James Maxton, M.P., speaking at a public meeting held in St. Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow, in 1924, said “That in last week’s ‘Punch’ there was a cartoon making a joke about the railway vouchers that had been issued to M.P.s. The picture represented the Prime Minister as the booking clerk, the Minister of Health as the father of the family, and for some reason he could not fathom, he was the mother, and his progeny consisted of Buchanan, Hardie, Stephen and some others. The booking clerk was saying to them: ‘First-Class ticket to Glasgow? Yes! Single or Return? Single, I hope!’ Mr. Ramsay MacDonald had really got the decision in his hands in that matter. They hoped he would give such facilities to Buchanan’s Home Rule Bill that on a particular day, a few months hence, they should be able to go to Euston, St. Pancras or King’s Cross, and book a single ticket for Glasgow. (Laughter). He for one would never go back again – not to Parliament. He might go to the International or to hear the Orpheus Choir, or something worth while, but never for the sake of legislating for the British Empire.
He would ask no greater job in life than to make English-ridden, capitalist-ridden, land-owner-ridden Scotland into the free Scottish Socialist Commonwealth, and in doing that he thought he would be rendering a very great service to the people of England, Wales and Europe, and to the cause of internationalism generally. What the world needed to-day was one nation – and it did not need to be a powerful nation, not a nation with a great population – that would solve the problem of starvation of one man by another; one nation that would show to the other nations how it was possible to maintain the spirit of independence and still maintain the spirit of good-will towards all other men.
SCOTLAND RIGHT SIZE
He suggested that, without being egotistical, without exalting their own nation at the expense of another, in that country of theirs, being of the size that it was, a manageable size, with a population of only 4½ millions, a manageable population – that population that has attained to a general standard of intelligence, and a nation which, above all, has the democratic spirit, because even the most cringing Scottish Tory, of the most humble Scottish Liberal, was an independent, democratic being compared with the corresponding type over the Border – they had a nation of the right size and courage, the right population, and the right type of people with the courage to make that social experiment. He for one was convinced that with a Scottish Parliament, in which their best Scottish brains and courage were expended, they should do in five years, in Scotland, what could not be produced by 25 or 30 years of heart-breaking work in the British House of Commons.
If he knew the English, and he thought he did – he had no ill-feeling at all; he did not hate the English; they were more a matter for laughter than for hatred – he thought the Scots had proved to them that the Scottish people were a tolerant decent people. There was in the city of Glasgow a very immense population. They had a fair Jewish community in their midst. They laughed at the Jews; they made jokes about them, and the Jews made jokes about them. There had never been, in their city of Glasgow, on a drunken Saturday night, or in the midst of a drunken war, or at any period of excited public opinion, any attack by the Scottish population on those people living in their midst. In the big cities of England and the Continent, the Jews had been, and still were, in moments of excitement, a persecuted race. Here, in their city of Glasgow, accepting their hospitality, the Jews were their fellow-men. The same applied to the Irish population in their midst. He would not say that there had not been riots over the Irish, but if there had been occasions for mild disputes in that city, it had not been between Scotsmen and Irishmen, but between Irishmen and Irishmen – (laughter) – and if Scotsmen did join in indiscriminately on either side, it was only to show that they were not inhospitable and out of touch with things. (More laughter).
They could claim before the world that while they were strong patriots and strong lovers of their country, they had learned how to treat strangers within their own borders. When they had come here and lived with them for a few months, they made them (the strangers) their own.
THIS SCOTLAND OF OURS
They were not approaching this particular thing in any spirit of narrow exclusiveness. They were the brothers of all other nations, and they were going to welcome them into their Scotland when they cared to come. “But the people who are living in this Scotland of ours are going to have the right to run this Scotland of ours.” There were a hundred and one social problems near and dear to their hearts in the House of Commons. Some of the English members could not, and would not understand it, and they felt that this small nationality which only returned, at the outside, 74 men out of 615 to that House, did not really matter. “They could make a lot of noise, and when the worst came to the worst, they could always be out-voted, and, if they won’t accept the vote, there is always a sufficient body of police in London to throw them out of the House of Commons.”
Round about Westminster there hung nearly 800 years of hoary traditions which must be observed first and foremost. That rule was drummed into them from the day they arrived there, and they had only recently got tired of talking to them. The rule driven into them was: “Never mind about your political principles. Never mind about the sufferings of the people you represent, or your ideals, but for God’s sake mind the etiquettes of the place.” They had to spend their energies fighting that. “Give us a Parliament in Scotland. Set it up next year. We will start with no traditions. We will start with ideals. We will start with a purpose, with courage.” We will start with the aim and object that there will be 134 men and women, pledged to 134 Scottish constituencies, to spend their whole energy, their whole brain power, their whole courage, and their whole soul, in making Scotland into a country to which we can take people from all the nations of the earth and say: “This is our land; this is our Scotland; these are our people; these are our men, our works, our women and children; can you beat it?” And in 100 years, aye, in 50 years, in 25 years, that would be a tradition in the Scottish Parliament, and a tradition worthy of all.” (Cheers).