For me, there’s little point in becoming steamed up over some of what I’ve read lately. You would be as well to get bent out of shape over the kind of nonsense they talk on RangersMedia at times.
I am not surprised that the Celtic sites are having these internal discussions, of course. Celtic supporters are amongst the most switched-on and politically aware fans in Europe. It is not unusual to see wide ranging political discussions being had on the forums and in the chat-rooms, on subjects as diverse as foodbanks or the crisis in Syria and Iraq.
For years people have tried to spoon-feed us the notion that politics should be left outside the ground, that it has no place in the stadium, and to an extent I agree with that. I don’t believe that Celtic Park is the place to score political points, as I wrote some years ago when the STUC, an organisation I have tremendous respect for, tried to use our club as a baton with which to beat the Israeli football federation, and the Israeli state itself.
It did not matter that I agreed with their political stance against Israel – and I did agree with it, I agreed with it in every way. I disagreed with them trying to use Celtic as a political vehicle for that cause. Our club does not belong to one shade of opinion any more than it belongs to one colour or creed, any more than it belongs to one religion.
Equally, and for the same reason, I oppose the scandalous imposition of the poppy, the forced wearing of it on the shirt that’s been worn by Japanese players, Germans, Irishmen, Italians and those of many other nations who have fought the British in wars over the years. For us to be told, on the one hand, that politics doesn’t belong inside a stadium and then for us to be forced to put a political symbol – and the poppy is without question a political symbol now – on the Hoops is an outrage and reeks of hypocrisy, and it devalues what those poppy’s once represented.
I have too much respect for those who did fight and die for our freedom – as opposed to those who fought for modern Anglo-American imperialist hegemony – to pretend anything other than disgust at the way the poppy has been turned into a symbol which glorifies militarism, which commemorates not the horror of war but celebrates victory in it. That is an abominable transformation of what it was supposed to be, and shame on every individual whether in politics or elsewhere, who has played a part in allowing it to be corrupted in this way.
Celtic Football Club should have no political allegiance or ideology, but I have no issue with the large section of our support which has one, and which expresses it. It just so happens that I agree with very nearly every single thing they believe in, and it is no exaggeration to say that being a Celtic supporter has been one of the most important factors in shaping my politics and my political philosophy and I am fiercely proud of them both.
Celtic supporters have flown the Irish tricolour alongside the flag of Palestine, and that of the Basques. Sections of our support have formed links with anti-fascist clubs across Europe, most notably St Pauli. A large section of our support has embraced left-wing causes across the world, and these are not kids who are simply following flags, but serious minded political activists, who dare to put themselves on the frontlines, both at home and abroad.
And you know what? I am proud of every single one of them, proud that my club’s fans are recognised in those circles, that we are accepted as friends and comrades.
The broader Celtic support might be made up of those from various political backgrounds and comprised of people who hold a broad sweep of opinions, and indeed many who do not consider themselves as being on the left in any way shape or form, but I cannot imagine there is a single Celtic supporter anywhere who considers his or herself of the far right.
We are not that kind of club. We don’t attract those kind of followers.
No, it doesn’t surprise me to see the independence referendum getting the fans talking and debating. I expected it, and I kind of looked forward to getting involved in it. What has surprised me is the tenor of the debate, the way in which some of our fans are turning on each other, the way in which bitterness is starting to come through.
This is not all the fault of one side or the other. Positions are hardening on this subject, and they will continue to as we get closer to the day, but there does appear to be one strand of opinion that is causing most debate, and it’s one being provided by those in the No camp.
I’ll come clean now and state, clearly, that my heart lies with Team Yes. I believe we should be independent and in fact that we must be, for our own good as well as those in England who need an example of how hope can triumph over fear. So much of our political climate is ruled by fear these days and nothing could better turn that on its head than Scotland voting to cast aside the advice of the naysayers and the threats of the Westminster elite.
We can craft a Scotland built on social justice, a Scotland of progressive values, a Scotland that speaks up for those around the world whose voice are silent or crying out alone. A Scotland which turns its back on nuclear weapons. We can have a Scotland that sets an example with more than just words. We only need the courage to vote Yes.
