I Vow To Thee My Country, My Father

I often wonder what my father would have made of the indyref were he alive today. He was a navigator with the RAF during the 2nd World War, and like many other young men and women from these isles, the Commonwealth and our Allies, felt obliged to answer Liberty’s rallying call from an enslaved and terrified Europe, in much the same way as a generation before them had answered it in World War 1.

We are reminded not only of their sacrifice, but the ideals and principles, the freedoms they paid for with their lives, every night at 8pm at The Menin Gate in Belgium. It is a ceremony which has taken place since 1928, even during the Belgium’s occupation during the 2nd World War, where it was performed daily at Brookwood Military cemetery in Surrey. It is an act of gratitude befitting the bravery and commitment of those who delivered the freedom, and the values they sought to uphold.

These values have been ingrained in many of us here in Scotland, who would consider ourselves British. They are cherished not only because we believe in them, but because we appreciate the extraordinary price paid to allow such a legacy to continue. They are part of our British identity. It is something Yes campaigners have not only failed to understand, but have also failed to respect. When Yes campaigners attempt to seduce Unionist voters assuring us we will still be British in the event of a yes vote, they refer to Britain as little more than a chunk of land. This was well highlighted during the debate between John Gow and Alan Bissett in the book “Born Under a Union Flag” where John Gow has to correctly point out to the latter :

“I think the biggest problem you have with British nationality is that you don’t treat it as real. You aren’t alone in this; many nationalists disparage British identity and talk as if the Scots only need to see the light and the road to salvation will be revealed. Why else would you repeat that independence will be fine because we can all say we are geographically British. It’s absurd.”

I don’t know if Nigel Farage would have been my father’s cup of tea, I very much doubt it, but mob rule preventing someone’s right to express their freedom of speech was certainly not one of the values he fought for. And I’m willing to bet he would have looked for stronger condemnation from Scotland’s First Minister than this :

“If there’s been any law-breaking – and that’s yet to be established – then obviously we condemn that, as we always do in Scotland, but you’ve got to get things into context.

“A student demonstration isn’t the Dreyfus trial.”

“Context”. Its easy to see why Alex Salmond is the gift which just keeps on giving. Some of you may recall him using that word as he squirmed uneasily before Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Show, as the falsehood of his claims on legal advice from the Lord Advocate regarding an Independent Scotland’s status within the European Union were exposed.

https://www.youtube….h?v=4gKQn9bZom0

Deputy Leader Nicola Sturgeon later admitted that the Scottish government had never sought formal advice, as Salmond claimed, from Scotland’s law officers.

http://www.theguardi…eu-legal-advice

I can imagine my father sitting in front of the TV, in a state fast approaching exasperation, declaring “They must think we are bloody stupid !”

Perhaps Alex should have been a bit more careful about his choice of parallels as well. The Dreyfus trial divided a nation and involved high rank officials suppressing evidence. Funnily enough the Scottish government spent £12 000 on a court battle attempting to prevent the revelation that it had failed to seek the legal advice aforesaid. As I said earlier, a gift which just keeps on giving.

http://www.bbc.co.uk…litics-20414121

In later life my father was struck down by the debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. Against doctors advice he refused to go into a wheelchair or a home and would shuffle about the adapted downstairs on his crutches, displaying the kind of determination and refusal to acquiesce, he and his peers had shown so many years ago in the face of tyranny.

I can almost imagine the scene were he alive today and some Yes campaigners came a calling. He would insist on answering the door personally, despite the enormity of the challenge. Having lifted himself with the assistance of his electronic chair he would struggle into the hallway and negotiate the challenge of the adapted front door handle where he would politely but firmly offer two words.

“No thanks”

I am my father’s son. On the 18th of September , 2014, I will ensure I vote. But it will not be to merely preserve just a chunk of land but a set of values and beliefs which define me, and which have defined those who came before me.

“No thanks”

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Born Under A Union Flag : A Response

Born Under a Union Flag: Rangers, Britain and Scottish Independence (Luath Press) will be an interesting read for those yet to open its cover, and I would strongly suggest you do. It allows the reader access at times, to the mindset of the authors of the various chapters, some of which will challenge you, some may even alarm you, but having drawn me in, it was one of those books I had to read from start to finish without interruption.

