Friday, 19 September 2014

Scotland at a Crossroads

I was quite detached from the independence referendum. I've lived in England for half a lifetime and if God grants me three score and ten, I'll probably have lived more than two-thirds of it in England.

I'm married to an Englishwoman and my three children have English accents, although my 3 year old son is well on his way to being as Celtic daft as me.

As an English resident then, I had no vote although I was regularly asked by work colleagues and English friends what way I would vote if I had one.

I'd always answer, "I don't know," because I genuinely didn't know how I would have voted. It was a huge decision to make, and not one to be taken lightly.

Twenty year old me would have been on the streets canvassing for Yes votes but time and distance has softened my attitude to independence. What I do know though, is when I woke up at 6am this morning and turned on the TV to find out the result, it was with a sinking heart that I realised it was a No.

At that moment, I realised how much I wanted Scotland to vote Yes and as it sinks in, I'm no happier about it. I wouldn't say I'm gutted, but there's definitely a real, definite sense of disappointment.

The mainstream media have been pushing the line since this morning that it was a, "decisive vote." Technically, I suppose they are correct - a decision was reached - but the word carries connotations of the matter now being closed for the forseeable future, which I think is ludicrous.

Scotland is now a country in a Union with England, which almost half of the population want to see an end to. The result is anything but decisive, which is both an opportunity for nationalists, and a danger for Scotland.

It is an opportunity because with such a small majority for No, it cannot be the end of the matter. With the No vote depending on the votes of the over 60's and the under 20's voting heavily in favour of Yes, the gap can only narrow and possibly even be reversed over the next decade. Nationalists should see the referendum as a foundation on which to build. In fact, it might even be seen as the entire first floor rather than just the foundation.

The result is a danger because Scotland is now indisputably a divided society. As the scenes unfolding in George Square tonight show, there is a virulence and hatred to the No sentiment that harkens back to a different time and place.

Of course, not every No voter looks like an extra from Green Street but the Orange Unionist element cannot be ignored.

But neither can the many on the nationalist side who have been quite awful in their description of the almost two millioin decent people who also voted No.

I saw one tweet this morning saying something along the lines of, "I hope your children come home in a Union Jack draped coffin from another illegal war."

I truly hope the person who composed that sickening message has no children of his own. Surely no parent could ever say such a thing?

That was only the worst I've seen (and by a distance), but my twitter timeline is full of descriptions of no voters as, "scum," cowards," "shitebags" etc.

They're not. They are people like your mum and dad. Like your brother or sister. People who genuinely felt that Scotland is better in the Union than out. That's all. To seek to find other, sinister reasons for people disagreeing with you because you cannot possibly be wrong, is a disturbing trend.

What kind of society would we have if people cannot disagree civilly, respect the right of others to disagree, and accept that the other people might possibly, just possibly, be right?

We stand at a crossroads. The country is split almost 50-50 between those who want independence and those who support the Union.

Had the figures been reversed and 55% voted for independence, it would have been a hollow victory. It would have been no way to start a new nation with almost half the population hankering for Union with England.

By the same token, the Unionists have won a hollow victory.

We are now being told we have to ensure the Government follows through on its "devo-max" promises, but to me that is of secondary importance. Healing the divisions in Scotland should be infinitely more important.

Nationalists should not give up on independence because of the referendum result. It should be seen as an opportunity, with momentum on their side, to win a future referendum by a big enough margin that a new nation can emerge with the great majority of the people celebrating independence together. There should be as few people as possible glowering from the sidelines.

Winning by a small majority; the only realistic hope this time out, would not have been desireable.

The Sevco-Orange Unionist element will never be persuaded. Don't waste your time even trying. But the great majority of the No voters can be persuaded. But by reasoned argument, not by insults and demonisation.

If you are a disappointed Yes voter, you need to reach out to No voters. Making yourself look and/or sound like the bitter, hateful mob in George Square tonight is no way to win a country's freedom.

There's no need for it anyway, because if the nationalist side plays its cards right, the future belongs to you.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Hoops, Celtic and Sevco

I have a confession to make. A shocking confession actually.

When I was young, like early years of primary school young, I wasn't awfully keen on the hoops.

I think it was because almost every other team I knew had plain shirts, I kind of wished the Celtic strip was like the Republic of Ireland strip.

Very quickly though I realised that the hoops make Celtic different. Distinctive. Instantly recognisable. They set us apart.

Like every Celtic supporter, I adore the hoops.

That's what got me thinking again about the imminent (if they survive long enough) arrival of Sevco in the top flight.

That they are allowed to masquerade as a club founded in 1872 is an almighty scandal and probably the single biggest reason why I hope with every fibre of my being that we never have to share a pitch with them.

I fear that is wishful thinking though and that inevitably, one day we are going to have to play Sevco. As long as they are still being permitted by the SFA to pretend they are the Rangers FC founded in 1872 and claim all of their historic honours, I will not be there.

I dread that day. I can feel the weeks' long build-up to it already. "The return of the O** F*** fixture" hype. The McAvennies and the McGarveys being wheeled out to reminisce about O** F*** games in days gone by. It's everything our governing bodies and media are longing for.

And I want Celtic to have nothing to do with it.

What I'd love to see, whenever we have the misfortune to play Sevco, is for Celtic to refuse to grace them with the presence of our beloved hoops.

Sevco, just like Rangers before them, wear a common or garden blue shirt and white shorts. There is nothing distinctive about their kit.

The O** F*** match means a team wearing blue shirts and white shorts attempting to kick a team in green and white hoops off the pitch.

The O** F*** game, to people around the world, would be unrecognisable if the team in blue were playing a team in yellow shirts and green shorts. Or an all white kit with green and yellow trim - take your pick. The great thing is that the "O** F***" match would never evolve a new appearance as we change our away kit every year these days, and usually have a third kit as well. We wouldn't even have to play every game in a season against them in the same kit.

I know this is unlikely to happen, but what if we, as Celtic fans, demand it of the club?

What if we were to say to them that we want to deny the SFA and the media the appearance of the traditional O** F*** match?

Football fans around the world know when they see a team in green and white hoops that they are watching Celtic. When the inevitable happens and we have to see what will of course be marketed as the return of the O** F*** match, let the millions around the world who tune in wonder if they're actually watching Celtic v "Rangers" at all.

Any thoughts?