All of this might seem grossly optimistic, and it is, but that’s the point. Those of us who want a Yes vote are putting hope front and centre. We are optimistic because we believe that with the power in our own hands we can change how things are done in this country, that we can change it forever.
See, the hard work doesn’t end on the day we get independence. That’s the day the hard work starts. Our vision goes far beyond the here and now, and what some in Labour sarcastically refer to as a campaign which seeks only to “drag itself across the line.” Some of us are already thinking, planning, for what happens next, for what happens on Day 1.
One of the bitterest voices in this debate belongs to Dr Michael Kelly, who haunts some of the Celtic forums writing the most vicious stuff imaginable about the Yes campaign. His contempt for his fellow Scots, and in particular some of his fellow Celtic fans, is mind-boggling, and it amazes me to think that this guy is a former Lord Provost and more, is actually supposedly the head of a PR firm. This is to say nothing of his judgement being highly suspect and his skill as an administrator forever tarnished by his “spell” as one of the men who almost wrecked Celtic.
His atrocious manner is offensive to many, but as his arguments are largely limited to calling everyone who wants to vote Yes an idiot, and calling Salmond every name he can conceive of, I find him more tiresome than anything else.
See, he and others would have you believe the pro-independence camp is the province only of the SNP, that it’s little more than Alex Salmond’s private army. Their misjudgement is incredible, their myopia almost unreal.
Yet it’s not even this particular suggestion that I find most offensive, or most foolish. The one I take greatest issue with is this arrant – and dangerous – nonsense being stoked about an independent Scotland being a place where Catholics are somehow going to be at risk.
This is a view most commonly heard from those who, for one reason or another, have opted not even to live here. Some even claim to have left to get away from a poisonous atmosphere where they feel themselves somehow under threat. I am not going to call them cowards. I understand the impulse to run, but this is my country and I will not abandon it to the type of knuckle dragging scum these people seem so afraid of. I will not give them any modicum of victory.
No, I’m staying, and I’m going to play a part in making Scotland a place where their kind feel as unwelcome as a Daily Mail hack at an Radical Independence Campaign meeting. This country belongs to me, and to mine.
They are the interlopers, the unwelcome, like a turd on the bottom of your shoe. The idea of packing my bags because of them … never going to happen.
As I said, I am not accusing the people who feel differently of being cowards for leaving. We all want an easy life. None of us wants to live under a toxic cloud. I don’t feel like I do, or ever have. I love Scotland, but recognise there are elements here who don’t belong in civilisation. I would dearly love to live in a country without them, and I know why some have chosen to.
So no, it’s not cowardly to want out.
What I find less easy to accept, what I have a degree of contempt for, are those who, from the safety of that distance, are still seeing monsters under the bed, those who are trying to scare the rest of us, those who’ve opted to stay, with the stuff of their own fears.
I am not scared of bogeymen in orange sashes any more than I worry about Scotland becoming the province of lunatics draped in bed sheets and pointy hoods. I don’t know what country these people think we are living in, but it’s never been that way and it never will be.
Oh there are elements here who don’t like Catholics, or Irish, or Irish Catholics in particular. That’s not news. Yet at the height of their power, all these people could do to me and mine was to ask what school we went to.
The schools themselves were beyond their reach and our religious freedom was untouched.
Back when these people were at their strongest, their power over us was limited to a snide question and the denial of certain jobs. It sounds like a lot, but even then they couldn’t stop us, couldn’t box us in. Instead, we organised. We enabled ourselves. We got education and then we got politics. Oh yes, we got politics and how. It’s not for nothing that our enemies used to think the whole of the Labour Party in Scotland was under our control, because much of it was, and it had nothing to do with the Unseen Fenian Hand. There was no grand conspiracy.
We did it ourselves, little by little, and we didn’t do it for the greater good of Catholics everywhere. We did it because it was right and because it was just, and we did it for all the people to whom the doors were closed, and not just for our own. We did it because unlike those who wanted to keep those doors shut we had a social conscience, and wanted to change the world, and not just the part of it we lived in.
The fight for equality in Scotland, the one that brought an end to Section 28 and eventually civil partnerships, was being fought long ago, on different ground, and we moved that ground inch by inch so the old “which school did you go to?” question and much else with it was consigned to the bin. Now, in a very real sense, we’re equal partners at all the top tables.
