The Distance of the Years

Another excellent article from my regular contributor Peter Young in Denmark.

“You wouldn’t recognise Duke Street now,” my sister says, “it’s all bric-a-brac stores.” Lizzie is the only one of the litter who has remained close to our roots. Today, she lives just across from my primary school at the top of Armadale Street. Her daily shopping trips take her along the Parade, though she clearly laments the state of Dennistoun. “And you should see the close [on Duke Street], it used to be so nice,” she adds, wistfully.

Fortunately, my sister is up with her daughter near Huggie Loch for dinner. My niece laughs as she adds, ‘with all the trimmings’. It’s a cheery Christmas Day FaceTime blether. Somehow, we bridge the distance of the years.

As a long-term exile, you gain a historic perspective on your adopted homeland, too. The longer you stay, the greater the societal change lived through. Photos of past decades convey this sense of time gone by. Suddenly, today’s infrastructure looks modern and photos from an earlier time in exile look ‘historic’. Even centuries-old landmarks look somehow 21st-century. But, then again, no expense is spared when it comes to the upkeep of the country’s architectural heritage.

I can’t recall ever going back to a familiar place in Denmark that has not changed, for the better. The odd thing is, I never thought anywhere in the capital city region, or further afield, was neglected or seriously run-down in the first place. Good simply became better, and better became best.

The parallel perspective to all of this are my trips back to Glasgow. In the part of Dennistoun I grew up in, even what was once good often seems worse. A lot of people are embarrassed to visit their working class roots. It’s never bothered me. In fact, the longer time I’ve spent in Scandinavia, the more eager I am to show people the reality of ‘British’ Glasgow. How the Union doesnt work for Scotland.

Now, if you’d arrived in Denmark in the early 1980s, you’d have found a well-ordered, tidy, almost litter-free country, that just worked. That was certainly my experience after I drove off the DFDS ferry in Esbjerg. I arrived at the most westerly point of the nation. By nightfall, I had reached my destination on the eastern coast of the main island.

The trip from North Sea to Baltic was easy. In those days there were far fewer motorways, but the roads were good, ferries efficient, and bridges modern. The car, by the way, wasn’t mine. It was a left-hand drive, Norwegian-registered Vauxhall Viva. A student acquaintance wanted it back in Scandinavia. He’d heard I was going to Denmark and asked me if I’d drive it over. He paid for the ferry trip, filled the car with petrol, and handed me the tickets. Apparently, I was doing him a big favour. Those rich Norwegians with their oil revenues, eh?

DFDS ferries on the Esbjerg-Harwich route quietly modernised over the years. As did the road connections across Denmark. Then they built the 18-kilometre Great Belt Bridge and Tunnel structure from Sjaelland to Fyn. This cut out the ferry crossing (which I actually miss) and speeded up the journey. As this was being done, almost all main rail lines in Denmark were electrified. The omni-present cycle paths improved and multiplied. Land-reclamation projects north of Copenhagen saw smart new coastal housing. Finally, work on the Oeresund Bridge began. A road and rail link to Sweden. More ferries mothballed, or sold on.

I’ve never been a political person. No one in my family was. For people whose sole aim in life is survival on low pay, politicians might as well be aliens. There’s little time for party politics at the low end of feudal UK.

Nevertheless, I did wonder how all this investment in Danish national infrastructure was financed. And it wasn’t just here. Visit Stockholm, Oslo or Helsinki – all fabulous, well run, 21st-century cities, but with their historic heritage intact.

Walking down Whitevale Street has always been the ultimate contrast to my Nordic experience. The disparity is symbolised in one building – Whitevale Baths and Wash-House. Opened in 1902, it was hugely popular and the steamie was a social hub for women. How this beautiful building could be left to rot and decay for generations is a mystery. The frontage was still there last time I saw it. Hopefully, its facade will be saved and one day become the entrance to a new community centre. Links with the past help us span the distance of the years. They give us that sense of historic continuity and national identity so important for a people. 

Standing outside the ornate sign for ‘Mens Baths’ transports me back to cold Saturday mornings. This gateway to the past may be boarded up and bricked over, but it’s easy for the mind to evoke another era, of short trousers, with trunks wrapped in a towel under my arm, and with the unmistakable scent of chlorine vapour in the air. If you listen carefully, you can still hear the splashing of excited lads. The washhouse sign, too, evokes hazy memories of my mother, a pram, and zinc baths.

As we all know, the Whitevale site of urban decay is not a unique case. All across Glasgow our precious, irreplaceable cultural heritage in stone was left to rot. Grass growing on roofs and gutters is a sure sign that owners and landlords don’t really care. The ‘price of everything and the value of nothing’ crowd.

After living in different parts of Copenhagen, I opted for a rural location. The small provincial town we found was charming. Unknown to us, it was destined to be our children’s home town, in the country they now increasingly identify with – even though neither of their parents are native Danes.

A recent ‘then and now’ photo exhibition here in Fredensborg was remarkable, in that most of the houses were recognisable. However, their 21st-century versions are in fine fettle. Danish councils do renovation and restoration rather well. But they can afford it. 

Small independent Denmark didn’t bankrupt itself building bridges in the 1990s. On the contrary, its towns and cities have been getting upgrades, not least to transport infrastructure. In the capital region, Copenhagen has gone from a city with no historic underground transport, to having an extensive Metro system. And this all happened within the past two decades. Plans for new lines are already in the works.

