profitable and had a century of coal reserves. Thatcher and her government repeatedly denied this. Well we know what happened to those pits after Thatcher won. But nobody could seriously say the public had chosen this outcome because they wanted economic reform.

    Thatcher was not motivated by economic reform but by political considerations. She had been part of the Heath Government which according to Tory mythology had been overturned by The NUM. Her action against the miners, a cold calculating plan carried out over years with the building up of coal stocks and the politicisation of the police, was more to do with Tory political calculations and good old fashioned spite. She was not motivated by economic reform and there was certainly no public mandate for her actions.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Sep '14 - 4:12pm

    @ Rebecca Hanson,
    Rebecca as someone who was brought up in the mining communities of South Yorkshire, I would only ask that you propose to those you know ‘of tremendous ability and integrity who had a social duty transcended which transcended that of those who were fighting for their communities’, should visit those communities today and see what their tremendous ability has lead to.

    My friends and I took food parcels to miners’ families and the only good thing that came out of Thatcher’s spite was that miners’ wives found a voice.

  • Jayne Mansfield 21st Sep '14 - 4:15pm

    Sorry the above is as garbled as ever.

  • Rebecca Hanson 23rd Sep '14 - 11:42pm

    Dear Jayne,

    My father was one such person.

    He fought for the reforms which would enable Nissan to be a success in Sunderland. He then worked with their head of HR for many years to ensure they instilled robust collaborative systems. Their head of HR lectured on his course in Economics and Management at Newcastle University in return. Yes employment there isn’t cradle to grave guaranteed as it appeared to be until the 1970s but where in the world is it?

    Although we couldn’t afford it he always gave 10% of his income to charity. He spent night after night out in the worst areas of Newcastle looking out for people. We visited the elderly and the sick. We certainly weren’t perfect – don’t get me wrong – we all have our faults but that was the aspiration. I found a similar level of integrity among the key people he worked with on policy.

    Among those who fought Thatcher I found (among many) tremendous compassion for their fellow man. But it many cases it was bounded to specific groups of people and it was conditional. There were people who were excluded from their compassion. Those who were bigger than that found their behaviour constrained by those who were not.

    I understand and respect their perspectives but they are not my perspective. This mode of behaviour is an Old Labour mode of action. It’s what Alex Salmond stooped to and it repulses me. I detest the process whereby individuals or groups of people are demonised by the ignorance of those who either seek to use that hatred for their own means, who simply have the propensity to demonise people or who simply can’t be bothered to try to understand what actually happened. I don’t care who the demonised person or group is.

    Ghandi won respect because he was better than those around him. He confidently treated them with respect because he had the kind of intelligence that wouldn’t allow him to do otherwise. Alex Salmond has instead tried to actively discredit others (especially Wesminster politicians) to try to make himself look better than them. It works for some but it doesn’t work for me.

  • Rebecca Hanson 23rd Sep '14 - 11:53pm

    Hi John,

    Can you map out for me the process by which a UK prime minister circa. 1980 could have re-established democracy without a fight?

    Just to be clear – the unions were running UK industry in the mindset that the purpose of industry was to provide secure employment for people who paid union fees and that the profitability or the viability of the industry was irrelevant. That either had to change or it had to continue. To let it continue was to choose economic collapse. Would you have let that happen or would you have changed it. If you would have changed it how would you have done it without a fight?

  • Rebecca Hanson 23rd Sep '14 - 11:56pm

    Hi JRC

    The comment to John above applies to you too.

    Russia and the Eastern Block did not reform.

  • Rebecca Hanson 24th Sep '14 - 12:01am

    p.s. JRC in terms of rewriting history, I suggest you try a fast and well written easy read about the rational for 1980s employment law reforms which was written at the time:
    Then you can effectively criticise the rationale of the time with no concerns about it being ‘revisionist’.
    + you’d sound more like you’d actually bothered to study the issues you’re writing about instead of just spouting the same old shallow stuff.

  • Ed Shepherd 24th Sep '14 - 1:12am

    Nissan is partly owned by the French state. I am not sure that it is a very typical example of the modern economy. It makes a high quality, durable consumer product. More typical of the modern economy are call centres selling products of little use, staffed by badly paid staff with few prospects or lowly paid care workers or lowly paid retail jobs. The people in those jobs would benefit strongly from union representation, legal protection and a living wage. Instead, millions are now in insecure employment and have to rely on state benefits. I wonder if it was more cost effective to give direct state subsidies to industry rather than to put millions of workers into low paid, insecure employment or to learn them on benefits. The amount of state support for Nissan Sunderland appears to support that view.

  • Ed Shepherd 24th Sep '14 - 1:13am

    Should have read “leave them on benefits.”

  • Rebecca,

    So an explanation of the rationale that the Thatcher government freely expressed is shallow but one that completely ignores it in favour of claiming that the violence she inspired was no more than the effect of lead additives and that there is one sentence that can explain the entire Scottish psyche, is what? Deep?

    You genuinely seem to believe that the unions were running uk industry, which is nonsense, but even if it were true is a long way from being a crisis of democracy unless you believe freedom to exploit a workforce as synonymous with democracy. She rescued democracy? You’ll be arguing that she ended apartheid next.

    You also seem to believe that the USSR still exists, as you give Russia and the Eastern Block as examples of unreformed states. The US and the UK were the only two to follow the Thatcherite model of reform and are both worse for it, whilst everyone else reformed on a consensual model. Don’t forget though that a part of her rewritten history also credits her with the defeat of communism and break-up of the Soviet Union. So which is it to be, they didn’t reform, she reformed them or they did reform?

    You also seem to be arguing that those who sided with her are morally superior than those who either fought against her or refuse to forgive or forget what she actually did. Even though as I stated she would never have denied it unlike you who seem to consider it reasonable to make bizarre insults and book recommendations to those who disagree with your heavily reimagined past. I not only understand the Thatcherite rationale but have no need to imagine the state of the country back then, as I was there. Her rationale was not for the general good but for a very particular and specific version of the good, one that she admitted would create victims. That government considered the deprivations of those who lost by her reforms as a price worth paying, from the evidence of your posts you do too. There was no higher morality to the reforms of the 80’s, simply a power struggle between the wealthy and the workers, the wealthy won and you write their history for them.

    You must be really upset that the site couldn’t provide you with a green font.

  • Rebecca Hanson 24th Sep '14 - 7:39pm

    @ John Tilley,

    I recommend you chat to the people who were trying to establish German style systems of industry in the UK in the 70s and 80s so that you can understand why their efforts were thwarted by the unions and the Closed Shop.

    Reading about the reality of the employment law reforms in the book I recommended will also give you greater insight.

  • Rebecca Hanson 24th Sep '14 - 7:42pm


    Do you fully understand the undemocratic nature of union practices such as The Closed Shop?

    Have you tracked the history of the attempts which were made to create reform without a fight?

    Again I can recommend a book written this time in 1982. Hence no revisionism. This time it’s £1.76 instead of 1p I’m afraid. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0566004143/?tag=libdemvoice-21+closed+shop+charles+hanson

  • Rebecca Hanson 24th Sep '14 - 7:53pm

    One thing which I should mention is that there were obviously lots of ignorant and arrogant people with extremely right wing views hanging around at that time too. My point is that it’s not okay to attack them as being the genesis of what was going on. That’s straw-manning. Attack the intellectual core if you like and can be bothered to do your research.

    The parallel with Alex Salmond is that he was straw-manning all Westminster politicians by attacking the stereotypes rather than the reality. Hence he lost my respect.

  • Rebecca Hanson 24th Sep '14 - 7:54pm

    @ Ed Shepherd.

    I strongly recommend you try the calculations.

  • Rebecca,
    Of course I understand the nature of the closed shop. Repeatedly trying to get me to use amazon and buy books by Charles Hanson (any relation?) is not an argument.

    Whether the trade union reforms that her government implemented were necessary is not relevant to whether you consider the way she did it to have been just. You consider keeping 3.5million people unemployed and hiding even more of them on incapacity benefits, plus all of the other illiberal actions of her government, to be worth it if it rid us of workers having strength to negotiate fairer conditions and wages. I do not.

