I have read more than my fair share of news articles this week, that have me now believing I am a time traveller. This is huge news and I am unsure of how it has happened but it must have.
For, I have stumbled upon an alternate universe where Scotland used to be fantastic and now is shit. We used to be all snuggly under the flag of the union. Each step we take away from the red, white and blue blanket seems to take us further into a quagmire. Our future is a cold, dark, dank place where no amount of Saltires will warm the soul. It is all down to the current Scottish Government who will not just piss off and leave it to London.
You may be cynical of my claim but I have proof, in fact, we all do. Every single one of us, who has been around longer than Anas Sarwar’s leadership battle, has proof. We just need to remember the actual events in our lives and the proof will come to us.
This theory first developed in a Community Council meeting. It had been a tedious meeting with little other than criticism of everything. Nothing positive was said and everyone’s morale had got up and gone home. The chair, a man well over retirement age, encouraged other attendees to remember the good old days. They remembered a utopia of kindness and neighbourly folk who did not litter, never argued and had little to complain about.
Another gent, of the same era, then admitted that because crime in our community is so high nowadays, he feared for his very safety and never left the house after dark. Instead, choosing to lock himself in nightly and live only during the daylight hours.
So I asked, what crime? The room literally stopped breathing and turned to see who had interrupted their shared vision of fear and loathing of all. No answer came, so I asked again. What crime? This time I was answered with “You know, CRIME!”. After much prodding and cajoling, one count of a neighbour having their hut broken into was all that could be recalled. Oh, apart from “all the stuff in the papers and oan the telly”.
One by one, I went through the crime figures for the locality. Each was down on previous year(s), each was getting progressively lower, the evidence and I mean evidence all pointed to the fact that our community is much safer now than it had been. Only motorcycle theft was up and none of the attendees owned or rode a motorcycle.
My next question was – could it be that age has given you a fear you never had previously? No, no, no, no, no, no….yes. The gent had thought, he had been through denial and reached into his actual memories and now knew. He never used to have this fear, he had been a man not to be messed with in his time. That time was gone and with it so was his confidence. It was replaced with consternation and that itself had been blocked until it had been forced to the forefront of his consciousness.
We talked through this phenomena, his newfound truth, he suggested that bad news had made him fearful. Now I use bad news here as opposed to news because it is not news or facts that are reported in our media, it is bad news. There are many reasons, that I will leave for you to think over. I have my deep suspicion it is a political ploy to move us further to the right using distress and dismay. Guess what? It works.
Our media constantly spouts rhetoric that has been put together in the central teams of one or other of the opposition parties in Holyrood. It is not fact, it is far from the truth but that does not matter. It sells. No fact-checking is carried out for these are opinion pieces wrapped up as news.
Emotions like fear, anger and hate are strong and if propelled by them you will buy up the news that feeds them. This is one of the reasons that The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer, The Sun, The Sun on Sunday, The Times and The Sunday Times are given away free in some supermarkets.
I ask you now to all look into your memories and ask what it was really like when we grew up. Was it better?
For me, I grew up under Thatcher. The only time I saw my Grandfather cry, he was watching the news of Thatcher winning the 1979 election. His words to my Grandmother “Oh Jesus Nora, we’re fucked!” This was one of only a handful of times I heard him swear too. He prefered using “bucking” and “get tae France”. We knew what he meant.
I can remember having free school milk, it stopped before I started school but our council carried on the provision as long as they could. Free school dinners were available. You stood in a separate line with a different colour ticket for your free dinner. You were called a tramp, treg or any other vile name that children had heard and memorised from older siblings or parents. I was not one of those unfortunates that received free school dinners, although I was entitled. My, single, working three jobs, mother felt I had enough to contend with being fat and a bastard without adding to list of the names I was called. (I actually was taught the meaning of Bastard by a teacher. We’ll call her a teacher, although hardly appropriate by today’s standards.) So Mum struggled to find the weekly fee and many days I would have a snarky note handed to me by said teacher, who frankly had no place being near children.
I suffered from chronic tonsillitis as a youngster and only when the school wrote to my GP was I referred for a tonsillectomy. This was down to waiting lists and a shortage of beds. My family recall me being in a week, out a week for lengthy periods at school. All the while suffering from a soaring temperature and a throat that almost closed twice due to the swelling. I was a regular with penicillin, to which I have an allergy. This led to one hospitalisation and my first trip in an ambulance. My “Tonsillitis Years” are etched in my memory. As is the wakening in an adult ward in the Royal Infirmary after my surgery, I was 10. It was a mixed adult ward. I was moved when my Grandad (who worked there as an orderly) moved me himself and threatened a doctor against my repatriation.