Compare that to the Glasgow subway, more than 120 years old, yet with all its original stations stuck in a Victorian time-warp. It was utterly dilapidated by the 1970s. Improvements have been made, but it’s all tinkering around the edges. The proposed Clyde Metro would already exist if our country wasn’t being robbed blind by our next door neighbour.

My children were amazed that I’d never been on the Copenhagen Metro. As students, it quickly became a feature of everyday transport for them. Anyway, they insisted I get on. Naively, I asked where the driver was. Still, no driver meant I could sit right up front. It was pure regression to the upstairs front seat on a Corpie bus, pretending to steer.

The main difference between Denmark and Scotland is, of course, that Denmark not only controls all of its revenues and taxes – it also retains its territorial integrity. What we Scots have not been aware of, is that our national landmass, our seas, our over-land and underground resources, were, and are, still ours. Neither the Union of the Crowns in 1603, nor the political Union of 1707, ceded Scottish territory to England. This is from the website:

“The lie is that the UK parliament has sovereignty over Scotland. It doesn’t. It’s a lie. But the lie was necessary for the UK to shackle and subjugate Scotland.

“It then proceeded to commit massive criminal fraud by ransacking and stealing Scotland’s natural resources, while the lie ensured we were treated as nothing more than a colony.

“The Union has been a cover for the stealing from Scotland since the 18th century and it’s still going on in the 21st century. Of the £80bn expected revenues from oil and gas over the next six years, £65bn will be stolen from Scotland.”

Without the sham Union, we Scots, like Danes, would control all of our natural resources. It is imperative, a matter of extreme urgency, that our nation regains what is rightfully ours.

The lies, the deceit, the 30-pieces-of-silver propagandists in the London-centric media, the covert and overt information war on Scotland, is for one purpose only – to convince Scots, by all necessary means, that we are too poor and mentally inadequate to control what is rightfully ours. 

The British state is built on colonial crime, excused by the ‘we gave them cricket’ crowd. Theft from India is one of the most glaring examples.

“Eminent Indian economist Professor Utsa Patnaik (Jawaharlal Nehru University) has estimated that Britain robbed India of $45 trillion between 1765 and 1938.”

Then there was the human cost. According to recent research, from “1880 to 1920, the British killed 100 million Indians.”

That was only 40 years of empire. It begs the question as to the total number of deaths during the entirety of British colonial rule. If we’re looking for an evil, genocidal empire, the one ‘on which the sun never set’, was it. Today, Scotland and Wales, once press-ganged into the colonial enterprise, are now its last colonies.

My sister’s words on Christmas Day have stuck with me. “You wouldn’t recognise Duke Street now, it’s all bric-a-brac shops.” She’s said as much before, but this time there was more resignation in her voice.

Across the distance of the years, she remembers a lively bustling Duke Street with Galbraith’s, City Bakeries, butchers, fish shop, The Glen Dairies, chemist, clothes shop, bank, and toy shop – all on the ground floors of our single tenement block. The 21st century version of Duke Street saddens her. It saddens me, too.

If we do nothing, this cycle of colonial exploitation will continue for generations to come. Children yet unborn will experience poverty, with parents struggling to survive. More of our people will seek solace in alcohol and drugs. Our infrastructure will crumble and decay, our national heritage wither from neglect. Scots will emigrate, our population will stagnate. But we can choose a different future.

We’re all pretty much disillusioned with politicians. Nevertheless, while we can get behind non-political people’s movements like Salvo and, we can also lend our support to parties who are serious about independence. SSP, ISP and Alba are all singing from the same hymn-sheet. They all view reclaiming our independence as a matter of urgency. There is also the hope, albeit perhaps forlorn, that the SNP will reconnect with independence before it’s too late. It will take huge changes on the leadership side, but we should never say never. That said, there is a lesson from history that the SNP, as a party, should heed.

The Irish showed us the way out of a stalemate in 1918, when they rejected their ‘gravy-train’ pro-indy party at the ballot box. Suddenly, a nation thirsting for an end to British rule embraced Sinn Fein and radical independence.

The fact is, voters can switch horses mid-stream. In 1997, we saw the collapse of so many safe Tory seats to the Blair landslide. More recently we saw the collapse of the promise-breaking LibDems under Clegg. In 2015, they went from 57 MPs (UK-wide) to 10, overnight. In Scotland, Labour went from 41 to a single MP. Both LibDems and Labour were seen to have reneged on key party promises. 

At GE 2024, or a snap election before then, the SNP will have to account for its record of non-delivery on indy mandates, and its failure on key policies, not least on women’s rights. If ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’, a deja vu with 1918 may be looming.

The Irish MPs embraced a ‘Plan B’. The refused to take seats at Westminster. As a result, the establishment of the First Dáil in Dublin by newly elected Sinn Fein, broke the stalemate caused by the comfy-slipper MPs of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Aye, Ireland’s ‘SNP’ was spurned by voters at the first post-World War I general election. Overnight, Sinn Fein – the party of independence urgency – ruled the roost and acted boldly. Dublin effectively ended the existing UK Union.

Now, it’s our turn.

A guid new year to ye a’ when it comes.


