‘The Most Dangerous Man in Britain’ – One of Scotland’s Finest Sons

It would be politically criminal of me to write a column on this day and not dedicate it to one of Scotland’s finest sons. On this day of 30th November in 1923 the man daubed ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’ by the British secret intelligence services, but the ‘fighting dominie’ by the ordinary people, died of pneumonia aged only 44. His name was John MacLean.

He left behind a devoted wife Agnes and two daughters, Jean aged 12 and Nan aged 10.

What frustrates me most at this time of year is the lack of knowledge across Glasgow, never mind Scotland, of who John MacLean was. Most Scots will know of, or heard of, St Andrew as this day is designated St Andrews Day in Scotland and was made a public holiday in 2007 by the Scottish Parliament as he is our Patron Saint.

He was apparently one of the 12 Apostles and was crucified in Greece in 60 AD for his beliefs but chose to be crucified on a diagonal cross rather than a proper one as he felt he was not worthy of being crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus Christ. Thus the diagonal cross design on the Scottish flag, the Saltire.

He is also the Patron Saint of Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Barbados and regions within other countries. He is also the Patron Saint of fishermen. He became the Patron Saint of Scotland 1,300 years after he died and never set foot in Scotland. Yet each November 30th we celebrate St Andrews Day.

It is an interesting story. Some believe it and others are not convinced. Either way my appeal to fellow Scots, and socialists across the world, is that you remember today someone who not only set foot in Scotland but dedicated his life to fighting for its freedom from imperialist rule.

Someone who campaigned with every fibre of his body against imperialist wars, grinding poverty, low pay, inadequate housing and for a fairer and more just socialist society, a Scottish Workers Republic as part of a socialist world. Celebrate John MacLean.

Heed the words of the legendary Scottish Poet Hugh MacDiarmid who immortalised MacLean in his 1943 poem ‘Krassivy, Krassivy’:

Scotland has had few men whose names
Matter- or should matter- to intelligent people,
But of these MacLean, next to Burns, was the greatest
But it should be of him, to every Scotsman and Scotswoman
To the end of time, as it was of Lenin in Russia.
When you might talk to a woman who had been
A young girl in 1917 and find that the name of Stalin lit no fires
But when you asked her if she had seen Lenin
Her eyes lighted up and her reply
Was the Russian word which means
Both beautiful and red.
Lenin, she said, was “krassivy, krassivy”.
John MacLean too was krassivy, krassivy
A description no other Scot has ever deserved.

Here is an intellectual colossus of Scotland urging us to remember MacLean in the same way we remember Rabbie Burns and comparing him with Lenin of Russia. Yet up until the age of 17 I had never even heard of John MacLean let alone learned about him. Modern Studies and History were my favourite subjects at school but there was no mention of MacLean in any of my lessons.

I was born in Govan were MacLean taught. I was raised in the Pollok housing scheme within a couple of miles of MacLean’s Pollokshaws home but only when I was handed a copy of the Nan Milton (John’s daughter) book ‘John MacLean’ at a political meeting in Stirling University in 1981 did I discover the man and his ideas. They have inspired me and shaped my own political outlook and development ever since.

Inspirational figures are special human beings but they are human beings nonetheless. They have flaws and frailties like we all do. Fidel Castro, Che Guevera, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Mary Barbour, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, James Connolly, Jim Larkin, Michael Collins, Bernadette Devlin, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko are all individuals who have inspired me in my life. I have had the honour of knowing and befriending Tony Benn and Bob Crow. They also influenced my life. I shook the hand of Hugo Chavez and interviewed his Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel in Venezuela in 2003. They both influenced my life. But no one, outside of my family, as ever influenced my life more than John MacLean.

He lived in a revolutionary period of history and he helped shape that period through words and deeds. I urge you to do yourself a favour and read about MacLean. Immerse yourself in one or more of the excellent books that have been written by him or about him. The ‘Rapids of Revolution’ is an incredible collection of his speeches, articles and letters. The Nan Milton book I mentioned earlier is simply called ‘John MacLean’ and contains everything you need to know. I was humbled and honoured to be asked by the John MacLean Society in 2002 to write the foreword for a re-print of that book. A new book called ‘The Red and the Green – A Portrait of John MacLean’ by Gerry Cairns was printed last year and is an excellent addition to the treasure trove of comment and analysis of MacLean’s life. This book throws new light on the role MacLean paid in assisting the Irish Uprising of 2016 and uses rarely accessed papers to illustrate some of the political and practical work MacLean was involved in to support the Irish Republican cause.

A column is by definition inadequate to properly celebrate and remember the rich revolutionary life of someone so embroiled in the movement as John MacLean was but my intention here is to wet your appetitive and encourage you to conduct your own research after reading this snapshot. Remember the context of MacLean’s’ life was the tumultuous First World War of 1914-18 and the revolutions which it spawned during and after it as workers sought a better life than that of wage slaves and cannon fodder for the boss class.

He (the Lord Advocate [one of Scotland’s top legal prosecutors]) accused me of my motives. My motives are clean. My motives are genuine. If my motives were not clean and genuine would I have made statements while these shorthand reporters were present? I am out for the benefit of society, not for any individual human being, but I realise this, that justice and freedom can only be obtained when society is placed on a sound economic basis. That sound economic basis is wanting today, and hence the bloodshed we are having…. The whole history of society has proved that society moves forward as a consequence of an under class overcoming the resistance of a class on top of them….

I wish no harm to any human being, but I, as one man, am going to exercise my freedom of speech. No human being on the face of the earth, no government is going to take from me my right to speak, my right to protest against wrong, my right to do everything that is for the benefit of mankind. I am not here, then, as the accused; I am here as the accuser of capitalism dripping with blood from head to foot.” (Speech from the dock, May 9th 1918; ‘Rapids of Revolution’ p100-101)

These are short excerpts from an extraordinary speech which took seventy five minutes to deliver. It is a speech seething with rage concerning the futility and carnage of war. It is bursting with detailed political commentary and historical references and facts. But most of all it is a call to arms to the working classes of Scotland and the world to rise up and take power in society and follow the lead of the Bolsheviks in Russia.

What makes it extraordinary however is it wasn’t delivered from a stage in a hall or from a platform during a rally it was delivered in the highest court in Scotland on May 9th 1918, in front of a disgruntled judge, disparaging advocates, a jury and a packed Edinburgh High Courtroom.

This was John MacLean at his finest refusing to be cowered by the serious sedition charges he stood accused of for opposing the First World War publicly, encouraging working class men to defy conscription and supporting workers getting organised and striking for better conditions and higher pay in the overworked munitions factories, shipyards and mines across Scotland. It was the third occasion John MacLean had appeared in a Scottish court accused of sedition and offences against the Defence of The Realm Act (DORA) which was specifically introduced by the Lloyd George government during World War One to suppress any dissent, spy on and arrest opponents of the war, shutdown socialist newspapers and ban public gatherings.

John MacLean was found guilty on that day in May in 1918 and sentenced to 5 years of penal servitude in Peterhead prison. He had previously been found guilty of similar charges in November 1915 in Glasgow Sheriff court when he admitted stating publicly at a rally in response to a heckler who shouted ‘enlist’ at him;

“I said ‘I have enlisted in the Socialist Army for fifteen years, the only army worth fighting for. God damn all other armies.’” (Speech from the dock, November 1915; ‘Rapids of Revolution’ p93)

MacLean was fined for his statement but refused to pay and was sentenced to 5 days in prison. That was November 10th 1915. Six days later he was sacked from his teaching job by the Govan School Board. Here was a man who did not just talk the talk he walked the walk in opposing war, organising workers and embroiling himself in community campaigns like the Glasgow Rent Strike.

Seeking to profit from the increased demand for housing on the Clyde during the First World War private landlords imposed rent increases and threatened those unable to pay with evictions. The women of Govan and Partick were having none of it. Their husbands and sons were conscripted to fight on faraway battlefields but now faced eviction from their homes. Organised by the legendary Mary Barbour and with assistance from John MacLean they organised rent strikes and physically repelled sheriff officers despatched to evict those in rent arrears.

Tens of thousands took part and on 17th November 1915 18 women rent strikers were summoned to court to face eviction proceedings. Thousands of shipyard workers downed tools and walked out in support of the women and John MacLean was invited to speak outside the court. Fearing a social uprising the sheriff made contact with the government in London and within days the Rent Restriction Act was implemented reducing rents to their pre-war 1914 levels and forbidding any rises during the duration of the war. The battle was organised and led by the women but they trusted and relied upon John MacLean for political support.

In February the following year 1916 MacLean was again arrested on charges of sedition alongside other trade unionists and political activists like Willie Gallagher (future Communist MP for Fife), Manny Shinwell (future Labour Party MP) and John Muir of the Clyde Workers Committee, a rank and file body of trade union shop stewards from across various factories and shipyards.

John MacLean was arrested and imprisoned 5 times during his relatively short life. In prison he faced rough treatment from the authorities including deliberate sleep deprivation and forced feeding when he refused to eat food he claimed was poisoned. On several occasions MacLean was released early from prison due to public pressure. He may have been on the wrong side of the law throughout his life but he was always on the right side of the people.

John MacLean was born in Pollokshaws on Glasgow’s Southside on 24th August 1879. He was the 6th of 7 children but such was the poverty in those days that only 4 of the children survived. John’s parents were both victims of the Highland clearances of the 1850’s and met in Glasgow and married in 1867. Securing work as a potter John’s dad Daniel died at an early age of silicosis, a disease then called “Potters’ Disease” as it was contracted from the over inhalation of dust particles which severely restricted lung capacity and the ability to breathe properly. John was only 8 years old when his dad passed away. His mother, Anne, was left with a difficult task of raising 4 children on her own but, like millions of working class mothers, she struggled and showed grit and guts to not only raise her children but insist they were properly schooled. She worked as a weaver in long shifts and difficult conditions but before her death in 1914 she saw both her sons become graduates of Glasgow University and teachers and her two daughters married to men in good employment.

John MacLean was a very keen reader and devoured the writings of Marx and Engels. By the time he became a school teacher in 1900 he was already a devout socialist and convinced Marxist. So evangelical was MacLean about his socialist and Marxist beliefs he dedicated himself to adult education classes in Marxist economics on street corners in Glasgow, inside the massive Glasgow Green Park and in other Scottish cities. His free political education classes became legendary and attracted hundreds of workers thirsty for knowledge.

MacLean was an avid writer and submitted hundreds of articles to newspapers and left wing publications. He was constantly involved with various socialist papers and parties throughout his life. He was in the Social Democratic Federation and the British Socialist Party before forming his own Scottish Workers Republican Party in April 1923. Space prohibits detailing the travails of the political disputes and fallouts which surrounded MacLean but it is safe to say that he never once sold out his class or diluted his principles to secure a comfortable political career.

MacLean was schooled most of his political life on the British road to socialism. Scotland the nation was rarely if ever acknowledged by leading socialists of the day either within Scotland or England. Even when the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin paid tribute to MacLean and his courageous anti-war activity he referred to him as ‘MacLean of England.’ Remember the First World War was a major challenge for socialists across Europe. Internationalism was supposed to embody worker to worker solidarity across nations. How would socialists react to a war that pitted worker against worker? Many caved in to the jingoism of the boss class and their puppets in the press who churned out pro-war propaganda. But MacLean resisted the pressure and refused to bury his internationalism in a national chauvinist grave. For him the only war worth fighting was the class war.

MacLean was an all-round revolutionary. An orator, a writer, a teacher and an organiser. He faced down the early whipped up jingoism in Glasgow at the beginning of the war and carved out a reputation as a consistent and courageous proponent of peace. The police and security services soon had him earmarked as a trouble-maker. It was the head of British Military Intelligence at the time, Basil Thompson, who labelled him ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’ http://democracyandclasstruggle.blogspot.com/2014/07/john-maclean-most-dangerous-man-in.html .

MacLean was greatly influenced by both the Easter Uprising in Ireland in 1916 and the Russian revolution of 1917. These were events which heartened MacLean and illustrated the possibilities for revolution in Scotland. MacLean was named the Soviet Consul in Glasgow by the first workers government in the world while James Connolly and other leaders of the Easter Uprising and elected Sinn Fein MPs like Constance Markievicz spoke highly of MacLean and shared platforms with him.

Although a huge supporter of the Russian revolution and the Bolsheviks MacLean resisted the idea of uniform Communist parties across Europe which took their instructions from Moscow. MacLean argued for the formation of a Scottish Communist party not a British one as the particular nature and struggles of the Scottish nation could best be assessed and analysed from a Scottish viewpoint. He strongly resisted a ‘one size fits all’ approach to socialism and political organisation.

