Tag Archive | Margaret Thatcher

Signature

It’s no secret that as someone who is actively involved in politics and has been for over 30 years I have signed my share of petitions on a number of different issues. My signature has supported campaigns on everything from demanding the end of apartheid in South Africa to the right to equal marriage, and the end of period poverty. So when someone asked me if I thought signing petitions mattered and could be viewed as political activism I had no hesitation in saying that it could and I wrote this poem entitled Signature to illustrate the point. I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read. 

Signature 

Someone once asked me

does signing a petition count as activism 

I told them it did 

they seemed happy with my answer

if slightly confused  

on realising this  I explained why our signature matters

I shared stories I had heard of injustice in South Africa 

when Nelson Mandela was labelled a terrorist 

by Margaret Thatcher

when all he wanted was  his people to have the right to rule their land 

I said that signing petitions was 

a way of raising awareness to make people understand

why things needed to change 

but would stay the same 

If we didn’t sign up to express our discontent .

I explained that this is direct democracy in action

and without this kind of participation 

it’s no exaggeration to  say 

Palestine would still be ignored

the lion rampant would never have roared for democracy 

governments could neglect child poverty 

and remain  inactive on tackling the gig economy.

equal marriage would have remained a distant dream 

and no it’s not the preserve of smaller parties like the greens 

It’s a valuable way of bringing issues from  the fringe to the mainstream 

of changing attitudes over time 

at street stalls or online 

authority knows

the power of your signature.

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Smelling The Roses

​On day 24 of NaPoWriMo I decided that political satire would be my poetic weapon of choice after seeing a UKIP candidate’s response as to why they are standing for election on social media. After laughing so much it nearly split my sides I remembered what I’ve always known namely politics is a serious business and though UKIP might like to portray themselves as lovable eccentric guardians of tradition they are in reality anything but. In fact truth be told these people are of the hard right conservative school of political thought and have some very  extreme and dangerous views. It is with in mind I decided to write this poem in the form of a UKIP candidate’s speech to highlight the type of country I don’t want to live in. The title for the poem was chosen for me by my Norwich based friend and fellow poet Andy Bennett  who selected the title Smelling The Roses. I hope you enjoy the read. 

Smelling The Roses (The Thoughts Of A UKIP Supporter) 
You ask me why I want to be elected 

well I’ll tell you 

it’s because I believe

  the British way of life is under threat 

and I want to put forward  solutions 

I couldn’t give a damn for devolution

the revolution has to be stopped.

I’m a proud Scot but I know my place 

so here’s what I think we need to do 

to put some pride back in the red white and blue 

I’ll start with sports

 I am convinced every child  should learn to ride a horse 

but as for golf , those courses are environmental disaster 

and a threat to the safety of our people 

and that is something I cannot abide 

still on environmental matters 

I want plastic bags abolished 

they are a threat to animals especially whales and dolphins 

as for an independent Scotland forget it 

I’m a proud Scot but 

Westminster is our colonial master 

and we should be content to keep it that way 

Mrs Thatcher was wonderful back in the day 

I’m a plain speaker and say what’s on my mind 

which I think you’ll find enlightening 

some people find my views on capital punishment frightening 

I think the death penalty should be restored 

but I wouldn’t bring back hanging 

the guillotine would be better 

and I’ll tell you something else

we’re heading in to world war three 

due to China, India , and the SNP 

that lot are a public danger 

and it’s all to do with 

money, and greed  

we in Britain do a lot for charity 

comic relief is wonderful 

so is children in need 

talking of children 

I think poor people shouldn’t have them.

now this is only my view 

but in my united kingdom 

mother’s should stay at home

to look after their little darlings

there should be no support for nurseries 

but all schools need classes 

and education needs reforming 

 this is a warning we are heading for  world war three 

I blame it on the SNP 

it will have nothing to do with Tony Blair or Theresa May 

personally I think we should go to war with Spain over Gibraltar

after all we’ve beat them before

when we sunk their Armada

remember the Falklands it was great wasn’t it 

yes I know there were millions unemployed

and living in poverty 

but we had pride in the flag

we were respected then 

now it’s all this political correctness lunacy

there is no such thing as an LGBT community

that kind of thing should be kept private

behind closed doors

you get good and bad people of all types 

talking of rights

I believe Margo MacDonald’s right to die bill

should be put to referendum 

well old people are living too long 

though working them till there 70 

should tire some out 

well if there dead  we don’t need to  worry about their living expenses 

we really need to come to our senses

the free bus pass scheme has to stop 

these people should be encouraged to walk 

I know you’ll be shocked at some of my views 

but here’s the bit you didn’t hear on the news

I would reopen public loo’s 

and create community gardens

yes I know I maybe hard on some issues

but believe me we don’t have time for tissues 

 it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. 

