Tag Archive | Alison Thewliss

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

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A Very Political Poet Left A Tresure Trove Of Thoughts As We Dined With Good Companions And Made Memories With Friends  

Hey Readers As you know if you are regular readers of tartan tights I have a very active social life of much of which revolves round poetry and politics. Bearing this in mind I thought I would share my memories of a very enjoyable evening at the recent Shettleston SNP Burns Supper which was held in the function suite of the  Fullerton Park Hotel. I have included a couple of pictures which were taken on the night to give you a flavour of the event. It is I think safe to say that this was a night where we celebrated in true Shettleston style the work of our national bard and enjoyed the company and comradeship of friends. 

As you can see from the photograph above I really know how to celebrate Burns and I did so with the traditional menu of Haggis,Neeps, and Tatties which was served with a whisky sauce. I have to say it was delicious and I washed it down not with whisky, but with Scotland’s other national drink Irn Bru. Of course tempting though it was we couldn’t start our feast before the haggis was piped in and addressed and we had said the traditional prayer known as the Selkirk Grace which must be said before the main meal and can be served. 

 After the meal we had a wee break during which time I and several others went to place bids for items, in our secret auction before settling down to enjoy the formal part of the evening and as always the toasts were of the high quality we’ve come to expect from our speakers over the years. I placed a bid for Lesley Riddoch’s book though to be honest I didn’t think I’d  stand a hope of winning it.

  Personally, though I enjoyed all the speeches  I thought the toast to absent friends which was which was delivered by our former convener Lachie McNeil was a particularly good moving reminder that the SNP are so much more than a political party and that we are in many ways a family and that Humza Yousaf delivered one of the best immortal memories I’ve heard at any Burns Supper. 

In a speech which was well paced and sprinkled with humour, Humza started by cracking a joke about building a wall between North and South Glasgow and making Edinburgh pay for it. I think we can safely say that this was at the expense of President Trump It was however also a gateway to remind  us of the bard’s compassion for all living creatures and the internationalism which showed Burns to be a true global citizen who cared deeply for humanity and had appeal way beyond Scotland.Indeed Humza pointed out that there Burns Suppers as far away as Bali and joked that as a former Minister for External Affairs he has a duty to attend it on a fact finding mission. This had what was I’m sure was the desired effect of raising more than a few giggles amongst the gathering though on a more serious note he did say that when it came to women the bold Robert had more positions on women than the Labour Party do on Europe or for that matter anything else. Needless to say this was very well received by those in attendance. This was a speech which though it highlighted the many good points of the ploughman poet didn’t ignore his faults as we need to know them to appreciate him and gain a deeper understanding of the man and his work 

Being a poet myself one of the questions I am most often asked is what do I think of Burns as it often assumed by the less cultured nembers of our society who are at least in my experience almost always older or poorly educated unionists that every poet like Burns unconditionally and without question. Personally I don’t think  this comes as a great surprise to anyone as that particular demographic tend to accept a lot of things unconditionally and without question. I however,  know that one of the roles of a poet is to question what’s happening in the world and try to make sense of the times in which we live just as Burns made sense of his.

This to me makes my relationship with Burns a complex one. On the one hand I love his internationalism, his belief in Scottish Independence, and his concern for our environment. On the other I have strong reservations about his attitudes towards women whom he seemed to view as no more than sex objects to be conquered rather than lovers too be wooed, courted, and cherished. 

Talking of women to be cherished, this picture shows Shettleston’s very own dynamic duo namely me and the star of the branch Laura Doherty. Believe me Scotland is a very lucky country to have not only Laura, with whom I was proud to be photographed but many outstanding women in every branch of our party and other parties contributing greatly our to country’s political life and we are all the better for it. Trust me politics is far too important just to be left to the men and it’s women like those in the Shettleston SNP such as Alexis Deans , Alison Thewliss, Elaine Ballantyne, Jennifer Fairgrieve,  Jennifer Layden,  Linda Pike, and Lauren Toner as well as myself and Laura who will make sure it doesn’t happen. Well as Burns himself said ‘The rights of Women merit some attention’ and we intend to make sure they are given the attention they deserve. 

As the evening drew to a close those who had won prizes in the secret auction were given due notice to collect their prizes and I was more than slightly gobsmacked to find that I had won the copy of Blossom which had been donated by Lesley Riddoch. This will I am sure provide illuminating reading in the weeks to come as Scotland enters an even more challenging time in its already difficult relationship with a United Kingdom Government which promised to treat our country with respect in the aftermath of our independence referendum and has so far spectacularly failed to do so on every single occasion. However let this message be stated loudly and clearly if you keep failing Scotland you will be punished beyond your wildest nightmares and believe me when Burns spoke of a parcel of rogues it was you and only you he was talking about.  

As we made our way home at the end of a fantastic night (Thanks To Alex Kerr for allowing me to share his taxi)  I paused to reflect on a top quality evening brilliantly organised by Maureen Fairgrieve to whom the branch owes a tremendous debt and as I did so I came to the conclusion that a very political poet left a treasure trove of thoughts as we dined with good companions and made memories with friends.  

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

The Tartan Tights Awards 2016 

Hey Readers. It’s later than its ever been due to the fact I’ve had a very busy January but make no mistake it’s  that time of year again. Yes it’s the time when I hand out the honours  that everyone wants to win and welcome you to the fifth annual tartantights awards These awards celebrate the people who have made the past year such a memorable one for me so let’s get this show on the road and get this party started.

As tradition dictates I start this ceremony by naming my politican of the year. By any standards 2016 was a phenomenal year for the SNP and several of their brightest stars, showed why they are so highly thought of both in political circles and increasingly by the general public. Among those I considered for this awards were First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and two of the the party’s brightest Westminster stars Chris Stephens, and Stewart MacDonald, I also gave careful consideration to the co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party Partick Harvie before eventually making my choice. On doing so, I selected a woman who has shown a commitment to fighting for Scottish Independence but also campaigning for the rights of women everywhere and who played a significant part in the abolition of the tampon tax. It is this passion for equality and fairness which brought her in to politics and I’m proud to say that our winner of this award is someone I have known and trusted for 10 years as a councillor for Glasgow Carlton and since May 2015 as MP for Glasgow Central. My tartantights politician of the year for 2016 is Alison Thewliss.

Next up is my young politician of the year and my choice is someone who has proven that you don’t need to be a member of a member of a political party to do politics properly. Our winner is someone who isn’t afraid to say the word socialism and if necessary write it out loud in blood red letters.and  who since resigning from the SNP in October  has if it’s possible been even more active than ever before and is as committed as she’s always been to the fairer more equal Scotland she believes in. My young politician of the year is Saffron Dickson.

My vision of Scotland award goes to the politician or member of the public who by their actions has made Scotland a fairer and more inclusive place to live. This year my choice is a woman who organised her party’s first all day equalities conference and by doing so gave both a platform and a voice to members of the BME, Disabled, and LGBTIQ  members which can only be beneficial to the party’s aim of creating a more diverse and inclusive Scotland which encompasses and embraces all of the people who make our country home. My Vision Of Scotland award goes to Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik.

Moving on it’s time for my Unsung Hero/Heroine Award This award is given to the man or woman who represents their party without fuss and quietly and effectively gets on with the jobs that need done.This year it goes to a man without whose considerable presence the Shettleston SNP would not be the fighting force of winners we have become. Not only did he  serve as convenor for a number of years he also until recently organised that well known cultural institution that is the Shettleston SNP Burns Supper.My unsung hero for 2016 is Lachie McNeil.

