Change is for the brave!

It really is all in the title. Change is for the brave.
I live my day to day life now and look back at my previous life in detached amazement. I don’t know why I ended up being brave enough, the catalyst in my mind was two separate incidents. One seems really quite benign now, the other would have taken my life in a far different and darker direction.
My two children were shielded, I believed, from the worst of the violence. They heard arguments but don’t all children? They had a good life, the best I could give them at least. I gave of my time, my money, even when it was limited. They were kept busy, busy enough not to dwell on home. There was football, netball, extra classes, lessons in music, dancing, whatever they showed an interest in.
I worked as hard as I could, I enjoyed the distraction, I enjoyed the human interaction, the chatting with adults, the normality. There had been many arguments about the new job, they were started with accusations. I was having an affair; I was always having an affair. Normally with anyone that would take me as I was fat, ugly, repulsive.
I look back now and can’t help but laugh at some of these accusations. A 21-year-old gay man was a co-conspirator in one of my affairs. My all-time favourite was the affair I had supposedly been having with my best friend. I genuinely laughed at the time. That was then a trigger for more extended and excessive violence and threats. I learned not to laugh for the future accusations, there was little in the memories to laugh about.
The violence had not been there always. It crept in. I was not a battered wife though. I was never a battered woman. I was not a victim and never a victim of domestic violence, that was for stupid people who knew no better, not for me. For one I was not married, I was never that stupid. I also retaliated regularly, that made it different, right? I was the antagonist, I kept doing stuff wrong, deliberately provoking, like paying the bills so there was no money for him to buy drink or drugs. I was not a victim, no not me, not my kids.
I made friends, I ran a business, I ran it well, I sold the business, I decided to get out of the car trade, I decided to get a normal job, a normal life. I was constantly handing him the excuse for violence. I yearned for normality, so this life had to become normal. I made it so, me. I told one person throughout what was actually going on and that itself felt so dangerous that I wished I could take it back. I was not a victim of domestic violence, not me. I am responsible though, I have to be, I had choices.
So, without dwelling on what was, what happened for me to get brave? Two separate incidents:
Standing in a bus stop after a 10-hour shift, waiting on the first bus of a three bus journey home. My car missing. It had been taken the previous evening and as it meant peace for a few hours, I hadn’t argued. There was an elderly couple and they looked cute. They were clearly married and had been for 50 years. This was being broadcast to me by the wife. I congratulated and was envious. Imagine being so happy that you would stay past the kids leaving school (this was my plan and had been since my youngest was in the second year at primary school). My words of congratulation had barely landed on the ears of the wife and she responded with “I ‘ate ‘im!” I spluttered a pardon and the words were duly confirmed.
She hated him? The short explanation was that he had been a good looking man in his time. There had been infidelity and she had stuck it out and now she hated him for the entire waste of her life.
I had a flash forward in my own life. I had already felt this for close to 10 years. Was I actually going to wait another 40? I felt as though my heart had fallen through my arse with the reality of it all. I think depression cloaked me and would not lift until I resolved to take action.
From then, my whole attitude must have been different. I was planning in my head now. I had to be careful, there would be violence, it had to be managed. The violence at home escalated very quickly at this point. Having given it far more consideration than I like, I feel it was down to my plotting. I was obviously giving some sort of different message off and he became desperate.
I spoke with friends I felt I could trust. That had mixed results and was a very difficult lesson to learn. The violence culminated in an event that could have easily left one or other of us dead. This wasn’t the first time, I already owed my continued existence to my dog, who had bitten the hand that held a knife that was going for my throat. It was the first time and last time, however, that I felt that I could have taken another human life. That showed me my depths and how far I had sunk.
And so change happened. Rapidly.
I now live 500 miles away and yet the distance is minute compared to the contrast in my life now. Although there are and will always be scars, both mentally and physically, I’m healed. My children are healing. I am brave.
Change now holds no fear for me, I change things regularly and just for the sake of it. My hair has been a rainbow of colours; my style is whatever I feel like. I am now political. I grow, I have grown, I continue to grow.
So during the Scottish Referendum campaign, when I heard J K Rowling make her analogy to Scotland being the woman who decided to stay and would now be treated so much better. I knew what the result would be. I’ve lived it. I knew if we stayed, promises may be made and then broken. Everything would become worse, perhaps much worse. I knew what to expect.
You see the relationship between us and Westminster is an abusive one. It is not an equal partnership and cannot ever be.
We have made a net contribution for close to forty years but are classed as scroungers, subsidy junkies. We are forced to host weapons of murder that are not welcomed by our people. We have to watch while our loved ones are humiliated within the benefits regime and we are helpless. We are constantly told that our services are substandard, health, education, policing. Even when our controlling partner has far worse results. J K Rowling was right to make the analogy but utterly naïve in her assumption of the response we would receive.
It’s not her fault nor anyone else’s that voted No. They hadn’t had that experience perhaps. They believed the propaganda we were fed. They were not yet brave enough. But they were responsible, they had choices.
You see while you’re in the abuse it is very difficult to see that the parameters of the abuse will continue to grow. You keep setting new boundaries, new promises to yourself that you will leave when it reaches this point etc. Then you alter that when the next bout of violence breaches the limits. You have to constantly reassess what you will accept, how much you will accept, how long you will accept. Until you become brave.
I am brave enough now. I welcome change. I have seen change transform the lives of my children and myself and the happiness it brings, the joy, the laughter, the regret at the years lost never to be returned. I have a husband that generously gives of his love and not only welcomes but encourages my growth and that of our blended family.
Is Scotland now brave enough to see the same bright future for it that we see? We know what the past has given us and what it has taken away. It is now time for a brave new future. An independent future.
Scotland the brave, is it only ever going to be a wistful lyric? Or will she and the all the peoples who make her, ever be able to see the relationship for what it is? Will they ever see that this status quo is harmful? It is all about power and control and wealth for the few. It has nothing to do with love, growth or the improvement of life for the many. For any real change to happen, she must walk away. She must think of herself and her children and make that break. She must find her bravery, the courage it takes to be bold and selfish when it is not your nature. She must look to the future and know that she can do this on her own. She can fear the change but know it is necessary. She must make a new life and a new future for all generations. She knows there will be difficult times, they must be managed but she must not let that hold her back any longer.

