Hey everyone. Yet again Kevin McKenna gave me something to ponder which I read on Sunday evening. As a christian I found his most recent article on the scandal of Bellgrove Hotel to be both inspiring and disturbing in almost equal measure. Though if I am honest I was more disturbed by what he reported than inspired by the sensitive way in which he handled a very emotional topic.
Let me start by saying that over the last year Mr McKenna has become recommended reading almost as soon as I come home from church. I have found his articles on the scottish independence referendum to be both thought provoking and insightful coming as they do from a sensible socialist perspective of a real Labour man with real Labour values.
It is the very fact that McKenna has those deep seated values rooted as they are in visions shaped by principles which I have no doubt caused him to write an article on the Glasgow that some amongst the comrades would sooner forget. This is the Glasgow of the lost and the lonely the Glasgow where people are tossed aside like yesterday’s fish and chip wrappers or the half filled can of that drink that someone was too scootered to finish. This is the city of the lost that nobody wants to find. McKenna however not only wants to find them he wants the Scottish Government and more notably Glasgow City Council to stop pretending these people don’t exist. The Glasgow homeless scandal he says trumps the independence referendum and must not be allowed to go unchallenged.
As a long time supporter of independence I feel it is time for me to lay my personal politics very much on the line. I am first and foremost a socialist who has voted SNP all my political life purely because I see independence as the only means of achieving the fairer more equal society I want to live in. It is this very fact which pricks at McKenna’s consciousness and I believe empowers him to remind both the SNP Government which will still be in power at Holyrood post referendum regardless of the result of September’s vote till at least and probably beyond 2016 and the more general Yes Scotland campaign that if independence is to mean anything more than a piece of paper it must give our citizens something to aspire to and shake them out of the apathetic can’t be arsed culture of a kingdom united only in name and who in reality care little for those who can’t make it to the first rung of the ladder on Westminster’s terms, never mind get anywhere near the top. Pork Pies and platitudes never really were my meal of choice, and there not on Kevin McKenna’s menu either.
In his article he quite rightly gives credit to Daily Record reporter John Ferguson for highlighting the scandal of the Bellgrove Hotel which he refers to as ‘a last chance saloon the place where men go to die’. I know from personal experience just how accurate that portrayal actually is as my father’s youngest brother a man whom social workers would now describe as having a lot of issues died in that very establishment after years of giving his body more punishment than any body could take. There were only two mourners at his funeral to say goodbye to Arthur Smith, my dad John and my auntie Betty. I offered to go to be a support for my dad but he said it would have been too distressing for me. This is why reading Kevin McKenna’s well written and excellently thought out article was in itself challenging as it took me to a very dark and uncomfortable place.
In his piece McKenna says that this ‘facility’ made him ‘ashamed to be Glaswegian’ and make no mistake this is coming from a man who is fiercely proud of his native city is not an easy thing to achieve. The fact we have managed to make someone feel this is something which should make our collective stomachs sick at the treatment handed out the most vulnerable of our society.
Under resourced and with a barely minimum staff, McKenna points out that this is a privately run facility owned by two property developers who make shall we say more than a tidy sum in what some would call profit. Speaking personally I think the term immoral earnings may be appropriate. To quote Kevin McKenna directly ‘ The state hands over millions of pounds a year to keep its most embarrassing citizens away from polite society’. All this happens under the noses, indeed on the watch of a Labour run council as Glasgow has been for generations, and an SNP Government committed to creating a fairer more inclusive society is nothing short of shocking. Yes I know that benefits are a reserved matter but surely the Scottish Government and the Labour-Lib Dem coalition should surely have been making much louder noises to Westminster and asking why this obscenity was ever allowed to happen and what could have been done to solve the issues around staffing and appropriate levels of care. However it seems we would sooner turn a blind eye to the residents of Bellgrove and other similar establishments in the rest of the country just so we the ordinary voters and members of the public are not repelled by these disgusting creatures.
Now I hate to tell our elected representatives especially a Scottish Government for whom I voted and whose party I am a member of, but it is not the people many of whom have been without hope of a better future for decades that I find disgusting it is the situation they are in which offends my decency and indeed McKenna’s as he described Glasgow Labour leader Gordon Mathieson’s comment when he said we no longer refer homeless men to the Bellgrove as the city’s social workers prefer to help make positive decisions about living circumstances as scandalous asking what does that mean?
To be fair or as fair as I can be to a political rival I’m not entirely sure Mr Mathieson knows what it means either but he did know he had to get a sound bite out as quick as possible .
As McKenna concludes his article he reminds us that in just a few months Glasgow will play host to the commonwealth games. These games are often called the friendly games by sports commentators and commonwealth is often referred to a family of nations. I wonder how many of our politicians of all parties would feel if a family member was left out in the cold. I think it is safe to say they wouldn’t allow it to happen. Someone should remind them the men who live in the Bellgrove Hotel once had families too and but for the grace of god any one us no matter our gender, ethnicity, nationality, or race could have or could still be the next to walk their path. This is the Glasgow which has for too long been hidden from view. It is the Glasgow you won’t see in the tourist brochures. This is the Glasgow the politicians and the chattering classes would sooner you ignored, but you can’t you owe it to your fellow citizens not to do so. It is time to face some unpleasant truths, yes there are people in this city with problems and we have running away from those problems for far too long. It is time to tackle them and by doing so help some of our most vulnerable people to gain a greater degree of dignity. The time for pork pies and platitudes is over our citizens deserve better than to paraphrase Elvis a hotel at the end of lonely street where the broken go to die.
Love And Best Wishes