 
It may seem strange for an avid Unionist to highlight a chapter written by a pro-independence author, Gail Richardson, but I do so for 2 reasons :

 
(1) Gail asks questions relating to the motto of a group of which I am a member – Vanguard Bears

 
(2) Of all the pro-independence chapters within the book, Gail’s was unique in that it offered a cohesive, rational and positive argument for independence which was free from negative subjective experience often cited by her peers, nor did it seek to demonise Britain as a justification for exercising a yes vote, in short it offered vision rather than vilification.

 
I use the word “demonise” deliberately. When Alan Bissett argues that Britain is responsible for, amongst other things, “the mass slaughter of World War 1” you can perhaps begin to understand why I suggested in the opening paragraph that you may be challenged, even alarmed by its contents.

Gail opens her chapter with a question :

“THERE IS A small group of Rangers fans whose motto is ‘Defending Our Traditions’ – a motto that manages to be both clearly defined and utterly bewildering at the same time. What are the traditions of Rangers? Beyond playing at Ibrox, wearing royal blue and winning a lot of trophies, I would struggle to come up with any.”

Do the Loving Cup ceremony or the portraits of Her Majesty the Queen hanging in the home dressing room at Ibrox not qualify as traditions ? Both are long standing practices at our club, with club historian David Mason, opening this year’s Loving Cup toast describing it as “A very important tradition in the history of Rangers Football Club since 1937”. Furthermore are they merely traditions or, additionally, a powerful statement of identity i.e. this is a club which values the traditions of monarchy ?

 
The foregoing example serves as welcome introduction for another area of such debate which is often overlooked by many. Gail asserts :

“I would argue that many people simply project their own beliefs and values onto the club and expect it to uphold them. I would also argue that this is a form of madness.”

It is madness. But what about the flip side of that coin ? What about the instances where the beliefs and values come from within the club itself ? Are they in themselves not statements of identity ? If the historical commentators such as Graham Walker and Bill Murray are to be believed, and there is no good reason not to, then Protestant identity evolved due to a number of factors, primarily though that the Protestant indigenous Scot sought a football club which reflected their faith and culture in the same way that the newly formed club, Celtic, reflected the faith and culture of the Irish immigrant population.

 
If Gail is guilty of overlooking symbolism and traditions which emanate from within the club, perhaps because they don’t quite fit with her assertions and beliefs, I confess, I could be equally as guilty of reading something into symbolism from within the club because they do happen to fit with my particular assertions and beliefs. I have difficulty accepting however that Church and Boys Brigade Parades, the holding of the Orange Order Annual Divine Service at Ibrox, our refusal to play football on the Sabbath, the welcoming of Kings at Ibrox, Armed Forces Days, amongst other things, are not statements of identity. Furthermore these take no account of the erroneous, which again have their formation from within the club itself.

 
Gail makes reference to Rangers signing policy, I would add to that the comments of Rangers vice chairman Matt Taylor in 1967 when he stated in interview relating to it, “part of our tradition….we were formed in 1873 as a Protestant boys club. To change now would lose us considerable support.”

 
However mis-guided, however ham-fisted, however opposed to true Protestant ideals and values the foregoing examples are, I would suggest they are a clear attempt to attach a Protestant identity to our club from within the club itself.

I cite these examples not to usurp Gail’s questioning of their relevance today in an increasingly secular Scotland, but to demonstrate that the club itself over the years has actively encouraged an identity with which it is often associated, therefore to suggest that it’s our supporters who have projected their beliefs onto the club and asked them to uphold them is incorrect.

 
When Gail states : “I’ve said that I don’t believe Rangers Football Club is a Protestant club or a Unionist club.” how does such a statement equate to a football club who have just released their 3rd strip which has as its centrepiece, the flag of the Union itself ? Particularly in view of the current political climate in Scotland.

 
Strangely, the answer to Gail’s original question comes from an unlikely source, in chapter 3 of the book. Harry Reid, an Aberdeen supporter speaking of the demise of Rangers identity under Sir David Murray:

“They most certainly lost touch with the club’s core traditions and, to employ an overused but very important word, their identity.”

 

And later in the chapter :

“A club’s identity, or, to be more highfalutin, its soul, is a particularly precious thing. Forfeit it and you lose everything. If a club becomes the plaything of over-ambitious folk who have no understanding of it, there is serious trouble ahead. If it becomes the plaything of people who have no knowledge of its traditions and its values, then the trouble can be noxious.”

 

Harry continues:

“And the worst aspect – indeed, the really serious downside of this – was that the core values of Rangers, including a strong mix of Scottish pride, dignity, probity, and an historically honourable commitment to the best in Scottish Protestantism, suddenly became, if not irrelevant, then certainly something of an encumbrance.”