 © 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 

The Clothes Of An Honest Man 

Hey Readers On what would have been his 90th Birthday I post a poem I’ve spent the whole day working on in loving memory of my father John James Smith. I would have liked to post it earlier but I had to get it just right before sharing it. My dad was an engineering inspector and would have expected no less. I am however pleased to say that I have finally completed it to my satisfaction and it will be posted on time. I have given it the title The Clothes Of An Honest Man. I hope you enjoy the read.

The Clothes Of An Honest Man

 
Born at the time of depression 

he was the fifth of nine children 

eight of whom survived to adult years

In reflective moments my dad wept tears for Alexander 

the wee brother who died 

in infancy 

a quiet man who kept his dignity 

he never showed emotions

in front of others 

I was the exception to his rule 

he encouraged me to do well at school 

and knew my rebellious streak 

was his gift to his youngest child 

he couldn’t deny the reality 

even if he wanted to try 

too many others knew the truth 

with proof from his younger days 

used as evidence to convict him 

the man who lost his religion

but never his team

 green  and white till the day he died

though the faith of his fathers lapsed 

when a priest threw a book at him 

for forgetting his catacisim 

in class 

never again did my dad go to mass 

and when he was told  

he couldn’t marry outside the church 

he told the priest what he thought 

a proud pragmatic Scot 

he often went fishing 

though he seldom caught a fish 

as for his politics he had a very clear vision 

of a better nation 

 which he claimed much to my mother’s annoyance 

could only come with independence

like most unionists I knew growing up 

 she avoided poltical debate 

having what my dad called  Mrs Bouquet syndrome 

and I  knew what he meant 

she was content to leave the world to it’s fate 

claiming it was just the way it was 

I got more sense out of Santa Claus 

than I got from my mum 

too many friends of her family 

 banged on the empty drums 

of a lost cause 

and could never forgive her 

for marrying a catholic 

even if he did raise his children 

in the faith these people walked for 

but seldom if ever practiced 

and to those who thought 

that the wee man should know his place 

I answer that he did 

and it was way beyond 

anywhere they could ever reach 

this was a man who never gave up on me 

when I was ill and doctors claimed  

I wouldn’t see my first birthday

he told them  I would come through  

because I was a fighter 

on my graduation day 

he knew the truth of his prediction 

my honours gained by the hard work and commitment

which were the hallmark of a skilled engineer 

who rose to the rank of inspector 

in the job he held for 30 years

till Thatcher closed the gates 

in the name of electoral geography 

and votes in marginal seats in the midlands

in this united kingdom

which he said was united only in name 

whilst the so-called workers party 

did union jack to help others 

I have long since discovered the truth of the words 

he spoke in anger on that fair Friday night 

when he said Labour had always  played the Westminster game 

and must be viewed with suspicion 

in everything they do 

they would he said

 always put the red and white 

before the blue  

 they were the  secret enemy

 whose mask would eventually slip 

his daughter I now attend the kirk 

though this socialist republican Scot 

is an internationalist to the core 

my father never wore a sash 

preferring the clothes of an honest man 

Maggie and Arthur can be proud of their son 

the  boy from the scheme 

who was equally at home in the countryside

may have been a rebel 

but during his time among us 

he taught me the values I keep to this day 

fair play,  honesty, and being the best you can be 

whilst doing your best to help  others 

were the marks of the man 

the quiet rebel  

I am proud to call dad 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Flag In The Wind ( A Christmas Message For The Comfortable Tendency)

Hey Readers

On day 7 of Blogmas I’m getting ever so slightly political as I send an uncompromising message to those Brexiters who are in the I’m alright union jack brigade., You know, the comfortable tendency who seem to think that the only threat to the Britain they love is whoever the Tory press tells them it is rather than realising they will never get the change they seek by supporting the establishment and demonising people whose only crime is to move to this country as migrants have always done in search of a better life.

It was to get rid of these xenophobic attitudes I voted yes to independence 2014 and to remain in the European Union earlier this year. You see I recognise the contribution that migrants have made to both Scottish and British society. Indeed a few generations ago some members of the paternal side came over Ireland to settle in Scotland and it’s with those roots firmly planted in my heart that I say no to the Brexiters and their toxic anti immigrant views. I have given the poem the title Flag In The Wind I hope you find it a thought provoking read.

image

Flag In The Wind.