    You declare the closed shop to be undemocratic as if it were the end of discussion and a deal clincher, however those of us who spend time examining the depths of an argument understand that nothing is black and white, least of all democracy and justice. A liberal grounded even in the basics of the philosophy understands the tension between the two. I suggest that you should try it sometime (examining the depths of an argument) rather than allow your prejudices to get the better of you.

  • Rebecca Hanson 24th Sep '14 - 10:46pm

    Having a society run by unions through the closed shop is not democracy JRC.

    You may not think that matters but I do.

    Charles Hanson is my dad.

  • The calculation as to whether it is better to state subsidise some industries than not? I would like to try such calculations. Sadly, as a lowly paid worker not a highly paid academic, I will never have the time or the money to carry out such calculations. I wonder what the result of such calculations would be?

  • Rebecca,
    I think it would matter if it were true but it wasn’t. Even if it had been it would in no way have justified the actions of the Thatcher government. Even if it did justify their actions it would in no way justify your assertion that there is such a thing as ‘collective Scottish hatred’ of anything or to claim knowledge of the motivation for it. Neither would it justify your dismissal of those who fought against her as being senseless from lead additives.
    Your opinion of the events of the past is not the truth about the past.

    You assert that having society run by unions through the closed shop is not democracy. You are correct it is not but fortunately such a society never existed. Can the closed shop exist within society and that society still be democratic? Yes it can and did. Is the closed shop democratic? It neither is nor isn’t, democracy is not an applicable term to describe the existence of the closed shop. Is it liberal? No it isn’t.

  • Rebecca Hanson 25th Sep '14 - 4:45pm


    The closed shop is certainly undemocratic if there is a collective will (as demonstrated through national election) and a managerial will to reform organisations but the action of the closed shop and other associated union activities is preventing that reform.

    I find the way in which you are twisting my comments to suit the perception of my views you wish to hold rather disturbing. I think you are doing that because you have very strongly held beliefs which drive your conclusions about people and which interfere with your ability to look at the evidence.

  • Rebecca Hanson 25th Sep '14 - 4:52pm


    I’m amused you think academics are highly paid. In education, as in most areas, they are poorly paid. In education they also have the benefit of being witch hunted out of existence by Michael Gove. Fun times! 🙂

    Here’s a brief summary of the maths.
    In general industry and services need to run profitably so national tax revenue can be used to pay for public services and other national obligations.
    There are very reasonable moral and financial arguments that in some circumstances it can be wise to subsidies industries to help them through tough financial circumstances or other difficulties and to keep people employed rather than having them on benefits. However if a large proportion of employed people are in subsidised employment for long periods of time and the industries in which they are employed are not likely to return to profit you have very serious structural economic problems.

    I fully accept that some coal mines and other organisations which could have been shut down were unnecessarily closed. The film ‘Brassed Off’ is a great tribute to that. However I think we often judge those responsible with hindsight rather than with due respect the contextual and communication issues they faced in a pre-internet age.

  • Jayne Mansfield 25th Sep '14 - 6:13pm

    @ Rebecca,
    Thank you for the simplification. One of the placards touted in South Yorkshire during the miners’ strike was ‘Coal not Dole’. The social and economic consequences are far greater for communities when industries are closed down and they are the only one or two of local industries providing employment for the people.

    Leaving aside the profitability or otherwise of coal mines that were closed down, do you really think that the social and economic consequences that have lasted for well over three decades in some mining areas has been a price worth paying, t, third generation non working families, the high level of depression, the social degradation etc?

    May I recommend a book to you? Professor Steve Fotherhill’s ‘The State of Coalfields- New Research’. It is written by academics at Sheffield Hallam University and an abstract is available to view on the internet.

    You mention Brassed Off. May I also recommend listening to Grimethorpe Colliery Brass Band, playing Nimrod. It is available on Youtube. It is all that remains of Grimethorpe Colliery.- sorry- off for a good weep having just listened to it once more.

    I for one, regret that the Trade Unions have been so weakened. Collective bargaining is the only strategy that employees have to fight for decent terms and conditions. Lord help working people if UKIP get into power because there seems to be no-one else with the power to fight on their behalf!