From unsung heroes I move on to future stars as I name my One To Watch. This award is for someone who though they may not be known to the wider public at the moment I have no doubt will become so due to their undoubted talent Among those who merit a mention are Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton  Green MSP Andy Wightman, and SNP councillor Rosa Zambonnini but our winner made history when at the age of just 21 he gained a  seat for the Green Party  on the West Of Scotland list and became the youngest member ever to be elected to the Scottish Parliament. So it gives me great pleasure to say that my tartantights one to watch award goes to Ross Grier.

My penultimate political award is for the politician who has made the greatest impact in the last twelve months  There were a number of candidates for this award, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon , The Green Party’s Patrick Harvie , Mhairi Black, and her SNP colleges Chris Stephens,and Stewart MacDonald all had excellent years but in the end I decided to give this award to someone who has provided leadership to the SNP group Westminster and the only real credible opposition to the most vicious UK government in decades   Our winner  was rewarded by the membership of his party by  being elected as Depute Leader of the SNP at the autumn conference.The winner, of the Impact Award  is Angus Robertson.

My last award in this section is i think  the most appropriate way to conclud it as I name my best political blogger of the year. For the last two, years this has been won by the most yappy blog on the blogosphere namely Paul Kavanagh and the wee ginger dug. This year however there is new winner which has taken blogging to the next level This innovative multi media outlet uses both traditional blogs as well as the occasional video blog or vlog to bring you the stories that other mainstream tend not to cover. It is for this groundbreaking way of making news accessible that my politicial blogger of the year goes to Angela, Haggerty and the team at the Common Space.

Having given out my political prizes it’s now time to focus on the community  awards and where better to start than the blogging community. Only two years this section had only one award but tonight it has three. These are, Scottish Blogger of the Year, International Blogger of the year, and for the first time the new award of Vlogger of the year. So as you can see I have a lot to get through so let’s crack on with the Scottish Blogger of the year. This is always a very hotly contested catagory and this year was no different with Colours And Carousels , Frankly Ms Shankly, G Is For Gingers, and  Last Year’s Girl all given serious consideration but I have to say that for, writing the best post Brexit post I’ve seen so far and several other posts which have made me both think and smile simultaneously my winner of the Scottish Blogger of the year award is Lucie L Dhog for Tetris And Cheesecakes

Now I move on from national to international and when it came to  my choice of  International  Blogger of the year though there were plenty of quality candidates such as Mini Mouse Chic ,  The Curvaceous Vegan , last year’s winner Dungarees And Donuts, Petticoats And Patriarchy , and The Real Supermum all of which are brilliant, there was one blog which stood head and shoulders above all contenders purely because of the amount of times it made me get all emotional so my international blogger of the year goes to Samantha Smethurst for the brilliant Little Fickle.

Now it’s time for a new award and I  brought in Vlogger of the Year in recognition of the amount of bloggers who regularly or occasionally post video blogs. Regular video bloggers include Beauty Creep , Blog About Nothing, Colours And Carousels,  Princess Attitude, and Jessica Lauren Hatcher. All of these  vloggers produce enjoyable and entertaining content which can on occasion be both informative and educational so selecting a winner from such a talented shortlist was not easy. In the end however I selected a vlogger who proved that oops moments can and do happen you’re  watching YouTube videos and they happen because she is so hillirious with her tales on what it means to be Scottish and female in the early 21st century. So just in case you hadn’t guessed by now  the first ever tartantights Vlogger of the Year is Beauty Creep.

Now, it’s time to name my Activist of the Year and this year this award goes to a fellow poet who just like last year’s winner Dorkface Blog starred a social movement but this one came about by accident when she was asked by the incoming director of the Scottish Poetry Library to create a piece of poetry based art. This led to our winner coming up with the idea of Fierce Words which was originally open to all poets who wanted to attend the event and were willing to hold up a word which made us proud of who we are,  but since only female poets turned up on the day it then became women with fierce words and now known  at least by some of us as fierce women. This incredible and and awe inspirational day showed the power of women at our brilliant best, It was a day on which existing friendships were enhanced and new ones made. I know that I’ve made friends because of that day that I simply couldn’t imagine not being in my life and I’m not the only one who feels that way about an event that changed lives by empowering women of words and created the fiercest tribe I can ever remember in all my years of being involved in the history of  Scottish spoken word poetry. My Activist of the Year is that one woman force of nature Lesley Traynor.

My Young Activist of the Year is someone who is passionate about poetry and equality. This is someone who is focused on creating a better world and will stop at nothing to achieve it. I first met our winner at a spoken word event for Rise Women’s Network and since then we have become close friends I think it’s the fact we’re both ranting, raving , radicals which has created this strong bond of sisterhood , however it might be the fact that we’re just a couple of  chatty wee rebels with opinions on everything which has forged our friendship. I know that the crowd at Castlemilk Against Austerity are very grateful for all the work she does for them and believe me Scotland needs a lot more active citizens like our Young Activist of the Year the amazing Keira MacLean.

From community I now move on to culture and I start with poetry and poets. Well having been on the spoken word scene for almost quarter of a century and around it for even longer it’s something I think I might just know a wee bit about.  As I start this section I do so my award for the Best Poetry Performance of the Year.

As always I’ve had no shortage of quality performances to choose from Iona Lee and her magical performance to win the 2016 Scottish Slam Championship, and Molly McLachlan for her amazing debut at September’s  Words And Music, were however the most outstanding in a year filled  with wonderful poetic  jewels and selecting a winner between them was extremely difficult.  On one hand I thought Iona because she performed brilliantly in a real pressure cooker of a situation and on the other I thought Molly because this was the first time words and music had been truly electrified since moving home from Sammy Dow’s to The Tin Hut but in the end I plumped for Iona if only because I believed that her star quality shone on the night she won the title of Scottish Slam Champion and for that alone she deserved to win another so my choice of the Best Poetry Performance of 2016 is Iona Lee.
My next award is for Best Show of the Fringe and in a year when I attended 40 shows I’m actually surprised how easy this decision really was. It was easy not because of the lack of quality in the shows as many of them were absolutely brilliant but because of the variety it offered. You see in the space of one magical hour on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon this show took the audience on journey,through Gaelic Songs, Poems in English about the struggles of Scots women and Welsh princesses not to mention a  physical exercise routine that would put many fitness coaches to shame. It is for those reasons and  many others that the award for Best Show Of The Fringe goes to Home Words by Katharine MacFarlane. (see picture below ) 

Staying in Edinburgh I move on to the most original show at the fringe and in this one Dan Simpson can consider himself very unlucky as can Alain English. Both produced shows of the highest quality which in any other year would have won but this year they were up against a comedy robot called F R A N C  who was invented to produce the perfect comedy routine. Unfortunately a bit like Donald Trump, F R A N C developed an ego which got out of control and the consequences were truly  catastrophic whilst also being hillirious and that’s why the winner of the Most Original Show of the Fringe goes to the creator of  this groundbreaking show John McGlade.

For my next award the focus whilst still focused on entertainment switches to something more Scottish for the Sandy Hutchinson Memorial Award. This award is given to the poet, or musician, that I believe has done most to promote the use of the Scots language in their work and this year I give this award to a man who uses his guid  Scots tongue in his work with both power and authenticity. My choice for the Sandy Hutchinson Memorial Award for 2016 is Jim Ewing.

