A Uniform Society.

I like the idea of school uniforms. In an ideal world there would be no competition about what  shoes or designer labels to wear. However for many parents including myself this is a stressful time. There are two local school wear shops in the town I live in. At this time of year there are stressed staff and parents looking for the particular pieces of uniform they ordered months ago. For many of us we have to do this so we can save up for the cost. In previous years I have always sent my son to school in the polo shirts and sweatshirts they prefer. Look at school websites and the children are always dressed in clothing with the school badge. My two sons have issues wearing shirts and ties, they find them too enclosing. For children on the autistic spectrum clothing can cause a range of sensory issues as I know many friends will attest too.

This year though I have had no choice but to go for polos and clothes in the appropriate school colours but without the badges as I can’t afford them. My sons’ schools have many families in the same situation as me so I know I am not alone. There is still that feeling of shame though when you can’t provide what are deemed as uniforms. There is a shame and humiliation there which only a parent can understand.

Local areas have started school clothing banks, these are not new though. When I was a child in Dundee there was the school exchange where we shopped for our back to school grants. I remember being five and “losing” my coat in the cloakroom. My mother and teacher helped me look we found a similar duffle coat but it had a boy’s name on it. “David”. My mum said it wasn’t mine. When we got home though my mum told me it was my coat. It took me a few years to realise that she was ashamed to admit she couldn’t buy me a new coat. I am one of five children and grew up in poverty and I understand now.

It is a shame on our society that now school clothing banks still exist though for many they are an essential. Shame on a government that allows this poverty to exist and has enforced the “big society” to be a necessity whether we like it or not. All our bairns will go out to school presented as well as we can despite the impact of poverty and I just want to say I hope we see and end to their existence soon. I hope tomorrow will be a better world in many ways but this starts with the basics of being able to feed, clothe and heat all our bairns.

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A ‘social’ landlord can legally swipe 100% of tenants dole – It’s time for action!

A 'social' landlord can legally swipe 100% of tenants dole – It's time for action!.

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No More Hiroshimas

Today commemorates the use of the first nuclear weapon in the world. 70 years later we still live under the shadow of the prospect of a war which would mean the end of all mankind. I am a cold war kid, I can remember lying in my bed hearing the drone of an aeroplane above me and praying it wasn’t going to drop the bomb. I hoped my bairns wouldn’t have to live with this worry but a generation on the threat is still there.

We have heard all the arguments about why we don’t need nuclear weapons. Of course there are the economic ones but I agree with what the prime minister of Japan. Nuclear weapons should just not be part of any civilised society. Full stop. There continuing existence is a shame on us all. In modern warfare, two people can cause Armeggedon by entering codes and launching these evil weapons. There would be “retaliation” and the end of the world.

For us living in the West of Scotland we also live in fear of a nuclear accident as warheads are transported from down south to Faslane. Convoys carrying these are a regular occurence. An accident at Faslane might see the destruction of the whole of the West of  Scotland. That is why we protest.

As I have for many years I will attend our local commemoration at Barshaw Park in Paisley. If you can join us meet at the car park at seven before we walk to the Peace Garden. I always feel part of a bigger movement and am mindful of similar remembrances happening all over the world there are others who believe in an end to this too. My first political activity was marching up the Law in Dundee with CND aged 11 and making a stand against nuclear weapons will be something I will always do. Just because it is the right thing to do.

I remember today to the Peace Campers at Faslane Peace Camp who stay as a permanent reminder that these weapons are so evil. I know they need support. Folk to stay overnight, practical help, supplies. If you visit you will get a warm welcome.

70 years ago a nuke exploded 20,000 feet above Hiroshima. Eisenhower claimed it was the only way Japan would surrender but what was wanted was an excuse to drop the first bomb. Those who didn’t die straight away were not the lucky ones. The present generation still live with the physical damage of radiation poisoning. A sentence beyond life. We who still live under the shadow of the bomb have a duty to remember and remind folk that the very fact these weapons exist is inexcusable.

Like all actions that can change the world they begin individually. That is why I believe in unilateral disarmament. These weapons have no place in any type of Scotland especially an Independent one which will come soon. Those in power have a responsibility to question why they are there and arrange their removal as soon as possible. We all have a responsibility to speak to our friends, families and neighbours to tell them the reality of the use of nuclear weapons. So tonight I will be marching with my family and sharing the message with them, carrying the torch of truth on to the next generation. Wherever you are today, marching or not please spare a minute to think of all who have suffered with the hope it will never happen again. We all need hope that little flame of inspiration that can change the word.

