Wednesday 6 November 2013


It would never have occurred to me to use the start of a war, any war, but most especially not a war that killed millions of people across Europe, to try to make political capital. It's cheap and it's tawdry.

I have no wish then to emulate David Cameron in 'using' the First World War or the misery it brought across the continent.  

Cameron does cheap and tawdry like he was born to it; I hope I don't.

It seems to me clear that he is hoping for a massive blue, white, red flag waving ceremony, headed by Her Majesty, a few weeks before the referendum with the hope of recreating the feeling of goodwill and Britishness which he thinks was generated by the Queen's jubilee and the Olympic games last year. 

It is such an obviously cynical ploy. The fact that this National occasion is to be celebrated in Glasgow, rather than London given a clue that there is more than a little hint of an ulterior motive. 

When was a provincial city ever used to stage a national moment as important as this?

Any commemoration of war should surely be held on the anniversary of the end, not the beginning. This, then should be in 2018, rather than 2014.

Personally I think that he is taking an enormous risk, because many people, even loyal Britnats, will see this as a distasteful use of millions of dead bodies to keep his union together. 

Unless the tone of the event is incredibly solemn, without even a hint of celebration, it will likely disgust more people than it inspires. It will have to be deeply religious, deeply solemn; not at all in keeping with celebrations for the Queen or the Coca Cola Olympics. No street parties here to celebrate the day that these young men started their march towards their fate. 

Cameron and his out of touch government of English toffs who rarely venture outside London, and with only one rather dim representative from Scotland are undoubtedly in denial about the comparative lack of interest which met the jubilee in this country. While England celebrated with gusto, there were few street parties here. 

Even the Olympics, in which Scottish athletes did well, was so far away that most who were interested watched on the telly. Just as they will do in 3 years' time when the games are in Rio. The few events which were held in Glasgow were so insultingly uninteresting that even with tickets being given away to school parties, there was hardly anyone there.

I fear Cameron may have misjudged this, just as he so often does with things he knows so little about: ordinary people, for example.

I was touched by Joan McAlpine's piece on the war. The figures are horrific. To save you going to the Record for it, I've reproduced it here.

SCOTLAND has particular reason to be solemn as we commemorate the dead of World War I next week.

The 1914-18 slaughter cast a shadow that took decades to lift.

With 150,000 dead, the country lost a higher proportion of its population than any other UK nation.

Next year, David Cameron has decreed we hold jingoistic celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war.

Many Scots reacted with horror at his £50million plans to “bring Britain together”.

But you mark the end of wars, not their beginning.

Glasgow Cathedral will host the main event. Some believe it’s all a cynical attempt to boost Britishness ahead of the referendum. If so, it’s bound to backfire.

The outburst of hysterical patriotism in 1914 represented the worst of British – arrogance, self-delusion and a desire to dominate on the world stage.

Scots were gripped by British “war fever” and signed up in their thousands – including my own grandfather who joined at the tender age of 16, no questions asked.

Scotland provided more volunteers than anywhere else in the UK – 67 per cent of our soldiers compared with 52 per cent.

Talk about misplaced loyalty.

What they had to be patriotic about is anyone’s guess.

They produced much of the Empire’s wealth in great profitable mines, shipyards and steelworks but they endured life in the worst slum housing in Europe.

TB was rife and most families lost more than one child to illnesses such as diphtheria, measles and whooping cough.

In the Highlands, thousands had been cleared off their land by a callous aristocracy, 
the same aristocracy that now commanded their regiments.

The city of Glasgow lost one in 10 of its adult males, with country districts faring even worse.

Scots were the “poor bloody infantry”. In the deadly Battle of Arras in 1917, one in three of those who went over the top were Scottish.

The consequences for the country lasted decades.

In the 1920s and 1930s, our great industries began to fail and many blamed poor management.

But the historian Professor Michael Lynch said: “It is perhaps a lost generation that lies at the root of it.”

One in six graduates of Glasgow University never returned from Flanders. We lost our brightest and best and the subsequent Depression was more than economic.

Imagine the scale of grief with so many families and communities suffering bereavement.

Imagine the effect of seeing maimed soldiers on street corners. The psychological toll was shattering.
Scotland lost the confidence that made it the workshop of the Victorian world.

Professor Lynch says the north-south divide began with the war. Now, after almost a century, Scotland’s wounds have healed.

We are enjoying a new sense of self-esteem, much of it as a result of our own efforts – not the actions of a distant British state.

So we will remember the fallen of the Great Slaughter.

We will remember them with dignity and regret.

But there is nothing to celebrate – except, perhaps, that it is well behind us.

As one war poet said: “Goodbye to All That.”

And good riddance.


  1. Payback will come,
    oh it will come,
    and when it does it will taste as sweet as ambrosia
    revenge is a dish best eaten cold,
    I have not now nor ever had any animosity towards the English (in spite of the desperate people who so wish we did) but the creatures who see the start of the industrial slaughter of humanity as a reason to "celebrate" are the most revolting people we have ever had the misfortune to be governed by.

    1. I lived in England for a while and went to secondary school there. Many of my friends are there, and some of my favourite people in the world are English. The southern parts of it are incredibly beautiful and the climate is usually much more agreeable than ours.

      There are things I don't like, of course... For example, London is dirty and smelly and largely run down compared with Edinburgh, paris , Brussels, Luxembourg City, Hague...etc.