Scotland, she must be brave.

Big Hearts have no space for Yaxley-Lennon!

As a woman in football, I feel I have a different perspective to the Yaxley-Lennon or Tommy Robinson saga.

You see I don’t go to the games for the social aspect, although it is nice to get cuddles off the niece when she feels like it. Which is about as rare as getting a chip off her! It’s fab to chat with my sister-in-law and great chance to catch up with the nephew, brother-in-law and watch the other adopted nephew play on his phone. The chat is short and sporadic as the game keeps us well interrupted.

It’s a welcome part of my visits to Tynecastle but I go because it’s my time and I love my football. It’s a time when I can sit down, tune out to everything and just enjoy 90 minutes of something I love with little interruption of real life and all that this entails.

Hearts, like all other clubs, is a real mixed bag and within our support is a small element of bigots. I don’t suppose they think they are bigoted but the words they use and who it is directed it tells the rest of us a different story. For some, it’s just a piss poor tradition that has been passed down without much thought. For others, it is a way to vent their spleen and get some release from their daily grind and for others, it is peer pressure.

Not all that succumb to this peer pressure are naive youngsters but mostly it is them who are being targeted. I know a lot of guys in their 40s and 50s who are normally thoroughly nice guys but put them in with these groups and they become somewhat of an alter-ego of themselves. They use language that their wives, daughters, and grandchildren would be ashamed of. They do so in front of young impressionable sons who know no better than to accept but look closely and you see the shock and horror in their eyes at first. They are not yet accustomed to the hate spewing from the dad they love so much.

A proportion of these guys have had bad luck and life has let them down. There are missed opportunities due to fatherhood too young or the wrong postcode. There is always something that is lacking and they are handed the cause on a plate by those who want to profit from others misery. Yaxley-Lennon is one such cretin!

The handful of men/boys wearing his face as a mask would be used to doing this. For they enter their world of football and put on the mask of a racist, homophobic, sexist, bigot every week. Their family would be horrified to see that side of them. Only the young and stupid actually stand firmly behind the views they spout. Yaxley-Lennon has seen that there is a hole and he wants to fill it.

He is not and cannot ever be welcome to Hearts because there is no place for his ilk. Football is a vehicle for good and for cohesion in some of the poorest parts of Scotland. Hearts and Big Hearts have worked immensely hard to build up strong links with the local community and do such great work. They work with older people who may be suffering from social isolation or illness and use memories of bygone eras to link them to new friends and volunteers. The kinship care programme supports families who have stepped in to care for a young relative when their parents can’t. There are clubs to help people of all ages keep fit and eat better and my favourite, the Community Christmas Dinner, where the doors are opened on Christmas day to anyone who needs it and helpers assist by feeding, chatting, playing games and handing out presents to all that attend. All of this and much more is done under the good name of Hearts and do you know what? They don’t care what sex, sexuality, colour, religion or ethnicity anyone is!

