The Distance of the Years

Duke Street (Photo: from Old Dennistoun by Andrew Stewart)

“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.

Nørreport Station is one of the busiest in Copenhagen. Like so many others it’s been transformed and modernised and now boasts a Metro line and ample bicycle parking (Photo: Peter Young)

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.

The inner city in Copenhagen is bright and welcoming. These 18th & 19th century buildings are looked after with great care (Photo: Peter Young)

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.

Dana Regina entered service in 1974 and sailed on the Esbjerg-Harwich route until 1983 (Photo: faergelejet.dk)

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.

The Great Belt Bridge and Tunnel is a car and rail link between the main Danish stand of Sjælland and Fyn (Photo: L-BBE)

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.

Whitevale Street and Whitevale Baths ca. 1914 (Photo from: Glesga Pals at glesga.ukpals.com)

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. 

Whitevale Baths and Wash-house looking south towards the Gollowgate (Photo: Peter Young)

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.

(The song below was a bit of fun I had reminiscing in music)

Men’s bath’s entrance (Photo: Peter Young)

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. 

The Copenhagen Metro

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.

The Glasgow Subway

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 salvo.scot 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.

(Photo: indyposterboy.scot)

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 liberation.scot, 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’. They 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.

Published by Indyscotnews

Editor & publisher. Admin of @indyscotnews

%d bloggers like this: