CONTRIBUTION FROM MRS WINIFRED M EWING MA, LLB, MEP, SNP PRESIDENT
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
Human beings with
immeasurable IQs are very rare on this planet and of course Anthony was
certainly one of these. There was no secret about this. Even if he had
not been known to be a member of MENSA it would have been obvious with
his incisive comments, his deductive skills and his ability to retain
everything he had ever learned.
Most of the world knew
Anthony J.C. Kerr as a contributor to letter columns in the press but I
knew him as a helpmate.
In my lonely furrow as
the only member of my party in the European Parliament, both before and
after direct elections from 1975, I had a lot to learn in this forum. At
the outset of my time there it was full of distinguished European
politicians, many of them with vast ministerial experience. I was
naturally anxious to make my mark on the Chamber and to gain quick
appreciation of procedures and lobbying methods. In this, Anthony as an
expert on the European Parliament, was an invaluable adviser. He was
always patient and ready to give advice at a moment's notice, even at
In a second way we
co-operated in defining the party's position on the EEC and in defining
my own participation there when I was elected and of course this had
been an ongoing experience of my political life. I did have a knight
clothed in shining words. His letters even found their way into the
columns of many of the Highlands newspapers in my vast Euro
constituency. I don't know, but I don't believe, he ever had that reply
familiar to most of us, the editor's rejection slip.
To replace a man with
such a devotion to Europe and a wide knowledge of world affairs and the
facts and statistics thereof will simply not be possible. Perhaps I
could say that in some way I will miss him hungrily for all these
Part of Anthony's high
intelligence meant that he did not suffer many of the normal human
frailties. He never bore a grudge. If people frowned on his
eccentricities he really was indifferent to this. Having stood as an
Independent without Party permission he ran into difficulties with the
Party but patiently tholled his assize and patiently showed that he
would work for the Party which had temporarily rejected him in precisely
the same way as before. There was not occasion I can remember of
significance politically where Anthony was not seen arriving on his
motorbike (unless of course his work prevented him from attendance).
Although a ken-speckled figure in Scotland he never sought personal
publicity. That would not have been in his nature. Naturally the Party
in its wisdom had the wit to welcome him back into the ranks where he
continued to serve and indeed fought a very fine campaign for local
elections gaining a very significant result.
Memories flood back to
mind. One of my happy memories is when my husband made his one and only
excursion into national politics and stood in the City of Glasgow
Central as a parliamentary candidate. The party felt that not many good
workers could be spared for what was not regarded as a bright electoral
prospect. Anthony however insisted on being one of the small band who
successfully saved Stewart's deposit by a handful of votes, a task that
was thought to be superhuman. In this campaign I remember Anthony
visiting every public house in the city centre and succeeding in having
a poster placed in a prominent position on the gantry of almost every
one of them. Apparently his Harrovian accent did not prevent the
necessary communication to accomplish this Herculean task.
One cannot help wondering
about the contribution such a man could have made to an Independent
Scotland with its rightful place among the nations of the world.
1974 – The Scots
TIME FOR AN S.N.P. BRIDGEHEAD ON THE CONTINENT
One of the S.N.P's. major
weaknesses, throughout its period of rapid growth and during the stage
of reconstruction and consolidation which followed the 1970 General
Election, has been its almost complete inability to make an impact
There have been many
reasons for this - among them being the fact that Scottish newspapers
scarcely penetrate London, and are never seen further afield - but the
essential one is that we have not tried to make Europe and the world
aware that we exist. The battle has had to be won here and foreign
fields have been thought to be irrelevant.
There are however some
very useful dividends to be won at home from a small investment abroad.
In the first place, if people talk and write about us in the foreign
press and in the Parliaments of other countries, this will enhance our
standing here and gain us more votes.
Secondly, our friends
abroad, once we have them, may help us in a variety of ways -financially
and otherwise - and we may learn something from what they do in their
own countries. Thus our highly successful election advertisements,
signed by leading personalities and local people, were originally a
Danish idea, developed by anti- and pro- Marketeers in their referendum
campaigns, and taken up by the Free Democrats and the Christian
Democrats in the West German General Election of November 1972.
