HEATHER Anderson’s piece (There’s only one hour left to respond to a crucial devo consultation, The National, August 13) mentioned the “history” of devolution and Edward Heath’s part in it. I think that background needs a little clarification.

This factual background tears apart the notion that devolution is a recent idea, thought up in the last 50 or 60 years, or generated on the back of some recent desire to benefit from our country’s natural resources. Though for most countries, that’s just a normal situation.

It was not Edward Heath who first “mooted” the idea of a Scottish Assembly. That idea has been around since Victorian times (and earlier). Though it had to be very carefully expressed in case it fell foul of ‘treason’ legislation.

John McCormack formed the Scottish Covenant Association, which flourished during the 1940s and 1950s. Its aim was to establish a devolved Scottish Assembly. Pipping Edward Heath to the post by 28 years.

The covenant collected two million signatures, but this post-war period was significant in the ongoing collapse of the British Empire and, I imagine, as it carried the possibility of an independence end-game, which at the time was very popular among the “colonies”, it was ignored and controlled through the democratic deficit in Westminster.

Present-day school age “UK” history scholars will study the 1912-1914 Home Rule Crisis and come away thinking it was all about Ireland, but few will stumble across the 1913 Home Rule Scotland Bill. A bill that actually passed its second reading in Westminster. It was shelved due to the outbreak of the Second World War and never re-emerged post-war. Possibly because the Anglo-Irish situation was moving on from home rule to outright independence. There must have been a fair bit of panic in the British camp at the possibility that Scots might follow the Irish lead and demand not just home rule, but full independence. Nip that in the bud!

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An interesting article published in the Banffshire Advertiser in 1895, entitled An Appeal To All Scotsmen – Political Injustice mentions the Scottish Home Rule Association, Edinburgh, “which has been formed for the purpose of regaining for Scotland a national parliament, subject to the Crown. All loyal Scots are currently requested to join it, and help on the cause of their country. The minimum annual subscription to the association is one shilling”. “Subject to the Crown” was a very important addition if you wanted to avoid a visit from whoever it was investigated matters of treason.

And Labour seem to have whitewashed their history – their founder Keir Hardie stood in Scotland in 1888 and topping his campaign pledges was home rule.

So Keir Hardie trumps Edward Heath by 80 years!

Before that there was the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights. Here’s an extract from an 1853 letter to the Caledonian Mercury, an Edinburgh paper:

“The formation of the National Association, leagued and bonded together, for the vindication of our Scottish Rights, is assuredly one of the most remarkable events of the present day. If we consider the rapidity with which the noble flame has spread from town to town, from man to man, and from heart to heart. Whigs, Conservatives and radicals, free-traders, and protectionists – the adherents of every political section and religious sect, have sunk, forgotten, or merged their petty squabbles in one grand common cause, to demand justice for their native country, to seek the common good, and with the determination to have Scotland for the Scottish people – to have Scotland as the Treaty of Union guaranteed she should be: united to England for imperial purposes; but not to be merged into England, to be degraded to a nameless province, or to have her institutions violated, and her honour trampled on.” (The author was steering very carefully away from any attack on the Crown, which could have had very nasty consequences.)

For some reason this “history” has slipped from popular memory. Like a TV showing of Braveheart, cancelled from a screening just days before the 2014 referendum, just something else the Scots could be doing without in case it gave them any funny ideas above their station?

Never let anyone tell you the independence movement (or devolution/home rule) is a “new idea” thought up by disgruntled “cranks” or a minority interest. This is the anti-democratic Unionist narrative – a narrative they pursued relentlessly through martial intervention, through the democratic deficit at Westminster and by stringing the Scots along with future promises, “now is not the time” and demonstrating through the democratic deficit that these are too important or difficult a decision for you to make on your own.

The New Colonial House established in Edinburgh is there to wind the imperial clock back to “safer times” for the British state. Times where the wishes of an entire country could be ignored at the whim of the ruling elite at Westminster.

History tells us the only way to escape this subservient role in the crumbling British Empire of England is through independence.

Alistair Potter

via email

PROFESSOR John Atkinson’s letter in The National on Thursday (August 13) was like a breath of fresh air on the somewhat stale debate we have been having about exams.

