Friday, 26 December 2014

The 10 marks of militant secularism

This is quite a good wee fun test...

1. All religion is relative, Westboro Baptists and Al-Qaeda are equal to the CofE or your local Parish Vicar: Do you think Satanists and Pagans should get there own Schools as long as Catholics are allowed them? Do you see ISIS committing a crime on the news and immediately find yourself attacking the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope for being "In a way, just as bad, if you think about it?"

2.  We know what's best for everyone else's kids, even more than parents: Do you think that parents teaching their own kids, their own faith is a form of oppression against children?

3. Legalism, legalism, legalism and all power to The State: The ONLY way to ever change society is through legislation, never through example or persuasion because you can't make people who disagree with you do what you want by any other means. Does the idea of groups of different faith and secular communities living differently alongside each other in one society appeal to you?

4. We speak for others and are always offended on others behalf: Do you think Christians celebrating Easter and Christmas is offensive to Muslims and Jews despite the fact that neither Muslims and Jews are ever offended by these holidays? Are you outraged on behalf of Gay Christians without ever bothering to speak to any individual Gay Christians and understand the complexities of their relationship with the Church?

5. We can't be Militant Secularists, we don't carry guns or advocate terrorism or violence: Do you have an understanding of the idea that fascism doesn't start with terror, that's where it ends? It begins in the coffee houses and dining rooms of the chattering classes. Do you have no concerns that the Government now creates and funds pressure groups to campaign for legislation it would like to implement? See numbers 2. and 3. above

6. Anti-Catholicism is an acceptable prejudice, but we're nothing like those nasty Orangemen: Catholics are the worst, sound familiar? Do you think anti-Catholicism is ok provided it's coming from Middle Class liberals?

7. Christians are all UKIP voting bigots: When you meet someone, do you judge them depending on what faith they hold, based on your own prejudice? Do you ever see someone on the news doing something bad then endeavour to establish what religion they are and then point it out to everyone you meet, even when faith is not a factor in the actual crime, misdemeanour or offense?

8. I refuse to accept that the Country's entire culture and history is rooted in Christianity: Are you offended when someone says "God bless", or "you are in my prayers", and if you could, you'd ban such expressions?

9. I've read bad things in the Bible that are bad, therefore Christians are bad: Do you often attribute beliefs to people that they don't hold? Do you ever quote Scripture at Christians without checking the context or to see if their denomination is entirely biblical based? Do you fancy yourself as a bit of an expert in theology, science, genetics and pretty much any topic you care to speak about?

10. There can't be a God, because bad things happen: Do you talk about religion ALL the time, is your life just one big negative affirmation, deep down, do you actually believe in God but are angry with him over something from your younger years?

Monday, 22 December 2014

Old Boers, Bitter Enders, Jim Murphy and New Labour

This is my second post about the Boer War, you can read my previous post about Scotland, Ireland and German Boers like Paul Kruger and Stephanus Schoeman here...

I often wonder, if the young Jim Murphy read much about the history of the Boers when he and his parents moved to Apartheid South Africa for a better life. He would have done well to, because the Boer War has much to teach us about modern politics in Scotland.
For example, New Labour in Scotland seems to be increasingly offended and almost angered by the fact that they won the Indy Ref yet Nationalists are still lobbying hard for Independence.  The logic seems to be that the Yes movement should have just gone away and accepted the result. To be fair, many yes voters  have indeed given up the ghost and accept that Scotland will remain under British Rule. Yet, we too have our bitter enders just as there were the bitter enders among the Boers in South Africa who refused to stop fighting after South Africa had been brought under British Rule after the Boer War.

Then there's Jan Smuts who served as a Boer General during the Boer War, yet after the British victory he became the South Africa Prime Minister under British Rule twice between 1919 and 1948, he was also a British General during the First World War and then appointed Field Marshal during the Second World War. During his time as Prime Minister, Smuts had to struggle against an on going rebellion from "bittereinders" (bitter enders) who refused to give up the fight, as well as opposition from his Anti-British, National Party, political opponent J.B.M. Hertzog (Whose later reforms while Prime Minister improved conditions for working-class whites) and the "Old Boers" who never fully accepted British rule.

