Archives for category: Scottish independence


This article was written for The National Saturday 29 August 2015

I was delighted, and genuinely surprised, to be announced the winner of the inaugural Write to End Violence Against Women Awards in 2013.


Since then, Scotland has witnessed a dramatic shift in its political landscape which included some devastating critiques of mainstream media and its messages. Civic Scotland brushed off its ideas, flexed its debating muscles as the independence referendum campaign warmed up and new voices began to emerge.  Among those who  ‘dared to dream’ that ‘another Scotland was possible’ were women ready to challenge a deeply macho culture once described as ‘cold and hostile to women’s lives and values’.  Bloggers, freelance journalists, writers, artists and commentators created a new estate of citizen journalism.  The bandwidth broadened, women’s space for debate and critique opened up and all of a sudden it was open season on Scotland’s gender architecture.  What the referendum started now stubbornly refuses to go away and the momentum has not diminished one jot.

Groups like Women for Independence offer online and village hall platforms for women’s concerns and safe places to discuss them. What most Scottish women have known for years is now part of the national conversation: women are still not equal, get paid less than men, do most of the caring and have less political and economic power than men. There is now growing public concern that children are growing up in a culture full of inequality, everyday sexism and all forms of violence against women.  The scandal of high reported rates of these forms of violence has now entered public debate, is a focus for Government action and placing new demands on print and online media to bring their news values into the twenty first century. The Write to End Violence Against Women Awards cleverly caught the zeitgeist in 2013 when they demanded the media raise the bar in its coverage of violence against women.

Now in 2015 there is a growing public appetite for debate on these issues and the old dismissals no longer wash.  People are joining the dots between women’s persistent inequality and the many forms of violence against women such as domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, child sexual abuse, prostitution and pornography.  The prevalence of these crimes is a national scandal with no place in modern Scotland.  Their roots lie in laws only repealed in the nineteenth century whereby wives and children were the property of husbands or fathers who had the right to ‘chastise’ them.   While these laws were eventually repealed, unfortunately the attitudes to women which went along with them display remarkable longevity.   None more visible than those in much of our popular culture which continues to demean women, treat them as sex objects in ways which subliminally reinforce women’s second class status.

The good news is that some surprising heavy hitters are now joining the fight back.  A recent controversial media campaign against rape #WeCanStopIt had Rape Crisis Scotland and Police Scotland joining forces to get the message out. #EndProstitutionNow, a campaigning coalition which aims to do what it says on the tin is fronted by a fully on-message Glasgow City Councillor.   Clever PR is now unleashing these issues on an utterly changed Scottish media landscape.  Two years down the line gender is on the national agenda and violence against women is emerging from behind those closed doors to where it should be – right up front in the public eye.


With three maybe four sleeps to go before we know the result of the Scottish referendum I can barely contain my excitement. I am finding it difficult to concentrate on anything else – and like most people, most women especially, there is much to be got through in a day.  However there is no other topic, no other decision, no other prospect that is as important as this referendum right now – no wonder concentration drifts out of the window.

Family Politics

Although I grew up in a politically savvy family, amid fiery debates about huge worldly topics around the kitchen table, annual May Day marches going back as far as I can remember, I have never felt so close to something which could result it huge positive social change.

Aye we’ll have they capitalists shaking in their boots the day!

mayday pipers

Glasgow May Day Parade 1960

Despite Grandpa Alex’s May Day exortation  “Aye we’ll have they capitalists shaking in their boots the day!”, the revolution never seemed to happened. There were moments of hope for capitalist boot-shaking, ban the bomb marches, the poll tax campaign, the Miners’ Strike, the anti-Iraq war demonstrations, but generally it was business as usual.

ban the bomb   Ban the Bomb, Glasgow CND March 1960s

As a child I gradually saw the gulf between how my family made sense of the world (Marxist dialectical materialism mostly) and the actual world outside of our lefty bubble.

robeson at may day

Paul Robeson at Glasgow May Day, Queen’s Park 1960

Symbolic annihilation

What was on the BBC, what I learned in school (kings and queens, endless rote learning of dates, wars and acts of parliament) and read in my comics – (boarding schools, more kings and queens, plucky little orphans, brave Cavaliers and poor Marie Antoinette) did not look familiar – aka symbolic annihilation.


Scottish Socialist Sunday School Naming Certificate

I became intellectually and culturally bipolar in my efforts to reconcile my life, ideas and understandings with ambient reality.   Even as a child marching along in those May Day columns, in my Socialist Sunday School best, heading through Glasgow city centre I was always puzzled by the seeming indifference, bemusement and occasional hostility of the people watching us from the pavement . The two tides were running in parallel but I always felt I was running against the prevailing current.  The tide eventually proved too strong for me and I stepped out.

Caledonian antisyzygy

Scotland’s symbolic annihilation was commonplace and the country struggled to resolve its own bipolarity. In 1919 (the same year the tanks rolled into George Square, and the forces of capitalism were maybe a wee bit shaky in their boots), G. Gregory Smith named it: in the Caledonian antisyzygy, he remarked, ‘we have a reflection of the contrasts which the Scot shows at every turn… which is the admission that two sides of the matter have been considered…Oxymoron was ever the bravest figure, and we must not forget that disorderly order is order after all”.

Oxymoron was ever the bravest figure…we must not forget that disorderly order is order after all”.

Disorderly order just about covers it. Even the anti-establishment politics I grew up with no longer seemed adequate to explain the reality of my life, now seriously out of kilter even with the comforting yet ever contradictory certainties of dialectical materialism –(another antisyzygy of sorts). Cast into an analytical wilderness by the late 1970s I shrugged my critical shoulders and walked away, unable to connect the dots between my now adult life and any kind of analysis which made sense. Foolishly, I was searching for simplicity. I didn’t find it.

woman car run you down

The Women’s Movement

The women’s movement provided early promise, but, full of its own complexities, lost sight of the enemy outside and struggled to survive in Thatcher’s Britain. However, as the movement matured, so too did I and gradually filled in the blanks in my understanding of how the world works, how change happens and what part I, as a woman could play.

women's lib  in scotland book cover

By the 1990s I had found a practical focus for my politics by working on gender equality in education and onward from there working against prevent domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women.

                                                      women hold up half the sky

Another Scotland is possible

With only three days to go I think I am swimming in the same political tide as so many others. We’re all off the pavement now and thousands are marching along the same road. Inequality and social injustice are there for all to see in the unionist establishment’s grand plan. But party politics are no longer the only show in town. The split between the lives we are living and the parallel universe being devised for us by the Westminster establishment has become too wide. Working closely with their allies in big business and in the fourth estate, the dominant UK political parties have lined up as one to threaten us with disaster and by doing so confirmed for many of us just why we need shot of them. Their virtual reality democracy game is over.

disorderly order is order after all”

Scottish people are learning how to break the establishment machine code and are poised to reprogramme the whole jing bang.

sunday times Another Scotland is Possible!

#indyref has revitalised a nouveau Scottish antisyzygy but Friday morning may see a new synthesis. The establishment might just be shaking in their boots. Alex would be pleased. Another Scotland is possible. I’m voting YES!

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