What does Pride mean to me? Amber Poppitt

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Amber Poppitt

History has been far from generous to the LGBTQIA+ community. Bullying, hatred, societal prejudice, oppression and laws criminalising our existence has generated an unnecessary amount of torment throughout the centuries. Although numerous acts have been introduced in recent years to try protect LGBTQIA+ people from the systematic injustices inflicted upon us, it wasn’t all that long ago when such acts were pretty much non-existent. During the mid-20th century, homosexuality was still classed as illegal under varying sodomy laws. In many countries, this resulted in police raids on bars that were known to serve gay and transgender people.

America was one of those many countries where homosexuality was banned by law, meaning similar raids were habitually conducted across their many states. On June 28th 1969, however, one raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, didn’t go quite as planned. Instead of allowing the police to carry out their usual incursions, the 200 Stonewall attendees decided enough was enough and resisted. Authorities responded by attempting to arrest everyone inside the pub, however before backup had time to arrive, groups of protesters had formed outside.

In practice the riots carried on for the following five days, however their overall impact lasted far longer than anyone at the time imagined. The actions of June 28th 1969 resulted in a catalyst that helped to reshape the ways in which LGBTQIA+ people were treated by society at large, a moment which can be seen as the start of a liberation for queer people across the globe.

As the years passed, change started to take shape. More and more public figures came out, countries across the world lifted their laws punishing people for same-sex relations, and acts are introduced to protect those who are at risk due to their gender identity or sexuality. From Stonewall to the legalisation of same-sex marriage taking place across the globe in the present decade, fight for liberation still continues today.

Many of these changes were made possible thanks the protests, resistance and marches which stemmed from that very night back in 1969. Demonstrations similar to those held outside the Stonewall Inn continued year-after-year, continuously pushing for change.

Today we refer to these sorts of demonstrations as Pride events, and they are just as important today as they were half a century ago. Such movements not only take place all across the globe, but speak to all of those who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community from ever walk of life. Whether you’re asexual, bisexual, non-binary, pansexual, transgender, agender, bigender, genderfluid, genderqueer, gender variant, androgynous, aromantic, androsexual, bicurious, demiromantic, demisexual, polyamorous or any other member of this wonderfully variant community; Pride is the moment in which non-heteronormative folk can come together and continue the march for liberation which begun during the midpoint of the 20th century.

Due to the sheer scope and variety of the LGBTQIA+ community, however, Pride has a variety of meanings for many. Each individual will have their own interpretation of what Pride means to them based on their backgrounds, experiences and worldviews. So, based upon my own experiences as a trans woman raised in 90s Britain, what does Pride personally mean to me?

Firstly, from my point of view, Pride is a way to look back on the achievements made over the years. It’s a time to celebrate the decriminalisation of homosexuality; establishment of countless gay liberation fronts; repeals made toward those who ‘committed’ the victimless crime of loving another; openly gay & trans candidates running for office; liberating trans people so they’re free transition legally, socially & physically; the introduction of laws protecting LGBTQIA+ people within workplaces; and the countless other steps made toward equality. Over the years an endless amount of individuals have worked endlessly, risked all they have and faced a tirade of struggle in a bid to make the world a better place for the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride celebrations are a means of expressing our gratitude to such folk, thanking them for helping to make the world a more bearable place than it once was. There’s far more work to be done of course, however Pride is a point where we can look back and say thank you to those who’ve got us to where we are today.

Another way in which I look at Pride is by seeing it as an exercise in standing up to the mistreatment and hate still present within our societies today. Bullies, bigots and hateful fools love to hit out at those whom they believe they have power over. For far too long, those very cowards have felt emboldened to make the lives of those unlike them hell. They’ve hindered rights, laughed at the existence of others, beaten, murdered and claimed superiority all because they grew up in a society that made them believe they were superior. Pride is our way of saying no more; a defence mechanism designed to push back against the struggles we continuously face. Pride is our way of telling the hateful members of our society that we are strong, resilient and here to stay. Each and every march is our way of pushing back against the self-assumed dominance held by those who hate us.

Furthermore, Pride can in many ways be seen as a bond that assists in bringing the diverse and multifaceted members of the LGBTQIA+ community together. As already mentioned, there’s a vast amount of sexualities and identities existing beyond the walls of heteronormativity. Considering how large this community is, divisions do at times occur. No single person or experience is the same, meaning it can at times appear as if we’re striving for different goals. Truth is, we’re working toward the same universal outcome; we want a world free from bullying, mockery, violence, shame, misunderstanding, dehumanisation and hatred. The liberation to love who we love and be ourselves without scorn is something we can all rally behind as a collective. Pride is the time where we can all finally come together, embrace the power of working in numbers and stand up as one. By coming together we create an unbreakable unity; a collective working to change the foundations of our societies for the better.

Finally, Pride is an exercise in flexing our visibility; a way of reminding the world that we are more than an idea or stereotype. Over the centuries, LGBTQIA+ folk have been habitually erased from the history books. This is a practise that’s still carried out by many in this day and age. When we’re not being mocked or misrepresented by callous stereotypes, our lives are trivialised and rendered false. Bigots tell us our gender identities are delusions, that our desire to love more than one gender is nothing more than greed, that our love toward someone of the same gender is the by-product of mental illnesses, or our sexualities/genders are contemporary fads uncommon within the human experience. Despite their assumptions, we all exist, we’ve always exited and we shall continue to exist until the end of time. Pride month is the moment each in which we remind the world that we are valid, that our identities are real, that we bleed like everyone else and that we deserve rights just as much as every other human living on this planet.