      But my argument has always been with the British state, not the English people per se.

      I think that if Cameron is hoping to recreate the Jubilee by trotting out the Queen in Glasgow, he will be a bit mistaken.

      This will not be a smiling Queen. It will be a serious and solemn woman. They cannot cheer and wave flags, because any idea of celebration must be repulsive. it will be sad.

      What got the masses excited, mainly in England, was the celebration of 60 years of a Queen that they by and large love. it was all cheers and parties and beer and skittles...

      This is not the same thing.

      They have upset other European nations who were involved; they may upset many people in the UK who lost grandfathers and great grandfathers ... or their cousins and brothers ...and at 16.

      And it will be worse if some intelligent people manage to let out that the whole thing was about a power struggle between crowned heads who thought they were more powerful and more important than the next one...

      All these people died for the vanity of some of the Queen's relatives.

      He's an idiot and he doesn't understand people who didn't go to Eton and Oxford.


  2. I think it is crass but since its Westminster government one expects nothing else from imperialists mindsets.

    1. Yes, I'd expect a "we showed the hun" attitude from them, but I'd have expected it at the end, rater than the beginning.

      But then, in 2018 it will be too late to make capital out of it.

      I see the Herald today accused Cameron's government of playing politics with shipbuilding jobs.

      The grubby little spiv would use his grandmother to his political advantage.

  3. What John dman says.

    The First World War was about the industrialisation of slaughter on the say-so of royalty. It was the modernity of a terrible technology at the behest of inbreds.

    Perhaps it gave us all a jolt. Kingship went into a bit of a decline thereafter.

    Quite what we got next is equally abhorrent. Y'know, Stalin, Hitler and the rest....

    But it was supposed to be the War that ended all Wars.

    Didn't work out too well, did it?

    Rather than Cavaliers and Roundheads armed with nuclear weapons we have equally antagonistic 1920's America (Russia) in dispute with 2020's America for no discernible reason. Unless the business is chosing sides just so we can all exterminate each other.

    It was possibly - the War of Jenkins Ear comes to mind - the war that had the least justification for happening. And yet it did.

    If we must talk about sacrifice, then let us talk about everyone that died, not just those on 'our' side but the whole damned lot of them.

    Victims all.

    Here is a sad little song:

    Eric Bogle is a name underknown I think.

    douglas clark

    1. Thanks Douglas.

      Beautifully put.

      Particularly that last bit. German boys were just boys too. They didn't know what it was all about either. Most conscripted soldiers are simply sent to do the work of dishonest and corrupt men. They have no choice.

    2. tris,

      Ré your last para.

      Exactly. The people who do have a choice, and always seem to chose the wrong one, are our leaders from a past era who have never, ever, given up on their desire to be dishonest and corrupt. It is a power gig, the ability to cause chaos for ordinary lives everywhere that they cherish beyond anything else. Looking sad and serious seems to be the whole requirement.

      In 'real' life I have never encountered anyone with that degree of power or a willingness to use it.

      And neither do I want to.

      I think, perhaps naively, that smaller countries are less likely to go to war than Empires. For, in Empires, there is usually somewhere to run to.

    3. And if you look at the list of rich and contented countries, the bulk of them are small, many northern European, with priciples of equality.

      Now what does that remind you of?


  4. There were many gullible Scots who swallowed the Establishment propaganda at the start of the rich men's war, but there was also plenty of opposition, including the great socialist, John Maclean, in a letter to Justice magazine, 17th September 1914 -

    "Let the propertied class go out, old and young alike, and defend their blessed property. When they have been disposed of, we of the working class will have something to defend, and we shall do it."

    MacLean, of course, was imprisoned for his views but, with a bit of updating, his suggestion sounds quite a good idea today.

  5. "Let the propertied class go out, old and young alike, and defend their blessed property. When they have been disposed of, we of the working class will have something to defend, and we shall do it."

    Utterly brilliant.

    I've always said if Bush's daughters and Blair's sons had been going out to Iraq to get killed there would have been a lot more thought go into it.

    I am for the days when kings or leaders did actually lead their army from the front.

    Let's have Camron out there at the head of this troops on the next war, and Charlie Windsor beside him.

    Then we see when the next war is...

    Never, I suspect.

  6. Tris

    I blogged on this a while back and it is just wrong, there is no other way to put it or to view it. What makes it even worse is that a) holding it in Glasgow before the referendum is just stupid and shows how much Cameron and Westminster, the Windsors as well I guess, just don't get Scotland at all. I just can't see anyone waving the flags, apart from a mindless few, or even lining the streets. I think most honest Scots will be solemn but will also feel this is the wrong time and the wrong place. b) to spend 50 million pounds on Camerons celebration in one of the most poverty stricken cities in the UK is crass, when people are losing their homes the Windsors and Cabinet/Shadow Cabinet and Iain Davidson will be living it up at our expense and all the protection and the rest that will have to be dragged along just shows there are two worlds, the majority live in one and the delusional live in the other. I for one will be avoiding the news or anything on that day, my father, sadly deseased now, fought in WW2 and when he did mention it it was never a black and white movie on the tv of the brave english officer ordering his scots into battle. No, when my father talked about the war it was about the mindless slaughter and the fact that no one wins and everyone loses, that is what I will be thinking about.