Tag Archive | Stewart MacDonald

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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Till Santa Delivers Equality I Would Sooner Wear Pink Than Be Pitied. 

Hey Readers

On day 3 of Blogmas, I take a step back in time to move on to a better future. I promise it will make sense when you read it, so with that in mind let’s journey back a Sunday in mid October and the final day of this year’s SNP conference 

Featured Picture Me (Gayle) and Bemis spokesman, and fellow Celtic Connections regular  Danny Boyle at the SNP Equalities Conference October 2016. 

Picture (1) The Picture Shows The Headline So I Can Tell The Story

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A couple of months ago on a calm autumn Sunday I attended, the SNP equalities conference. It was a very enjoyable day where I listened to a variety of speeches from a number of contributors both from within the party and from spokespeople representing a range of campaign groups who are united in their aim in fighting for a fairer more inclusive Scotland so why you may ask did I wait till now before talking about it.

Well there is a simple and honest explanation namely that this was a day when I learned not only about campaigns and causes it was a day I learned about myself and what I learned and will reveal on this international day of disabled people will shock and even anger some people but as someone who is both a disabled person and a transsexual woman I have no hesitation in saying that given the choice to identify as disabled or trans I would choose trans and I would do it every single time.

Now before some disabled people completely lose the plot let me say that having to make choices of identifying with one part of me over another part of me is something I should never have to do. As someone who worked as a disability equality trainer I recognise the value of a united equality movement working together to achieve a better society for our people.By this I mean a society that values everyone whether it be Women, People From Black And Minority Ethnic Communities, Disabled people, Trans people and values them equally

This however is I regret to say not the case at the moment and on this particular day the disabled members forum was meeting at the same time as the LGBT members forum and superwoman though I try to be even I can’t be in two places at once. So on the grounds everyone who was at the disabled people’s conference was a disabled person but that trans people and especially trans woman are underrepresented in politics I thought it was important that my voice was heard at the LGBT conference which was excellently hosted by Kirsty McAlpine and the Right Honourable Stewart MacDonald MP see picture below.

Picture 2 Stewart MacDonald MP gives his opening address to SNP LGBT members conference with Kirsty McAlpine looking on

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Taken in isolation one might think I am saying to declare as trans rather than disabled was a spur of the moment decision relevant only on the day of the conference but believe me this is not the case. So why do I think that my trans identity for all the difficulties trans people face is more positive than identifying as disabled person? Well I’ll tell you why it all comes down to preconceived assumptions which in turn lead to stereotypes which have an impact on wider society. In other words, it really is in the words of Robert Burns about seeing ourselves as others see us.

You see as a trans woman though I may experience some transphobic abuse as I go about my daily business I believe I still have a far better quality of life than I would if I identified only as a disabled person. Now I realise this isn’t fair and for some people it will make very uncomfortable reading but facts are facts and can’t be changed just because some people don’t like them. You see the truth of the matter is that disabled people are unfairly viewed as a burden on society.

This view has always been a popular myth within society but it to has to be said that aided and abetted by the right wing Conservative press it has increased dramatically since the climate of austerity become the accepted norm in UK politics after the 2010 General Election. The idea that that somehow disabled people are on the make and are making false claims on the benefit system has to a large extent gone unchallenged by the UK political mainstream as with help from their friends in a compliant media they have established this discourse as part of a national narrative which seeks to demonise anyone who is viewed as in any way different.

Be under no illusion it is fair to say that trans people are to a significant extent also viewed as other. In spite of this and the fact that we do experience a degree of hostility from some of our less enlightened members of society I honestly believe that disabled people get far worse treatment than the trans community in early 21st Century Britain.

It seems there is hardly a day goes by without politically motivated story appearing in the less erudite sections of the tabloid press labelling disabled people as lazy, workshy, benefit cheating, scroungers who aren’t really disabled but who are in it to milk the system.

This is hysteria, pure and simple and yet the British government have the nerve to wonder why more disabled people than ever before are being targeted by hate squads and many are choosing to end their own lives rather than take this daily torrent of abuse from those who are too narrow minded to see they are being played by a Westminster elite who would sooner spend billions on weapons of mass destruction than creating the conditions for genuine equality.

So why are disabled people the new acceptable scapegoats which allows them to be treated in ways which if it were a BME citizen we would be screaming racism or a woman we’d be shouting misogyny. Personally I believe it’s all about perception and disabled people are still perceived by some people as being less able than they are even when the facts don’t support this line of thinking. Many less intellectually able members of our society believe that disabled people are weak, and possibly even stupid and they believe this line of argument without anything to back it up except for the pre historic opinion that physical strength equals intelligence. Surely if this was the case then I as the first disabled person in my family would not have been the first university graduate but I was. 

