Brian Monteith: Keep Famous Five statue off pedestal

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Edinburgh is a city liberally peppered with statues. The majority of them are to the great and the good – kings, queens, lord provosts and the like, with a few to great thinkers, poets and writers.

Such is Edinburgh’s wealth of history, however, that there still remains many obvious gaps that need to be filled with worthy commemorations – such as more statues to women like Elsie Inglis.

I know a little about statues, being involved in the erection of Adam Smith’s figure on the Royal Mile by economists and philosophers that felt indebted to his work. Statues are not just lumps of stone or metal, they remind us of who we are, what has been done by us or for us, what we have achieved and created and they provide a focal point for locals and visitors alike. People have their photos taken next to them, lay wreaths around them, make pilgrimages to them and they become icons of the city. We cannot have too many good statues.

With the sad passing this week of Hibernian great Lawrie Riley, now is the time for the Famous Five to be commemorated in bronze outside the Hibs stadium – funded of course by public subscription – the manner in which true men of the people are best 
remembered.

I first made such a suggestion in this column nine years ago but the impetus to take the initiative forward has, understandably, not been there. With the last member of that most famous forward line passing on, there could not be a better time for the club to seek friends to take on the responsibility of arranging such a public memorial to the club’s greatest period so far.

Now, thanks to the Evening News taking up the cause, ordinary people of Edinburgh and beyond – irrespective of football loyalties – have voiced their support for a statue to their legends. There is an obvious photograph of the Famous Five together in training kit that could serve as the inspiration and I have no doubt that were a fund established by the club it would soon have the resources to 
proceed.

I met Lawrie Reilly only a few times and found him on each occasion to be a man with a lovely welcoming smile matched only by his humility, good manners and humour. That he always championed his team-mates said everything about him.

That being so, the only thing I would suggest about any group statue is that it should not be on a pedestal; they were players of the people, and for the people. By all means put it on a slight slope, but it should be grounded so they can be amongst their many followers – just as they were in real life.

Let them eat fudge

It may be the summer holidays for most politicians, but that does not mean to say the politics has stopped. Earlier this week, the coalition government published what it called a review of competences of the European Union. In shorthand the intention was to provide a document that suggested what regulations and administration is best handled by Brussels or by Britain – the evaluation would take into account what obstacles and added costs the EU places upon Britain, compared with us not being members of the EU.

Needless to say the document has very quickly become a worthless exercise. Nigella Lawson could not conspire to make a better fudge.

The truth of it is that rather than offend the lovers of European institutions by laying out the significant savings our government and businesses could make – not to say the consequent reduction in the weekly family shop, or give too much support to those such as me that argue Britain (or indeed Scotland) would be Better Off Out – the review said steady as she goes.

How this is meant to help David Cameron argue for a better deal when he seeks to renegotiate Britain’s membership terms is beyond me. It clearly undermines his case.

If we look deeper into the review we find that it plays down the most significant evidence yet produced, by Professor Patrick Minford, who has been studying the costs of the EU for over 25 years and can show that the cost of EU regulation to the UK is a minimum of six per cent of GDP – around £90 billion – while the total cost of the EU is more than 11 per cent of UK GDP per year (circa £165bn). The review said this figure was in the region of two per cent and arguably worth it! Minford also found that if Britain was outside the EU, global free trade with other countries would benefit the UK GDP by a further three per cent. Another study by Prof Tim Congdon has also argued the cost of EU membership is about ten per cent of GDP.

Despite these enormously advantageous figures, this week’s British GDP growth of 0.6 per cent was welcomed as an economic second coming. The answer is plain to see; the only Europe we should care to be in is the Champions League. Let the economy take care of itself outside the EU and let Brussels mandarins eat fudge.