by SRB

How to fund a museum of literature (dump football)

January 30, 2012 | by SRB

Paul Henderson Scott’s plea for a Scottish Literary Museum next to the National Library, which ought to be supported, spurred the reflection that the fine rebuild of the National Portrait Gallery still perpetuates one nonsense and commits a new one. The gallery of great Scots round the entry court still has no Scotswoman later than Mary Stewart, and the marble statue of Thomas Carlyle has disappeared. He first suggested such a gallery, and the Edinburgh-Duke Universities’ edition of The Carlyle Letters, his correspondence and that of his brilliant wife Jane Welsh, is now an on-line monument to Victorian literature. 

 How to pay for Paul Scott’s scheme? Dare I take a suggestion from Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘Glasgow 1960’? 

 Returning to Glasgow after long exile 

 Nothing seemed to me to have changed its style. 

 Buses and trams all labelled “To Ibrox” 

 Swung past packed tight as they’d hold with folks. 

 Football match, I concluded, but just to make sure 

 I asked; and the man looked at me fell dour, 

 Then said, “Where in God’s name are you frae, sir? 

 It’ll be a record gate, but the cause o’ the stir 

 Is a debate on ‘la loi de l’effort converti’ 

 Between Professor MacFadyen and a Spainish pairty.” 

 I gasped. The newsboys came running along, 

 “Special! Turkish Poet’s Abstruse New Song. 

 Scottish Authors’ Opinions” – and, holy snakes, 

 I saw the edition sell like hot cakes! 

 

 Heavy irony. But the BBC on 24 July last year found that the cost to the public purse of policing Old Firm matches came to £2.4 million annually. 

 I searched the Annual Report of Creative Scotland: National Lottery Distribution Fund to find its ‘award payments’ to ‘literature, publishing and language’. On page 32 these amounted to £ 556,000 in 2009-10, falling to £175,000 in 2010-11. At such rates £2.4 million would ‘stow the pantries’ of Scots writers for rather a long time. 

 The context of the bill for policing was put by Douglas Fraser in the BBC in a blog ‘Old Firm: Good Business?’ on 28 December, 2011, quoting Les Gray, Chairman of the Scottish Police Federation: 

 GMS presenter Gary Robertson … asked why the Old Firm match is being held this evening:

 

 “This would probably be an ideal time for this game, a midweek game – during the evening. From our point of view, from a policing and disorder point of view, this is the best time.”

 

 Why?

 

 “Some people are at work today and tomorrow, whereas if you hold the game at New Year when people are off for a day or two days, it’s not unusual for people to be drinking for two and three straight days, then go to the game, the pub or the club and watch it, having been consuming alcohol, and that’s where the disorder kicks in.

 “It’s a better time for us, when people are still working. It’s the best of a bad lot.”

 Is there a danger of disorder in the city centre?

 “My personal advice is: I never go out on the evening of an Old Firm game unless I have to, through work.

 “If I didn’t need to go out tonight, I wouldn’t. The disorder is as predictable as the game itself. You don’t know what you’re going to get.”

 From conversations during my time as an MSP I got the impression that enthusiasm for the ‘Old Firm’ is minority stuff, outside an obsessive, self-interested press/media which these days is only marginally bothered about the quality of playing. It would be useful to get opinion poll evidence on this, and about openness to healthier, co-operative forms of organisation, smaller clubs, and the amateur game. 

 Meantime the Old Firm should pay its own social costs. There are more productive ways of investing £ 2.4 million annually, and Paul Scott’s suggestion is one such. Scottish literature has changed the world, from the Border ballads and Gavin Douglas’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, to MacPherson’s Ossian, Burns, Scott and Carlyle, women’s writing from Susan Ferrier to Muriel Spark and Liz Lochhead, and of course the contribution of MacDiarmid and the Scots renaissance. Probing the sort of social malaise Douglas Fraser discusses begins to go positive when the problem is articulated both clinically and imaginatively. We need Professor MacFadyen and we need him now.

Blog / Discussion