Friday, 5 June 2009

Nationalisation the 'curse of Scotland'

Published: 05 June, 2009
John O'Groat Journal

ARGUMENTS for and against nationalisation and privatisation are ever present in economic policy.

President Obama has taken a majority share, ie nationalisation, in General Motors as did the UK Government in Lloyds TSB, RBS and Northern Rock. Meanwhile Lord Mandelson is intent in part privatisation of Royal Mail, in the teeth of backbench Labour unrest and the SNP. Nothing is new under the sun as far as governments being forced to act in a depression. Looking back to the 1920s when many Scottish engineering firms, shipping lines and railway companies were merged, the disaster for Scotland was their control moving to London.

This was underlined by the first president of the SNP, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, whose long political involvement led him to co-found with Keir Hardie the Scottish Labour Party in 1888 and 40 years later the National Party of Scotland that became the SNP in 1934, of which Cunninghame Graham was first president.

During the recession of 1930 he had warned that nationalisation from London would be the "curse of Scotland". Despite his socialist outlook he saw what lack of local control would do. This was proven by nationalisation 10 years after he died in 1936. Railways, road transport and air services along with coal and steel were taken over by the state. I have lodged a motion in parliament to seek parliamentary and government support to arrange celebrations of the 160th anniversary of his birth in 2012, on May 24. More of which anon. (see motion at end of this post)


ON May 29, 1934, Captain Ted Fresson flew the first regular airmail flight from Inverness to Kirkwall via Wick. Last Friday,

on the 75th anniversary and on a glorious summer morning, I witnessed a de Havilland Dragon take off at Dalcross with an anniversary bag of airmail to remember that pioneer.

Our inter-island lifeline flights were founded by this adventurer of the air. The mails and the newspapers arrived within 24 hours as never before and all the skills of these pilots who flew in all weathers achieved a 95 per cent success rate in their timetable.

Along came British European Airways with the Labour Government's nationalisation in 1947.

It took over Northern, Highland and Scottish Airways in which Capt Fresson had played a huge part. They dumped Fresson immediately and their record never equalled his own thereafter.

Local knowledge and friendly farmers and hoteliers had provided Fresson with weather data.

But it took decades to build a reliable service to our islands. Thanks to the Second World War airfields, many new services were consolidated. Islanders know how vital these air routes were and are today.

When I took a rare flight from Edinburgh to Wick last month I had a great view of the two huge offshore windmills beside the Beatrice Oil platforms. We take it as read that the experts and engineers of the companies set to develop the Pentland Firth tidal and wave power can access the area by air.

Photo: Viewing the de Havilland Dragon which flew from Inverness to Kirkwall last Friday to mark the 75th anniversary of the UK airmail service.

Yet Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd has yet to provide Wick with a modern landing system as good as that installed at Kirkwall.

I believe it is high time the authorities woke up to our transport needs. So I repeat my demand that modern, low-cost GPS landing systems, which are far cheaper than ILS, should be pioneered at Wick Airport.

Surely HIAL will catch up with the economic opportunities of Caithness and back the demand with the Civil Aviation Authority? Alas that's controlled in London, but who knows, we could demand such powers here in Scotland and reverse that nationalisation from London that continues to be a curse for Scotland.


A PRESSING example of proposed denationalisation is the plight of Royal Mail in New Labour hands. Salami cuts have whittled profitability, pension holidays have been allowed by both Tory and Labour Governments in the past.

But Labour plans by Lord Mandelson could spell the death throes of this national utility. Job losses, service cuts and deterioration in working conditions for postal workers would hit us badly.

People all over Scotland are facing redundancy and fearing for their jobs, the last thing the Royal Mail needs is a private partner concerned only for profits. Now this week lower-than-expected tenders have been lodged so New Labour must stop and agree a package to retain a publicly-owned Royal Mail.


A CONSISTENT theme this week is discernable. The needs of Scotland's far flung communities play no part in London decisions. They did not in 1947 over air services, nor did they in the merger of HBOS and Lloyds TSB shoehorned by Brown and Darling. Ludicrous as it seems, Lloyds are now talking of a sell-off of Bank of Scotland to balance their books.

The SNP in Holyrood is proud to take an all-Scottish approach, co-operating within these islands where appropriate and in the European Union to gain wider benefits for Scottish life. The European poll and the local elections down south will hasten big changes at Westminster but repatriation to Scotland of full powers would end for ever the privatisation and nationalisation scandals we suffer under Westminster rule.

S3M-04228 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Remember Cunninghame Graham — That the Parliament recalls the birth of Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham on 24 May 1852; celebrates his adventurous life, which led him to champion the miners, the gauchos, the native Americans, the crofters and many others whom he considered were exploited by the wealthy and privileged; remembers that he took pivotal roles in founding the Scottish Labour Party, with Keir Hardie, in 1888 and the National Party of Scotland in 1928; considers that, after his tenure as an MP from 1886 to 1892, his trenchant and humane writings inspired many others and, in particular, inspired Joseph Conrad to write The Heart of Darkness and Nostromo; commends his writing to all those who value humanity and social justice today, and calls on the Parliament and Scottish Government to prepare appropriate celebrations in 2012 for the 160th anniversary of his birth.

Supported by: Christina McKelvie, Joe FitzPatrick, Stewart Maxwell, Dr Alasdair Allan, Aileen Campbell, Bill Kidd, Kenneth Gibson, John Wilson, Dr Bill Wilson, Jamie Hepburn, Christine Grahame, Brian Adam, Bob Doris, Sandra White, Maureen Watt, Robin Harper, Andrew Welsh, Gil Paterson, Dave Thompson, Rt Hon Jack McConnell, Stuart McMillan

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