The arses who run what was the union

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has upset a lot of people within Labour in Scotland by remarking that the Westminster Parliament should respect the democratic choices of the people of Scotland. In an interview during the Edinburgh Festival, he said that Westminster shouldn’t block a second independence referendum if it had been approved by the Scottish Parliament.

Richard Leonard, who had previously called on Westminster to block any independence referendum, took the huff. There he was, desperately trying to raise his profile higher than a limbo dancer, and his bosses from London only go and show up how irrelevant he is. He’s beelin and he went on BBC Scotland news to do a spot of harrumphage. Although to be fair, you’d think that Richard was used to being irrelevant by now. That’s what happens when you have less public recognition than the manager of a mid sized Morrison’s.

Kevin Schofield, the editor of Politics Home, reported on Twitter that a source within Labour in Scotland hadn’t taken long to inform him of the branch office’s reaction to John McDonnell’s remarks. It wasn’t flattering. The source said, “He’s a fucking imbecile and has just given our opponents all the ammunition they need. We will now be perceived as pro Brexit and anti union. Well done the arses that run what was the Labour Party.” Actually, I’d have thought that a Labour source calling their own Shadow Chancellor a “fucking imbecile” was giving their opponents all the ammunition they need, but maybe that’s just me. Watching Labour in Scotland ranting is like watching Mr Bean having a steroid rage.

It’s not quite true to say that Labour is regarded as pro-Brexit. It’s not regarded as anti-Brexit either. It’s really regarded as having its collective head up its collective brexhind. That’s the real source of so many of the party’s difficulties. The problem with trying to be all things to all people is that you end up being nothing to anyone.

What’s truly remarkable here is that the simple statement that it ought to be up to the people of Scotland to decide on Scotland’s future is so explosive within the Labour party in Scotland. Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray claimed that the Shadow Chancellor was “betraying our party’s values”. And there we were thinking that democracy and the right to determine one’s own future was a core socialist value. It is quite astonishing that McDonnell’s comments should be in any way controversial in a party that claims to uphold a socialist or social democratic tradition when his comments merely reflect a basic principle of that tradition. But obviously not for viewers in Scotland. In Scotland, the Labour party’s understanding of solidarity is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories.

A politician saying that politicians in a democracy should respect the mandate given to them by the electorate should never be controversial. A politician recognising that people in a democracy have the right to change their minds when circumstances change should never be controversial. The fact that prominent figures within the Labour party in Scotland regard a statement that Scotland’s future should be for the people of Scotland to decide to be politically beyond the pale tells you all you need to know about their concept of democracy and their understanding of Scotland’s place within this so-called partnership of nations.

The incident even provoked Ruth Davidson to come out from where she’d been hiding ever since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, relieved to find a distraction from her own difficulties. Amazingly she had managed to find internet access in her bunker somewhere deep underground beneath a shed in a forest in Aberdeenshire. The erstwhile darling of the Tories tweeted, “I feel for those Labour voters that stood side by side with major figures of their party and against the forces of nationalism in 2014. Know that the Scottish Tories will always stand up for our United Kingdom.”

Which is interesting, because the most dangerous forces of nationalism in British politics are those within the Tory party who are pressing for a no deal Brexit. But apparently forces of nationalism don’t count when they wrap themselves in a union flag and pose for a photo op on top of a tank. It’s also interesting because just three years ago Ruth herself said pretty much what John McDonnell said this week, that the British PM and Westminster shouldn’t block an independence referendum if the Scottish Parliament had voted for one. Wouldn’t it be nice if Ruth’s statements lasted for a generation? Hell, it would be great if they lasted until the end of the week.

The overwhelming attitude from the political opponents of independence in this issue as in so many others is that it is within the gift of the Westminster Parliament to “grant” the people of Scotland the right to decide their own future. John McDonnell made a slip of the tongue during his interview in Edinburgh, when he said that the “English Parliament” shouldn’t block a Scottish referendum, but his slip of the tongue was unintentionally revealing.