This is how it should be. The club is working hard to change the very conditions that encourage the minority to look for someone to blame. Hearts are working hard to address the inequality that entices these men to display such behaviours. That work goes on day in and day out, we cannot have it undone in a stroke by this man.

Yaxley-Lennon not only displays hate of people because of their religion, but he also spreads it and until he stops this, he cannot be welcome at Hearts or anywhere else in Scotland!

If he were crusading against all paedophiles, he would garner a little support from me but he’s not. He couldn’t care about the VIP Westminster rings that sodomise children from 3 years old. He didn’t go after any one of the names that used the BBC to access children for their kicks. Even now, he hasn’t published the names of the EDL, Britain First and NF paedophiles that he is not only aware of, he knows them, but he has also shared stages with them and the same sick ideology. Paedophiles must be eradicated from our society, there should be no hiding place shouts Yaxley-Lennon but he only cares about the brown ones. The white ones can carry on and he will not turn up outside the court filming for his youtube channel. Why does he feel that white men abusing children is ok? A question only he can answer!

It is now incumbent on the rest of us Hearts fans to address those in the minority that tarnish our club’s reputation. The men of McCrae’s were shamed by white feathers and bad publicity into joining the British army. The people who did this were rich Londoners, British Aristocracy, who themselves were exempt from fighting. The boys joined up en masse, The Pals Battalion they were fondly known as. The big names of Hearts were joined by many more from across the city. They fought, they gave their all and most gave their lives to fight fascism.

To now see a fascist try to sully the hard work of Hearts over the last few years or worse, to use the memory of the lads of the Pals Battalion to access our club is an outrage! In the memory of those boys of the McCrae’s Battalion, we all owe it to tell Yaxley-Lennon he is not welcome at our club.

The very real cost of inequality!

My local community has had a few tragedies to deal with recently. Sudden death is becoming more and more regular and the losses feel so unfair.

Growing up in a scheme, we knew we were not well off but I had no real idea of the inequality faced by us until recently. I had an extended friends group. Lots of little groups, all living in the same small area, Lochend. Collectively, we are known as Lochenders or the Shamrock. This is down to the name given to area after a large amount of Irish, or of Irish descent, were moved into the new houses that were built in the 50s and 60s.

My grandfather was moved from the Southside of Edinburgh into Lochend. Jimmy Quin or Paddy to his friends, he fitted right into the Shamrock. The Young Lochend Shamrock (YLS) was going strong at this point and when I was born and raised, it’s how we all identified ourselves. YLS is still emblazoned on bus stops and the side of buildings around the area. Although, this is far less prevalent now than it was in my youth.

We had hand signs that we chucked about whenever we were overexcited and we high-jacked Jeff Beck’s “Hi Ho Silver Lining” and changed the lyrics to suit us. So if you passed the Loch Inn around the closing time you would hear, loud and proud “Hi Ho Lochend Shamrock!” Lochend Shamrock, it was our collective identity, an extended family if you like. Some would say a gang but that would be wrong. It did have some gang-like and gang-linked connotations but these were mainly left behind in the bygone eras where they belonged. Although excitable youths would fight each other under the banner of their scheme, it was usually to sort out personal differences rather than territorial or group ones.

From around 5 years old, I was out playing with the rest of the bairns from the scheme. Never allowed far from home at that age and only allowed out in the summer months. It was a taster. Twin girls, known as the Twinnies were my main sitters. The nicknames were a s simple as our intentions. They would reassure my Granny that I would be fine in their care and they would return me unscathed a wee while later. This gave my Granny, Nora the wee bit of rest she so desperately needed.

It was from about 9 years on that we would be left to play and fill our own time more. The girls were teenagers now and offered less sitting and more guidance. All the older bairns offered various forms of guidance and ignorance of this could result in swift retribution. A slap or a telling off was most common. A very happy and stable childhood ensued for most of us. Although there were times when friends were put into foster care, this was seen as an exciting time of visits across the city and “bus runs” to catch up with them and keep them informed.

While the houses underwent renovation, we utilised any means to keep us busy. A plank of 2 by 4 was fashioned into a seesaw, using only a wrought iron fence. More offcuts of wood were made into stilts that required real skill and determination to master. Mostly we just enjoyed each others company and told stories, sat about, and were pals.

Special occasions would excite us greatly. Guy Fawkes night was always a blast, no pun intended. Old wood, furniture, and any other flammable materials not secured would be piled into our bonfire. A guy was made from stuffing old clothes full of newspapers and if we were low on supplies, a wee crew would venture to Craigentinny to rifle through theirs and bring back what they could. It was usually the older boys that would go and never came back empty handed. Sometimes the regaled us with tales of their battles fought for the group cause.

