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A Warrior Wordsmith Who Speaks For The People ( A Review Of Door To Door Poet By Rowan McCabe)

Imagine the scenario. You get a knock on the door, you answer the door, and you see someone standing there with a clipboard and pen. Your imediate reaction is to ask the person concerned what they are selling and inform them as politely as possible that whatever it is you are not interested.  What happens however when far from being the predictable insurance , or double glazing salesperson you are met with reply I’m a poet would you like to tell me about yourself and what concerns you and I’ll write you your very own poem. 

My imediate reaction and i speak as a poet would be aye right so you are. So if i would be sceptical imagine the reaction Newcastle poet Rowan McCabe (pictured below) faced as he took his door to door poetry challenge round some of the roughest places  in the North East of England. 

During his year long mission Stockton born Rowan encountered a number of interesting characters and a significant number of  issues in his attempts to bring poetry to the people. Undetered our warrior wordsmith soldiered on in his quest to make poetry matter by making it relevant to the kind of audience who were put off by the poetry they were taught at school. 

As he begins the story of his poetic journey through the wildest parts of the north east, including the street once dubbed the roughest street in Stockton after being featured on the TV documentary show Benefit Street,  Rowan shares his poem on being a door to door poet and how he got the idea to do it which he says was due to boredom and wanting to do something different with his talent. As he takes us on his journey, he  tells us the story of Kyle a young man he met in a Newcastle housing scheme who would be the type of lad that polite society would cross the road to avoid. On meeting him Rowan explained his mission to be greeted by the expression what do i want with poetry ? Undaunted our door to door poet told Kyle that this poem would be his poem and be about the issues that mattered to him and he would receive a copy of his own customised poem . Gradually the man warmed  to the idea and challenged Rowan to write a poem about his girlfriend and how much he loved her .

 After finding out the information he needed Rowan wrote the poem First Date about Kyle’s first date in which he took his girlfriend to Greggs and they bonded over a steak bake. This claim was later disputed by his girlfriend who said that as she recalled it their first date was at the cinema . 

As our intrepid wordsmith continued on his journey he met a man who was concerned about immigration and had confessed to voting for Brexit , and a woman who had a passion for horses with a particular fondness for the three times grand national winner Red Rum.

During the course of his travels Rowan learned not only of the value of having good communication skills but also about being aware of the impact of The Data Protection Act when it comes to sharing online information and how even unwittingly a lack of knowledge on this topic can land you in some very tricky situations. 

Talking of tricky situtions our poet who dared to venture in to what the chsttering classes  would uncharted cultural waters learned a bitter lesson when it comes to  organisational cultute and the way it can make promises and then proceed to break them at the shortest possible notice. This through no fault of yours lead to cancel arrangements you made with others which were based on those promises and this can and did lead to a loss of trust all because someone else let him down on more than one occasion and this for Rowan meant losing relationships with potential participants he had worked really hard to build. 

Heartbreaking though it was Rowan ploughed on with his pioneering work and on meeting Alan an older man whose mother was German he discovered a man who was deeply concerned about the potential rise in far right racism in a post Brexit UK but was determined he would not be silenced despite having Swastikas daubed on his door by exactly the type of people he fears will grow in number. It was this meeting which  produced the inspiration for one of my favourite poems from the show , and Speak was a powerful poetic portrayal of why we need to be stronger than ever in our fight against this narrow kind of imperial , insular, xenophobic nationalism which in Scotland we call the worst kind of unionism.  Alan was featured on the BBC when their breakfast did a feature on Rowan’s ground breaking arts project and Rowan talked with warmth on his poem Speak which illustrates both Alan’s committment to speaking up for those people whose voices are being marginalised or ignored and Rowan’s passionate belief that door to door poetry can give them not only that voice but the belief that in 21st century Britain there opinions matter. 

