Glasgow and I I first became acquainted in December 1969, as I, a wee teuchter from Crieff, heather hinging oot ma ears arrived full of hope to meet Santa and see the Christmas lights.
Mind boggling sights greeted me – long-haired hippies in afghan coats, teddy boys wi DA’s and brothel creepers, country and western fans, buskers, made up women in mini skirts, back combed hair and leopard skin jackets. A whole different exciting world – folk who worked yearning to get on in life. Hoping for better days.
Another momentous event took place in December 1969 – Amoco struck oil in Scottish waters – and that Hogmanay I recall hiding behind the couch in our home as my parents’ friends, men with sideburns and brylcreme, their wives on Babycham shouting like Lulu and Cilla, they all sang Flower of Scotland, dreaming of stetsons, skyscrapers, sequins and success. Oil had brought them hope, for themselves and for their bairns.
But those folk in Glasgow and on my caravan site didn’t all live the rest of their lives in a land of plenty – for there was no oil fund for them – Scotland wisnae Dallas or Dubai, hadnae a Statoil or a Stavanger – instead unfurled the 3 day week, winters of discontent, the Falklands war, the miners strike, the riches of the North Sea bankrolled the development of London, Thatcher’s Britain, a series of illegal wars and that abomination on the Clyde.
And today in 2021 you can sit on your oil rig in the North Sea and look ashore to food banks. And school uniform banks. And baby banks. And soup kitchens. And welfare funds. In Scottish towns folk who are skint get their cookers and fridges repossessed. And this energy rich country has rising gas and electricity bills and no national energy company. After 22 years of devolution at least 30% of our Scots folk live in poverty.
And half a century after the heroic efforts of Jimmy Reid, Jimmy Airlie, Sammy Gilmore and UCS, we’ve a Scottish government awarding shipbuilding contracts to foreign lands – Jimmy would be birlin and wondering who are the rats after all.
The ghosts of those Glaswegians, my neighbours of 1969, and their compatriots are watching us now; their bones created this nation and comprise its soul; other Scots whose ashes are scattered to the four corners of this planet helped to build this world. Some of those emigrants left in fear but many departed in hope of finding the promised land. We weren’ae aye too wee, too poor, too stupid or too feart!
In Scotland 2021 – no national bank, no national house building company, only beginning to look at a national care service but our education and health services are faltering for lack of a visionary, lack of a leader prepared to harness with a sense of urgency the collective efforts of those who seek to create a modern independent Scotland.
We’ve nurses doing extra shifts to make ends meet
We’ve care home workers taking on home caring home helping and cleaning jobs to try to pay their rent
The working poor !
Single adults scrimping because their wages are insultingly low and bills unnecessarily high.
So what’s it to be Scotland? Will thousands of our people continue to cringe in embarrassment shuffling up a food bank queue looking at the ground trying to become invisible reduced to charitable handouts of pot noodles, pasta, tinned tomatoes, nappies and baby milk?
We’ve lost Bathgate and Linwood, Methil,Singer, Timex, steel, textile, the woollen industry is decimated.
But Scotland’s economy is on an upward trend – 4.7% growth in the last quarter; that tells us that our country’s problem is we need a government with better different priorities. Because by dint of birth or happenstance we are not all created equal and we need a government which will seek to deliver equality by eradicating the greatest driver of inequality – poverty.
And we need that autonomous government of our own, with all the economic levers of power, today, now, not in 2 years or 5 years or after yet another mandate and dangled carrot.
The ghosts of John Maclean, Matt McGinn, Jimmy Reid, Mary Barbour, Margo MacDonald – the men and women of those shipyards, jeans factories, woollen mills, mines and pits, steel fabrication yards – do you think they’re telling you to haud yer wheesht and hold for another few years, watch more of yer neighbours hunger, bairns fail as billions are poured into bombs and wars and PPE for cronies, tax breaks for the richest and loopholes for wastrels, spivs and tyrants. For a gravy train of Scots getting comfy in Westminster who need reminded daily that it’s not their job to settle down but to settle up – now.
We can’t guarantee what our future as an independent country will look like – but we know what we have now, hunger, austerity, right wing plans for authoritarian rule, Trident and
So my relationship with Glasgow reached its pinnacle on 17 September 2014 when we danced and sang in this very square full of hope that on the following day we’d see the end of WM’s grip on Scotland, their hold on our oil and all of our resources would expire – we nearly did it then because we weren’t feart. Let’s ensure that by this time next year 2022 we’re celebrating the restoration of our country’s freedom; an end to hunger, want, unnecessary waste of hope; a new dawn when we take our futures back into our own hands,release the might of this country, cherish the dreams and achieve the potential of our greatest untapped resource – Scotland’s people.