Potatoes were a staple of this night and many others. Wrapped in foil, if we had any and buried deep in the firewood. Eaten whole when we could retrieve them while sitting on the ropes of the climbing frame in the Sparey. The Sparey was a triangular piece of spare ground that was surrounded on all sides by our homes. In the wider sense, it was the centre of our universe at that point. By the end of the night, stomachs would be fed and faces would be covered in soot from eating tatties and sitting too close to a bonfire. We graffitied the Sparey and climbing frame, shute and bars that we swang from. We weren’t ruining them, they were ancient. It was our means of taking ownership. Had we had access to weatherproof paints etc, we would have vastly improved the area and we would have done so gladly.

We had a playscheme which ran in the school holidays. Organised by volunteers from the community, there was a minimum charge for trips if it could be afforded. If not, no-one missed out. A weekly disco happened every Friday and the entry was a tin of whatever you could afford. Not everyone could afford a spare tin. These were the happiest of times for some of us. Even while we dealt with alcoholism, addiction issues and abuses in the families within some of our groups. Regardless of all of this, we had a good strong bond within Lochend.

Like family, we didn’t all get along and there were some that fought rather than try. We were not all close and we all had our own set of favourites. Newbies were introduced, some stayed, others didn’t. It was forever shifting and changing but was always more or less the same.

As I have said, we knew we were not well off but I am not sure any of us actually realised how disadvantaged or unequal we were and indeed are in Lochend. Lochend is not unique, it replicates the schemes across Scotland and is just an example. No worse, nor better than others.

As I now sit and read out the roll call in my head of those names that were part of my childhood, many are missing. This is normal, people move away. My issue with this is that the missing ones on our roll call are mainly dead. The lucky ones of our group has reached 50 and beyond, the majority are or would be in their 40s. Yet, so, so many have never made it.

I have the gift of understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences and this assists me in accepting the fate of some. Drug and alcohol misuse have had their share of the fatalities in Lochend and we accept that. Others though have simply been born in the wrong area. They have lived their life as best as they can and were just too disadvantaged to make it.

Lochend does not have an organic grocery shop, nor is there little call for the local shops to cut down on their single use plastics. We have no cafe where we sip a cappuccino or flat white but you can get a brilliant mug of tea from the Hub at the Ripple Project and drink that while part of the lunch club. We are happy to have the mix of the small shops we have and we certainly don’t need the gentrification that has struck Portobello. What we do need, however, is for our politicians to stop with their party politics and British Nationalism and for them all to take a long hard look at schemes like Lochend and see exactly what consecutive Westminster Governments have done and continue to do to our vulnerable.

The selling off of housing stock has left it impossible for our younger generations to carry on living within our community. Making having children at an early age the only option for housing priority has impacted heavily on the young women who could see no other way out of crowded and poor living arrangements. This is not their ambition, not what they hoped for while in school and it does not have to be heir final reality but the UK government has already written them off!

Not listening to anyone except the huge drugs conglomerates has worsened drug and alcohol dependence. The war on drugs certainly isn’t working when the dealers are the only ones in the schemes who can afford a Range Rover.

Forcing people into low paid jobs only makes them more reliant on benefits. It doesn’t give anyone a sense of pride to work 40 hours a week and still need in work welfare payments or foodbank kits to feed your bairns! Asking disabled people to prove how disabled they actually are with an intimation that they’re all having us on is an abhorrent stance but we should be used to it. For, immigrants, refugees, those with alcohol or drug misuse issues and single parents have already come in for the same treatment and we all stood back, said nothing and the bastards are in again but now attacking new targets!

Westminster has dismantled our proud industrial past, Lochend lost many of it’s former employers and hard working people have been left to languish. They don’t mind using our youngsters to fight in their illegal wars but offer them nothing on return except a sheet of charity contacts who can support them with their PTSD, mental and physical scars of conflict. Army Careers trucks often pitch up outside Scotmid or the bookies on a matchday. They know their target. Young, naive, poor and underprivileged. They are plentiful.

Westminster can allow multi-nationals to choose the amount of tax they pay while imprisoning women who claim to live alone while they have a partner who works cash in hand. The blind eye can be turned when the school tie fits. Unfortunately, we don’t have many Bullingdon Club members in Lochend. We do have some that are desperate enough to risk being locked up though.

For anyone wondering why I am laying all of this at the feet of Westminster, that is simple! No one in their right minds can expect the Scottish Government to take responsibility for any of this when they hold power over only 15% of the economic levers of our country. That would be like moving out of your mum’s house while still having your whole wages put into her bank account. Then having your mum tell you exactly what bills you were going to pay and how much you would pay to each of them. You then realise that your mum hasn’t allowed you to pay your rent. Your landlord kicks you out and you head back to your mum’s for her to tell you what an idiot you’ve been for not paying your rent and she won’t let you back in because you’re irresponsible.

