British Success and Scottish Failure

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In the 1983 movie Phar Lap about the champion wonder-horse who was foaled in New Zealand but trained and raced in Australia there is a scene that takes place near the movies end. 

It is the height of the Great Depression and the horse has captured the hearts of the Australian public after a prolific series of wins.


In the 1983 movie Phar Lap about the champion wonder-horse who was foaled in New Zealand but trained and raced in Australia there is a scene that takes place near the movies end.

It is the height of the Great Depression and the horse has captured the hearts of the Australian public after a prolific series of wins. 

The climax of the movie sees our equine hero sent to the US in order to race for the richest North American purse ever and Australia await news of their national icon’s quest.

In the scene, set in the newspaper offices of one of Australia’s major titles, they wait for the outcome of the race.  The editor tells his team to ready the headline ‘Australian Wonder Horse Triumphs In America’.
 
But what if he loses? asks a team member.  Then, says the editor, we’ll go with ‘New Zealand Horse Flops’.
 
It’s a situation that we have witnessed many times over in Scotland as sporting success sees the victor enveloped in a warm embrace of Britishness whilst failure will more often than not leave the loser greeted with cold ‘British’ aloofness.  For every Sir Chris Hoy there is an Ally MacLeod.

The same schizophrenic labelling has made it into the world of finance.  HBOS and RBS, who between them have contributed £billions to the UK exchequer suddenly found themselves wearing the Scottish badge of dishonour when Brown’s lack of policing led to them taking risks and making heavy losses – they then had to be baled out by the taxpayer.

‘The Scottish banks’ is the now ubiquitous term used whenever a media report mentions the two.  Their bale out is now routinely used by Scottish Unionists as some sort of ‘proof’ that Scotland alone would have been sucked into the sea by the international financial crisis.

Of course, one rarely sees headlines proclaiming Northern Rock or Bradford & Bingley as ‘The English Banks’ that were baled out using Scottish taxpayers money – but there you go.
 
This ‘Celtic exclusion order’ took on a new twist recently when PM David Cameron embarked on his first official visit to the United States.  Mr Cameron who was there representing the four constituent parts of the UK, crumpled on arrival and instead of addressing US misinformation over the release of Al Megrahi he joined the mob and launched an attack on Scottish law and on the decision to grant compassionate release.
 
Cameron effectively isolated Scotland from the rest of the UK.  The decision to release Megrahi, said Cameron, was wrong.  It wasn’t the British who were responsible for this foul deed, it was the Scots.  In that brief moment Scotland had attained de-facto independence from Westminster.
 
This verbal quarantine is perhaps best exemplified by the approach the UK takes to Scottish resources.  Here everything is stamped ‘made in Britain’ and the most well known resource of all is of course oil.

It’s the Unionist winner/loser syndrome at its worst where any desire to claim the oil as Scottish is frowned upon, and as respected journalist Joan McAlpine pointed out recently, anyone using the term ‘Scottish Oil’ is likely to have their political leanings questioned.  North Sea oil of course saved the UK from bankruptcy in the seventies, now that’s what I call a bale out.

In fact it is only since the SNP came to power at Holyrood that the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report actually attributed any of the monies accrued from North Sea resources to Scotland.  Previous GERS reports routinely omitted oil revenue from the figures – not only that but whisky was missing as well, incredibly it was deemed to be an English commodity by dint of having whisky headquarters in London.
 
This selective rebranding is one thing, after all a rose by any other name is still a rose.  However secretly trying to steal Scotland’s assets is quite another, and that is precisely what the Westminster Labour government did in 1999.

In 1999 Westminster moved Scotland’s Marine Boundaries from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Carnoustie.  At a stroke 6000 square miles of waters that had up to that point been Scottish were now deemed by London to be English.

The shocking thing about this territory grabbing order is that it was not openly discussed in the House of Commons, even now Freedom of Information requests remain only partially satisfied.  It was passed in haste by the house of Lords and then rubber stamped by a very select Labour and Liberal committee in the Scottish Office.

Without the knowledge or consent of the Scottish people, this act took 15% of oil and gas revenues out of the Scottish sector of the North Sea.  This equates to £2.16 Billion per year in lost revenue which is more than Westminster’s proposed £35 Billion cuts to the Scottish budget for the next 15 years.

So there you have it, British success and Scottish failure – we share the good but keep the bad.

Oh and Phar Lap?

The horse won the US race in a track record time, beating the world’s best.  Australian euphoria was short lived though as Phar Lap was found dead shortly afterwards having being fed a lethal dose of arsenic.

Rumours that The Mob were behind the slaying were never proven.

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