A third point, though I
am reluctant to mention it, is that our opponents are not pledged to
non-violent means of preventing Scottish independence as we are pledged
to non-violent means of achieving it. Ultimately we may need to seek
out-side support. It would be as well to start preparing the ground now.
With this in mind I think
it is now high time to set up a European affairs committee, by whatever
name we may choose to call it, with the following remit:
1. to keep a small number
of Continental newspapers under constant observation and send them a
steady flow of letters and Scottish news items;
2. to establish and
maintain contact with Continental senators, MPs. provosts and so on;
3. to induce Continental
students and other young people to come to Scotland for a holiday, and
put them in touch, through Headquarters or otherwise, with Nationalists
who are willing to provide hospitality, show them around the hosts’
home towns or districts, and take them to branch meetings and other
4. to create supporting
branches and groups abroad;
5. to supply HQ or the
Election Committee with any useful ideas emerging abroad; and
6. to organise
hospitality and contacts for our MPs and office bearers on their
A few hard-core
Since this committee
would not be required to develop policy or issue statements in the
Party's name, it would not be essential that all its members should hold
an S.N.P. membership card: a few hard-core supporters who have worked
alongside the Party for years (e.g. Oliver Brown) would be very
acceptable; and its base might well have to be on the mainland rather
than in this country - e.g. my pied-a-terre in Brussels if I were to
serve on it as convener, secretary or anything else.
About eight, nine or ten
regular members would be needed, with occasional help from as many
others as were willing to help. The essential qualifications for
membership of this committee would be that people should be able to read
an article and write a letter in at least one foreign newspaper,
preferably two, with financial support from their branches if necessary
since these papers can be rather expensive (60p a week or more for Die
Welt and not much less for Le Monde).
Who is to observe which
papers is something that would have to be decided once we knew who were
available, which languages they had and which papers they already took.
But I think we should need to have about 12 major newspapers under
constant observation, and 50 more could be supplied with occasional
letters and news items as and when opportunities occurred.
qualification would be that committee members should either live in
Scotland and travel abroad frequently or live abroad but come home at
least once every five or six weeks. Permanent exiles are not as a rule
sufficiently in touch with Scotland or with S.N.P. activities to play a
really effective part.
As a first step we have
to know who is available and willing to help, and I should be grateful
if anyone who is interested in joining such a committee, or working
occasionally with it, would get in touch with me c/o the Scots
Independent. This would be more satisfactory than writing to my home
address in Jedburgh as my work keeps me constantly on the move.
I should also be glad to
hear from anybody who possesses or can obtain a very large Saltire and
knows how to run it up on a mast. Two highly suitable masts are at
present available, in Luxemburg and Brussels respectively, as a result
of Norway's refusal to join the Common Market, and they make the whole
frontage look untidy when the other flags are flying. This is our chance
to remind Europe that Scotland exists.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
- The Scots Independent
SCOTTISH DEFENCE: AND A SCOTT1SH CROWN
I am happy to stand
corrected by Mr Starforth about Scottish National party defence policy
(September Scots Independent) though I feel it would do no harm if the
Defence Committee (and other S.N.P. committees) were allowed to publish
their recommendations "without prejudice" so that ordinary
members could contribute to the discussion before the Party's Assembly
At the same time I should
like to congratulate your Defence Correspondent on another excellent
article. I can bear out what he says, as I was in Switzerland, as a boy
of ten, at the outbreak of the second World War and saw the general
mobilisation procedure carried out. It was a most impressive
performance, with a 5.30 a.m. start.
