Tag Archive | Mhairi Black

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 patties 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 am sure would 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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On This Day 

On day 7 of NaPoWriMo I celebrate a birthday. Not my birthday you understand but the birthday of the Scottish National Party (SNP) of whom I am proud to be a member as it was on the 7th of April 1934 that the party was born, so I thought it only right to commemorate my party’s birthday by writing this poem for my SNP family and wishing our party many more years of success I’ve titled the poem On This Day , I hope you enjoy the read 
On This Day,

On this day we remember 

the cause we represent 

we must never be content 

with second best in any aspect of our lives 

we survived the hard times 

they moulded us in to fighters 

for a vision of a future free from fear

in which the obscenity of nuclear weapons 

are banished forever from the Clyde 

we will have a country

 in which we can have pride 

where people matter far more than image 

Britishness, will be consigned to history 

but until the day comes 

we must walk with dignity 

remembering both past and present 

 heroes and heroines of our movement 

yes there will always be room improvement 

but on this day remember 

Donald Stewart the man who was our first MP 

to gain a seat at a Westminster General Election 

Margo MacDonald, and Alison Hunter 

whose talents secured famous victories 

in Labour’s industrial heartlands 

community champions like Bashir Ahmed and Jim Mitchell 

Yes I know we wax lyrical on 

the political skills of Nicola 

and have been entertained and educated

by listening to the oratory  and intellect of Alex Salmond.

further back in time we had   Jim Sillars, Winnie Ewing,  and Jimmy Reid ,

Now it’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik and  Mhairi Black 

who are the fresh voices the party need 

to deal with the challenges of our times 

the UK has reached the end of the line 

let us not mourn 

It is time for a better Scotland to be born 

let’s wave goodbye to the union jack 

by showing our people there is a better way to be 

Independent and free from the chains of colonial rule 

and the poverty it has brought to our nation 

my inspiration 

comes from members in every branch 

the foot soldiers  who climbed  stairs and filled envelopes 

before chapping doors and putting leaflets through letter boxes 

in the name of the cause 

we are proud to uphold 

no amount of silver and gold 

can buy our principled position 

of saying no to a country run by elites

we must explain to the voters 

why we will never be content 

to accept second best 

our history won’t let us 

as we remember them 

who fought the fight before us 

only to be faced with a chorus of apathy 

and the oft repeated line 

my father voted Labour 

and if was good for him 

then it’s good enough for me 

we as SNP supporters were dismissed without a hearing 

if it never deterred our predecessors 

it won’t stop us now 

in every city , town , and village 

we will campaign with honesty 

for the future we know is ours 

we have never wanted power

for the sake of having it 

we want to transform our country 

and the lives of those who live in it 

it is for this reason alone  we exist 

we must not ignore the fact 

we follow in the footsteps of giants 

and on this day and every day 

we will remember them 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

The Tartan Tights Awards 2015

Hey Readers Welcome to the fourth annual tartan tights awards and every year they seem to get bigger. This is the case again this year with more than ever to give out so forget the golden globes these are the awards to win. Apart from the awards for which I hope you are all dressed up in your virtual finery, this is a time to celebrate those who’ve made my world a better and more entertaining place by simply being in it. So let’s crack on and see whose won what this year and given me moments to cherish and made 2015 a  better year than it might have been.

I start these awards with my politician of the year and though First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has had a brilliant year leading the SNP to the most sensational results in her party’s history, it is a beneficiary of that never to be forgotten night in May who succeeds her party leader  in picking up this award.  In defeating Douglas Alexander she caused one of the biggest political earthquakes on a night which had plenty of them,  she became the youngest MP ever to be elected in the democratic age. Make no mistake this is a young woman with a very big future Indeed her maiden speech  was widely acclaimed as the best heard at Westminster for many years. This however is not a woman who is content to rest on her laurels and in the time since her election she has shown that she is a woman of  passion, power, purpose, and principles. My 2015 tartan tights politician of the year is the brilliant Mhairi Black.

My young politician of the year is like her predecessor Laura Doherty a member of the SNP and is also a member of the Shettleston branch of the party. Since this is my local branch I know this fighting force of nature well and during the successful campaign in Glasgow East she seemed to be everywhere. Not only was this dynamo buzzing all around the East End of Glasgow she was also encouraging others to do the same. I am, I have to say very happy to announce that the thoroughly deserved winner of the young politician of the year is the flame haired genius pictured below, the lovely Morgan Horn.

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My vision of Scotland award goes to that politician or member of the public who by their actions have made Scotland a better and fairer place. This year this award goes to someone who rose to prominence during our independence referendum in which she gave many impassioned speeches in support of a yes vote which she believed would bring about a fairer more inclusive Scotland than would be possible under Westminster a socialist Scotland which she said would be bolder than the version of independence offered by the SNP. This fair but feisty feminist was a great asset to the Yes campaign and was able to connect to voters who for so long were thought to be beyond the reach of traditional nationalists. Now a columnist for the pro independence newspaper The National , her columns are always insightful, thought provoking and a damn good read. So for her commitment to a fairer more inclusive Scotland and presenting alternative vision of independence which I believe  not only needs to be heard but also needs to  articulated my vision of Scotland award goes to Cat Boyd.

My next award is the Unsung Hero/Heroine Award. This award goes to the politician who represents their party quietly and without fuss and often restores people’s faith in politics and political system as they do so, Last year this award was won by Caron Lindsay of the Liberal Democrats but this year it goes to a member of the Green Party A fellow poet she will speak out the issues that concern her, she is after all well versed on such matters. Ladies and gentlemen my  unsung heroine for 2015 is that patron saint of poetic polemics Anna Crow.