In addition to these enemies, Smuts also struggled against the rise of South African Trade Unionism, Socialists, Miners Strikes and even a General Strike. Smuts also sent the troops in several times and arrested and deported Union leaders. It's also worth noting that the great "Folk Hero" Koos Delarey led these military attack on striking workers and Trade Unionists. What happened next is kind of  similar to what we are seeing happening in Scotland right now. The Old Boers, the anti-British faction and the Bitter enders who were all deeply conservative, rural and staunchly Christian and whose ONLY goal was to win independence for South Africa and free the Union of South Africa from British rule, suddenly found themselves sharing a common cause with Socialists and Trade Unionists.

The Trade Unions, the South African Labour Party, and the Old Boers all criticized Smuts. In Smuts' own words he admitted that...  "A smashing blow had to be struck at syndicalism in South Africa. I gave that blow." It was this forceful attack on trade unionism that forged the Old Boers, the unions, and the South African Labour Party together, as a united front against what they saw as treason and tyranny.

In the same way, Scottish Labour continues to haemorrhage Leftists and Trade Unionists while the SNP continues to gain them. Murphy's staunch British Unionism is essentially forging together the cause of Scottish Independence and Trade Unionism. Just as Smuts forged South African Independence and Trade Unionism together almost 100 years earlier. Indeed, the union Unite are even now considering their future affiliation to Labour now that the party have elected Jim Murphy as its new leader.  This is because Neil Findlay was backed by 9 out of 11 trade unions affiliated to Labour while Jim Murphy on the other hand has publicly attacked the Trade Unions. Unions will now find it very difficult to back Murphy, who is after all a true Blairite.

Yet, it remains to be seen if the SNP has the ability to capitalize on this shift and become the broad, mass party of the Scottish people that Labour once was and should still be. This type of broad movement or mass party is often created through very different voices coming together in a common cause.  It seems that Labour are choosing to reject the cure offered to them by Maurice Glasman via his Blue Labour concept. Maurice seeks to restore the party to its original form, when it was a party of  trade unionists, social democrats, Christians, social conservatives, non-conformists, Labour Zionists, pacifists, anarchists, socialists and so on. The idea is that this move would have restored the party to it's working class roots through democratic engagement with various diverse community groups such as Churches which would then allow the Labour Party to the party to reinvigorate its relationships with various communities across the nation through the concept of the "Common Good" and the three pillars of "family, faith, and flag.  But it seems that this idea is just too conservative for New Labour. 

However, judging by some of the junk I read in the Sunday Pravda-Herald, the SNP may also be unable to construct a new alternative to statist and market based forms of socialism.  The wider Yes Movement has the power to put the role of self-organised groups and interests into our political and economic organisations.  The Yes movement has the ability to pick up the remnants of an older Labour Movement Tradition which put far more emphasis on Christianity, Catholic Social Thought and disestablished radical Protestantism such as political Methodism.  These were a big aspect in the rise of the Labour Movement and could also be applied to new politics in Scotland,

