By Alex Robertson
It was a phrase I heard often in countless meeting rooms and late-night sessions in hotel bars across Europe when I was an entrepreneur – Dinosaurs must die.
As we searched and scrabbled for openings and opportunities in markets, we probed those areas where competitors were missing the point and had lost the pedals by failing to adapt to changes in their environment.
Such places represented terrific opportunities for people and companies with imagination and initiative. Indeed, studying at the London Business School I learned of a Japanese corporation built on the central idea of allowing people with an idea to try it out, build it and start a small project team before, if successful, being set up as an autonomous division. Such an idea is only, of course, a particular version of the Law of Nature that lays down that one must adapt or perish. And it is immutable and relentless. Now I find that it applies as well in the world of politics.
All the Unionist parties clutch on to the same old nostra when faced with changing conditions. Cut spending, hike taxes, and just lumber around without seeming to ask if there are not better ways to deal with the economic storms raging around us. Nowhere is there any sign of intelligent or innovative thinking. The Tory party seems to want more cuts in public services whilst still hanging on to legacy policies like Trident renewal, and Johann Lamont has thrown in the towel and joined the slash and burn brigade. So much for Labour being the party of the disadvantaged and the voiceless.
Missing from it all seems to be any vision for a better Scotland, a place where it is better than now to live and work and bring up kids. No sign of aspiration or even hope. No ideas either. And around them Scots have changed. They no longer are content, or even willing, to bend the knee and accept the economic helotry imposed for countless generations. Meanwhile Westminster/Whitehall clutch to their bosom the dreams of somehow restoring the ‘world-player’ status of over a century ago.
Britain was formed to close the back door of England as they waged yet another war in Europe, and they used the characteristic methods, honed for over five centuries of bribery, blackmail, thuggery and dirty tricks. Then it became a handy vehicle for making and maintaining an Empire, designed to cudgel less powerful peoples into submission and exploit them and their countries for all they were worth. They quelled the Chinese by importing opium, and they subdued the Americas by extortion and brute force. And Scotland hung on to their coattails and aided and abetted.
But all that is long past. There is no empire anymore. Britain counts for very little among the power brokers of the world. Harold Macmillan once described the job of governing Britain as being the management of gradual decline, sometimes not so gradual. And Scotland has given up coattail-hanging. So how does Westminster/Whitehall respond to the changed world they now inhabit? More of the same, is the watchword.
That is not the Scottish way anymore. We are a naturally gifted nation of innovators, of inventors and rationalists. Instead of greeting straitened economic times by austerity and savage cuts, we seek to find new ways of wealth creation and economic growth, which we know will bring new jobs and a better life for our entire nation. And the Scottish government has blasted into eternity the inevitability of bad and incompetent and unimaginative government. And Scots like it.
The SNP has provided good honest government, and still are. But where in Unionist circles, for example, is the campaign to scrap the accursed Air Passenger Duty, where is the action to end the grotesque idea that Scottish energy we produce has to pay to be delivered to London and the South East of England? Instead of CIF (Cost Insurance and Freight), our terms should be FOB (Free On Board), energy delivered to the border and after that it is of no concern to the Scottish energy makers. None of these things appear in any Unionist agenda or list of things-to-do.
The truth is Britain is dying, past its sell-by date, no longer fit for purpose. You have to ask what intelligent opportunities to adapt there are.
If I were in Downing Street, I think I would want to raise my head, sniff the air and decide big changes were needed. Why not, for example, work to design some kind of collaborative cooperative of independent nations, each autonomous, equal and free to make their own decisions, yet all joined in cooperating to the benefit of all. More than a confederation and less than an old fashioned political union. That way, we could all let the past sleep in peace and work to make things better for our people.
But that, it seems, is beyond the grasp of Unionists.
Johann Lamont has committed political suicide and no longer has any imaginative or innovative suggestions on wealth creation and bringing all the people to a better level of life. Her best idea involves penalising the poor and vulnerable and old. The Tories are wedded to the old ways that no longer work, if they ever did. The LibDems, well they just go on in their opportunistic self advancement in their parasitical way. They only way to survive this baleful Union is to get out of it. And the quicker the better.
What is needed now, urgently and desperately are leaders who will strain every fibre to devise new ways, new adaptations to how we can change to thrive, not just survive. We need to stop bawling and start talking to each other. We could just find ways to help instead of hindering each other. We really can find win-win solutions for everyone.
Dinosaurs must die, but who wants to be a dinosaur?