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Adventures In Socialism and Friendship on Islay.

A few months after the referendum, a requet popped up on one of my social media pages. It was a request to come along to Islay and speak to members of the Islay YES alliance which still existed. At the time though I worried about childcare it brightened my heart to hear some groups were still in existence. Of course I knew of a few closer to home but the thought of a wee Island getting together intrigued me. I also know folk with a connection to Islay who always call it home. I wanted to visit.

So last week Scott and I took the three and a half bus journey from Glasgow to Kennacraig. Islay is actually very close to Glasgow less than an hour by plane but I recommend the bus with its beautiful scenery. I felt as if I was on a pilgrimage and could feel the knots untangling from my neck. I started to relax and not worry about my everyday life and the political bubble I had left at home.

Lesley and Jim met us in Kennacraig and we travelled together to Islay. We flew the red flag on the boat and broke bread. Friendships were born and forged. I guess the biggest compliment I can give Islay is I took no pictures. I just soaked in its beauty and special air. Jim and Lesley had gone to such great efforts to make us feel at home and we did. We chatted and discussed everything from the referendum to Doctor Who. I got the impression that the folk in this little island had worked together to gain a YES vote. There was a sense of community and folk committed to helping others for no other reasons but because we are humans.

We had arrived at full blast holiday season so our gathering was around twenty. I was impressed by the number of women there not something you see so often over here. All with interesting questions about post referendum. One woman asked why we stood and did not seek an alliance with the SNP. It surprised many that our policy post referendum was to do so. I was touched that these were folk at the heart of their community. A local businessman explained many folk come to see him instead of the councillor for support. I saw parallels in how we support folk in our communitites. Glenburn where I stay is not so distant from a rural community as Islay.

After the meeting I met with some folk who wanted to hear more about socialism. We absolutely bonded over stories of the referendum. One of my favourites was a drive in movie in George Robertson’s back garden where Braveheart was screened. I think in a lot of ways socialism was alien to folk but human contact and shared experiences helped us see the humanity in each of us. We spoke to folk who were mostly SNP and challenged my socialist perspective and they listened to us.

Next day we had to return home but with new friendships and the promise to return out of season. I believe folk will vote socialism next year because they have met us not as creatures from a museum but modern thinkers with modern answers and shared experiences. Despite the fact there are many luxury homes on Islay many people worj for the minimum wage and struggle. It makes them stronger though. I was left with a deep impression that community is important and that all politics must germinate from there. As I said I am often caught up in “politicking” when what counts most is how you connect with others. Islay has changed that for me and I will be spending more time in my local community. I hope you will too.

Scott and I have made two lovely new friends in Lesley and Jim who personified hospitality. I can’t wait until I return. I have the fresh air of Islay in my blood and I don’t think it will ever leave me. Thanks to everyone who I met. I didn’t mean it Donald. Keep doing what you all do so well. Jim said a friend had said to him, if socialists were brave in laying out their policies, the world would be a better place and that is so true. We can change the world if we reach out to each others. Another Scotland is necessary.

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Whose Budget? Not Ours.

It is traditional for the chancellor to have a whisky as he delivers his budget. A stiff drink for someone bearing glad tidings. I hope it was water and not vodka Osbourne was knocking back though perhaps it was a gift for a non dom russian. It is rarely the masks come off politicians but today I noted the delight in Osbourne’s face as he delivered news and announcements that will impact on so many peoples lives.

He made no apologies for targetting some of the most vulnerable. Those new claimants in the employment support allowance placed in the work related activity group will see their payments slashed to be the same as those on job seekers allowance. I predict that there will be turbulant times ahead for those in the support group as they are placed in the work relared group. Tax credits will be confinedto the first two children in a family. Talk abouteugenics in action. There will be freechildcarefor 30 hours a week but in return parents of 3 year olds will be expected to look for work.

Young people especially have been targetted with an end to housing benefit and benefit. An end to grants will see less young poorer people able to afford further education and university. Meanwhile for the middle classes there will be no inheritance tax on estates up to a million pounds. Osbourne sneered as he said the left didnt understand that parents wish to pass on their wealth to their children. The difference is we believe in other peoples children too that is why we are socialists.

