IN the snatched footage from the siege of Glasgow’s city centre that lit up social media on Saturday night a 10-minute video stood out. It was shot by observers above St Vincent Street, the road that forms the southern boundary of George Square. At several points you found yourself switching to clips from another stand-off two and a half thousand miles away in Gaza City, just to ensure you weren’t over-dramatising any comparisons.

In the film shot from amidst Glasgow’s built Georgian finery dozens of Rangers supporters are grabbing every implement that comes to hand, turning them into chibs and launching them at the steadily-advancing police lines. The chief missiles du jour appeared to be traffic bollards.

These began raining down on top of the police, whose original deployment on Saturday was to facilitate the celebrations of these supporters. On the streets of Gaza the rage of young Palestinians was being directed at an occupying force which has been murdering, torturing and oppressing their community for generations. In Glasgow the men attacking the police had been given free rein by them to celebrate one of the most joyous and remarkable feats in Rangers’ history: winning their 55th league title by going through an entire season undefeated.

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Social media – Twitter in particular – can become an insufferably pompous platform when an assortment of wearily familiar soothsayers, drawn mainly from the political elites, gather to preach. Their tone is rarely other than sanctimonious and you imagine them sculpting their polished little apercus before standing back to take the applause of other soi-disant philosophers. Occasionally they provide a source of comedy as they flounce on and off their own stages, wiping their brows theatrically as they go. Pure roasters.

On Saturday night they were flocking again, telling those who had celebrated the civic engagement in Pollokshields last Thursday to avert their eyes from George Square on Saturday. Thursday was Glasgow at its best; Saturday was the city behaving badly. No context; no history; no desire to analyse. You formed the impression they were hoping it would all kick off among the Rangers supporters on Saturday afternoon just so that they would have the opportunity to exult in their own righteousness.

The same people who seek to marginalise and cancel Catholics and their schools now become our champions when they eye an opportunity to proclaim their lofty sense of right and wrong. They are entirely without any sense of irony and possess no originality.

What happened on the streets of Glasgow on Saturday was an almost total failure of policing by the force’s senior management. Similar scenes from several weeks ago when Rangers’ title triumph was confirmed suggested that Saturday – the day the team lifted the actual trophy – could follow a similar pattern. To be in and around Glasgow city centre at lunchtime on Saturday morning was to know that there would be problems unless the police moved in to disperse the small groups already forming.

Last month the force defended itself by suggesting that to have forcibly intervened to prevent thousands marching from Govan to the city centre risked inflaming an incendiary situation. Well, perhaps. Those thousands of families who had willingly adhered to a year of lockdown and separation from their loved ones might have had a view on that.

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So too, those who had gathered peacefully at George Square last year to express solidarity with black people following the slaying of George Floyd. On that day they were met by a hostile response from Police Scotland who, over many years, have become highly selective about which types of communities they permit to protest. Striking miners in 1984 were attacked and treated as enemies of the state and small groups of Celtic fans are routinely kettled for little more than singing songs which the police don’t like and displaying flags with suspect colours, like the green, white, red and black of Palestine. 

Social media’s counterfeit liberals are quick to condemn what they perceive to be the antediluvian and tribal instincts which drove Saturday’s disorder in Glasgow. No-one likes overt displays of public drinking amidst Union Jacks and wading in Fenian blood. Can’t they just be a bit more subtle about their attitudes? The political classes have other, more insidious ways of discriminating against Catholics and their beliefs. “Why can’t they just leave it to us? We do it more stealthily.”

You hesitate to be indulgent about the larger issues around Saturday’s violence. After all, most poor people from among the same communities that produced those Rangers fans choose not to get tanked up with the Dragon Soop and the Leccy Melon, scorn the concept of protecting the NHS and attack the police. Nevertheless, Saturday’s disorder must still be viewed through the lens of the multi-deprivation that has existed in these places for many decades. When the jobs and houses disappear and the health apocalypse arrives all they have left is an old cause and the solace of tribes. These are the only pillars they can rely upon to provide their lives with a sense of meaning.

Civic, left-leaning, enlightened Scotland, perhaps guilty at marginalising them, chooses to look away the rest of the year when they march past chapels and make parts of Glasgow hostile territory for Catholics. Only now, when the unpleasantness breaks out from the margins and advances on the fancy architecture and the designer shops do the elites become alarmed.

In the coming days the usual people with the usual agendas will talk about religion and a ruinous drinking culture. Some will even contrive to hang it all on those awful Catholic schools (only in Scotland does anti-Catholicism get blamed on Catholics). Anything, really that deflects from a profound political failure to address the underlying problems of poverty.

The rest of us knew what was coming on Saturday. In Holyrood and Police Scotland, where failure thrives, they just didn’t get it.

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