Now it’s time for my One To Watch award. As the title suggests, this is someone who I think will go to bigger and better things and become more widely known than they are at the moment as they have the talent and potential to shape to the future of our nation Our winner this year is someone who I think is great asset to their party and yet again their party is my party On election night she defeated one of my least favourite opponents when she removed Jimmy Hood from Lanark And Hamilton East My one to watch award goes to Angela Crawley.

My Impact Award goes to the politician who has made the biggest impact on one or more issues in the past year and like my politician of the year this was a straight fight between two members of the same party Mhairi Black and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. This time it was Nicola who prevailed though Mhairi ran her a lot closer than any of her political opponents. In what was a memorable year for her she managed something even Alex Salmond couldn’t and working in partnership with Plaid Cymru and The Greens  got the UK General Election debates increased from what the UK press and media like to call the three main political parties Conservative, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats increased not to four as the so-called big three parties in the Westminster village wanted . I  believe they were going to include UKIP probably because every village needs an idiot, but to seven which was a much fairer representation of British democracy.

Not content with winning TV appearances  she then set about winning the debates and with team progress of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and The Greens set about the Westminster old boys network in spectacular style. A force for change Nicola also launched the first ever SNP woman’s manifesto slaughtered Jim Murphy in the Scottish TV debates and has regularly trounced unionist party leaders in the Scottish Parliament by maintaining her dignity whilst they lose theirs. If that’s not making an impact I don’t know what so the winner of this year’s impact award is Nicola Sturgeon.

My last political blog is for political blogger of the year and despite some brilliant posts by Bella Caledonia, and the ever wonderful Burdz Eye View, in an outstanding year when he published two or is it three volumes of his work he has been yapping, yelping, and biting the hand that patronises more often than ever before my winner for the second year in a row is Paul Kavangh for Wee Ginger Dug.  

Having given out my political awards it’s now time to focus on the community awards and what better place to start than with blogger of the year.  This is never an easy decision but this year I have split this category in to two separate awards  Scottish blogger of the year and International blogger of the year. The later category is for bloggers not resident in Scotland but more of that in a moment, firstly let’s focus on Scotland  It is I think fair to say that Scotland has a number of talented bloggers and last year’s winner Last Year’s Girl is the perfect example of what I like in a blog it has to be informative with content worth reading but it also needs to written in that kind of chatty style that would make me want to read it again and this year’s winner certainly has that style. It is for that reason she beat off challenges from A Life With Frills, Colours And Carousels, and Frankly Ms Shankly and the winner of the Scottish Blogger of the Year is Claire Smith for G Is For Gingers.

2015 is the year that I began to chat more to other bloggers both inside and outside Scotland. This meant joining lots of blogger chat groups and I’ve even hosted a couple of them.  It is with this in mind I have come up with a new award of International blogger of the Year. This is in tribute to all the fantastic bloggers from the other nations in the British And Irish Isles. Most prominent amongst them are  All Things Beautiful , AliCaitrin, Becky Bedbug, Blogs All Beautyy, Cardigan Jezabel, Colours Of A Rose,  Country Pearls, Dorkface Blog,  Dungarees And Donuts, Forever Amber,  Jessica Lauren Hatcher, Mini Mouse Chic,  and  Naturally Beige, As you can imagine trying to pick a winner from that little list wasn’t easy but in the end I had only had one choice to make, and I make it not just for the quality of her blog but for the fact that she isn’t afraid to speak out on the issues that matter to her. She is similar in that respect to the wee ginger dug and her post on challenging the main stream media (the dug will be proud) to use plus size models to advertise woman’s wear was the best I’ve read all all year so my first ever International Blogger of the year is Olivia Jade Thirsten for Dungarees And Donuts.  

My next award is activist of the year and since i think of activism in terms of community empowerment rather than just in it the political sense of the word then it is in the right category 
Explanation over I can now tell you that this was the easiest decisions of the night You see my winner is a fellow blogger who in an effort to empower other girls and indeed some more mature women invented the idea of the girl gang to help us encourage each other to become better bloggers. So to those the blogging world it will come as no surprise that my winner of my Activist of the Year is  Dorkface Blog also to her family and friends by her given name Jemma Humphreys.

My Young activist is of the  Year someone who was has made her mark not just in the world of spoken word but also a fiery campaigner on issues which range from woman’s rights to Scottish Independence and was very active in the campaign to save the Blue Chair Cafe. A regular supporter of Words And Music she was the featured writer who led us in to Christmas my tartantights young activist of the year pictured below enjoying the company of friends is the lovely and highly talented Kirsty Nicolson.

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Now the focus switches from communities to culture and where better to start with the awards for poets and poetry it is after all my art of choice and the one with which I have most direct involvement.

The first poetry award is that for The Best Poetry Performance of the Year. In a year filled with top quality performances I decided that this year’s winner would not be a 50 minute show at the Edinburgh though I ,did see some good ones. Well, I always do you know. However, after much consideration I selected a set from the Christmas Words and Music in the wee back room.  Far giving us a fuzzy festive feeling our winner read a set of three poems on the devastating impact of depression and left those who heard it gobsmacked by the power of what was one of the best sets  heard at Words And Music for many a long year  My winner of the best poetry performance of 2015 is JJ Turner.  