Later in the chapter Harry emphasises the importance of any football club seeking to expand its aspirations, remaining true to its core fan base.

 
There is really not a lot I can add to Harry’s quotes. The values, traditions and people Harry alludes to are very much at the core of what we at Vanguard Bears, seek to defend.

 
I hope this article not only answers Gail’s questions, but also challenges her to examine her own vision of our club, as much as her chapter from the book caused me to examine my own.

When Uncle Tom met Auntie Beeb

“If you wanted to know the latest news on their tax travails, rangerstaxcase was a place you went because, unlike newspapers or radio stations, rangerstaxcase was connected to the heart of the FTT and everybody knew it.

It had documents and detail that were beyond dispute. When illustrating one point it was making it would summon up information that could only have come from somebody within, or very close to, the tribunal”

(Tom English – The Scotsman 25.11.2012)

“The day I read the Vanguard Bears is the day I gouge out my own eyes”

(Tom English – Twitter 21.08.2014)

 
Its good to know that Tom English has found some sort of journalistic morality of late, however it may present a conflict of interests with his new employer, BBC Scotland. Or does the morality of source over story only apply in certain circumstances ? After all, Tom is now working for an employer who were happy to utilise not just stolen property, but stolen evidence from the Rangers Tax Tribunal, if Lord Nimmo Smith’s conclusions are correct.

But in his new found morality Tom has excluded himself from the knowledge that Vanguard Bears appear to have successfully cultivated a mole, perhaps within the SFA itself, as previous revelations, including documentary evidence, suggest. And could this latest expose, while perhaps lacking in documentary evidence, be a clear signpost to of a course of unedifying, unprofessional and negligent conduct involving our footballs higher echelons of administration ? Especially when viewed in the context of previous disclosed e-mails and agreements. Nope of course not – nothing to see here – move along please.

But should we really be surprised ? After all there seems little excitement in journalistic circles that those in charge of Scottish Football were prepared to find Rangers guilty prior to trial as well as inflict draconian type punishments on a club which had yet to be found guilty. Morality ?

Perhaps some of those journalists, and there have been many of late, who remind us of the impoverished state of our game via their daily columns, care to consider if perhaps they have a role to play. After all if the head of our game is more worried about being on time for a dinner date rather than what was probably one of the most critical meetings in the history of our game, is there not something fundamentally wrong ?

What is particularly alarming in this whole episode are those gleefully re tweeting Tom English’s original tweet. It does not matter that journalists will ignore story over source, it does not matter that it contains allegations of incompetence, of lack of prioritisation, of utter disdain for the game of football in Scotland (ironically affecting their own clubs) – so long as Rangers or Rangers fans get it in the neck – then that makes it okay.

But let’s not be too harsh on Stewart Regan – I’m told there is a certain restaurant in Leeds which does a succulent lamb to die for.

It looks like football in Scotland will be the sacrificial lamb.

Ally – No more excuses

I’d tried to temper my bewilderment at our close season signings by reflecting on the often used mantra that “there is no substitute for experience”. But having a manager with a propensity for playing just one out and out striker it seemed reasonable to question the wisdom of signing 2 ageing, albeit proven strikers, taking our total to 5. I suppose in some ways the fact we played with 2 up front today is a positive improvement – cherish it, its probably the only positive you will find in this article.

With young Charlie Telfer exiting Ibrox and directing barbed comments at our manager’s apparent unwillingness to blood youngsters, the departure of goalkeeper Scott Gallagher and the re-signing of the veteran and occasionally calamitous, Steve Simonsen does little to suggest that youth is to be the favoured option. One wonders how young Nicky Clark feels his development will fare as the least favoured option behind Boyd, Miller, Daly and given today’s personnel selection, even Shiels.

Why is this important ? Well if we do manage to successfully negotiate the championship, and I appreciate after today some are saying that’s a pretty big “if”; rather than return to the top league with the nucleus of a young team we will instead be replacing ageing players in key positions. “Professors” of football often speak about the “spine” of a team – goalkeeper, centre back and striker. Of our current spine I see only Cammy Bell offering any kind of continuity in this regard. Which of course means new blood, a settling in period and that’s before we find the readies for such an overhaul. Without wishing to induce further panic it’s probably worth asking the question if there will even be the money for such an overhaul ?