This article, however,
contains two minor inaccuracies. The Julier pass stands 7,750, not
3,750, feet above sea level, and the 118 days training period is for
private soldiers only. On completing it, a young man may opt to do the
same again and pass out as a corporal: he then comes back with his new
rank for his annual camp, or if mobilised. Having passed out as a
corporal, he may opt for a further four months and qualify as a
I should also like to
comment on Mr Ferrier's letter (September issue). He seems to ignore the
case for a separate monarchy, e.g. with Princess Alexandra as Queen of
Scots. I feel this would safeguard our independence and national dignity
far better than a union of Crowns, and there should be a constitutional
provision to prevent the Crown of Scots from ever being united again
with any other.
Norway adopted this
course when her union of Crowns with Sweden was dissolved in 1905.
Prince Carl of the royal house of Denmark, which had ruled the country
from 1397 to 1814 (so far as I can recall), was invited to become king.
Much to his credit, he insisted on a plebiscite to confirm this
invitation. He then changed his name to Haakon and solemnly renounced,
for himself and for his heirs, any claim to the Danish throne.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
(P.S. The Swiss
"national population" is not 6,629,000 but under 6m., the
balance being of permanent or temporary foreign residents who are not,
of course, liable for military service. This makes the country's effort
even more creditable than your Defence Correspondent suggests. The Swiss
Army at full strength is actually a little over a million, and this
figure was reached at critical periods in the last war - for instance
when the Germans over-ran France and seemed likely to take a short-cut
across the Swiss midlands and the Jura to bypass the Maginot Line. A
"second mobilisation", however, is required to attain this
(P.P.S. Readers of the
S.I. will be pleased to know that Czechoslovakia is at present -
August/September - thickly covered with banners, placards and posters in
praise of the S.N.P. I didn't put them up - they were placed by the
Government to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Slovak
National Partisans uprising - but they look most encouraging.)
4th March 1974
- The Hawick News
As an ex-candidate and as
one of the S.N.P. polling agents last Thursday, I should like to express
my admiration for all the people who worked in and around the polling
stations - a tedious and often lonely job but essential if the will of
the people is to be expressed in an orderly fashion.
The outcome, both in the
UK as a whole and in our own country is an excellent one for Scotland
and should bring self-government very much nearer. The local result
could have been more satisfactory for my party and its candidate - I had
expected him to get around 7, 000 votes, a figure in keeping with our
general level of improvement across the board. No doubt our Constituency
Association will seek to establish why we only achieved a 20% increase
instead of 100% (the national average) or a little over.
In any event I am
convinced we shall do very much better next time, because there is no
longer any danger of letting the Tories in. Any Nationalist candidate
who was effective enough to take 9,000 Liberal votes (Mr Steers present
majority) would also take at least 3,000 of the Tories, retain the
existing S.N.P. vote and collect some votes from Labour voters and
people who abstained this time. He would then come first or second in a
recount and the Tory candidate would be third.
What matters is that
Scotland and the Scottish National Party can no longer be ignored and
the days when they could be ignored will not come back. If the S.N.P.
plays its cards correctly, freedom is only one election away, or two at
most, and the next election is likely to be within a matter of months.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
- The Scotsman
Letter to the
As an S.N.P. member I go
along with my Party's support for the Kilbrandon scheme A. I would
however add two comments of my own. It is important that the proposed
Scottish Parliament should be large enough to cope effectively with
committee work, to provide an adequate Cabinet from its own members, and
to function as a constituent Assembly and as an entirely independent
legislature if required. The 70 members suggested by the Liberals are
not nearly enough for these purposes. I would suggest 142, making it
possible to use the existing constituencies, with two members each, or
to split them up into single member constituencies.
Though I am prepared to
accept PR I don't like it, and prefer the French system as used in
Presidential elections. That is to say, only those candidates who obtain
a clear majority of votes cast are elected in the first round. Otherwise
there is a run off between the two leading candidates. Slight
adjustments are needed where this system is combined with two member
constituencies, since there are three possibilities in the first round;
two members elected outright, one member elected or nobody with a clear
majority; in this last case I would envisage a run off between the first
In passing I hope there
will be a minimum of statutory disqualifications. I see no reason why
peers, ministers, priests and parsons should not be free to take their
seats if elected. Officers and civil servants, as in most European
Countries, should be free to stand taking unpaid leave for this purpose
but should resign their commission or appointment if elected.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
CONTRIBUTION BY MRS BEATRICE WARE, owner of Glenbank Hotel
He was most interesting
and knowledgable on many subjects, especially Politics and Religion. His
views and opinions on these were always worthwhile listening to, and
never did he try to force his beliefs on anyone.
