St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh behind Morrison Street crane.
Sunday, 14 February 2021
In the meantime I was still reading the Scotsman and also the rather better Glasgow Herald (as it should still be called). I would visit Scotland at least once a year. The pressure for devolution (or more) was growing. I was sympathetic. Recall how annoyed I'd been when my father had told me that we were moving to London because companies liked to be near government. By now I knew that the libertarian answer was for governments not to have so many powers in the first place. But if that's not possible (for now) why not have more decentralised government so as companies didn't have to move to be heard by the political class?
We moved to Edinburgh in 2002. By now there was a Scottish Parliament. I have no doubt that the prosperity of Edinburgh over the past two decades is to some extent due to the fact that it is a political centre of some significance. In the same way as London draws wealth to itself. But I am an anarcho-capitalist of the Rothbardian/Hoppean variety. Surely the state shouldn't exist at all? That's right. And if Scotland ever did become independent I would celebrate for a few days and then launch the Dumfriesshire National Party! To be followed by independence for Annan.
So, will Scotland become independent eventually? Probably. And it's all because of what I call 'the presumption of the English norm.
Consider: Around 230 countries have a central bank. All of them name the central bank after the country concerned. Of course. What else would they do? But there is one exception. The central bank of the United Kingdom is called the Bank of England! After over 300 years of union. Is it any surprise that the UK contains what is probably the most powerful independence movement in the world? I'm not remotely anti-English. I've been to every county in England (and Wales, and Scotland, and Northern Ireland). But how about renaming the Bank of England, let's say, the "Bank of Wales"? For the next 300 years.
Consider: As a result of the above we had, at least before travel in the UK became illegal, the perennial question of Scottish bank notes being rejected by English businesses. This was the cause of dozens of letters to the Scottish press over decades, all expressing intense annoyance. And all drawing so many supporting comments. A competent unionist government would have fixed that decades ago.
Consider: The BBC weather map that persisted for years and years in showing a distorted view of the UK with a vastly enlarged England (especially the south) but a tiny Scotland. Where were the unionists then? Again, ignoring all those angry "letters to the editor".
Consider: Cities like Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield are always described by English politicians and journalists as being in the North even when they are discussing the UK as a whole. They are all in the South of the UK. Look at a map. But all UK taxpayers will be paying for the "Northern" Powerhouse! And as for rebuilding Hadrian's Wall! At least Newcastle United would give Rangers and Celtic some much needed competition in the Scottish Premier League.
Consider: Professional organisations down south always see things from the presumption of the English norm. Let's say that there was a proposal to have a single UK legal system. Logically, one would examine the Scottish and English systems and pick the best bits from each. I doubt that any lawyer in England would consider such an approach for a moment or even think about it at all. If they did they'd almost certainly just assume that Scots law was rightly to be abolished that we up here we're going to adopt English law. Treaty of Union? What on earth is that?
Consider: It's the same with academic folk. I heard a prominent English historian give a talk in Edinburgh a few weeks before the 2014 referendum. They mentioned the Act of Union. There was no understanding at all that two nations had agreed to unite and that therefore two Acts had been passed - one in each Parliament! A different English historian told me that Oxford had once held a session on important constitutional events in English history. Things like the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. But there was no mention at all of the Union of 1707 which had ended England's status as a separate self-governing country!
Are any of these things in themselves sufficient reason to end a union of more than 300 years? Not really. But they all add up and, in my view, eventually, enough people will say "that's enough".
As I said earlier, a competent unionist government would sort this out in an afternoon and the SNP would then be history.
I quickly realised that there was something fundamentally wrong with the New Left position and with socialism in general. Soon I started to go into the West End every Saturday and would always have a look round Foyles bookshop. I discovered the Institute of Economic Affairs and read many of their publications. It all made sense. I even joined the Young Conservatives. In 1970 Edward Heath won the General Election on - believe it or not - a sort of free market platform. Needless to say he betrayed his followers, not least by taking us into the so-called Common Market. One day I discovered The New Left: the Anti Industrial Revolution by Ayn Rand. I'd never heard of her before. What was really interesting was that it told me that she'd also written another book called Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal. "Ideal". No-one talked like that!
So the next weekend I found a copy. This was in January 1972. I can still remember the weather that day - a nice crisp, frosty Saturday with no wind or cloud. I started reading in my little Earls Court bedsit, went to a non-regular pub in the evening to avoid talkative company, and finished the book that very night. I was knocked out. This was the IEA stuff on steroids. I heard about some chap called Mises, learned that government shouldn't operate the monetary system, and that the only arguable reason for the state at all was to protect our rights - namely not to be aggressed against. A while later I met other people who already knew all of this stuff and they described themselves as libertarians. Suddenly I was reading the aforementioned Mises and the really hard core characters like Murray Rothbard. Through the Libertarian Alliance I went on to meet folk like Friedman, Hayek, Rothbard and Hoppe.
Into my thirties I started working in the accounts department of an advertising agency. The boss there pushed me into studying. Four years later I qualified as a Chartered Secretary and joined another agency where I quickly became Company Secretary and then Finance Director. My wife persuaded me to get the degree that I'd always wanted so as I could be a proper libertarian! After another four years I got a First through the Open University studying history and economics.
... to be continued
I'll start off by giving some personal background which explains how I came to my current political position.
My late father came from Cumberland and we have a family tree going back in Cumberland and Westmorland for several hundred years.
My mother came from not far away but on the other side of the border in Dumfriesshire.
I was born in my mother's home town of Annan and we lived there till I was around two. After leaving the Army my father got a job with the Saxone shoe company in Kilmarnock and we went north to live in nearby Stewarton where I started school. Father was transferred to Leeds when I was six and we stayed there for just over three years. Back to Kilmarnock as renters for a few months and then my parents bought a house in Prestwick where we lived until just after I finished school when I turned eighteen. In Prestwick all I was interested in was aeroplanes. I neglected school somewhat although I was in the A Stream and achieved five Highers.
One day my father, by now a director, told me that we were going to move to London as Saxone was merging with an English company. I was heartbroken. I wanted to stay in Prestwick forever. I asked if the English company was bigger than Saxone. Not really I was told but here's the point my father made: "When two companies merge and one of them is based in London that's where the merged headquarters will probably be." The reason was that even when the government is not a major customer there were now so many rules and regulations on business that it was easier to be as near government as possible. I didn't like the sound of that at all...
After moving south I rejected my father's suggestion that I should sign up as a trainee auditor. It was good advice, but what teenager goes along with his parents' recommendations especially when he's just moved to London in the swinging 'sixties? Also, I vaguely realised that I would have to do some serious studying in order to qualify!
Every year I would make a return trip to Scotland. I only went as far as Prestwick for the first couple of years but gradually to the rest of the country. I can well remember plodding round what's now called the North Coast 500 when I was learning to drive in my flatmate's car.
In 1966 a General Election was called and shortly afterwards I bought a copy of the Scotsman on the way to work in central London. They were covering all of the Scottish constituencies in great demographic and economic detail and I learned a lot more about the country. I've read the Scotsman ever since.
In 1968 I went through a new left phase for a few months and started reading the Guardian and the New Statesman as well as the Scotsman.
... to be continued