My next show is for the best show at the fringe. As always I saw a lot of quality shows and there were many others I would liked to have seen but of those who did there was a very clear winner.  I say this because with Agnes Torok and Hannah Chutzpah I knew at least to a certain extent what to expect namely top quality poetry of the highest possible calibre and that is exactly what they delivered but knowing how I hated sketch shows it was going to take the mother of all sketch shows to convert me from a deeply entrenched position. There are however exceptions to every rule and when a young London lass handed me a flyer for her show she was so confident I would love her show she even offered to buy me a drink if I didn’t enjoy it.  Needless to say the woman in question  Yes I do mean you Katie Norris was proved right and in the words of a certain Simon Cowell ‘I didn’t like it I loved it and that’s why my choice for the best show at the fringe is the best double act to hit the British and Irish Isles since the days of Wood and Walters and The Two Ronnie’s the brilliant Norris And Parker for All Our Friends Are Dead. Thankfully as you can see  from the picture below where this deadly double act are pictured with yours truly the girls are very much alive.

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Next I turn to the Most Original Show of the year and this year the award goes to a show which had the most multi cultural cast I have ever been involved in. Well when you’ve got South African gospel choirs , and Canadian jazz musician as well as the fantastic Anti-Poets it’s going one of those mights which will live long in the memory.  To organise such a cast takes time and effort of the magnitude which deserves be recognised  and rewarded  and that is why the most original show of 2015 goes to Rose Fraser Ritchie for Fringe Of The Fringe. 

My next award is new award and it is given in memory of the late Sandy Hutchison a well respected poet and traditional musician who passed away at the end of the year. Sandy was a man who loved language be it expressed in the lines of a poem or the lyrics of a song, he also loved both Scotland and the wider world but had a particular passion for the country he called home  To win this award the winner needs to demonstrate both their love of both language and Scotland. Indeed I want them to show their Scotland and make it so real I can imagine being a part of it so strong is the power of  their words and images and this year for showing his Scotland in such an authentic even the BBC/MSM can’t deny the reality of it I award the first Sandy Hutchison Memorial Award to Shaun Moore.

As some of you will no doubt know, I am a big comedy fan so I thought it was time to introduce award which reflected that so this new award is for the Live Comedy Show of the Year. This is the event which had me giggling so much I nearly proved the truth of that tenna lady advert that oops moments happen. I went to this show at Webster’s Theatre in the spring of last year and I’m still smiling and giggling now as I do every time I think of it. With an amazingly talented cast of talented local performers my choice of my comedy of the year is The Graduettes  . 

Next up is an another new award for the most inclusive show of the year. This takes me back to a windswept Evening in February when as part of LGBTI History Month I along with many others including  the excellent  A J McKenna, and the magnificent Dave Lee Morgan was privileged to play my part in a truly amazing night of poetry, stories, and song this was a show in which everyone felt valued and proud to be a part of. The winner of the most inclusive show of the year is Colin McGuire for Talking Heids.  

Talking of the LGBTI community brings me on to the topic of equality and it’s now time to name my Equality Champion and this year this award is a very easy choice.
It goes to someone who when just a party activist came up with the innovative idea of holding the biggest LGBTI event Scotland has ever seen. Thanks to his determination  the event took place and was held in early February to great acclaim from not only from participants and received favourable coverage from press and media. It was I have to say  one of my few regrets of the last year that I was unable to attend what I heard from all I knew who attended a truly inspiring day.  In May this talented and determined young man was elected to Westminster to represent his local area and the people he grew up amongst as he won Glasgow South East for the SNP as he played his party in the party’s landslide victory. In his acceptance speech he said he had done ‘no bad for a boy from Castlemilk ‘ and how he right he was  It is fair to say that  I think we will hearing a lot more from this year’s equality champion Stewart MacDonald.

The award for Quote of the Year comes from the maiden speech of yet another newly elected MP. This time Ian Blackford takes the title for warning the Westminster establishment that  they are in for a big disappointment if they think we are going to play the game by their rules with little gem  as he told them ‘We are not here to settle down, we are here to settle up’.

Moving on from words to music It is time for Musician of the year This has yet again
been a difficult choice to make as every year I seem to find more and more top quality musicians from which to choose to add to those I already know Those considered include Bob Leslie, Pauline Bradley, and the lovely Chrissy Barnacle, but my winner is a lass from
Montrose that I had the privilege of seeing at the Royal Concert Hall at the Danny Kyle Open Stage and she warmed my heart on a cold winter’s Sunday with a lovely easy listening voice. The fact that she writes her own songs is also something that gave her an edge as did the fact that is was only 17 at the time of that performance So my musician of the year for 2015 is Rona MacFarlane.

Next up is my event of the year and believe me there was only ever going to be one winner. As a trans woman no words can describe  how happy I was to attend this event and to do so as a VIP guest was beyond my wildest dreams. From the moment I boarded the train to the SECC to when I reluctantly had to make the journey home, I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier or more empowered and that’s why  my event of the year  for 2015 is The Girls Day Out Show.  (see deliberately placed promotional photograph) Well I can’t wait till this year’s show and I want to tell the girls of all ages to attend and enjoy a great day)

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The Girls Day Out is for the future but it’s time to get back to present and get on with the awards and whilst the X-Factor may claim it’s time to face the music I prefer to celebrate it and what better way to so than by naming my Best New Band and this year my choice proved that just like my football team the glorious Glasgow Celtic I can also score last minute winners. I say this I saw this band at the December edition of Rally And Broad and they blew all other competitors completely out of the water with a set I can only describe as sensational.  My best new band of 2015 pictured below are the amazing Teen Canteen.