So although there is a street named after John MacLean in St Petersburg and a commemorative stamp was produced by the Soviet government in his honour https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04zrwll MacLean refused to tow the party line in respect of uniform Communist discipline and latterly in his life promoted the Scottish road to socialism as opposed to the British road;

“Scottish separation is part of the process of England’s imperial disintegration and is a help towards the ultimate triumph of the workers of the world.” (23rd November 1923 Gorbals General Election Address: p248 ‘Rapids of Revolution’)

MacLean projected internationalism from a Scottish perspective. His socialist vision was still worldwide but his focus was his country. He was advocating thinking globally but acting locally. Those socialists who would lazily cast such a position as nationalistic have to raise their game and analysis. Internationalism is inter-nation relationships. Britain is not a nation. Scotland is a nation. Advocating an independent socialist Scotland, a democratic republic, is entirely consistent with internationalism.

John MacLean was human. He is vulnerable to the criticism that he put the socialist cause before his family. His five terms of imprisonment, constant speaking tours and election campaigns and dismissal from his teaching job all took their toll on his family life and his health. He was often without any income and apart from his daughters. His wife Agnes was devoted but also estranged. Yet more than any other figure in Scotland’s rich political tapestry John MacLean deserves to be remembered, celebrated and respected. He did more than anyone to forge the Scottish link in the world chain of socialism.

Tommy Sheridan 

Thatcher was forced to resign 28 years ago this month – Celebrate the Anti-Poll Tax Warriors Who Melted The Iron Lady

It would be improper and disrespectful to let November pass without mention of the likes of Betty Curry from Cambuslang, Mary McQuaid from Birkenshaw and Betty McEachin from Govan. Those women and millions like them across Scotland, England and Wales deserve special attention around 22nd November every year. For that was the day in 1990 that the most brutal and heartless Prime Minister in Britain since the 2nd World War was forced to resign.

Margaret Thatcher used to be called The ‘Iron Lady’ but after doing battle with anti-poll tax organisers like the two Bettys and Mary she was melted down to size and shunted off to the political knackers’ yard where she belonged.

The anti-poll tax struggle is a David versus Goliath story, an ever constant reminder of the potential power of the people when they are enraged and organised. Margaret Thatcher was the epitome of evil in its human form. A woman who consciously set out to destroy industries, impoverish communities and set neighbour against neighbour and worker against worker in her quest to obliterate any semblance of a thing called society. In a 1987 Woman’s Own interview she stated explicitly her belief that there was indeed “no such thing as society” https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/106689  just collections of individuals who should prioritise looking after themselves first. She consciously sought to foster a ‘dog eat dog’,’ me myself I’ philosophy and sneered at the idea of human solidarity and social welfare.

Even out of office in 1991 she declared at the Royal Geographical Society Dinner “our job is to glory in inequality” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/not-enough-for-us-1329728.html . Let that quote sink in for a moment. “Glory in inequality”. She certainly covered herself in such ‘glory’. During her periods of office poverty across the UK trebled from around 5 million people in 1979 to over 14 million in 1990. Of those cast aside and thrown into poverty four million of them were children.

Thatcher stole the UK’s assets through privatisation programmes that amounted to get rich quick schemes for her spiv pals in the city of London. Greed became fashionable and individualism was promoted at every opportunity. She engineered industrial disputes to try and destroy trades unions and the social solidarity they embody.

This woman took on steel workers, health workers and the miners. She introduced the necessary anti-strike laws to enable bullying print bosses to sack and isolate printers and journalists in titles like the Stockport Messenger and the Times and Sunday Times. Her callous disregard for human life was illustrated by her order to sink the General Belgrano navy cruiser in 1982 as it sailed away from the Falklands conflict zone. Her breech of international law in relation to the conduct of conflicts saw 323 lives lost aboard that ship, the majority of them young sea cadets and conscripts to the Argentine army. She should have been tried as a war criminal https://defenceoftherealm.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/sinking-the-belgrano-justified-attack-or-war-crime/ .

Thatcher ‘The Iron Lady’ was not a term of endearment but an apt description of a woman bereft of a heart or soul and unrepentant about the suffering and misery she caused in households and communities the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

By the time of her 3rd General Election victory in 1987 she had grown weary of Scotland’s rejection of her policies. We never supported her brand of callous conservatism and her 22 Scottish MPs elected in 1979 were reduced to a rump of only 10 by 1987. Scotland was punished with reduced public spending, welfare cuts and industrial vandalism wiping out steel plants, coalmines, shipyards and factories. Her malice did not stop there though. Consumed with power and complacent in office she devised a flagship policy for her third term and called it the Community Charge. Scotland would be the guinea pig for it and have it imposed on April 1st 1989, one year before England and Wales.

This Community Charge was a replacement for the rateable value charged on homes. The annual rates bill for ordinary homes was not a big deal and those in local authority council houses paid the bill alongside their rents without much fuss. However those in big homes with increasing values had bigger rates bills and most of them were strong Tory supporters. They wanted to pay less for the refuse collection, street lights, roads maintenance and police and fire services they all benefited from. Thatcher’s bright idea was a new charge which taxed each individual living in a house not the property. It quickly became known as the poll tax and it would represent a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. The wealthy in their big houses would pay less than they formerly paid in rates while the poor and ordinary families would face increased bills.

The Duke in his Castle would pay less in poll tax than the Dustbin man in his small council flat. Every individual over the age of 18 would be charged the poll tax. A manageable household rates bill would become a penalising community charge bill affecting the poorest areas of cities like Glasgow to the tune of hundreds of pounds http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.920.4096&rep=rep1&type=pdf .

Anger was palpable across Scotland’s working class communities. Not only was the poll tax unfair and unjust it was also undemocratic. With a lousy 10 of the 72 Westminster seats from Scotland at the time how dare the Tories impose this tax on us first?

Literally hundreds of meetings were organised by ordinary folk sick to the back teeth of Tory cuts and policies designed for the rich. New forms of community organisations were formed. They were called anti-poll tax unions. The common concern at all these meetings was the ability to fight Thatcher. She seemed invincible. Not to the Betty Currys, Mary McQuaids and Betty McEachans of the world she wasn’t. If we unite in a mass campaign of civil disobedience and refuse to pay the unfair, unjust and undemocratic tax we can defeat Thatcher and her flagship policy we declared at packed meetings, rallies and marches across Scotland.

Shamefully the Labour Party in control of councils in every part of Scotland displayed a lack of backbone and although opposed the new poll tax in words still set up the machinery to implement the tax and employed bullies in suits, known as sheriff officers, to hound non-payers with threats of wage arrestments, bank account seizures and raiding homes to remove furniture for auction at humiliating warrant sales to pay off the debts. They should hang their heads in shame.

Undeterred people like the two Bettys and Mary formed the backbone of local anti-poll tax unions and a Scottish wide Federation to coordinate activities and campaigns including human blockades outside home threatened with warrant sales, mass rallies and occupations of the offices of sheriff officers and councils to disrupt their poll tax work. Many of us were arrested several times for our activities but our anger at the injustice of the poll tax and our hatred of Thatcher drove us on.

Mass non-payment of the tax was our tactic. It was an illegal action but in Scotland it was a civil crime and we adopted the slogan from the London Borough Councillors of Poplar in 1921 who were prepared to be jailed rather than pass on punitive rates bills to their poor constituents, ‘Better To Break The Law Than Break The Poor’. All 30 Poplar councillors were jailed in that historic struggle https://islandhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/poplarism-aka-the-poplar-rates-rebellion/ .

I was greatly honoured to be elected to lead the anti-poll tax struggle in Scotland. To have the trust of fine working class women like the two Bettys and Mary, and thousands like them, was a tremendous accolade. After the first six months of the poll tax official non-payment figures were approaching 50%. I was despatched to conduct a tour of England and Wales to enlist their support for this growing people’s rebellion. For months on end I travelled to town halls and village halls advocating mass civil disobedience. People were worried about the intransigence of Thatcher as we were but they took great encouragement from our on-going resistance and although imprisonment was one of the penalties for non-payment in England and Wales still tens of thousands pledged to join the non-payment army.

Although many new community leaders were thrust into the struggle in the heat of the anti-poll tax battle and their oratorical skills were honed by necessity it is important to acknowledge that the biggest recruiting sergeant to the anti-poll tax army was not me or any other elected leader but poverty and desperation. After so many years of Thatcher’s poverty inducing policies people were fed up. They had reached breaking point. Struggle was now their only choice.

By the time the poll tax was introduced to England and Wales in April 1990 the Scottish army of non-payers had swelled to a million strong. The Scots had rebelled and our rebellion was spreading South with a vengeance.

On 31st March 1990 some 40,000 marched from George Square in Glasgow to Queens Park in the biggest event in Glasgow since the 1971 march to support the ‘work-in’ to save Govan shipyard. After addressing the enthusiastic crowd and assuring everyone that the one million non-payers would never stand alone I was whisked away to Trafalgar Square in London to address the mass rally organised by the All-Britain anti-poll tax Federation. I had been elected the chair of that body and was looking forward to bringing Scottish solidarity to the event. The place was absolutely heaving with supporters of the anti-poll tax rebellion. Tony Benn was speaking from the plinth on the square and I was up next. Then all hell broke loose. Riot police on horses emerged from the South African Embassy and charged the crowd. Mayhem ensued and a riot took place. London was out of control.

The grassroots story of the anti-poll tax campaign can be read in detail in a book I wrote with the assistance of a female journalist at the time, now an SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament. The book is called A Time To Rage and was published by Polygon. Those of you interested in the nature and dynamic of the anti-poll tax rebellion should read it. The two Bettys and Mary feature in it alongside hundreds of other ordinary women who did extraordinary things in that titanic battle against Thatcher and her poll tax.

Margaret Thatcher had hitherto always chosen her battles carefully and prepared the ground to allow her to divide and rule. She took on one section of workers at a time seeking to prevent a united universal struggle. The shame of the Trades Union Congress in 1984 is their failure to unite the mighty trade union movement at the time behind the striking miners. On their own they came within a whisker of defeating Thatcher and the National Coal Board but with a General Strike in support of them they would have been assured of victory. Their year long battle was a civil war without bullets.

The strategic mistake in the poll tax war was attacking all of the working class of Scotland at once. We united and rebelled as one against the tax, the Tories and their lackeys in the council chambers and sheriff officer offices. It was a grassroots rebellion that faced up to the fear of sanctions and punishments but faced them down. Sure some of us were imprisoned, including my mum Alice twice. I was sentenced to 6 months in Saughton jail in Edinburgh for helping to physically prevent a poll tax warrant sale in October of 1991. While inside I was elected to Glasgow District Council. My council allowance was then arrested to pay off arrears. So were the wages and banks accounts of thousands of others. But we collectively broke the poll tax and Thatcher.

Key in why Thatcher resigned on your search engine and the poll tax will be reason number one https://historylists.org/events/10-key-events-that-led-to-margaret-thatchers-resignation.html. She was forced to step down by her own party on 22nd November 1990 precisely because her poll tax flagship was sunk by the mass non-payment campaign. She was the captain of that ship and had to go down with it. Read this excerpt from a private handwritten letter to Thatcher from John Major of March 19th 1991, two days before he announced in Parliament that the poll tax was to be abolished:

“The decision to abolish the community charge was not taken lightly. But, having consulted widely throughout the party, I am convinced that it would never be accepted as equitable and that it would never be properly collectable either. I do not think we could long defend a situation in which some people were paying more in community charge than in income tax.” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/20/unfair-uncollectable-how-major-told-thatcher-ditching-poll-tax

 

John Major was compelled to announce the repeal of the poll tax two years after it was introduced in Scotland and only 12 months after it was introduced in England and Wales. Using similar language to that contained in his private letter to Thatcher two days earlier he said the poll tax had become “uncollectable”. The question is who made it “uncollectable”? The answer is the working class heroines like the two Bettys and Mary made it ‘uncollectible’. They had the guts and commitment to stand up for their communities and their class and show Thatcher that she was not just wrong about the poll tax she was also wrong about there being no such thing as society.

People don’t exist in splendid isolation and life is not just about looking after you. Life is about caring for your family, your friends, your community and your class. It’s called human solidarity and as long as it can be organised any scheme of the rich and powerful can be defeated. Always remember that fact.

Tommy Sheridan

How many of you have an inspirational teacher story?