The Scottish Government spends millions mitigating the poor choices of Westminster to try and save Scots from suffering further but there is only so much they can do. It is time for us to stand on our own and take 100% of the responsibility for our future. If we are the basket case they claim, this will be ideal opportunity to allow us to prove their case for them.

Like all of us when we leave home, we will have difficult times and hard decisions about our future will have to be made but we will steer our own course and have no one to blame but ourselves! If the inequality we still have is not eradicated, then we can hold our government to account and change that. One thing is for sure, we cannot let another generation grow up and lose so many of their peer groups just because of their postcode! That is a price that is too high for any of us and Lochend has already paid its’ fair share and then some! Too many have died young to sit on our arses and not want change. We have to try something.

I do not want to attend another funeral and see a family trying to cope with the grief of a loved one wrenched far too soon. No parent should have to bury their children!

Do words harm more than silence?

Do words harm more than silence? This is a genuine question. Why? Well, because so many people I know are currently silent on the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) debate and I wonder if their silence could cause more harm than the words they are afraid to mutter.

Why are they afraid? They do not want to be labelled “transphobic”, it really is that simple. I don’t want to offer a blanket defence as some of them may be transphobic, homophobic or just ill informed. Some of them are very definitely not suffering from any phobia, trans or otherwise and I put myself firmly in this bracket.

No ifs, no buts, trans, non-binary, non-defined people need to be afforded the same human rights I expect as a….human. Male, female, neither, or both, for me it really doesn’t matter. We are all human and therefore should all have equal rights. I really don’t know enough to argue the benefits or pitfalls of the proposals in GRA. I would like to know more, to ask more, to discuss, debate and then form an intelligent and informed decision based on what I hear.

However, when anyone raises this, there is a tendency for the label transphobic to be hurled at them and this is harmful to us all.

A few years ago, the Labour party were castigated, very rightly so, for the mugs that they had produced emblazoned with “Controls on immigration”. The mugs were appalling, ill informed and reactionary. However, there was, in certain areas, a perception that there was an issue with immigration. On the left, we deemed this as racist, we turned away as we would not enter dialogue with racists. We created a void and that void was filled by those on the right wanting to exploit the situation for their own ends. We ended up with Brexit and more and more reported hate crimes towards people of colour and immigrants of all nationalities. Not all of those who wanted to ask the questions were racist, some were for sure, we walked away from them all.

I believe there is an issue with immigration in these isles. So, let me quickly and very concisely explain why and what.

Local authorities in some areas have deliberately mis-managed immigration and have allowed ghettoisation. There has been withdrawal of funding at this level, into groups which help teach english, integration into local schools, communities, access to services, etc. Those new to our country have been left feeling isolated and therefore stick together as their only means of support and this has been used to point the finger of blame away from the Westminster Government to an easy, soft target.

Immigration should be a positive word for us all. New cultures, foods, workforces, tax payers, art forms etc are all huge benefits to Scotland and the other nations of the UK. Immigrants are our neighbours, friends, relatives, work colleagues, doctors, nurses. Without them our countries will not flourish or be able to pay for the care of our elderly as we all live longer. The skills that are brought to this country, in all fields, are necessary and we should all be rejoicing that anyone wants to share their lives with us……..but we don’t. Why?

We walked away from the conversation, blaming racism. Our voice was not heard. The reasons were not pushed, the narrative not changed. Now we face an uphill struggle to reverse the gains the right have made with their lies and deceit.

Let us not do the same on the GRA.

There are Transphobes who will use this debate. We must not normalise them. We must allow a reasoned and healthy debate. We must allow questions to be asked. This is important legislation, we want an engaged public. Therefore is it not our duty to ask those difficult questions, to inform with facts and reasoning? We cannot have every person who asks a question on the GRA labelled transphobic. It does not do justice to our collective intelligence.

It does, however, close the debate down. It allows us to walk away, leave a void. Who will fill that void? It sure as hell won’t be filled by those who seek to push for equality for everyone in the LGBTQIAP communities.

I am a feminist. I am not a “TERF”, I do not support the “Man Friday” movement. I don’t want to stop the changes that are necessary to the GRA. I want equality. Equality for all. I want self-identification for those who need it. It should be easier to live the life you choose. I want those who identify as gender fluid, or non-binary to be able to do so and have the same human rights afforded to them as the rest of society, not at the cost of these hard fought rights.