As already mentioned, Pride can be subjective based on whoever you ask. But that’s its beauty. It allows a vast community of people to come together, recognise the universal struggles each one faces and provides a platform where we can all push for change. To me Pride is a way to look back and thank the liberators of yesterday, celebrate the diversity of the queer community, tower above the bigots and articulate our authenticity to the world. Whether others agree with this is beside the point. No matter how you look at it, just remember that Pride is a movement that will allow progression to continue, no matter how dark the world may feel at times.

Happy Pride Month everyone.

 

You can read more from Amber on her Writing page and she also contributes to our Podcast

World Refugee Day

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Debora Kayembe, Human Rights campaigner and Director of Full Options

 

It’s summer, most countries in the world expect migration movement to increase. Human migration is the movement by people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily in a new location. The movement is often over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form globally. A person who moves from their home to another place because of natural disaster or civil disturbance may be described as a refugee or, especially within the same country, a displaced person. A person seeking refuge from political, religious or other forms of persecution is usually described as an asylum seeker.
Since the Arab spring widely considered as the Arab revolution which was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups, foreign interventions, and civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East that began on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia with the Tunisian Revolution. The world has witness an expected and unprecedented massive movement of refugees to Europe that result to a reception crisis; thousands of refugees cross the sea and attempt to settle in the most appropriate place that they taught suitable for them.

Once arrived the host country; it is not always a welcoming sight; a lot it expected from the new comer as well the from refugee perspectives; it is the time to rest, recover and make choices. Some likely manage to make it to the place of their choice, some do not and the most unfortunates end up in detention centre or being deported back to their home land depending on countries and immigration refugee policies.

When integration in the host countries comes to the mind of a refugee, the challenges are immeasurable. It requires great mental and/or physical effort and is a major test of a person’s ability. It is also important for members of the host society to recognize that it is the right of a person to have or to do something in order to strive to move forward.

Integration is, after all, defined as a process of developing a society in which all the social groups share the socio economic and cultural life. Each and every country holds its own policies on refugees and asylum seekers in order to allow them to settle. We can divide these in two parts: the socio economic integration and the cultural integration. There is also a third part and that is the responsibility that both the host country and the refugees (that includes asylum seekers) take for ensuring that the policies work.

A new life in a host country places a lot of expectations on refugees and little thought is often given to how much or how well the refugee understands the society in which s/he has joined and been called up to integrate. Are there any ways that the host country can help the refugee to overcome the challenges that they will certainly face? Have ways of teaching the new way of living been provided to minimize additional tensions on the life of the refugee? While each country has its own systems, they all have some things in common, namely, they are discriminatory, non-equal, and segregationist. People are led to believe that the world is working towards less racist policies at local levels, but in the context of the refugee (and asylum seeker) experience this is not the case.

We also need to think about the ignorance and naiveté that can be part of the refugee’s way of seeing the world after going through tremendous trauma, and their expectation that the world will look upon them with compassion.

Challenges are not only felt by the newcomers and it is important to consider that those attempting to welcome them can face significant challenges too including offer refugees the opportunity to participate in a dialogue and to be open-minded about how refugees might be perceived.
Fundamentally, there is a need for an open and inclusive local/national society that offers refugees the opportunity to be introduced to a new culture through non-judgmental inclusion. Being a refugee in host countries is like finding refuge in your neighbor’s home.

Your neighbor will give you a bed and will probably provide food for you in the earliest days on your arrival, but will soon expect you to make a contribution to their home as long as you stay. I do not think the neighbor will be pleased to see you stealing or destroying his property for no reason. But it is also true that, the refugee will be much settled if his host offers him in equal measure and all the necessary help that he need in order to be become self-sufficient.

I will not finish to write this article without mentioning the immigration detention Centre; around 30,000 people are held under Immigration Act powers every year, for a range of reasons. In 2017, 27,331 people entered detention. Some are asylums seekers who have had their claim refused. Others are asylum seekers who have a claim in process, and are being held while that decision is made (under what is known as the Detained Fast Track). In the Scotland we have a detention centre called Dungavel, I always call for the closure of that centre because of the persistent and continuous violations of Human rights that happens in that centre ; It is also true that immigration matters are not part of the devolved powers to the Scottish government ; but the welfare of the individuals in Dungavel it’s very much a Scottish responsibility ; I am calling upon to the Scottish parliament to conduct an investigation into the conditions of detainees in that centre .

You can find out more about Full Options on their Facebook page or on twitter

 

 

You can read more news and views on our writing page or listen to our our latest podcast

Real Carers Week

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Sandra Webster

I am privileged to belong to a group of passionate writers who are called Ungagged. I love them because they share voices that deserve to be heard and often are not. At the end of Carers Week, am proud to be writing for them.

Once a year we carers get patted on the back and told what a fantastic job we do. I think there will come a time when we all realise the love and compassion carers have, make the world a better place. We do what we do at the expense of our own health, there are no health and safety measures put in place. In a past life I was a paid carer a career, fantastic colleagues. I worked in places with great practice. I had time off and paid holidays. My work then could not prepare me for the reality of being an unpaid carer. We care round the clock often 24/7 when our caring role is over many of us have PTSD and are expected to find work quickly. We have much to offer our skills include advocacy, form filling, managing our time effectively. Most employers will look at our “work history” and not regard this as real work. However we do what we do with love in our hearts.