I do enjoy Peter’s articles. I enjoy the history and I also have witnessed the changes over the decades. In particular Peter’s comments about what little value our cities and towns have displayed in allowing so many older properties to fall into wanton decay through lack of respect for local communities. It is still happening today my father’s old church building that survived the Luftwaffe blitz of Clydebank during WW2 is likely to be destroyed by the Church of Scotland. There are very few properties in Clydebank that predate WW2. To close it despite it being located in one of the most prominent sites in the entire town. It seems to me that there is no sense when reducing the number of churches to divest of the property on the best site, close to where people live, in favour of a Church, in a pretty deserted site, just because that property is newer. It lacks a congregation which I would have thought Is the real key ingredient for any church. In my dad’s day there were 12 Church of Scotland’s in Clydebank. They now plan only three in 2023. They hope congregations will move out their local communities and travel to the three survivors. I fear that will prove a forlorn hope. I know churches are in serious decline but putting people first rather than property age would be a more sensible route to stemming the flow away from religion. Anyway Peter’s article provides sharp contrast about what a colonised nation and a free independent one can achieve. It is a message and example more in Scotland need to understand.

I am, as always

Yours for Scotland


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40 thoughts on “The Distance of the Years

  1. My son lives and works in Norway and he came home for the first time in three years for Christmas with his family. Unfortunately, the first thing he had to do was drive my husband to the doctor and thence to the Acute Receiving ward in the Southern General, Glasgow. It was a harrowing experience as the receiving ward resembled a war zone with the staff desperately trying to cope with a large room full very sick people – some of whom were infectious. It was impossible to keep them separate. My husband spend several hours sitting in a waiting room chair before a trolley was found for him – all the time the staff running about trying to look after everybody. He was admitted to a ward a few hours after this.
    On the way home my son was obviously shocked and muttered that he would wait to be sick in Norway.
    Now we hear that the Glasgow and Clyde Health Board rejected an appeal from A&E Consultants to declare a Major Incident. How can they do this? Who knows better – an ‘Executive’ with his/her a**e nailed to a office chair or someone who works with the incoming sick?
    Where are Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yusaf in all this? What about overruling the Health Board and forcing a Major Incident situation? What about utilising spare capacity in private health facilities around the city?
    The ward staff are tremendous but they are short staffed and run off their feet. If there are two nurses in a ward where there should be three, what happens when the two nurses have two incidents to deal with? What happens is my husband is left having a medical emergency with no-one available to deal with him. The result is an acute medical emergency developing and a switch (after a wait of some hours) to a high dependency ward.
    The Southern General Hospital still resembles a building site with the inside of the entrance hall covered in builder’s hoardings as the wrong cladding is being removed and replaced. Why has the Scottish Government (I am not blaming the SNP exclusively here) been saddled with so many fiascoes of planning – the Southern General and the Children’s hospital in Edinburgh, spring to mind? They have been taken for mugs.
    My son commented on how run down and dirty Glasgow had become, mentioning the state of the roads in particular. The roads are full of potholes, there are street lights out all around my area. There are not enough cleasing workers so the streets are litter-strewn.
    We will never get out of this downward spiral until we get control of our own resources and it is time for the SNP to reorganise: leave NS to talk her head off in the Scottish Parliament and get a new dedicated wing to link up with other Independence seeking bodies and concentrate on getting Independence – and she should stay as far away from the process as possible.
    I mentioned in another place that the SNHS staff should get a lot more than 19% and the SNP leadership should get the jail.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Hard pressed national health service staff are huge issue everywhere, the difference is, the Nordics have the means to do something. A sense of nationhood also fosters a sense of national pride. Ireland used to have its ‘West Brits’ before independence. They slowly vanished, apart from the in the North of the island. Scotland seems to have a huge proportion of ‘North Brits’ and self-loathers. The result of long-term Unionist propaganda.

      There appears to be only a small pro-indy faction left within the SNP. Sturgeon must know she’s destroying everything, but appears not to care.

      Liked by 11 people

    2. I hope your husband gets better soon. Like you, the Southern is my local A&E. I knew it was under pressure and that the Board had refused a critical incident. IMHO the doctors should have the last word on that decision. As one doctor said earlier this week, they are delivering first class care in 3rd world conditions.

      The opposition cry wolf so often, that them calling for Yousaf’s resignation is treated like water off a duck’s back by the public. However he is completely unfit to be a Cabinet Secretary at all far less of health.

      Whoever decided that Glasgow could function with only two 2 A&Es needs to be held completely accountable for the resulting chaos. Yes people are going to A&E when it’s not appropriate but if you can’t get a GP appt what do they think worried people are going to do. Yes they need to understand a pharmacist might be more appropriate or minor injuries unit but whose responsibility was it to educate the public BEFORE taking away facilities.