Yet, I am unconvinced that SNP can find a common good between immigrants and locals, workers and bosses, religious and secular. The SNP currently remains deeply statist, deeply centralist and increasingly linked to (and lobbied by) a growing number of liberals linked to the party and the Yes movement. For example, the Sunday Pravda Herald has become a weekly mouthpiece for the awful Scottish Secular Society who are overtly anti-religious, yet also increasingly pro-independence. If these ultra-secular, anti-clerical and hardline liberal elements within the Yes movement gain more influence within the SNP then they too will fail to become a broad Church, mass party. It might be best for both the SNP and The Greens (Who are also cosying up to the SSS) as well as other pro-Indy Yes groups, to distance themselves from highly divisive groups like the Scottish Secular Society, especially since the SSS actually lose every single petition they raise and every campaign they fight. Not sure if this has anything to do with their militancy and aggressive tone?  
Another example of the SNP supporters and other Indy campaigners shift towards secular liberalism is their severing of links to a vaguely Boer related people: The Flemish. Indeed, the only Boer like ethnic group of people supporting Scottish Independence at the moment are those in the Flemish Movement from Flanders.  Most Flemish Nationalists are in the moderate wing of the Flemish Movement and many have links to Trade Unions. However, not all those within the Flemish Movement are either left wing or Liberal. They are comprise of parties who are also social conservatives, traditionalists, monarchists, far right or even Christians Democrats. During the Indy Ref the support of the Flemish Movement towards Scottish Independence was used by Better Together to link the SNP to the European Far Right parties such as Vlaams Belang and the Nationalist Students Union. This in turn has led to many Yessers and SNP supporters to distance themselves from the Flanders Movement. Basque and Catalonia flags still seem ok but not Flemish ones.
Another interesting Boer parallel with Scots seems to be efforts by some in South Africa to reinvented or reappraise the role of Boer identity in the creation of Apartheid. There seems to be a trend among some political circles to point out that the Boer culture of the Free State was originally distinct from the wider Afrikaner culture which arose from the Cape Colony, a culture which came to absorb and dominate the Boer identity. The theory is that the true Boer folk were far less inclined towards colonialism since they themselves had been a victims of oppression and were refugees from Europe. The idea seems to be that they were not seeking to oppress or enslave the indigenous peoples of Southern Africa but rather sought a kind of isolationist society akin to the Amish in North America. This concept then partially exonerates the Boers from the Apartheid system which later developed in South Africa. Instead, Apartheid is seen as an extension of Afrikaner and British colonialism.

To me, this sounds very like the Scots who often seek to exonerate the Scottish Highlanders and Scots-Irish who settled in the Appalachian mountains and their descendants from having any major role in Slavery or the Confederacy. It sounds very similar to the idea that these Scots in the Appalachian mountains were poor farmers with no slaves.  The claim is that it would have been unacceptable for these independent freedom loving Scots to accept that the new lands opening up in the American west should be denied to independent poor farmers, but instead be bought up by rich slave owners who would buy up the best land and work it with slaves, forcing the white farmers onto marginal lands.

Unfortunately, I don't know enough about the complex historical reality of either of these claims about Scots in America or the early Boers in South Africa. Perhaps someone could enlighten me? 


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Working Class Gourockians: Forgotten and trapped between Ashton and Greenock Westenders

Geographically, culturally and historically, there are two parts to Gourock. Traditionally, Gourock proper or Gourock Bay (which covers the area from Shore Street to Cardwell Road) and the newer Ashton area over on West Bay.

Working class people tended to live over on the Shore Street, Cardwell Road, east end of the town while the Middle Classes and the wealthy Glasgow merchants built their summer houses further along Cloch Road. Kempock street was the middle ground between these two worlds. This is why the Gamble Halls are situated in the older, east part of town, the building was given as a library and baths for the improvement of working people through recreation and reading.

The above picture is from the 1950's. It's the workers at Adams Boat Yard in Gourock which includes my Great Granda Hermann, my Granda Robey, my great uncles Bert, Hermann, Harry, Bernhardt (Benny) and Jimmy who all worked in Adams Yard as shipwrights. They all lived along Shore Street and also just up above Shore Street on McCallum Cres. Hermann was the Foreman and Jimmy was Union shop steward, after work they used to meet in the back room of the Albert Bar and my Granda also worked in Monteiths Bar at night. Unusually, my Great Granda Hermann Ahlfeld has two gravestones in Gourock Cemetery, one from his family and one from his co-workers at Adams Yard. 

Other working men who lived around the east end of the town worked in places like the Gasworks and the Quarry. They drank in the various other pubs which still remain in this part of the town today, pubs such as the Victoria Bar, the Darroch etc... Later, many Gourock men (And women) also worked in the Torpedo Factory which was built at the Battery Park (despite bitter objections from the wealthy west enders in Greenock) which is why the Factory Social Club remains in Gourock today.
Later, many of these workers moved up to Midton. For example, my Dad was born and raised on Shore street but later moved up to Midton (to a house with an inside toilet). Midton was started in 1944 and consisted of 11 pre-fabricated houses (pre-fabs) Later Midton expanded to include the Council estate which which was built in the 1950's.