From celebrating Scottish culture i move on to comedy and before you ask this does not involve either Kezia Dugdale , or Ruth Davidson and their performances at First Minister’s Questions. This involves real  comedians you know who actually know how to make us laugh Last year this award was won by The Graduettes so finding a show as funny as that was not easy.  However I did eventually find a show which was on that level by an American comedian who now lives in Yorkshire by the name of Chella Quint  This bold and talkative funny woman proved that you can find humour in almost every topic as her one woman show on periods Adventures In Menstruation  had woman of all ages in fits of the giggles every night for three  weeks as it played to packed houses every night at the Edinburgh Fringe. Well  any show which challenges stereotypes and negative advertising around this every day reality has to be  commended.  This is especially true when you start your show with a game of twister , end it with a song , and encourage your audience to purchase unique period themed jewelry, and  that’s why my award for the Best Live Comedy Show of 2016 goes to Chella Quint.
Having talked comedy I move on to inclusion and give my award for the Most Inclusive Show of the year. This show has already won one award as it was my choice for Best Show Of The Fringe so you won’t be surprised that it’s another victory for Home Words by Katharine MacFarlane. My reasons for choosing this  show  for a second award were hinted at earlier as Katharine performed stories, songs , and  poems from a variety of tongues and did so in different languages. It was however the fact that she took audience participation to a new whole new level  as she had all the women in the audience participating in the traditional Scottish art of Waulking which is so exhausting that after working at that process for eight hours a day they wouldn’t need to go the gym . Trust me I was exhausted after 10 minutes so how our foremothers could manage it for eight hours  is completely beyond me .

Talking of strong women it’s time to name my Equality Champion for 2016 .  This year i have chosen a bright  articulate young women for whom I once wrote a poem  i will introduce the winner of this award by saying that the title of her poem is Her Father’s Smile. It is i think fair to say she not only has her father  smile,  she also has his principals and those of her mother. A passionate supporter of the LGBTIQ community and a keen advocate for a fairer more equal society. My Equality Champion for 2016 is Roisin Caird.

Now we move to what some political journalists would call my soundbyte of the year.  Personally I prefer to call it my Quote Of The Year and this year’s winner comes from Felicity Clifford who said ‘Growing old is compulsory , growing up is optional ‘.  That woman speaks my truth and in doing so is  a totally deserved winner of my 2016 Quote Of  The Year.

From quotes I now move to the music, yes I know I’m beginning to sound like Madonna and your point is what?  Anyway, it’s time to name my musician of the year and in  a year where i made more than a few new musical discoveries Daryl Sperry, and Caitlin Buchanan spring readily to mind, this was a very difficult call. However, in the end I had to call it and i did for the only musician outside the the traditional music community who could ask me to come to a show in Edinburgh during the fringe when I have poetry and comedy events to attend and get me to actually do so. I think those of you from the Blue Chair may know who I’m about to name but for those of you who haven’t guessed my tartantights Musician of the Year is Josephine Sillars.

My Song of the Year was another tough calls between to two fantastic choices  One which gave me. goosebumps and the other which makes sing along every time I hear it. The songs are The Tallest Tree by Caitlin Buchanan (pictured below)  and Problems With Power by Josephine Sillars. I must admit choosing between two such different songs was an extremely difficult task but in the end I went for the one which gave me goosebumps so my Song Of The Year is The Tallest Tree by the mesmerising Caitlin Buchanan.

Next up is my Event of the Year and any other year this would have been won by Jackie The Musical which provided me with a brilliant showstopping walk down memory lane as i re-lived my teenage years as a 1970’s Jackie Girl. Last year however something happened in  Glasgow which eclipsed even that  and that was the Homeless World Cup where the most talented homeless footballers of both sexes battled it out for the honour of being Homeless World Cup winners. At the end of a fantastic week of football both titles were won by Mexico but somehow it didn’t seem to matter. In this World Cup at least it really was all about taking part and being the best you could be and that’s why my Event of the Year for 2016 is The Homeless World Cup. 

As any performer will tell you, we all need venues to play at otherwise we would all be reading our poems and singing our songs with only the bedroom mirror for company.  It was with great sadness that Words and Music lost our traditional home that we’d had for 25 years as Sammy Dow’s which had changed its name and owners in July 2015 decided they no longer wanted a cultural event they had hosted for quarter of century. This was a real body blow for Words And Music but it was the way it was done  which really annoyed me as  I only found out the event had been cancelled less than 24 hours before the February event was due to take place.  Fortunately however we are resolute bunch at Words And Music and thanks to the efforts of the son in law of our founding mother Pamela Duncan we had found a new venue by the beginning of May at the Pollok Ex Servicemen’s Club which become known to us as the Tin Hut  and though it meant a change of night from first Monday of the month to the first Tuesday  we were able to get the show back on the road by June and have been made very welcome in our new home. So my Venue of the Year for 2016 is The Tin Hut.

From venues I move on to my Discovery Of The Year and in a year when  I made loads of new contacts and some new friends this was one of the closest calls of all. Among those considered were Caitlin Buchanan, Catriona Knapman, Iona Lee, Janet Crawford, Malaika Kegode, and. Michelle Fisher. As you can see all are strong women with powerful and intelligent voices, this is in almost total contrast to performance scene I first appeared on more than 20 years ago when the idea of so many female poets and musicians would to some  particularly those of the kid on leftie persuasion would  been enough to frighten the horses So if this talented team were the one who got honourable mentions I’m sure you’re wondering who is my discovery of the year.

Well I’ll introduce her by saying that at this time last year I was just getting to know her and a number of other younger poets at our then weekly open mic nights at the Blue Chair but by spring she had claimed me as her poetry mother and even introduced me to her own mum with the immortal line muma meet poetry muma. Trust me, I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of any introduction in my life, and as I think many of you will have guessed my Discovery of the Year is the one and only Molly McLachlan.

From discovery of the year I now move on to Comeback of the Year. Normally, this award  would be given to someone who has been away from the poetry or music stages for a few years and has decided to make a welcome return. This year however , it  has been made in slightly different circumstances. You see though this year’s winner, was never a long term absentee from our scene he suffered a stroke in the late spring/ early summer of 2015 and we wondered if a stalwart of our community would ever take the stage. Initially his recovery was slow but eventually he began to make greater progress and it’s great to see him back attending and performing at events just as he always did. My Comeback of the Year award for 2016 is Derek Read.

Now from entertainment we move on to sport and I don’t think it would take a brain surgeon to figure out my happiest sporting moment of the last twelve months. It came on a gorgeous sunny September Saturday as Rangers were welcomed back to Paradise after a four year abscene and as usual they believed they only needed turn up to win. By the end of the 90 minutes however it was a very different story as Celtic ran riot and made our oldest rivals wish they hadn’t bothered to turn up as we made sure they know their place by thrashing them 5-1.

My other sporting award is  my Team  of the Year award and that is also given to a team from the world of football. My winners are not only packed with talent they are also history makers as they became the first Scottish football team  to qualify for a major tournament for almost two decades and this summer will see them compete in the European Championships for the first time in their history . Now for those of you who thought the European Championships were last year and Scotland didn’t qualify I should explain that my Team of the Year are The Scotland Ladies Football Team.

