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The forgotten army

A few years ago, Eileen and I flew into Prestwick Airport. We had decided to take the train for the rest of the journey and so we crossed the bridge to the dedicated railway station that is Prestwick’s only advantage as an air terminal, unless you count the Elvis Presley Bar.

There were four other people on the platform, lads, mid teens, with a couple of bottles of Buckfast to share between them. They were loud, and obscene at times, but at least they were not aggressive. More people arrived, several non-Scots among them, then so did the train and we all got on. The boys didn’t make it past the next station; as soon as we stopped there the conductor ran from a coach at the rear to the one they were in, and chucked them off.

‘Lovely,’ I thought at the time. ‘What a welcome to Scotland for all these tourists.’

Today, I think the same, but more deeply. What do those visitors think of a society, I wonder, that abandons its youth to afternoons of joyriding on trains and sucking fortified wine from the neck of a bottle?  What indeed?

Those boys aren’t the problem. We are.

Four years ago, Peter Mullen, the hugely talented Scottish actor and director, made a film called ‘Neds’; it told a story of youth gangs in Glasgow and of one boy’s route to escape from that culture. It was by any standards one of the movies of the year. It won Best Film in January 2011 at the San Sebastian Festival, and was praised at every foreign event where it was screened. Yet when the BAFTAs came around, the luvvies in London ignored it completely.

I believe that they did so because it scared them more than a little, by scratching at a truth that they found unpalatable.

There have been Neds in Glasgow for two hundred years, an underclass of kids that society has ignored until they’ve become a problem by getting above themselves. Come that time the traditional approach has been heavy-handed policing and a stretch in Borstal or the YOI.

No government has ever taken responsibility for them, or cared about them, a fact that condemns them all . . . and us for we’ve gone on electing the sods.

Neds are what they are because of the social conditions in which they grow. It’s the only culture they know and so they take a perverse pride in it. Those boys on the train were a prime example, and as Peter Mullen’s film pointed out, the problem is getting worse.

Neds are what they are because for the last two centuries, no London government has give a damn about them.

For decades Scotland was left to fend for itself, yet denied the resources to do so. We had, we were told, our own legal system and our own education system. What more could we want? Control of our destiny, perhaps, and maybe also some parliamentary time for the legislation necessary to maintain those institutions.

But it never happened, and the blight of youth deprivation in Glasgow, and in other cities no doubt, persisted until after a while we became blind to it. Some who read this might blame the local authorities, but what could they do, save control the problem? Job creation was never one of Glasgow Corporation’s functions, any more than Chief Constable Sir Percy Sillitoe was a social worker.

No-one has ever cared for those kids . . . until now. A Yes vote won’t see them handed free passes to paradise, but it will deliver power into the hands of people who care about their plight.

Today we stand on the edge of history. Tomorrow Scotland votes for its future. We’re all exhausted by the campaign, even those of us who have watched the last couple of weeks from another country, quietly relieved that we weren’t able to join those who protested against the likes of that idiot Ed Miliband’s, ill-conceived, ill-advised and ill-timed attempt at a triumphal progress though the St James Shopping Centre.

I have listened to the debate for the last eternity. I have absorbed all the negativity that Better Together has thrown at us, all the bluster, and all the threats. I have noted too that all of them are aimed at one target group of voters; the comfortably off, the well-to-do, the rich and the downright wealthy.

They have been bullied, browbeaten and bullshat, into believing that if they vote Yes, they will suddenly be impoverished, rather than be members of a newly liberated and prosperous society, with the freedom to set its own economic and social agendas to replace those of Westminster which have failed Scotland so lamentably, and with access to the riches that have been denied us for forty years and more.

Among all that Darling rhetoric, I have not heard a single word that addressed the rest of our society. The elderly have been told that their pensions will be under threat, when the opposite is true. The young? They have been told nothing meaningful at all.

It is crystal clear that if Scotland votes status quo, that is what we will get. The rich will get richer, until the next Westminster induced financial crisis, or until Europhobic England drags Euro-friendly Scotland out of the EU.

The poor will get what they’ve always had from London: f*ck all.

Will that happen?  This morning Betfair are saying that it will. But I’ll wager that there is one element they have forgotten to factor into their calculations.

This time, the neds can vote: and Peter Mullen’s film may well drive them to the polling stations. God, I hope so.

Categories: Politics
  1. Montaltoman
    September 17, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Just a quick feeble comment “never end a sentence a preposition with” – A former Ned. Pass the blood red wine, eh Jim.

  2. Montaltoman
    September 17, 2014 at 11:03 am

    That trivia aside, QJ – quite joyful to receive your acceptance of my apology and for your very kind comment. You are perfectly correct in that I seem to have excess time on my hands. I have decided to accede to your initial request and henceforth cease to clontaminate your blog. I shall confiscate my keyboard and desist dialogue. Prohibit poetry prose and puns, avoid analogy, reject the rebus etc. My intention is to return to Reading Gaol in solitude and later to wander further in the Wilde. I may seek solace in ‘La Serenisima’ with Donna Leon or attempt to rediscover the Diamond of Grace among the Saints Peter – Lovesey or James, not to forget Alliss upon whose great creation Woodspring GCCC where I could slowly wander basking in the glory of being retired Inaugural Captain and Honorary Vice President of the English Golf Union registered W.A.G.S. With a final apology for my intrusion – Farewell and felicitations from your fan, Montaltoman (damn another rhyme crept in!)

  3. Fergus
    September 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Montaltoman, you need to lie down a while before waking up to a new tomorrow, if it happens and I sincerely hope it does, although the press and polls are severely ambivalent as always, you seem to have missed the point altogether, you’re excluding yourself when it’s all about being included. Sorry QJ, I shoud be addressing your post. “Neds,” new name, old thing and why “Neds”? Who invented that name? When I was an adolescent in Scotland (early 60’s to 70’s), growing up happens before that, East Coast people had to watch their backs when going to the West Coast and vice versa (understand Edinburgh and Glasgow but I think we all know that). That was, in my opinion, intentionally confrontational but now there’s no reason for it. A few years ago I was on a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow on a football match day and there were armed police on it….come on, we can do better than that. These “neds” have to have something interesting to do every day and Westminster won’t do it or even consider it, why can’t we? Need to vote yes and work it out for wersels. Same in France, nobody is looking after the future, i.e. the current generation’s children; some manage, some go to Syria and many are on the streets with no hope. A yes vote is a vote for hope and confidence. The politicians and institutions will have to assume responsibilities and push it all foreward with a vengeance (and do it well and succeed). Show the world. Fingers crossed.

    • Montaltoman
      September 18, 2014 at 10:51 am

      And some fell on stony ground……………..

    • Montaltoman
      September 19, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Vox populi.

  4. September 19, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Since you seek to be my adviser on everything else, Monty, let me advise you on two things, sex and travel. I futue te ipsi

    • Montaltoman
      September 19, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Accepted with a smile! No offence intended -only humour. I shall comply, and have to go anyway because I think I hear the pibroch sounding deep o’er the mountain and glen!

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