My grandfather never reached pension age, he wasn’t alone. It’s not uncommon for Glasgow men to die in their 40s or 50s. It’s called the Glasgow effect, the city’s residents have poorer health outcomes than can be predicted from statistics on unemployment or poverty. Other cities with similar problems to Glasgow have better health.
A new report explains the reasons, Scotland’s largest city is being killed by the policies of the Scottish Office and implemented by the Labour party, and the Tories when they controlled the city council. The United Kingdom is killing us. Thanks to decades of systematic under-investment, of a policy of malign neglect, Glasgow was to be managed to death. It was Westminster social engineering, and Glasgow was to be engineered into an early grave.
We pay the price of Union in ill-health, in disability, in lives cut short. The fit and healthy, the educated and the talented, were to be encouraged to leave to make their lives elsewhere, leaving behind a city whose services are doubly stretched, trying to cope with a higher proportion of people with illnesses and disabilities, with people who buckle under the strain of poverty and self medicate on drugs or alcohol, sooking up resources and locking us into a vicious spiral of decline and decay. Services stretch to breaking point so even those whose own lives are cushioned by a higher standard of living run into the brick wall of the Glasgow effect.
The Glasgow effect is a Union benefit. Vote to stay a part of the UK and your countrymen and women pay the price in shorter lives. Vote British, vote for mortality in Milton, vote for corpses in the Calton, vote for death in Dennistoun. That hacking cough you hear on the bus in Parkhead is the anthem of the Union.
It’s not that the Scottish Office and the Westminster parliament deliberately set out to shorten the lives of Glaswegians, to reduce their life expectancies, to make them live out curtailed lives blighted by disease. They just didn’t care. Our ill health is a price they were prepared to pay for their other priorities, priorities which don’t include providing a decent quality of life for the inhabitants of Scotland’s largest city, priorities which don’t include nuturing a city whose heart beats to a radical drum. The city was to be allowed to dwindle in a managed decline. Left to die in apathy and despair. Left to die in a quiet distant corner of the BBC weather map. That’s the price of Union. A city that the UK has written off doesn’t matter when it comes to decisions about where to site nuclear warheads. Glasgow doesn’t matter, Scotland doesn’t matter. We don’t matter. Your weans don’t matter.
The damp houses in a hillside scheme, the cooncil that destroys communities to build roads while the city with the highest proportion of homes without a car waits an hour in the bus stop in the rain for a privatised bus service that costs £2. The hollow eyes of the man who’s given up on the hope finds his solace in the bottom of a bottle. The mother whose best hopes for her weans is that they get as far away as possible. The curtains that never open because there’s nothing that can grow in the sunlight. That’s how a city dies, and it sings its swan song in a hacking cough. That’s the song of Union, that’s British phlegm.
When I was a wean I thought it was normal for kids to go to sleep with coats on their beds because warm blankets were unaffordable. The grim and dirt of Shettleston road was normal. It was just how life was, it was all we deserved, and all we could aspire to was to escape. But it’s not normal at all. In a normal country a people can aspire to a better life within their own community. But that wasn’t to be permitted to the people of Glasgow by the middle class Unionists in the Scottish Office. Glasgow was to be allowed to die, encouraged to die. Then Scotland would lose its radical soul, and the Union would be safe.
A smaller Glasgow is a safer Glasgow, just not safer for the people who live in it. Glasgow was to be allowed to die, but when you kill a city you kill the people who make their homes in it. The Union takes our skills, our talents, our children, and it repays us in heart disease, cancer, and type two diabetes. The ciggies and bevvy are locked away out of the reach of impressionable minds, but the pornography of Union is on open display in the racks of newspapers. The Glasgow effect is its abuse.
The pornmongers of Union blame the victims of Unionism for the diseases that the Union has inflicted upon them. If you struggle in poverty it’s your own fault. If you live on a low income and can’t afford healthy food it’s your own fault. When you live a life that knows no hope you self medicate on drugs or alcohol, you manage your frayed nerves with tobacco, and that’s your own fault. And when the poverty is perpetuated down the generations, that’s your own fault too. It’s not the fault of the Unionist establishment who are doing quite well out of the current settlement thank you very much.
The Union is killing us, and the Union doesn’t care. But we care. And we’re not going to go down quietly. No more a hacking cough, Glasgow rings with the death rattle of the Union. We’ve had enough of this crap. Last year we evicted the Labour MPs that have sat on their hands for generations, filling their pockets at our expense. This year we cleared out the MSPs. Next year it’s the council’s turn. We’re going to change this city. We’re going to change Scotland. We’re going to change the world. We’re going to show you a Glasgow effect that is going to ruin the Union’s health, we’ll take back the levers of power and control. And this time it’s not the people of Glasgow who will suffer from a short life expectancy, it’s the United Kingdom whose days are numbered. We’ll show the Union a real Glasgow effect.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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