This week has been a rollercoaster for me but is just a typical one. I have read so many stories on social media. Some of us have been tweeting #RealCarersWeek. We live in the shadows and keep the dark times to ourselves; posting pictures about happy times masks how difficult our lives actually are. The stories I have read this week have made me cry and smile and make me realise I am not alone. I rarely get out. I saw a dear friend who is also a carer this week and got to a gig!! I thought I would not get but I have not had a night out on my own for over a year and we made it. It refreshed my batteries but I felt so guilty going. I know many folk will get that.

Carers contribute more than the NHS budget in unpaid care. What would happen if we downed tools but w won’t of course. The Adam Smith foundation presented a paper this week which said women should expect to be unpaid carers. That is the crux of the matter it is mostly seen as “women’s work” though I know more and more men who are carers. Assumptions are made as well as cuts to essential services. I believe in people being seen and part of their community but this is used as an excuse to making cuts to essential services. Such services are crucial and I am all for volunteers and charities but they should not provide essential centres. Language about community care are used as an excuse to make cuts.

So another Carers Week is almost at the end for us though #RealCarersLives continue 52 weeks a year seven days a week. We have to battle and advocate for support for our loved ones forgetting ourselves. Am glad that so many people have shared their stories on #RealCarersWeek this year. It is up to a 1000. I live in hope things will get better this week but in reality doubt it. Am proud on behalf of Ungagged to wish all who care the best, always at your back. Come and share the microphone that is Ungagged and let others hear your story it is an important one. Love and strength to you all. xx

 

You can read more of Sandra’s Ungagged writing here or listen to her on our podcast

Free education: The Foundation of a Better Society

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Free Education: The Foundation of a Better Society

 

I am passionate about education. I believe that it has the power to transform individuals, communities and society for the better. As such, I think education should be free. And that means free education throughout life, not just primary and secondary schooling. As Rector of the University of Aberdeen and a member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, I am proud to have learnt from and stood with so many students who are also committed to free education for all.
The Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) has just published a report showing that fewer than two in five students in the UK think they are getting value for money. At the same time, levels of student wellbeing continue to fall. One interesting aspect of these results is the difference in satisfaction between the four nations of the UK: 60% of students in Scotland, where Scottish students do not pay tuition fees, felt they were getting good value, compared with 48% in Wales, 36% in Northern Ireland, and 35% in England.
It is tempting to conclude that the absence of fees in Scotland – something for which I have campaigned and continue to support – is the main reason for the marked geographical variation. It does, I am sure, play a part. But I think the report, and indeed the whole approach to assessing student satisfaction on the basis of value for money, require deeper exploration and challenge.
Education must not just be seen as the means of churning out economically viable and valuable cogs (students) for the labour market. There are innumerable studies that highlight the non-economic benefits of education. This is especially true of the education of women and girls. Education makes us more fulfilled and compassionate people, builds more equal and resilient communities and creates healthier and happier societies.
We must, I believe, resist the marketisation and commodification of education. We know that market forces do not – cannot – value what really matters. We know that tuition fees and inadequate financial support to live leads to debt. And we also know that the student debt repayment system is just a nonsense, being very complex and inefficient. But more than this, we know that debt is a way of disciplining workers: of forcing people to pursue market-valued careers that do not sustain human life, rather than the creative and caring careers that provide solace for the soul or care for our communities. People are driven out of and away from careers that are socially helpful, like nursing, teaching, caring, creating, just to repay debt. And they are forced to be compliant workers: profit maximisers in the neoliberal economic machine, not complaining, not causing a fuss.
And we know that debt is not only bad for the economy, it is bad for all of our mental health. Financial pressures are a major source of anxiety, depression and other ill-health for students and young people. The Hepi research finding that student wellbeing is decreasing should cause alarm bells to ring for all of us. Why support a system that we know makes us ill?
The Westminster government has created an environment in which public spending reduces year-on-year; where cuts have become a normalised part of service provision. And I profoundly reject this ideology.
I want a society that values education as a universal good; a society that gives people the chance to learn about music, the arts, philosophy (subjects facing cuts at every level of education) as well as science and technology; a society that seeks to support the creation of well-rounded, creative and caring people, not just atomised labour market fodder.
And so we should build an economic system with this at its heart: one where universal goods are provided by a healthy public sector that is supported by redistributive taxation and where the wealth of society is used to create health, happiness and better lives for everyone.

 

Cooling Down in the 38 Degrees in the Shade Show

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cooling Down in the 38 Degrees in the Shade Show

Glasgow School of Art Degree Show, 2018

By Keith MacBeath
On a walk through a balmy, sexy, uncomfortably culturally zeitgeist-y Glasgow today, sipping mojitos whilst listening to live jazz, live folk and flicking through racks of vinyl, books, contemporary prints and eating pretentiously unpretentious vegan scran, I ducked into the Tontine at the Trongate to cool off and take in the Degree Show by The Glasgow School of Arts.

I love art. All art. Viewing creativity, ingenuity and the ability to manipulate emotions using ink, paper, paint, soviet phones, wood, fabrics, sounds, lights, and melted plastics with a good cup of coffee in hand (perhaps the biggest surprise in my life has been the seemingly sudden prolification of amazing coffee available in paper cups throughout this city!), is something I could do all day, every day.  And Glasgow has some prime sights in which you can do just that. Kelvingrove Art Museum is a massive favourite of mine, where many a rainy day are spent gazing at Salvador and the rest wi’ a wee swally in my brass hipflask.

This, though was something different. Vast in the sheer amount of work, and vast in  scope. And mostly from the minds of unmuddled people still in their very early twenties. This old carcass creaking through the vibrancy, and the hope and the smiling, fresh faced young folk and the ultimate pieces of their four years of study was done with a lump in my throat. There is nothing that points a scrawny, bony, long nailed finger at your very laboured, slowing heart like young people starting their journey.