This to me was the most heartwarming aspect of a show which I could very easily have overlooked had it not been for the glowing recommendations of two fellow poets whose opinions i rate highly enough to trust and Gemma Baker and Jenni Pascoe were totally right to tell me that this was a show i had to see. After an hour of poetry which was entertaining and thought ptovoking in equal measure i left raving about the talents of someone who is not only a door to door poet but a warrior wordsmith who speaks for the people. That someone is Rowan McCabe. 

Till next time

Gayle X

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People’s Friend 

As Jeremy Corbyn addresses the masses at Glastonbury I give my thoughts on a middle class man addressing a middle class crowd and pretending to be a friend of the people. I don’t know why but this working class hero stuff is something I just don’t buy. You see if you are a unionist of any kind you are essentially a conservative maybe not in the economic sense but you certainly are in the social and cultural senses of the word. I’ve given the poem the title People’s Friend I hope you enjoy the read. 

People’s Friend

A middle class man 

quotes a middle class poet 

to the middle class gathering 

at a festival in middle England 

with ticket prices which only the rich can afford

meanwhile champagne socialists 

ignore Scotland 

till they need our votes to gain power 

at a Westminster election 

if we dare to challenge them

they call us insurgents 

leading an insurrection

as the self righteous  luvvie brigade 

play pretend politics 

with a crowd to apathetic to care 

about humanity 

and grandpa Jeremy desperately tries to re-live his youth 

as proof he can hang with the cool kids

except the kids he’s hanging out with 

aren’t quite as cool as they would have you believe 

and this imposter did a cut and paste job 

on large parts of the SNP domestic policy 

and had the brass neck to claim it 

as radical

as his vision for the many not the few 

even a so-called red couldn’t ditch the slogan 

which had tints of a Tory Blue Tony 

and just like that phoney his mask is beginning to slip 

You see voters like me won’t take lip.

from a Brexiteer who will always put himself first 

as he cynically attempts to manipulate the less aware

he has garden paths to lead them up 

and garden parties to attend 

this man whose style at Prime Minister’s Questions 

was enough to give me  indigestion 

raising points which we were meant to believe

 were sent by ordinary people 

rather than focus groups of party members 

the honourable member for  Islington 

is and has always been a servant of the Westminster agenda 

and had only  one mission for Britain 

namely to win the colony back for the crown 

unlike some I never bought his story 

the people’s friend , I see him as  just another red Tory 

though maybe not in the economic sense 

I’ll cut him a bit of slack 

but anyone who believes in the union flag 

is and always will be 

a conservative at heart 

it doesn’t matter how nice they are 

or how trendy or cool they pretend to be 

if they don’t want be to free from the last chains of empire 

they subconsciously out themselves as hypocrits and liars 

every time the word socialism passes their lips 

the little Brits lack the awareness to realise

you can’t have socialism in a kingdom 

united or otherwise 

it depends on the class system to survive 

as a middle class man 

who quotes a middle class poet 

to a middle class crowd 

knows only too well

as he pretends to be the people’s friend 

and remains no friend of Scotland. 
© Gayle Smith 2017 

After The Votes Were Counted The Result Was A Night Of Mixed Emotions

This will not be an easy post to write nor indeed should it be. As I look back on the events of last Thursday evening it is I hope with a cool head that I review the results of the UK General Election and in particular what it means for the politics of Scotland. 

Having won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats in the election of  2015 it is I think fair to say that for the SNP this was always going to be a difficult night and I say that openly and with a Scottish National Party card in my purse. The fact this was a snap election called by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May to get a mandate for her hard Brexit strategy seemed to wrong foot my party who just didn’t seem prepared for it or the fight it was going to bring. After all the only elections we were supposed to be fighting this year were of the local council variety. 

Talking of the council elections these should have given the SNP a warning of just how dirty  all the unionist parties were prepared to fight. The fact that there were all sorts of tactical voting arrangements in place to defeat SNP candidates should have sent a flashing amber light straight to SNP headquarters and the fact that it didn’t seem to do this is something I find very alarming indeed. All through the council election campaign all three leaders of the pro UK parties were talking of nothing else but the threat of  a second divisive independence referendum and a willing press and media allowed them the space to do so. 

