Hope is Important : It’s OK to Change Your Mind

Fiona GrahameBy Fiona Grahame

Orkney abounds with visitors from now until September. Amongst the many tourists there are also politicians.Richard Leonard, leader of the Labour party in Scotland came to see us recently.

I went to hear Richard Leonard speaking. He is a very pleasant man, polite and courteous. The meeting was well attended for a Labour party meeting held in Orkney but for the leader of Scotland’s third party, one which dominated the Scottish political scene for over half a century – it was rather poor.

The meeting was billed as a conversation and began with Richard Leonard laying out his case for voting Labour – returning to Labour values. It would not have been out of place if he had served it up in 1952. The vocabulary was of class politics and trade unionism. Looking around the room I don’t think there were many working class people present with perhaps only a few who were in a trade union.

Richard Leonard’s talk ranged over familiar issues: of the need for decent affordable housing, public ownership and paying folk a living wage. All issues where there is common consensus amongst all in Scotland except the current batch of xenophobic Tory politicians.

Like many who come to Orkney, Richard Leonard was impressed by our renewables which have been growing in scale, number and variety in the islands for decades. It’s not a huge employer and if we are to become the ‘Saudi Arabia of Renewables’ we will see our landscape traversed with the infrastructure needed to transport the energy generated in multiple wind farms and marine devices.

Orkney is still first and foremost a farming community. And yet, perhaps because it’s in plain sight,  politicians and commentators on our islands’ economy fail to mention it. The civilisation that was once so successful that it could spend time constructing mega stone structures had a society based on farming. Orkney’s cattle are prime beasts and command quality prices. Grass fed, well cared for and reared on what to many in rUK would consider small farms.

Orkney Food and DrinkFarming is in Orkney’s DNA and it is now under threat – Brexit – which is happening against the wishes of the people of Orkney and of Scotland will change farming for good. Small farms won’t be able to survive in the climate of new Brexit Little Britain. The protected status Orkney Beef had will be gone. That badge of quality which assured customers that although it was a pricier cut it was also a meat they could trust, will be lost. The customer could rely on knowing  that what they were eating was not laced with chemicals unlike the products our markets will be flooded with from Trump’s US of A.

Richard Leonard never mentioned farming in his speech and Brexit was referred to near the end. The UK voted for Brexit. Scotland voted to stay in the UK so, therefore, we have to accept Brexit. That was Richard Leonard’s analysis of the situation.

The democratic deficit in the United Kingdom  means Scotland’s votes are immaterial. They count for nought for we will always be outvoted.

The UK Brexit negotiating team have still not reached agreements on anything. Nothing has been decided. March 29th 2019 is only a matter of months away and nothing has been put in place.

The one and only sure thing in all of this has been the Scottish Parliament. MSPs of all parties, with the exception of the Tories, voted to protect the powers that the Scottish Parliament already has – to provide continuity. No other country in the UK has protected its industries and communities in the way the Scottish Parliament has done for Scotland. The continuity Bill has assured that within the complete shambles that Brexit has turned into that preserving the powers that the Scottish Parliament has is of vital importance to the stability of our economy and especially in Orkney.

Orkney’s shellfish industry is  sustainably managed and of vital importance to vulnerable island communities. The ‘Sea of Opportunity’ promised by Bertie Armstrong  when he urged fishermen to vote Leave, is not happening. The Draft agreement illustrated only too clearly that the UK Government is willing and able to sell out Scotland’s fishing grounds in a trade off to protect the City of London.

The nightmare that is Brexit is careering us into a chasm where we never chose to go. Orkney did not vote for this. Scotland did not vote for this. In fact in 2014 Scotland was promised that rejecting our own independence would guarantee that we would remain in the EU.

It was all lies. Lies on the sides of buses. Lies about our fellow Europeans. Lies which fed off  hate and fear. A toxic atmosphere where one MP was murdered on the streets of this Disunited Kingdom.

I still cannot fathom how Theresa May, having bribed the DUP buying their votes, is getting away with it. If having seen the incompetence of the UK Tory Govt the people of England still want to go ahead with Brexit then so be it.  But the UK was set up as a union of nations. Scotland is not a colony no matter what the office of the UK Government in Scotland may try to present it as.

The Scottish Parliament has provided us in Scotland with a partial safety net. It’s a small step, an indication of what could be possible if we were to revisit that decision we made in 2014. It’s okay to change your mind.

“A Scottish Parliament. Not an end: a means to greater ends. ” Donald Dewar 1999


9 replies »

  1. What’s to say, Fiona – you’ve taken the strands, and woven them together clearly and concisely.
    Farming and fishing – how people lived, and what people lived by, for a very long time, and it worked, as long as no one got too self-centred.
    I STILL hope that Brexit won’t happen – you never know.

  2. I scratch my head as to the point at which damage by Westminster to the lives of Scottish people gets too much for UK Labour and UK Lib-Dem politicians in Scotland. I cannot help but think that they never will get to the point of enough’s enough. I suspect that Mr Leonard would jump at a Westminster seat at the drop of a hat.

  3. I deeply share your views Fiona.
    Regards renewable energy infrastructure I have this ‘dream’ for Orkney.
    I understand there are proposed plans for overhead power lines to carry electricity to the proposed new mainland interconnectors. This I do not like even if it is 3x cheaper.
    I would like to see a long term plan (15 years?) to bury all such power distribution cables (including existing ones) beneath our green and pleasant land. Can you imagine Orkney with no power poles and no power cuts whatever the weather?
    Unfortunately our energy monopolies lack ambition and vision, and look for short term shareholder profit. Is a nation owned power company for Scotland including Orkney possible?

    • I am dismayed at those who fail to understand that its not just about a subsea cable. Energy generated has to get to that cable. Maybe the people of Orkney would like to see us becoming a power hub for other parts of Scotland and the UK? But it comes with a price to our landscape.

    • Peter, sorry but your are mistaken, even with everything underground you cannot 100% rule out power outages.

      • Yes you are correct that 100% cannot be guaranteed – there would still be odd outages – but many fewer surely.

      • Yes Peter that’s more like it however the chances of every HT power cable going underground is, well let’s just that a snowball has a better chance of surviving hell still frozen than getting these cables U/G.

  4. I love this article Fiona. It highlights key areas important to Orkney, though pleasant as Mr Leonard is, regrettably the article shows his talk was disconnected from the audience and location where he was.
    This is a common difficulty- that key politicians are unfamiliar with parts of Scotland and the specifics of the area and citizens needs there.
    I am not an Islander but am deeply concerned for the future of the Islands and also for Highland areas. I fear post Brexit they could become beautiful wildernesses and not vibrant areas.
    I’m not sure what to add except that I am rooting for the residents of Orkney.

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