RANGERS AND THE SCOTTISH TORIES: A REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

KEN HOUSTON

Sixty years ago Glasgow had a registered population of 1.054 million (almost twice the current level) and 15 parliamentary constituencies. Of these no less than seven were held by the Conservatives, compared to zero for the seven Westminster and nine Holyrood seats that exist today.

As the new football season kicked off in that same year of 1956, the city boasted six league clubs, which was half as many again as today. All, including newly-promoted but still amateur Queen’s Park, played in the top flight but one club stood head and shoulders above the rest: Rangers.

While Celtic had, over several decades, regularly come out top in league and cup competitions, in terms of a historical record of trophies won, level of support and financial clout, Rangers were top dogs, not just in Glasgow but Scotland.

As is well known, both the Scottish Tories and Rangers have undergone a major reversal of fortunes since those heady days.

The Conservatives were first; haemorrhaging seats began, slowly at first, with the 1959 election but was then reversed, somewhat, in 1979, the first election contested by Margaret Thatcher. But Scotland soon fell out of love with the Iron Lady and by the time of the Major-Blair election of 1997 the country returned not a single Conservative MP, although since then one has been won back.

Rangers, by contrast, went from strength to strength, reaching the final of the European Cup-Winner’s Cup in 1961 and 1967, eventually winning the trophy in 1972 and becoming UEFA Cup finalists in 2008. For that reason its demise in 2012 was as sudden as it was shocking; effectively the structure of the old club was swept away in an administrative financial nightmare and what remained was banished to the lowest division of the league.

Ironically, the fate of the Scottish Tories and Rangers took the heat off criticism by the large left-liberal, nationalist-inclined section of the Scottish commentariat. With the Tories regularly hovering between the mid and late teens in terms of seats at Holyrood they were of little consequence and could be ignored, just like Rangers when Saturdays meant matches against the likes of Brechin City or Montrose.

But this is likely to change since the Conservatives became the second largest party in the Scottish Parliament following the May election and Rangers returned to the Premiership. Especially should Ruth Davidson start “landing a few punches” (metaphorically speaking, of course) on the First Minister and members of her cabinet, as she promised to do while campaigning, and Rangers become serious contenders for the Premiership title.

Their critics among the commentariat will then take off the gloves because the Tories and Rangers represent – or, more accurately are perceived to represent – three of their pet hates: the monarchy, the union flag and the Union itself.

In terms of anti-Rangers prejudice, the campaign has already begun. At the cup final in May, large numbers of emotional Hibernian supporters invaded the Hampden pitch and some went on to vandalise advertising hoardings, destroy a goal and intimidate several Rangers players, who had to be presented with their runners-up medals in the dressing room.

Yet according to the commentariat, the trouble was really the fault of Rangers supporters because of their ‘sectarian’ singing. Now these songs may indeed be deemed offensive but Rangers fans certainly do not have a monopoly on this type of behaviour at football grounds. Indeed, some of the songs may have been around for a century, with the lyrics so common that regular supporters of any club are probably inured to them by now.

The stance of the commentariat seemed to be reflected in the reaction of their own high priestess. While, understandably, congratulating Hibernian on their cup victory it was noted that the First Minister failed to commiserate with Rangers in defeat, even though Ibrox is located within her Holyrood constituency.

Miss Sturgeon went on to condemn “all violence” committed in the aftermath of the final but would not be specifically drawn on the scenes at the Hibs end, which were beamed across the world; instead she tweeted on the Saturday evening that her husband was a “happy Hibbee”.

Still, no surprise there. When Mrs Murrell witnesses a packed Ibrox she probably sees 48,000 ‘No’ voters and, by implication, the two million-plus who voted that way in the 2014 referendum.

So the Scottish Conservatives and Rangers should steel themselves for ‘robust’ treatment by certain media ‘opinion-formers’ (or who at least think they are) in the coming year.

This grouping (some of whom have come to support independence only after giving up on a radical, left-wing party ever holding power at Westminster) sees the Scottish Tories and Rangers as still too reminiscent of the old Scotland, the Scotland of 1956.

Sweep away those two barriers and the road to a quasi-socialist Scottish state – and the enduring fruits from an endlessly-ripe, public-spending money tree – is wide open.

 

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

Still on fitba and 1956, the new season of that year began on 11 August, almost four months after the cup final on 21 April (Hearts beating Celtic 3-1 BTW).

Compare that close season with 2016 when the cup final was held as late as 21 May and Scottish clubs were in European action by 30 June – during the first week of Wimbledon and a fortnight before The Open at Troon.

Several reasons are put forward for the increasingly empty stands at Scottish grounds, among them live football on Sky, all-day pubs, improvements to betting shops, even a more assertive womanhood dragging husbands around the shops on Saturday afternoons.

Perhaps we need to add another – over-exposure of the product which is making people blasé about the game, at least in terms of attending matches.

This is something the authorities need to seriously consider: even the bloodthirsty Romans eventually got bored watching lions devouring Christians week in week out.

Twitter: @PropPRMan

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  Comments: 5


  1. The new Rangers (formed in 2012) is a different entity from old Rangers (which still exists, albeit that it is in liquidation and not trading).

    So, Rangers never “returned to the Premiership”. They’ve never been there before.

    An unintentional error, I’m sure, but I know that for reasons of journalistic accuracy you’ll want to correct the piece accordingly.


  2. A gloriously contrived and overstated piece on the relevance of politics to football. The fearful anticipation of a ‘quasi-socialist Scottish state’ plucking at the ‘enduring fruits from an endlessly-ripe, public-spending money tree’ if the bastions of Rangers and Scottish Conservatism are swept away? Dear Ken, have you been asleep this past decade and more? The good old Rangers crashed and burned from disastrous financial management. To keep it short (no mean feat), vast sums were overspent and an illegal tax evasion scheme, as well as an industrial scale tax avoidance or possibly evasion scheme – presently the subject of a protracted judicial case – meant that not only were Rangers robbing the treasury of its due revenues – whether by evasion or avoidance – but continued to spiral into vast sums of irreconcilable debt which deprived many businesses and individuals of vital funds. The scale of these unpaid debts, for a football club, are truly breathtaking. Not only were Rangers plundering the ‘public spending money tree’, but private enterprise to boot. And here we have the same institution held up as some kind of enduring symbol to fiscal probity, tradition, security and commonsense governance. Please! No more! The irony is overwhelming.


  3. Three riots after cup finals .1965 , 1980 ,2016 /The team from Ibrox lost all three finals. pure coincidence

  4. Lorne Malcolm Campbell


    In answer to John

    Well you may be correct but it has been established by Footballing authorities from the SFA to U.E.F.A that Rangers history remains intact and the club if not the business remains the same owners will come and go just like Celtic is a newco if you want to go down that road Pacific Shelf and not all of its assets belong to the club so where does that leave them?


  5. John,

    There is no need to make any such adjustments to the article, as you are clearly ignorant of the rules that govern the professional game in Scotland.

    If you did you would realise that the legal entities (including the old corporation to which you refer, now in liquidation) are specified as being the “owner and operator” of whichever football club (eg. Rangers F.C.) they run.

    Rules are rules, i’m afraid.

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