I won’t review work, but the journey from private bathrooms of disembodied women, through operating rooms carefully and intricately cut, through sound scapes, horses on wheels, cowboy boots and grotesques, and scenes so beautiful I cried. Some installations shook me, and some questioned what I knew about Scotland’s political landscape (including the political flags and political pottery) and some took me into lives that are unpublished and unsung. Some made me laugh, and some had obviously stunned judges as prizes adorned the entrances to some of the pieces (the best being, the self ascribed, “Future Underachiever Award.”)

Glasgow needs this fresh wave of creativity every year. This exhibition is one I have stumbled, raced and ranted around through the years. It is the lapping new tide, washing over dry sand, renewing and shaping the years that come. And like the tide, it is regular. And it changes things subtly but relentlessly.

But on this uncharacteristic muggy, tropically oppressive, hot, Glasgow day, in this uncharacteristically tropical fortnight, I stood cooling at the last, almost shy, exhibit and I pondered on my two hour journey around an exhibition that by rights, I should take a few days to revisit and revisit (and will this week). And I realised as I stood there removed from the carribean sweat soaked honking, shouting, drunken accident that is a sunny West Coast of Scotland; amongst leaves and lush cooling ivy’s and lichens, that this one was my favourite. Its layered, creeping green unpretentious simplicity, yet intricate and obviously painstaking in detail, was the unembellished, unadorned but so apt and so Glasgow, Summer 2018 best of show, for me. Thank you Alanna McElroy.

AUOB? Kick Out The Fascists

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ball to the Wall

Tommy Ball

AUOB? Kick Out The Fascists

Why YES doesn’t need fascists marching under our banner

 

The Yes campaign/movement is one of the most remarkable organic movements in history. Opposed by the British government, the Crown, and all but one daily and Sunday newspaper (and increasingly, seemingly, by its own major political party), it seems to have lost little, if any, support in the four years since the first independence referendum. It retains its civic characteristic, having steadfastly refused to be racist or isolationist; violent or bigoted. This has disappointed a great many people on the British government side of the constitutional debate.

 

Yet we have a dirty little secret, and that secret needs to be outed, aired, and smashed.

 

We all have differing opinions on the value of marches and parades, and the participants therein (my own view of the latter coincides remarkably with my opinion on what sort of potatoes ought to be consumed on a Sunday). Let us concede that the independence march this month in Glasgow, at least, did no harm.

 

I was cheered to see a banner on the march bearing the legend TORY SCUM OUT. This annoyed precisely the right people. Staunch, florid-faced, tweed-wearing chaps who have spent their political careers defending rape clauses and poll taxes miraculously transformed into a bizarre cross between Maude Flanders and Kenneth Williams upon seeing it. Demands were made of Nicola Sturgeon – a First Minister who could never be accused of taking too close an interest in the wider Yes movement – to apologise for/immolate herself in a baby box in protest at/condemn the banner. Questions will be asked in Holyrood in the shrillest of fashions. Stephen Daisley was said to have collapsed in shock and was only induced back into consciousness by the wafting of a pie in front of several of his chins.

 

But here’s the thing. They were right.

 

Not about the content of the banner, nor that it was or is wrong to hate Tories. These people are worthy of our hatred and contempt. They force rape victims to undergo interrogations to prove they are worthy of state support. They pack black British citizens into aeroplanes and deport them to Jamaica. They drag disabled children into assessment centres to satisfy themselves that they’re “disabled enough” to deserve support. They are scum. And they do need ousted.

 

But what they don’t need to be ousted by is Siol nan Gaidheal, the makers of said banner. This is an ethnic nationalist grouping. A bona-fide blut und erde gang of fascists. They see our English neighbours not as partners in rebuilding our country, but as a fifth column; an enemy within.

 

It shames us to have such people marching in our demonstrations. And it needs to stop now. We pride ourselves on inclusiveness, but that inclusiveness can never and must never extend to those who would be exclusive. “Our” fascists are still fascists. And fascism must always be opposed.

 

What SnG is doing to us is exactly what Britain First is doing to Centrist Das. TORY SCUM OUT is our equivalent of “WANT TO STOP THIS PUPPY BEING TORTURED? LIKE THIS BRITAIN FIRST PAGE”. It’s not good enough. These people ought to be persona non grata-d from our campaign.

 

The problem with Unionism is that too many good people stood back and watched the far-Right take over on the ground. They normalised the far Right within Unionism. We don’t need that.

 

We need to exclude if we want to be inclusive. A nationalism which panders to fascism is not one of which I want any part.

 

The next time SnG turn up to a Yes march, imagine what you’d think of them if they carried a Union Jack instead of a Saltire.

 

The only thing a fascist needs is a boot to the face. He doesn’t need embraced by a campaign like ours.

 

I’d rather a break bread with a thousand Tories than a single Scottish fascist. Let’s nip it in the bud and nip it now.

 

 

Tommy Ball contributes to the Ungagged Podcast. You can find more of his Ungagged Writing here.

Weaponising Fragility

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Victoria Pearson

Weaponising Fragility

How Ruth Davidson betrayed women, yet again

On May 25th, in the late evening, Ruth Davidson tweeted that at lunchtime she had been followed through the streets by a man shouting Indy slogans while filming her as his dogs barked.

