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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GIRFEC GAPS

Originally posted on Inspired by Autism:

GIRFEC Gaps
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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Me Time ?

Originally posted on Inspired by Autism:

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After a busy weekend Jen and I were looking forward to the start of the week.

Andy was going out with his carer to swim and our other two were back at school. The possibility of “me time” dissipated before our eyes however as we turned ourselves to paper work relating to various aspects of Andy’s care. This is another major role demanded of carers and it can be difficult on various levels. While Jen worked on checking schedules and details for adaptations to our home to ensure this project progresses I tackled the Blue Badge Renewal and the Direct Payments Audit.
The form for the Blue Badge stretched to the best part of 30 pages and what should have been a simple renewal started to get complicated. With Andy’s lifelong disability it should be recognised that the need for this resource is ongoing but because the form takes no…

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Behaving ourselves: Salmond, Soubry and words as weapons

Originally posted on A Thousand Flowers:

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A Guest Post by Sandra Webster

Now before I start, let me reiterate my dislike of all things Tory. I spent a mis-spent youth booing at them and not in a Father Ted “Down with this sort of thing” way either. Language can be a weapon in the right circumstances and a tool of oppression. That is why I try to be careful when I speak these days, though I am aware we all make mistakes.

Yesterday, Alex Salmond used language against Anna Soubry that I find offensive and demeaning. He called her “demented” then told her to display an example to newer members of the house and uttered “behave yourself woman.” Alex Salmond has been a member of both the Scottish Parliament and Westminster for a long time. He is praised for his eloquence, I think that is why I found the use of his terminology so saddening.

We…

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On Any Street, You’ve got to practice what you preach.

Through being an unpaid carer I have met some of the most amazing beautiful, people in the world. That has been a joy when I see how they support their loved one including those with complex disabilities. One of the worst part of being a carer is seeing parents having to say goodbye all of whom have received the best care in the world. It does make me angry when I see how little support they receive even though they ask for so little. They rely on friends, family members, carers centre’s for a little extra support to cope with supporting someone they love who needs 24/7 care.

I don’t normally watch “Benefit Street” the latest in channel 4’s social anthropological journey into the lives of some of the most vulnerable. To be honest Richard Attenbourgh’s wildlife programmes seem to bring out more compassion in us. In last night’s programme I dare anyone not to be moved by the story of Julie and her son Reagan. Julie has looked after Reagan since he was nine months old and his needs were complex. Last night showed his last Christmas where the poorest of folk raised money for Reagan to have a reindeer sledge ride. His smiles were infectious. Sadly Reagan died a few weeks later after a hospital admission. Julie and the family and neighbours were devastated.

I couldn’t help but think of the families who are going through such grief at this time. I know many families still living with the dreadful pain of losing someone they love and their live being turned upside down. This is not only emotional but a complete change of circumstances. Benefits are cut, this might mean the loss of a car and even your home could be at risk. This seems to happen overnight. It is part of the system. Although many folk have given up their lifetime to care for a loved one the question that was asked on “Benefit Streets” last night has resonance. “Does looking after your child count as nothing?”

On Benefit Street despite the stereotype they practice what they preach to paraphrase Nick Cave. I have the feeling that the community will rally round Reagan’s mum Julie. I know that all the folk I know are appreciated by their communities for what they do and I am writing this in honour of all the folk I know who have lost a child. Every carer’s journey is different but our path’s frequently diverge. I just want to send love to all those I know who have lost a loved one in the past few years. I am not going to name you but hope you know I am thinking of you all.

The needs of past carers have to be recognised. Their grief should be our grief. When I hear of people being threatened with the bedroom tax or eviction it makes my blood boil. They should be appreciated for all the support and most of all love they gave their loved ones. Cutting benefits immediately just sends so many into poverty. We need a gentler way. A pension for carers. Most of all we need to show love and solidarity in the personal and political. To all my friends in this position much love and I am here for you any way I can be even if it is just to remember. xxx

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