I believe we all need to give informed opinions on this and we all need to listen to the concerns that are raised. Don’t close it down, don’t walk away, don’t allow a void to be created and filled by those on the right that will use it for nefarious purposes. Allow everyone to have their questions, if the legislation needs amendments, let’s propose them and work together to give us the equality we all crave. For that is at the heart of everything for me, equality. I am a feminist, I want equality. Equality for us all.

Bite back!

I know a few folks who say they’re “fed up with democracy” and “all politicians are the same”. While I understand their apathy, I am always infuriated by the unwillingness to change this. Why on earth would anyone sit back and allow a government to treat its people in a barbaric manner and just say “they’re all the same” and then do nothing?

We only need to look at Catalonia to see what can happen when a government is intent on brutalising the people of the country. So in this sense we are lucky. Reticent to use the word lucky in a time when foodbanks and charities warn us of the approaching “perfect storm” of benefits sanctions, waiting times for the roll out of Universal Credit and a raft of further cuts to welfare claimants money.

The rise of foodbanks is an abhorrent, national disgrace and one where any Tory voter should hang their head in shame. Now we hear that foodbanks have become the norm and are stretched to breaking point, with no further safety net to catch those that fall through.

Where will people turn in their desperation and how will we face the world in our combined shame at letting people starve in Scotland in 2017? The Tories will certainly not be running a TV ad campaign for this disaster. The footage of a mother dragging her 3 kids to a foodbank to be met by empty shelves will not adorn our screens. The caption of “Margaret needs help to feed her bairns, because she has to now wait six weeks for a single penny of the money she’s entitled to!” will not be plastered across billboards up and down the country.

It seems that very few care at present. Is it because it doesn’t affect them? Is it because our media spin it in a such a way that anyone on any welfare payments are now seen as scroungers, leeches and the like? Or is it because we just don’t care?

Well, if you don’t care about this, what do you care about? Will you care when it’s your pocket affected? Will you care when you are the one being victimised? I’m going to let you into something, the Tories will come after us all at some point. It is the fundamental base of Tory policies, it is basically, survival of the fittest and at some point in your life, you won’t be the fittest and will be fair game.

What shall all the rest of us do then? Should we rally to support, even though your support has not been there for others? A good example of this at the moment in Edinburgh is black taxi drivers.

Black taxi drivers are currently under the cosh and feeling the pinch. With the rise of private hire contracts and the explosion of Uber, their income streams are being squeezed. They have to learn about our city, the training can be hard and then the cabs are all in excellent condition with safety measures that are world beaters. Our black taxis are beacons of Health & Safety legislation. The drivers are professional and have high standards, any complaints can mean they lose their plate and they have all undergone thorough police checks.

This is all good for our cities and good for promoting our country as a great one to not only visit but invest in.

Black taxi drivers are mostly self-employed and are a positive virtue of the capitalist system and shining beacon for free trade and self employment. I have often gotten in a taxi to hear how they get no sick pay, holiday pay, set pay, guaranteed hours etc.  They combat this with a good work ethic and overcome to earn what they need and make it work for them. Great stuff.

Then why do they now moan that Uber and private hire companies are ruining the trade. I am by no means defending Uber or trying to say the black taxi trade is not ruined. I know too many that have left or are leaving because of this. My point is why moan? The system which created and promoted Uber and flooded the market with part time drivers is the same one which had the black taxi drivers flourishing. The authorities that allowed private hire companies to bid for airport pick ups and public body accounts, is the same one that allowed black taxi drivers to have unbridled work and earn what they wanted. This is the free market you wanted guys, don’t moan when it bites your erse! Right?

Well, I don’t think it’s right. Then again, I don’t believe in an unbridled free market. I believe in a fair days pay for a fair days work. I believe in a company paying you when you are too sick to work. I believe that we should all be entitled to paid holidays and a steady work contract with hours that are manageable. I believe in the european working time directive stopping people from working over 48 hours per week, allowing 11 hours between shifts and stating that you should have two consecutive days off. But I’m a loony leftie, snowflake and lots more besides.

So, if I am made aware of our Edinburgh black taxi drivers running a campaign or asking for support, of course I will support them. Their working conditions have been manipulated by those that can and the free market that they love has now destroyed their trade. They need support, they will need the support of all who believe in fairness and equality and they we should offer it, wholeheartedly.

However, every single black taxi driver who votes Tory, spouts the right wing rhetoric about benefits claimants being lazy and workshy, refuses to acknowledge that sometimes you can work as hard as you like and you will just never get anywhere will need to wake up and smell the capitalism. For the system which they have fought and voted to protect is the same one that now bites at the erses and robs them of fair wages and fair working conditions. Something that some of us had known was coming, has arrived but it gives me no joy to be right.