As someone who has experienced my fair share of street harassment (I speak about it on this podcast, skip to 1hr 10mins in if you want to listen), my heart went out to Ruth. I’ve got four children myself and I well understand how vulnerable pregnancy makes you feel. Ruth’s account of events reads as an incredibly scary experience – being chased by someone yelling slogans at you while dogs bark at you must be terrifying . My mental image of a pregnant woman running away from someone shouting at her while dogs terrified her further was powerful, as I’m sure a skilled orator like Davidson was well aware.

And then the footage of the incident emerged. I’ll link it here so you can come to your own conclusions,

But what I see in that video is very far from the events described by Ruth in her tweet. I see a constituent break into a slight jog in order to catch up with their elected representative and ask them a valid question in a respectful tone. At no point was the questioner rude, abusive or even loud. At no point did they cross into Ruth’s personal space – they were never in arms reach of each other.

Granted, some people are afraid of dogs, but the dogs in question were small, and well under control -at no point do they approach Ms Davidson – and cannot be heard barking on the video at all. Also, Ruth Davidson doesn’t appear to have a debilitating dog phobia:

And she doesn’t appear to feel at all threatened by the questioner. She turns her back on him, and walks away at a relaxed pace, surrounded by her colleagues. He wasnt intruding on her leisure time, or following her into a medical appointment, or bothering her on a bus – she is very obviously out at work, doing her job as an MSP.

On parliament.uk, it states that an MP (so presumably also an MSP who is leader of the Scottish branch of her party) “generally try to meet as many people as possible” so that they can gain “further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Westminster”

It seems only fair then, to assume that answering politely worded queries from probable constituents is a key component of an elected representatives job.

Some may say that demanding time and attention from women on the street is harassment. In the vast majority of cases I would wholeheartedly agree. Indeed I make that same argument on my podcast about street harassment. But Ruth Davidson was not a lone woman on the street being harassed and intimidated for attention. She was a woman at work, and being asked questions is her job.

So surprise surprise, Ruth’s telling porky pies. Why am I moved to write about it? It’s not exactly new behaviour.

Well, quite apart from the fact that if that man hadn’t been filming the encounter, he could’ve got into serious trouble – either through legal means or the knock on social effects of having people erroneously believe you are an abusive man who chases terrified pregnant women through the streets with your furiously barking dogs; a woman with power was prepared to sacrifice the quality of life of a stranger in order to present a narrative, and that’s both cruel and breathtakingly manipulative.

The actions of women like Ruth Davidson who exaggerate and fabricate encounters like this are harmful to women and girls everywhere, and perpetuate rape culture by giving weight to the idea that women aren’t to be believed when we talk about very real instances of street harassment and abuse that we face every single day.

Every single time we talk about harassment and abuse, women are shouted down by people who talk about false allegations that ruin lives. For a woman in the public eye to make a false allegation of harassment is unforgivable. To make one that is so easily disproven shows, at best, political naivety that makes her unfit for her post, at worst a malicious streak wide enough to throw a probable constituent under the bus while simultaneously trashing every woman who has been brave enough to talk about their experiences of #everydaysexism , street harassment and abuse. Frankly put, how dare she trivialize our experiences in this way?

In the UK we have a woefully low conviction rate for rape and sexual assault, we have a culture of blame surrounding the victims of street harassment, any displays of solidarity or supportive dialogues women try to set up online are swamped by MRAs and “egalitarians” sliding in to derail conversations with cries of “well, actually…” And “but what about..?”, gaslighting survivors of abuse and suggesting the majority of accusations of abuse and harrassment are false, and Ruth Davidson has just handed them yet another weapon to attack us with. So much for sisterhood.

As a survivor of abuse, an endurer of street harassment, the mother of a daughter, a feminist -I will always instinctively #BelieveHer. Which is why I’ve nothing but contempt for those in the public eye that muddy the waters by weaponising an image of vulnerability in the way Ruth Davidson did in that encounter and the subsequent, clearly well thought out tweet that followed some hours later.

Shame on any woman that would throw us all under the bus by polluting dialogue about our very real experiences of street abuse with spurious accusations like this. I can only conclude with what those before me have said – Ruth Davidson, You Ain’t No Feminist, Sis.

 

 

 

Victoria is a regular contributor to the Ungagged Podcast, and you can read more of her Ungagged writing here

Too Poor for Prosperity?

Reading Time: 7 minutes
Nick Durie

The Scottish Government’s Growth Commission has raised more questions than it has answered, it has worried and angered many independence supporters, and far from starting a debate about the positive vision of the growing economy of an independent Scotland is has set independence supporters against one another on the basis of those who will support any policy proposal if it supports independence, and those who want out of the UK because of the model of society it represents.

During the independence referendum of 2014 many critics of the prospectus put before them by the Scottish Government was that in their view it was overly optimistic, that its claims were insufficiently supported by hard data, and that in places it was guilty of boosterism or magical thinking. The Growth Commission was created in response to these criticisms. It was tasked with showing how and independent Scotland could grow its economy and create the fairer society the YES campaign had argued for in a hard numbers driven analysis. Andrew Wilson, an ex-RBS economist was chosen to head the commission.

It took a number of years to publish its report and the commission took evidence from a range of contributors. There is much working in the report, which is lengthy and serious, but which nevertheless diverges very far from the 2014 vision of independence to such an extent that it too is guilty of magical thinking.

Andrew Wilson has talked about “inclusion”; the Scotland we seek to build needs to be more equal than the one we are leaving behind. However nowhere in the report’s 354 pages does it mention full employment, family wages, the beneficial effects of trade unions, or the multiplier effect of government spending. Apart from what is not in the report, there are other examples of magical thinking. The report commits to Sterlingisation. Politically this is not possible. It may be economically worth considering, but voters will be incredulous that this is the plan. Moreover buried on page 92 of the report are a series of monetarist principles which effectively advocate a straitjacket on public spending which, apart from being simply wrongheaded, will prove intensely electorally unpopular.