Westminster may be theoretically and legally the parliament of the whole UK, but it comprises 650 MPs, of whom 59 represent Scotland, 40 Wales, and 18 Northern Ireland (including those represented by Sinn Fein which doesn’t take up its seats). The remaining 533 represent English seats, 82% of the total, more than four times the total for all the other nations combined. Now you might say that’s simply because England has over 85% of the population of the UK, and is actually underrepresented in the Commons, and you’d be correct. However the practical implication of these demographic realities is that a requirement for Commons approval for a Scottish referendum means that English MPs wield an effective veto. It means that within the UK Scottish democracy will always be subordinate to the political needs of politicians who do not represent Scotland.

The patronising attitude of the English political establishment came across loud and clear in an article in the Guardian by the Blairite apologist Jonathan Freeland, who argued that John McDonnell had offered the SNP more than he had to on independence. He didn’t need to offer another indyref as the SNP would never vote down a Labour minority government in any case because allowing the Tories to gain power would be unacceptable to Scottish voters. The proper place for Scottish democracy is to be subordinate to English political calculations.

In the UK nowadays, being “pro-Union” means preventing the people of Scotland from debating whether to leave that union. Now if you don’t want Scotland to leave the UK, that’s perfectly fine. That’s your opinion and you have every right to it. You have every right to argue your case, to make your points, to persuade people to your point of view. What you don’t have is the right to prevent the question ever being put to the people of Scotland, and you most certainly don’t have that right when the people of Scotland have explicitly voted for a majority of parties in the Scottish Parliament which have pledged to hold a referendum should the circumstances which held in 2014 materially change. Those within the Labour party in Scotland who espouse this deeply undemocratic view ought to consider very carefully how it’s going to be received by those 40% of Labour voters in Scotland who support independence. Because they will take note.

All that is happening here is that the credibility of opponents of independence is being undermined by their own words and deeds. Ruth Davidson’s flip flopping, and Labour’s refusal to concede that the people of Scotland have the sovereign right to decide their own future, undermine the very basis of the UK. It should not be for Westminster to “grant” the people of Scotland democracy. It is the sovereign right of Scotland. Yet within the UK we are expected to accept that Scottish self-determination should be determined by Westminster. Self-determination which is determined by others is a contradiction in terms. If Scotland cannot have self-determination within the UK, then the union is already dead. We live in a unitary state and are subordinate to the political expression of English nationalism. That’s why there is now a majority in Scotland for independence. Well done the arses that run what was the union.

newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email

You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into and send a payment to the email address Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

30 comments on “The arses who run what was the union

  1. JockG says:

    Remarkable how quickly the wheels fell of the pro union bus this week. It’s as if they were waiting on you coming back from holiday

  2. I’m pretty sure it was the World Champion limbo dancer!

  3. […] Wee Ginger Dug The arses who run what was the union Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has upset a lot of people within Labour in […]

  4. Irene Danks says:

    I’m just surprised, nay shocked and stunned that Wee Wullie and maybe his brand new leader haven’t breenged to give their opinions on why a new referendum on EU membership is essential, but a Scottish one isnae. Oh wait. Keeping their options on “who to go into coalition with” open. Aye. That’ll be it.

  5. Bob Lamont says:

    Superb piece, very well put indeed.
    McDonnell’s refreshingly candid observations did him considerable credit for it’s honesty, and I suspect will have chimed with many ex-Labour voters.
    The reaction from Leotard’s huff to Murray’s ranting only serve to underline why Labour continues to lose credibility in Scotland.
    As to Ruthless seeking political capital from it… back to your bunker…

  6. Brian Powell says:

    The Unionists don’t want to have to put their case, they would need to defend putting Scotland into Tory hands most of the time, and accepting Brexit.

  7. Millsy says:

    You need to understand the great pressure on the likes of poor Ian Murray when he rants about the impending Indyref 2 – without his Westminster Union job he would be unemployable !

    How Leonard Richard ( or is it Richard Leonard ? Who cares ? ) is employed as Scottish Labour ( sic ) leader is one of the world’s great mysteries , up there with the Marie Celeste and Willie Rennie , the child snatcher from Chittychittybangbang !

