The Homeless World Cup kicked off in Glasgow on Saturday, the same day that Portugal emerged as unexpected victors over France to claim the biggest trophy in European football. The contrast between the men and women who will take to the pitches in George Square and the multi-millionaires gracing the stadia of France could not be more stark yet both play for a sense of personal and national pride. It is easy to imagine however, that the bitterness of defeat is easy to assuage when you have a modern des res to return to.
Football in general is watched by the working classes, regardless of where in the world it is played. The astronomical wages of top players are funded by supporters for whom the cost of a match or season ticket features significantly in their personal budget. They are also the group statistically most likely to be at risk of homelessness.
Street homelessness, those sleeping rough, has increased and become more visible in Scotland and the rest of the UK. The sight of some forlorn soul begging on the pavement is no longer treated with embarrassment or shock, it is the new normal. We have become so inured to the suffering of others that we accept that which should never be acceptable in a civilised society. We are angry at them not for them. The media and politicians have successfully demonised members of society that have nothing; these are the men and women that Labour deserted when they removed ‘working class’ from their rhetoric. They are a reflection of the society they inhabit and the casual acceptance by most of us of unacceptable and unimaginable circumstance. Any normal human being would ask what could be done to help. The debate to replace Trident, due to take place next Monday, would be a good place to start.
Theresa May, our new Prime Minister, has urged renewing the UKs fleet of Trident nuclear submarines at a cost – currently – of 205 billion pounds. There will be no headlines of ‘Disgrace!’ screaming from the front pages of our daily newspapers. Our erstwhile champions of the downtrodden will not vote against. No one of any influence will propose a better use of such an enormous sum of money. The public will not, in general, recoil in horror.
It should be a national scandal that our priorities lie with weapons of mass destruction rather than care for our most vulnerable. Such unusable toys are the last desperate attempt to assert dominance over a world which increasingly sees the UK as an irrelevant minor player. I voted Yes because I believed that as an independent nation Scotland could begin to address such iniquities. Independence in itself is no panacea but there is a willingness and desire for change here that encourages the belief that anything is possible.
We can find money for weapons and war. Wouldn’t it be better spent affording those less fortunate in our society a little dignity and a roof over their head?
*The Homeless World Cup at George Square runs until the 16th July. Entry is free and no tickets are required.