This was the ultimate divide and conquer budget where the poor once again have born the brunt simply for the crime of being poor.Those not in work or in part time work were reminded over and over againthat our one nation Britain had no place for those subsidised by the taxpayer. Osbournecontinued to cause conflictby announcing those on £40,000 in London, A£30,000 for the rest of us will pay the market ratefor rent. Social housing was designed as a land ” fit for heros” and was available to all. It is good we have a mix of folk with different backgrounds. The rights to a council house should belong to all of us. However, Thatcher’s children are just continuing the social engineering project started by their mater when shebrought in the right to buy your council house and began the dismantling of all we hold dear.

Finally , like all good magicians pulling thewhite rabbit out of the hat, the prestige.The announcement of a nine pounds an hour minimum wage but only for the over 25s. I predict ahuge increase in youthemployment. My concerns are how thiswill be paid for employers will no longer have to pay national insurance contributions. These payments are crucial for things we holddear like our NHS and sickness benefits. When you live in a country where being ill is seen as a crime though does it matter of course it does.

There is another way. I looked today at the faces of Cameron, Duncan-Smith and other tories celebrating the opportunity to dismantle further the welfare state, to further demonise the poor. We are here to challenge their rhetoric of hate and spread the message of hope and solidarity. The tories may attempt to rewrite history. They improved conditions in the mills but it was us struggling for a better way who made it so. Now more than ever I want to continue this for not only my bairns but for all our bairns. We can make a better world together.

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The Day Before the budget.

There has been cause for celebration this week. The people of Greece voted for an end to austerity being enforced on them. Austerity, capitalism’s weapon against the poor and let’s be clear a war is being waged on the poor, people with disabilities and long term health conditions and those who care.All the groups who it seems wil be in the firing line of tomorrow’s “emergency” budget. I am dreading what lies ahead. No referendum or democracy for us just vicious cuts.

Within two weeks of the tory majority this budget had been declared. Emergency means red lights, a warning. There is no need for such language to frighten us into a corner of the tory’s making. The health warning issued on cigarettes should be issued about this government. Austerity kills. It causes not only physical illness but a feeling of helplessness. Austerity kills solidarity when we need it more than ever.

Announcements have already been made. An end of inheritance tax for estates up to one million pounds. A cut on the benefit cap to perhaps £19,000 outside London. Employment and support allowance to be cut to incentivise folk to work. No housing benefit for those under 25. These are all 21st versions of hoakum picking to punish and humiliate the poor.

Sometimes you can hope the very worstcase scenario has been painted so that anything else does not seem so bad. However I fear that we may hear even more serious announcements tomorrow. I know the measures will force more people especially children into further poverty. Though by changing the goalposts on their definition of poverty, the tories will happily announce that poverty is on the decrease. Osbourne,Cameron and Duncan-Smith will be the bogeymen for tomorrow’s bairns and unfortunatelt the nightmares they cause will not be ones we can wakeup from.

The tories may use cold mathematics to justify the need for austerity but we know that it is our families who will make up thestatistics of despair. Our lives which will be affected. It is our confidence which will be affected and that worries me. Folk are feeling more isolated, isolated,getting bye. This is part of the tactics are. To cause us to retreat and survive. We are goingto need each other even more. People reaching outto others and remembering our common humanity the ties that bind us. What strength we have together. It is not them and us just Us.

Another way is necessary and the people of Greece have inspired us. Let’s inspire each other because I know we are going to have to stand together to challenge the cuts, challenge the rhetoric and ideology of the tories. Tomorrow is going to be so difficult as will the months and years ahead but there is a different way. Let’s find that path together and stick close to each other.

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Originally posted on Inspired by Autism:

GIRFEC for those of you who do not know stands for Getting It Right For Every Child and is a framework for a multiagency approach to meeting the needs of our children here in Scotland.

In theory and principle it is hard to disagree with much of it I feel, but our personal experience has left me with serious doubts about it.

At one level it really is a horrible example of ‘care speak’- the kind of language that creates barriers between ‘professionals’ and families affected. Take a look inside and you will find more. My son has recently been through the SHANARRI wheel – that’s Safe Healthy Achieving Nurtured Active Respected Responsible and Included- and the My World Triangle which is made up of many more vague and (conveniently ?) difficult to quantify concepts – learning to be responsible, guidance supporting me to make the right choice…

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