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Next up is the Campaign of the Year and my winner demonstrated spirit and guts in taking on Glasgow City Council and winning the right to stay open . A  community cafe which has become a haven for poets and performers with weekly Wednesday night spoken word events, it was a campaign in which I was proud to play a small part, though so many people did so much more. My campaign of the year goes to Save The Blue Chair.

From campaigns I move on to songs and my song of the year was heard back in the cold dark days of January on yet another night at the Danny Kyle. This was one of those songs which was so catchy you just couldn’t help wanting to sing along. A comedy song it not only made me want to sing it gave me a doze of the giggles My song of the year for 2015 is Martha Healy and Too Many Vodka’s In My Cranberry Juice.

Now on to my venue of the year. and this year of all years and Words And Music celebrated 25 years at Sammy Dow’s before continuing our story at the Stag’s Head which is the same place under a new name, my venue of has to be the wee back room in the place we call home.

As you know I always get a buzz from seeing new talent on the performance scene and I have to say that the standard
of poets, musicians, and performance artists both in Scotland and the UK has never been higher. Amongst those considered for this award were Anna Crow , Kirsty Nicolson, and Peter Russell, who as regular readers of this blog will know are all top quality poets, From the world of music Rona MacFarlane was also carefully considered and to show that age is no barrier to talent Russell Wilson was another I thought of in this category. However this year’s winner comes from the world of comedy. No it isn’t Gordon Brown seeking a new career, comedians are supposed to be funny so my award goes to yet another member of the Blue Chair family. Our winner describes himself as the Alice Cooper of Stand Up Comedy his style is educational, edgy, and entertaining. My discovery of the year is Gabriel Featherstone

As for my comeback of the year I would normally give this to a poet who returned to the performance scene after a long absence. This year it is slightly different and I give my award not to an individual but a group. This is a group I was proud to be a part of back in the day but in 1995 the group disbanded as we all went our separate ways and got on with what we had to get on with. 20 years later, the group had not only re-formed with many of the original members and put on their first show in two decades. Under the direction of Neil Shackleton their production of The Hired Man led to one of my most emotional nights of the year and my comeback of the year award goes to GAP Community Theatre Group.

My best sporting moment of the year is dedicated to the voters in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for selecting Andy Murray as the well deserved winner of the award for his decisive role in winning Britain their first Davis Cup Win since 1936.

My Team of the Year is the British Davis Cup Tennis Team also known as Dunblane Tennis Club. Well where would British tennis be without Andy And Jamie Murray? I’ll tell you exactly where it would be playing Division Z matches and losing to Luxembourg that’s where and I won’t hear blinkered fools attempt to tell me otherwise.

From sport I move on to one of my favourite awards The I Think I Must Be Mad Award. This is given for friendship which goes above and beyond the call of duty. In other words this award is for the friend who not only puts up with my bad days but as and when required steps in to sort them out and as I’m sure last year’s winner Audrey Marshall would be only too willing to testify this is not an easy task. I have to say however in this year’s winner Audrey has a very worthy successor. You see our winner is a woman of faith who by her gentle kindness, keeps my feet on the ground, my head out the clouds, and my heart in the book. It was she who selected the passage on which I based my entry for the Faith and Unbelief poetry competition, she is to me at least Scotland’s Hidden Treasure, and the well deserved winner of the I Think I Must Be Mad Award is Samantha Hands.

Now I move on to The Lifetime Achievement Award This award is not given lightly and recipient has to have served their community, culture, or organisation, for at least 20 years. Like all of previous winners this year’s choice has served this time and more. Our winner is from the world of traditional music and has taught generations of young musicians at the Comalthas Irish Minstrels over the last 40 plus years Inducted in to Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame at the recent Traditional Music Awards, former BBC Young Musician of the Year Paddy Callaghan said of this year’s winner that he doubted he would be the same performer without the help he received from him, and in a chat at St Patrick’s family fun day my friend Maryanne Hartness said on seeing one his daughters playing with St Roch’s Celi Band that he had done so much for our Celtic community and deserved to recognised for his contribution to our culture. These are sentiments with which I wholeheartedly agree and I pay my small tribute by awarding the 2015 tartan tights Lifetime Achievement Award to Frank McArdle.

So at last it’s time for the main choices that of my man and woman of the year and as always I’ll start with my Man of the Year. The past year has been an interesting one for many of the potential candidates I know and a significant number of them rose to the challenge the year provided in innovative ways and around eight or so were viewed before I selected the final three from which to choose my winner. The three candidates who reached the podium places this year were Shaun Moore, Stewart MacDonald, and Chris Young. Of those nominated I will if I may, start with Shaun. My reason for nominating Shaun was for his commitment to both the independence movement and the more importantly the spoken word scene in which he is gaining a deserved reputation as a poet of considerable stature. This reputation was greatly enhanced when he organised the first Paisley spoken word slam the sma shot’s big shot was an outstanding success and showed that Shaun is a man who is as passionate about poetry as he is his political beliefs.

The next candidate to be considered was Stewart MacDonald whose achievements have already well documented in this post and quite rightly so. After all, organising the biggest ever LGBTI political event ever staged in your country is something of which you should be justifiably proud , but Stewart is not one to seek the limelight so I guess I’ll have to trumpet his achievement for him and believe me I am happy to do so.

