This week, Glasgow City Council announced that they had turned down the UK government’s “request” to host a barge for immigrants on the Clyde. The disgust with which this suggestion was received was obvious. The idea is actually viewed here with loathing. I am proud of that, I am proud that Glasgow is an immigrant friendly city.
Or some of it is at least. The Daily Record article on the council’s decision was polluted – a word I choose carefully, and deliberately – by some of the most racist bile I’ve had the misfortune to read outside of certain Ibrox fan forums.
It’s at times like this when I feel especially glad to be a Celtic supporter, and yet even that doesn’t seem to offer complete immunity from encountering muppets.
There is a section of our support which appears to have forgotten where we are from, or so grotesquely misunderstands what it means to be an immigrant club that you wonder sometimes how they manage to survive day-to-day living.
As the conditions facing people fleeing war, famine, persecution and the early effects of global warming continue to worsen – and by government fiat more than anything else – Celtic’s background and foundation story becomes ever more important, and so too are the way in which we embrace and support and fight for them.
People from all over the world look to our club as a beacon. We represent hope, we represent what is possible, we represent the ultimate success story. How many of us are from Irish descent? The Irish were spread across the globe by the horrors and setbacks and disasters which blighted their native land, and everywhere the Irish have gone they have dug in, endured and then finally overcome. Everywhere, they got organised, educated and thrived.
Here’s something that isn’t widely discussed, but let’s for a minute get real. Sevconian fears of the Unseen Fenian Hand are not entirely groundless. They are not entirely without foundation. Catholics, and particularly Irish Catholics, were locked out of almost of Scotland’s heavy industries and much of the professional class as well.
But we went out and got super-educated. And we organised. Everywhere I went in the trade union and Labour movement during my teens and twenties I found guys like me busying away, and people above them in the ranks from the same background, making sure that we were supported and given encouragement and pushed on forward.
The Labour Party once reached out to the Irish diaspora in Scotland, and made a point of promoting itself as their defenders and protectors. It was largely bollocks, because they also maintained strong links with Orangeism at the same time, and they were always happy to play the sectarian card, and in particular against the SNP when it was still a useful weapon.
The SNP itself had a sordid anti-Catholic history. Which changed when the modern leadership took over and transformed it into a non-sectarian political movement. Much of the credit for that has to go to an unlikely figure; Alex Salmond. He was the guy who most prominently reached out to the Scottish Catholic community, and gave them the assurances they needed on schools and on our civil rights and our constitutional future.
And so Catholics rose to the highest ranks of both parties, and in pushing for a broad and inclusive social agenda we’ve effectively make discrimination illegal in all the ways that matter. We’ve marginalised racism and sectarian attitudes. We’ve outlawed some of the more corrupt practices such as the old “and which school do you go to?” questions. The political weather in Scotland is much changed from what it was, and it is vastly different than that in England, and to some degree the Peepul feel this acutely … and with their inbuilt advantages gone, competing against people who are both smart and organised, they do feel a bit downtrodden.
Their attitudes and social customs are out of fashion and grossly at odds with the direction of travel for this country of ours. But as long as those attitudes exist, and continue to harden in certain parts of the country, Celtic’s relevance only grows and our power as a force for good only continues to grow. And with that, our global footprint gets larger.
Celtic’s stance on immigrants is one of the most welcoming in the country, and this country is more tolerant than other places. Never doubt that this club is a beacon, and as more and more people flee the horrors of this world, so will our club become ever more important in it. Glasgow is an open and welcoming city, and at its heart is this open and welcoming club.
Celebrate that. And don’t let that small handful amongst our number who just don’t get this ever think that they speak for anyone but themselves.