My next award is my Lifetime  Achievement Award and following in the footsteps of talents such As Pamela Duncan, Roy Tuton, Alex Salmond, and Frank McArdle, is no easy task. It has to be said  however that this year’s winner fully deserves this award for being one of my earliest political influences and whose passion for a fairer and better Scotland got me out of my armchair and on to the campaign trail to fight to make that Scotland a reality. Our winner started his political career in The Labour Party before resigning on a matter of principal and after co-founding the short lived Scottish Labour Party eventually found his political home in the Scottish National Party where he eventually became Depute Leader and provided one of the party’s most iconic moments when in November 1988 he won the Govan By-Election overturning a Labour majority of over 19,000 to win by a majority of 3,554 and in the process force Devolution back on to. the political agenda for the first time since the rigged referendum of 1979. It is no secret that  the unionist parties especially Labour were panic stricken by a victory they weren’t expecting. In fact the very next morning they announced the setting up of the Scottish Constitutional Convention so it could be said that he did more for the cause of Scottish home rule in nine hours than the all the unionists in Scotland had managed in the previous nine years and for that alone he deserves recognition It is for that and many other reasons that my Lifetime Achievement award goes to a man who I still see as a political mentor the one and only Jim Sillars.

From lifetime achievements I now move on to celebrating the value of friendship with the I Think I Must Be Mad Award. This award is for the friend who has gone beyond the call of duty to support me and this year’s winner has certainly done that over a sustained period of time. It is however in the past year that her star has shone even brighter than ever before  An independent woman with a mind of her own not did she reach a landmark birthday last year this young fashion conscious woman styled me up to such an extent that is responsible for  over half the content of my current wardrobe. A keen reader of this blog and great supporter of my poetry her loyalty has been proven time after time and when she told me she was proud of me and proud of the woman I am, I had one of those moments which made me glad I wasn’t wearing any mascara as it would have ran even faster than Usian Bolt can run 100 Metres. The winner of this award is someone who doesn’t seek headlines but deserves recognition for the quiet difference she makes to my life. My I Think I Must Be Mad Award goes to Stacey McFarlane

 Now it’s time for the main awards of for my man and woman of the year as tradition dictates I’ll start with the men.  This is not because I’m putting them first because as  a woman I believe it is our right to have the last word unless of course you are Kezia Dugdale,  Ruth Davidson, or Theresa May. Joking aside 2016 has been a good year  for the men in my world and I had some outstanding candidates from which to make my choice. Amongst those considered for this award were  Alex Kerr, Peter Russell, Matt Pamesh,   Stewart MacDonald, and  Steven Tierney , but yet again my winner comes from the world of poetry and has with his friend Paul Wardrope achieved more in a year than some will in a lifetime.

It was towards the end of 2015 that he and Paul set the Extra Second event at the Blue Chair Cafe where poets and musicians would share their thoughts on the topical issues of the day. The idea behind Extra Second is that if we take an Extra to consider to consider the subject for discussion then we may approach it from a more thoughtful perspective. It says a lot about the type of event Extra Second is that the Blue Chair is filled to bursting every month and that such has been the success of the event that its monthly nights have expanded to both London and more recently Aberdeen where a Blue Chair regular and a member of the first ever Extra Second Cast Molly McLachlan has recently hosted the opening night of Extra Second in her native city. So it is with great pleasure that i announce that our youngest ever  man of the year is  Johnny Cypher.

After naming my man of the year there is only award left to give  and that is of course my Woman of the Year. Now for those of you who think picking my man of year was hard and trust me it was selecting my woman of the year was even more difficult especially when you consider the number of amazing women I am lucky enough to have in my life.  Honestly picking a winner from all those brilliant and talented women was  so tough i thought of taking the easy way out and letting our reigning woman of the year Cheryl McHugh win again. There was however major problem with that idea and that was that i realised if made this choice  Jamie-Lee who is Cheryl’s wee sister may actually kill me. So maybe the safe option may not be quite as safe as I thought.

Bearing this in mind i decided to think about potential winners and get down to the business of making of choice. First up was Stacey McFarlane  and believe me this choice was given very careful consideration. You see not only is Stacey best stylist on earth and selects outfits which show me at the best,  but she is also has the patience of a saint which you sometimes need when your dealing with me.

 Next on the shortlist is the amazing poetic talent Katharine MacFarlane. Believe me this is a poet whose work i admire and am proud to call a friend and for whom i predict a big poetic future.

The same can be said for Janet Crawford whose words of warmth, wit, and wisdom have brightened up many a dark night and let’s be honest 2016 was a year which gave us more than our  fair share of them and presented poets and humanity in general with a number of challenges and difficulties and it’s at times like this I am greatful to have friends like Janet to remind me that there are some really good people in this world.  

Our youngest contender Molly McLachlan is someone I was only just getting to know at this time last year,but she ended 2016 as one of the closest members of my spoken word family. A woman og outstanding talent we are destined to hear much more from Molly in 2017 and beyond and believe me this is a woman of substance with a voice worth listening to.

As for Lesley Traynor  this is a woman for whom I have run out of superlatives after she organised an event which has now turned into a movement which has given a voice to some of the best women writers in the country. The event which was held at the Scottish Poetry Library was one I was proud to be part of, and from which I have gained some amazing and inspiring friendships which only go prove that be it biological or chosen, there is no bond stronger than sistewotld.Now I’ve looked at the contenders it’s time to name the winner of my final award and let you know who I’ve chosen to be tartantights Woman of the Year. Like me, our winner resides in the East End of Glasgow. Like me , she supporters the best football club on the planet the famous Glasgow Celtic, and like me she values her heritage and has a passion for a fairer society.  That however is where the similarities end because to say  our winner has an amazing year would be the understatement to end them all. Her rise to fane in the world of spoken word has been nothing short of stratospheric. When I first got to know her not long after the independence referendum, you couldn’t have got her on a  stage, not even for Henrik Larsson. Now like Molly, she is one of the closest members of my spoken word family and has played stages I’ll never get on. Am I jealous? but I am proud as I reminded both her and Molly, when we along with other friends to McChuills  after the December Extra Second. As I joked with this dynamic duo who I kinda see as see poetry daughters she smiled and whispered you can pick them. This is true, I certainly can pick them,  especially when it comes to winners and that’s why my 2016 tartan tights Woman of the Year (pictured at Words And Music at The Tin Hut) is the brilliant Victoria McNulty

So there it is , we’ve finally reached the end of the tartantights awards ceremony for 2016  If you are among the winners congratulations because there was fierce competition every category. If you weren’t so lucky then remember that the road ahead will have many twists and turns and that 2017 could be the year when it’s your turn to shine. So remember the tartan tights awards are a bit like the lottery , Yes next time it really could be you. 

  In the meantime I wish you all you wish yourself and hope you get what you need in the measure that you need it and of course I hope you continue reading tartan tights.

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

On A Cold Monday Night I Cry Tears For A Principled Friend

Hey Readers

As I write this post my emotions are and it’s fair to say it all over place. Tears have have been trickling down my face and make no mistake they didn’t come from watching a weepy movie or a soap.These tears came from a Facebook post I wish had never had to read, they came from a Facebook post I wish the author never had to write.
This however was not my choice to make as the author is a principled young woman and felt she had no other choice to make but to resign from the Scottish National Party.

I know this was not a decision she has taken lightly and having campaigned with her in the run up to the independence referendum I know how much of an asset she was to the party. Be under no illusion with her resignation from the party the SNP have lost one of our most articulate and compassionate voices. Fortunately for the broader independence movement her commitment to our cause remains as strong as ever.

This is the one crumb of comfort I can take from what was a devastating post to read. This would have been difficult news to read at the best of times but it is particularly hard for me coming as it did the day after my party’s very enjoyable equalities conference. At this conference I met many party members from all over Scotland who shared my determination to make sure equalities remain at the SNP vision for a better , fairer more inclusive society. This is a vision I know my friend shares, but she no longer believes that the party in its current position can truly deliver.