In an independent Scotland, where do you think we’ll be? I’ll tell you where. Sitting right where we are now, only with even more power in our hands.
I refuse to accept the idea, for even one minute, that the backward semi-literate idiots who could not even save their own football club will suddenly develop intuitive political skills which take years to hone and wind up running this country.
I look at the modern, multi-cultural Scotland in which I live, and in which the great independence debate is taking place, and I do not see a country which will stand back and allow, far less enshrine in law, anti-Catholic sentiment.
The subject will not even enter the political arena. Frankly, our leaders, of whatever political shade, are going to have a hell of a lot more important things to do than pandering to the pure white trash on the lunatic fringes, and any who did would be drowned out at once.
Someone told me today that this is the biggest scare story of the campaign. I take issue with that. This is not a scare story at all.
Scotland not getting into the EU is a scare story. Border checkpoints and not getting to use the pound, they are scare stories. They are flawed, and transparent, but they are at least on point. They are at least serious issues to be debated by serious people, questions deserving of consideration and an answer, even if they are largely overblown and the threats disproportionate to the amount of energy expended on them.
Asked and answered already, in spades, by the way …
No, these are scare stories. The “anti-Catholic Scotland” talk is not in that calibre. It is not something I take even remotely seriously. If I had to assign it a place in the debate I would put it beneath the “Scotland will be at threat from alien invasion” discussion in terms of how I view it. It is not a scare story as much as a fairy story, something by the Brothers Grimm.
To suggest otherwise is lunacy. To do it from the other side of the border is cowardly. Either way, the subject draws only my contempt.
In the first place, do these people really think this country is that bad? Secondly, do they view their own people as so weak, so without conviction, without influence, that we would simply roll over and allow this if their dark vision somehow came to pass? When they look in the mirror they see their own fears reflected back. Some of us aren’t so easily scared.
Furthermore, the loudest voices on that side of the debate, the wild side if you ask me, are mostly from the professional class, people who made or still make very good livings in the country they would have us believe hate them and everything they stand for.
Where did these people disconnect from reality? Because unless that disconnect exists I can only conclude that they are using this issue to pursue their own agendas, and that makes them less cowardly than purely and simply contemptible, people willing to prostitute their own faith and their own intellect, to play the religious card like some still play the race card, for narrow personal or political gain.
Those of them who fit that bill and who’ve left, I say good riddance. Those who’ve threatened to go should Scotland vote Yes, I can only offer to help them pack. They will be happier, and so will the rest of us, when we’ve escorted them across the border, like fugitives from a warzone.
The rest of us will be getting on with it here, in a newly emerged nation, crafting it into something our grandchildren will be proud of, and where they will feel like genuine partners, in a society which pays no heed to any of the old nonsense.
The small minority of anti-Catholic bigots in Scotland are weak and powerless.
Look at the state of the institution they crowed over, and danced around, and warped into their own image.
Look at them, worshiping at the Alter of Ally, scrabbling around for spare change to sign has-beens and past-its.
Look at them, run by charlatans and spivs and unable to muster enough fight to be rid of them.
Look at them, destroyed the last time by a guy from Motherwell, for the princely sum of one pound.
Look at them, used, abused, royally grafted for season ticket money to watch dreck, conned on a grand scale over shares which are now virtually worthless and on the verge of doing it all over again, those of them who are not about to follow a convicted fraudster from South Africa over the cliff.
Look at them, marching in commemoration of events from over three hundred years ago, events who’s history they don’t even completely understand, celebrating their “freedom from Rome” when the man who won that victory for them was in the employ of a Pope at the time.
Look at them, those who worship militarism and crown, for reasons they only half comprehend, who talk a good fight but who’s finest hours were bleeding for God and Ulster in their own fag-ends and pish, in the sick filled gutters of Pamplona, Barcelona, Villarreal and Manchester.
Look at them. That’s who you’re worried about. That’s the Big Threat. Those people who can barely string enough brain cells together to power an electric tooth brush … those are the people you are worried about doing us out of our own country.
When did your sense of self morph into this self-doubt? When did you lose faith in the place you come from? When did your self belief turn into this self-loathing? When did “the cringe” get hold of you? Worse; when did you start believing in their mental myth of “superiority”? When did their notion that they are “the Peepil” become not so much their reality as yours?