It is my  opinion that the SNP were far too civilised on this issue and we should have went for the throat in a much more assertive manner with all of our pro union opponents and we should have went for Ruth Davidson in particular far harder than  we did and not let her get away with her outrageous and disgraceful behaviour against our democratically elected First Minister.  Ever since last year’s Scottish election Davidson has been acting as if she had won that election, and not the SNP. This should have been held up to ridicule and Davidson should have been forced to defend her Conservative policies rather than get away Brit free with  her one issue campaign on defending  her precious union. 

Now whilst this may be perceived as bias by those concerned I am more concerned  about our apparent lack of fight in meeting this ridiculous claim head on and forcing the unionists on to the back foot.  This must be at least to some extent responsible for our loses on Thursday night as more than any other  party SNP voters need to be inspired by a campaign that motivates them to vote and to me at least that didn’t happen this time 

The matter of tactical voting wasn’t taken anywhere near as seriously as it should have been by the SNP and it  wasn’t just unionists who were  doing it. There were in my opinion three groups of yes voters who exercised their own version of independence and  anyone who says this didn’t happen is denying reality. These groups were left leaning yes voters who voted Labour for Jeremy Corbyn and his vision of a fairer society, Yexit voters in rural areas especially but not exclusively in the North of Scotland , this was a group of voters who voted yes for independence in 2014 but voted to leave the European Union, and the stay at home voters who will always vote SNP when they go out to vote  but who if they feel the party has let them down or are not doing enough in key areas and have not been engaged by the manifesto or contacted by local activists  may exercise their democratic right to withhold their vote and there is no doubt that all three of these factors played against the party on this occasion.

 This however, could have been migitgated at local level if we had been a bit bolder in holding the unionist parties feet to the fire and challenging them on the authenticity and indeed sincerity of their views. For example we should have sought to make much more of the internal Labour Party fued between Jeremy Corbyn and his Scottish party leader Kezia Dugdale and highlighted the fact that far from being  Corbynistas the vast majority of the Scottish candidates had more in common with Kez than they did with Jez. 

Whilst I’m not sure it would have prevented any of our loses to Labour with the possible exception of Glasgow North East, I do believe that such tactics might have firmed up our majorities in a significant number of the seats we managed to hold thus making it easier to defend them at the next election. Instead of that it may well be the case though I hope it isn’t, that we have to go in to that election with the kind of fire fighting strategy aimed at avoiding a whole swathe of loses to Labour in what used to be their heartland seats.  It is my opinion that should this be the case the SNP will be looking at a return of between 18 -23 seats maximum and on a really bad night we could go down as low as 8-12. However if as I think we should, we take a more assertive line against our opponents I see no reason why we can’t win between 44-48 seats at the  next election. 

I believe we have to go down this road as I think there are dangers in playing too nice. Let’s face it we campaigned as the nice party in this election and it didn’t work and to be honest I don’t see it working in  future .  You can call me alarmist if you like, but I prefer realistic. You see I learned from the best my like lecturer in electoral behaviour Malcolm Dickson who did the System Three polls for the Herald and our resident professor who at that time gave guest lectures which I always made sure to attend. I am of course talking about the voice of elections in Scotland John Curtice who I’m sure would be happy to see one of his former students exercising such caution in their forecasting 

If  my caution is justified and born of out of both experience and I hope reason, my party’s caution was to some extent dictated by the fact that this was a Westminster election and the fact that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn produced by their recent standards a radical manifesto which captured the imagination of voters throughout the UK and had I not been a member of the SNP and been so emotionally committed to my party and our ultimate aim of independence I could easily have been one of the yes voters who could have loaned my vote to Labour Party to get Jeremy Corbyn elected as Prime Minister.