I have to say I share some of her reservations but as yet I haven’t reached that breaking point where I would finally give up my membership card. Yes there are times when its been hard and believe me I’ve suffered my fair share of disappointments both personally and politically. There are however many fantastic activists some of whom have gone on to represent the party as elected members and some of whom who surely will who have sustained me with their friendship and personal loyalty during the dark days. I’m sure it will come as a shock to nobody when I name Chris Stephens MP, Alison Thewliss MP, and Stewart MacDonald MP, amongst those to whom I am most grateful for being there when I needed some advice or just friendship and to know that my work was valued and appreciated.

Within my own branch I feel I have to give special mentions to the brilliant Steven Tierney, our excellent branch secretary Laura Doherty, Linda Pike, Jennifer Fairgrieve ,her mum Maureen Fairgrieve, our convenor Alex Kerr, and the magnificent force of nature who has been office manager for our last two successful election campaigns the one and only Alexis Deans, and I couldn’t leave out our amazing branch organiser the wonderful Jennifer Layden. It is for these people and many more throughout both our party and our country that I keep fighting and though not all of them will share my socialist beliefs we share one common vision that unites us above all others and that is that only with independence can we take the steps we need to build a better Scotland for those who will inherit our country.

To me independence is not and can never be a vanity project with foundations built on sand. It has to be focused on creating a better society or there is no point to it. This is not about flags and banners it is about creating a nation with which we can all identify and the SNP alone cannot achieve that on our own. Yes we have a significant role to play in winning the victory we need, but to do as some have done and claim we are the only way forward is wreckless, irresponsible, and potentially damaging to our cause. As one of my favourite journalists Gerry Hassen said in a recent article the SNP have got us this far but they can’t win independence on their own and even as an SNP member I believe he is right to make this claim.

By stating this Hassen is acknowledging the fact that due to the tribal nature of Scottish politics there are some people who support independence that the SNP even at their best will never be able to reach. Now whilst this may be bad news for the SNP it is in the opinion of this blogger good news for the broader independence movement which needs people outside the SNP and needs members in all parties and none and by all parties I mean those parties who campaigned for better together in 2014.

Tonight I read a facebook post which broke my heart on reading it and make no mistake I cried real tears when I read that one of my party’s most talented young activists has decided she no longer had a place in the SNP family. But then the lightbulb came back on and I thought of those committed yes supporters who whilst not being members of my party and in some cases actually loathing it contributed so much to the yes campaign last time. So heartbroken as I may be on a personal level I realise that this move by a principled intelligent young woman may actually be a good one both for her and the cause she will always hold close to her heart.

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X

Why The New Assertive Me Is A Fighting Female Force Who Gave A Christmas Present To Myself

Hey Readers Merry Christmas to one and all. Now it may surprise some of you that Christmas eve is one of my favourite days of the year not for the late night shopping or the panic of buying last minute presents, I love it for a very different reason. As I’m sure regular readers of tartan tights will know, it was on Christmas eve seven years ago that I got my name legally changed from the male name my parents gave me to something more suitable to reflect the female identity I’ve always had and the woman I had always known myself to be. I can’t believe it’s been seven years since that cold wet winters morning  when I went to the city chambers and in the presence of the former councillor for Carlton Alison Thewliss (pictured below with Glasgow East MP Natalie McGarry, signed my statutory declaration which legally changed both my name and my gender.  Yes I know that only a gender recognition certificate can change my birth certificate but to all intents and purposes this does 90 per cent of the job. 

You know sometimes, particularly at this time of year   I really do have ask myself where has the time gone? Honestly it’s flown by so quickly I can hardly believe it and believe me I’ve learned a lot about myself since I slipped in to the wee gold metallic dress to attend my then work’s Christmas night out just a few days before I  made this  momentous life affirming change.

As with any trans woman my journey has been a gradual one but I feel the pace of change has quickened both physically and emotionally in  the last 12 months. This is a year when I have found out who my true friends really are and who won’t be there for the haul with though I will name no names some surprising results on both sides. There are certain people whom I  would never expected to become friends who have become really good sources of support and there are others I have known for years with whom I have been very disappointed.

In a momentous year for my party It is fair to say I  was busy with political activity as well being kept busy with my real obsession spoken word poetry. In other developments the growth of my blog has kept me far busier than I would have an anticipated in this new post referendum Scotland. Part of the reason for this is that I have joined a great community of blogger chat groups and since this this community is both predominantly female and UK wide I have yet another group of teens and twenty something in which I can be mother hen. Believe me this group of talented and creative women have inspired me much more than they know. The result of this is that I have at least to some extent
feminised my blog and have written far more posts on women’s and trans related issues and it’s young women with blogger names like  All Things Beautiful, Becky Bedbug,  Blogs All Beauty,
Colours Of A Rose,  Colorful Stuff,  Dorkface , Dungarees And Donuts Frankly Ms Shankly,  Last Year’s Girl, and Luxury Blush who  though we have become friends through cyberspace are more important to me than they will ever realise as they have given me the confidence to truly embrace my womanhood for the wonderful chaotic rollercoaster ride that it is and probably know more of the secrets that could make me blush than just about anyone outside my closest inner circle.

To me this year has been filled with challenges it has also given me room to grow and develop both as a performer but more importantly as a woman, I have if you like begun to walk with a more confident air. I feel equally at ease at the Girls Brigade prize giving or a night with the Ladies of the Guild as I do at Women For Independence meetings or on wonderful all female social occasions such as Girls Day Out. 

As time has past I think it is fair to say I have grown more confident in my skin and I am no longer worried about what others think of me. I have spent far too long both pre and early post transition seeking the approval of others most people of whom have only and will only be bit part players in my life As a woman in the early part of her mid fifties I have all of sudden realised this life is mine and mine alone and I intend to live it my way for those who can’t  deal with that then they’ll be no loss when I  evict them from my life once and for all.

There are of course what some would say are delicate issues such as  sexism and misgendering which need careful handling. Well some might say that but I don’t and I’ll tell you why. You see sexism and misgendering really get on my tits. No excuses this is discrimination pure and simple. Now whilst everyone knows about the everyday sexism that girls and women face in our daily lives, I suspect misgendering is slightly less well known. This occurs when someone knowingly or unknowingly calls someone by an inappropriate pronoun like son or Mr for a transsexual woman or lady for a trans man.  There is a school of thought that says I should accept this with good grace and move on but I’ve walked this road and it doesn’t work
all it does is give your abuser the green light to do it again and not for one moment do I let people away with the but I’m getting tired and bored of  old excuse that some of our senior citizens seem to think they can get away with. The other excuse that this generation and also male chauvinists attempt to use but I knew you when you were (insert other name ). This doesn’t work with me either  as it shows total contempt for the trans person concerned and this year I decided to take no more of it. 

This new assertive me is due to a combination of three factors. The first is an increase in confidence, this comes not only from knowing who I am but accepting it. The second is when you move on from acceptance to comfort. This is important because you are making a bold political statement in the most ordinary way by saying this is who I am every day of my life
and more comfortable I am with myself the more comfortable other people will be around me. The third and most  important factor is that I am much more open with people than I was previously it is almost as if showing the real woman I know I am has removed the fear of being
outed. This is a burden the trans community have to carry around with us until the day we take the leap of faith which says this is me take it or leave it and the change of name plays a really important part in that.

You see changing your name means a lot more than some people may think. For a start , it says this is who I really am and it is how I want to be known from now on. This is how I want to the world to see me on everything from the electoral register to store cards from my organisational cards (in my case Trade Union SNP, Glasgow Libraries), to my council tax bill. Bearing this in mind,  I think Gayle was a sensible choice. I mean let’s be honest I couldn’t have called myself Kylie as no-one had heard the name Kylie in the year I was born (1961) This is important because I think your choice has to say something about you and who you are.