It does however have to be said that in spite of many examples which disprove this outdated theory  it is a popular myth which has been around for hundreds of years and has been  carefully socially and culturally constructed over time to find a place in the national pysche. This attitude annoying though it is will not evaporate overnight and even now we are seeing disabled people being pitied and patronised rather than treated as equal citizens and it with this last comment you can begin to see why I would sooner identify as trans than as a disabled person.

Speaking from the heart and as a trans woman, (trans men can speak for themselves ) I will explain why I take what some would see as a challenging stance on this issue. For me my justification for this viewpoint is that it really is all about equality. You see as a trans woman I am never even on my most difficult days told what clothes I can wear, where I can travel or socialise or what time  I can get up or go to bed. Yet the basic right to make these and other choices are denied to disabled people. This to me is obscene and though being trans is not without it’s problems as I know only too well I say again what I’ve said throughout this post which is until Santa delivers real equality for all I would sooner wear pink than be pitied or to put it in even more brutal terms I would sooner declare as a trans woman than I would  as a disabled person

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

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

Hey Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X

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.
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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

Cup Cakes, Chat, And A Transgender Tent, On A Day To Be Proud It Was All About Lisa

Hey everyone Glasgow was wet on Saturday, in fact if truth be told it was very wet and it wasn’t men that were falling from the skies. Because on Pride Saturday Scotland’s weather god had decided it was time to drench the city in the finest fair Saturday tradition. This however did not stop our skies from being awash with more rainbows than you’ll see in 100 000 repeats of the Wizard of Oz

Forget the fact the march which I did not attend on the grounds of its ludicrously early start was not taking us to our traditional home in George Square or even to last year’s venue on Glasgow Green but instead we were made to make do with a car park. Forget also the fact, that for the first time in the history of Pride Glasgow that we were to be charged an entrance fee of £5.00, forget the fact that this combination of facts would be defeat even the most battle hardened of regulars. This is Glasgow and when Glasgow decides she wants to have a party then nothing and I mean is going to stop her.

As I left Baillieston at least an hour later than planned after that great debate I always have with myself about what to wear before going back to my original choice. It’s a girl thing guys you won’t understand so it’s best not even to try, I am glad to say I didn’t have too long to wait on my bus. However whilst I was on the bus I got a phone call from my very good friend Lisa Tait who told me to phone her as soon as I reached the gate.
This I did and to my astonishment I was given a free wristband which was an access all areas pass for which I had to spent not one magic bean.

You see Lisa was part of the Out at Tesco team and I was her VIP Guest. So you may ask why was I given such a lucky break. Well the reasoning behind this was that it was Lisa’s idea that the company use their stall as a transgender tent to create a safe space for trans people within the event and she told me that it was her long standing friendship with me which helped her to come up with it.

As I waited for Lisa to meet at the gate, I was kindly given shelter by the girls from Katie’s Bar and I sure as hell needed it as the rain started to pour. On her arrival I was going through security when my bag was searched for any drink or drugs. I should hasten to add they were never going to find anything on a teetotal non smoker who only had my medication for epilepsy but the guy was only doing his job and I appreciated that. I was quite willingly decided to show him my meds but amazingly enough when Lisa said I was her guest of honour there were no more questions and I was allowed to get on with enjoying my day.

Naturally Lisa took me to the tent straight away where I was given the full VIP treatment of coffee and cup cakes on my arrival. It could have been something stronger had I wished it to be but the fact that I am a non drinker due to long standing medical conditions including epilepsy meant that someone else got my glass of champagne not that I minded in the slightest. I was also introduced to a number of her colleagues and others in the tent and I was quick to sing her praises to anyone and everyone who was willing to listen. This included both workmates and trade union officials.

Eventually my wandering instinct took hold of me and I went on my tour of the stalls. This year I enjoyed chats with co-leader of The Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie, and representatives from Affirmation Scotland which is the organisation who represent the LGBTI community within the Church of Scotland and as someone who attends my local Church of Scotland almost every week this was very important to me.

As luck would have it, the affirmation stall was located right next to Yes Scotland and I was delighted to assist in whatever small way I could when the chance came to do so. It was during my brief spell at the stall that we had a visit from a superhero and I can exclusively reveal that Spiderman will be voting yes in the independence referendum. I know this as I witnessed him sign the declaration of independence.
It’s good to know that superheroes for yes has its first member. I have no doubt that whilst Batman and Robin may be unwilling to declare their intentions Superman will be voting yes. You see whilst better together may boast support from the man who sold the world David Bowie and the man claimed he saved it, Gordon Brown we get support from those who actually do want to save the world from its worst enemy itself. but hey, that’s enough about Patrick Harvie for one day.

It was also whilst I was at the stall that I picked up my favourite badge of the entire referendum. This sets out of my political agenda far better than any rant or well considered statement and says I only kiss yes voters. Well I’ve got morals you know, and my standards are as high as a teenager’s hem line.