The other key reasons for my party’s caution was the fact that having won an unrealistically high number of seats it was always going to be a night when the unionist voters would indulge themselves in a wee bit of tactical voting to get rid of some of our most talented and high profile MP’s whilst the media predicted the end of the road for our Westminster leader Angus Robertson who lost his Moray seat to the Conservatives, Callum Kerr and Richard Arkless who were the victims of a Conservative clean sweep in the Border constituencies Kirsteen Oswald whose East Renfrewshire seat once the safest Tory seat in Scotland returned to its natural home for the first time since the days of Alan Stewart, Stuart Donaldson in Kincardine And West Aberdeenshire and Pete Wishart who ironically enough fulfilled my  prediction and held on in Perth and North Perthshire. They didn’t pick up on others which were definitely on my vulnerable list such as Angus , Stirling, Ochil And South Perthshire,  and potentially Alex Salmond’s Gordon constituency  though I thought this was likely to be a Liberal Democrat gain rather than a Tory one.  

I have to say that the more the campaign went the more concerned I became for the SNP candidates who were fighting a difficult election on an agenda over which they had little control. At the beginning of the campaign I rather optimistically predicted that the Conservatives would get no more  than six seats and may even be lucky to get that. It is however fair to say that as the campaign progressed I began to see the direction of travel and it wasn’t travelling in our direction and even as a lifetime optimist I started to think the scale of our loses could be and in all probability would be far heavier than I first thought. Indeed on the morning of the election I forecast to a friend that my prediction for my party was between 38-44 seats, a far cry from the 48-52 seats most of my friends and even some sections of the press believed we would win. 

All things consideredthis  election was not a good one for the SNP or at least not on the surface , but if I take a closer look at it from a more personal perspective I think it could be discribed as a night of mixed emotions for me and my party. Yes we lost some serious big hitters from our ranks but  make no mistake we are a party with plenty of talent in our ranks and I hope that honourable members such as Alison Thewliss,  Chris Stephens,  Joanna Cherry , Lisa Cameron,  Mhairi Black ,  Stephen  Gethins , Stewart MacDonald , Tommy Sheppard and others will be given the chance to shine in this parliament and by doing so demonstrate the wealth of highly skilled representatives we have at our disposal.  
It is I think fair to say  that despite our  loses most of which were inevitable for a party in the mid term of a third term Scottish Government, and in an election when UK politics has been more polarised  than at any time since the 1980’s the SNP still won the Scottish part of this election. I believe to do this in the face of an unprecedented and vicious press and media onslaught represents a truly remarkable achievement from which we should take quiet satisfaction. You see by removing what they see as our most talented MP’s the Conservatives may actually have accidentally strengthened our hand as with no Angus or Alex to cast in the role of the bogeyman it will be so much harder for them cast us as a two man team now than was previously the case. 

Looking back on the  events of the night I have to say that after the votes were counted it was a night of mixed emotions.  From a personal  perspective I had as good an election as was going to be possible given the circumstances as  I watched with pride the return of several of my closest  political allies to serve as their constituency  MPs and my reputation for fairness and accuracy   as a political  pundit was vindicated by my early morning election day prediction being uncomfortably close to the truth 

Meanwhile with regards to the gains  made by the pro UK parties I will await with interest the verdict on the new Labour and Tory intake and how many of them will actually be up to the job. I suggest that it may not be quite as many as they think and once they have to talk on  issues other than their obsessive hatred of the SNP and independence they may  be found out for what they are and the SNP stand  best  placed to benefit from such a scenario.

 At the beginning of this campaign all the unionist leaders in Scotland said they wanted to send Nicola Sturgeon a message, and to a certain extent they got their wish. It is my opinion however, that sometimes people should be careful what they wish for as they may actually get it and find to their horror that it might  not be as good as they think.  

Till next time 

Gayle X

Scroungers (A Tabloid  Tory Has An Ephiney)

On day 19 of NaPoWriMo My poem takes a satirical look at  press and media stereotypes. These stereotypes  are all too often used by the establishment to label and demonise those groups society consideres different like Immigrants and Disabled People and have a really negative impact if we don’t counter act them .I have given my poem the title Scroungers, I hope you enjoy the read. 