How many of you have an inspirational teacher story? I predict almost everyone has at least one memory of something a teacher said to you which shaped your life positively. It stands to reason. Throughout our early formative years Nursery teachers try and teach us essential cognitive skills. From 5 to 12 we have Primary School teachers who are entrusted with the vital tasks of teaching us to write, to count, to read and to work with others and behave appropriately.

Children at the age of 5 tend to be wee empty vessels introduced to a new world of classrooms, strange adults and lots of similar sized wee people equally puzzled by their new surroundings for several hours of the day. Primary school teachers assume the incredibly important task of trying to teach these children the life skills upon which their whole futures will rely.

Then at the age of 12, after hopefully mastering the basic skills of numeracy and literacy, the fate and futures of our children are passed into the hands of Secondary School teachers. Dealing with the transition of young boys anxious to be men and young girls coping with the pressures of adolescence is challenging enough. However these teachers have to cope with those challenges while also introducing new fields of knowledge like science, languages and social studies. These can be difficult and complex areas while the core subjects like Maths and English become tougher. Often it is an achievement for teachers to control the ever larger class sizes they face let alone teach the respective subjects.

Two nights ago my wife and I returned to our old school. It was where we first met and flirted with one and other. Gail was always out of my league at school but somehow I entrapped her with my charm in later years. We competed in our Modern Studies class and it still irks me to this day that she secured an A Band One Higher compared to my inferior A Band Two. I’m sure she cheated somehow.

The reason we returned to Lourdes Secondary on Glasgow’s Southside was to attend our daughter’s Parent’s Night. She is in 2nd year and fortunately appears to be doing well and encountering overwhelmingly positive experiences. We spoke with her Maths, English, French, Drama, Music, Science, Business Studies, Social Studies, Computer Studies and Physical Education teachers. Their glowing assessment of our 13 year old filled us with pride and joy but the experience reminded us acutely of how much we rely on, trust and value her teachers. We respect their skills and admire their commitment to teaching our child and the thousands of others who enter their classrooms. We recall regularly and with affection how positively our teachers influenced us. Yet those teachers and their colleagues throughout Scotland are currently embroiled in a pay and conditions dispute which threatens to get very messy.

Uniquely Scotland’s main education trade unions are Scottish, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA). This reflects Scotland’s distinctive education system which is world renowned and recognised for the positive outcomes it produces. Societies will thrive or stagnate depending on the quality of their education systems. Genuinely inclusive, well-resourced and valued education systems are at the very heart of any modern and successful nation. The Scottish National Party has been in power, via minority or majority administrations, since 2007. They have always named education as their key priority. They see the intrinsic value of education but also the long term benefits of a better educated country in terms of economic and social progress.

However their verbal commitments to educational excellence and expansion are in danger of amounting to hot air unless they are willing to meet the reasonable demands of the teaching unions for a real and meaningful wage increase. On the same evening that Gail and I visited our daughters’ school the 3% wage offer put on the table by the Scottish Government and the Local Authority Employers’ body, COSLA, was rejected by the teachers in an incredibly engaging ballot. In both the EIS and SSTA almost three quarters of the membership participated in the ballot and an incredible 98% of EIS members rejected the offer and 97% of SSTA members did likewise. Those are unprecedented turnouts and rejections and should serve as a wakeup call to the Scottish Government.

Last month a massive march in excess of 30,000 took to the streets of Glasgow in support of the teachers’ pay claim. That turnout and the turnout in the pay ballot and almost universal rejection of it reflect the seething anger and discontent which exists right now amongst Scotland’s undervalued teachers.

The EIS launched their ‘Value Education Value Teachers’ campaign in January this year. Drawing on detailed independent research they highlighted the fact teachers have suffered a real terms fall in salary levels of some 24% over the last ten years. The combination of Local Authority wage freezes in successive years and pension contribution increases have saw the value of a teachers’ salary fall significantly below other professions across Scotland. However the salary decline has coincided with radical changes in curriculum and the qualifications system resulting in increased workloads for already hard pressed teachers. The result has been a double-whammy of teacher shortages, as the profession becomes less attractive, and an exodus of current teachers disillusioned with the profession, according to research from Bath University 40% of teachers are considering leaving https://www.eis.org.uk/Value-Education-Value-Teachers/10reasons .

Of course pay is not everything within professions but increasingly the young, talented and motivated graduates who would have in the past chosen teaching as a profession are deciding to opt for something else. That is a loss for Scotland and causing problems in schools everywhere now, rural and urban, and in core subjects. If it is not fundamentally addressed it will accelerate from a problem to a crisis.

The EIS faced with research highlighting a 24% real terms drop in salary levels would have been justified in submitting a 20% plus wage claim. The fact their claim is half that amount at 10% shows their willingness to compromise but they simply cannot accept a deal any lower than that figure. After studying for 4 or 5 years at university a probationary teacher is paid £22,866. That is less than the average salary in Scotland last year of £23,150 https://digitalpublications.parliament.scot/ResearchBriefings/Report/2017/11/21/Earnings-in-Scotland–2017 . If successful in their probation year and offered a full time or supply post a teacher will then be paid £27,438. However progression from that salary takes many years and the very top of the six point scale for teachers on the Nursery, Special, Primary and Secondary schools is £36,480. That can take over a decade to reach and is significantly less than comparable professionals in colleges and social work departments.

I remember reading a placard many years ago on a demonstration against education cuts which read, ‘If You Think Education Is Expensive Try Ignorance’. In a similar vein the Scottish Government and COSLA simply have to find the resources to properly fund teacher’s salaries. We cannot deliver a first class education system on the back of 2nd class salaries. Teachers are understandably unimpressed by MSPs on salaries of £62,000 and extremely generous travel and staff allowances packages suggesting a 10% pay increase is unaffordable. While the chief executives within Scotland’s Local Authorities on salaries in excess of £100,000 have steadily risen over the last decade https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/perth-kinross/405958/rich-list-sees-council-chief-salaries-doing-well-in-times-of-struggle/  as teachers’ real term wages have plummeted so it’s about time they earned their exorbitant wage packets by finding a way to finance the 10% deal.

Clearly wage levels generally are woefully inadequate across many sectors, particularly within caring jobs. A radical overhaul is required. The Scottish Government should be applauded for its Living Wage campaign and the commitment to refuse public contracts to any employer not willing to pay the Living Wage. Such initiatives are very welcome.

Increasingly however the policy of passing on austerity cuts from Westminster will blow up in the faces of the Scottish Government. Rational and sensible people recognise the austerity of the last 10 years has been Tory made and implemented to impoverish the majority while further enriching the minority at the top. That’s what Tories do. They are a cold, cruel and callous bunch who inflicts pain on the weakest and most vulnerable in society with oblivion. I despise them and all they stand for. But what is needed now more than ever is defiance of the cuts not compliance with them.

The SNP Government has to stand up for Scotland’s teachers and fight for more finance from this rotten Tory Government or accelerate the process of departure from the unequal and unfair union which holds back our hopes and aspirations in every walk of life.

Teaching is a noble profession. Those who enter it are shouldering an incredibly important responsibility. They have the destinies of our children in their hands. That is an incredibly important job. It must attract a decent salary commensurate with the multiple tasks involved. Properly paying our teachers is not just about valuing them it is about valuing our children and trying to ensure all the latent talents and abilities they have are nurtured and encouraged.

Paying our teachers properly now is a necessary investment in the teachers, doctors, engineers, nurses, firefighters and scientists of the future. A 10% increase is justified and necessary.

Tommy Sheridan

We Must Never Allow Legitimate Criticism of the State of Israel to be defined as Anti-Semitic

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me”.

The haunting, wise and instructive quotation above from German Pastor Martin Niemoller https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/martin-niemoeller-first-they-came-for-the-socialists has been very much on my mind recently. Pastor Niemoller knew exactly what he was talking about. His wise words were derived from intimate knowledge of the nature of the Nazi beast in Adolf Hitler’s Germany and were issued as an apologetic warning to all of humanity to never again stand idly by while brutality and violence is meted out against other members of the human race. No matter their religious beliefs, nationality, political affiliations or colour an act of brutality against one group of human beings is ultimately an attack on all human beings.

Niemoller was no pacifist. He was a U-Boat commander for the German Navy during World War One. He refused to carry out the armistice order to all U-Boat Commanders to hand their submarines to the British. He was stripped of his position and drummed out of the German Navy for insubordination.

Not many people will know that Niemoller initially welcomed the emergence of Hitler and the Third Reich. He, like millions of other Germans at the time, saw only the positive side of Hitler’s National Socialist Party promises. To promote and encourage Christianity and Christian beliefs for instance. A particular attraction to him after he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Christian preacher. The promise of full employment. The promise to stand up for German interests. The promise to make Germany a great and proud nation again and lift it out of the 1920’s chaos of severe economic depression, hyperinflation and mass unemployment.  The similarities with Trump and his Make America Great Again rhetoric are frightening.

Only after meeting with Hitler in January 1934 did Niemoller realise his horrible mistake after discovering his phone was tapped and the secret police apparatus was being expanded and used to root out dissent of any form and to silence potential dissidents. He rapidly realised Hitler was a tyrant who wished to establish a brutal dictatorship not a strong German democracy. Many would say now with the benefit of hindsight that he should have realised this fact much earlier but he was not the only German citizen conned and although hindsight is wonderful it is only available after the fact.

Pastor Niemoller became a strident opponent of Hitler and embarked on an exhaustive series of sermons denouncing the Nazi regime and attempting to expose its undemocratic core. He was repeatedly arrested between 1934 – 1937 before the Gestapo apprehended him in July 1937 and after 7 months in solitary confinement in a Berlin prison awaiting trial he was subjected to a further 7 years of hard labour in a concentration camp labelled a danger to the Nazi state.

There is much debate about when Niemoller first used his “First they came …” explanation of the rise of the Nazis but most believe it to be in 1946 after the conclusion of the Second World War and the defeat of Hitler and it is widely accepted he inserted different groups of people depending on his audience https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/martin-niemoeller-biography . But the central and powerful point is that too many ordinary folk stood idly by and did nothing in the face of brutal treatment of others because they didn’t directly belong to or identify with that group.

The reason the Niemoller quotation occupies my mind so much right now is my mixture of rage and powerlessness in the face of the hurtful, disgraceful and ludicrous accusations of anti-Semitism levelled against three individuals I know. Jim Sheridan, no relation, is a former Labour MP for Paisley, Renfrewshire, near to where I live and he is currently a Renfrewshire Labour councillor. Mary Bain Lockhart has been an active campaigner against poverty and inequality within the Labour and Cooperative movement all her life and currently sits on Fife Council as a Labour councillor. Jeremy Corbyn has been a Labour MP since 1983 and has twice been elected to lead the Labour party, 2015 and 2016.

All three of these individuals are Labour Party stalwarts. They belong to a party which is decidedly unionist and up until the election of Corbyn deserved to be called Red Tories. In fact even since Corbyn’s election the performance and electoral tactics of Labour in Scotland, advocating votes for Tory candidates rather than the SNP, have merited the continued use of that tag.

But Jim Sheridan is a decent man. Before election to Parliament he was a trade union organiser. During my wife Gail’s industrial action against her employer, British Airways, Jim Sheridan was one of the striking flight crew’s biggest allies. He has been a consistent advocate of workers’ rights and an active opponent of racism all his political life. Yet currently he is suspended from the Labour Party and subject to an anti-Semitism investigation https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/18/jim-sheridan-suspended-from-labour-over-antisemitism-row-comments?CMP=share_btn_link . The 65 year old was furious at the constant anti-Semitic accusations thrown at Jeremy Corbyn and in a pique of anger said:

“For almost all my adult life I have had the utmost respect and empathy for the Jewish community and their historic suffering.

“No longer due to what they and their Blairite plotters are doing to my party and the long suffering people of Britain who need a radical Labour government.”

Those words maybe clumsy but are they anti-Semitic? Absolutely not.

Mary Bain Lockhart and I campaigned vigorously across Scotland together in 2012/13 against the cruel and callous Tory Bedroom Tax which was specifically designed to punish both the poor and the disabled. We shared platforms at several public meetings and rallies. She was passionate in her condemnation of Tory cruelty and her commitment to a fairer and more equal society was plain to see. Yet Mary is also currently suspended from the Labour Party and the subject of an anti-Semitism investigation. Responding to the remarkable, inflammatory and entirely unfair incidence of all three of the UK’S leading Jewish Newspapers publishing the exact same headline ‘United We Stand’ and stating that a Corbyn led Labour Government would pose an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country” https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-45018653 Mary used her personal Facebook account to state:

“If the purpose is to generate opposition to anti-Semitism, it has backfired spectacularly”.

