I AM now in the “grumpy old man” estate of my journey through life, so reading that a Labour politician – the leader of Scottish Labour Anas Sarwar, no less – is seeking to blame the SNP for the incompetence of the current UK Government is a bit of a long stretch, even for the rump of Labour left in Scotland. In seeking to add a cri de coeur that independence-loving supporters should vote Labour merely highlights Labour’s Scottish members’ attempts to ride two horses at once.

I am a post-war “Boomer”, one who “never had it so good” according to the Tories or was at the centre of the “white-hot heat of technology” according to Labour. Neither was actually true, as in the case of the UK’s industrial future, the Tories would not encourage the long-term investment needed to sustain heavy and manufacturing industry competing against the rising industrial nations in Asia, while Labour never appeared happier than when flogging off the latest UK technological advance to the USA to avoid the cost of developing it into something useful.

As the 1970s hove into view it was clear the UK was in a sad state – we had a World Bank “bailout”; inflation rising to 14% and more, and a world which wanted products faster than the UK could manufacture and export them. As a result, the markets for our heavy industry output collapsed as Korea and Japan were cheaper and faster. UK management blamed the workforce, the workforce blamed UK management, and both had to contend with ramping inflation and institutions set in their ways whether it be short-term shareholder value or shop floor demarcation disputes.

Into this mess of the three-day week, power cuts, food shortages and rubbish piled onto the street, one bloke and his mates had a vision of how to reform their own shipbuilding industry to make it competitive in the world once more. It started with the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in and sought to demonstrate how you could take the industry forward through cooperation, banging union shop stewards’ heids thegither while ensuring ships on the stocks would be delivered on time and at a high standard. Jimmy Reid had a vision, he managed to get a team of managers to buy into the vision, but Ted Heath’s Tories would not invest to replace 19th-century rolling mills and lathes with the modern equipment which was what was actually needed, and so a project which had brought hope to Clydeside and Scotland was kicked into touch by yet another Tory government, indifferent to their needs.

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The Labour government which followed on from Ted Heath – that of Jim Callaghan and Denis Healey – blustered and flustered in the hopes the oil and gas found off Scotland in the 1970s would save their skin. Their mistakes failed the economy ever further until a hand-bagger from Grantham came on the scene and English voters flocked to her “nanny knows best” appeal, which also bought over many Scottish voters in the day and who still fondly remember her “sorting out the unions” while forgetting it was her policies that left the UK’s economy at the beck and call of the City of London and the banks and ultimately brought about the 2008 banking collapse.

In Scotland, the 1980s saw a collapse of Scotland’s traditional heavy industries like a line of dominoes. Shipbuilding declined to almost zero outside of the yards doing defence work. In turn, this meant Ravenscraig steel production lost its main market as did all the heavy industries in the Motherwell, Wishaw and Hamilton triangle that also supplied the shipbuilding industry as a core business. Thatcher was blamed but the reality was the decline started well before her reign.

All these industries were in the same pickle as the shipyards, as decades of underinvestment in equipment on the altar of shareholder value and the opposition of trade unions to innovation in an attempt to protect their demarcation lines, had left them unable to diversify and find new markets. Mass redundancies were inevitable but the skills required for employment in Thatcher’s “service industry” UK were non-existent, so mass unemployment arrived and along with it the destruction of communities across Scotland. The final nail in the coffin was the miners conflict and the actions of their leadership which lost them the public high ground.

In simple terms, Thatcher’s government propaganda was better received than that of Scargill and McGachey. Mining communities now also sank without trace as the pits which had sustained them closed and the “Shuggie Bain” generation was born who saw no future or escape and whose legacy still infects the large housing estates across Scotland.

The National: Anas Sarwar

Thatcher and her Tories poured the benefits of the oil and gas off Scotland’s shores into reshaping London in the image of a “financial services hub”. However, little benefit was seen in Scotland outside Aberdeen and the Shetlands. Scotland did not matter to the Tories or Blair’s New Labour until the rise and rise of the SNP in Scotland sounded the alarm bells. Blair found himself in a pickle with the EU requirements for subsidiarity for EU recognised regions within the UK.

If he did not act it would mean the loss of numerous EU grants on which Labour were relying to make good on promises. So against Blair’s inclinations and wishes the devolved assemblies bill was rushed through. Derry Irvine cooked up the UK Supreme Court, which was just to be made up of English senior judges as a control over the new assemblies until their Lordships pointed out they had no rights to make judgements on matters of Scots law, it being a separate and protected code of law (sine die) with its own jurisdiction. According to New Labour the UK Supreme Court was not the issue, and what was important was they had stopped the SNP in their tracks and the push for independence for Scotland would now wilt on the vine. The SNP would never take control of the Scottish Parliament – until they did in 2010, causing great alarm in UK Government circles.

This was never meant to happen, so how best to stop the SNP in their tracks? The easiest way was to reduce the money given to Holyrood to run those parts of Scotland they were responsible for, this would soon blunt SNP aspirations for Scotland and so year on year since 2010 the Scottish financial settlement has been reduced in real terms. The collapse of key Scottish public services would follow the plans for increased privatisation of the NHS and other services in England, and Westminster would sell the idea at every turn that it was the SNP’s fault these services collapsed. Yet somehow those canny folk in the SNP managed to shift funds around so the impact of NHS privatisation happening in England did not reduce performance while the Scottish peoples’ trust in an SNP-run NHS went from 40% under the last Labour/LibDem administration to currently be at 90%. Clearly, as Mr Sawar claims, the SNP can not be trusted to run NHS Scotland as on any marker NHS Scotland out performs the NHS in the rest of the UK, SNP governance is incompetent as evidenced by any objective measurement, aye right, Mr Sawar.

In the light of all of this SNP competence, David Cameron decides the best way to kill off the SNP is to have a referendum on independence for Scotland – a sure-fire win for Westminster with Scottish independence support at around 23%. This will put the final nail in the SNP’s coffin, he thought – and yet it ended up too close to call.

In fact, it was far too close for a Tory government already struggling to keep the party’s ever-more extreme right-wing under control, and left the issue of Scottish independence a raw wound on Westminster’s side – a wound which scabs over but never really heals, breaking open on Brexit, Gaza genocide, poverty, inequality and the UK Government’s established economic and social incompetence when it comes to Scotland’s needs and expectations.

All that is left for a future UK Government is to destroy devolution once and for all, which which the current bunch of incompetents at Westminster are well on their way to trying to achieve and Mr Sarwar’s gang are apparently more than happy to go along with it, if they win the next General Election, as maybe that will kill the SNP stone dead and return Scotland to a Labour fiefdom.

So tell me again, Mr Sarwar, about your grounds which prove the Scottish Government’s incompetency?

Peter Thomson