In the end however both guys were beaten by a man who had a very mixed year and proved the truth of the old saying what you lose on the roundabouts you gain on the swings. You see our man of the year, like so many of us on spoken word scene has an interest in politics his party of choice being the Liberal Democrats so it has to be said whilst he was at long last enjoying success in the world of poetry winning practically everything he entered including the Words and Music championship he had long coveted, his political adventures were somewhat less fruitful failing to save his deposit at both the General Election where he fought the Glasgow Central constituency and the subsequent Carlton by-election caused by the election of the local councillor as the local MP. However it has often been said that you learn more about the character of someone by the way they react to defeat than you do when they celebrate their victories. In this case the man concerned showed humility in his successes and dignity in his defeats, it for this reason and a million others that I am proud to say my tartan tights Man of the Year for 2015 is Chris Young.

Chris pictured below receiving the Hughie Healy Memorial Trophy as Words And Music Champion from myself and Jim King.
image

Finally I come to my last award of the evening and that is my Woman of the Year. If selecting a man of the year was a hard task and it was, then choosing my woman of the year was even harder as more women than men play an important role in my life. Among those considered before I made my decision were Agnes Torok, Leanne MacKay, Lesley MacKay, Kirsty Nicolson, Samantha Hands and Victoria Hamilton and believe me when I say all of them had a real chance of winning right until the last half hour before decision time. Eventually however after much procrastination I finally made my choice and that choice was in favour not of a poet, nor a woman of faith, but a kick ass beauty consultant who has been a constant support and encouragement to me in more ways than I can ever list. So my tartan tights Woman Of The Year is the lovely Cheryl McHugh.

So there you have it, we’ve finally reached the end of our tartan tights awards ceremony for 2015. I offer my congratulations to all our winners and all those nominated and thank them for making 2015 an entertaining and enjoyable year for me and as I raise my glass to them all I look forward to 2016 and what ever challenges it may bring us I am sure we will face them with dignity It is with this message I wish you all you wish yourself and hope you’ll continue to read tartan tights throughout the coming year.

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

History Maker (A Poem For The Right Honourable Mhairi Black MP)

Hey everyone. As the unionists and their friends in certain sections of the mainstream media step up their attacks on the so-called cybernats some of us are much to there great annoyance watching the behaviour of some of the less desirable element of unionism otherwise known as the Cyber Brits. As recently as this weekend I saw one of their number refer to Scotland’s youngest MP The Right Honourable Mhairi Black as a foul mouthed slut.

It is my opinion to make such a vile attack on Mhairi borders on criminality and the Honourable Member For Paisley And Renfrewshire South could bring a law suit against this individual and win it with a fair degree of ease. More likely however she will just laugh it off and think on the bitterness of the person concerned.

I however as a trans woman in my early fifties and unable to have children find it slightly more difficult to ignore which is why I have written this poem for our youngest Member of Parliament. I have titled it History Maker I hope you enjoy the read.

History Maker

The youngest MP in the democratic age
they questioned her right to be on the stage
Westminster provides
to the world
In their eyes she was just
a daft lassie
an immature wee girl
but the voters of Paisley and Renfrewshire South thought otherwise
sick of spin and lies
they elected her to the mother of parliaments
replacing a respected former cabinet minister
Mhairi was a history maker
Winning a seat from Labour many said could not be won
Especially against one of their most capable MP’s
and certainly not by a youngster
who might get lippy with customers in the chippy
as they enjoyed a bit of friendly banter
but unable to live up to her patter
would surely crack under the glare of publicity
Of course they when were proved wrong
it didn’t take long for the sinister forces
to get to work
desperate they searched tweets from five years ago
made when she was only 15 years old
they may have found tabloid gold or so they believed
Though the motivation will be perceived to be jealously
she has achieved more in 300 minutes
than their union has in 300 years
plus
It was with disgust I read that some bitter cyber brit
called our Mhairi a foul mouthed slut
And make no mistake she is our Mhairi
If we are anything we are a family with all the disagreements families have behind close doors
well we all do
meanwhile the unionists demand three cheers for the red white and blue
cheers they won’t get from her or me
we can see the road to a better nation
this inspirational women has lit
a flame of hope which will not be put out
by those as and such as those
the Smith Commission and the Scotland Bill are the emperor’s new clothes
Mhairi can see the naked truth of that
It is most unedifying sight
for a young women who was elected an honourable member before she had graduated with honours
the voice of a new generation
she will not be beaten
by yesterday’s defeats
Instead she will stand with dignity
A woman of principle
walking forward to the future
not retreating to the past
a transwoman I can’t have children
but I am proud of a 20 year old
who can see the mythical kingdom
to which we are tied is united
only by greed
there is no thought for those in need
from an arrogant elite
concerned by the threat
to what they see as tradition
and the right to unchallenged privilege
that is all being British is about
Mhairi Black will not shout against this injustice
she will rage
some questioned whether she was ready
for the Westminster stage
I question whether Westminster is ready for her
this is no foul mouthed slut
It is the voice of a woman
I would be proud to call
daughter.

@ Gayle Smith 2015

Driving Seat

Hey everyone This is the second in a series of election based poems. This one covers the drama of the declarations and what the results may mean for Scotland and the future of the United Kingdom. Our opponents were given a reminder in the independence referendum that Scotland is a nation and and not a dependent colony. However, rather than listen they ignored that reminder so this time they received a rather more serious warning in the form of an electoral drubbing. It is something from which they would be well advised to learn. Failure to do so will have disterous consequences for both their parties and their union. I have titled this poem Driving Seat I hope you enjoy the read.