“If it is to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader, it is unlikely to succeed, and is a shameless piece of cynical opportunism”.

“And if it is a Mossad [the Israeli secret service] assisted campaign to prevent the election of a Labour Government pledged to recognise Palestine as a State, it is unacceptable interference in the democracy of Britain.” https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/fife/697645/scottish-labour-councillor-suspended-over-anti-semitic-trope/

Not only is that statement not anti-Semitic it is also politically astute and very mature.

Mary also said that Israel was a “racist state”. That is a view widely held by progressives and democrats all across the world even prior to the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, passing legislation in July stipulating that “only Jews have the right of self-determination” in Israel and stripping Arabic of its status as an official language alongside Hebrew.

Palestinians and any other non-Jewish people within Israel are thus legally reduced to no more than 2nd class citizens. That is why the United Nations, representing 193 countries across the world, has  given Israel a 60 day deadline to respond to the commonly accepted interpretation of that legislation as ‘racist’ and ‘deeply discriminating’ against Palestinians and other non-Jews https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/israel-given-60-days-respond-concerns-over-nation-state-law .

So Mary is far from alone in branding the Israeli state as ‘racist’. Is she an anti-Semite? Absolutely not. Far from it. She has sought equality and opposed racism and anti-Semitism of any form all her life.

Then there is Jeremy Corbyn himself. His crime in the eyes of the British Establishment and the ruling elites across the world is his consistent support for the oppressed and exploited and his determination to effect real change in wealth and power distribution.

On the issue of anti-Semitism Corbyn’s hands are spotless. What irks Israel and their supporters so much is his support for an independent and viable Palestinian state. Something Israel is determined to prevent through continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land, erection of illegal Jewish settlements within Palestinian borders and the brutal, bloody and illegal assassination of Palestinian men, women and children who dare to protest in any shape or fashion against their continued subjugation and occupation by Israel.

In May this year the UN voted to again assign international war crimes investigators to assess the response of Israel to legitimate protests against Israeli occupation of Palestine which resulted in 110 fatalities in the space of days, several of the victims being children https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/un-rights-chief-calls-probe-gaza-killings-504538042 .

The problem is Israel is effectively the biggest rogue nation on the planet and systematically and consistently flouts international laws in defiance of the United Nations. Often the basis of incursions into, invasions of and the imposition of damaging economic sanctions against nations not in tune with Western values, that is obedient to America, is that they have defied UN resolutions. That was constantly referred to in relation to the need to invade Iraq in 2003. Yet up until 2010 the list of United Nations Security Council resolutions directly critical of Israel for violations of UN Security Council resolutions, the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international terrorism, or other violations of international law amounted to 79 https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/01/27/rogue-state-israeli-violations-of-u-n-security-council-resolutions/  and today is well over 100.

On Thursday last week a nasty, deceitful and cold Tory MP (as if there is any other kind…) used her appearance on the BBC Question Time programme to disgracefully brand Jeremy Corbyn an “anti-Semite” https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2018/11/16/dimbleby-outraged-as-tory-minister-attacks-him-but-happily-lets-her-smear-jeremy-corbyn/  without being chided or warned about her libellous behaviour by the host David Dimblebly.

The fact he nor the BBC afterwards issued any form of disclaimer about such a shameful and unfounded attack against Corbyn speaks volumes about the biased and anti-Corbyn state of the pro-Israel Corporation which persists in falsely presenting the Israel/Palestine conflict completely out of context by promoting a narrative which ignores the fact one country is illegally occupying another and that Israel is the aggressor and rogue nation to the core.

Jeremy Corbyn has consistently in words and deeds opposed all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and injustice throughout his adult life as an elected trade union official, councillor and MP. While he was on the streets physically opposing the fascists and racists of the National Front and British National Party and supporting boycotts of apartheid South Africa Tories like Claire Perry were whipping up the kind of racial intolerance and immigrant hate that fascists feed from and calling for freedom fighter Nelson Mandela to be hanged.

It is not and can never become anti-Semitic to criticise the racist policies of Israel and their brutal treatment of Palestine and the Palestinian people. Jim Sheridan, Mary Bain Lockhart and Jeremy Corbyn are in a different political party to me and mistakenly oppose the right of Scotland to self-determination. That makes us opponents on the question of Scotland’s independence. But in the spirit of Pastor Niemoller I cannot stand idly by and see good people labelled as anti-Semites without speaking up in support of them.

We insult the memory of those 6 million Jews who suffered inhumane treatment and brutal deaths at the hands of the anti-Semite Nazis and the millions of others persecuted and discriminated against across Europe and the world if we allow the term to be reduced to a cheap political jibe used against those who oppose racism and anti-Semitism but who support the rights of Palestinians.

The mainstream media deliberately refuses to reflect it but the fact is many Jews see the anti-Semitism attacks on Corbyn and Labour Party representatives as what they are:

“A number of left-wing Jewish groups have disputed the antisemitism claims. These include Jewish Voice for Labour,[241][242] Jews for Justice for Palestinians,[243] Jewish Socialists’ Group,[244] Jewdas[245] and Independent Jewish Voices;[246] all of whom have said that accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party have a twofold purpose: firstly to conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel in order to deter such criticism and secondly to undermine the Labour leadership since Corbyn was elected leader in 2015.[247][248][249]

In April 2016, Richard Kuper, spokesperson for Jews for Justice for Palestinians, expressed the view that while “there is some antisemitism in and around the Labour party – as there is in the wider society in Britain” and “there is clearly also a coordinated, willed and malign campaign to exaggerate the nature and extent of antisemitism as a stick to beat the Labour party” under Corbyn.[250] In the same month, Ian Saville, a Jewish Socialists’ Group and Labour Party member, said he is “disturbed” by the way antisemitism has “been taken up as a proxy with which to attack the left in the Labour Party.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_UK_Labour_Party  [250][251]

 

It is not anti-Semitic or pro-Hamas to support Palestinian rights and oppose Israel’s brutal oppression of those people and that nation. It is simply human.

We collectively have a duty to speak up for those wrongly accused of anti-Semitism. That horrible and unacceptable practice has to be properly identified and thoroughly opposed, verbally and physically, wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head. The Jewish Socialists’ Group defines anti-Semitism as:

“Prejudice, hostility and discrimination against Jews, as Jews and the use of negative stereotypes of Jews.”

Based on that definition and their individual and collective contributions to the fight against racism and for equality we can conclude that Jim Sheridan, Mary Bain Lockhart and Jeremy Corbyn are not anti-Semites.

Tommy Sheridan 

 “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A saying that is derived from ‘To a Mouse’, one of the many splendid poems written by Scotland’s legendary National Bard Robert Burns. Although he put it better:

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

I have next to nothing in common with Tory Prime Minister Theresa May but this evening both of us will have reached for those words from ‘oor Rabbie’ to explain our situations.

I had planned to pen a column about the economic ineptitude and political theft and vandalism displayed by successive governments’ privatisation programmes which have diminished the UK’s wealth and reduced service provision to millions.

Theresa May hoped to have a short meeting with her Cabinet colleagues over some stiff brandies and caviar coated salmon canapes and hors d’oeuvres while securing their support for her 500 page Brexit deal.

I have postponed my public ownership versus privatisation column while Mrs May’s Cabinet sojourn turned into a marathon session with much gnashing of teeth and wailing protests. Both examples of the best laid plans going ‘awry’.

I watched Channel 4 News live last night as May emerged meekly from No 10 to address the nation via the lone microphone that had become very sad as it had been left alone for hours. Her body language exposed her predicament as eloquently as her words. Alone, unsure and drained with a strained expression even worse than her default one Mrs May then sought to reassure everyone that her Cabinet was united behind her deal. She was as convincing as Donald Trump explaining he has nothing to fear from his tax returns being exposed.

I have said it since the June General Election failure of last year and I believe it to be truer than ever today. Mrs Theresa May is a political corpse. She may formally be in charge but she is not in power. She is a Prime Minister on borrowed time and whatever else emerges from the political shenanigans in the Houses of Parliament over the next few days and weeks I believe Mrs May is finished. She will be dumped by her ruthless party of spivs, charlatans and landed gentry.

I don’t have an iota of sympathy for her. She herself has displayed the cold, cruel and callous characteristics required to succeed within and lead the Conservative Party but her tactical blunder in calling a General Election when she didn’t have to backfired spectacularly as she listened too intently to the comfortable advisors and rich polling friends who predicted a Corbyn led Labour party would dive at the polls.

On the contrary, and defying all the arrogant out of touch pundits, Corbyn recorded a 10% swing towards him, the biggest since 1945. Not in Scotland mind you. There the swing was derisory at less than 3%.

Mrs May was fatally wounded in terms of authority and had to enter into a grubby £2 billion deal with the reactionary bigots in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the North of Ireland to try and shore up a governing majority in Parliament. In almost 50% of crucial votes in the Commons since then she has had to rely on that grubby deal to survive. Now the whole sordid arrangement is about to unravel.

I hate to be fair to Mrs May but she would have had a better chance of nailing raindrops to the wall than uniting her Tory Party and the DUP around a deal always bound to be weighted in favour of the EU and its institutions and traditions. Let’s face it the UK voted to leave an organisation of 27 other countries. If the exit package was anything other than complex, painful and costly other malcontent members would be encouraged to travel the same path.

The Tories are riven with division on the question. Some have illusions of grandeur that hark back to the old days when Britain controlled two thirds of the planet through its brutal and bloody Empire. Plundering and pillaging the natural resources and wealth of other countries and continents allowed it to ‘rule the waves’. Those days are gone. Britain is no longer the superpower it once was and its main influence on the world stage is reduced to the status of America’s poodle, the unofficial 51st State of America. From Bulldog to Poodle aptly illustrates Britain’s declining influence and importance on the world stage.

Bumbling bumpkins like Rees Mogg and Buffoon Johnson pretend to care about ordinary people. The truth is they don’t give a damn. They see an opportunity to enhance their own considerable personal wealth in an isolated Britain free to lower wage rates and employment protection even further without the troublesome regulations and treaties of the EU. The reality is the EU is a big business friendly institution tied to and promoting the free market and privatisation at every turn but the level playing field of sorts is restrictive to the millionaire Tories who want to drive living standards and workers’ rights further down and back to the 19th century.

Other Tories more wedded to finance capital see the EU as an important gateway to lucrative markets and fear the loss of influence outside the club. Those contradictory views within the Tory party are irreconcilable. May’s chances of herding these cats within her own party in the one direction are as high as mine are of waking up today with a full head of hair. They are non-existent.

She will be replaced within the coming weeks and months. Already letters to the Tory 1922 Committee seeking a no-confidence vote in her are mounting up, apparently the requisite 48 letters have been sent. The DUP are adamant they won’t back her deal. Labour won’t back it. The Liberals won’t back it. And enough Tories won’t back it to make the deal and her Prime Ministerial post dead in the water.

The massive question for me is what the SNP now choose to do? The whole Brexit fiasco sums up entirely why we as a nation have to get out of the abusive union and establish our own solutions and path to growth and prosperity for all.

England voted Brexit. They are getting it. Wales voted Brexit. They will get it. The North of Ireland voted Remain. They are getting special treatment. Gibraltar voted Remain. They are getting special treatment. Scotland voted Remain more decisively than either the North of Ireland or Gibraltar and we are getting nothing. Treated with disdain and contempt throughout the whole process.

Our First Minister is due to make a statement at 2.30pm today. That statement has to be clear and concise. The mandate for IndyRef2 has to be triggered. We cannot stick around in this abusive British union any longer. Our destiny awaits us but first we have to secure our independence and become a normal nation once again.

The UK is due to check out of the European Union on Friday 29th March 2019. Our independence referendum should be set for Thursday 28th March. Their Brexit from the EU should signal our Exit from Britain the union.

The only other acceptable scenario in this fluid and high stakes situation is an early General Election. Given the Fixed Parliament Act such an election could only be held if two thirds of the Parliament votes to hold it. That is a high threshold and many selfish Tories may resist it for fear of losing their seats. It is not however an outlandish development. It could take place in February next year, or sooner, with the winner free to deliver a different Brexit deal or decide to put the whole issue back to the people with the reversal of Brexit on the ballot paper.