Scroungers 

I hate scroungers 

I really do 

coming over here to live off 

our resources 

taking things from the likes of me and you 

they get all the best housing 

it’s true I read it in the Daily Mail 

and that’s a paper I trust

I’m glad we’re leaving Europe 

and putting Britain first 

it will stop all those Poles

taking our jobs

we need to make Britain great 

believe in the United Kingdom 

well Britain’s got talent 

and the X-factor is the envy of the world 

it really it is 

I think Simon Cowell should be Prime Minister 

he’d soon put a stop to all these immigrants 

flooding our country 

with all those languages and traditions

can they not understand this is Britain 

we don’t want this kind of nonsense 

and as for Scotland I don’t want independence 

I don’t support separation 

I get all the political education I need 

from the Daily Express 

that’s why I hate Nicola Sturgeon 

I mean anyone who wears  a red dress that often 

has to be a communist

and I hate communists I really do 

I’m all for the union 

three cheers for the red white and blue 

I know I’m poor and all the royals and lords are stinking rich 

so what life’s a bitch 

but these people need the extra money 

what do you mean I’m a Tory 

I’ve voted Labour all of my days 

but I think Theresa May is better to lead the  country 

she knows how to put people in their place 

she’s told them in Europe 

we’re leaving and that’s the way it is 

we’re going through the trap door 

and we’re going to get rid of all the European laws 

We’ll ban the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus 

but poverty will be still be allowed 

and disabled people will have their benefits cut 

for being scroungers 

there  a drain on our resources 

and a burden on the state 

what have they ever done to make Britain great ?

nothing, 

it’s not shocking 
who the hell is Stephen Hawking ?

was he in the paralympic team 

god save our gracious Queen 

what do you mean she costs too much ?

that’s not true or I would have read in the Sun 

 or saw it on the BBC News 

I know everything I need to know 

and that’s not a lot 

I’m British not a Scot 

and I might vote Tory

I believe in a land of hope and glory

even if it kills me and it might 

I know I’m right to hate scroungers 

what’s that it’s a pity I don’t know who the real scroungers are 

seriously, the bankers are worse than the immigrants ? 

The United Kingdom is run by and for the privileged 

and they don’t give a damn about me 

well …

maybe being British isn’t so great after all 
© Gayle Smith 2017 

Snowflake 

On day 10 of NaPoWriMo I write on a topic suggested to me a few years ago by my good friend Arielle Dale Karro who said I should write on a snowflake. Little did I realise at that time just how political that term was going to become as it would be used as a term of abuse by the ultra conservative right against those of us with a liberal progressive set of social and cultural values however to quote a former First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt ‘Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent ‘ and that is something I will never give to the Alt Right or anyone else.  I’ve given the poem the title Snowflake, I  hope you enjoy the read.