      If Scot Parliament ever needed to sit until the lights went out, as they did on 20th December, then the subject being discussed should have been the SNHS.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Thanks Panda Paws. My husband is stabilised now thanks to the staff and doctors in the High Dependency Unit. A long recovery is ahead.
        My GP is excellent. My husband got an immediate phone consultation when it was obvious he had more than flu; the doctor saw him immediately (in his lunch hour) and sent us off to hospital at once with a reference to the Acute Receiving Ward.
        I agree too much has been concentrated in two locations. I would ask if financial considerations were placed before medical considerations. The more I see of the Southern General I would also question how far medical practitioners were consulted in its design.
        I’ve been looking at the composition of the GGCHB – headed by an accountant with three more accountants on the board; someone in Global Finance another in Industry and various others in public employment sectors. Five or six with direct medical qualifications and experience out of 28 members. There are six councillors there as well with no indication of their backgrounds.
        I would like a rigorous enquiry into the functioning of Health Boards in Scotland, based on what I have found out about the GGCHB. Cue email to Humza Yusaf with details questions.
        Meanwhile, a Happy, Peaceful and Healthy New Year to one and all.

        Liked by 5 people

  2. My wife remembers going in the tram to visit her great Aunt’s at Parkhead Cross in the 1940’s. She remembers passing a butchers called Morrow’s with a sign in the window saying “Come to Morrow for today’s dinner”. She thinks the butcher’s was on Duke Street but looking it up on Google there was a shop with these exact details in Garthamlock which opened in 1957/8. Does anyone know if there was a predecessor to Morrow’s of Garthamlock in the Duke Street or Parkhead area. Any information would be most welcome.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. until the SG introduces AGFRR on all public and private property there is no incentive to force owners to look after their properties and bring them into good economic use. The housing crises would be solved if vacant land and dilapidated property owned by the public sector was brought back into use.

    the blame culture used by all politicians needs to change. Use the existing powers to control our public finances to transform lives This will give folk the confidence to vote yes

    Liked by 7 people

      1. Not sure if I agree with the word ” force ”

        Properties can become dilapidated through lack of funds. The example of the slum tenements in Glasgow was an example of that. Getting people up a close to agree to carry out repairs has historically been a rather difficult business. Factor in differing levels of income and ownership status together with the severity of the repair required, and the restoration becomes even more difficult.

        In circumstances like this, and as evidenced by the Glasgow tenemental slums, the problem becomes quite clear.

        Initially the received wisdom in Glasgow was to demolish run down tenements and build new council homes many of which were demolished not too many years later such was the build quality of the replacements. What however latterly was a good policy, was central governments decision in the 80’s to make money available to create action areas and refurbish completely the dilapidated tenements.

        And so rather than the complete demolition of entire communities, areas like Partick had its tenement stock refurbished as opposed to being demolished – and I don’t think there are many now who would disagree that this was not an enlightened policy. But it took governmental funding intervention to make this come about.

        Repair grant for owner occupier property was another good initiative to help support properties needing upgrade and or repair. Granting for stone cleaning and repointing across Glasgow in the 80’s was a very visible example of such funding. Grants for other upgrades were also made available. However, property grants now tend to be as rare as hens teeth.

        Soft loans could also be another option. And of course, if VAT was lifted on refurbishment, that would assist property maintenance and upgrade.

        Moreover, in relation to predominately thermal insulation values it took government money to bring about initiatives like Scottish Housing Standards 15 where extensive funding was made available to upgrade social housing property insulation values through the predominant addition of wall cladding and windows, Concomitantly no similar funding was given to owner occupiers. Difficult therefore to understand how only social housing properties requires funding to support upgrade whereas owner occupier properties do not require funding support.

        Anyway, the main point is that it takes money to bring about the restoration of dilapidated properties and that the judicious use of governmental support is absolutely essential to bring upgrade about.

        Indeed, this is exactly what is being recognised in Dumbarton where the Westminster Government is ploughing in around £25 million to assist upgrade the absolutely dilapidated Hight Street shopping centre. Without doubt a cynical intervention by Westminster to undermine the Scottish Parliament, but nevertheless a recognition of funding need.

        As to the use of the word ” force ” – well that’s a word I’d be careful about using.

        Anyway, it’s nearly New Year and it will all be there for us next year to agonise over on how we achieve the best results for our community and our country.

        Good New Year to all.

        Liked by 6 people

  4. Re my previous comment about a butcher’s shop named Morrow, a further search revealed there indeed was a Robert Morrow butcher’s shop in Duke Street around 1950 with the same slogan “Come to Morrow for Today’s Dinner”. Obviously my wife’s memory is no sae bad. I think Robert Morrow may have been a relative of the Morrow the butcher in Garthamlock.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. On page 58 of Douglas McCreath’s book Cranhill – Looking Back on Yesterday there is a 1955 photograph of a row of shops in Monach Road. Among the occupants is a butchers shop owned by Aloysius Morrow whose slogan was ‘Come to Morrow for today’s meat !’.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sounds like there was a family chain of Morrow Butchers… the morrow and the morrow and the morrow, creeps on this petty pace. Was there a Macbeth the bakers anywhere near.

      Lovely article again. A guid New Year to aw.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Another brilliant and insightful article by Peter. What does it demonstrate? It reveals the difference between a developed nation and an under-developed nation. The reason for this, as Peter explains, is colonialism. As Frantz Fanon wrote of colonialism: “different countries show the same absence of infrastructure”.

    This lack of quality infrastructure covers most of what we see and use every day. When I helped manage EU projects researching ports and shipping matters I was fortunate to visit a great many developed ports in most EU states and further afield. Hosting project meetings back in Scotland was always a shock for our overseas participants when all I had to present to them was obsolete outdated Victorian port infrastructure on the Forth, Clyde or Tay.

