Journeys on the Scottish omnibus

If you’re into politics then this is the happening place this week. I arrived in my native city last night and it started for me almost immediately.

On the shuttle in from Glasgow airport the chaos of the universe decided to put me in the seat in front of Brian Wilson. For the uninitiated Brian was elected to serve for the Cunninghame North constituency in 1987 for the Labour Party and he successfully defended the seat until he retired in 2005.

He wrote the official biography of Celtic on the centenary year in 1988 and he is currently a director of the Parkhead Club. Just like our folks a generation or so ago we were both at the back of the bus on the way into Glasgow.

I introduced myself and established my political and genetic post code for him. I write for a Celtic fanzine (the Alternative View) and the Labour Party is in my DNA. On my mother’s side there is Labour MP (the late James Hamilton) and the trainer that recommended Jock Stein to the Celtic board (Jimmy Gribben).

Credentials established we settled down to chat.

In the west of Scotland Celtic football club and the Labour Party were both both badges of an ethno religious identity. The latter was manifested in a highly predictable voting patterns over most of the 20th century in this city. In the West of Scotland that we were born in the Irish community and the Labour Party were joined at the hip.

When I told Brian that my maternal grandmother’s first cousin was Jimmy Hamilton MP he knew was chatting to one of his own. He wanted to know my voting intentions and I told him I lived in Ireland and subsequently I had no vote nor should I have one.

I told him, from my vantage point in Ireland, that it looked like a narrow NO victory was the most likely outcome. I told him that my mum is firmly in in NO camp.

Moreover, I’m in no doubt that her two surviving sisters are also dismissive of the very idea of an independent Scotland and would vote the same way as their big sis. My mother was born in the 1920s when the position of my community on the Scottish omnibus was clearly marked out at the rear.

I pointed out to Brian that under the age of 40 that the old certainties of party loyalty to Labour and hostility to the separatist project had largely gone. Once more he acknowledged this reality.

He also accepted the veracity of my observation that it was mismatch between Labour and the SNP in Holyrood and that his lot had deployed the “B Team” against Salmond and Sturgeon. Something tells me that if it is a YES vote by a narrow margin then Brian Wilson will not be a surprised man.

I then caught up with a buddy in the city centre and like me he had been reared in the Labour party. He detests the SNP to the point of it being personal, but he told me he was voting YES.

The taxi driver who took me on the final leg of my journey was firmly in the NO camp.  He stated to me that he was ‘British’ and that was that. One of his freely offered observations was that there were ‘too many Moslems in Scotland’.

In my native city I find myself playing the role of foreign correspondent and in the foyer of a city centre hotel this morning I was given my porridge by Gurnam, a Glaswegian and a proud Sikh.

When I told him that I was in Glasgow to cover IndyRef he cheerfully told me that he was a committed YES voter. He assured me that all of his family would be voting YES also. Gurnam was surprised and delighted that the man he was attending to had written a feature piece (before Gurnam was born) about Udam Singh.

We shared a hero. For him the issue was clear cut and it was that Scotland is a country and should be independent.

In the Republic of Ireland we are used to referendums.

The media, the political class and the electorate all know what to do. What is exciting about this is that everyone in Scotland, the people and all of the main players, are in uncharted waters.

What will be of interest to Sluggerites is that the Fifth Estate has played a central, perhaps, crucial role in the campaign. This week Scotland is THE only place to be for the political junkie.

I think I just might OD sometime early on Friday morning.

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  • dougthedug

    Something tells me that if it is a YES vote by a narrow margin then Brian Wilson will not be a surprised man.

    He might not be a surprised man if Yes win but he will be a very, very angry man as Brian Wilson is a hard line British nationalist and unionist who campaigned against devolution in the 1979 referendum and who hates the idea of Scottish independence with a passion.