I do not use Uber, I do not use Air B n B, I do not buy from Starbucks and in fact a long, long list of other companies who do not promote good working standards and fairness for their employees and suppliers alike. I do not agree with an unfiltered free market without regulation. This is just the start though, just as the foodbanks warn of a perfect storm for welfare claimants. Those who have pushed for a free market economy had better hold onto their hats, as the perfect storm of free trade comes. We are not out of the EU yet, we still have a little protection. When the working time directive, the right to rest breaks, the right to paid holidays, leave for working parents and fixed term working right are all removed, then we shall see the worst a free market economy has to offer.

It will not equalise the employed with the self-employed. The employed cannot choose when their work is open, when it will close, how much they will earn, or when they will take a break and how long that break shall be. All choices that the self-employed take for granted. The employed cannot argue with HMRC about the tax that is deducted at source and they cannot opt out of paying 13% National Insurance.  The loss of these rights will pull us all down the ladder a little and some a lot.

For any black taxi drivers reading this…….just how many people will turn to Uber when they cannot make ends meet because of the reduction in workers rights as listed above? How many will have a spare fiver for a taxi when their employer cuts their wages or refuses them a pay rise?

The quickest way to build any economy is to give money to those at the bottom. They need to spend it to survive and usually spend it more locally. The quickest way to drain an economy is to hoard the money at the top where it is saved in onshore or offshore accounts. The second is what we have and will continue to have under the Tory party that so many black taxi drivers love.

You see, we are all affected by politics and it really is not acceptable to say that they are all the same and do nothing. It will bite you on the erse at some point, I’m ready to bite back!

 

 

Looking back?

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?

 

 

When is terror not terror?

As I sit down to write this, my background noise is filled with sentiments and outpourings for Barcelona. Rightly so. More lives lost and lives shattered, never to be the same as they once were or deserve to be.

Terrorism strikes at the very heart of another community and steals loved ones and futures.

The TV and radio stations clamber for the devastation. It is after all, big news which sadly equals big bucks. I don’t think those reporters or journalists would be so cold to calculate it in this fashion but it is no accident that they cover it around the clock until the story fizzles from our consciousness.

My social media reflects the tragedy and Catalan/Spanish flags adorn those who want to be supportive. They really feel the pain of those affected and in turn they empathise. We have memes appear, they are more usual now, with words we recognise but shouldn’t. The candle photograph is on repeat as I scroll. I skip past them all. I don’t need to read them, the differences are minimal, the sentiment the same.

We are all affected. Or, is it infected?

On Saturday, a terrorist used a car to plough into innocent people. He killed one and seriously injured many more. Yesterday in two separate attacks in Spain, the exact same thing happened. More lives were lost and more injured souls fight for their lives and will forever carry the scars.

So what is the difference? I can see none. I see them both as the acts they were intended to be. Terrorism.

So I Google “Spain terror attack”. There is page after page with the headlines of “Barcelona and Cambrils Terror Attacks”. It is uniform almost, the wording changing in the minutest form. I take from this that the story is clearly being well covered. No real facts are missing and the headlines have it captured perfectly. This is exactly what I expect. My social media is a reflection of this.

I then Google “USA terror attack” I have used the same general term that I have with the previous one. What comes up is surprising. I am faced with a litany of pages and headlines for terrorism in general, a few about the 9/11 attack. These continue to the second page where finally…..the two attacks in Spain are headlined? What happened to Charlottesville?

Finally, when I Google “Charlottesville terror attack” I find news of this. However, there is something striking from the headlines linked to this;

“Charlottesville Rally Turns Deadly” –  NBC News

“Man charged with murder after driving into anti-far-right protestors” – The Guardian

“One killed as car ploughs into counter-protestors” – The Sun

“Scores injured, one dead as car ploughs into protestors” – NY Post

So from the headlines, this is not a terror attack, it is at best a murder at worst an accident as it is “the car” that has caused the death, not the driver.

This use of language may seem subtle to some. It is not to me and many more. Why is it still carrying on? Why are our world press organisations being allowed to use language to set a false tone?

Is it that they see only terrorism when it is a brown face? Is it that simple? Or is it that fear is selling? The rags that spout the hate and yet pay little or no tax have a readership that is solid, they seemed to have plugged the haemorrhaging of readers by stoking fear and promoting their bile.

This is a striking hypocrisy. Is it that all those that read and believe are blind to it? Do they choose not to see or is it the subtle use of language that is drawing them in?

I do not believe for a heartbeat that those who saw or heard about the Charlottesville attack were not sympathetic. A life lost, more injured, scarred and affected by terror. Where were the candles, the flags on the corner of the profile pics?

