Some politicians may like to think that the issue of Home Rule for Scotland has been put on the back burner since the election. But a new book, The Battle for Scotland will help ensure the debate continues. Written by Andrew Marr, chief political commentator for the Independent and former political editor of the Economist and the Scotsman, it is an informative and accessible history of Scottish politics. The book will prove invaluable for those whose knowledge of the subject goes back no further than last year’s party political broadcasts.
Marr has an expert grasp on the slippery animal that is politics north of the border. What should make the book required reading for anyone who visits a ballot box is its insistence that the catch-all, anti-English excuse favoured by many is only a cheap way of avoiding the real cause of Scotland’s problems — Scotland itself. Marr’s extensive research and access to contemporary politicians gives him a clear insight into the specific complexities of Scottish politics that have been created by the country’s distinctive culture, geography and economic history.
He is also particularly strong on the chameleon-like nature of the Scottish political parties and, indeed, individual politicians. The history of Scottish politics is filled with cross-party accord and dissent, of strong personalities unwilling to give way in a clash ofegos, and of the peOple themselves getting fed up with the London-orientated politicians and making their own contribution to the on-going problem.
‘There’s a Tory argument, which I ﬁnd deeply offensive, that the Scots don’t really want Home Rule because if they did, they’d be throwing stones,’ argues Marr, stressing the honorable history of debate in the Home Rule question.
THE BATTLE FOR SCOTLAND
ANDREW MARR ‘
‘The idea that politicians are saying people ought to behave in an undemocratic, anti-parliamentarian way if they want to get something is quite disturbing.’
For a book on history, it is refreshingly forward-looking, particularly in respect to the growth of civil politics — what Marr defines as ‘politics that involves significant numbers of people outside the parties, well-meaning amateurs and/or requires significant cross-party co-operation’. The final chapter, aptly called ‘Changed, Changed Utterly: 1992 and After’ examines the phoenix-like appearance of a handful of groups — Democracy For Scotland, Common Cause, Scotland United — from the ashes of the 1992 General Election. But even here Marr sees inherent problems: ‘The interesting thing is watching at every stage how the Home Rule movement tried to create organisations, then run them, then ﬁnd problems with them. No one’s got the answer yet. The problem with Scotland United is that it either becomes a political organisation — a quasi-political party — or it becomes a small group on the edges. Ifit becomes a political party, then no one from the Labour Party will get involved and it just becomes an SNP front and, ifyou’ve already got the SNP, why bother? And if it becomes just another debating organisation, it doesn’t have much future either.’
Nevertheless, Scotland United will be making headline-grabbing public appearances in the near future when it organises a series of demonstrations to coincide with the Euro Summit in Edinburgh. Those thrust into the contemporary Home Rule arena who want to capitalise on the fact that, for a short time at least, the media eyes of the world will be focused on Scotland could do worse than glance over the pages of The Battle For Scotland. (Alan Morrison)
The Battle For Scotland by Andrew Marr is publised by Penguin, priced £5. 99.
_ Gar trouble
Number of ggple pgr car
As Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Fight the Fumes Week comes to a close and the Green Mask establishes itself as the Red Nose’s environmentally conscious cousin , two surveys carried out by FoES’s Glasgow branch make interesting reading. For the past two weeks the group has been monitoring the number of pe0ple per car travelling northwards across Glasgow’s Kingston Bridge during the morning rush hour, in order to assess the amount of wasted energy, road space and, consequently, air pollution this causes. Out of a total of 4187 cars, a staggering 76 per cent carried only one passenger: the full breakdown shown in the chart reveals that if half of that number doubled up, there would be 19 per cent fewer cars travelling into the city at that time, thereby cutting air pollution by a ﬁfth.
The second survey, carried out again during the rush hour on Monday 5 October, involved a ‘commuter race’ with people travelling into Glasgow by car, bike or public transport. All left various
1 person 2 people 3 people 4 or more people
Total cars counted 4187
parts of the city at the same time and noted their time of arrival in George Square. For example , a cyclist from Denniston completed the journey in a mere nine minutes, compared to 26 minutes by car and 29 minutes by bus.
Friends of the Earth Glasgow point out that, although these figures show that cycling is the fastest, cleanest and most energy-efficient method of transport, Strathclyde Regional Council’s transport plans fail to provide adequate cycling routes, preferring instead to follow a road-building policy which can only increase traffic, and therefore pollution, in an already congested city centre. Further information on FoEG is available from Michael Warhurst at 24 (4/1) Woodlands Road, Glasgow G3 6UR (041 332 7387). Information on car-sharing in the Edinburgh and Lothian area, including Edinburgh to Glasgow trips, is available from Lothian and Edinburgh Environmental Partnership (LEEP) on 031 555 4010. (AM)
9 Dawn SHRlG-LEY
The List 9- 22 October 1992 5