Martin Hannan: Scots won’t fund Thatcher Centre

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (later Baroness Thatcher) visits Edinburgh in March 1992. Picture: Hamish Campbell
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (later Baroness Thatcher) visits Edinburgh in March 1992. Picture: Hamish Campbell
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IT’S now almost three years since she died, but Margaret Thatcher remains as divisive a figure in death as she was in life.

The argument over a £15m museum and library to celebrate her life has been going on practically since she died in April 2013, and it was later that year that Prime Minister David Cameron gave the idea his blessing, saying: “I am delighted that young people will be able to come to the Thatcher Centre and learn about her achievements, and ensure her legacy lives on.”

It was here in Edinburgh that Thatcher, in her usual combative and arrogant mode, lectured the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1988 in what became known as the Sermon on the Mound.

Reading it you might think there was nothing wrong in her call for people to take greater personal responsibility for themselves, and self-evidently that is a sensible idea.

Where she went badly wrong, however, and showed that she was out of touch with Scotland, was in her remarks about wealth. Let me quote you directly from a transcript of the Sermon.

She said: “We are told we must work and use our talents to create wealth. ‘If a man will not work he shall not eat’ wrote St. Paul to the Thessalonians. Indeed, abundance rather than poverty has a legitimacy which derives from the very nature of Creation.

“Nevertheless, the Tenth Commandment – Thou shalt not covet – recognises that making money and owning things could become selfish activities. But it is not the creation of wealth that is wrong but love of money for its own sake. The spiritual dimension comes in deciding what one does with the wealth.”

I thought then, and still think, that those words showed just how blinkered Thatcher was, especially in her views of Scotland.

The woman had almost single-handedly destroyed much of Scotland’s heavy manufacturing industries, not to mention the Scottish coal industry, with her economic policies that made efficiency her God. Yet she lectured us on creating wealth – how do you get wealth when you don’t have a job?

Instead of the state investing in renewing those heavy manufacturing industries, as happened in so many other countries, the communities of Linwood, Bathgate, and many more across Scotland were devastated by government inaction.

Notice how she spoke of a “spritual dimension” in deciding what one does with the wealth. Clearly she failed to get that message over to the barrow boys turned free-spending millionaires in the City, and by imposing the poll tax on Scotland first, she showed that she was quite happy to take money off the poor and let the rich keep more of their wealth.

Now the prospect of a museum in her memory is on the agenda again. Will it be honest? Will it show the suicides of people that her policies put out of work?

Will it show how Scotland’s oil was used to pay for unemployment benefits across the UK? Will her worst legacy – the creation of an uber political class exemplified by Blair and Cameron – be chronicled?

There was talk at one point of public money for the Thatcher Centre, but not even Cameron is that stupid, is he?

By all means let the wealthy pay for the Centre. Just don’t expect Scotland to contribute.

Honour for Ken long overdue

Great to see Ken Buchanan looking well at the civic reception in his honour at the City Chambers on Thursday night.

It was long overdue, but at least Ken now knows that his home city has not forgotten him, and the man who was once voted greatest British boxer of all time was clearly very touched by all the plaudits.

Credit, too, to Lord Provost Donald Wilson, for allowing City Officer Stevie Gibb to make a very good speech praising his personal hero.

City Officers are the people you see in the background at civic functions, wearing their red-collared tuxes. There is much more to the job than that, however, and Stevie showed they can step up to the plate when needed.

Council tax isn’t on any manifesto

It got a bit boring listening to speaker after speaker at the council budget meeting blaming the Scottish Government for the cuts because it has frozen the council tax for a ninth year.

As an SNP member, I can only say that calls for council tax increases have been markedly absent from the manifestos of other parties at recent elections. I look forward to seeing them in large headlines on the manifestos that will be produced before May’s council elections.

The parties must also state how much of an increase they want. That would be honest, wouldn’t it?

Charles won’t like it

I was very disturbed to read in the News about the redundancies at St Jude’s Laundry, especially as disabled people were paid off.

Forth Sector, the charity which runs the laundry, has always made great play of the Laundry’s Royal Warrant.

If Prince Charles finds out what they have done, they might well find themselves losing that royal endorsement.

Talking cobbles

What a palaver over the resurfacing of Brighton Place in Portobello. I can only say that those who want the setts retained are talking a load of cobbles.