On many occasions he did
translations of foreign correspondence for me, doing so in an agreeable
and helpful manner. He made one feel it was a pleasure doing this favour.
While dining with his son
(Andrew) they would both have very animated discussion on matters of
Politics, Policies, but completely oblivious of anyone listening to
them, not trying to impress or attract attention.
He was a very fine
character, and much respected in all walks of life.
28th March 1975
- The Hawick News
While I am in favour of
Scotland remaining in the Common Market, at least for the moment, I do
not like the counting and declaration arrangements which have been
officially proposed for the referendum. They run contrary to general
election procedure here and to established referendum procedures abroad
and a very convincing case would therefore need to be made out for them
if public opinion is to accept them. No such case has been made out.
arrangements save time and money. They place less strain on police
manpower which is already fully stretched. They reduce the risk of any
substantial number of votes being lost or fraudulently added to the
count. Above all we are used to them.
There would appear to be
two reasons for the cumbersome procedure which the Government envisage.
The first is that they are afraid of national differences appearing
between Scotland, Wales and England. The second is that constituency
results would be embarrassing to M.P.s who vote against a majority of
their constituents. Both amount to the same thing, a wish to conceal
inconvenient facts. But the first of these facts will emerge in any
event from public opinion polls, spot checks at the station gates and
constituency referenda which the S.N.P. may organise, while the second
is already a matter of common knowledge, most M.P.s holding their seats
on a minority vote.
The mammoth count looks,
and is a deliberate fraud. It will arouse tremendous resentment and the
Government must think again.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
4th January 1975
- The Scotsman
Letter to the
It is difficult to answer
such a man as Mr Birt of Gourock, who is apparently afraid of freedom.
But perhaps one can clarify some of the main implications of national
independence - the fearful bogeys which he holds before our eyes.
In the first place,
national independence does mean a visible frontier, Armed Services of
our own and a Scottish Foreign Office with our own diplomats abroad.
Secondly, however, these things are not as terrible as they seem.
A visible frontier does
not mean Iron Curtain procedures lasting an hour or more. It need not
even mean regular passport control and baggage checks for all travellers.
What it means is that there are border posts at which cars may be
stopped and passports checked if circumstances justify it (e.g. if the
Scottish authorities are looking for specific individuals to be arrested
or sent back whence they came, or if terrorists are suspected of trying
to enter the country). In the normal course of events frontier
procedures will take less time than getting through the traffic lights
at either end of Princes Street.
Defence services of our
own need not mean higher expenditure than at present, since we have to
pay our pro rata share of U.K. defence. S.N.P. spokesmen have claimed in
the past that we would actually spend less. The need to protect our oil
installations and the growth in world terrorism have changed this, and
my personal impression is that we shall spend much the same as now, but
get far better value for it, partly through more efficient
administration, partly because fewer of our men will be serving far from
home, and partly because defence contracts will be placed in this
country whenever possible, and in other countries only in exchange for
their contracts placed here.
