UNFAIR TO BLAME GORDON BROWN FOR KIRKCALDY'S DECLINING LOCAL SHOPS
TM Cross writes (10 February) to The Herald, a national newspaper from Glasgow, covering Scotland. He berates the sitting MP, Gordon Brown, Kirkcaldy’s second most famous son, who was actually born in Glasgow, and Adam Smith, of course Kirkcaldy’s most famous son, born in Kirkcaldy (1723), HERE whom Cross b;ames: “Gordon Brown must take some blame for the decline of Kirkcaldy”
As a native Langtonian [The 'langtoon' is a local, traditional name for Kirkcaldy's singular long-length, because of its main west-east High Street] I was not overly surprised at the Tesco closure ("Every little helps as shoppers plan rally to save Tesco store", The Herald, February 9).
I have written in The Herald a long time ago pointing out the holistic decline of the once-substantial retail centre that was the very long Kirkcaldy High Street.
I also apportioned blame on the long-sitting MP, Gordon Brown, who while "saving the global economy" let the very heart of the "toon" atrophy into a commercial ghetto.
There is a sad serendipity in this tale of failed commercial and political planning. Almost across the street from the departing Tesco in the very centre of the once proud street sits the site of Adam Smith's Kirkcaldy home in which it is alleged he wrote his substantial work An Inquiry into Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nation. Though an advocate of the "invisible hand" he would have railed at Mr Brown's failure to use the substantial market-shaping powers he once possessed.
Mr Brown stood by while near-monopoly giants like Tesco were killing off the plural retail market that had produced the very commercial environment that made the High Street attractive to Tesco in the first place.
He watched year in year out for more than 25 years the steady decline of the High Street, where even the many of the 14 (I counted them) charity shops are closing.
His Prime Minister status and his global charity roles were predicated on the support he received from the good people of Kirkcaldy (and Cowdenbeath) who elected him as their MP. His last-minute attempts to retain Tesco and so save the High Street is another "saviour" political intervention that he has deployed (with some success) in his post-state-power personal messianic mission period.”
I have had many disagreements over the years with Gordon Brown, since out student days in the 60s and 70s, though we always remained on good personal terms, despite our different perspectives of what is best for Scotland (I voted 'yes' and Gordon led the 'No' campaign.
In respect of the above, fairs fair. Gordon cannot be blamed for the same things that happened in every town in Scotland, let alone in Kirkcaldy (and incidently, across much of Europe and North America), with the rapid phenonmenon of out-of-town major hyper- and super-markets that caused the rapid decline in local, in-town traditional high street shopping facilities. This created a serious planning problem in a regulatory world that insists on regulations for almost everything. These regulations tend to be administered by local, not national, governments and local town councillors decide on their priorities.
Gordon Brown’s political career was centred on national UK, not local, government. His only local interest was in continuing to get elected in national UK elections and his relations with locally-centred politicans was viewed, primarily, from that perspective only. Therefore, the major factors in Brown’s political career were focussed on national and international politics (for which he was responsible) and not on local politics, for which he was not responsible.
Postscript: I am unsure why TM Cross refers to: “the site of Adam Smith's Kirkcaldy home in which it is alleged he wrote his substantial work An Inquiry into Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations”.
There is no doubt that Smith wrote of the bulk of the Wealth Of Nations while at his mother’s Kirkcaldy home in the High Street. We know from student notes of his Jurisprudence lectures made in 1762-3 which include some near verbatim passages that re-appeared later in Wealth Of Nations in 1776, mainly in the early parts of this book, and that the majority of the longer parts of his magnum opus must have been written when he returned home to Kirkcaldy in 1767 to research and write, using his vast library, which he had accumulated while teaching at Glasgow University from 1751 to 64 and then shipped home to Kirkcaldy after he left Glasgow for France (1764-6) and was in London for much of 1767. There was also no way in the 18th century that he could have carried such library to France and back; even shipping it safely from Glasgow to Kirkcaldy without trusted and efficient efficient supervision (his mother and his aunt and close friends).
Given the thousands of detailed references and statistics included in Wealth Of Nations, we can be pretty sure he wrote almost all of his book in Kirkcaldy, with his library to hand, except for his relatively small, though important, comments on the ‘American’ question, as it unfolded from 1773 to 1775. I refer TM Cross to Ian Ross’s, definitive biography: ‘The Life of Adam Smith’, Oxford University Press’.
Finally, given Gordon Brown's status of being out of office and his non-attendance in the Westminster Parliament, and his recent interest in local affairs (the decline of Kirkcaldy's High Street) he probably has more time for local affairs, as shown in his initiatives in pushing for investment in developing Kirkcaldy's location as Smith's birthplace and restoring his mother's walled garden (her 18th-century house was demolished and replaced in mid-19th century) and centring its post restoration on an 'Adam Smith' trail and an annual local festival of conferences and education activities.