    In a colony, a colonial administration (incl this one run by the SNP) is never interested in sorting this, rather the opposite. Despite many articles written on how Scotland can develop its seaports, and its shipping activities, there is no interest from colonial administrators. Like any colony, fixing Scotland’s under-development requires decolonization – i.e. liberation of the people and removal of the oppressor and his culture and dubious ‘values’.

    Liked by 11 people

  7. There is always something uncanny in your stories Peter. When I left home and made my great escape to College, it too was driving at the wheel of a Vauxhall Viva, which I’d bought from the next door neighbours for £50. I even remember it’s number.

    Property and infrastructure is a strange one for Scotland. I mean yes, in terms of a modern infrastructure, Scotland has fallen off the pace by some measure, but at the same time, in it’s architecture and infrastructure of it’s time, Scotland has boasted some of the finest architecture and infrastructure ever built, but Scotland simply doesn’t appreciate what it has in spadefuls. Even some of our “average” stuff is actually pretty exceptional.

    I’m a stonemason for my sins, and some of the buildings I’ve worked on in Edinburgh are genuinely second to none. Often better than comparable buildings in Bath or London, though in fairness, much of London’s finer stonework has been flattened by the war.

    But there is a paradox. When I was working in London, London “catered” for me. Even on my wage, I could readily get accommodation, I could get to and from my workplace, even right in the centre of town. I could afford to have a wee bit of a life. It’s true, I could never hope to “own” property there, but I was catered for. Dare I say it, my skills were in demand and I was appreciated. That’s how it should be.

    In Edinburgh however, it’s altogether different. I simply couldn’t get accommodation in Edinburgh, not for love nor money. Workshop space? Behave! Digs in Livingston was the closest I could get, and after that, I was forced to try the Borders, but getting to an from work was still an absolute nightmare, and often a 3 or 4 hour chunk out your day.

    What’s his name, Hugh Begg(??) seemed at war with motorists, with traffic lights popping up everywhere to double your journey time, parking becoming impossible and traffic wardens paid on commission. I lost my pride and joy Ford Escort because the big end went, and I’m quite positive it was caused by the daily 1 to 2 hour “overheat” crawling out of Edinburgh on the Glasgow Road at “rush” hour.

    The point is, I was working on the same high calibre buildings, with the same skills and expertise, but rather than Edinburgh catering for me, Edinburgh seemed to resent me being there. “Yeah, thanks for fixing the place, but come home time, we want you to fk off away to Livingston. You’re not actually welcome here.

    Edinburgh is just a haven for property speculators and developers, but despite the calibre of it’s buildings, it’s a virtual desert for artisans and craftspeople. People will readily sit back and watch a fine Georgian Terrace disappear to be replaced by some modern trash and call it progress. They have no idea.

    Look too at the infrastructure built nowadays. It’s all anonymous concrete and steel, yet Scotland once boasted some of the worlds best engineers who were very skilled in the use of stone and brickwork. Again, it’s not appreciated or catered for. If there’s a buck to be made pulling it down and throwing up some stick built timber frame el-cheapo flats, the quality stuff doesn’t stand a chance.

    The big lie is that it “isn’t” modernity doing this. Modernity isn’t all that modern. Even the Romans had concrete, and going by the Parthenon, the Romans had a greater expertise in concrete which modern industry lacks. They could have used concrete, but they chose to build Rome using stone and brickwork. (The Parthenon is made from concrete in the 2nd Century AD, but it hasn’t crumbled in all that time, whereas concrete behemoths from the 1960’s are already falling to bits and being demolished as unsafe).

    Our whole society is schizophrenic about it’s architecture. We all love stonework, (allegedly), but stone buildings are plagued by VAT on existing buildings, tortured to comply with modern insulation standards they were never meant to deliver, and a calibre of professionalism and craftsmanship which was once the norm nowadays can’t even make a living. Our industries and trades which created this spectacular environment are either gone or on their knees, and yet still, nobody cares.

    More than once I have had to listen to customers whining about the cost of rebuilding a chimney which has done it’s job for 200 years without a single penny spent on maintenance, and the cost is less than a tenth of the cost of the flash car parked in the driveway which the falling chimney would probably clobber if it did fall.

    Heads up Scotland, it isn’t modernity or the war which has killed off our Trades and Craftspeople. It’s NeoLiberalism and the age of the Bean counters who know absolutely nothing of prestige, excellence and craftsmanship.

    And for the record, yes I have tried to change things and make a difference, but there is simply nobody listening. My skills aren’t welcome here.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. I end the year staggered and in awe of the quality of many of the comments on this blog. Today was no exception my thanks to all who contributed over the year and provided the proof that quality, intelligent debate is possible without abuse and rancour. Happy New Year and oh, can you all come back in 2023!

      Liked by 8 people

    2. Fascinating that you’re s stonemason. Been watching some long-term restoration projects here in Fredensborg. As you probably know the royals here own essentially nothing. All the palaces are state property, so upkeep is state financed. The restoration of the outdoor marble structures and statues is an absolute work of art. It’s hard not to admire a people who value their heritage to this extent. In reality, they are working for future generations. It’s inspiring.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Paradoxically, I’m not sure State ownership is the answer. Yes it probably is, IF the state is up to the job, and not riddled with complacency and top heavy with the dreaded “management”. If the state is no good, corrupt, (sound familiar?), or starved of appropriate finance, then the whole sector suffers. Property doesn’t fare well when it’s “managed” like say the NHS or Local Authority by corrupt and miserable jobsworths on the take.