I have little confidence
in the British defence set-up and feel that our part of the
job-protection of Scotland itself, of our oil-fields, the route from the
North Atlantic into the North Sea and the Baltic, and perhaps a small
sector of the Iron Curtain from Lauenburg to Lubeck - is something we
could handle better for ourselves as a member-State of NATO in our own
right. It would probably involve restoring National Service, though not
in the same form as before it was abolished - more as in Switzerland,
with a relatively brief period of initial training (four months to
qualify as a soldier, then an optional four months to qualify as an NCO
and another optional four months to qualify as a subaltern), followed by
refresher camps lasting a fortnight each every year or two. Unlike the
Swiss, however, we would also require a professional navy, but this
could be backed up by an RNVR-type force, based on the same principle of
training and recall as the Army, and employed in the defence of our
fishing grounds and oil rigs. I must stress that the S.N.P. is not
committed either way on National Service, though I think very few of its
members are unconditionally opposed, or in favour of a lengthy period
(say two or three years). Most of us either think we should try to get
by without it, but be prepared to restore it if necessary, or consider,
as I do, that it is a valuable experience for young people anyway,
provided it does not last too long.
A Scottish Foreign
Office, with a reasonably number of diplomatic missions, adequately but
not extravagantly staffed, should not cost as much as our pro rata share
of the UK apparatus. I last worked out the sums in 1968-69 when Britain
was spending £200m a year of which Scotland might be assumed to
contribute £20m. Switzerland, Norway and Denmark were each operating on
a budget of £10m. approximately, with fewer personnel than the British
Embassy in Washington or Paris alone. There is of course no question of
a Scottish Embassy in each of the 130-odd countries now represented in
UN. About 40-50 missions, some of them covering several countries, or
one country and a couple of international organisations (e.g. France.
UNESCO and OECD, or Switzerland, ILO and WHO) would be ample. Again we
get little for Scotland out of being represented as part of the UK;
British foreign policy is not outstandingly successful and there are no
foreign embassies in Edinburgh spending the counterpart of what Britain
spends abroad at our expense, and we would be better off running our own
This only leaves the
argument that Britain will not allow us to have independence anyway. I
do not call that an argument but a blatant appeal to cowardice, which
has never got anybody very far in their dealings with the Scots. We
shall deal with that problem if and when it arises, but my impression is
that it will not arise, because the British would find it intolerably
expensive to hold Scotland down by force. They have trouble enough in
Ulster and would need at least five times as many troops to maintain an
effective presence here, let alone control the country. It simply isn't
on in political, economic or military terms. The worst we are likely to
face, in the event of UDI, is the sort of pressure applied to Rhodesia,
but with fewer countries taking part, and not for very long. It will be
moderately inconvenient while it lasts, but we can survive it, and in
the longer term it will benefit our economy by compelling us to
diversify and enabling various industries to re-establish themselves.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
30th April 1976
- The Hawick News
REORGANISAT1ON AND SCHOOL CHAOS
The present state of
chaos in our schools is a direct consequence of the reorganisation of
local government foisted on us in the interests of so called
What has happened is that
in order to take our minds off Scottish self-government the Tories and
Labour combined to create new entities which proved cumbersome and
expensive to run giving new jobs at inflated salaries and with
unspecified responsibilities to a variety of officials. The original
scheme was in fact devised by a Labour Government slightly amended and
translated into legislation by the Tories and finally implemented by
Since it cost money to
appoint new officials a saving had to be made somewhere. This was done
by closing library reading rooms (a home-from-home for many old age
pensioners) and stopping their supply of papers, by closing several
public conveniences and by reducing the working hours and therefore the
wages of school cleaners, most of them middle aged and older women who
needed the money and who provided a very necessary service - certainly
more necessary than whatever is being done by the spare bureaucrats.
There is no doubt that we
were better off under the old system of local administration yet the
Government in their White Paper had the effrontery to suggest that the
position of the new authorities should be entrenched for some years so
that the Scottish Assembly and Executive when set up would not be able
to touch them until any further change seems more trouble than it is
No wonder the S.N.P. has
scored one by-election gain after another and established itself as the
main opposition even where it has been able to take the seat. The
regional authorities were set up as an obstacle on the road to
independence and for no other purpose. They have done nothing to improve
the quality of life. The sooner they are swept away and replaced by the
old authorities or something like them the better
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
3rd May 1975 - The
Letter to the Editor
I was present at the
S.N.P. "anti-Market" rally last Sunday and can confirm that
the points made were substantially as stated by Mr. Maxwell. However, I
do not agree with all of them, and those which are valid are a reason
for leaving the UK rather than for leaving the EEC. This for instance is
true of our lack of direct EEC representation and perhaps still more of
the "oil sell-out" danger. The risk here is of a unilateral
surrender by Britain rather than the adoption of a common energy policy
placing all oil resources under Community control: such a policy would
have to be unanimously agreed and would be vetoed by Ireland, which has
oil, by Denmark, which is likely to have it, and by Holland, which
certainly has gas and may also have oil.
There is no danger at
present of a European super-state: any move in that direction is certain
to be vetoed by France, Italy, Denmark and Ireland, probably also by
Mr Maxwell is evidently
more British in outlook than I am, since he does not regard trade with
England as part of our foreign trade. I do, and it is an excessively
large part. Membership of the Common Market, even indirectly through the
UK, but still more as a member-State in our own right, should help us to
redress the balance. This is why Ireland joined, and this is largely why
she is staying in.
On Mr Maxwell's third
point I am not convinced that non-membership of the Common Market will
make it easier for us to sell to the rest of the world since it does
not, in general, have a special tariff against the EEC. But an economist
would be better placed to comment. My impression is that we would lose
markets in those developing countries (nearly the whole of Africa for a
start) which are now associated with the EEC under the Lome Convention,
and will remain associated with it whatever the UK does, simply because
Europe, with or without Britain, is more use to them than Britain alone.
As regards excessive
market centralisation, again London is a more dangerous place than
Brussels. Indeed the EEC Commission is likely to be of some help to our
Government, when we have one, because it is making a determined effort
to break up existing monopolies and to stop new ones being formed.
What is true is that we
must exercise constant vigilance against those whose motto is "if
it moves, harmonize it". But we can do this quite effectively as a
member-State, once we achieve independence, with Scottish civil servants
and experts criticizing such proposals as they move up through
Commission and Council working parties, and Scottish ministers
ultimately vetoing them in the Council. In fact there has been less of
this since the UK, Ireland and Denmark joined and no more has been heard
of the "Euroloaf" and the "Europint".
This leaves fisheries,
regional aid and a Norwegian-type free trade agreement.
As regards fisheries, the
present Community rules are likely to be reconsidered before 1982: in
any event there is a great deal which a British Government could do, and
which a Scottish Government would do, by way of quite legitimate
conservation measures, which would have the general effect of making
fishing in our coastal waters grossly uneconomic for any but locally
based vessels. The Regional Policy is only just getting off the ground,
and it is too early to assess it yet. As for a free trade agreement, I
would regard it as a fall-back position if we cannot negotiate
satisfactory terms for Scottish membership of the EEC. It has two
serious disadvantages, in that we, like the Swedes and the Swiss, would
be thirled to rules we had no hand in making, and that it would not
apply to agricultural products.
I think the best is to
stay in the Common Market at present, and use the Continentals for
leverage against the English as Wallace and Bruce did (though in a more
peaceful way) and reconsider our position once we are independent.
The approach in the referendum my father
used was to put the Scottish case for a ‘Yes’ and to argue for
utilizing potential support on the Continent. Generally, the
contributions by the S.N.P. in international terms has been very much on
an individualistic basis. My father assumed at the time of "present
support for the S.N.P. in 1975" that independence would only be a
few years away. He did not bargain for the ham-fisted way in which the
Party would play its cards, nor the sudden cold-feet of the Scottish
people. However, his philosophy did have some influence on S.N.P.
thinking. Today, it has adopted a pragmatic approach to Europe and the
ANDREW J.T. KERR
20th June 1975
Extract from an article in The HawicK Hews commenting on the EEC vote
– but more specifically in this case on the S.N.P.’s role in Europe.