As Ben Wray, the Editor of Commonspace summarised this section today;

“The growth comm’s analysis is that they will inherit a deficit of 5.5% from rUK, and that this will need to be reduced within the transition period to no more than 3%, with no assumptions about growth and using the Pound Sterling this means it will have to be done through tax rises or spending cuts. They argue that on current growth and inflation rates this would mean a “cash terms increase” in public spending, i.e. a real terms fall. The rule they have for the transition period is that the deficit will always be lower than the growth rate – i.e. take more out of the Scottish economy through revenue than you put in through expenditure. The report does contain the proviso that if growth is very lower there may need to be a spending stimulus in the early years, but the general idea is fiscal consolidation.”

The SNP has fought one referendum and a number of elections arguing very precisely against this kind of politics. Austerity is electorally toxic. Moreover the traditional Unionist argument against independence is that it will lead to deepening austerity, as the Unionists believe, or claim to believe, that Scotland is economically poorer than the rest of the UK, and is subsidised by the Union. Unionist commentators, such as Kevin Hague, have observed with glee that the report apparently shares their analysis.

As well as the questions the report raises (such as why are we being asked to embrace monetarism and below growth public spending, and re-introduce Gordon Brown’s public sector borrowing requirement), the report has also been framed as a discussion document. However that has not stopped many in the movement seeing the report as an effective policy statement. This is dangerous for several reasons.

For prominent SNP blogger Peter A Bell, responding to this writer’s framing of the commitments to strong fiscal consolidation contained on page 92, as Sado-Monetarism, this was an unacceptably trenchant criticism,

“How I despise the pseudo-intellectualism of terms such as “sado-monetarism”. It positively reeks of those posturing, self-righteous, self-regarding, elitist Byres Road cappuccino Commies.”

Echoing very similar sentiments, polling blogger and independence supporter James Kelly reckoned,

“Whisper it gently, but the fact that the radical left are unhappy with today’s events may be no bad thing. Byres Road and the road to victory are not necessarily one and the same. #ScotRef”

Strong stuff, but these are indeed sentiments that suggest ‘discussion’ may not be so broad rangning as to enable the questioning of the particular type of economics that Mr Wilson has advocated. It also pays little heed to the fact that Wilson is advocating a major strategic shift to the right. In 2014 the Salmond administration advocated Keynesian economics, social democracy, reindustrialisation, full employment and a cradle to grave welfare state. As one social media commentator put it,

“I know this isn’t a policy declaration, but it is an alarming sign to people who are rightly sceptical of Westminster and the politics that have polluted the country for the past 30 years. It’s a worrying signal.”

The location of such concerns as elitest, and those of the middle class intelligentsia do not chime with my own experience of advocating those Salmond era policies, as an anecdote I recently retold illustrates.

“During the referendum I remember standing at a stall on the edge of the scheme being approached by a skagged out one legged man in early middle age, clearly slowly dying of leg abscesses from arterial injections. Anecdotally many heroin addicts die this way. This man adopted a socratic tone with me, speirin questions of the benefits of a YES vote. As I outlined the mission with our core messages (secure reindustrialisation, win full employment, restore family wages, and end benefit sanctions) he started to hirple away on his crutches. “Guid!” He said. “That’s how A votit that wey in the post. Just wantit tae check.” Alex Salmond’s SNP government and the YES campaign had engaged *this* man, a man slowly dying from his own miseries for the generalised want of those four things. It’s a far cry from banning pizzas to tackle “social exclusion.””

My own experience of making the argument for independence thousands of times on doorsteps has been that the promise of full employment is in fact the single most passionate and moving thing I can say about the prospect. Abandoning this policy in order to pursue monetarism and fiscal consolidation is unlikely to be anywhere near as popular.

This takes us to the social history of the independence debate and the YES movement’s composition itself. Independence actually has to be voted for, and the support for it is very demographically biased towards younger people, and working class people, who together form a majority of the population.

That is not to say that everyone in those demographics is convinced of independence but they are certainly more likely to endorse it than other cohorts of people. For the majority of those people their support is conditional, and stems from the history of our campaigns for this objective, and their relationship to our campaign messages, or as I prefer to look at it, our war aims.

Scotland is a very unequal society and the majority of people are not doing well out of the British system. As many who have spoken in defence of Mr Wilson’s proposed change of tack have claimed, there are sections of society which believe that a more equal society where everyone has a job and a decent home is unrealistic to achieve. Those people would be attacted towards a more conservative assessment of the benefits of having a new country, they claim. The trouble with this thinking is that there is no guarantee that shifting towards a radical right wing prospectus will go unnoticed by those who currently support independence because they believe it will be something hopeful in their lives and future chances. Those who espouse firm commitments to Thatcherite/monetarist principles in Scotland – while numerous in middle class encloves, ironically, like the foresaid Byres Road (I know this because I have canvassed that street many times with a Keynesian full employment message) – are far far less numerous than those without a ha’penny to rub together.

In light of this tension there is always the rejoinder – much in evidence this week – that after independence the people can choose whichever government they like. That’s true of course, but the problem with this assumption is that many people, perhaps a majority of voters, will not be voting on the idea that they can choose the government of an independent Scotland many years down the line, but on the prospectus put to them before the vote, for how an independent Scotland will look like. Pursuing policies in such a prospectus (which is essentially what Andrew Wilson has created: a policy document) which then go on to be unpopular, or unpopular with a number of previously supportive groups of people, could prove very destructive towards our chances of building an independence electoral majority.