People, particularly second-rate politicians, pontificating about the tragedy for young people that the usual exams system could not be used this year, and as usual looking for who is to blame.

As if the exams system we had was perfect and any deviation from it is a disaster. This is nonsense in my view.

The SNP Government accepted that teacher assessment should form the basis of the qualifying arrangements for this year, but initially accepted the establishment view that this would need to be modified to bring it more into line with the “correct” level which our “prefect” exam system would have produced. This system was going to corral pupils into accepting significant reductions in the marks which their teachers thought were fair in order to conform to some assumed level which they were likely to achieve in a “proper” exam. Fortunately the Scottish Government recognised the mistake of going down this path, and wisely changed their position.

Ah, some say this will leave us with a problem next year when we get back to the “proper” exam system and qualification levels will drop.

Well really, professor Atkinson gives us a more sensible way to look at this and points out that this is a good opportunity for us to do that.

The present exam system has many weaknesses, not least the damage to our young people to lead them to believe that they have to do well at the exam or their lives and future are lost. This is a nonsense and a distortion and it does great damage.

Education is a life-long experience which should be an enjoyable one as well, our method of assessing levels of attainment need improvement and should be based on teacher assessment. So why don’t we start from there and try to develop a better system for next year so that the level of qualification does not fall off but picks up?

Andy Anderson


IT was a pleasure to watch (on re-run) the stand-in, lieutenant-generalissimo, dishonourable colonel of signals get put firmly in her place at FMQs this week. It is I think very fair to say that Davidson lives, breathes and inhabits her own little world – one where the rancid tabloids only ask of her a photo opportunity and put only favourable questions to her so that she may give them wisdom.

Whatever the answer was that she expected it was clearly not that which she received. Her time away from the frontbench of Scottish Politics has caused her to lose her “poker face”, gone is her unshakable resolve that she as part of the Conservative and Colonial Party hierarchy need only worry about her financial backers.

Or is it that Davidson is in fact so wrapped up in the propaganda of her colonial party that she really does

think of the House of Lords as one of the great bastions of democracy? This thought would obviously fly in the face of the majority of thinking with regard to that place but then when did she or her type ever truly worry about majority thinking or indeed the majority of the people.

So may I also add my congratulations to the First Minister for her response to the Davidson question – there are times when people are required to be told in no uncertain terms how anti-democratic their decisions are, how politically corrupt that they have become and as a result how terrified they are of facing the voters of Scotland.

Davidson is a political has-been, she exercises as much relevance in the Parliament debating chamber as her party of past colonial jackbootery exercises in of Scotland.

Her standing to speak at FMQs each week from now until the election in May will do nothing for the cause of empire. The colonial power is crumbling just as a sand castle on a beach crumbles when the tide turns and just as that destruction is slow to see at first it is an end that is both inevitable and towards its end incredibly rapid.

We here in Scotland deserve so much better than Davidson and her like.

Our future is bright, independence is right.

Cliff Purvis

Veteran for Scottish Independence 2.0

WHEN the first Unionist parliament was created, Westminster accepted from Scotland 16 peers, where in Scotland it had 145, and 60 commoners, where Scotland had 160.

Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, a Baron of the Scottish Exchequer at the time, on his return from the new Unionist parliament left a record telling how the Scottish members of the parliament found themselves, “obscure and unhonoured in the crowd of English society and the unfamiliar intrigues of English politics, where they were despised for their poverty, ridiculed for their speech, sneered at for their manners, and ignored”.

Obviously nothing has changed in the Westminster Parliament since 1707. This is a description in the last chapter of James Campbell’s book, Invisible Country: A Journey Through Scotland, which is well worth reading.

So isn’t it time we stopped sending MP’s down to London just to be a so-called “opposition” and consequently laughed, jeered and ignored at when serious politics is attempted to take place by our SNP MPs?

Isn’t it time, therefore, that Scotland made up its mind to come together, united and proud to want to be an independent country, where we are sufficiently able to rule both financially, socially, politically and multi-religiously? All this without any interference whatsoever from Westminster, which haa already intimidated a hateful distaste for Scotland and all it stands for – probably more so than their parliamentary ancestors did in 1707.

Alan Magnus-Bennett