  • Rebecca,
    I have not twisted any of your words, I have repeated some of them back to you with an opinion of what they mean. You have not refuted any of those interpretations but have instead introduced unrelated issues as if I had said them and issued insults into the bargain. My replies to you on the other hand have politely explained why I vehemently disagree with you and responded in kind to being called shallow, ill-informed and having generalisations of a near conspiracy theorists level thrown at me as if they were accepted fact.

    You claimed that the closed shop is de facto undemocratic by nature you then qualify that to give specific circumstances under which it is undemocratic. Which is it? Undemocratic by nature or undemocratic when particular circumstances apply? In the circumstances that you give it is not true that the closed shop is itself undemocratic. However, my point was a reply to your assertion that having society run by unions through the closed shop was undemocratic and your assertion that the closed shop was an example of undemocratic union practice, which in turn you contend offers justification of the actions of the Thatcher government.

    You do not seem to be happy with the conclusion that your opinions imply but please stop trying to find duplicitous malice or simple stupidity in those who disagree with you. I would ask you to re-read the final paragraph of your reply to me and try to see the hypocrisy in your words. You have in two sentences accused me of a kind of behaviour that I have not exhibited and then exhibited that precise behaviour in the next sentence.

  • Rebecca Hanson 25th Sep '14 - 10:09pm

    @ Jayne

    I do deeply understand the devastation both at the time and through the generations. My passion is working for community and industry regeneration and break cycles of disengagement through education.

    I’m not suggesting life is better now than it was. But that doesn’t mean that what was was sustainable in many cases. I know there were exceptions and I also hugely regret the cases where what could have been viable was lost.

    I also regret the over-weakening of trade unions and regularly encourage people to join them. I am an active trade union member and having served at regional level have recent insight into their many strengths and also their weaknesses.

    I’m a big fan of brass music and already know the piece you mentioned.

  • Rebecca Hanson 25th Sep '14 - 10:19pm


    Interesting post.

    I wrote:
    “I find the way in which you are twisting my comments to suit the perception of my views you wish to hold rather disturbing. I think you are doing that because you have very strongly held beliefs which drive your conclusions about people and which interfere with your ability to look at the evidence.”

    You accept that you repeated back my comments but expressed them with your interpretation of what they mean.
    Those interpretations are so far from the reality I find them deeply disturbing and wonder as to your motivation for interpreting them in that way. So if your motives for responding to my posts in this way are not to do with your strongly held beliefs, what are they to do with? I notice you have decided to continue doing what I would call ‘twisting my words’ and you probably wouldn’t in your most recent post.

    If you want me to more clearly articulate my views on a particular issue it would be much nicer if you simply asked me to do that rather than posting untruths for me to correct.

  • Rebecca,

    This is quite absurd. You have written at great length that the actions of the Thatcher government were justified. I have taken issue with that. You have used language that is insulting and rude in response to my posts without offering any counter argument. You have formed opinions about my motivation and those of Scottish independence voters that you then use to dismiss any possibility of their having a grounding in fact or experience. You are disturbed by my twisting of your comments yet you make no effort to straighten them or to show which comments I have twisted and characterise an analysis of the meaning of what you say as disturbing. I did not state that I repeated your comment with my “expression”, I repeated them with my opinion of their meaning. They are very different things one is to twist the meaning of something the other is to debate the meaning of things. To say that I said the former is in fact to twist my words.

    My reason for arguing with you is because I disagree with what you say. I disagree with you because I have knowledge of things that counter your arguments and contradict those things that you state as fact. I take issue with the way you dismissed others who have similar experience and knowledge as being motivated by “collective hatred”.

    So as requested here are my questions to you: what have I twisted in your comments? What untruth have I posted? Where have you corrected such an untruth?

  • Richard Dean 26th Sep '14 - 12:20am

    @Jayne Mansfield

    Thanks for the information about Professor Steve Fotherhill’s research report called “The State of Coalfields – New Research”. I found it on the link below. It paints a devastated picture. Do you happen to know what action is being taken as a result of this work? http://www.shu.ac.uk/research/cresr/sites/shu.ac.uk/files/state-of-the-coalfields.pdf

  • Rebecca Hanson 26th Sep '14 - 8:35pm

    Thanks for posting the link Richard.

    The areas covered in the report which I know in detail and have been wresting with for years are the relevant parts of Allerdale and Copeland.

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