Sadly, the problems faced by Working Class people in Gourock were often ignored because many of Gourock's traders, business owners and Middle Classes were often more vocal and had more influence than our elected members. Over the decades, this resulted in a disconnect between Working Class Gourockians and various Labour controlled Councils in the 70's and 80's. I'm really not sure how much has changed almost 60 years later. Gourock is often still hostage to a small but vocal business class and often still dismissed as a town of snobs and rich people.     

Sunday, 10 August 2014


BELONGING AND NOT BELONGING PART 1 : Ahlfelds: A thin link to J.S. Bach, Offen Fur Alle! Friedensgebet und Montagsdemonstrationen and radical Christianity from Leipzig to Leiden   

 "That you are patriotic will be praised by many and easily forgiven by everyone; but in my opinion it is wiser to treat men and things as though we held this world the common fatherland of all". Erasmus of Rotterdam

There is a  big stooshie going on over at the Catholic Herald because German Catholics and Lutherans are planning to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation  As you can see from the comments thread, this idea appears to be tantamount to heresy and completely unacceptable for the Herald readership.

For me, this issue is a little more complicated. Like Erasmus of Rotterdam, I'm happy to be Catholic in the heart and soul (but perhaps a little Protestant in the head) We don't need to change any of our deeply held beliefs and we don't need to agree with the reformation, but we must accept the existence of  the Reformed Churches as a reality and work hard to continue to move closer to our Protestant brothers and sisters. There are good people,  friends, family, sincere and devout Christians and much to admire in the Protestant tradition, from Methodists to Mennonites. I believe that the way forward lies with  the ecumenical outlook, and spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation which comes from people like the late Brother Roger's Taize Community in France, from our own Catholic Worker Movement,  from Jean Vanier's L'Arche Communities and from the spiritual works of the great Dutchman Henri Nouwen. My reasons for feeling like this are pretty much covered in the two blog posts below. R.

1. The power of a book
15 years ago I was sent a very old book by a distant Ahlfeld relation in the US. The book was called "Das Leben im Licht des Wortes Gottes". It is a book of sermons written in 1886 by an even more distant relation called Pastor Friedrich Ahlfeld. Pastor Ahlfeld was a Lutheran Minster at the famous St.Nikolai Church in Leipzig. Despite being a Catholic, this book introduced me to the Protestant faith of my North German ancestors. Which in turn introduced me to the works of Bonnhoeffer, Moltmann, Barth and so on.  More importantly, it introduced me to the history of St Nikolai Church in Leipzig, a Church strongly associated with non-violent protests against the Government during the Communist era in East Germany. In 1989 St. Nikolai's was at the centre of peaceful revolt against communist rule since it was the meeting place for the "Monday Demonstrations" (Montagsdemonstrationen).

In earlier times St Nikolai Church had been strongly associated with the music of J.S. Bach. The church saw four performances of Bach's St. John's Passion on Good Friday. Reading and learning all about this eventually left me with a deep love for the works of J.S. Bach as well as an interest in the idea of radical Christian peace activism as a positive force for social change. So today my book is a strange oxymoron for me, on the one hand it had a profound effect on my faith by moving me away from a safe, unthinking, cultural Christianity towards a more demanding, active Catholicism. It made me take seriously the idea of "a people set apart" and a special devotion to Friedensgebet (prayers for peace). Yet on the other hand, the book also symbolizes family, history and place. Or in other words, belonging and not belonging.