If a new General Election does transpire, my preferred option as I want Corbyn to win enough seats in England to form at least a minority Government, then the SNP must step up to the plate and declare a vote for them is a vote for independence. Thus when they secure the majority of the Westminster seats in Scotland for a 3rd time in a row it will be a sufficient democratic basis to call UDI, a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

So either way via a new referendum or an open commitment to UDI the SNP must be bold and brave today and in the coming months. Scotland is crying out for a new start. A country wedded to communitarian values, public ownership of health, land, energy, water and eventually oil. With a national bank able to fund ambitious and necessary public works programmes to improve access to housing, health care and education.

Independence in and of itself will change nothing other than giving us the power and tools to change everything.

I will celebrate the demise of Prime Minister May. She has proved herself to be every bit as cold, cruel and callous as Thatcher and Cameron before her. She deserves no sympathy.

But her demise is Scotland’s opportunity. Through the route of a new referendum or a unilateral declaration of independence following a successful General Election we will soon be free.

My vision of an independent socialist republic will then compete with the visions of others to secure the allegiance of Scots. However our destiny will at long last be in our own hands free from the restrictive chains of the corrupt Westminster and able to utilise our resources for the benefit of the millions not the millionaires. Bring it on.

‘Break the chains from the unicorn and show Westminster Tories that Scotland’s no longer their slave’, to quote from the wonderful song ‘Hope Over Fear’.

 

Tommy Sheridan

Solidarity Is More than the Name of a Political Party – It Is A Way of Life

My task on Saturday was to address my political party’s annual conference and try to inspire the gathering with some socialist vision and ideas. The name of the party is Solidarity and it was formed in late 2006 out of a messy battle within a bigger party that I used to lead and represent in Parliament. Over the past eleven years it has been hard to maintain a left party committed to independence in the face of a rampant SNP that has adopted many policies formerly associated with left and socialist parties while being best positioned as the de facto political leadership of the mass grassroots independence movement.

The rise of the SNP has been spectacular over that period. From securing the right to form a minority Scottish Government in 2007 for the first time to the incredible outcome of 2011 when against all predictions, and confounding the complex intricacies of the more proportional Regional List and Constituency voting system, they won an outright majority which was truly ‘historic’ and ‘emphatic,’ even according to arch unionists like former Tory PM David Cameron https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-13319936 .

On the back of the politicisation of Scotland during the Independence Referendum of September 2014 the SNP’s meteoric rise continued in the May 2015 General Election when they secured 56 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats and actually won more than 50% of all votes cast in that election. In 2016 the SNP hierarchy and army of loyal online supporters ignored sound advice from people like me on the best way to use the unique Scottish Parliament voting system. Due to their dominance in the constituencies across Scotland I humbly suggested YES supporters give their First Constituency vote to the SNP but their 2nd Regional List vote to one of the other progressive pro-independence parties that were standing, namely Solidarity, The Greens or a group called RISE. This would maximise the number of YES supporters elected to the Parliament and minimise the presence of unionists. It became a discussion about the two different coloured ballot papers (peach and lilac) that would be issued at each polling station and the importance of tactics in how to use them (Please watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm9O1gOuYRM ).

Sadly my voice and those of others was ignored on this question and the opportunity for an even greater pro-independence majority in the Scottish Holyrood Parliament was missed. Instead almost every List (2nd) vote cast for the SNP amounted to a wasted vote. They attracted 953,587 List votes but won only 4 List seats while the 524,222 List votes for the Tories secured them 24 seats.

Ironically enough the Tories have always opposed the more proportional voting system used for Holyrood elections yet without it they would be a mere rump in the Parliament with only 7 Constituency seats. Frustratingly for the YES City of Glasgow we have only one Regional List MSP representing us and six unionists (4 Labour & 2 Tories) because the SNP and its supporters ignored the warnings.

Some of the numpties elected to represent the Tories are not fit for purpose but every one of the 111,101 Regional List votes cast for the SNP were completely wasted. A slight re-distribution of those votes could have boosted Glasgow’s YES representation from one to three or four but the warnings prior to the election were dismissed and sadly ignored https://livestream.com/IndependenceLive/DebateSplitVoteEU/videos/113573445 .

Solidarity emerged from the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections with 14,333 votes which made them the 3rd best supported pro-independence party in Scotland and the best supported socialist party in Scotland (discounting the Dugdale led Scottish Labour party) but it wasn’t enough to secure representation in the parliament. So like many small parties it is hard to be taken serious or have any impact in society without the platform afforded by a parliamentary seat. So how would I raise the spirits of my small socialist party assembled in the Nan Barbour room of the Pearce Institute in Glasgow’s Govan on Saturday morning?

I sought assistance from two unlikely sources for my opening remarks, Dalai Lama and Muhammed Ali. It was Dalai Lama who offered timeless encouragement to those who perceive themselves to be too small to influence matters when he said:

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference … try sleeping with a mosquito in the room” https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/264586546834449898/?lp=true .

While the inspiring legend that was Muhammed Ali wisely observed:

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe” https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/muhammad_ali_167368 .

Two wise quotes which caution us against pessimism rooted in relative size and weight when confronting major challenges from bigger foes. The immortal ‘it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it the size of the fight in the dog’ should have been lumped in for extra measure.

Small parties do matter and can influence the political scene. Sometimes negatively, aka the narrow minded and racist UKIP seeking to scapegoat immigrants for every social ill and promote intolerance and antagonism towards minorities, but often positively. In 1999 I was the sole representative of my small socialist party elected to a Parliament of 129 members. Yet within the four year term I was able to win support for the first Private Members Bill of that Parliament and secure abolition of the ancient and abhorrent practice of poindings and warrant sales which were wielded with force and shame against the poor http://www.parliament.scot/visitandlearn/Education/18640.aspx .

I also introduced a wider anti-poverty and pro-health measure in the shape of the School Meals (Scotland) Bill which was designed to tackle the stigma often attached to free school meal provision, improve the daily diet of all of Scotland’s children and ensure every child was able to access a healthy meal at school. It was a measure supported by scores of anti-poverty campaigns and lone-parent charities as well as trade unions concerned with progressive measures http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/schoolmeals.html .

The Scottish Parliament debated that proposal in June of 2002 and the Green member, the SNP members and the independents all backed it. Disgracefully, however, the Labour, Liberal and Tory Members of the Scottish Parliament united in shame to vote it down. They said it was too costly thus exhibiting wilful blindness to the mounting health costs associated with increased obesity and obesity related type 2 diabetes while ignoring the evidence from countries like Finland who now benefit from reduced health expenditure due to their bold investment in free and healthy school meals. These same unionist MSP’s voted consistently to support nuclear weapons expenditure but protested that we couldn’t afford to provide a free and healthy school meal to Scotland’s school pupils. No wonder I was raging at them in 2002 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2044670.stm .

These short-sighted politicians have brass-necks as bright as lighthouses. The same comfortable MSPs and MPs who pontificated against free school meals in 2002 from within the Liberal and Labour parties are now supporting calls for free school meals in Scotland and across the UK https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-free-school-meals-universal-primary-school-children-vat-private-school-fees-a7668811.html .

Of course the stunted vision doesn’t stop there. In the course of my 8 year stint within the Scottish Parliament I also introduced Private Members Bills to re-nationalise the railways. It was voted down in 2005 but now Labour and SNP back the measure. I wanted to ban public sales of airguns without production of a licence. It was voted down but is now in force. I wanted to replace the inherently unfair council tax with a fairer and redistributive income based alternative. It was voted down but is now official SNP policy. My party promoted a free prescriptions bill which was voted down but is now in force across Scotland. My party promoted a health approach to drugs misuse instead of a criminal approach which we said was counter-productive and expensive. We advocated legalising cannabis and other illegal drugs under a strict licencing and regulation regime. We were ridiculed, attacked and opposed. Now just about every party has changed their attitude and policy position on tackling drug misuse to be closer to ours.

It is fair to comment that although unionist Labour and Liberals have changed consistently and the SNP on significant areas the Tories have remained steadfast in their opposition to free school meals, rail public ownership, drugs attitudes and defence of the council tax. They are cold, cruel and callous bastards but they are consistently cold, cruel and callous.

The point is that what appears to be a minority view emanating from a smaller political party at one juncture in time can quite often become a widely shared view. Solidarity passed policies calling for a maximum wage as well as a minimum wage. For every business and employer to be compelled to pay each employee at least £10 an hour, a living wage to tackle the unacceptable and growing incidence of ‘the working poor’. Instead of individuals being required to fill in long and complicated forms to access Housing Benefit, Working Families Tax Credit, Council Tax support, all measures which effectively subsidise employers who pay low wages, we should have a business support scheme which assists those small businesses genuinely unable to pay as much as £10 an hour.

Such a scheme would cost less and be much more efficient in targeting cash were necessary. The Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Amazon, Boots and other big stores and employers who currently have their low wage policies underwritten by central government benefits would instead have to pay real living wages to their staff. Small businesses with small profits margins can qualify for financial support. Properly staffed tax and benefit agencies can ensure abuses of the system are rare while society as a whole would benefit from the increased spending power and dignity attached to a workforce paid properly.

Instead of longer working weeks and extending the retirement age lets implement a unitary state pension, earlier retirement and a 4 day working week. A living pension would be easily affordable if the pensions and finance industry was publicly owned and run for the maximum benefit of everyone instead of the enrichment of the few. Retiring at 55 on a living pension will not only extend the quality of life in later years but help create millions of jobs for young people often without prospects. So too would a shorter worker week. In addition all the credible research shows that shortening the working week will not hamper productivity but enhance it.

A society built on the promoted values of love, cooperation and human solidarity as opposed to hate, competition, greed and selfishness is what the socialist vision offers. As my old comrade Tony Benn used to say repeatedly:

“If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/15/10-of-the-best-tony-benn-quotes-as-picked-by-our-readers .

So we all left our Solidarity conference in Glasgow on Saturday convinced that another and better world is possible and committed to human and political solidarity as our philosophy of life https://solidarity.scot/ . We will redouble our efforts to fight for an independent and socialist Scotland, a democratic republic seeking friendly and cooperative relations with other peoples in other nations across the planet.

The world of permanent war, racism, bigotry and intolerance is all the Trumps and trumpets at the top of society have to offer. We reject that. We say there is a better world to be won and to those who accuse us of being ‘dreamers’ we say yes, ‘but we’re not the only ones’. We don’t just imagine there is a better world we are determined to secure it for our children and our loved ones https://www.facebook.com/Scotyesfreedom/videos/2201316140141626/UzpfSTYzNjQxMTA5NDoxMDE1NjkwNzUyMDUxNjA5NQ/ .

Tommy Sheridan 

For The Sake Of The Children And Much More Besides – USE THE MANDATE

“Thank you for giving my mum food so we can eat”. Those were the words written by an eight year old boy who had been caught stealing tomato sauce sachets from his school as he thought he could make soup with them. A heart-breaking and scandalous glimpse of the reality of poverty in the 21st century.

Yet what makes the story https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/starving-schoolboy-child-poverty-steal-tomato-sauce-food-bank-glasgow-a8607461.html even more shocking is it did not emerge from a war torn region or third world country it emerged during evidence to the Social Security Committee of the Scottish Parliament last week and concerned a hungry child in Glasgow.

That Committee heard from both those in the front line working for charities trying to help the poor and victims of modern day poverty. In an area of Glasgow’s Southside, not far from where I live, a divorced father of two children had survived on nothing but water for four days such was his dire lack of income while The Trussell Trust, which now runs 53 food banks across Scotland, reports use of their services have soared by 80% in the last few years https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17008458.starving-scots-families-are-raiding-skips-at-night-for-food/ .

Many others too embarrassed to use food banks are reduced to raiding skips (large metal refuge bins) in the cover of darkness as the reality of benefit cuts, sanctions, the chaos of Universal Credit and inordinate delays in processing claims kicks in.

The most haunting warning given to the Parliament Committee by the charities working with Scotland’s poorest citizens and children was that the dire situation faced by increasing numbers was rapidly becoming “unsustainable” https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17008458.starving-scots-families-are-raiding-skips-at-night-for-food/ .

Glasgow used to be referred to as the ‘second city of the Empire’ such was its dominance in the world of shipbuilding and engineering in the early part of the 20th century. Poverty and inequality has always stalked the city but many believed concrete progress had been made in raising the 1990 City of Culture out of the swamp of poverty affecting so many of its sons and daughters.

Yet as we approach the 19th year of the 21st century we have kids stealing tomato sauce sachets and families scavenging in bins for food. It is a shocking and shameful situation.