        I think a lot of people fail to understand that excellence in any given Trade or craftsmanship, (the “bit” which NeoLiberalism is sworn to undermine and get rid of), isn’t a luxury indulgence, but the vital mechanism evolved over generations which rinses the crooks and corrupt out of the system because for the most part, the crooks are incapable of delivering quality and excellence. As soon as the governing standard is cost rather than quality, you create a haven and a magnet for crooks, corruption, and criminal enterprise.

        I mean, maybe there has always been corruption, nepotism and collusion; it is after all human nature. But whether much cleaner or corrupt, at least the product was delivered to a much higher standard, and technical expertise and invention flourished. Personally, I don’t think it was corrupt. I think there was jealousy and envy of success, because greed and profiteering didn’t like to be kept at bay. (Oh look, there’s that Scottish doctrine of “common good” again…).

        Buildings and infrastructure nowadays look like a chore to be done and got out the way as cheaply as possible. Cheap and nasty? No problem, carry on. Why stop at 50, when you can build 200 of the damned things? The buildings and infrastructure of yesteryear were fundamentally different. They weren’t chores to be done by a deadline on a budget, but opportunities to strive for the best and reach for the stars. They were designed to function flawlessly, but also designed to delight the eye of the people who were going to spend the next 200 years looking at the place, and feeling good about their wee High Street or residential quarter.

        I’m not just talking about Jenners on Princes St, or the Scotsman Building. You walk along ANY of Scotland’s high streets or old town “ arrondissements”, whether it’s Dundee or Dalkeith, but the thing is, you’ve got to open your eyes and actually look. What is it that makes some streets feel like a life affirming pleasure to walk along while others are simply barren and dead?

        It’s maybe not fair to pick on the project in isolation, but take an “architectural tour” of the Borders Railway, and I’m sorry to say, a thing of great beauty and sophistication- it isn’t. It’s the Architecture of the lowest common denominator; it’s a perfunctory Railway but there isn’t any “joy” in any of it. Never a thought or aspiration for what “might” have been.

        Of all the bridges, underpasses, sidings, tunnels, stations and infrastructure, couldn’t one or two of them have been built in structural stone, not cladding, by Scottish Stonemasons keeping alive and vital the centuries old traditions and Scottish craftsmanship? Couldn’t one wee Bridge have been a celebration of old school stonework with a local vernacular “presence”?

        Just one wee Bridge, where somebody could take a picture of their kids standing beside it, girning because it’s raining, and forever after, people would know where it was taken because they recognised the landmark.

        For generations, decades and centuries, the people of Scotland, the stonemasons, the carpenters, the blacksmiths, the weavers, the sculptors and farmers turned our wee Scotland into a masterpiece. Every village had it’s own wee gem, whether it was an Auld Kirk, a tollbooth maybe or watch tower. Somewhere along the line, we stopped doing this, and started to churn out morbid banality which doesn’t enhance the tapestry of Scotland but actually chokes and stifles it.

        If we delight in the quaint authenticity of an old mill, a coach house or smithy which oozes with character and history, being repurposed as a home or a pub, then I’m all for that. I get it. I’d love to live in a place like that. But if you want that component to be a feature in your building stock, it means you’ve got to keep building the old mills and smithies, or the source material dries up. You need to keep building farm steadings and barns that will stand conversion.

        But who’s going to build a Smithy with a forge if there’s no demand or living to be made as a Blacksmith? Who is going to build those labourer’s cottages when there is no demand for labour?

        As a society, we have stopped achieving things. Most of our lives are redundant. We have stopped evolving, and it isn’t healthy.

        Liked by 6 people

    3. how true! there should be compulsory sinking funds for all tenement properties. Property notice system was abused in Edinburgh but the principle was good.

      there needs to be a change of culture so that while property is an asset it is also a liability. Grants have their place but too many owners have just let their properties deteriorate with no thought for their neighbours or environment

      Liked by 3 people

    4. An excellent comment. I’m forever disappointed that we do not value craftsman.

      Happy New Year to all YFS readers and of course to Iain.

      Liked by 5 people

  8. Hi Breeks,

    “The price of everything, and the value of nothing”

    I’m a retired Chartered Engineer – collar and tie. However I am also a spanners and gardening type of guy. And so in my working life I worked with Chartered Engineers who had passed exams – and full stop -were essentially administrators. And via my lifetime interests of motorcycles and gardening I met many people of no academic qualifications, – of outstanding skills. Instance, what academic degree is required to enable a person to create a sculpture? Me, I wouldn’t know how to start, and so I’ve been inclined to recognise the value of innate skills.

    Wealth? You can only eat one full meal a day. Poverty? In my teenage years – food banks , what are they I would have asked? Sunak, Truss, Johnson, Cameron are not the solution, they are the problem.And regrettably now, Sturgeon.

    I asked my MSP, if before her support of the GRA bill had she sought the views of her constituents – silence.