Today St Nikolai Church describes itself as a Church which is "Offen Fur Alle" (Open for ALL)which means that it is a Simultaneum Church, meaning that the Catholic Church is allowed to use it too. Simultaneum was a term first used in 16th-century Germany for Churches where worship is conducted by both Catholic and Protestant denominations. Such churches became common in  Germany after the reformation.
One other interesting point on this topic. Amazingly, there was another Pastor Ahlfeld at another Simultaneum Church in the middle of the 18th Century at the Old Saint Peter's Church in Strasbourg. Pastor Ahlfeld is also commemorated in a book published in 1910 called  "Monsieur l'abbé Ahlfeld, curé de Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux de Strasbourg"  You read about the Church here's_Church,_Strasbourg

BELONGING AND NOT BELONGING PART 2: More J.S. Bach, Gothic Brickwork, the Dorpskerk in Wassenaar, the Oude Kerk in Katwijk and the Pieterskerk in Leiden

"The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart." Martin Luther (Sermon, Sept. 1st 1522)

2. Travels in the Bijbelgordel

I was recently reminded of all these  European and ecumenical ideas once again while visiting South Holland last month. This was especially true while visiting the Pieterskerk in Leiden. The Pieterskerk was the church of the Pilgrim Fathers while they were in based in The Netherlands before sailing on the Mayflower to the new world.,_Leiden Below is a commemorative plaque to the Pilgrim Fathers at the Pieterskerk.

It reads, "BUT NOW WE ARE ALL, IN ALL PLACES, STRANGERS AND PILGRIMS, TRAVELERS AND SOJOURNERS". For me this statement captures the very essence of no longer belonging, a Christianity which challenges the social order and can find no home in the Nation-State. A Church community which is called to be a people set apart wherever it finds itself in the world. In Leiden I was reminded of the Scots Calvinist community based there during the Killing Time. I was reminded of all my Ahlfeld cousins in America and other Germans and Dutchmen settling in Pennsylvania (The City of Brotherly Love) and the works of Hauerwas and Yoder which have influenced me greatly. I was reminded of the book of Pastor Ahlfeld's sermons taken from Germany to America.  

Yet Dutch tolerance is not just an abstract concept or a period of The Netherlands past which allowed Jews, Catholics and Mennonites live in relative peace in a Calvinist country during the Dutch Golden Age. These values of tolerance and understanding still persist in The Netherlands today. Down in the Dutch Bible belt (Bijbelgordel) Calvinst Christians are quiet conservative and devout yet somehow they are able to get along living in one of the most liberal, post-Christian, secular countries in the world. For all Dutch Christians, being ecumenical has become a necessity. South Holland was traditionally Catholic while the North was Calvinist so the area around the Hague and Rotterdam where I was is quite mixed. Historically, Dutch Christians lived under a pillar system which basically meant that each group lived apart, left each other alone and managed their own affairs. But in the 1980's Catholics and Protestants came together to form a united political party called Christian Democratic Appeal which has participated in all but three governments since it's foundation.

I encountered this spirit of ecumenism and unity for myself at two different Churches in The Netherlands. One Sunday evening after Mass in the local Catholic Church I cycled by the Dorpskerk in Wassenaar, pictured above. They were hosting a performance of J.S. Bach's "Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes". I was quickly invited in and made to feel very welcome. It was the same story of hospitality and kindness at the Old Kirk in the strongly Calvinist-Bible belt, old fishing town of Katwijk. Here is the beautiful Bach Cantata below

So where does all this leave us? I once read that Pope Benedict loved the countryside, the old churches and rustic villages of his native Bavaria. That his Catholicism was, in some part, a love affair with the Catholic world of his childhood. I can certainly relate to such feelings of "Heimat", that deep sense of belonging and history. I am at home in the costal Lowlands and the flat country stretching from the Rhine to the Wesser. I love the old Gothic Brickwork Cathedrals of the North Sea Coast from The Hague all the way up to Bremen. Is this true faith or is it an emotional attachment the Hanseatic world of my ancestors? The herring?, The beer? The Bach? Perhaps we both belong and do not belong? Yet, we Christians always remain outsiders and "Sojourners" in America, Scotland, Holland, Germany, Iraq, Palestine, Syria...Most of all we remain Prodigal Sons who are lost and returning to the loving Father. This concept is brilliantly captured by two great Dutchmen, the artist Rembrandt and Priest and writer Henri Nouwen.