  8. Terry Callachan says:

    To think I voted Labour from age 18 to 45 what a fool I was .
    It took me so long to recognise the lies and broken promises.
    I have a good memory it is that good memory that helped me realise that all the Labour Party ever do is make promises to the ordinary working people that they don’t keep.

    Robert Burns and Thomas Muir spoke up against the “parcel o rogues” referring of course to those Scots that betrayed their own country taking English gold as payment for the union 1707.
    About 230 years ago Muir was sent to Australia for 14 yrs hard labour on a charge of sedition they tried to charge Robert Burns with that too but he was clever and wrote poems about England and Britain and got off with it but he did lose his job as a government official.
    Thomas Muir escaped from Botany Bay he died in France Chantilly these two Scots and others were Scottish martyrs fighting for Scottish independence and way back then they spoke of the Scottish unionists that were killing their own country and it’s people from within acting for and on behalf of the English .

    It’s still happening, the betrayal, who will write the full story once Scotland becomes independent.

    Paul Kavanagh I believe is one of our modern day Scottish Martyrs

    • Bob Lamont says:

      With all due respect, I would prefer WGD scribbles this side of the grave, as would I suspect Paul… 😉

      • weegingerdug says:

        Yeah, I’m not at all sure that I’m keen on being a martyr.

        • Terry Callachan says:

          OH , I’m sorry, I was only commenting on the likelihood that you have suffered abuse because of your writing and campaigning in support of Scottish independence.

      • Terry Callachan says:

        Haha , I’m sure of that too but remember “martyr” also means one who has suffered for their cause and not necessarily died for it .

        I would imagine writing as he does he has likely suffered abuse .

  9. stewartb says:

    Excellent piece, thanks. And (grudging) credit to John McDonnell for at least acknowledging the democratic principle involved here unlike his colleagues in Scotland.

    By the way, the MP Ian Murray’s remarks today triggered this thought (among others!). In the planned ‘wee ginger book’ how about an article on nationalism/ internationalism/ solidarity, Paul? I’m no expert but I think there is a rich and ‘nuanced’ literature on these topics.

    Hatred of ‘nationalism’ and their (superior) adherence to internationalism and solidarity is trotted out time and again by some Labour activists when arguing against Scotland’s self-determination – and like Murray, they do so only in the most simplistic, ‘sound bite’ terms.

  10. crabbitgits says:

    Despite the fact that it is always entertaining to watch the rats tear at each others throats it’s best to bear in mind that it’s always best to “beware the man who comes bearing gifts”. I stopped listening to Labour post Blair and Brown and suspect an ulterior motive for John McDonnell’s words.

    • Mart says:

      Well, yes, there is an ulterior motive, and it’s clear as day. It goes like this:

      1. The Brexit mess is strengthening support for Independence, especially given the 2014 Project Fear “Only the UK will keep Scotland in the EU” propaganda.

      2. If the SNP supports Labour to stop Brexit, then that support under Independence is gone, so just let them have their Indyref2, they’ll lose again.

      I don’t know if it is that easy as Labour thinks, especially since the only Brexit they seem to be against is no-deal, and Scottish voters are smarter than Labour thinks, but it is fairly obvious to me that this is McDonnell’s calculation.

  11. bedelsten says:

    It is being an ‘interesting’ week.

    John McDonnell (Labour) has now re-asserted his view, to ITV news (is it policy though?) that, ‘if Scottish people want indyref2, Labour will not block it’ while, elsewhere, Ian Murray (Labour) branded the comments “ludicrous”, saying it was a “thoroughly dreadful way to try and change policy” and a bunch of Scottish Labour party candidates stated, ‘As Labour Party candidates in Scotland we want to make it clear: we oppose another independence referendum…’

    Which is a completely stupid – if Labour wants to survive in Scotland, they need to change their attitude. However, if the Labour party had not spent so much time acquiring skelfs over Brexit, its views might have had some credence. But they don’t. Will the last one out please turn off the lights.

    An interesting week.

