Govan shipyard has narrowly avoided closure, although hundreds of jobs will still be lost from BAE’s two shipyards in Glasgow. So far, so predictable, just another of the assaults on industrial communities that define the UK’s economic policies. So much for the Union being the sole guarantee of a future for the Scottish shipbuilding industry. One as secure as Gartcosh or Ravenscraig, padlocked and patrolled by G4S security guards until it’s sold off to a property developer.
And all this just weeks after we discovered that the Union was no guarantor of a future for Grangemouth either. So much for the “certainties” of remaining a part of the UK.
If Scotland was not currently engaged in a debate about independence, or if the referendum had already taken place and returned a No vote, Govan would close and the Proclaimers would have another chorus to add to Letter From America. It’s now the poor workers of Portsmouth who will have to suffer the fate of the certainties of the Union. They don’t have any prospects of an independent government that might encourage and support the yard to diversify so it’s not always held to ransom by the MoD.
According to reports, the only thing that prevented the complete closure of the Govan yard was that the British Government did not want to give any ammunition to the Yes campaign. An admission that it’s only the threat of independence that forces Westminster to act in Scotland’s interests.
Yet they want us to vote No and give up the threat for a generation. Because afterwards they’ll love us in non-specific and non-defined ways that feel more like a threat than a promise. We can have one of those relationships that doctors in clinics treating sexually transmitted diseases used to call “zesty liaisons”. As if those never end in tears and suspicious rashes.
It’s not even as if Scotland gets its fair share of defence contracts as it is. According to Business for Scotland, between 2007-08 and 2011-12 Scotland received £1.9 billion less than its population share of defence contracts. Westminster hasn’t promised to remedy that situation, not even in exchange for a No vote.
So what was the local MP’s contribution to securing the future of the Govan yard? Ian Davidson, the Labour MP who is to socialism as Jeremy Kyle is to social work, called for the MoD to insert a ‘break clause’ into the BAE contract, so that in the event of a Yes vote next year Westminster can pull the plug on the ailing Govan yard and cost his own constituents their jobs if they don’t vote in a way he approves of. This must be that bayoneting the wounded that he spoke about recently.
It’s not enough for Ian that there may be some real downsides to independence, like the very clear threat to his own career prospects. It’s not enough that the significance of these downsides is exaggerated out of all proportion by Better Together. It’s not even enough for him that most of the downsides are as fictitious as Johann Lamont’s leadership of Labour in Scotland. Ian’s on a mission to create some downsides. It’s the most he’s ever done to encourage the manufacturing sector.
In a bare faced attempt to justify his actions, Ian growled in an interview on BBC2′s Newsnicht that there had been “new thinking” in Westminster about commissioning the new navy vessels. The new thinking being, “Here, we can use this to screw over Scotland and scare them into a No vote.” Better Together for threats and blackmail.
Not that Labour get involved with Tories playing politics with people’s livelihoods. Oh no. Grangemouth showed that they’re perfectly able to do it all by themselves.
In Ian’s Newsnicht interview Gordon Brewer didn’t think to inquire whose idea this “new thinking” was, how it differed from the “old thinking”, and why it had been decided it was necessary. It couldn’t possibly have been Ian’s bright idea now could it? Gordon was too busy interrupting the random SNP guy to bother asking.
Gordon was content to accept Ian’s explanation that it was because the UK never ever ever not even once allowed “foreign” countries to build boats for the Royal Navy. Apart from South Korea. And the USA and Canada during WW2, but that doesn’t count because there was a war on.
Ah but, said Ian, who was either anticipating the objection or knew that his argument was as overoptimistic as an MoD budget estimate and as inflated as his ego – readers can have nanoseconds of fun deciding which is more likely – the ships built in South Korea were just crappy tankers. Oil drums with a rudder really. Nothing high-tech or advanced about them. You could even use them as CalMac ferries. Not like the superdooper new generation of Royal Navy Type 26 Combat ships with go faster stripes.
The very idea of letting a soon to be foreign yard build the vessels. Just imagine the risk to national security. A furren yard in Glesga would have to have access to top secret building specs and blueprints and stuff. James Bond would have to sneak into the underground lair below Glasgow City Chambers after seducing Double Agent Lamont in order to save the day, but there’s a limit to what even he is willing to do for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And besides, no would want to watch the movie, on account of it making viewers go blind.
Only the yard is already in possession of all that top secret information, because otherwise it would never have been able to tender for the contract in the first place, so it’s not like the UK would be allowing Scotland access to sensitive information that it doesn’t already possess. And the yard also knows it’s a design that no other country wants to buy, so it’s not like there’s going to be a line of spies queueing up to buy it from an independent Scotland.
Then there’s the uncomfortable fact that the Republic of Ireland is not a foreign country. Ian joins the long list of Westminster politicians and BBC reporters who are unaware of Westminster’s own legislation: section 2 paragraph 1 of the Ireland Act of 1949 states that the Republic of Ireland is not to be considered a “foreign country” for the purposes of any UK legislation or law.
Defence commissioning is ultimately underpinned by law, and while the MoD can reject a shipbuilding tender from the Republic on the grounds that the Republic does not have a shipbuilding industry, they can’t reject it on the basis that it’s a foreign country.
So far we’ve had no cogent explanation from Westminster, Better Together, nor indeed the BBC, as to why the neutral Irish Republic which became independent after a bloody war against the British army is not considered foreign, but a Scotland which becomes independent peacefully, which says it wants to be a member of NATO, which will share the same head of state with the rUK, and which aspires to membership of the Commonwealth, will be considered more foreign than South Korea and as potentially hostile as North Korea. They’re hoping we don’t notice.
Thankfully Gordon the Beeb’s incisive interviewer didn’t pick up on the glaring contradictions, allowing Ian to make out he was just helpfully offering a way for the commissioning to go ahead.
But the hollowness of Ian’s “new thinking” was exposed the very next day, when the announcement was made that Portsmouth was to close and the decision to keep Govan open had been made on commercial grounds. There had either been no “new thinking” after all, or Ian had been making it all up. Dinosaurs of the Labour party are not strongly associated with “new thinking”, so this should not have come as any surprise.
There’s not a lot of new thinking you can do when you have a brain the size of a walnut which is already fully occupied with strategies to extract as much personal gain as possible from any situation. It’s the same cerebral overload that makes them confuse the light of an approaching meteorite marked “independence referendum” with limelight that they can hog. They fondly believe it shows off their most attractive features, their thick scaly hides, their grasping claws, and their eagerness to disembowel the weak and the sick.
A constant in Westminster’s scare stories about independence is that not only would Scotland be a “foreign” country, it would also be a hostile one. But the only hostility we’ve seen so far is the hostility of Westminster MPs towards any notion that Scotland might be better off without them, and their efforts to wreak havoc on Scotland’s working class communities in order to prove their point.
It’s a constant as reliable as Labour playing politics with Scottish workers’ jobs and the future of the Scottish economy, and it’s the only certainty we can be sure of if we vote No next year. We need to vote Yes to introduce the era of the mammals, warm blooded creatures that nurture and care for their young.