To conclude then, in my view the basic analysis of the 79 group – that Scotland’s middle class will never embrace radical constitutional change as a bloc, and drive that change, and that they are a conservative demographic minority, and that the only way to overcome their check on social progress is by engaging the working class majority of Scotland – is both essentially true, obvious, and that therefore our task is to communicate the advantage to the working class of independence, to achieve sufficient working class and wider progressive turnout, to swamp the votes of conservative Scotland.

What Andrew Wilson proposes is a stark change of message for our movement, towards a more mainstream British vision of a monetarist, fiscally conservative Scotland. He devotes 354 pages to spelling out how this would work, but for all that he has talked of inclusion, he has ignored previous highly successful messages of support for full employment and reindustrialisation, which electrified working class Scotland in 2014, but which our campaign had insufficient discipline to get to turn out and defeat the organised phalanx of conservative Scotland, which already has the right wing Scotland it wants.

It is unclear what possible benefit there may be behind turning the independence movement against itself on whether to embrace the right wing changes he advocates or not, but it seems fairly clear it plays into the hands of those who say that Scotland is too poor to achieve prosperity for all. Simply surrendering to this miserable doctrine in lengthy technicolour seems both very unlikely to convince them to embrace change but very certain to upset a lot of good people, while creating an atmosphere of hostility within the movement between those horrified at the economic volt face, and those more horrified at what they perceive as a breach of discipline.

Plastic Pleurisy Part Poo 💩

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The war on plastic is real, it’s escalating. Humans are devising new ways to tackle the ever growing problem that is plastic. We are recycling more, we have discovered plastic eating insects,
We’ve deployed barriers across rivers to catch plastic, we have sophisticated tractor dragged rakes to pick up the plastic on our beaches. However, we really should be cutting down on the production of plastic, and the only real way to impact that is to stop using it.
Hence the logic behind banning some plastic convenience items, such as straws that was featured in my last article on the subject, Plastic Pleurisy.
Now the newest great idea is to ban wet wipes. There has been a bit of an uproar from parents on the issue, there’s many articles that share parents concerns. But do I even need to mention the needs of the disabled? Yes, it seems I do.
Now, you’ve a wee baby and how gross to imagine carrying about a wet rag you’ve just used to clean up a really dirty nappy. Now imagine that baby is a grown adult. Are you still carrying about that cloth? No, no you are not, it’s probably binned. Adding to the every growing number tonnes of rubbish in our dumps.
Double incontinence is a concern for many disabled people who want to go out in public, wet wipes are a necessity. Not a convenience. Yes wet wipes shouldn’t be flushed, and they are causing huge fatbergs in sewer systems around the country.
What is a fatberg? It is a huge build up of mass in a sewer that is caused by things that aren’t meant to be flushed down the loo. There was a whole program about it, where they dissected one, if you want to physically balk when you watch tv then its not hard to find the link online. But here in Scotland we have adverts on tv telling us how our water systems work and regularly advertise what and what not to put down the loo. I think education is a better alternative than flat out bans.
The needs of disabled folk are quickly becoming afterthought in Tory tokenistic environmental policy, and it’s the afterthought that irks me so much. But that’s to be expected from a party who’s welfare reform can be called nothing else than a bureaucratic attack on the sick and disabled citizens of their own country. What’s surprising and depressing tho is the ableist responses from the general public;
Apart from the clearly ableist commentary, the backlash is growing against parents who know what disabled/changing room facilities are like. (Let’s be honest, they are usually one and the same.) There is no bidet and they almost always already smell of poo. There is the cries of “what did you do before wet wipes existed?” and that is true, I asked my 77 year old mum what she used to use, she told me a natural sponge, however there wasn’t many public changing facilities. And of course, babies were in natural terry towelling nappies. As for disabled folk, well my mother recalls seeing the first public disabled toilet in the 70’s, before then disabled folk were rarely seen out. Most likely ostracised from their communities and societies for reeking of pish.
Sometimes disabled folk are stuck in bed, and besides the uncomfortableness of a bed bath, it’s quite humiliating to have someone else clean your private parts. There’s a dignity some folk don’t even have the privilege of having. I’m not going to go down the line of telling you all about catheters, digital stimulation of bowels, adult diapers and other toilet stuff, I’m gonna guess you also go to the loo, you know sometimes you get a dodgy tummy, I’m sure I don’t need to go into the details of why a packet of wet wipes is an essential item in a bug out bag for any disabled person.
What I am gonna do however is talk about actual non essential plastics. Things that no-one needs whatsoever and is a waste of plastic.
No 1. Balloons, now my mum says I’m a party pooper for this one, but really what is a balloon for? Those plastic foil, usually filled with helium (which by the way is in short supply and essential for running MRI machines) and attached to a plastic string. We blow them up and give them for celebrations where they are put in a corner to slowly deflate and wilt away, only to be flung in the bin or they float away still filled with precious gases and end up in the ocean anyway.
No 2. Plastic wrap on things made of plastic. If plastic is so durable it can stay in our environment for centuries, and won’t break down naturally then how come we need to wrap up plastic garden chairs in plastic cling film? That seems a real waste of plastic.
No 3. Plastic coffee stirrers. Apart from the fact you can stir your coffee with practically anything else, why do we have little strips of plastic in the billions, available next to plastic pots of milk and sugar at many a coffee shop and canteen?
So there are three other plastic things, totally unessential to anybody. Total frivolous waste of plastic, plastic that will probably end up in our oceans. I want to tackle plastic pollution as much as any other tree hugging environmentalist. I want to save our planet, it’s the only one we have. Mother Nature is my deity and I don’t want to offend her, but I am so sick of bearing the brunt of powerful people’s decisions. Please think before you ban plastic products that of are real use in making disabled people’s lives easier. We don’t want a return to hiding in institutions, hospitalised indefinitely and made to feel ashamed to go out in public. I obviously don’t speak for all disabled folk, but I speak as a human who was once fully abled bodied. I never expected to suddenly soil myself in Ikea, I didn’t know some student nurse would give me a bed bath when I had my periods in hospital.
And that is the other thing, this ban of wet wipes is also classist. Imagine being homeless or having no access to hot water. How could you stay clean? What if it happened to you? We are all human beings, we all have to take responsibility, that is true. But can we just think of each other before we start banning stuff?