Snowflake 

As the snow falls from the sky 

on the coldest and frostiest morning 

the world has been given a warning 

the ultra conservative right have found their voice 

wearing the mask of liberty 

and freedom of choice 

they encourage you to find yours 

targeting the gullible and the insecure 

they talk of a return to traditional values 

this would be fine if those values 

were yours and mine 

but they are not 

I do not want to turn the clock 

back to the 1950’s or even to  Victorian times 

when sexuality was repressed 

and women had to behave in a certain way 

when we talk of progress 

they refer to us snowflakes 

the implied sentiment being 

that we are delicate little creatures 

who can’t handle criticism 

believe me nothing could be further from the truth 

ever since the days of my 1970’s youth 

I have campaigned for change

to make my country and others more inclusive 

 it hasn’t been an easy fight 

from apartheid to the Indy ref 

racism to climate change 

I’ve taken stances others called strange 

I prefer the term visionary 

I always fought with dignity 

and I was never alone in my fights 

yet now the loners and sociopaths 

who masquerade under the banner of the alt right 

call me snowflake 

give me transphobic abuse 

call it home truths when they abuse others 

from different ethnic groups, races, religions or genders

can’t see the irony of chanting  no surrender 

when their ancestors  surrendered to Thatcher 

as they do to Mrs May 

If they think Brexit or Trump 

can save the day 

they are fooling only themselves 

like pawns in a game of chess

they are expendable 

to be used and disposed of 

once they have served their purpose 

for the blame game their leaders needed to win 

populism must always have scapegoats 

and useful idiots to  serve the cause 

it likes nothing better

than those not smart enough to know

there being conned

the terminally confused 

who parrot what they are fed by the established order 

in the press and on TV 

yet they call me snowflake 

thinking they insult me 

but they don’t realise 

no snowflake ever falls alone 

on its journey from the skies 

we arrive as a team 

sometimes there are  just enough of us

to send a warning that you shouldn’t attempt  to go too far 

but if you venture to places 

you were warned not to go near 

let us be clear we will send you an avalanche 

and you will see our power 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Inquisition 

On day 4 of  NaPoWriMo My topic is probably my most controversial to date as Ive written on the Benefits Assessment process. I’ve given it the title Inquisition and anyone who has ever been through it will know why.  If this doesn’t scare you as to what Brexit Britain is really going to be like then I really don’t know what will I hope you’ll enjoy what will be a challenging and thought provoking read. 
Inquisition 

Good morning 

my inquisitor speaks 

inviting me 

to walk this way 

well you did that with aplomb 

he says  

so let me tick this box 

can walk unaided 

please miss take a seat 

I do as requested 

he suggests I dont look  like 

what he calls one of them 

I ask if he means disabled

well I don’t like to label 

he replies

he lies his job depends on ticking boxes 

marked deserving and undeversing poor

to see who qualifies 

for the ever generous handouts

to be given in the caring conservative UK

where everyone has a stake 

in how the country is run 

well everyone who went to private schools 

where they learn the rules

they will obey without question 

and be taught to look down on anyone 

who is not the same as them 

doesn’t conform to the norms and values 

which fit their way of thinking 

if Charles Dickens could see us now 

he would despair and ask 

has nobody read my novels 

I warned you that the powers that be 

want you to grovel for crumbs from their table. 

