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A Step on the Road to Freedom
Chapter 6

As events during 1944 made the idea of normal life seem possible in the near future, it will be appreciated that when the Y.N.A. started, the age of members ranged from 16 to 25 years. Most of us were qualifying in our various trades and professions, and the war had retarded the efforts of young men and women to complete their studies. I, myself had neglected to complete all my courses as a civil engineer in 1939, and decided after the 1942 Conference to endeavour to finish this task as soon as possible.

As the Y.N.A. was relatively static owing to the lack of active members and a burst of activity once in two months, in addition to attending Branch meetings when they had one, and, of course, keeping in touch with absent members, the little time I had available had to allow for my further education at evening classes and Saturday afternoons, which were used to good effect through the good offices of the Burgh Engineer, who lectured at the Heriot Watt College (now University).

Naturally the Y.N.A. activities were much neglected. The few young ladies and one or two persons were in the same position as myself.

During this time, David Watson, a son of Lord Thankerton, re-joined the S.N.P. having resigned two years earlier because of a difference in view on policy, and the suspicion with which myself and others now viewed his approach, was proved in due course. He became leader of the Edinburgh Y.N.A and contrived to get the Glasgow Y.N.A. and the Young Scots League to amalgamate into an organisation called the" Scottish National Youth Federation", renamed "Young Scotland", after a few months. Various diktats were issued but apart from his ideas of a corporate government, little propaganda of value was carried out.

I was disappointed by this turn of events, but understood that if I could not do a 100% job, someone else would. David Watson, a lawyer, was excused military service because of an ailment and so had more scope than any of us left at home. His great mistake was to try to take the Y.N.A. out of the S.N.P. This was the last straw and the attempt was defeated in a vote. His influence gradually waned and he ultimately moved out of the Nationalist movement, and in 1955 he died at the age of 48, presumably as a result of the ailment mentioned above.

During 1944-45 the S.N.P. continued to have a good Press, and Dr. McIntyre’s efforts did show the old hierarchy that their surmise that electioneering was a waste of time and money, was a long way from the truth. Therefore, the necessity to contest local authority elections began.

With all this energy being expended on the Scottish people, it became clear to them that we were serious in our beliefs. The British political parties were not used to their propaganda perks being usurped by the "Tartan Tories", and naturally with the success that ensued, it grated on their nerves. It seems the Party was no longer lifting their caps to the Establishment. We have the answers. No need to ask others what kind of government we needed or wanted.

The problem is and always will be that The English Establishment has decided that no conception of self-rule, home-rule, self-government or devolution will be entertained. But when Independence is mentioned, the double think starts. They know that the day the Scottish people take Independence, their influence will disappear, and I suppose they have their "Defoes" ready to start their dirty work again. Nothing magnanimous about our Sassenach mates - a matter of suffer and take it.

The feeling in 1944 that the end of the war was near, and the S.N.P. policies on housing, education etc., began to percolate throughout Scotland. Membership of the Party rose to new heights, and there was light at the end of the tunnel at last. This showed what good leadership and a disciplined organisation could do.

I’m sorry the Y.N.A. efforts seemed so minuscule in this period, and fooling around with the idea of a non-democratic form of government did nothing to help. Luckily, this did not affect most of our members in the Forces, as the whole matter was kept sotto voce, and, as I said, killed stone dead when we managed to get a special meeting to sort it out. After that, the Y.N.A. went on as usual with its few loyal active members.

Meantime the Party contested a bye-election in Motherwell, with Dr. McIntyre as candidate. His choice was obvious as he was recognised as one of the most outstanding political voices in Scotland. His victory was a tremendous award of confidence in the Party’s new attitude to the question of Independence and how it was to be obtained after a memorable induction into Parliamentary life, where he showed us all how necessary it is that we should be able to voice our opinions through our own mouths and not by unbelievers. At last the true voice of Scotland was being heard, and the new S.N.P. policies were being expounded in the "Mother of Parliaments"

When peace came and the fusses and flurries of victory became more subdued, the Y.N.A members gradually arrived home, and naturally all of us were looking forward to seeing them. As expected, although most of them were still as nationalistically minded as before, several took time to quality in their trades and professions, some got married and the general attitude was that with the take over of the political scene by the Labour Party, a period of marking time was necessary. The activities of the Y.N.A. became very limited and although time was allowed for a rebuilding, it never succeeded.

Thus, the demise of the second Y.N.A. had occurred. I had waited from the early part of 1945 to the beginning of 1946,and the former members had decided to keep out of active politics meantime, although most had re-joined the Edinburgh Branch. I moved to Glasgow to further my career and joined the Glasgow Central Branch in Elmbank Street.

As I said at the beginning of this narrative, this movement was started to ginger up the S.N.P. locally and to interpret the various policies emanating from Party Conferences, but we discovered how divided the Party was. There were quite a few splinter groups of all British party colours, housing those who wanted a foot in both camps ,and of course, the basic Nationalist. The former members were mostly what was left of the Scottish Party and the Labour home-rule adherents, who carried on just as before , with their ideas of changing their original party’s policies and ensuring Scotland’s adherence to the U.K. conception of self-government, and the latter (including me) who couldn’t understand what was going on, thinking that what was being said by our leaders was by wise and informed minds, little realising they were feeling their way along the political tightrope and had little knowledge of what would happen.

Any criticism I have of individuals in the Party, who I considered to have acted without due thought and consideration, especially in discarding policies passed at Party Conferences, and then treating people who protested as lepers, I believe to be right and proper, though in the rough and tumble of politics, it may be considered OK But I must say that when you see proof that they were informing about you to the establishment, you wonder what sort of people you were working with. Well, I suppose you can try to forgive, if not forget.

As I write this, the shenanigans in the media and in the House of Commons regarding the struggles of the poor old Tory party, you would think no one had difficulties but them. You never hear them mention their own negative thoughts. No consideration for opinions other than their own and that they wonder why they had an Irish problem. Of course, they also have a Scottish problem, much to their dismay, and until wrongs are righted, there will be a cross for them to bear.

The Y.N.A. ‘s life was comparatively short and the contemplation of the war was the cause of it becoming active. One or two policies became more outstanding than others and by becoming dedicated to ensuring that these were adhered to, we helped in getting the Party on to its true course and stabilised it after many years of waffling.

T. M. 1995

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