For our immediate purposes the most
useful of these institutions is the EEC Assembly of "European
Parliament", in which we can reasonably claim two seats for the
S.N.P. and six altogether for Scotland. What we should do there is not
only to assert our rights as Scots but to reinforce all those who are
opposed to needless standardisation and centralisation, those who defend
the interests of the small man, of the small farm and of outlying and
underpopulated areas generally, and those who believe Europe should
consist of countries and of nations, making no attempt to become a Super
State like America since it would then lose what makes it different and
30th July 1976 – The
It is seldom that I have occasion to
comment on one of my own articles – but the one you so kindly printed
today seems a little out of date.
Mr Short has (fortunately) been replaced
by Mr Foot and the preposterous idea of rearranging all the seats in the
old R.H.S. building has been abandoned. The electoral system which I
recommended (two members of each of the present constituencies, two
votes per voter and the two leading candidates elected in each case) has
in fact been adopted and several improvements have been made on the
original White Paper scheme.
It remains to be seen, however, whether
the Devolution Bill will be enacted at all. Under severe pressure for
other reasons, the Government may try to dodge the issue by holding a
General Election before it is due to be introduced. If they win by a
majority which makes them independent of S.N.P. support, they will find
they have other and more urgent priorities. If the Tories have a working
majority they will discard the scheme, which they never supported in any
event, give the matter further consideration, and ultimately produce
something much weaker and take as long as they can to enact it.
What happens to Devolution in the end
will not depend on whether Labour or the Tories win, taking the United
Kingdom as a whole, but on how the Scottish National Party does in
Scotland. Those who regard the Government’s present scheme as
adequate, or even as a worthwhile step in the right direction, would do
well to bear this in mind. The scheme is basically there to attract
their votes. Once it has served its purpose it will be quietly
forgotten. There is only one Party worth supporting if we are genuinely
concerned about Scotland’s future and that is the Party which has
consistently put Scotland first.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
This article was written in July 1975 and
published a year later.
August 1975 – The Scots Independent
POLICIES: MANDATORY OR FOR GUIDANCE
One problem which will
have to be resolved, before we can get much further as a Party, is that
of the correct balance between unity in essentials and diversity of
opinions on issues which are only of secondary importance.
From conference to
conference and election to election, the aggregate volume of S.N.P.
policy has grown to the point where nobody can reasonably be expected to
know it all, let alone agree with it all. In theory, however, all of it
is binding on all our members. Is it really wise to insist on unanimity
or should we now adopt a more flexible approach?
I am not one of those who
believe that independence alone matters and that the rest of the policy
is irrelevant. On the contrary, during my brief period of service on the
National Executive, I drafted the Education Policy and helped to draft
the Agricultural Policy, holding then as now that the public was
entitled to some idea of what we would do or hope to do for an
independent Scotland, and would be more likely to vote for us if we
could show that we had at least a tentative vision of how our country
would be organised.
In my view we have three
basic commitments - to national independence, to a non-violent way of
achieving it (unless the other side use force against us first) and to a
democratic set-up thereafter. There is no room in the S.N.P. for anyone
who rejects any of the above.
Beyond this it is
reasonable to expect general support for the policy, but not a full
acceptance of every detailed item. I went through the October Manifesto
and found that I agreed with 92 per cent of it, which seems about right
and not unusual. The exceptions in my case were the Common Market, which
I support in its present form (though I am against the concept of a
European federal super-State), and comprehensive schools, about which I
am less than enthusiastic in the cities, though I regard them as the
logical arrangement for smaller communities and in fact send my eldest
son to one of them. Others may dissent on other points.
By demanding total
allegiance to an excessively detailed policy we expose ourselves to the
(i) we discourage many
useful people from joining the S.N.P.;
(ii) we discourage
others, who join us with reservations on specific points, from playing
an adequate part in our activities;
(iii) we compel our
candidates to speak against their innermost beliefs, and to be unduly
cautious in answering questions on many important issues. As a result
they are less convincing than they should be, and our vote suffers. A
clear answer, even if it has to be corrected later, is better than no
answer or an obviously evasive answer.