Driving Seat

As the results came in
we knew
it was going to be good
the exit polls predicted a landslide Nicola took to twitter
telling us not to believe them
but just hope for the best
I was like a child on christmas eve
waiting for Santa to bring me
the presents on my list.
One by one the results were declared
and I got even more than I asked than I asked for
Kilmarnock was first to come to the banner
the Western Isles stayed true
It seemed there was nothing
we couldn’t do
nowhere we couldn’t win
I was beginning to feel optimistic
as the first of the big beasts fell
Paisley and Renfrewshire South
turned yellow
or more accurately Black
as a 20 year old defeated a former Labour cabinet minister
on the road to becoming
our youngest ever MP
Next up the Western half of Dundee
where we had never won before in a Westminster election
but selecting the law man was a master stroke as we stormed to victory
Then came West Dunbartonshire
and the place where trident is stored
said in the words of the proclaimers trident no more
the lion was ready to roar
Scotland would no longer be ignored
In Falkirk West, Glenrothes, and Ochil
results showed we were getting vocal
we were making our voices heard From Dundee East to East Kilbride
the tartan tide was flooding Westminster
They will waive the rules
no longer
A stronger voice will now replace the feeble fearties
From East Renfrewshire to Midlothian
The people had spoken with one voice
The choice was clear to see
The SNP were stacking up seats
from Ayrshire to Aberdeen
Banff And Buchan to The Borders the days of meekly following Westminster orders
Were now confined to the history books
soon it would be Glasgow’s turn to say
there is another way and Labour would pay the price
for neglecting our city and our people
The Clyde was about to turn yellow
as one by one the stars crashed down
the night sky wept in despair
Those who should have been the heirs
to the tradition of MacLean
replaced by those who actually are
The price they have to pay
for dancing to the tunes of Old Etonians
in the hope they would be rewarded with ermine robes
the uniform of rogues
This wasn’t just a parcel of rogues
we were binning this was an entire gallery
The route was started in my seat       I now have a local MP who represents me who stands on the rock of principal.                   Majorities once thought to be invincible                                     toppled on the night to end them all South West, South, Central, North West won as Scotland celebrated the birth of a new dawn.                      A country more confident than in past years                                               No longer held hostage to fears and scare stories                                           or the myth that only Labour could stop the Tories.                      Arithmetic exposed that lie             on the night we gained seats in Dunfermline and Cumbernauld    old town and new.                          even our capital changed political hue.                                                            In every seat but one.                         as the sun rose to welcome              the golden dawn of morning.     This landslide was a warning            to the Westminster elite.      Scotland will not be treated as second class citizens any longer.   We have a stronger voice now.      and we intend to use it                        If you want to keep your united kingdom united.                                you cannot refuse to listen.             we had better be invited to the top table.                                                 where the real power lies.             This is not a nation you can cut down.                                                       to a size that fits you.                         we have moved on                           from the place you parked the bus. we are in the driving seat.                 we are moving to a different destination

@Gayle Smith 2015

The Day Our People Found Their Voice Was Scotland’s Beautiful Thursday

Hey everyone It is now a week since the General Election and the tartan tsumani that was the election of 56 MP’s to Westminster. As I had said in my pre election post on this blog I expected the party to do well, after all the polls had been predicting we would for at least a year but as many SNP supporters and members know there is no day like polling day for having your dreams cruelly shattered.

At least that’s the way it used to be but this year I sensed there was something different in the air and something wasn’t just optimism it was genuine belief. A belief we could do something we had never done before we could go in to the traditional Labour Party heartlands and win at a UK election.

I think there were four factors at play which helped us in this fight. The first and probably primary amongst them was the fact that the independence referendum had galvanised Scotland in a way the likes of which had never been in my lifetime. Secondly voters did not see Jim Murphy or indeed Ed Milliband as leadership material and did not believe they could win. There was also the fact that Nicola Sturgeon played a brilliant campaign which no unionist was able to match coming across to voters as a genuine but capable woman who was prepared to reach out to the forces of progressive politics throughout the United Kingdom. And last but by means least the fact that the Labour Party campaigned with The Conservatives for three years during the referendum buries once and for all that these parties are in any way different.

When faced with these facts the Labour Party adopted a campaign style which can only be described as shambolic. It would seem to me at least that they knew what was going to happen and had neither the will nor the ability to stop it. From the first declaration when the SNP’s Alan Brown gained Kilmarnock from Cathy Jamieson the writing was on the wall for a party which had become both arrogant and complacent to a Scottish vote they regarded with haughty disdain.

It was all smiles from the Western Isles when the next declaration came through and the likable charmer that is Angus Brendan McNeill held the seat he first won in 2005 when he gained it from Labour’s Callum MacDonald and brought it back to the SNP family for the first time since 1987 Labour had on the retirement of SNP stalwart Donald Stewart.

If this result wasn’t entirely unexpected then the next one most certainly wasn’t at least not in my opinion. The political commentators may not have expected this result but I had been expecting it for months as I had been very positive reports from friends in the constituency. This marked the defeat of the first of Labour’s big beasts as Paisley And Renfrewshire South returned the youngest MP in Scotland and in Britain as 20 year old student Mhairi Black gained the seat for the SNP from the man who was Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander.

To his great credit Douglas gave one of the most dignified concession speeches of the night and his congratulations to Mhairi came from a heart of a man who accepted his defeat with good grace and was a credit to the colours he wore.

You know there are certain people of my acquaintance who say that Mhairi is too young to be an MP as she hasn’t been properly tested yet. Quite what planet these people are living on I really don’t know as I believe this campaign in which she had take on one of Labour’s most formidable fighters and a man who has been at the top table of British politics and would have been there again had his party won the election has tested her in ways unimaginable to me or many others and she has passed those tests with flying colours.