On leaving the yes campaign stall to the tender mercies of Stewart MacDonald, I had a wee chat to the Unite team and informed them that I believed independence would be good for the Labour movement and also the Labour Party providing they get rid of their current leadership. Not surprisingly I didn’t find much resistance to my argument

Having chatted to Unite I decides to venture round a car park in the rain to see what was happening. Normally this would lead to a well meaning stranger phoning the police and me having my sanity questioned. This however was not a normal Saturday this was Glasgow pride and I can’t stress highly enough that this is not a normal day by anybody’s standards. Well where else but Glasgow can you get rainbows in the rain?

Anyway once I had taken in a bit of action from the main stage having watched Karen Dunbar, Edward Read and Amelia Lilley. I decided it was time for another of my famous walkabouts. This time I wandered to the Stonewall Scotland stall where I met a long standing virtual friend Sophie Bridger and it was good to finally get the chance to meet her in person rather than just over the internet. This was I have to say one of the highlights of my day especially since, though we may be on opposing sides in the constitutional debate we have much more in common than what divides us particularly as we both passionately believe in a fairer and kinder world with equality and diversity right at the heart of it.

After chatting to Sophie, it was with a smile a mile wide I made my way back to the trans tent where I caught up with some old friends as well as making new ones. I even read a couple of my trans related poems to a young girl who had told me that though she wasn’t gay she and her mother both loved the LGBTI community because it is so open and friendly and nobody judges anyone. I have to say this is not always true and every community has its fair share of neds and bams but I didn’t want to shatter her illusions. Instead I read her a couple of my poems written about my journey the poems I read were The Lemon Dress which is about growing up with a secret which your mother knows about but won’t admit. I followed it up by reading A Trans Daughter Remembers Her Mother in which I look at the complex relationship I had with my mother through kinder eyes.

After this impromptu performance I met a lovely bi-curious woman who was it has to be said was both pretty and cultured and looked far younger than her mid to late thirties. Whether or not she was attracted to me or the drink I don’t know, but I’ll play it safe and say I think it was the drink.
Eventually I left the tent to go the short distance to the tartan partnerships stage where I saw a mixture of the bold the bizarre and the brilliant entertain us in their own unique way. From burlesque to bands I went through the range of emotions but by far the best act in the tent were a band who have come highly recommended to me by a number of friends and Iain James And The Sound didn’t disappoint. Indeed, their rendition of Sweet Home Alabama was truly brilliant.

During this time I met with long standing friends Michelle and Shania for the first time in god knows how long and Shania was telling me they have just celebrated their five year anniversary. Well there goes another stereotype smashed in a million pieces, namely that same sex couples can’t be faithful. Honestly these two are like a walking advert for a romantic novel their so loved up that the heart hearted amongst you may want to reach for the sick bucket. As for me I just love the fact there still blushing, gushing, and unable to keep their hands off each other. It really is great to
see two wonderful girls so happy.
Meanwhile back on stage after watching a few more acts some of whom were so camp they would make Julian Clary look like Rambo I decided to make one last visit to the trans tent to thank Lisa for all her efforts and for making the day so enjoyable. After all when I left home on Saturday morning I had no idea I would be treated to a VIP reception let alone be guest of honour but she and her Out at Tesco colleges did a great job of treating a lifelong republican like a visiting if slightly mature royal princess.

As our time in the car park came to an end it was time to re-create the rainbow in the bars of the merchant city. As luck would have it I didn’t quite have the finances for a night at the Polo, so I headed instead for a wee refreshment at Delmonica’s before heading home.

As is always the case on these occasions Dels was bursting at the seems. You know it’s a good night when its breathing room only and believe that statement is no exaggeration. This was Dels at its brilliant bolshie breathtaking best. This was my Glasgow all dolled up and ready to party which it did in considerable style. I mean god knows how long I took me to reach the bar let alone get served, and I only wanted a diet coke. Not that I’m complaining, quite the reverse actually. Well it was pride and to be honest I would have been gutted if it had been any other way. I do have to say however that the queue for the ladies was so deep that you would have more chance of gaining quick entry into a Commonwealth Games event. Honestly it does take a wee while and to think I used to wonder where I perfected routines for Highland and Irish dancing. Trust me when I say that women will understand that comment so much more than men will.

Anyway after exiting the Ladies room I was back upstairs enjoying when another yes voter got chatting to me about a couple of my numerous badges. It transpired that she not only liked my Women for Independence badge, but was even more taken by my I Only Kiss Yes Voters one and asked if I would pose for a photograph which she would post on her Indy Girls page. Naturally I duly obliged and that was my last meaningful contribution to Pride Glasgow before heading for the bus which would take me back home to the village.

On arriving back in Baillieston I returned to the safety of my flat and told my flatmate all about my day. As I made myself a coffee and relaxed after an exhausting day of networking and socialising, I reflected that it was a day which not only contained many unexpected surprises but it can be summed up by saying that it though I had cup cakes, chat, and was a VIP in a transgender tent, on a day to be proud it was all about Lisa.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X