Weeks prior to the Committee meeting the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released their Child Poverty in Scotland 2018 report that showed years of improvements were now reversed as far as relative poverty was concerned and 230,000 children are now in households classed as poor as they are unable to provide the things most families take for granted like nourishing meals, warm clothes, an adequately heated house and every day treats. In the year 2018 almost 1 in 4 of Scotland’s children (24%) are raised in poverty https://www.jrf.org.uk/press/one-four-scottish-children-poverty-parents-locked-out-jobs-market .

The situation would be even worse if the Scottish Government was not protecting Scottish families from the cruel Tory Bedroom Tax and providing crisis payments to the poor through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Established in 2013 applications to the Fund have increased by 70% in the last 12 months and applications for emergency help are now over 45,000 with the increased threat of homelessness through rent arrears driving up the demand. In the last 5 years the fund has paid out £173 million to allow the poorest to buy food and avoid being made homeless https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/number-scots-asking-crisis-grant-13509410 .

The situation right now is shocking in a country so rich in natural resources and the ability to generate vast amounts of wealth. We don’t just possess Europe’s largest supplies of oil we also produce vast quantities of natural gas and have a food and drinks sector which is the envy of the world let alone Europe. Our potential to be a world leader in the production of clean and sustainable energy was graphically illustrated only a week ago with the news that wind farms were being paid millions of pounds to turn off the wind turbines because the National Grid is unable to cope with the amount of energy generated on windy days https://wingsoverscotland.com/another-disaster-for-scotland/ .

Yet the bad news is set to get worse under the Westminster Tories and their cold and callous policies of further wealth transfer from the poor to the rich.

An independent economic analysis carried out for the Scottish Government last month predicts poverty in general and child poverty in particular will get even worse under the planned Tory cuts. Despite all their measures to try and mitigate the benefit and income cuts the percentage of children suffering from poverty in Scotland will rise from 24% to 38% over the next decade https://www.gov.scot/publications/tackling-child-poverty-delivery-plan-forecasting-child-poverty-scotland/pages/8/ .

Child poverty in Scotland is predicted to rise from almost 1 in 4 to well over 1 in 3 while other small independent countries in Europe, who have also suffered from the world economic crash of 2008, have child poverty levels of 1 in 10 or less (Denmark  9.2%; Iceland 10%; Norway 10.2%; Finland 10.9%) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/these-rich-countries-have-high-levels-of-child-poverty/ .

There are so many arguments for Scottish independence but right now I want to highlight these shocking child poverty statistics as a huge motivation for the Scottish SNP Government to use the democratic mandate they possess to call and organise IndyRef2.

British unionists argue that we had a referendum in 2014 and that should be the settled will for a generation, around 2039 or longer. I say away and ‘bile yer heid’, to use an old Scots phrase.

Democracy is nothing if it is not alive, constant, always engaging with the populace. The evidence that the 2104 Referendum was fought on a deceitful and fraudulent basis is now unassailable. The unionists insisted that the ‘only’ way Scotland could stay in the European Union was to vote NO to independence. Set aside for a moment the lies about pensions being under threat from independence, shipyard order books being dependent on rejecting independence and banking and civil service jobs being safe only on the basis of a NO vote. They were all lies. Part of the cynical ‘Project Fear’ campaign that specifically targeted the elderly.

The concrete reality of Scotland voting by 62% to stay in the European Union but being dragged outside it by England which voted 53% to leave is a massive material change in circumstances which on its own justifies a 2nd independence referendum.

However the SNP fought and won 56 of Scotland’s 59 Scottish Westminster seats in 2015. It won the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. It then won the 2017 snap General Election with 35 of the Scottish Westminster seats, more than all the other parties in Scotland added together. It organised a debate and vote on the issue of a 2nd Referendum in the Scottish Parliament last March. By 69 votes to 59 that democratically elected Parliament, Scotland’s Parliament, voted to hold IndyRef2 between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

This mandate is referred to as a “triple-lock” mandate as was clearly explained by the SNP Manifesto for the June 2017 General Election:

“If the SNP wins a majority of seats in this election, that would complete a triple lock, further reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists”.

“In such circumstances, any continued Tory attempts to block the people of Scotland having a choice on their future, when the options are clear, and on a timescale determined by the Scottish Parliament, would be democratically unsustainable.” https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/snp-manifesto-sets-triple-lock-second-independence-vote/

The situation could not be clearer. We have in Scotland a rock solid mandate to hold a second independence referendum anytime between now and April next year. That is the terms of the mandate. A mandate which was secured through hard work and vigorous campaigning in the teeth of an overwhelmingly hostile and biased unionist press and media. To fail to use this mandate would be a gross dereliction of duty and a betrayal of the trust bestowed on the SNP by the broad Independence Family.

Nicola Sturgeon is Scotland’s First Minister and she has led the SNP into the democratic battles of 2015, 2016 and 2017 and won every one of them. She is head and shoulders above the leaders of the unionist parties in Holyrood.

Last month she delayed calling the date of IndyRef2 at her party’s conference in Glasgow on the basis that the Brexit exit terms are not yet clear and therefore some ‘patience’ and ‘pragmatism’ was required.

I reckon her performance as the SNP Leader and First Minister over the last 3 years has earned her the right to be trusted on the IndyRef2 timing question but I am also acutely aware that there are voices close to her urging a significant delay.

In fact some are urging her to ditch the hard won mandate and seek a new one at the next Scottish elections in 2021. I say no. Don’t listen to the gradualists who would have you throw away a triple-lock mandate for the gamble of securing another Parliament Indy majority in 3 years’ time. The credibility of the Scottish Parliament is on the line. The credibility of SNP Manifesto commitments is on the line. The strength, energy, enthusiasm and commitment of the grassroots Indy Movement is on the line.

Most important of all the future of Scotland’s children, our public services and the welfare of our country is on the line. Those who urge caution may be able to wait another 3 or 4 years but the victims of Tory unionist austerity can’t afford to wait. Their opportunities, life chances, hopes and desires are being trampled upon right now and the situation will only worsen over the next 3 to 4 years. Sure many of us will still fight the cause of independence no matter when the next vote is held but what’s at risk right now is the onset of disillusionment.

An incredible 1.6 million Scots (1,617,989), predominantly those under the age of 55, voted YES in 2014 in a referendum which motivated a record turnout of 84.6%. Some eight months later 1.4 million (1,454,436) voted SNP at the 2015 General Election, 50% of those voting on a higher than normal turnout of 71%.

However two years later the SNP vote at the snap General Election in June ‘17 fell by almost 500,000 votes (476,867) although they still recorded their second best General Election result in their history. The point is the Tory vote increased by over 300,000, Labour by less than 10,000 and the Lib Dems lost 40,000 but the turnout was down 5% points and the reality is the SNP suffered more from disillusion than defection, reflected in the lower turnout https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40246330 .

Although the IndyRef2 commitment made it into the Manifesto the SNP tried to fight the election on other territory and that did not enthuse and mobilise the core YES vote while the Tories fought on virtually nothing else but the constitutional question hoping to sweep up the hard core unionist votes.

In the context of a disgracefully biased anti-SNP, anti-independence press and broadcast media the run up to the 2021 Scottish elections will be dominated by SNP bad stories and blame for everything negative, from low wage rises to public service and welfare cuts, will be falsely laid at the SNP’s door. In such circumstances the SNP will do well to emerge as the largest party in the parliament but the independence majority with the Greens could easily be lost. A recent opinion poll has in fact predicted such an outcome https://wingsoverscotland.com/another-crushing-defeat/ .

Failure to use the current IndyRef2 mandate could make that scenario even more likely as those in the Indy Movement who give the SNP their votes on the basis of independence alone, as opposed to party loyalists, may instead refrain from voting or choose another available Indy option.

So not only would it be wrong in principle to fail to use the current live democratic mandate it would also be a tactical blunder which the SNP would regret.

Some say wait until the opinion polls record consistent majorities for YES before calling IndyRef2. I say that is pie in the sky. Polls are mere snapshots of opinion and many have proved fragile recently. If polls were to guide the first referendum of 2014 it would never have taken place. On 23rd January 2013 the Guardian newspaper reported support for independence had slumped to the lowest level since devolution in 1999 with only 23% support https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jan/23/support-scottish-independence-slumps-lowest .

Nine months later the picture had barely improved. It looked dire. The Scotsman newspaper gleefully reported that the broader and supposedly more reliable Scottish Attitudes Survey recorded support for Independence was only a mere 25%. That was on 12th October 2013, less than twelve months before the actual vote https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-support-at-25-per-cent-poll-1-3138404 .

Yet despite the unionist British Establishment promoting lies, distortions and fears about independence the YES vote actually rose to 45%.

The crucial point is it hasn’t fallen below that level in the last three years and some polls have suggested it has risen to 47% with a recent poll that factored in the Brexit issue suggesting a majority for independence post Brexit of 52% YES to 48% NO once Don’t Knows are excluded https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/constitution/scottish-parliament/news/97924/support-scottish-independence-would-take-lead .

If we were able in the Indy Movement to rise from 25% to 45% in the teeth of British Establishment lies, distortions and ‘Bitter Together’ promoted fear in 2014 we could most definitely rise from 45% to over 55% in the space of a short, enthusiastic, energetic and informed campaign over the 4 months from December to late March.

Our foe is very formidable but crucially for us they are divided right now. The British Establishment are past masters at devising and promoting divide and rule tactics but right now it is they who are divided. Some want a soft Brexit, some a hard Brexit and others want to reverse Brexit. Their division is our opportunity.

The waiting for the outcome of Brexit negotiations cannot be allowed to stretch beyond the end of this month. As far as Scotland is concerned the details of whatever is brought back from Brussels is irrelevant. As a country we voted to stay in the European Union. The May Government does not talk for us or represent our views. Scotland did not vote Tory in 2015 or 2017. The fact we have a Tory government is a democratic deficit that only independence can resolve.

From well-known celebrities like J.K. Rowling and Billy Connolly https://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/16997836.billy-connolly-scottish-independence-may-be-the-way-to-go-after-brexit-disaster/ to prominent and effective NO campaigners like Murray Foote, former Daily Record Editor, and Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor at the Govan Law Centre, the Brexit issue has changed their minds. They are all now in the YES camp and they are representative of hundreds of thousands who when given a second chance after witnessing the unravelling of Project Fears’ lies and the Brexit chaos will choose the path of Scottish independence and controlling our own destiny rather than being tied to the increasingly narrow, nasty British nationalist coat-tails of Westminster.

We have marched all over Scotland in 2018 to demand IndyRef2 culminating in a massive show of strength in Edinburgh last month of over 100,000. That is the equivalent of a million marching in London. The message we have is a positive one. We want the tools to be able to build a fairer, more equal, inclusive, prosperous and non-nuclear weapon scarred Scotland. Nothing will change the day after we win IndyRef2 except the ability to change everything. Our plea to First Minister has to be loud, clear and positive #UseTheMandate.

Tommy Sheridan 

The Red Poppy Is Not About Remembrance It Has Become A Symbol of Militarism and Imperialism – I Prefer The White Poppy of Peace

“Politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder.” 

“Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims”

These are the words which should appear in bold print and be accompanied with clear voice overs for the blind and signed prominently for the deaf and hard of hearing on every single news programme and politics show for the 18 days which lead up to the 11th of November every year.

News readers should inform the viewers at the end of every show that these are the words of a man called Harry Patch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Patch and the reason his words deserve prominence and repetition at this time of year every year is because he was the last living survivor of the war which has been grotesquely dubbed, The Great War of 1914-18, which stuttered to an inglorious end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of 1918 after consuming the lives of some 37 million civilians and combatants.

There is in truth nothing ‘Great’ about that horrible and unnecessary war that pitted man against man the world over for nothing more than the right of the rich in each country involved to have greater access and control of markets to reap even greater profits to feed their insatiable greed. There was no glory in a conflict that saw conscripted men on all sides slaughtered by their thousands day after day suffering horrific deaths and writhing with agony in European battlefields like the Somme and Ypres.

Harry Patch was typical of the ordinary men conscripted to fight that futile war which is why his words should be given so much attention and prominence now.

He lived to the age of 111 and became not just the last British survivor who fought in WW1 but the last survivor across Europe. He became known as ‘The Last Tommy’ in reference to the nickname associated with British soldiers for several hundred years. His book ‘The Last Fighting Tommy’ is a searing condemnation of the brutality of WW1 and the cruel, cold and callous loss of life it caused.

For many years Harry refused to discuss his memories of the First World War as they haunted him so deeply. But after several years of being cajoled he eventually opened up and made many speeches and visits across Europe to promote peace and reconciliation. He received 8 honours for bravery during WW1 and a Defence Medal for service in WW2.

