As a lifelong Hibs supporter I am always nervous wading into a controversy about our bitter rivals Hearts but last week’s interviews with new owner Ann Budge throws up a number of interesting issues.
Budge was making all the right noises about financial prudence. Understandably fearful of burdening the club with further financial albatrosses, especially noting what had gone on over the past year with the club in and out of administration, she could do a lot worse than look at their city rivals the mighty Hibernian, who also came close to extinction, back in 1991, but have been run very prudently ever since.
Hibs have had a financial discipline which is the envy of many other clubs in Scotland and have managed to avoid the perils of penury and the excessive debts seen at Rangers and Hearts recently.
Part of this more practical approach also involved a conscious decision a few years back not to move from the historic Easter Road stadium and to carefully invest in rebuilding on that site. The result is a club in a healthy shape financially with excellent facilities and a wonderful stadium… just no trophies. Hibs are great on paper – but rubbish on grass.
When I read that she was trailing the prospect of Hearts moving from their beloved Tynecastle, I did muse about whether some fans might have thought that they had jumped out of the Romanov frying pan and into the fire.
When Vlad touted moving stadia a few years back it was greeted with deep suspicion by the fans.
Football fans are a deeply traditional breed. Allegiances often go back several generations; we love our ancient kits and memorabilia and we fête our retired heroes reliving bygone days.
This is true the world over as I noticed when on holiday in South America recently. On a trip to see Independiente, the most successful team in international competitions, I spotted a lot of saltires dotted around their huge stadium – a homage to St Andrews FC the first Argentine champions and the spiritual predecessors of the club.
Hearts fans are generally no different – indeed this year the team is even wearing a retro kit, and the very idea of moving from their beloved Tynecastle, you would have thought, would have been anathema to them.
But I sense a completely different reaction from the fans from that when a move was previously touted by Romanov. The difference, I think, is that Ann Budge is so obtrusively a Hearts fan to her fingertips and someone who has, over the past year, won the trust of many at Tynecastle. The near death experience that the club went through last year has also focused the minds of many.
Moving stadiums is not something that is generally easily accepted, especially as the club has had Tynecastle as their home for more than a century. There are still questions about where cash to build a stadium would come from and whether it would still be worth the candle. While this is very much a long term kite-flying exercise, a move may prove more acceptable to supporters in the near future than ever before.
By George, that’s a picture mix-up
I was privileged to attend the unveiling of former Lord Provost George Grubb’s portrait at the weekend – a beautifully crafted photo with much of George’s life cleverly and artistically woven into the picture.
George was in excellent fettle and shared a story about a trip to his local chippy in South Queensferry. George, above, was warmly greeted by the proprietor, who had recognised him from his citizenship ceremony. He had, he said, a picture of himself with George at the event on his bedside table while his son had one in his living room.
When he asked when the picture had been taken, George realised that for the first and last time he had been mistaken for former Lord Provost Eric Milligan.
Immigration vital to our future success
The rise of UKIP has put immigration on top of the political agenda. The Tories, frightened of being outflanked, are coming up with increasingly hard-line proposals to curb immigration while Labour are getting in on the act in fear of losing some of their traditional support to UKIP.
The received wisdom appears to be that the British are very anti-immigrant but is that really the case?
I can see a parallel in the experience this weekend in Switzerland, which roundly rejected draconian immigration proposals.
Switzerland had long had a reputation for insularity and the Swiss had recently been through another referendum that had narrowly agreed in principle to curb immigration.
About a quarter of Switzerland’s population are immigrants, far higher than the 11 per cent of foreign-born UK residents. The proposal to limit immigration to no more than 0.2 per cent saw a whopping 74 per cent vote against it.
One of the issues that swung the vote was the feeling that business could not function without people coming from other countries – a point consistently made in the UK by business leaders and the Liberal Democrats.
I see similar issues in Edinburgh which, like Switzerland, is booming with low unemployment. Across Scotland, demographic changes mean more people are living longer and fewer young people are available to keep our economy running.
Recent figures predicted every school leaver in Scotland would need to work in the care sector in order to look after the growing numbers of frail older people. That is not feasible and so Scotland has to encourage more people to settle here.
The question that needs to be asked is will we be like the Swiss and, in spite of grumping about immigration, realise that we would be a lot worse off if we put up the shutters?