The SNP voter
James Friel, 73
Glasgow, Irish roots in Donegal & Cavan
Retired printer and father-of-three
THE BIG ISSUE: The National Health Service
James Friel was born in Glasgow, the son of a Donegal father and a Cavan mother.
“I see myself as Irish and I love Ireland. I suppose you could say I’m an Irish Scot - which is something quite different from a Scots Irish. But having said that, I live in Scotland and I want to see a good future for Scotland. I think a lot of Irish people, in the past certainly, have tended to live in an Irish cocoon. But that’s not for me. I want to see the best for everybody in Scotland. That’s why I’m voting for the SNP.”
For many years James was a Labour activist and voter.
“I think once upon a time it would be true to say that the Labour party was the home of the Irish vote. The SNP, back in the early days, was seen as anti-Irish, anti-Catholic. But that’s definitely no longer the case.”
Various elements made James change allegiance from Labour to SNP.
He was impressed by their social policies, while at the same time being deeply disturbed by the direction Labour had taken, not least Tony Blair’s right wing policies.
Tuition fees and the Iraq War were two particular Labour policy decisions that he disagreed with, and the current Labour leadership has vindicated his decision, he believes.
“Jim Murphy [the new Labour leader in Scotland] is to the right of Tony Blair, if you can imagine that. The previous leader, Joanne Lamont, was a difficult enough personality, but at least she had some vestiges of traditional Labour values.”
The Trident nuclear deterrent is another massive policy difference between James’s thinking and Labour Party policy.
The SNP are totally in step with his views.
“Trident is a total and utter waste of money. It’s never going to be used — Ed Miliband has said he’ll never use it, so there seems no logic to retaining it. Of course, I understand that its existence in Scotland means em- ployment for lots of folk, so there would have to be some sort of staged decommissioning. But I’ve read that even 60 percent of the Labour Party are opposed to it, so where’s the logic in keeping it?”
The final straw for the Labour Party in Scotland, James believes, was the referendum.
“Scotland became incredibly politicised then,” he says. “It was a real watershed here, with people becoming passionate again about politics. It really was quite extraordinary. But I think what incensed people here was when Labour lined up with the Tories during the independence referendum.”
James has fallen foul of anti-Catholic feeling, at one time rife in Scotland, during his working life.
"Even the referendum pointed it up — there are two Scotlands — a decent, liberal country, with socialist values and happy to live in a modern Europe."
"And another, much smaller Scotland which houses remnants of the past - bigoted, anti-Catholic, and not unlike their counterparts in Northern Ireland."
"But fortunately that Scotland, that mean-spirited, backward looking population, has nearly gone. As I say, we saw some of it at the end of the referendum, but thankfully it's only a minority."
James is confident the SNP will do well this week, but, along with everyone else, is unsure what will happen in the aftermath of the election.
But of one thing he is sure — there will be another Scottish ref- erendum on independence at some point. “Only this time,” says James, “it will be at the time of the SNP’s choosing, not the British government’s.”