Personally, I think anyone who doubts the calibre of this amazingly talented young woman must have graduated not from university but the Craig Brown school of optimism. Craig Brown for those of you who don’t follow the fortunes of the Scotland National football team was once our manager and was so over cautious at giving youth a chance that the in joke amongst Scotland fans was that when giving a 27 year old their debut he would describe them as a promising youngster. Now I don’t know about you, but I prefer the attitude of Scotland’s greatest ever manager Jock Stein who held fast to the view that if you were good enough you were old enough and Mhairi is certainly good enough.

The next result was Dundee West. As Dundee had given the highest yes vote in last September’s independence referendum this was a seat I fully expected us to win. This was one of our top target seats in 2010 and that occasion despite a great campaign it was held by Labour’s Jim McGovern with a majority of over 7,000. Realising the tide of public opinion was against his party Mr McGovern dramatically resigned as candidate during the campaign and it was a fitting reward for Chris Law that he turned a Labour majority of 7,000 to an SNP majority of 17,000.

This result was followed by West Dunbartonshire where Labour’s Gemma Doyle was dramatically unseated by SNP candidate Martin Monaghan in a seat even I, and I’m optimistic by nature wasn’t sure we could win. Though the area like Dundee the area had voted yes in September. On hearing this result I began to realise that I had over estimated the support for all opposition parties and particularly Labour.

One by one the seats to started to fall and I was reminded of that classic Paul Weller song Walls Come Tumbling Down. Falkirk West, Ochil And South Perthshire and Glenrothes early gains for great candidates and John McNally, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik, and Peter Grant whose swing was one of the biggest of the night in a seat I had hoped but not expected to come to the banner will make brilliant representatives and give their areas a voice which for so many years has remained unheard

East Kilbride so long a Labour stronghold had been gained in the 2011 Scottish Election by Linda Fabianni so it is fair to say I was expecting victory for Dr Lisa Cameron and she didn’t disappoint ending the parliamentary career of Labour’s Michael McCann. In Midlothian the SNP council leader Owen Thomson gained a seat which I thought would be a Labour hold. I had based my belief on the fact the Labour candidate Kenny Young had won a council by-election against the tide last November so I therefore believed he may be able to do the same again by playing the local card against a man who as council leader has had to make some very tough decisions. Fortunately however this was not the case and Midlothian was another addition to the list of SNP gains.

The next result really pleased me and I was delighted when I heard Dundee East had been retained by our Depute Leader Stewart Hosie whose sterling work for our party and our country was rewarded with an increased majority. This is a seat which like the Western Isles has a long standing tradition of voting for the party but Stewart Hosie is a man who will never take that tradition for granted and that is why this dedicated nationalist just keeps on winning. Like Alex Salmond who went on to win Gordon later on the night, despite Liberal Democrat predictions he would lose to Christine Jardine this is a man who knows the only way to make a seat safe is to do the job you were elected to do and represent the people of your constituency. That is exactly what he has done since his election in 2005 and why he was re-elected to serve them again.

The results at this stage indicated that Labour were on course for a disastrous night in Scotland but it was the next three seats which turned that disaster into their greatest ever nightmare when Margaret Ferrier gained Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Roger Mullin gained Gordon Brown’s old seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and party leader Jim Murphy lost his East Renfrewshire seat to Kirsten Oswald. Of these results I had only expected potential gain and that was Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. As for Rutherglen And Hamilton West and East Renfrewshire I had said that Labour were to lose these seats they would be in meltdown and now I was beginning to realise how accurate that comment actually was.

Another seat I put in the hard to win category was Motherwell And Wishaw but as was the case with the case with the rest of Scotland this was yet another SNP Gain with Marion Fellows defeating the sitting MP Frank Roy. This declaration came at the time when Glasgow was getting ready to declare and this was the city Labour even a bad night could not afford to lose. However they did lose and lose spectacularly failing to hold a single seat in the city which was once the beating heart of Red Clydeside. One by one the dominoes fell starting in my own seat of Glasgow East where Natalie criused home defeating the outgoing Labour MP Margaret Curran by more than 10,000 votes This it has be to said was personal highlight on a night where there were so many it was almost impossible to choose. This was my seat, my conmstitutency the place where i campaigned and to see our magnificent Glasgow East campaign rewarded for all our hard work was a truly fantastic feeling. Natalie’s success was quickly followed by a stunning success in the seat even our most optimistic supporters said she couldn’t as she unseated Willie Bain in the seat we even told ourselves we wouldn’t take with one of the largest swings of the night to claim Glasgow North East. Indeed not only did Anne win the seat she gained the biggest majority in Glasgow in the process.

There were fantastic wins for Chris Stephens in Glasgow South West where he crushed unionist hardliner Ian Davidson, Stewart McDonald in the neighbouring seat of Glasgow South where he unseated the equally hard-line Tom Harris and Alison Thewliss who defeated former Deputy Leader of Labour in Scotland Anas Sarwar. The route was completed when Patrick Grady gained Glasgow North And Carol Monaghan claimed the scalp of John Robertson the man who succeded the late Donald Dewar in the part of Glasgow which was formerly Anniesland and is now known as Glasgow North West.
So Glasgow had given the Labour Party the red card and replaced the red hand of the past with the bright yellow jersey of the future

It was a similar story in North Lanarkshire with Airdrie And Shotts, Coatbridge Chryston And Bellshill and Cunbernauld Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East all changing their political colours. These results meant the end of the road for Labour veteran Tom Clarke who lost Coatbridge to Phil Boswell and not a moment too soon in my opinion, and Greg McClymont who was widely tipped as one of Labour’s rising stars and whose chance I am sure will come again if he gives it a decade or so.