disabled people are still seen as a burden on resources 

not fit for purpose 

my inquisitor asks if I can ride a bike 

seems offended when I tell him I can’t

switching the line of enquiry 

he asks how far can I walk without pain 

I say this depends on the weather conditions 

too much sun can restrict the vision 

of someone with a visual impairment 

whilst the snow and ice

 could mean my balance issues 

kick in 

he seems distracted by my answers 

I’m not rolling over in fear 

not reading the script he wants to hear 

I’m standing my ground 

I flirt 

he comments on the length of my skirt  

that it sits on the knee

and I appear well dressed 

I try my best I reply 

though there are things I can’t wear 

like that nice cream blouse

your colleague has on 

it’s smart and I have one in my wardrobe 

but I need help fastening the buttons 

it’s the same with suspenders

I can’t do the hooks 

you should see the look on his face 

it’s priceless the way he’s blushing 

his face is as pink

 as the lipstick I applied in the ladies room 

just before I was called in for interview 

he doesn’t know what to do 

or how to cope 

with a fifty something woman 

who has him on the ropes 

I watched boxing in my teens 

so this girl from the schemes 

knows how to fight 

it’s all about getting your tactics right 

so I listen to the questions 

then take them apart 

I inform my inquisitor 

that medical conditions vary 

he finds this scary

it makes him nervous that he can’t do his box ticking task 

I say that some of the questions he asks

are loaded and value laden 

then offer him an explanation as to why 

he seems nervous, perplexed even a little vexed 

that someone questions his authority 

I tell him not to worry 

reassure him it’s nothing personal 

I just need the money I receive 

to meet my most basic needs 

I do not bleed money from the welfare system 

nor will I ever 

I am clever and talented 

shouldn’t have to put up with platitudes or labels 

he is correct to say

 you can’t tell if someone is disabled just by looking 

but if he asked me to prepare and cook a meal 

he would soon see where my problems lay 

and if he had to taste it 

he would rue the day 

his mask slips 

there are no quips 

except my parting shot 

which I deliver by  saying 

this country needs to start 

putting people before profit 

and caring for those disadvantaged 

by circumstances not of their making 

eventually it’s over

the inquisitor gets up from his seat 

I rise from my chair

I sense his despair 

kñow he has ticked the right boxes 

and think I have shaken  

more than just his hand 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

Lessons 

On day 3 of NaPoWriMo it is time for a political poem and it may not come as too much of a shock that the  topic of choice is independence. What may however be a bit of a surprise is that the tone of the poem comes as a warning to yes supporters to learn the lessons of history to avoid repeating the mistakes and indeed disappointments of 2014. In this poem I urge our supporters to offer the hand of friendship to those voters who voted no in 2014 and set about winning them over to Yes and winning a better Scotland because of it. I have given it the title  Lessons I hope you enjoy the read 
Lessons
If Scotland is ever to see the day 

when we become an independent self governing nation 

we must learn the lessons of the last campaign 

we cannot afford to win the day 

and lose the future 

economics may be not my seducer 

but it is effective for many 

and that penny needs to drop  

we have to recognise its power 

or the flower of Scotland will never truly bloom 

our country will not be won 

by slogans, clipboards, and demonstrations 

though they will play a part 

we must use the head and speak from the heart 

be inclusive of all communities 

and not be afraid of tackling deeply held prejudices 

amongst our own supporters 

as to why we think the way we do 

this will be a challenge 

but it has to be faced 

we can’t simply wish it away 

and hope our opponents are magically cured 

of the loyalties which bind them to  union 

this is why we never won last time 

we need to engage and say clearly and with honestly 

we can offer no guarantees 

but neither can our opponents 

and we need to call them out 

when they claim otherwise 

there are no such thing as certainties 

to pretend that the present is set in stone 

is not the solution 

we were told we would never leave 

the European Union 

yet Brexit and the isolation it will bring 

will turn us more selfish and right wing

as gradually the UK becomes ever more insular 

with xenophobia masked as the new patriotism 

this is a vision I do not share 

I despair that our civic Scotland will be under threat 

and every word we say will be scrutinised 

the smears and lies have already started 

winning the future is not a job for the faint hearted 

we have to offer the hand of friendship 

to those who voted no in 2014 

not accuse them of killing our dreams 

in moments of anger and frustration 

it is too easy to throw about words like independence and nation 

without explaining why we would better than Westminster 

at running our own affairs 

I want to live in a country that cares 

for our most vulnerable citizens 

not a United Kingdom based on wealth patronage and privilege 

that’s why my identity is Scottish not British

I don’t want to live a land which still fantasises  

about a past when they called other countries colonies 

whilst keeping their own people poor in the name of empire 

 telling them they should be proud 

they couldn’t feed their families 

I don’t want to live in a country 

where people are devalued due to race , religion , gender or sexuality 

where diversity is demonised 

and difference is viewed with fear 

to me  these kind of attitudes

are barriers to the progressive society 

I’ve always believed in 

I know there will be some in both the SNP and yes

who will be uncomfortable with me 

because of the way I dress 

and the fact I am a woman with a trans past 

but I’m prepared to take the chance

 that our very different versions of what independence should mean 

will be keenly contested in elections in which Scotland’s voters matter 

as for now I’ll accept them as allies 

in defeating the spin and patter 

coming from unionists with agendas 

the way the Tories have been behaving 

they might as well start singing no surrender or Rule Britannia

or giving pensioners free photographs of Margaret Thatcher

rather than trying to pretend 

they give a damn about our country 

we need to debate them on the issues

we need to win ugly 

by convincing those voters who are willing to listen 

that Britain belongs in the past 

though I admit it  may have been good for some 

 this battle needs won 

not for Auld Lang Syne 

nor memories of old 

we’ve got to be bold for the future generations

those growing up 

and others still to see the day 

it is their future that’s at risk 

we can , we must, we will do better than this 

when we learn our lessons 

the future will be ours. 

@ Gayle Smith 2017