So what does all this experience get you for your money? Well not a lot judging by today’s performance. You could forgive a schoolboy team for switching off after scoring and giving yourself a lifeline but a team brimming with seasoned pros? Furthermore how can it be that Nicky Law and Ian Black despite having countless games together under their belt, give the appearance they have never played with one another before? The booing of the formers man of the match award should serve as a warning to all at Ibrox that whilst we may be loyal we are certainly not gullible.

Kenny Miller did what we have come to expect him to do, and were it not for the detrimental effect to Nicky Clark’s development and the fact he is a short term rather than a long term answer, you would see this as a beneficial signing for the season, particularly if young Clark was paired alongside him. Kris Boyd I’m not so sure of. He somehow managed to look even less mobile than 1st time around, so much so, I half expected Police Scotland to bring the game to a halt and announce they had found Clyde, the missing Games statue.

The progress and improvement of Lewis Macleod and Fraser Aird has been deeply satisfying for us blue legions, the former in particular showing particular potential. Could a few others have benefited from an extended run in first team football ? Some will remember Dick Advocatt recognising the potential of a young Barry Ferguson and building a team around him, sadly that will not happen so long as young Macleod finds himself played out of position on the wing

We need to stop making excuses for Ally. Yes he has had to endure challenges no other Rangers manager has had to contend with but that really does not excuse signings which are devoid of long term vision, as well as tactics, team selections and substitutions which have us all bewildered.

There was a moment today when the cameras panned to John Greig sitting in the stands, and on seeing his image on the screens applause echoed around the ground. John is a Rangers legend on and off the park. Unfortunately he was not a very good manager.

I fear history may be repeating itself.

Defence of the Realm

I sometimes wonder if the news HMRC intend to appeal the latest dismissal of their vendetta against Rangers causes any ripples in the Ibrox boardroom. After all it was another time, another regime with legal culpability squarely on the shoulders of Sir David Murray and his legal advisers. But not for us who are the Rangers support. For us it is part of a journey from hell, a journey which is not yet complete, with the scars and wounds endured on that journey show little sign of healing.

Why is it that those who aspire to power within our club don’t seem to feel the pain of such scars ?

For years under the tenure of Sir David Murray many of us warned about the dangers of the “dignified silence” strategy. As lies were written and broadcast about both club and support Sir David Murray responded to our concerns with “If a newspaper offends you – don’t buy it” Our club and support have become the easy picking for hate filled individuals who appear to think that carrying an NUJ card offers them considerable immunity from lies, deceit and hate filled articles, many written without research or based in fact, or more concern, deliberately omitting facts in order to damage to our club.

Why is it the defence of our club has been left to individual bloggers or groups such as Vanguard Bears, The RST or The Rangers Standard who appear to have the energy and passion to respond to unfair articles or decisions against our club ? Why is that same energy and passion not emanating from inside our club ? Have we honestly learned nothing in the last few years ? Its time those inside Ibrox, whoever that might be, became pro-active rather than occasionally reactive. If you are privileged enough to wear a Rangers blazer and tie – then that should be akin to a suit of armour – stand prepared to champion this club against all attacks.

Jim McColl’s alternative board missed a considerable trick at their question and session at the Hilton when asked about defending the club. Their fudged answer showed little desire or forethought, and was as bereft of ideas as those they sought to depose. Why cant these people get it ?? This issue is of vast importance to the Rangers support. We live, eat and breathe this club and every attack on her is borne personally by every single one of us.

It’s hard to understand why our club pays for PR, when we appear to be getting trodden on day in day out by the same individuals and organisations, operating with apparent impunity. Jim Traynor’s “Gentlemen be very careful” is a dark and distant memory full of empty threats. In fact words without action appear to have exacerbated the problem.

For all the criticism I have penned over the years about Charles Green, I will concede one point – at least he “got it”. He realised that defending this club, albeit his reasons were part of bigger plan and not altruistic, was a sure fire of winning over the support. How can it be a stranger can walk into our midst and grasp such a crucial point which our own seem to continually miss ?

The well meaning articles by Rangers bloggers, Rangers Supporters Groups and Rangers websites however well intentioned and passionate, do not carry the same authority as statements or action coming from within the club itself. Furthermore it’s not our job – its your job, those of you who are privileged enough to wear a club blazer and tie, or aspire to do so in the future.

This support has proven itself time and time again in the face of considerable adversity, with its willingness to protect and safeguard this club. We have done as much as we can.

For those with both responsibility and authority – its time for you to step up and play.