A particularly poignant passage from his book was read out at his funeral service in his Somerset place of birth on 6th August 2009 before the Wells Cathedral bells were rang 111 times from 11am in his honour:

“We came across a lad from A company. He was ripped open from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel and lying in a pool of blood. When we got to him, he said: ‘Shoot me’. He was beyond human help and, before we could draw a revolver, he was dead. And the final word he uttered was ‘Mother.’ I remember that lad in particular. It’s an image that has haunted me all my life, seared into my mind”. (https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-last-fighting-tommy-9781408897225/)

It is passages like this and recollections of the very real consequences of wars which should adorn our screens and occupy our city centre streets at this time of year not the General Haig associated red poppy.

That poppy has been kidnapped by the military and the politicians as a symbol not of remembrance but of justification for every bloody war and militaristic campaign regardless of cause. It is a symbol of military might and imperialist plunder. Most wear it to show respect for the fallen but the truth is it represents the hypocrisy and cynicism of the ruling classes who couldn’t care a jot about lives lost in conflicts across the world.

World War Two veterans like Harry Leslie Smith refuse to wear that poppy any longer in protest at how bastardised the message it portrays has become. Politicians with the blood of illegal and immoral wars and conflicts on their hands stand at Remembrance Ceremonies without a flicker of contrition and lay wreaths that used to be about ‘Never Again’ and ‘Lest We Forget’ but are now about ‘support us whatever conflict we get involved in’ and ‘don’t question just obey’.

Harry Leslie Smith served with distinction in WW2 as an RAF pilot and used to wear a red poppy every November in memory of his fallen comrades in that war and all the fallen from WW1. He vividly recalls a time in history when actual invasion was a real threat across the UK and how determined millions were to defend their homes and communities against the brutality, intolerance and inhumanity carried in the Nazi swastika. Now he rejects the jingoism and hypocrisy associated with the red poppy.

He believes it is used unscrupulously by politicians eager to manipulate the populace into supporting arms trading and unnecessary conflicts in our name. Writing five years ago in 2013 he said;

“However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one’s right to privacy” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/08/poppy-last-time-remembrance-harry-leslie-smith?CMP=share_btn_link .

With perfect precision Harry later blasted the rank hypocrisy of the politicians who insist on uniform conformity to red poppy wearing while they insult its supposed meaning when he said:

“Almost immediately after November 11(2014) the Tower, which had been used to mourn our dead, hosted a dinner for the arms merchants of the world which shows not only poor taste but the sheer hypocrisy of the government that commissioned the commemoration” https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/11/07/veteran-harry-leslie-smith-red-poppy-politicised_n_8498786.html?ncid=other_email_o63gt2jcad4&utm_campaign=share_email .

The same politicians who jostled furiously to be in the pictures commemorating the 100 years since the start of the First World War in 2014 with their bright red poppies on display were within days back to the same venue to sell armaments to any rogue nation or tyrant with the money to buy them.

Pause for a moment in the coming days when you are blinded by the size and brightness of the poppy adorning the Tory politician on the news or pontificating in Parliament that his Government sells missiles and arms with abandonment to the Saudi Regime responsible for the carnage in Yemen and the murder of critical journalists in broad daylight.

Days ago in the European Parliament the Tories refused to support an almost universally supported motion (it was passed by 242 votes to 23) to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia in protest at their involvement in the Jamal Khashoggi murder and the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children civilians in Yemen where their involvement and deployment of UK supplied weapons has left two-thirds of the population relying on aid and 8 million on the brink of starvation https://www.independent.co.uk/news/conservatives-european-parliament-weapons-embargo-theresa-may-saudi-arabia-jamal-khashoggi-a8601591.html.

Weapons they purchased from the UK in 2014 were used by Saudi Arabia to cause carnage and destruction in 2015. So much for the ‘Lest We Forget’ red poppy message they wore with such pride before selling the arms to that regime and many others with deplorable human rights records. In fact the proud red poppy proponents have actually increased arms sales by £5billion to recognised repressive regimes across the globe since 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/09/arms-sales-repressive-regimes-saudi-arabia. But don’t fret they wore their red poppies for 18 days so it’s okay to sell bombs to regimes to kill hundreds of thousands of innocents because they ‘remembered’ our fallen soldiers. Their shame faced hypocrisy fills me with rage.

An example of the hypocrisy and ignorance which pollutes the Tory Party was on display last week when a Tory MP decided to publicly attack those who choose to wear a white poppy as a symbol of remembrance instead of the military associated red one. Johnny Mercer MP accused white poppy wearers of “hijack” and said “White poppies are attention seeking rubbish” https://ppu.org.uk/news/johnny-mercer-mp-reveals-ignorance-attack-white-poppy-wearers .

This idiot was blissfully unaware that the white poppy was introduced by war widows in 1933 angered by the increased militarism and move away from the ‘Never Again’ message originally promoted around Armistice Day celebrations after 1918. The Peace Pledge Union has produced and promoted the white poppy as a memorial to the fallen in every country and every war since 1934 and have unashamedly campaigned against militarism and for a world without wars. If the women in 1933 who were left without husbands, sons and brothers due to the WW1 calamity were seeking attention for anything it was the right to insist on peace instead of constant war. The war to end all wars was how the First World War was described yet within 20 years of it ending conscription was once again introduced.

Of course the war against Hitler and Fascism was at least a just cause and an unfortunately necessary battle but what an insult it is to the many who fell in that war to now regularly witness the thugs and reprobates associated with the English Defence League, BNP and other fascistic organisations openly performing Nazi salutes on streets across England, Wales and Scotland. ‘Lest We Forget’ has been too often forgotten. These are the people who insult the memories of the war dead not the white poppy wearers who promote peace and oppose wars.

Away back in 1995 I was a guest on the BBC Scotland ‘Elaine’ show hosted by comedienne, presenter and actress Elaine C, Smith. It took place in November and the BBC tried to insist I wear a red poppy. I refused. Instead I wore a white poppy as I had done since I was 18 and discovered the Peace Pledge Union at Stirling University, in 1985. Elaine and I discussed the white poppy and the clear message of remembrance of the fallen in all countries and the promotion of peace. To the issue of the good causes which the red poppies raise money for I answered then as I answer now. If a government is going to send men and women into conflicts at their behest it has a legal and moral duty to care for them afterwards.

The idea that veteran soldiers should have to rely on charitable donations for welfare and housing is utterly abhorrent. Instead of buying red poppies for 18 days every year why don’t we sell small Trident Missile badges and whatever is raised can be spent on illegal and immoral nuclear bombs. The £200 billion plus we are currently committed to spending on those nuclear bombs can instead be diverted to proper care for veterans and other needy and vulnerable citizens. If nuclear weapons are as popular as some politicians tell us they are they should have no problem raising the required funds.

Although my arguments were generally well received in the TV studio that night I faced red top newspaper attacks in the days that followed. I was a ‘disgrace’, ‘unpatriotic’, ‘disrespectful’ and mush more besides. All because I refused to wear a red poppy which I associate with militarism and jingoistic imperialism. The one argument which most annoyed the gutter press in heated phone calls that followed was my reference to my Irish heritage. My grandad on my dad’s side came from Ireland and growing up attending a Catholic primary and secondary school I was of course familiar with what was called ‘The Troubles’ and Britain’s role in occupying that island.

My special study in Modern Studies at the age of 14 was that dark period of British repression in Ireland. I was sympathetic to those who were fighting against the presence of British troops. Given the murders of unarmed civilians in places like Ballymurphy in August 1971 and Rossville Street in the Bogside in January 1972 by the British Army how could anyone with Irish heritage or connections support a red poppy appeal so closely allied to the military?

General Mike Jackson commanded the troops on the ground while they slaughtered innocent and unarmed men and women. He then lied to cover up the truth. General Douglas Haig was callous and complicit in ordering hundreds of thousands of men to advance slowly to their horrible deaths at the Somme and Ypres. He was both an incompetent fool and cold hearted butcher http://www.historynet.com/field-marshal-sir-douglas-haig-world-war-is-worst-general.htm. These men epitomise the worst excesses of the British Army. The red poppy appeal is integrally wrapped in a British Army uniform. Those who buy and display a red poppy over the next week or so are entitled to believe they are supporting a worthy cause. I am entitled to disagree.

For me the red poppy is too closely associated with the blood soaked history of British imperialism, in Ireland and across the globe. It is not a symbol of peace and remembrance but of war and militarism. Like an increasing number of others I will remember the victims of all wars and oppose militarism in pursuit of peace by wearing my white poppy again this year.

Tommy Sheridan

Millionaire Hammond Delivers Nothing But Spin – The Rich Are Protected Again

Multi-millionaire property tycoon charges the taxpayer for “superior” teaspoons despite being paid a salary of £141,505 a year from the public purse and receiving outrageous expenses, a huge pension, a free central London flat and a grace- and- favour country mansion in Buckinghamshire in a package worth around £400,000 a year announces austerity is nearly over but continued discipline is required.

It should be the headline in today’s newspapers. It could be the basis of a sketch for a comedy sit-com but unfortunately it is no joke for millions of over-worked, understaffed and under-paid workers across the UK. It is the warped reality beamed into our homes yesterday as the Tory Chancellor, Happy Hammond, pontificated about the need for continued financial sacrifices and the benefits of prudent budgeting.

Over the last 10 years he and his cold-hearted, callous and conceited Conservative Cabinet chums have put Dick Turpin to shame for the day-light robbery they have inflicted on the majority across the UK for the benefit of the rich few. At least Turpin had the decency to wear a mask while he robbed the public. All Hammond and co wear are sneering smirks while they slash real living standards for millions but cut income taxes for millionaires like themselves. Malevolent May’s Tory Cabinet is stuffed with millionaires and the stench of privilege https://www.theguardian.com/business/shortcuts/2017/jan/17/theresa-mays-cabinet-pretty-rich-but-nothing-on-trumps and their collective assault on public services, public service workers and those struggling to survive on low incomes over the last decade has been every bit as criminal as Turpin.

A few weeks ago May announced, to the surprise of her party, that austerity was over. Philip Hammond stood up yesterday to apparently confirm that statement but instead succeeded in exposing Prime Minister May as the liar she is. May has form when it comes to deliberately misleading the public for personal preservation from her Home Office “hostile environment” approach to airport runway positions, Brexit and now the end of austerity https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/30/theresa-may-lie-and-lied-to-become-prime-minister . In keeping with the Halloween season Hammond should have donned ‘The Joker’ outfit as his speech was riddled with unrealistic economic forecasts, spurious unemployment claims and pathetic references to improved standards of living. The most ridiculous riddle was the one about him helping not the few or the many but ‘all the people’. Aye right and those teaspoons he claimed for, along with the teapot and mugs were legitimate expenses… https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/who-philip-hammond-what-net-11560679 .

Literally millions have lost their jobs in local government, retail and manufacturing over the last ten years but don’t worry they have been replaced by the unregulated, zero-hour, insecure ‘gig economy’ jobs delivering fast food, driving taxis and leaving millions reliant on more than one job to try and make ends meet. Unemployment figures are artificially reduced and fail to reflect the increased poverty among working families unable to cope on inadequate wages and frozen in work benefits. The single biggest growth in poverty is among the ‘working poor’ and that is a disgrace https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2017 .

If I wasn’t writing this column I wouldn’t have watched the Budget speech yesterday. I hate the sight of the pompous, pious, politicians sitting in their comfy attire yahooing like unruly school children while pontificating to the rest of us how we should live. It really is the biggest collection of benefits scroungers in Britain. Basic salaries of £74,000 per annum and access to travel, accommodation and expenses accounts that most workers could only dream of elevates them onto a different planet from that occupied by most ordinary folk.

Sure there are exceptions to the rule but the majority of elected politicians haven’t a clue what it’s like to live on low pay or survive on benefits. The last 10 years have been tough and instead of blaming the millionaires in Parliament and the Boardrooms who have caused the economic mess that led to cuts and reduced living standards many are duped into believing the narratives consciously and cynically promoted by the mainstream press.

Not enough houses? Blame the immigrants and benefit recipients. Longer hospital waiting times? Blame the immigrants and benefit recipients. Lower real wages? Blame the immigrants and benefit recipients. It is scapegoating of the worst kind because it is dishonest, deceitful and destructive. Immigrants are net contributors to the public purse and help run essential services like our NHS while benefit recipients are millions of workers whose wages are so low they qualify for means tested assistance via housing benefit, working families tax credit and council tax benefit.