Britain must ban migrants

says a man who;waves his flag in the wind

standing isolated on the edge of the cliff

he tells me we’ve started to win

our country back for its citizens

I listen not wanting to reply

before hearing him out

he tells me about our glorious history

of the magna carta and defeating the Armada

I politely inform him his story is English not British

the United Kingdom didn’t come to being

till long after these events

he seems nervous as if I’ve shattered his contented view

of this mythical green and pleasant land

he was brought up to believe in

I say as a Glasgow girl I have different priorities

and excluding those he calls foreigners

it not amongst them

he claims it’s disgusting what they do

says he believes in the red, white, and blue

I ask him how he came to this conclusion

he countered it’s the right solution for our country

If we don’t get rid of them

things could turn ugly

after all they are stealing our jobs and our money

taking our homes and not contributing to our economy

no wonder our country’s in poverty

he stops for breath as if collecting his thoughts

I inform him there are many of us

who wouldn’t agree with his beliefs on migration

people from other nations

have always done their bit for our economic health

done the jobs natives felt beneath them

as a Glaswegian I know my city was built on immigration

the beating heart of the nation

and the empire’s second city

imported workers to fill the jobs

in heavy industries like coal and shipbuilding.

the Irish turned parts of the city green

the Italians, Poles, and Lithuanians

filled the gaps left by Scots

who ventured to Canada and Australia

Immigrants are not money grabbing failures

they are made out to be

by UKIP, Britain First , and BNP

and the Conservatives and the Labour Party

should not be pandering to this belief

when the evidence supports the opposite view

we don’t need to teach anyone British values

or Scottish ones come to that

Diaspora’s have generations of success

to use as examples to the Romanian family in Castlemilk

or the Syrians who settled in Shettleston

and see that Baby in Bethlehem

he was a Palestinian

I challenge him by saying

If you’re going to call yourself a Christian

then act in the way that Jesus would want

don’t haunt the hearts of the gullible

this country may be in trouble

but it’s not the so-called foreigners who cause it

I know there’s unemployment

but it’s Tory austerity that’s causing the issues

the man then says Scotland should let Westminster decide what’s best

I tell him attitudes like that

are the reason I voted yes

and though we didn’t gain our independence

we got a large enough vote share to make the city nervous

but why you would want to leave us

he asks without a trace of irony

not realising that Thatcher and Blair left a toxic trail

Jesus was nailed to a cross for less

but this member of the comfortable tendency

still refused to blame anyone but those the daily mail demonises

I tried mentioning the House Of Lords

making him aware of how much of his money is spent

on this unnecessary white elephant

the only purpose of which is to gift the wealthy elderly

the chance to sleep indoors

rather than face the cold they gift to others

less fortunate than themselves

he shakes his head refusing to understand

his poverty will never be cured

by the establishment he defends

they have no interest in him

to pretend otherwise is to lie only to himself

and wave a flag in the wind

which will blow him away on the coldest night of winter.

@ Gayle Smith 2016

Bloodstained.

Hey Readers

On this remembrance Sunday I attended church to remember those who gave their lives in war such as James Stokes who died whilst leading others to safety in the great war and gave thanks for those who came home from world war 2. This includes my dad John Smith who joined the marines just as the war was ending, his brothers Robert Smith and James Smith who fought with the Highland Light Infantry, My uncle Donald (Dan Russell) who was proud to serve in the Scots Guards my uncle Charles Hayes who was a member of the Enniskillen Fusiliers, and my uncle Arthur Timperly who served in second battalion the Lancashire Regiment. All were good men who were proud to serve and fight in the name of democracy and freedom in the fight against fascism.

In more recent times I am also proud to have known poets such as Jim Craig who served in the Second Battalion the Parachute Regiment 1962-1974) reaching the rank of corporal and Sean McBride who like Jim also served in the Second Battalion the Parachute Regiment from 1983-1995 and also reached the rank of Corporal. It is for these men and many more and women like them I have written this poem entitled Bloodstained and I make no apologies for having a swipe at the political classes of all nations as it is on their hands the blood of the fallen and nightmares of many others, must forever rest.

Bloodstained

I remember uncles who never talked about war
they preferred to talk of those actions that caused them
the horrors of watching comrades die
I remember a mother who told me
boys don’t cry
and a dad who said that real men do
when they see injustice and
hatred cause by fear
so let me make it clear
when politicians pose for the photographers in tanks
whilst giving thanks to God
by quoting poetry from the ruling classes
I remember my father’s words
I am angry beyond rage
when I see politicians
with blood stained hands
hogging centre stage
believing that wearing a poppy
shows they care
I despair at this Union jackanory
the glory hunting
which shows they never served anyone but themselves
and the arms industry
meanwhile nations
stand in dignity
to mourn those to who never came home
give thanks for those did
and watch the greedy make fools of humanity
by allowing this insanity
to happen time and time again
the political classes who send
the young to die
at the going down of the sun
we will see hands covered in blood
and in the morning we will remember
them

@ Gayle Smith 2016

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