One of many pithy but forensic lines in a speech which the New York Times reprinted in full and described as the finest since Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
I was minded of that when attending the inaugural Alba Party conference held in Greenock Town Hall last weekend. A magnificent Victorian building showing the grandeur that once graced the community when sugar, shipbuilding and emigrants once fuelled the local economy. As with the town, it’s showing the signs of neglect, as Thatcherism in all its iterations has been cruel to the area.
Yet why should that be? Its location’s outstanding and its resources significant. It should be boom, not the bust I saw walking around a half-empty shopping mall. Its shipyards, once the envy of the world, should be vibrant and hammering out not just ships, but equipment for the North Sea, both oil and gas and the renewables revolution that’s coming.
It may be on the Atlantic not North Sea but it’s a short journey around the north of Scotland, far shorter than from the European mainland or Pacific where much’s sourced.
Instead, the yards are gone other than Ferguson Marine which is threatened and where the long-awaited vessel, Glen Sannox, lies forlornly. As I said at the conference, the real tragedy in Scotland isn’t how bad things are but how much better they should be.
Indeed, it’s not tragic, its criminal. The community should be awash with work and wealth, as it was generations ago.
But the injustice put fire in delegates bellies as they rightly railed against the Scottish ferries fiasco and the crime of endemic child poverty, and demanded the better future our people are entitled to.
Some 500 attended and it would have been more but worries about Covid understandably saw some stay away this time. But they’ll be there for future events and more’ll be joining them.
For the independence cause now has another option and no more can the SNP threaten “vote for us” or, by default, show support for the Union. That’ll change the dynamic of Scottish politics. Nothing’s guaranteed and it won’t be an easy road, but it’s been started on.
The “old-time religion” and values that drove and were espoused by Jimmy Reid were everywhere. Old comrades from the SNP or other causes from years ago were joined by young activists frustrated by the moribund nature of New SNP, its inactivity and ineptitude.
Of course, social media warriors of the ruling clique jeer and I noted one former MP colleague who seemed to spend more time watching our event than his own. But as Labour discovered, like shipyard cranes, political titans can fall.
The time for independence is now. Voters now have more than just the SNP to choose from and some who’ve grown comfortably into devolution are worried.
Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian