Pints with politics as Scottish pubs debate independence

16th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Talking politics in British pubs can be a tricky subject but Scotland's independence referendum has prompted two Glasgow bars to pin their "Yes" and "No" colours to the counter.

The "Yesbar" is busy with young, well-dressed drinkers, many wearing "Yes" badges, who have come straight from work in the city centre to talk excitedly about the prospects for independence.

"It's all they want to talk about," said barman Chris Moore, between pulling pints.

"We still get regulars who are 'No' voters. It's all been good, friendly banter, no fights. It's given people a social hub."

The bar is actually called the Vespbar but has re-branded for the duration of the campaign and some staff are even offering free kisses for "Yes" voters.

The District Bar, a pro-British stronghold near the home of Rangers Football Club, is backing the "No" vote.

Both bars show how the debate ahead of Thursday's vote has come to dominate everyday conversation.

Although it has avoided serving independence-themed food or cocktails, Moore said that business at the bar -- a retro Italian-themed joint -- has actually doubled since the "Yes" supporting owner renamed it a few weeks ago.

At a table near the bar, a group of young separatists from a nearby electrical engineering firm have come out for a post-work drink to discuss the referendum.

"People always keep their politics private but it's nice to have a place that connects with that," said one, Michael McPartlin.

His colleague, Alistair Deering, said that the mood in Glasgow, which polls indicate is leaning towards a "Yes" vote overall, was optimistic.

"This is a fantastically exciting time to be alive. It's just vibrant, there's tangible hope," he said.

- Silent majority say 'No' -

Glasgow is considered Scotland's nightlife capital and most pubs have not affiliated themselves with one side of the debate or the other, although the referendum still dominates many bar room conversations.

Across the city, the pro-British District Bar flies the Union Jack flag outside but displays no flags or posters behind the bar.

It is a favourite watering hole for fans of nearby Rangers, which is strongly affiliated with the union and whose fans often sing Britain's national anthem "God Save The Queen" at matches.

Here, the regulars -- who range from police officers to shipyard workers -- are horrified by the prospect of Scotland becoming independent.

The pub setting allows them to vent against First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party (SNP).

Landlord David Currie, who wore a "No Thanks" badge, feared that taxes will shoot up after the referendum, regardless of the outcome.

Drinkers George Houston and William Henderson said that while the "Yes" campaign is making the most noise, a "silent majority" of "No" voters will ensure Scotland does not become independent.

"My social life is more or less in here or with my family," said Houston, a retired sheet metal worker.

"I wouldn't discuss it (the referendum) with my family because it might embarrass them.

"But I wouldn't fall out with anybody over politics. You'd be fighting every day."


© 2014 AFP

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