This goes far wider than these incidents on differing continents. Where are the flags, candles and banners for all of those affected by terror? Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, India, Somalia, Egypt and Libya – the top ten countries affected by terror, according to Forbes.

Is it ok when the USA and UK inflict terror? Are we justified in ignoring every other country and only mourning for those who may look a little more like us?

Both of these recent atrocities carried out in Spain and the US were terrorism. Both are attacks by right wing extremists whose brand of fascism may be a little different but that’s just branding, it is still fascism. The similarity is striking, yet our media don’t want that recognised. We should all be asking ourselves the reasons for this and demanding to know who it is that they are actually protecting from this information.

So……When is terror not terror? Why aren’t you asking that question?

 

Do we always have to be right to be left?

The campaign trail has been a little quiet of late. At least as far as the Independence movement is concerned. I am using this as the excuse for us looking to tear lumps out of each other. We’re just a bit bored and need something to do? Right?

So, I look at the right wing media and the right wing blogs and social media sites and nowhere do I see the same replicated. Twitter is full of avatars, with few followers but a whole lot to say. Most spout the vitriol that has been compiled for them in the press or by the likes of Brian Spanner (add any variation of McScottishness for the full effect of the disdain for the northern region of his beloved British Empire), History Woman, Agent P, Roger White et al. They all follow one another and each has hoards of union protecting avatars to call on.

The same twitter handles appear whenever you dare to question one of them. Most do not have a name or a face, they are just a being. Perhaps supreme being as far as they are concerned, who knows.

The common goal of their British Nationalism holds them flawlessly together as though they were cast members playing out J R R Tolkien’s famous words, adapted here to suit their agenda – One Flag to rule them all, One Flag to find them, One Flag to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

I do not believe for a moment that each of these people, I am presuming they are actual people and not bots, agree with one another at all times. It just simply cannot be the case. When you consider that Labour stalwarts stood side by side with Tories for the same fight. Some of those Labour people are good people, they believe in fairness, solidarity and progressive politics. Their party tied them to a different agenda at that time. They would never agree with a single solitary Tory agenda but for them, the prize of staying part of the UK was bigger and was worthy.

And herein lies the issue……do we always have to be right on the left?

Cat Boyd has come under a barrage of criticism lately. As has Robin McAlpine, Wings Over Scotland and various others. My question is not whether these criticisms are deserved or not, my question is………is it necessary?

I attended with thousands of others the March For independence in Glasgow, 3 June. It was positive, progressive and sent a fabulous message to others that we are still here, we still care and we are many. It was organised by All Under One Banner. That name itself is quite descriptive and should have been apt. However, a few high profile names pulled out and one man was cited as the cause of this.

Why? Why was this allowed to happen? Do we not need to be “All Under One Banner”? I don’t care much for the man in question. His past, his future, irrelevant to me. So I will not give another word to him. Done.

Many who did speak at that event had similar feelings and yet still felt the cause was bigger. Some made their feelings known, others just ignored and rallied the crowd with words and sentiments of inspiration. Is this not what we should all be doing wherever possible?

Should we really care who Cat voted for? She has her reasons, I’m sure. Should we really be jumping all over Wings about a previous comment when he feels he has been defamed? Should we be scrutinising every aspect of every organisation looking for things to pull them up for? By this, I do not and never would mean that we close our eyes and cover up wrong doing. I don’t mean that we should be afraid of open and honest discussions. Our opinions cannot be wrong, they are our opinions. But that doesn’t make them right either.

Can we not choose to support without dismantling another group’s position just because we disagree. Can we not take the really good stuff and ignore the not so good, if we so choose. Do we have to be right all the time just to be on the left?

Can we not see that the positive case for Independence and self-governance needs to be grown. We need to nurture this. We need to nurture all the different ideas that go towards this. We need positivity and creativity and we need to pull it all together into a great sellable package for the rest of Scotland to want it too.

We have been politically awakened in Scotland. We are lucky in that respect. This awakening does not make us all politicians though. We can leave the politicking for those who choose that. We don’t have to spout the party lines and be constrained by the political barriers. We should be pulling this all together, not pulling each other limb from independence seeking limb.

I am guilty of this too, I suspect we all are at some level. Would it not be good for us all to take a look to the right. Just a look, not a step. Look at the bile being spouted. Look at the abuse being slung. It is being aimed at those who are marginalised and under represented. Those that we want to include and help to flourish. Keep the eyes on the prize people, eyes on the prize.

The prize and the cause are bigger than the sum of us all. It is for generations to come. So with this, let us be mindful, let us be respectful. Sometimes, it is ok to be wrong and we can forgive those that are and if we can’t forgive, we can ignore. For the future we dream about, it is ok to not to be right if it keeps the left together. As one.