You know some people usually those with no imagination who are usually male and quite often gay think my given name must have been Dale which I’m sure must have been a very popular name I’m the early 1960’s and I don’t think. There are others who think that I must have chosen my name after the Coronation Street character Gail Platt. Now I hate to inform them but though is my favourite soap I think I have more imagination than to name  myself after fictional character in a television drama and the way character spells her name is the shortened version of Abigail

As for reason behind my choice it was to reflect my
Irish-Scots identity as Scotland and Ireland are known as the lands of the Gaels. Given not only my roots but also but my cultural and political leanings perhaps this isn’t going to go down as shock of the century. It will therefore come as no great surprise that I also considered Catriona, Fiona, and Mhairi  along with Claire, Donna, and Grace. So as you can see I had a few ideas before settling on Gayle in 1993 a full 15 years before my eventual transition would begin.

This did however coincide with my first forays on the Glasgow LGBT scene in when the scene was much smaller than now and I also have to say a lot more small minded and though these were only fledgling steps it has to be said that the rainbow was not always trans inclusive and I often got the impression that we were distinctly unwelcome. I though was not going anywhere and it was around this time I decided that Gayle was definitely the most appropriate choice as a
gale has the power to decimate anything in its path and it was this message of being a life affirming force that I wanted convey. I wanted the world to see that I was not only a woman but a strong confident assertive women and on Christmas Eve seven years ago I made a start on that road. Believe me, there is more to selecting a name than you might at first think and that is why this Gayle  is a fighting female force with faith in the future.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

The Tale Of Three Scotland’s (The Civic The Radical And The Missing) Part 1 Of A Review Of Caladonian Dreaming, The Quest For A Different Scotland By Gerry Hassan

Hey everyone One of the legacies of the independence referendum apart from the birth and growth of this blog is the fact that it has introduced me to many voices whose writings I may not have had the chance to explore had this event not taken place. One such voice is the political commentator Gerry Hassan whose columns on the way forward for Scotland for both Bella Caledonia, and Scottish Review I have found and enlightening and entertaining. Hassan writes with a clarity which makes his work both intellectually rigorous and easy to understand and by doing so articulates a message with which his readership can connect. In this first part of my review of his book Caladonian Dreaming The Quest For A Different Scotland I will seek to explain why I believe the thoughts and arguments contained within these pages will be of value to supporters of an independent Scotland at the time of next referendum whenever it may be. It is at this stage I would like to thank Gerry Hassan for his generosity in sending me a complimentary copy of this book.

Right from the first page this is a book that challenges the reader to think big. It makes you ask questions about our nations past, about where we want Scotland go in the future and most importantly it asks us to consider where we are today and what has brought about the circumstances which make this such an exciting time to be Scottish.

In the opening chapter of the book Gerry Hassan argues that Scotland is a nation in a state of flux. the old certainties of our past are not as relevant to our lives as once was the case. Yet despite this the socially conservative forces of unionist Scotland tries to camouflage any evidence of it by claiming that events such as the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Rangers Football Club were one offs which were due to individual weaknesses at the top of the house rather than viewing them as the result of greater cultural forces. This as Hassan states is ‘a culture of restoration the kind of keep calm and carry on approach so favoured by David Cameron and the Conservative British establishment. This is an establishment favoured by all parties of the union and their friends in the press and media an establishment they will do whatever they must to protect.

This I would argue includes the demonisation through the press and media of both the Scottish National Party and their allies in the independence movement. This was quite clearly seen in the way the independence debate was viewed by those with vested interests in preserving the union. As Hassan states ‘It was presented ‘as a set of narrow set of constitutional changes unrelated to the kind of society we want to live in. This was in my both disingenuous and indeed fraudulent as to me as a yes supporter that was exactly what the debate was about that and nothing else. To claim otherwise was a deliberate distortion of the truth and the unionists know it all too clearly.

As if to prove my point Hassan questions how unionists can disassociate the circumstances which brought about the referendum and pretend that everything is still the same as it ever was. To be honest many of them know this can’t continue and there are harsh realities which need to be faced if the union is to survive in the long term. One of those realities is that they need to realise that many of their supporters were primarily responsible for the negative tone of the debate. Indeed far from the bullying cybernats that the unionist political class would have you believe were the main culprits in this, Hassan provides evidence of that they themselves are far from perfect. Citing the words of Gordon Brown, Alastair Darling and Ian Davidson not to mention the reckless threats from the late Tory grandee Lord Fraser he illustrates that career unionists were no angels in the debate. Indeed I would go as far as to suggest that given their prominent positions in Scottish society they were actually by far the greater aggressors.

The author also says that one of the key reasons for this combative behaviour was the lack of women in the discussion. As a member of women for independence I have to say I agree with this assessment. One only needs to look at the TV debates not just on independence but on other more civic matters to see that what Hassan refers to as ‘Male Only Scotland is still very much alive and well and this institutionalised sexism needs to be tackled now to create a more creative political dynamic. Hopefully the fact we now have a woman First Minister in SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and women leaders of both main opposition parties Kezia Dugdale (Labour) and Ruth Davidson (Conservative) and there are a significant number of woman amongst the newly elected SNP MP’s such as Mhairi Black, Anne McLaughlin, Alison Thewliss, Angela Crawley, Carol Monaghan, Kirsteen Oswald, and my own MP Natalie McGarry, this will help to change this ingrained macho attitude.Hassan however argues that until we tackle the six myths of modern Scotland creating this dynamic will be almost impossible.

The six myths which Hassan wants us to examine have been embedded in to the fabric of our national culture for so long that challenging them will not be easy. It will be no doubt seen by some on all sides of the political debate as an attack on our national identity but tackling the idea that Scotland is a democratic egalitarian land where we all enjoy access to educational opportunity where we hold authority to account have a social democratic tradition and live in an open society is essential if we want to bring about a better more equal nation so many of us claim we’d like to see. To do this Gerry Hassan argues that we need rid ourselves of this cosy comforting image of ourselves and face some uncomfortable truths about our past and indeed our present.

One such fact is the our country has been throughout our history has been run by elites and that for all the claims to contrary our people are not active citizens in the public realm of our nation. I back up with my own personal experience as an active political campaigner for the SNP and various equality based causes over the years. No matter how I’ve tried to explain the importance of involvement at personal, community, and national level I have more often than not been met with a leave it to others mentality in what was until the referendum this passive land I call home. Too often I heard the mind numbing refrain it’s not for the likes for us and it makes no difference to me or the even worse there only in it for themselves kind of argument which I quite frankly find distasteful to all of us on all sides of the political debate. As I said to a woman earlier this year I always attend my party meetings because without the likes of me and others like me none of those you call them would ever be elected to office.

The fact I am educated to honours degree level and my joint honours degree is in Geography and Politics is I find often used against me by small minded people who no doubt wish to live in the comfort of the cosy myths Gerry Hassan correctly identifies as holding Scotland back from realising our potential. This is unfair not only to me but to many others like me who came from working class families like mine and indeed our author’s who put a value on education and lifelong learning long before it was a buzz phrase for governments and the civil servants who work for them.

In the next chapter Gerry Hassan having set out some of his core arguments as to the challenges we face and the changes we need to make to build a different Scotland fills the reader in on his own background and the circumstances that shaped him. Born to educated, well read working class parents the young Gerry grew up in Dundee with a dad who though a communist by inclination was more of an armchair activist than an active campaigner and a mother who had read the works of authors such as Orwell and Greene. Hassen says his parents believed in Britain and saw Scottishness as old fashioned. Again this chimes at least partly with my own upbringing as these were similar sentiments to those expressed by my mother and some of my aunts and uncles.