All that aside, I am also grateful to have been able to take my family on a holiday and a pilgrimage. I am grateful and thankful for a period peace, rest and healing from a previous holiday a few years earlier which had been filled with hurt and pain caused by a bad accident. Hopefully we can learn from the Dutch and Germans to put the final nail in the coffin of sectarian bigotry in our own country and come together to defend ourselves from the worst excess of Militant Secularism in Scotland.

God Bless

Monday, 10 March 2014

E.F. Schumacher Anglo-German Catholic Economist

“The all-pervading disease of the modern world is the total imbalance between city and countryside, an imbalance in terms of wealth, power, culture, attraction and hope. The former has become over-extended and the latter has atrophied. The city has become the universal magnet, while rural life has lost its savour. Yet it remains an unalterable truth that, just as a sound mind depends on a sound body, so the health of the cities depends on the health of the rural areas. The cities, with all their wealth, are merely secondary producers, while primary production, the precondition of all economic life, takes place in the countryside. The prevailing lack of balance, based on the age-old exploitation of countryman and raw material producer, today threatens all countries throughout the world, the rich even more than the poor. To restore a proper balance between city and rural life is perhaps the greatest task in front of modern man.”
E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Out of the strong came forth sweetness

It’s a well known fact that Quaker families like the Rowantree, Cadbury and Fry families all got into the chocolate and confectionary business as means to try and keep the masses away from alcohol. I’ve always had a lot of respect for the temperance movement despite the fact that I love beer and consider it to be an intrinsic part of my heritage and culture. Similarly, Abram Lyle, the Greenock born Sugar refinery owner, was also a devout Christian and very a strict teetotaler, like the Quakers, Lyle also seen sugar as a means to keep people away from Alcohol. Abram Lyle once said that he would 'rather see a son of his carried home dead than drunk.  (See previous blog posts on Tate and Lyle and Greenock)
I was therefore quite surprise (and even a wee bit sad) to read in the papers this morning that one of Abram Lyle’s heirs and descendants, a Joshua Lyle, was found in his car by the Polis near Blairgowrie at the weekend, he was three times the legal limit to drive. Joshuha Lyle is the son of Sir Gavin Lyle, 3rd Baronet, of Glendelvine House; apparently he has already been done for drink-driving a couple of years ago. Hopefully this lad will overcome all his problems and perhaps even look back to his forefathers for some inspiration…” "Out of the strong came forth sweetness".

Thursday, 28 February 2013

A Christian Pacifist commemorated in Gibshill in Greenock and Blue Labour

I've read that the great Catholic Trade Unionist Jakob Kaiser’s  had a vision for Germany which was a Christian Democracy that looked to early days of the British Labour Party for its inspiration in developing Catholic Social Teaching which in turn put great emphasis on co-operatives, the public ownership of key industries, extensive social insurance. So it was with some interest that I've been reading "The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox” which stresses the importance of the early days of the British Labour Party under the leadership of George Lansbury

"The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox” sets out the ideas of the Blue Labour Group. Blue Labour is an idea developed a few years ago by Maurice Glasman.

Blue Labour is strongly against the neo-Liberal, ultra free market globalization which New Labour sadly embraced. It basically seeks to return the Labour Party to it radical working class roots by promoting a revival of things like Guild Socialism, Credit Unions, Mutualism, the co-operative movement and localism. Blue Labour is not very keen on the overreliance of the welfare state or blackleg labour. Indeed, it advocates some form of protectionism of the national economy and British jobs. It is also quite traditionalist in outlook in that it seeks to uphold traditional values such as family and faith.

The inspiration for Blue Labour is the former Labour Leader George Lansbury and also Keir Hardie. Most people in Inverlcyde are of course familiar with Keir Hardie and most people in Inverclyde are aware that Keir Hardie Street in Gibshill is named after him. But perhaps less people know that Lansbury street is named after George Lansbury. You can read about George Lansbury and his relationship with Blue Labour here  in a tribute by Jon Cruddas MP. Lansbury is unique because he was a Socialist and a sincere pacifist whose ideas were underpinned by his Christian beliefs.

