CELTIC supporter George Galloway is currently touring Scotland with former Labour MP and current Celtic board member Brian Wilson urging Scots to vote No in the forthcoming independence referendum.
At present momentum is gathering for the Yes campaign but many Celtic fans still have unanswered questions about how an independent Scotland under Alex Salmond would affect them.
Last week Galloway considered the relatively recent change of attitude among a significant number in the Celtic community and Scotland’s Irish diaspora: “Twenty years ago I would have said that virtually nobody from the Irish Catholic diaspora in Scotland would have voted for an SNP-led independent Scotland, in fact probably ten years ago and maybe even five — but that appears to be changing for reasons which are very foolish indeed.
“There is a class of thinking or school of thought in the diaspora that somehow imagines that an independent Scotland is going to be almost a recreation of the six counties or the Falls Road but actually the opposite is true.
“It is more likely to be a Stormont Scotland than any kind of nascent Irish republican enclave so it’s very, very perplexing.
“Salmond has made a big effort to dampen down the historically anti-Catholic nature of the SNP. I’m cursed or blessed depending on your point of view with an elephantine memory and I recall very vividly when the leader of the SNP William Wolfe called for the arrest of the Papal nuncio if he set foot in Scotland and tried to bring a private prosecution when the police refused to arrest him, so ‘No Pope Here’ was the slogan of the SNP in my political life-time.
"Salmond has worked hard but you only have to scratch the surface on Catholic schools for example, they will not exist in 15 years after Scottish independence if it happens.”
As the referendum draws closer support for independence has manifested on various Celtic related social websites.
Celtic Fans for Scottish Independence is one worth consideration. It’s been suggested that Irish republicans such as James Connolly and Michael Davitt — who laid the first sod of turf at the then new Celtic Park in 1892 — would be natural supporters for independence today, these figures also had a significant but separate context in Scotland concerning workers’ rights and fighting for the common man, said Galloway: “Probably Davitt wouldn’t be for it and Connolly would but who can tell?
What I’m saying is that there is no contradiction whatsoever in supporting a united Ireland and an end to partition and supporting a united Britain and no partition — the cue being in the words unity and partition.”
In 2011 Galloway penned Open Season, delivering a book that examined the bigotry and sectarianism suffered by Neil Lennon, he explains what inspired him to write to it: “Something died within me about Scotland when I was saw this guy run onto the park at Tynecastle and commit that assault [on Lennon] to then be acquitted of any sectarian purpose even though the grounds man, who you would think had no axe to grind at Hearts, said that the words “Fenian” and “bastard” were used as the lunge was taking place.
"But the jury didn’t agree and cleared the guy of that particular offence. That was the moment when I felt someone had to do something and the book was a result.”
Galloway has no time for the notion that a vote for the SNP will eventually lead to a more socialist Scotland and suggests a more inward-looking and bigoted society is the reality.
“You now have support from oligarchs like Rupert Murdoch and Brian Souter for independence because if it all goes through Scotland will become a cold-water Cuba; don’t make me laugh. Far from becoming a socialist Scotland if it was independent, it would be dragged into a race to the bottom by a perpetual Tory government in England with complete and total control over the Scottish currency.
“They are not going to say ‘as soon as we get into power we will abolish ourselves so people can vote for whoever they like’. You have to know that the first Scottish prime minister will be Alex Salmond and SNP will be there for a very, very long time — they will make sure of that and that’s what you have to be careful of. I hear people say to me, ‘I don’t like Salmond or SNP but I’m going to vote for them’. It’s nonsense on stilts.
“People who define themselves as Catholics should be aware about creating an independent state in which the bigots and age-old discriminators are 12 times more powerful than what they are at the moment.
Of course the majority of the Scottish people are not bigots and discriminators but there are a large number of them, it’s a minority but it’s a large minority. It’s a minority of a few 100,000 people.
“Neither is it a Glasgow or west of Scotland issue, anyone who says that has never visited Tynecastle. The danger of a Stormont Scotland is very real and present and people should be very careful before going into that good night. As for the Celtic community as a whole, they have a taste of rule by Alex Salmond who is determining which songs they can sing and what banners they can unfurl, think of that with state power writ large.
“People should vote No because it will weaken people on both sides. Neo-liberalism will prevail on both sides of that new border. Standards and wages will be driven downwards. As most people in the Celtic community are working people, I strongly advise them against doing that.”
Galloway as a fan away from home believes the club has lost something of their original values.
“Of course I support the team but I feel the people who run it, although they know the culture they don’t actually support it. The values of Brother Walfrid and the values around the club are shared by the great majority of the Celtic community, I’m not sure how much they are shared by Dermot Desmond, for example they refuse to pay the living wage to the staff which would have cost them peanuts and it’s shameful.”
While Mr Galloway has strong views on the current board, his reflections on some of Celtic’s most bold, colourful and talented players is something most will agree on.
“I think that technically Henrik Larsson was the best player we ever had, but I was kind of in love with Moravcik, he was a genius, it was a pity we got him so late in his career but really he was something very special.
“I used to love to watch Big Jacki [Dariusz Dziekanowski], Jorge Cadete was another favourite of mine, I liked the more explosive strikers.”
It’s fair to say that Galloway brings something of the same exuberance to the political field.
Richard Purden is the author of We Are Celtic Supporters and Faithful Through and Through