    Few commentators, Paul being one, have noted the more important return of the poll, especially if you include the notional percentage points from the exclude 16-17 olds and EU residents, that, when indyref2 takes place, two thirds of the electorate Scotland to become an independent nation. This is known as the ‘Wisdom of the crowd’ where the collective opinion of a group of individuals can be more reliable than the opinion of one expert. Additionally, the media attention the poll results has generated is normalising the concept of independence for Scotland and that genie is not going to go back in the bottle any time soon.

    “I don’t fear the verdict of the Scottish people – bring it on,” Ms Alexander (Labour) said in 2008.

  12. panda paws says:

    Testify brother, that was excellent! We need voices like yours to get widespread coverage – which is probably why it won’t happen.

  13. Douglas says:

    Re: Irene Danks, August 7, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Give Wee Wullie and Jo some credit!!! They need a day to find the right words and then another day to put them in the right order!!! Maybe by the end of the week we will have their current view on the EU/UKOK/Brexity/Scottish precious union thingy, whatever that may be!!!

  14. Molly's Mum says:

    From what I read in the National, McDonnnell said that the Scottish Government had every right to put their request to the ENGLISH parliament. Aye, remember – Johnson said England didn’t need it’s own Parliament because it already had Westminster. So, it looks increasingly like we might be Independent already peeps

    • Robert Graham says:

      Maybe people here will start paying attention to what’s actually happening and realise Borris and Co have no intention of doing any kind of deal with the EU .

  15. Frazerio says:

    I’m trying to find a quote I once read and its author/source. It was someone like Michael Marra or Hamish Henderson and was along the lines of ‘to be an internationalist, you must first be a nationalist’. Hopefully someone can help.
    It is clear, obvious and holes below the waterline the statements of ‘internationalists’ like Ian Murray who claim to be against ‘nationalists’. You just cannot have one without the other. Although logic never seems to bother these people.

  16. benmadigan says:

    excellent article paul!

    i’m going to go off topic with this post about the latest on workplace sectarianism in Northern ireland.

    I hope your readers find it useful if they every encounter the beast in their daily work – and I hope they never do!

  17. Robert Graham says:

    Well it’s truly amazing the fallout and reverberations from Lord what’s name Poll .

    I do believe we’re witnessing Total Panic on a grand scale , that’s three days in a row the pesky Jocks have been discussed by the media in the south , it just makes the BBC Scottish branch look even more foolish for trying to bury the Poll results.

    Maybe this will waken up the folks here who don’t bother with this type of thing.

    As for the shop steward if he had more sense he would zip it or people might start remembering his involvement in the case of the woman workers in Glasgow – V the Labour Party and the Unions , I believe there is a on going legal action,

    Time to sit back and enjoy the show folks , I guess all the old tripe will resurface you know the ones – The EURO – Won’t be allowed to join the EU – Spain will block it – won’t be able to use your phone – RBS will leave – Standard Life will leave – and to top it off Lord Robertson will predict Armageddon 2 ,

    Aye Heard it all before it won’t work this time Chaps yer out of Ammo , oh dear how sad .

  18. Remember the SNP have already voted out a labour Westminster Government, one would think they would have learned a lesson from that.

  19. Macart says:

    Great post Paul.

    Jinkies, but they’re queuing up to stab each other in the wossiname since Ashcroft’s poll broke surface. I’d shake my head and tut, but … 😎

    Even in their frenzy to out Yoon each other for votes, they STILL can’t help but insult people. I mean, they are aware that there is such a thing as long term memory? That people WILL/DO remember past public statements and actions.

    Their choice right enough. But just so they know? Some folk do pay attention and they’re perfectly aware of the hypocrisy, the misrepresentation, the naked politicking and the outright fibbery.

    Also? They might want to rethink that whole ‘permission’ narrative in Westminster (see under ‘paying attention’).

  20. Fool Mune says:

    Write on, Paul!

    To Frazerio (7 Aug 2019 @ 6.59pm) – I believe the quote is by James Connolly. I remember watching a programme about Hamish Henderson which featured the fabulous Dolly MacLennan, who also considered herself a socialist and internationalist. She spoke of how it had been quoted to her by some people from Ireland, which galvanised her support for Scottish Independence.

  21. Margaret BARRIE says:

    Superb analysis, as usual, Paul.
    Absolutely superb!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s