Ask yourself how much of the £264 billion welfare bill across the UK last year was spent on unemployment benefits? The answer will surprise you given the benefit bashing practice of the nasty tabloids. Only £2 billion is the answer, a mere 1% of the annual welfare bill https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/governmentpublicsectorandtaxes/publicsectorfinance/articles/howisthewelfarebudgetspent/2016-03-16 .

The tax dodging billionaires who own the papers and dine regularly at expensive restaurants with their puppets in parliament can’t have you pointing the finger at the real culprits causing low pay, NHS queues and housing shortages for that would draw attention to themselves. Much better to blame those who have no voice to defend themselves. Don’t blame the architects of poverty and austerity. No blame some of the victims instead. The gullible public will buy the myth.

Such deceit provokes intolerance of people who are the victims of austerity and cuts not the cause. The rich inside and outside the Parliament are the ones to blame but they own and control the mainstream media in the UK to act as a smokescreen for what is really going on. Like urinating on our shoes but insisting it is raining we are encouraged daily to blame the poor, the public service workers, the immigrants and the pensioners but never the rich and powerful.

Jeremy Corbyn is wrong not to support Scottish independence but he is right on many other things. His response to Hammond’s verbal con-trick highlighted the reality of continued austerity and the fact that teachers are on average £4,650 worse off today than 8 years ago, nurses are £4,750 worse off and firefighters, the men and women who risk their lives daily in performing their duties, are £6,700 worse off https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-46025174/budget-reaction-from-jeremy-corbyn-to-hammond-speech .

Hammond and May are fraudsters in relation to their austerity claims. It is far from over and the Universal Credit scandal which has already increased hardship, food bank use, rent arrears, indebtedness and despair in the pilot areas will only serve to drive millions more into poverty if the switch over of the almost 4 million others is allowed to proceed. Even the cross-party Select Committee is calling for a pause in the staged migration of benefit recipients to Universal Credit such are the stories of hardship and despair they have listened to https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1667/166703.htm but what is required is not a pause but the cancellation of the whole wasteful exercise. Reform of the benefits system to improve uptake and ensure wider support and less complexity is welcome but Universal Credit is far from the answer.

My appeal to ordinary folk everywhere is open your eyes to reality. Don’t allow the billionaires and millionaires to fool you any longer. Wages are lower in real terms, poverty is increasing and public services are being cut to the bone to serve the rich and ruling class insatiable appetite for more and more. Stop blaming those suffering austerity and start blaming those causing austerity. Lack of money is not a problem. Society is awash with money. It is richer than any time in history. It is not the amount of wealth which is a problem it is the distribution of that wealth.

Imagine squeezing the richest 1,000 people in Britain into one room. It would be a tight squeeze but most of them deserve to be squeezed. For 10 years ago, when the economic crisis they caused with their greed began, those 1,000 richest individuals had an obscene amount of wealth between them. They were worth £256 billion at the end of 2008. Today the richest 1,000 in the UK are worth an outrageous £724 billion https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/the-richest-people-in-the-uk-have-increased-their-wealth-by-183-in-10-years/23/10/ . Let that sink in for a moment. Only 1,000 people possess a combined wealth of £724 billion, more than 2.5 times the annual spend on welfare for millions of pensioners, children and the disabled. Only 1,000 people…

So while the real wages of nurses, teachers and firefighters have been reduced by several thousands of pounds the richest 1,000 have seen their wealth increase by a staggering 183%. We are daily encouraged to believe the mainstream media narrative about shortages of cash, the ‘problem’ of an aging population putting strains on our health service and the need to freeze public sector pay and cap in-work benefits but the rich have saw their personal wealth increase by 183%… If that doesn’t make you angry then you simply aren’t paying attention. In the last year alone those 1,000 people added £66 billion to their collective incomes. No wonder the Equality Trust has been so strident in their comments:

“Our annual Wealth Tracker research in recent years reveals that a vast amount of the nation’s wealth has been captured by a tiny number of people. This is economically illiterate, socially poisonous and politically dangerous and draws a harrowing picture of UK inequality. It should be a source of national shame.

“At the same time, many will be wondering why they have not seen their wages increase over the last five years, or why despite working hard and working long hours, they are struggling to put food on the table.”

“Socially poisonous and politically dangerous” is indeed what this grotesque distribution of wealth represents. What Hammond and the Tories have done over the last 10 years has facilitated this ‘poisonous’ growth in inequality and what he said yesterday will do nothing to address it let alone reduce it. Radical wealth taxes, returning stolen assets to public ownership without compensation to the rich thieves and a legally enforceable minimum wage of at least £10 an hour are immediate first steps in the long journey towards greater economic equality and real social justice.

Tommy Sheridan

 

 

“What do we want? Equal Pay!!! When do we want it? Now!” Glasgow’s Army of Low Paid Women Workers Take Over the City.

History was made in Glasgow over the last two days. In years to come it will be a date and event taught in schools and universities to students anxious to learn how women eventually won the right to equal pay with their male counterparts for doing jobs of equal value. Sure the Ford Dagenham strike of 187 women in the summer of 1968 was a trailblazing action which resulted in the Equal Pay Act of 1970 but the streets of Glasgow were filled on Tuesday with the new women trailblazers, the new women history makers. Despite the Equal Pay Act being 48 years old and the Equality Act being 18 years old 12,000 women workers in Glasgow are still waiting for compensation in relation to the unequal pay they have received over the last 12 years.

The women involved care for the sick, the elderly and the vulnerable across Glasgow. They perform essential duties that allow many to live a semblance of independent and dignified lives in their own homes. Without these carers hospitals would be filled to overflowing. They cook for our children in state schools. They provide additional support for children with special needs. They are Glasgow’s army of carers, cooks, caterers and educational support workers. They are the heart and soul of the City and they have been underpaid and thus undervalued for the last 12 years.

It was a joy and pleasure to join with these women at Glasgow Green on Tuesday and march to the incredible rally in Glasgow’s George Square. The Square is adorned with male statues to the great and the good but disgracefully no women statues are erected representing our patriarchal and sexist past. On Tuesday the Square was literally a sea of women. Angry, determined, compassionate and courageous women, on strike and standing up for equal pay.

Up to 12,000 have suffered from historic unequal pay. At least 8,000 of them participated in a two day strike to force Glasgow City Council to finally settle their claims. The Square was full to capacity and the City Council can delay no longer. Promises to settle made last year will have to now be honoured.

On social media I have had to fend off critics of the strike who complain the women didn’t strike during the 2006 – 2017 period when Labour was in charge of the City. The SNP were only elected to take over in May 2017 and have not had long to sort out the mess left by Labour. This is a ‘political’ strike ‘against the SNP’ is the cry from some quarters. Why did the unions not organise strikes against the Labour council over this issue some ask. The women are being “used”; “manipulated”; “misled” is the accusation. Well let’s be absolutely clear. The single biggest villains in this whole equal pay fiasco are the previous Labour Administrations. Three different leaders knew these women were due equal pay compensation but instead of settling with gusto and integrity they disgracefully mounted a legal campaign to try and block the settlement in Scotland’s courts.

A Labour Council scuttled around expensive lawyers’ offices spending £2.5 million on legal costs to try and prevent their own low paid women workers receiving compensation. That money could have and should have been used to settle the equal pay compensation. Those leaders should be named, shamed and never forgotten for their despicable actions.

Similarly the unions involved. In the early days after the 2006 decision that these women were indeed discriminated against and due equal pay compensation their trade unions were too slow off the mark to press the claims and are undoubtedly guilty of letting the Labour council off the hook over the issue.

Some say union connections to the Labour party were to blame but that is a simplistic and inaccurate conclusion to draw. The fact is the unions failed to take the whole issue serious enough in the early days and that dictated their inaction on this vital issue. It was more incompetence than conspiracy.

If unions in Glasgow were not prepared to support strikes because of a Labour council being in office then how could you explain the library workers strikes, nursery nurses strikes, janitors strikes, cleansing workers strikes and many more over the last two decades while Labour has been in power?

I find suggestions that these women strikers in Glasgow are being “manipulated” by Labour supporting unions or Labour politicians in the background to be utterly patronising. The 8,000 women strikers are low paid but they are not daft. They are not ‘pawns’. They are caring, compassionate and considerate adults who took the decision to strike for 48 hours with heavy hearts. They don’t wish to upset or let down their vulnerable clients or thousands of children who depend on them but they had to make a stand.

Sacrificing two days of pay for women already on low paid is no easy decision either. This historic strike action is political in the sense that it is striking a blow against pay discrimination in the workplace and helping to put flesh on the bones of the Equal Pay and Equality Acts. But it is not a Party Political strike.

Thousands of the women striking will have voted SNP, some on the basis of their explicit promise to ‘fix’ the equal pay scandal. Hundreds of the faces I saw on the march and during the strike rally were familiar faces from various independence marches and rallies. On the picket lines supporting these women I spoke with many who are proud to support independence for Scotland. These low paid women deserve respect, support and admiration not patronising comments about ulterior motives.

I was very pleased to read the First Minister’s Tweet in relation to this strike action https://twitter.com/NicolaSturgeon (Oct. 23rd). She rightly condemned the hypocrisy of Labour politicians supporting the strike over the last two days while hiding the fact they had fought the women’s claims in court. These Labour politicians are indeed guilty of hypocrisy and deceit.

However the First Minister also expressed her “admiration” for the strikers:

 While I wish the strike wasn’t happening, I have nothing but admiration for the women involved. However, I feel contempt for a Labour Party expressing solidarity now when, in power, they took these women to court to deny equal pay. @theSNP and @SusaninLangside are working to fix.

No condemnation. No accusations of being misled. She rightly expressed her admiration for an army of low paid women who have had the courage and commitment to stand up and be counted in the war against unequal pay specifically and low pay in general.

My favourite placard on the march and rally the other day illustrated clearly the understanding these women have of the real culprits in denying equal pay compensation over the last 12 years. It read “Decade Of Delay” with the pictures of three of the main sinners, Frank McAveety, Gordon Mathieson and Stephen Purcell, superimposed in the background.

Each of them were at crucial times over the last 12 years Labour leaders of Glasgow City Council and instead of moving might and main to settle the equal pay claims they chose to fight the claims in court. Disgraceful and unforgivable actions.

Another placard had the slogan “Fight The Power” with the picture of Glasgow City Council Chief Executive, Annmarie O’Donnell, superimposed onto it. This woman is far from being low paid with a bumper and record pay cheque last year of £252,860 http://action4equalityscotland.blogspot.com/ . In my opinion neither she or any other Council Executive, male or female, is worth such a huge salary but at the very least she should be earning her money by organising a just settlement of this 12 years long issue instead of steering foolish legal actions through the courts.

Of course current Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken is now in the hot seat. Her party is the SNP and they made bold commitments to settle this dispute during the council elections hustings in May 2017. They have done some good things and made some positive noises. They settled a long running janitor dispute in the City https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-40927374 favourably and took vital care services back into Council responsibility where they belong and wound up the arms-length company Cordia https://glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=23210 .

But leadership is a constant series of challenges and is not easy. She picked up the equal pay challenge and now has to come up with the answers. She indicated publicly that a settlement was near and the women would start to be compensated by April next year as part of the new financial year’s budget. Those are positive words but up until now they are only words. They must become actions soon or the SNP’s credibility across the City will suffer.

New Labour abandoned these women workers. The SNP must not repeat that unforgivable mistake.

Before signing off I must recognise and applaud the cleansing workers across Glasgow who refused to cross picket lines and thereby took solidarity action with their striking women colleagues and the Art Galleries and Museums staff who did likewise. Thatcher and successive Blue Tory and Red Tory Governments have outlawed solidarity action by one group of workers in support of another. It’s what prevented the miners from defeating her in 1984/85 and that defeat ushered in vicious anti-working class legislation and cuts to wages, benefits and living standards. Solidarity actions like those in Glasgow are what make workers strong against the bosses and should be applauded. My bins and thousands of others were not emptied yesterday but the inconvenience is for a good cause.

A final word is due to Stefan Cross and the campaign group Action 4 Equality Scotland https://www.a4es.co.uk/ . Without the determination, commitment and considerable skills of Stefan Cross this whole Equal Pay claim may never have reached this stage. A working class guy who has never forgotten his roots or sense of Justice Stefan has worked tirelessly on behalf of the low paid women of Glasgow and across Scotland. His efforts have actually moved and influenced the trade unions to act and I’m sure I speak on behalf of thousands when I say well done Stefan and please keep up the good work.

Tommy Sheridan