My dad however had a very different view shaped by his Dundonian-Irish ancestry he believed not that Scotland should be free but that it had to be if we were ever to change the view of other countries that Scotland was inward looking colonial backwater unfit for proper nationhood. These differences in how Scotland was perceived in the years of my youth and indeed has been viewed ever since both have powerful narratives and to understand them one has to look what the United Kingdom was and what it has become.

One of the reasons why the idea of the United Kingdom still attracts a certain kind of socially and culturally conservative Scot is due to the way its image is presented by the British establishment. Hassan supports this by stating that ‘it likes to stress its unparalleled degree of continuity’. This he says is only one view of the UK but it is a view which many people have bought in to over the years. This demographic which tends to be but is not exclusively older has doubts that Scotland could provide them with the same safety and security as mother Britain even though many will admit not having looked in to the idea. This group tend not to like what they see as change for change’s sake and may ignore their own country’s history and traditions in favour of a more anglo-centric version of events.

Changing this mindset is a challenge for those of us who want to embrace change especially when the elites whose views these people accept almost as if they were tablets of stone have such an unshakeable belief in their own superiority. This has made the road to democracy a much slower one than we would want to walk and in many ways a journey we are still a long way from completing. The fact that the UK finally gave the working class and eventually women the right to vote does not give Britain the right to call itself a democracy. The elites Hassan argues, were in charge at every stage of the political process, and that it is just the way they like it.

The implications of this for Scotland were and still remain a very significant factor in how Scotland is perceived not only by others but more importantly by ourselves. It has long been the establishment view that a good Scottish or Brit-Scot cringe as I prefer to call it is essential if you want to serve both colony and yourself at the Westminster table of imperialism. It is I think no accident that demand for independence or at very least a much stronger home rule than devolution can provide has grown significantly in the last three decades as Britain has shifted further and further to the right. We may not as the author has already pointed out be the egalitarian social democrats we like to believe we are but the fact that we believe our own self made myth has to some degree pushed this agenda forward.

The United Kingdom is however a country shaped by its past and the story of that past no matter how mythical it may be has over time had a huge impact on how we as a nation see ourselves and how we view our relationship with Britain. Not for nothing does the too wee, too poor, too stupid mantra resonate so readily with so many of our country folk. Britain we are told used to have an empire, like we didn’t know that already. For me, the key words in the sentence are used to It doesn’t anymore. The union in my opinion is an economic arrangement which has outlived its usefulness but the British elites and most especially the political classes perhaps not surprisingly do not share that view. Indeed as Gerry Hassan correctly points out they use the past as a powerful political weapon and the fact they use the monarchy in the same way is no accident. The past, the empire, the monarchy and other establishment organisations such as the press and media and armed forces are in many ways most of them subliminal are the mythical and mystic ties which bind Britain together. The fact that Scotland is not despite what we are told a fully fledged democratic state helps to maintain this status quo and makes it more difficult to challenge.

Hassan states that the myth of popular sovereignty in the sense of power lying with the people is exactly that and had it existed Scotland would have been able to stop the poll tax and other measures not to its liking. Hassen argues that had the concept existed in reality rather than just at the level and mythology Scotland would not have dominated by The Labour Party or indeed the Liberals for before them for anywhere near as was the case. The author goes on to say that Scotland has never used the idea of popular sovereignty to democratise and empower people or develop a vision of society which is in any way radically different from the status quo. Hassan says that whilst we may have the trappings of democracy such as free elections and multi party participation the fact that there is a missing Scotland which is predominately located in the poorer less affluent parts of our nation tells us much about our real democratic deficit.

This is a deficit you will seldom hear mentioned at elections where parties tend to focus on the core votes they know will turn out to support them and the floating voters who will definitely vote at elections but whose votes may be up for grabs and that makes them key voters meanwhile the voice of missing Scotland of low electoral turnouts voter apathy and political disconnection remains ignored and unheard.

Indeed as Gerry Hassan points out there is a culture of learned helplessness in Scotland and this means that people don’t see themselves in the political discussions of our nation and any conventional methods used to reach them fail. This is much to our nation’s detriment and is something which needs to be improved before people even begin to believe in the notion of Scotland ever becoming a real democracy fit for the purpose of serving our people.

To further enhance this argument let’s look at as the author does at Civic Scotland. This was a term which Gerry Hassan points out which was closely identified with the fight for devolution it was also one I never liked. Civic Scotland may have identified that Scotland is different from England one has to ask as our author does, was it too polite to fight on those matters which could and still can really change our country for the better and on many issues the answer appears have been yes.

If I had to sum up Civic Scotland in a sentence or a paragraph I would say that in many ways it would be the political equivalent of my mother. Those involved would talk about the things that shocked them, angered them, or even outraged them but just like my mother it wouldn’t do too much about them for fear of holding themselves up to the light and finding they may not be as perfect as first thought. In fairness Civic Scotland did some good raising awareness amongst those of us who were already or were always going to be part of active Scotland but it did nothing to engage disaffected voters in areas of low voters it did nothing too engage apathetic Scotland, the neglected Scotland the Scotland forgotten by the political elites. It may have talked about the decimation of mining communities and other industrial areas or the impact of the poll tax but it didn’t live in those areas. Civic Scotland and what remains of it was and still is a child of Bearsden rather than Baillieston of Morningside more than Muirhouse. That to me was and remains its most fundamental problem there is a disconnection to those who don’t live in the comfort zones but who are far more in need of empowering than those who do.

From Civic Scotland Gerry Hassan moves on to the Stories of Radical Scotland. This is a story with I closely identify having learned of the radical tradition from my maternal grandmother who was a keen supporter of the Independent Labour Party and in particular of John MacLean the man who was the public face of what become known as Red Clydeside. Indeed my first political hero as a child was Jimmy Reid who I saw as a hero for fighting for people’s right to work. Jimmy Reid was if you like my own political version of Superman.

This opinion was probably formed because as Gerry Hassan states at the beginning of this chapter socialism and centre left politics have been the defining feature of Scottish politics in the last century. However as he goes on to inform us radical Scotland pre dates Socialism in Scotland and the Liberals were the dominant party for much indeed most of the 19th century but as the Liberal influence became diluted it was the Labour Party who became the new home for Scotland’s voters. Hassan however also reminds us that Scotland had a strong communist tradition particularly in mining areas which has only died out in the last 30 years or so. This evaporation of communist support parallels with the rise not only with the decline of mining and the other traditional industries such as coal, and steel, on which much of Scotland depended but also with the rise of Thatcherism and the culture of individualism which has whether we like it or not become a part of the fabric of our contemporary Scotland.

This development surely implies that Scotland is moving away from its radical roots or at least it does if you listen to unionists. I however do not pay much attention to the negative mutterings of the pro British political establishment, my grandmother’s stories captured my heart and imagination in a way no unionist has ever managed or for that matter come close to managing. The Thatcher years in which Scotland was vandalised and the Blair years in which we were patronised only served first to develop my interest in the idea of Scottish independence and then to support it by voting for and then after my gender transition eventually joining the only party I have consistently campaigned for.

