Bannockburn and a convert…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will put you all on notice. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314). What does this mean? Does it mean that your Maximum Leader will don his kilt and war paint and go rampaging around the Villainschloss looking for Englishmen to slay?

No. It does not mean that at all. In fact, your Maximum Leader is of Anglo-Scottish extraction - so that makes the whole Scotland v. England thing a little hard to get worked up about. His sympathies are divided.

Anyho.. From time to time loyal readers are kind enough to forward to your Maximum Leader little tidbits that they think might entertain, edify, or amuse him. Recently a loyal reader send him the text of an article he must have missed in the Sunday Times of May 28, 2006. The article, reprinted in its entirety below the fold, was about the apparent conversion of Niall Ferguson to the cause of Scottish Nationalism.

So it seems appropriate to discuss Dr. Ferguson’s conversion to the cause of Scottish Nationalism (hithertofore he was a stout Unionist) around the time of the anniversary of the battle which is widely regarded as the one that established Scottish independence from England.

According to the Time article, Ferguson says that Scotland’s “dismal” progress since devolution is what has driven him to support independence from England. Ferguson is quoted as saying

:”Devolution gives Scots the illusion of self-government but not the reality of it. The parliament is essentially a glorified council and cannot flourish while it acts as a mere channel for aid from England,” he said.

“I now find myself feeling that independence would be preferable to this halfway house we have at the moment.

“Ireland and some of the east European countries like Estonia are showing that small countries which embrace economic liberalism can thrive.”

Ouch. That sort of smarted, especially if you are a Member of the Scottish Parliament. Ferguson goes on to state that:

“There is a kind of dead hand gripping hold of Scotland at the moment and this lack of enthusiasm for market economics is causing the country to underperform economically.

“The future looks grim if, as present, Scotland maintains a demoralising gradual decline as little more than an extra bit of the north of England.”

These sentiments from Dr. Ferguson seem to be a bit more upbeat ad optimistic than his essay of January 1, 2006 when he suggested that Scotland be liquidated. A few months before Ferguson wrote:

The point is that (in the words of a mawkish song all Scotsmen know) “Those days are gone now / And in the past they must remain.”

It’s over. Over the way countries are sometimes just over. Over the way Prussia is over. Over the way Piedmont is over. Over the way the Papal States are over. Or, if you prefer, over the way General Motors will soon be over.

My modest proposal for 2006 is quite simple. The country hitherto known as Scotland should go into liquidation. The assets, such as they are, should be broken up, sold off and the proceeds (which won’t fetch much) distributed to the creditors and, if anything remains, to the shareholders.

The Scottish Parliament should be wound up and its ridiculous building turned into a multiplex cinema or a shopping mall. The Scottish Football Association should be taken over by its English counterpart and Rangers and Celtic should go where they belong, which is pretty near the bottom of the Premier League.

Well… In January Ferguson was suggesting that Scotland be liquidated, and in May he is hoping for independence. Sounds to your Maximum Leader like his January comments were those of a melancholy Scot expat who had tipped one too many before sitting down to the old word processor.

But his words of May sound a bit too optimistic. If Scots would throw off the dead weight of economic statism… If Scotland could be more like Ireland or Estonia… If, if, if…

Your Maximum Leader is not convinced that Scots actually dislike the dead weight of economic statism. Can they not look back fondly on the “Silicon Glen” days of the 1990s and say “We weren’t much different then. Why change now?” That, of course, ignores the fact that the “Silicon Glen” moved to Ireland when it left Scotland. Scotland lags behind England (and in some cases Wales) in so many areas. Education. Economic growth. Perhaps Dr. Ferguson was closer to the mark when he said that Scotland, like Prussia, is “over.”

Perhaps the reformist fires that lead to the golden age of the Scottish Enlightenment are truly gone forever Perhaps the national story of the Scots is currently writing out its final chapters.