There were only 161,000
votes between us and Labour last October, and these handicaps probably
account for rather more than this quite modest shortfall. With a more
forceful image, and more candidates who looked like potential MPs, we
should have closed the gap without any real difficulty; and our
candidates were undoubtedly at a disadvantage because they had to keep
on looking over their shoulders to ensure they did not step out of line.
Their opponents did not
have this problem, and if Labour suffered from excessive disunity it was
not because its leaders held different opinions but because they
attacked one another. Nobody was seriously worried by the fact that Jim
Sillars, for instance, stands much further to the left than John
Mackintosh. Neither would have much of a chance in the other's
constituency, but as it happens they both fit in.
The time has come to take
a critical look at the vast mass of S.N.P. policy and decide exactly how
much of it should be regarded as mandatory and how much of it is there
The guidance policy could
be as long as the October 1974 Manifesto: including specialised
documents it could indeed be longer. The mandatory policy should include
a dozen points at the outside: the Almighty got by with ten on Mount
Sinai, so twelve may even be a little over-ambitious.
The difference between
the two should be made clear not only to the party but to the general
Once we have corrected
our priorities in this way, we should find it much easier to put our
case across. This is vital, because we shall be judged as a potential
Government next time, and no longer as a body which is useful to have
around in order to make the others sit up and take notice.
Under those conditions
the public is going to be more demanding altogether. It will not expect
our candidates to say the same thing across the board. It will expect
them to look like people who are able to cope.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR
September 1975 – The
THE SCOTS TOO MIGHT WISH TO SPEAK
A curious feature of the
debate on devolution so far, as conducted through the public media, is
that hardly anyone has suggested that the Scottish people themselves
might have something valid to say on the subject, through an elected
representative body similar to the Constitutional Convention in Ulster.
To the best of my
knowledge the only proposals along those lines have been made by
Professor Richard Rose (an American) and myself (partly Continental. and
a Cambridge graduate). It would appear that most of those who were born
and bred in this country accept it as a fact of life that major
decisions are made for us elsewhere.
If we have any pride in
our nationhood, the logical first step is to elect a Convention with a
(i) to work out
constitutional proposals, which need not be identical with those
contained in the White Paper or in the Kilbrandon Report;
(ii) to give advice on
Scottish legislation and other matters affecting Scotland;
(iii) to function as the
Scottish Legislature during a brief running-in period when devolution
This last would make it
impossible for Westminster authorities to find some excuse once, the
Convention had submitted its proposals. They would be stuck with a body
elected for three years, with two years or more of its mandate still to
run, enjoying a great deal of popular support, and capable of turning
itself into a Parliament if any attempt were made to dissolve it.
To save bother and reduce
the scope for argument at Westminster to a minimum, this body would be
elected on the basis of the existing constituencies, but with two
members each and therefore two votes for every elector, and the system
used would be the same as at present, but the two candidates with most
votes would be elected in each case and, in the present state of
national and local opinion, they would not necessarily belong to the
The practical effect, in
terms of seats for parties, would be much the same as if all the
existing constituencies were split down the middle, but the actual
individuals elected might not be the same, because there would be a
tendency for many voters to give one of their votes to the party they
habitually supported and the other to the best candidate regardless of
This it is possible, if
the existing constituencies were simply halved, that some of our MPs
would contest the wrong half and fail to get in, and the same might
happen to several of our leading "non-MPs". With the system I
envisage, they would all get in, assuming they chose to stand as I think
Issue of principle
No harm can be done by
pressing for such a Convention. If we don't get it, this shows the
Government and Tories are afraid of us. If we do get it, we would win a
lot of seats, probably 60 out of 142, which would make us the largest
In any event there is a
major issue of principle involved. Westminster is foreign soil - as
foreign as Amsterdam or Paris and more foreign than Oslo. It is the home
of a Government and a Parliament of whose membership no more than
one-eighth are Scots.
It is not the place where
Scotland's future ought to be worked out.
ANTHONY J.C. KERR