I am not a memeber of the Labour Party, and can't ever become a member while the party remains essentially pro-globalization, pro-militarism and pro-nuclear. However, Blue Labour is a very interesting idea, which in my opinion offers the best way forward for the Labour Party. For example, it is true to say that many Scottish Working Class people have a natural inclination towards both social conservatism but also radicalism. Perhaps, this makes Scotland ideally placed to embrace and develop the ideas found within Blue Labour. For example, our local Labour MP Ian McKenzie controversially voted against the recent equal marriage bill despite much local criticism from those on the Left. However, regardless of what our own personal opinion may be on this change in legislation, there is still the possibility that our MP’s decision to oppose this bill might have accurately represented the feelings of his constituents here in Inverclyde. We may not like this, but it is a possibility?

Just as Blue Labour draws upon the influence of great figures such as George Lansbury, so too can Scotland look to early Labour Movement figures such as Robert Owen and his Co-Operative and Credit Union ideas. More so, Scots can also look to the influence of early Christian Socialists like John Wheatley. The approaching Independence Referendum offers a stark choice between a Yes Campaign who in my opinion are projecting a vision of Scotland (which may indeed be further Left than the “Better Together” campaign) but yet could also lead to a bigger, more centralized State. Indeed, there is the real possibility that Independence could in fact lead to less local autonomy and even more centralization based on what we have seen happen to the Police and Fire Service over the last few years.
For me, it is deeply frustrating that the Better Together Campaign does not appear to be fighting against the Yes Campaign from either a cultural or even a working class perspective. We all know the political arguments for independence, but there is no getting away from the fact that an old man drinking in a Miners Welfare on Tyneside making the short journey to visit his old mates at a Miners Welfare in Ayrshire would become a foreigner. The same comparison could be made between an Everton supporting Docker visiting Glasgow for a Celtic game. We share the exact same culture, social attitudes and lifestyle. A Glaswegian on the other hand will feel far less at home (and welcome) in Inverness and Aberdeen than they would do in Manchester or Leeds. From a cultural point of view, it is also disappointing that nothing is being said about our shared industrial history and heritage. For example, Greenock itself is a rich mix of people descended from Irish immigrants and people descended from Woolwich Arsenal workers brought from London to Greenock when they opened the torpedo factory around 1910. I myself am descended from 19th century German labours brought over to work in the Tate and Lyle sugarhouses. Similarly, Abram Lyle, the Greenock born Sugar refinery owner, also set up in the East End of London. Lyle also took quite a few Scots to the East End of London in 1882, mostly hand picked from Greenock. Like it or not, we are the same people with the same history. And like it or not, we will be exchanging a London business and banking elite for an Edinburgh one.

It is also true to say that the UK Labour Movement has been the only thing which has been able to seriously undermine religious bigotry and sectarianism in Scotland. This is especially true here in Inverclyde. I also strongly agree with the sentiment offered in “The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox” that the Labour Movement has never been fully credited with uniting Catholics, Methodists and non-Conformist as provided in the example of Cardinal Manning and the Dock Workers strike. I would go so far as to say that 21st Century Scotland is today screaming out for that same type of early Labour / Blue Labour philosophy which was once able to bond our own migrant Gaelic Scots, Lowland Scots, Ulster Scots, Irish Catholic shipyard workers, English Woolwich Arsenal workers and German Sugarhouse Labourers into a single working class here in Greenock and Port Glasgow. Instead, the Yes Campaign has the support of the Greens and also the remnants of the once strong, now discredited Scottish Socialist Party who are mostly socially liberal, Trotskyite and almost exclusively anti-religious in outlook. In my opinion, this leaves vast swathes of working class religious and traditional minded people who are dissatisfied with Labour without any real representation since they would never vote Conservative or Lib Dem either.
Also worth mentioning that the idea of socially conservative faith based politics within the Labour Movement did not simply die off with Lansbury or Haride.  Catholic and other Christian Labour MPs, including Labour leader John Smith, fought against abortion and easier divorce. John Smith also fought against deregulated drinking and gambling. John Smith was also among those who successfully organised, especially through the USDAW shop workers’ union against Thatcher’s and Major’s attempts to destroy the special character of Sunday and of Christmas Day.