The Forty Five

Thirty years ago I was an eager pupil in a Hedge School.

A guy whose day job was to deliver the state-approved history syllabus to Glasgow kids taught me the real stuff.

As it turned out he was giving his young scholars the same message in school hours.

John MacVicar was the parliamentary candidate for the then Glasgow Shettleston constituency and I was his local fixer.

Anytime we had a spare minute he would take me through the history of the country I was born in.

On more than one occasion his sculpted narrative would come back to ‘The Forty Five’.

The guys from London with the big artillery won the last pitched battle on the island of Britain.

Culloden settled the issue.

With their rule assured, the ruling tribe in London, assisted by their local allies, ethnically cleansed the area that had provided Charles with his rebel army.

I often remarked to John MacVicar that it was interesting that the British history that I had been taught at my secondary school started in 1750.

It was a paean to British industrialisation, entrepreneurship and ingenuity. Fortunately I was a product of a Hedge School in County Mayo.

Sitting at my grandmother’s range in Westport, the mother of my father told me of the dark side of Britishness.

On what could have been Scotland’s Independence Day, I walked from my mother’s house to the fine educational establishment that had accepted me as a wee scholar over 50 years ago.

At the door of Saint Bridget’s primary school, I met a personable man from Durham.

He told me that he had lived in Glasgow for 11 years and that he was a senior technician at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Looking rather dapper in his red ‘Better Together’ zipper, Ian was handing out small cards to try and influence the voters just before they carried out the democratic act itself.

He told me he wasn’t in the Labour Party, but that he did vote for them.

As we stood chatting about the referendum I gave him a quick social history of the village of Baillieston.

He had no idea of the place or the people there.

Down on Camp Road was David (31) who was handing out material for Yes Scotland.

He told me that he was an SNP member and had originally been born and reared in the Dennistoun area of Glasgow.

The passing of thirty years had altered the political landscape in my home place.

In the 1987 British General Election, the ex-mining village was rock solid Labour territory.

The year before I joined the local SNP and they made me the constituency organiser.

MacVicar,a rugby playing Borderer ,took the fight to Labour.

Our local election material challenged why the local Irish community, wedded to a Four Green Fields narrative about Ireland, would vote like British Unionists in Scotland.

The Labour Party howled in outrage and complained to Scottish National Party HQ, but it worked and a significant amount of people from my community voted SNP for the first time.

David told me that he had attended White Hill Secondary School and that John MacVicar had taught him Scottish history.

I’m sure he did.

I walked away from my old school with a smile on my face.

People don’t change much, but generations do and on the bus into Glasgow I chatted to 17-year-old Katie.

Like me she went to St Bridget’s and to the same secondary school that I had attended.

She had voted YES. For her it was a no brainer. She had never called herself ‘British’ and she didn’t know of any of her friends who would own the ‘B’ word.

At George Square the night before, I had stood at the war memorial directly across from the City Chambers.

I was glad that there was a not so thin yellow line of Glasgow polis between me and the Nazi-saluting crowd across the street.

At most they were around 30 in number.

Last night, I believe there were significantly more than that.

It is clear that not everyone in Scotland has lost their, ahem, cultural Britishness.

Robin McApline of the Common Weal told me on polling day that in his home area of South Lanarkshire “the Orange vote” was a major factor in the NO vote.

On polling day, George Square continued to be a gathering point for pipers, percussion ensembles, and a face painting lady.

Curious tourists wandered around smiling at the scenes and soaking up the vibe.

Sadly last night George Square was a meeting point for the Queen’s underclass.

When I was John MacVicar’s election organiser I wrote a piece for the Glasgow Herald and in it I stated that “Clan Ibrox was Scotland’s Trojan Horse”. I predicted that if Scotland found itself in a situation where the Union was in peril then these fine chaps could be mobilised to save the day for Blighty.

In those days it was only the Irish tricolour that they considered worthy of burning. Now apparently the Saltire suffers the same fate.

The YES Scotland campaign has been remarkable.

It remains to be seen whether or not it leaves behind a lasting coherent movement for Scottish independence.

Already on Twitter people are referring to themselves as ‘Forty-Fivers’.

The Better Together campaign in the later days panicked into offering lots of Devo Max type goodies to the people of Scotland if they voted NO.