Your Maximum Leader, for one, has not had an overall favourable opinion of Scottish (or Welsh) Nationalist movements. They have a typical left-wing quasi-socialist (if not outright) socialist bent to them. The Scottish Nationalist Party claims that they want to grow the Scottish economy and expand the scope of Scottish exports. But they also want to spend piles of money “improving” the National Health Service. They want to make life better for pensioners, which is code for more wealth transfer. The seeds of what your Maximum Leader will call traditional Smith-ian liberal economics are not being nurtured (or even planted) by the SNP.

If there was some fanciful right-of-center nationalist movement in Scotland (like the one Niall Ferguson seems to want to see) your Maximum Leader might be more worked up about it. Such a movement would want to: abandon the National Health Service; dramatically cut existing taxes on individuals and businesses; provide tax breaks for international investment in Scotland; promise to keep the monarchy (either the Windsors - or restore a Stuart - either way…); and safegaurd and promote individual liberty and property rights. But as it stands there is no such group out there…

Anyho… For those of you of Scottish ancestry (or for those of you who are Scots - or married to one) take pride in your ancestors for fighting for independence and winning it. And perhaps give a little thought to what it would mean to regain it in the future.

Carry on.

Unionist academic throws wight behind independence
By Marc Horne
Sunday Times, May 28, 2006

ONE OF Scotland’s most prominent academics - and a staunch defender of the union with England - has announced his conversion to independence.

Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard University and author of several books celebrating the success of the British empire, said that he now believes Scotland would be better off as a separate nation state.

He claims that Scotland??s “dismal” progress since devolution has convinced him to abandon his lifelong commitment to unionism.

It is not the first ideological volte-face performed by the Glasgow-born historian. In 2003 he supported the allied invasion of Iraq before becoming a critic of the war and reversing his previously strong support for the Bush administration in the 2004 American election.

Earlier this year he compared Scotland with Belarus, the former Soviet republic which has clung to Stalinist policies.

Ferguson, presenter of a new history of the 20th century series for Channel 4, entitled The War of the World, said he believes that the 1707 Act of Union should now be repealed.

“Devolution gives Scots the illusion of self-government but not the reality of it. The parliament is essentially a glorified council and cannot flourish while it acts as a mere channel for aid from England,” he said.

“I now find myself feeling that independence would be preferable to this halfway house we have at the moment.

“Ireland and some of the east European countries like Estonia are showing that small countries which embrace economic liberalism can thrive.”

The expatriate Scot said one reason why he left Scotland was the sustained erosion of the “can do” enterprising spirit that he had experienced in the Glasgow of his childhood. Ferguson believes that an independent Scotland could flourish if it ditched its statist economic assumptions.

“What Scotland needs is a re-injection of the ideas of Adam Smith,” he said. “If economic liberalism has a birthplace it is Glasgow and I do wonder where that all went.

“It was part of the culture I grew up in, but increasingly it seems to have vanished and been replaced by a clapped-out socialist model of state intervention and hand-outs.

“There is a kind of dead hand gripping hold of Scotland at the moment and this lack of enthusiasm for market economics is causing the country to underperform economically.

“The future looks grim if, as present, Scotland maintains a demoralising gradual decline as little more than an extra bit of the north of England.”

He said Scotland needed to shake off its “unhealthy fixation” with its southern neighbour before it could progress.

“We have got to stop worrying about how we compare with England and start looking outwards at how other small countries fare. It is frankly pathetic that the most important issue on Jack McConnell’s agenda is reassuring people that he will be supporting Trinidad and Tobago rather than England in the World Cup.

“Since I left Scotland I have found it liberating not to be thinking about my identity in terms of this ‘wha’s like us’ attitude that prevails.

“A reduction in financial drip-feeding from England might force Scots to think a little harder about the world around it.”

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, described Ferguson as a “surprising convert” to independence, adding: “It is better to have a repenting convert than a constant detractor.”

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