    Salvo, so well expressed by Sara Salyers is the route back to normality. We, the population must take back control of the allocation of our scarce resources – a definition of economics – and recognise, and value true skills, whether academic or artisan.

    Liked by 10 people

  9. replying to Willie.

    we need an urgent change of culture where property is concerned. You refer to to the grant system which was introduced to help in the renovation of tenements . my Dad was claims superintendent of the General Accident during g the Hurricane in 1968. We didn’t see him for weeks trying to sort out claims from owners and tenants.

    in those days most tenements we’re owned by one single owner or the corporation. Much of the damage exposed the lack of maintenance by the owners and the corporation.

    Fast forward to Dumbarton High Street. it is blessed with a variety of architecture rarely seen in any town in Scotland. it’s not poor people who own these buildings. National and local owners who are well- healed. there is no excuse for the state these buildings are in. Their lack of responsibility for their buildings has destroyed the High Street. Why should they be compensated for their dereliction? it’s the same principle which supports community buyouts, the public purse paying big rural lairds so that the community takes over a bit of their land which the lairds couldn’t find a private buyer for.

    The council is just as bad as it owns property for generations it doesn’t maintain. The council headquarters was a dilapidated shell for generations contributing nothing to the community. At least it’s now been renovated.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Paisley High Street exactly the same story, many buildings owned by pension and insurance situated many miles from Paisley trying to charge the exorbitant rents of the past before the development of Braehead and Silverburn. Now charity stops and vacant properties.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Apart from Edinburgh and Glasgow, Paisley has more listed buildings than anywhere else in Scotland. while i admire the Council’s efforts to use our history and culture to develop the town with the work in the Town Hall and Museum that’s not nearly enough.

        we might not get a vibrant retail core back but if buildings are occupied then that creates the economic dynamo . Stop giving grants to multi billion pound owners and hit them with AGFRR. they’ll soon upgrade gave the buildings occupied or give them away to others who will.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Brilliant article which shows what my Country could/should do.

        Probably too late for me to see it progressed, let alone realised.

        However, having seen the erudite comments here, we must quickly move the revolution to fruition.

        The above comments about my home town depress me and I look forward to seeing it turned around.

        Having spent a number of years overseas and having visited a number of other European Countries, I truly wish, as a Scot, that we, as a people and a Country, rekindle the light suppressed by being allowed to be burdened by lies and impoverishment for many decades and show our European neighbours and others in the wider World what a great Nation we can be once more.

        Liked by 4 people

  10. Breeks, your post got me thinking of a renovation going on in a very small town on the north coast. It’s taken some 5-6 years, and at one point I thought they were going to tear it all down. It’s an old mill building, part of the local history where mill-work dates back to the 16th century. The renovation was thorough and the result spectacular. You mention corruption.

    There’s a high level of public accountability here, as evidenced the party leader who near ended up in the jail for misusing 10,000 of EU funds on a party event and not an EU event. After a few years, he was finally found not guilty.

    This page shows the state the construction from 1858 it was in by 1919:

    And the mill is here more recently on Google maps. The same building is from 1858. There’s a series of 9 images on Google maps that’s show you the finished restoration. And this is just one example of what you see going on here:

    I doubt very much if the building would still be standing today, never mind renovated, in Scotland. But once again, the funds are there, if your country is not being robbed. Local architects are businesses are usually used, unless it’s the state’s own buildings, where they bring in specialists. The mill restoration is on a route I often cycle and it’s certainly provided a lot of work for local and nearby businesses.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Google Hawick Wilton Mill. Just think of the potential that was squandered…
      It’s just one example, but what a waste.


      Liked by 2 people

      1. It should be a criminal offence to deliberately allow a building to fall into disrepair so that “safety” issues enable the demolition of irreplaceable buildings.

        Unfortunately, that just doesn’t work if the state (or something better than the state) doesn’t have the clout and resources to step in.

        All that happens is the Council becomes the owner, and the disrepair still festers because the Council has no more money to fix the place than the former owner. Grants can help, but you need to stamp down hard on the corruption and systemic abuse.

        A bigger problem in my opinion is the massive incentive VAT extends to new build, which at the same time penalises existing property. The system needs reversed. Put VAT on new build, and Zero Rate all works to existing buildings.

        Thirdly, I believe our Building Regs are heavily influenced by corporate business to favour new build and timber frame. I wouldn’t call it a racket, but it’s heading in that direction.

        I fully get the science over insulation, I really do, but society needs a more “liberal” attitude to standards where older properties are concerned.

        It’s a big argument to articulate, but my personal belief is that there should be an element of “prerogative” about how an older property is used and heated.

        It’s not denial, I’m not saying there isn’t a problem heating the place, but a problem heating the place needs a much better solution than becoming the prime motivation for demolishing homes which have 200 years of service under their belt as “reasonably” adequate homes, even if you do need to “put another jersey on” from time to time.

        In my opinion, there should be discretion, and an option to manage a property as it was intended to be run when built.

        Yes, I know this “entrenches” the longer term existence of properties which don’t comply with modern standards, but these properties are already built and mostly in use. These properties also tend to be the stone built treasures I’m talking about.

        There ought to be a “cycle” for keeping then in use, even if they are technically sub standard, because the only other alternative you leave for them is the bulldozer, and a greedy developer who’s happy to oblige.