The Future of the American City

Reading Time: 4 minutes
George Collins

As I vacuum the dark green carpet while listening to an interview with author and Democracy Now! Co-host Juan Gonzalez, I’m struck by a particular statistic: 70% of the world’s population will reside in cities in the next two years. The implications of this, says Gonzalez, are gigantic for progressivism, as these cities will become the main venues of social change and civil disobedience as ideas and movements gain steam. Resting the vacuum in its upright position, thoughts of the current evolution of American cities come with feelings of hope and dismay at the current state of the country’s major urban centers and what the could develop into when they reach their full potential.

Cities have played a central role in the shaping of American culture and history since before the country’s birth. Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore served as meeting hubs in the colonial United States where the figureheads of the American Counter-Revolution could spread ideas and draw on support from large clusters of disgruntled colonists. New York City and Los Angeles emerged as culture centers in the 19th century and helped craft a unique American identity at a time when the nation struggled to distinguish its culture from that of Europe. Later in that same century, the rise of mass production and heavy industry stimulated population clustering as Americans sought to participate in the explosive development of American economic dominance in the world. The places were packed, smelled like puke and piss, and you probably stepped over a few rotting horses on the way to work for your 21-hour shift. Improved sanitation guidelines and refinement of industries into well-oiled production powerhouses branded urban centers like Detroit as gold standards of wealth accumulation in the 1950s and birthed the standards of the mythic American Dream we become conditioned to achieve.

Sixty years later, Detroit became the first major American city to declare bankruptcy in 2013. Its infrastructure and crime statistics sank to levels comparable to lower-income nations and affluent whites who could afford to fled the city in droves to leave the crumbling core to the impoverished black and Arab communities. We were left wondering how the wealthiest city in America fall so far and if this was the future of the American city. As author and journalist Charlie LeDuff warns, we can go ahead and laugh at Detroit until we realize it’s also Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle, and so many more that could suffer the same brutal evisceration in the darkness of the corporate police state’s shadow.

Such a fate on a broad spectrum is possible, but certain strides in municipal government grant me some hope.

Income inequality and wealth disparity became primary political and social dilemmas in the U.S. after the Occupy movement broke open the floodgates on discussions about class in 2011. These economic trends afflict the nation as a whole, but the major urban centers serve as microcosms of these regressions and offer a glimpse into the potential consequences of maniac sprawl. My own neck of the woods has become a spotlight for these trends. Seattle’s median housing costs hit a record high of $777,000 in March of this year with the city’s Eastside wing reaching a median of $950,000. The central city sees a growing homelessness population that now borders on becoming a full-blown crisis, and the unaffordable rents combined with stagnant wages shove hundreds of people to the suburban towns to spend an increasing portion of their lives travelling in a heavy metal box on I-5. None of the police officers in the Seattle police department live in the city they swear to protect. The same is true of firefighters and many civil servants. The same trend can be found in San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Washington D.C. and many more.

Does a prosperous city like Seattle or Silicon Valley become the Detroit of tomorrow as the purchasing power of the middle and working classes is swallowed by debt service and unaffordable living costs? Such an outcome seems to be the ticket if the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen like the American waistline.

But city councils across the nation are recognizing the dangers associated with uninhibited sprawl and growing wealth disparity. Seattle’s city council approved a controversial “head tax” last week that taxes the city’s large businesses based on employee head count. While the motion has yet to be signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan, it’s a bold pivot into wealth redistribution territory for the council. Socialist Alternative councilmember Kshama Sawant has been advocating for rent control for years, and her efforts to raise the minimum wage contributed to the successful passage of the increase to $15/hour in Seattle.

Promising developments appeared in Baltimore city hall last month as proposals to reverse the city’s government-sponsored economic segregation appeared. One proposed measure seeks to create an equity assessment committee to investigate the city’s agencies and capital projects and root out discriminatory practices. Other proposals address the lack of accessible public housing in the city itself and hopes to reroute capital investment into affordable housing programs. Similar calls for increased spending in the public housing sector echo in other major cities across the U.S.
Cities served as the birthplace for the ideas of the original Counter-Revolution of 1776, and it seems they are once again playing David against the Goliath of the federal government’s authoritarianism. The passage of legislation at the municipal level to redistribute wealth and create new opportunities for working and middle-class families to live a secure existence has steamrolled into larger movements nationwide. Sawant’s Fight for 15, Mayor Rob Davis of Davis, California’s original Sanctuary City, and the prospective public housing developments in Baltimore now enjoy national momentum as they push forward with more punches every day.

The American city of old may be at the end of its industrial career, but a return to its roots as a hub of change and civil disobedience is on the horizon. In fact, it may already be here.