I have to say I really enjoyed the victory of Angela Crawlwey in Lanark And Hamilton East where she ended the political career of the woeful Jimmy Hood. This gives me particular pleasure as this was a man so blinded by prejudice that he said he would vote against Independence even if Scotland could prove it would be the richest country on earth. This to me was stupidity beyond belief and unworthy an elected representative and it more than likely playerd a significant part in his downfall.

I also was happy for Hannah Bardell who won Livingston the seat her mother contested in 2010 and Tommy Sheppard the man who co-founded The Stand Comedy Club and is a former member of the Labour Party’s Scottish Executive who became SNP MP for Edinburgh Eastern in the wee small hours of Friday morning.

The unionist parties did gain some very small crumbs of comfort winning one seat each. Alasdair Carmichael holding on to Orkney And Shetland for the Liberal Democrats David Mundell keeping his place as Scotland’s only Conservative winning Clydesdale Ettrickdale And Dumfrieshie for the 3rd time and Ian Murray holding on in Edinburgh Southern in a seat which saw the SNP rise from fourth place to second. Well to paraphrase the classic Meatloaf song I say to them ‘Don’t be sad cause 3 out 59 ain’t bad. Indeed to paraphrase another line from the same song ‘Unionists can talk all night but that ain’t getting them nowhere. This is especially true whem you listen to embittered Labour candidates such as Tom Harris who had the audicity to blame the voters for not listening to Labour who in his words were winning the arguments on the doorsteps. This is completely delusional and shows just how out of touch his party really are with the ordinary Scottish voter. Indeed I would go as far as to say that the trouble for the Labour Party was the voters were actually listening and they didn’t like what they were hearing one little bit.

With Eilidh Whiteford retaining Banff and Buchan, Angus Robertson holding Moray. Mike Weir keeping Angus in the SNP family, despite my fears of a potential Tory tactical vote and Pete Wishart doubling his majority and reclaiming Perth and North Perthshire the SNP retained all of the six seats which they held in the last parliament.

As the rest of the Scottish results came in it was clear this was going to be a landslide for the SNP who took both seats in Aberdeen from the Labour Party and won seats I wouldn’t even have thought were possible at the beginning of the evening. These included North Ayrshire And Arran where SNP candidate Patricia Gibson got an early birthday present defeating Labour’s only real socialist at Westminster Katy Clarke. Irvine And Central Ayrshire where Doctor Philpa Whiteford ended the career of long serving Labour MP Brian Donahoe and Ayr where Cori Wilson gained the seat from Labour’s Sandra Osborne.

Whilst the Liberal Democrats may not have had as far to fall as the Labour Party they still fell from a significent height and lost some real political big hitters in the process. The wee small hours of Friday morning saw the end of the road for former Scottish Secetary Michael Moore who lost his Roxburgh Selkirk And Berwickshire seat to Callum Kerr in the last Scottish seat to be declared. Mr Moore would be joining former party leader Charles Kennedy whose 32 year career was brought to an end by the voters of Ross, Syke, And Lochabar who elected the SNP’s Ian Blackford to take his place, and Danny Alexander who lost out to the SNP leader of Highland council Drew Hendry and paid the price for being George Osborne’s Scottish voice at the treasury.

On a personal level I have to admit to having a degree of sympathy for Jo Swinson who lost to John Nicholson in East Dunbartonshire and perhaps more than any other defeated MP I can say I’m truly sorry to lose her from parliament. The work she has done on behalf of women and girls has been important and it is in future generations we will see what I am sure will be known as the Swinson legacy.

So with the Scottish election all wrapped up it was I have to say a great night for my party. As for the results in England And Wales that is a matter for the people of those nations to decide and they decided that as a whole they wanted a Conservative government. Whilst this is a disappointment to me on a personal level I fully support their right to make that decision even if I disagree with it profoundly. Like Scotland there were some big name causalities who will no longer be walking the corridors of power, the most noticable being Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls and two leading Liberal Democrats in Simon Hughes, and Vince Cable.

So, many big beasts have been removed from both Scottish and Brittish politics but I have a very clear message for those Labour supporters and believe me I’ve met them already who would attempt to claim that the SNP success cost them the election. This is a message they need to hear whether they like it or not. You see I deal in facts the fact is their numbers don’t add up. Even if Labour had retained every one of the seats they lost even if they had won every seat in Scotland the fact is Scotland would still have a Conservative government. So you see voting SNP didn’t get Scotland a Tory government voting no to our independence did.

This is a fact from which there is no escape and no hiding place. This result proved that the people of Scotland are angry but believe me this is no protest vote this is the voice of an angry nation a nation which feels badly let down by the failures of unionist politicians many of whom cared more about self interest and their place on the expenses express than they did for people they were elected to represent. So with this in mind I would say that though I am confident I will see independence in my lifetime that for as long as Scotland remains in the UK we have to vote SNP to make sure we are not ignored.

Make no mistake this is not the same Scotland as it was at the time of the last Westminster election in 2010 or even in the early part of 2012 before the referendum was called. You see something happened to Scotland during the referendum that hadn’t happened before. We began to talk about politics and from that we gained our confidence. After being told for centuries what we couldn’t do last Thursday showed what we could and to me and I suspect many others it proved beyond all doubt that the day our people found their voice was Scotland’s beautiful Thursday.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X