        If I was a homeless person, would I take a cold flat that was difficult to heat? Too bloody right I would. I’d bite your hand off.

        Truth be known, I’d probably CHOOSE a crappy flat with no heating at all, if left me with a wee bit more money in my pocket for grub. The facilities it does have will enrich my life beyond measure, and just let me to worry about the facilities it doesn’t have. Leave that as my prerogative please. There are such things as adversities I can cope with.

        These “poor” facilities, shitty heating or big windows are traditionally a big factor in cheap rents. Don’t bulldoze the place and leave me with nowhere to go. And it’s no relevance to me if you bulldoze the block in order to build modern units I simply cannot afford or qualify to get. Do you “see” yet how I end up homeless?

        What’s the expression? Don’t let the Great be the enemy of the good? Yeah, well don’t demolish sub standard housing because it can’t get a 2023 U value. Be content with the U-value it can get. Poor folk all over the place RELY on this gap.

        Here’s a thought. As a society, maybe let the people needing a home be the ones dictating when a property is fit or unfit for use. Let them set the benchmarks, not the greedy developers, corporate lobbyists and property speculators colluding with their pals at the Council and in Government.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Peter writes: « The British state is built on colonial crime, excused by the ‘we gave them cricket’ crowd. Theft from India is one of the most glaring examples. “Eminent Indian economist Professor Utsa Patnaik (Jawaharlal Nehru University) has estimated that Britain robbed India of $45 trillion between 1765 and 1938.”Then there was the human cost. According to recent research, from “1880 to 1920, the British killed 100 million Indians.” »
    The young Irish Marxist historian Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh / Feargal McCluskey is further to the left than I am, and his English frequently more demotic than I care for, but his historical critiques are always as punchy as they are wide-ranging. This extract from his blogpost of 30 Dec refers mainly to India but also to Ireland:

    « The late great Mike Davis outlines the impact of imperialism, climatic systems, and globalisation or the three gears of catastrophe in his ‘Late-Victorian Holocaust’. As usual, the British elite [Brits] are front and centre. This monumental study outlines how under globalisation ‘millions died, not outside the “modern world system,” but in the very process of being forcibly incorporated into its economic and political structures. They died in the golden age of Liberal Capitalism (Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocaust, Verso 2000, p. 19) Following Polanyi, Davis knocks ‘down one Smithian fetish after another to show that the route to a Victorian “new world order” was paved with bodies of the poor. Space will not allow a full examination of this immense study, so we will briefly focus on British India under ‘viceroys like Lytton, the second Elgin and Curzon, where Smithian dogma and cold imperial self-interest allowed huge grain exports to England in the midst of horrendous starvation.’ (p. 22) A quick glance at the career of Lytton [an opium fiend suffering from incipient insanity] points to the callous inhumanity of the vicious concoction of liberal political economy and emerging scientific racism. (Continued below)

    Liked by 2 people

  12. (Continued from above)
    While millions starved Lytton organised ‘the immense Imperial Assemblage in Delhi to proclaim Victoria Empress of India (Kaiser-i-Hind).’ Lytton put ‘on a spectacle “which achieved the two criteria Salisbury had set him six months earlier, of being ‘gaudy enough to impress the Orientals’ … and furthermore a pageant which hid ‘the nakedness of the sword on which we really rely.’”  Its “climacteric ceremonial” included a week-long feast for 68,000 officials, satraps, and maharajas: the most colossal and expensive meal in world history.’ Disgustingly, 100,000 of the Queen-Empress’s subjects starved to death during Lytton’s spectacular durbar. (Ibid, p. 40) Lord Salisbury, who later opined that like the Hindus and Hottentots, the Irish were inherently incapable of self-government, personified the aristocratic locusts referred to in the 1867 Fenian Proclamation. Under liberal British rule: ‘By official dictate, India like Ireland before it had become a Utilitarian laboratory where millions of lives were wagered against dogmatic faith in omnipotent markets overcoming the “inconvenience of dearth”.’ Salisbury denounced as a ‘species of International Communism’ the idea ‘that a rich Britain should consent to penalize her trade for the sake of a poor India’ (Ibid, pp 43-4) In public, he was lambasted by the Economist for encouraging indolent Indians to believe that “it is the duty of the Government to keep them alive.” Senior civil servants convinced (according to Lord Salisbury) that it was “a mistake to spend so much money to save a lot of black fellows,” denounced relief campaigns as “pure Fourierism [socialism].” British administrators in India, as in Ireland before it, became ‘the personification of free market economics as a mask for colonial genocide.’
    (Ibid, pp 49-50) »


    Liked by 5 people

  13. Your comment re the church is timely. In my small rural Perthshire village we are down to one Church of Scotland church service once a month serving 3 church areas. I visted Blairgowrie just before Xmas and was surprised by the number of rUK accents in the town. The pretty villages my included have long been subject to internal migration but I was surprised by the county towns. I noticed that the Episcopal churches are thriving in the area and wonder if there was a correlation between migration trends and the impact on the church of Scotland and Anglican Communion of the Episcopal church?


  14. Great article indeed!
    But “There is also the hope, albeit perhaps forlorn, that the SNP will reconnect with independence before it’s too late.” there is also the hope the SNP reconnects with its members.

    Liked by 1 person

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