Now those desperate promise will have to be delivered on.

However, even at this stage those promises don’t appear to be that promissory.

The regions that comprise the north of England are already demanding some similar largesse from the London City State that still rules most of this archipelago.

Of course, power devolved is power retained.

During the campaign I spoke with veteran Scottish political journalist Robbie Dinwoodie.

He shared with me his view that for him the independence referendum campaign was a manifestation of the fact that the United Kingdom has stopped functioning properly as a polity.

At the national count centre in Ingliston I sat next to a couple of Catalan journalists.

They seem to be across the detail of this independence referendum campaign in a way that would baffle the meeja chaps from the Thames.

I am sure that they would fully understand what Robbie meant about a polity that stops functioning properly apropos its ‘regions’.

I thought some weeks ago that the messiest possible outcome to this referendum would be a narrow victory for Better Together.

I thought a 45% YES vote or over would put Britain into uncharted political waters.

YES got over that line.

In the last days of the campaign the leaders of the main Westminster parties seemed to promise almost anything to an electorate that they had disregarded and taken for granted.

If the Westminster tribe are good to their word then they will have to deliver something that looks very much like Devo Max.

To Tory backbenchers from the Shires, this looks like more goodies for feather bedded Jocks.

The Scottish question remains at the heart of the future of the United Kingdom.

A strengthened Holyrood will increasingly square up to Westminster on behalf of the Scottish people.

I believe that the Wee Jeannie is out of the bottle and she is a thrawn besom.

In the last week of the campaign I spoke with Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News and he stated to me that he had not seen the Westminster tribe in such a panic in his lifetime.

For a few magical weeks many ordinary people in Scotland knew that those with power over them were suddenly afraid.

The Etonians were terrified by what was happening in Scotland and the folks in the schemes knew it.

This is the first time in my life that the collective force of those who lived in places like Drumchapel and Easterhouse impacted so dramatically on the privileged tribe on the Thames, but Project Fear came through and delivered the day for Blighty.

The Yes Scotland activists chanted ‘hope not fear!’

However, in the end fear won and it was a historic victory.

Project Fear worked.

It always had the big scary artillery on its side.

When the Better Together leadership were spooked by ONE opinion poll the BBC, especially from London, moved through the propaganda gears until they were in full Enver Hoxha mode.

On the other side, the Fifth Estate bypassed the mainstream and spoke directly to the nation.

The Wee Blue Book from Wings Over Scotland distributed one million copies in print and download.

It was a remarkable effort.

In the long list of glorious failures in Scottish history, Yes Scotland is right up there.

However, if this campaign has established Base Camp to final independence then all of this, the canvassing, the debating, the pleading and the chanting, will have been worth it.

It remains to be seen as to whether or not, because of the scale of the NO victory and the high turnout, the independence question is settled now for a generation.

Prime Minister David Cameron certainly thinks so, but as he conceded, he won’t be there forever.

The British Prime Minister offered the hope that the constitutional question in Scotland might now be off the table “for a lifetime”.

In the East End of Glasgow where I am from, a lifetime, especially for men, can be shamefully short.

Poverty and hopelessness are a toxic combination.

For a magical couple of weeks it looked as if there could be a way out of this malaise.

The people who were convinced by YES Scotland haven’t gone away you know. The independence campaign facilitated new thinking in socially excluded communities across the Scottish nation.

For the first time many working class people north of the border connected social justice to the national question.

The great cities of Dundee and Glasgow voted YES in substantial numbers.

Moreover, many of them identified the Labour Party as their enemy in the IndyRef campaign.

That could have lasting consequences in Alba, especially in my native city.

I hope that this is not the end, but that it is just the beginning and that the cynical tribe on the Thames will have to contend with the collective strength of the Forty-Five.

Almost half of those who voted wanted out of the United Kingdom and they are substantially younger than the NO voters.

In 1707, Scotland was sold to England by local rich men on the make; their counterparts in 2014 worked very hard for their paycheques to make sure that Alba remained within the control of the London state.

They used fear and confusion, but above all it was the former and that is unforgivable.

It is now down to the Forty-Five to make sure that Jim Murphy and George Galloway have scored a pyric victory over their own people.

Leave a Reply