Every bizarre thing they believe in, every notion of supremacy, no matter how far removed from the truth, every facet of their identity and “culture” is, furthermore, bound up in the flag you would wrap around yourself like a comfort blanket to protect you from their power.
Indeed, what’s left of that power is bound to that very same flag. Without it, they are nothing because without it they have nothing. Which part of that are you failing to understand?
Their power, you see, is not real. It’s an illusion, and it always has been. If you’re a Thrones fan, you’ll recognise the analogy when I describe it as a shadow on the wall. Their whole notion of being somehow special, of being important, it’s a trick of the light, and what amazes me is not how many of them actually believe in it but how many of us actually do.
Every institution they hold dear, every source of power they care about, be it Orange or Masonic, be it military or even paramilitary, flows from only a few places. It comes from the Crown and from the Union, and when we’ve got rid of the second getting rid of the first will be child’s play, and only a matter of time. The source of everything that makes them who they are is in the flag, the flag, the flag … I cannot accentuate that point enough.
I know, deep down, some of you still don’t believe this, so I’d ask you to consider for a moment why it’s these people, those you’re so scared of, who have become the most vocal advocates for maintaining the status quo?
Why are they the people leading the line for the No campaign you are pledged to support? How did it end up that your bogeyman has wound up not so much under the bed as sharing the bed with you?
Which part of this am I missing? They are fighting to maintain the system you claim is the only thing checking their unlimited dominion over us all? What’s wrong with this picture?
Whilst you’re considering that one, consider this … it’s the Westminster parties who are, right now, in talks with one another about dumping religious education out of the state school system, in the name of “social cohesion”. Does that line sound familiar? Yes, it’s the exact same line often used by the “opponents of segregated schooling” right here in Scotland.
Except here that kind of talk is little more than a fringe debate, something for the intelligentsia to get their knickers in a twist about, but certainly not part of the political discourse.
In Westminster, it’s becoming a serious issue. I’d suggest the threat from the “secularists” around David Cameron and Ed Miliband is slightly more troubling to me than the pub talk in a corner of The Louden on a hung-over Sunday afternoon.
And by the way … it’s probably worth pointing out how very many Rangers fans are committed to independence too and it’s a slur on them and on every other decent person in this country to try and paint this debate along religious or footballing lines.
I am very clear on the fact that I’m not talking here about Rangers supporters per-se but a minority of cast-iron bigots whose allegiance to a particular football team is a secondary issue to their damaged worldview.
In truth, that is what damns you most, those from my own background who follow my own club and who are worried, or claim to be, about pogroms and the Scottish equivalent of apartheid.
Those ideas are not representative of the vast, vast majority of the Scottish people. They are the province of a tiny, tiny minority … and in placing so much store in that dark fantasy you are viewing this entire country through a very warped lens
You’re in danger of becoming exactly what it is you fear most.
I cannot take you seriously. I cannot take your point seriously. I do not believe your argument has merit. Indeed, I don’t believe it’s an argument at all. It’s the raw material of your own nightmares, the scrapings of your own dark imaginations and nothing more.
I cannot ask you not to see that shadow on the wall. I cannot ask you not to jump at things that go bump in the night. I cannot ask you to believe in your fellow Scots or in the good intentions of people who’s motives you don’t automatically trust.
That’s not what galls me, what disappoints me, what frustrates me most.
It’s that you have no faith – none whatsoever – in those of us who’re just like you. You don’t believe that our dreams of Scotland can be realised or that our vision will prevail.
When did you stop believing in us? In yourself?
It makes me sad. It really does, but I do not lose heart. I look forward to us proving you wrong. I look forward to winning this debate and then the wider one, and building a country where you feel more at home.
Maybe then you’ll lift your heads again and see the sun.
Three words … they’re all you have to learn.
Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can.
And you know what? We will too. I really do believe that.
(This website needs your support, friend reader. You can help us keep running by making a donation, at the top of the page or the bottom, depending on the smart gadget you’re using. We’re working on a couple of things at the moment to make sure every person who makes a donation gets a little something back for it.)
[calameo code=001382993d2f96b1d3c1d width=550 height=356 view=book page=13 mode=viewer]