Of the two most influential Prime Ministers of my lifetime it is fair to say I probably loathe Blair to a far greater degree than Thatcher and I never thought I could be detest anyone more than her. How wrong I was, you see to quote my late and very left wing granny the Tories may have hearts of darkness but at least you will know what your going to get if they get elected, they will promise you nothing and deliver exactly that. Labour on the on the other hand will patronise you with false words smiles and flattery before putting on their masks to rob you. Labour are not a radical party she once told me they are the party who want to keep the radicals in line. Remembering those words I would say that my personal radicalism is viewed through the lens of wanting to make Scotland not only a restored nation but also for the first time in our history a real democracy with genuine citizen participation.

There is however a slight stepping stone which I think with the benefit of hindsight which is always a wonderful gift to have perhaps cost yes victory in last year’s referendum. This is picked up by Hassan who says that ‘there seems to be an abiding faith among those of a pro yes persuasion Scotland could become the first democratic socialist country in the world’

This image of a socialist utopia in my view at least turned off almost as many voters as it attracted and I for one found it a problem on the doorsteps or in discussions with friends or acquaintances. The missing Scotland is it would seem not just on left

The rise of Scottish identity as a left wing identity especially from the 1980’s onwards was also important in creating among many a shared sense of Scottishness. This was partly due the rise of Thatcherism in the rest of the UK but it was also because Scotland had different core beliefs to the rest of the UK or at least that’s what as a nation we collectively began to believe. Gerry Hassan is in my view right when he says that Thatcher and Thatcherism were symptoms of the of the collapse of British post war consensus rather than the cause of it but to many Scots that didn’t matter, what mattered was the fact she and her government did not share our views, our values, or our visions either individually or collectively. To many of our people Thatcher’s Britain could never be our Britain her Scotland could never be our Scotland.

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X

The Women Of Scotland Have Found Our Voices And We Have A Country To Change.

Hey everyone  As I look back on the election that has without doubt changed Scotland for good I have to say that my favourite memories of the campaign are memories of strong principled women who said what they meant and meant what they said. However it has to be said that though women have made progress in society at a general level. In politics particularly at the level where the real decisions are made there is still much to be done before women can say we live in the truly inclusive country we aspire to build. It is my hope that this election campaign has changed the way people think about women in politics and changed it for the better.

It didn’t matter where they came from or what party they supported, this was election when women’s voices were heard louder, prouder, and clearer than ever before. Whether it was the battles at First Minister’s Questions between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her opponents Labour’s Kezia Dugdale who was and is a far better ambassador for her party than her hapless, helpless, hopeless and now former leader Jim Murphy, or Conversative leader Ruth Davidson. Or the words of wit and wisdom from women like Elaine C Smith who I think I have seen more often than my own flatmate in the last three months it has been women’s voices which have been to the forefront of this election and that is the way it should stay.

I say this as a trans woman who has a very clear idea of the direction in which I want my country to travel. I am proud to be a member of the SNP and very proud to be a member of a great campaign team in which we gained a new member of parliament in Natalie McGarry who defeated one of the Labour Party’s most formidable members in Margaret Curran.

Ours was a campaign in which women featured prominantly. Our office manager Alexis Deans had a no-nonsense approach which helped get things done and May Findlay worked every hour god sent and a fair few more as well for the cause of our party and the election of our candidate. There were also fantastic contributions from two our younger members Laura Doherty and the force of nature that is the irrepresible and highly likable Morgan Horn. 

The fact that Glasgow now has four female MP’s can only be positive for the cause of women’s equality and Carol Monaghan, Alison Thewliss and Anne McLaughlin will join Natalie as powerful advocates for progress as part of a powerful team of SNP Women.

Geographically this team of women cover the whole of Scotland. From Doctor Eilidh Whiteford and Kirsty Blackman in the North East, to Angela Crawley In the heart of Lanarkshire in Lanark And Hamilton East. From Hannah Bardell In Livingston to Philipa Whiteford in Irvine And Ayrshire Central. We could add any number of names such as Doctor Lisa Cameron in East Kilbride, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik In Ochil And South Perthshire, Derdrie Brock in Edinburgh North And Leith, Margaret Ferrier in Rutherglen And Hamilton West, Cori Wilson in Ayr, Patricia Gibson in North Ayrshire And Arran Kirsten Oswald in East Renfrewshire and Mhairi Black in Paisley and Renfrewshire South. The SNP have sent a strong group of women to be stronger for Scotland than those they replaced.

Also there are more female voices in the press than was previously the case. This is particularly true since the birth of The National last November which has given a column not just to established names such as Lesley Riddoch but has also given voices to the best blogger in Scotland in Kate Higgins, and provided space for Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik and Carolyn Leckie to air their fresh voices to the world. It should also be noted that this is the newspaper which has reported on issues such as women’s football to femicide in ways no other paper has dared.

There is no doubt that the independence referendum gave women on both sides of the yes/no debate the chance to air our views in a way unheard of in the past. This was a refreshing change from the old boys network which for so long had been as much a dominant factor in Scottish political life as it the broader UK context. The old boys network was not just confined to the corridors or indeed voting lobbies of Westminster and Scotland both yes and no,  or for those who like to over simplify the issue nationalist and unionist was being forced to recognise this fact and indeed to address it and change the face of Scotland. Women’s voices would from now on be heard and they would be heard loudly, proudly, and clearly.

On the pro independence side of the debate one of the most vigorous groups to emerge during this period was Women for Independence. This group who comprised of members of all political groups  and none  showed what could, can, and will be achieved when women’s voices are heard in the cause of a common goal This group which started  life on Facebook had long before September’s vote transcended into a national campaigning organisation which had and still has branches in every major city, town and geographic area in the country. It is a group of which I am very proud to be a member. A group which has vision of a fairer, more equal society where women and girls are given the same respect and value as their male friends, colleagues, and family members.

Having found our voice during the referendum campaign It was only natural that this would result in more women putting themselves  forward as candidates at this election and that at least within the Scottish National Party is exactly what happened. I am delighted to say that due to the great result gained by my party that Scotland now has an army of  talented women committed to fighting for fairness not only for Scotland but for our neighbours and friends throughout these islands. Among these women are three of my closest political allies, my local MP for Glasgow East Natalie McGarry, a women who will fight for my area and my rights with all she has and more, Alison Thewliss who won the Glasgow Central seat unseating the man who was once tipped as a future leader of the Labour Party Anas Sarwar , Anne McLaughlin who won the so-called unwinnable seat of Glasgow North East from Labour’s  Willie Bain  with one of the biggest swings of the night.

This election was as Kevin McKenna correctly said in his article for the Guardian just a few days before the vote an election where women were the real winners. This i believe is true  no matter what side of the debate you happen to  be on  nor which party colours represent your values, views, and visions.

You see unlike the victory for Tony Blair  and New Labour  in 1997 in the class of women were not sexualised or objectified as the SNP won the landslide victory our party members worked so hard for Our women MP’s have not been labelled in the same way as the so-called Blair Babes  The world has moved on since the days of the mythologised Cool Britainia as a trans woman I know this better than most. It is almost two decades since Blair’s first election victory and if you look at the narrative used to tell Blair’s story it was almost exclusively male and in my opinion incrediblely if unintentionally sexist based as it was on the story of Camelot and the legend of King Arthur. In the 18 years between the two elections women have made many social and economic gains however there is much more work to do to create a society fit for purpose for our daughters, nieces, and their friends.

As I said earlier in this post it was the independence referendum which gave the woman of our country the opportunity to express our opinions on the way forward for Scotland. Believe me when I say  the woman elected to this the first post referendum  parliament will not be afraid to voice those opinions. We have a country to change and we are going to do it. 

Love And Best Wishes.   Gayle X