We covered our school books and you could tell the owner of the book, without reading the name, if you recognised the wallpaper covering it. The books were outdated, quite often published before our births. They were well-kept though. We all knew that families being forced to buy a school book because of vandalism would not be happy. A couple of my best friends had, what would now be known as, additional support needs. They were put in a remedial class. More names ensued.
A family member with complex learning needs due to trauma of a family separation was deemed to be “difficult” and was shipped to Fife to “special school”. They sometimes had to board if the “difficulties” increased. We attended a free playscheme every summer. Access to the disco was by payment of a tin of foodstuff. This was then donated to those who could not feed themselves within the community. The playscheme relied on volunteers from the community and was funded by those same volunteers fighting with the council. It was after all, cheaper than the police having to deal with us.
Families had to go without regularly. Our velvet livingroom curtains where often taken down and pawned to make ends meet for a week or two. This was in a two bedroomed council home where three adults worked many, many jobs and my disabled Granny was my full-time babysitter. Grandad did the school runs until I was old enough to walk it myself.
I did ok at school, 8 O Grades (A-C, Secretarial Studies…..due to me owning a vagina…..my only C), I then went onto full-time work and college on day release to complete 3 Highers, English B, Economics A and Accountancy A.
My school had suggested university. “What would a lassie fae Lochend want wae university?”, I was asked. I didn’t have an answer. I knew we would be better with an additional wage, so the decision was an easy one. I have since re-read my school reports and it seems I was naturally quite gifted. If this had not been so, then it would have been the standard grade class, where you could leave at 15 if you promised to come back and sit the exams.
My story is not an extraordinary one. All those living in the same scheme grew up with this. Their view may be different. I would ask them first…..where do they get their news.
Today’s A & E results are the best they have been in 10 years and a 10-year-old me would not now wake up in an adult ward.
It is a proven myth that 25% of primary school children cannot read. It is just not true. So many of my generation never got the help or support to be anything more. Due to being “difficult” or because of remedial classes. Dyslexia, Autism and even grief, had us labelled as thick or difficult.
P1-P3 now all get free meals and all newborns are given a baby-box. This gives them an equal start, regardless of the differences they have in home life. Gone are different queues and the unprofessional teachers. We now have some of the highest qualified educational staff anywhere.
Our university and higher education remains free. Five years free education for all and teamed with the best ever SQA results. Our next generations are well placed to lead the world.
Support networks and recognition of mixed needs underpin our inclusive education system. While there is always room for improvement, it has come such a long way.
Crime is down and we are living in a safer environment. It did used to all happen previously, we just never knew about it. We are all switched onto the web and 24 hour news, so we know more. It is not that more is happening.
My past was under Westminster control. Scotland did not have its Parliament or Government then, as it does now. So who did we blame? No one! We just accepted what was.
Now. Now, there is an opportunity for a different future. One where a Scottish Parliament of whatever persuasion changes our lives for the better. We had a chance not to have our budget set by our neighbour. We chose not to do that.
We chose to pay for nuclear weapons that are controlled by Trump in the Clyde. We chose to have WASPI women not given the pension they had paid into for decades. We chose to reward bankers who gambled our futures and punish the disabled. That is what we chose, that is what we got.
The small powers our Scottish Government have are used to better, where possible. The bedroom tax is mitigated, a hardship fund stops evictions. Further education is free. Prescriptions are free. Bus Passes for retirees are free. Baby-boxes create equality from birth. Our bridge is completed and under budget. Our transport infrastructure improves yearly. Council tax freeze was in place for 9 years to be replaced by relief for more vulnerable people. Our small country is innovative and impressive as it operates on a shoestring that is constantly shortened by our neighbour.
Yet, this is not the world I am in at the moment. According to the columns I have read, I am in a hopeless place that is a shadow of its former self. Every step we take to a better future is reported as a tragedy for humanity.
Proof indeed, that I am a time traveler and have stumbled upon this alternate universe. For when I look to my past, there is no Utopia. Life is better now for most of us. There is so much more to do but for that we need more brave souls. Brave enough to take the rose-tinted spectacles off before looking at their history and brave enough to understand that under the Tories, things will always be shit for most of us. It should come as no surprise, they openly represent the few. Are they also brave enough to see that under Labour, the things can only get better tagline never materialised. They did not reverse the decline in manufacturing, privatisation or our educational standards.
So, when we read these headlines. The guff that spills from the pages and from the mouths of the presenters, should be the sign. The sign that they too can see a different future, a better future and that is scaring the very truth from them. So instead of encouraging us to look forwards. They constantly refer to the past. Are you with them? Or are you actually looking back?