Notes From the Northern Colony

Greum Maol Stevenson, Scottish Writer and Activist

by Greum Maol Stevenson

Scotland has become the first country to make free sanitary products available to all, with the Scottish Parliament's unanimous passing of the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill.

While describing this legislation as “Very progressive thinking to say the least,” Dr Tracy Taggart, an American trauma surgeon, would like to see less use of such products.

“Billions of women worldwide and through the ages have managed menstruation without commercially produced disposable products,” she said. “I haven't bought a tampon or sanitary napkin in 25 years. I make a tampon out of toilet paper. But there's a hundred other things you can do as well. Sponges, strips of cloth, commercially produced silicone cups and absorbent underwear are economical and environmentally friendly. Old socks work as well as Kotex pads. Rolled fabric strips can even be made into tampons.”

Dr Taggart said many women aren't aware this is possible. “They think they must have tampons or sanitary napkins. These are luxury items, not even available in non-western society.”

But the problem is not just a lack of awareness. “Here’s the thing — I have explained and demonstrated construction of a toilet paper tampon to quite a few women, sharing it as a revelation and innovation that is economical, environmentally better than synthetic and plastic products/packaging and no one has even tried it. They couldn’t imagine not just buying the fancy disposable version.

“I’ve read a lot of historical books and here and there references to menstruation and its management came up. I’m sure in the time before commercial products, and in places they aren’t common, that knowledge is commonplace and passed along woman to woman.”

#freesanitaryproducts #periodpoverty #freetampons #sustainability #scotland #drtracytaggart #greummaolstevenson

by Greum Maol Stevenson

This afternoon, members and allies of Wyndford Tenants' Union picked up broken glass and other litter in the housing scheme, a duty that is supposed to be performed by Cube Housing, and which tenants pay for in their rent.

Then we delivered the litter to Cube's office.

The turnout for the litter-pick was much better than expected, so much so that there was not enough cleaing equipment for everyone, so a member went and fetched some extra brushes from their home. Among those who joined us were Bob Doris MSP, Keiran O'Neill, Scottish Labour and Co-operative candidate for Maryhill and Springburn, and Councillor John Letford.

We spent an hour cleaning. Once the litter was bagged up, we held a quick meeting at which it was unanimously agreed that, as the litter is Cube's responsibility, we would walk to its office on the corner of Gairbraid Avenue and Maryhill Road and leave it there.

Anyone who considers this to be fly tipping is mistaken. No one was dumping their own garbage on someone else's property. After working for free to clean up an area of Cube's property — the Wyndford housing scheme — we moved it to another area of Cube's property — the doorway to its office.

Wyndford Tenants Union will continue this activity every two weeks until Cube decides to resume doing its job.

#wyndfordtenantsunion #livingrent #wyndford #maryhill #glasgow #communityaction #cubehousingassociation #wheatleygroup #bobdorismsp #keiranoneill #johnletford


by Greum Maol Stevenson

In this post, I said it was disappointing that no SNP leaders attended the Vigil for the Valley in protest of Glasgow City Council's selling off a former social housing site to private bidders.

Today, Patrick Grady, MP for Glasgow North, responded:

Dear Greum

Many thanks for sharing with me your article regarding the recent 'Vigil in the Valley' organised by the Wyndford Tenant's Union regarding the potential development of the land at Collina Street.

It may be helpful to explain that unfortunately I didn’t receive any advance notice of this event from either the Living Rent campaign or the Wyndford Tenant's Union. Your email on Friday came in after business hours, by which time I already had alternative commitments and couldn't attend at such short notice. I was able to attend the nearby 'Reclaim Maryhill' at roughly the same time – a community campaign to promote active travel, accessible civic spaces and climate action in the Maryhill area.

I understand that an invitation was sent to Bob Doris MSP and you may be interested in his response conveying his apologies for being unable to attend:

“Thank you for the kind invite to the outdoor vigil that is being organised by WTU. I also appreciate you drawing the Living Rent manifesto to my attention , It makes for interesting reading. The SNP will of course consider its approach to affordable housing as we develop our manifesto going forward.

“Regarding the vigil, I am actually taking part in another local community event tomorrow and I am unlikely to be able to attend as I have family commitments after the other event. My apologies.

“It is helpful that you have drawn some of your concerns to my attention. With regards the proposed development at Collina Street, this is part of the next phase of the Maryhill Transformational Regeneration Area plans. I will take time to look at these plans. It is fair to say that there has been significant investment in social housing in the area locally and great strides have been made to improve much of the housing stock. The strategy has been to ensure that the area is developed as mixed tenure, something I support.

“You are quite right that a key part of redeveloping the area should be social housing and I know the Council are committed to this. A good example is Kelvindale Place which was transformed in 2018 with 52 social rented properties. There is also Whitelaw Street (the Botany), an area I am particularly proud to have seen developed. This was something I raised in Parliament when first elected given the years of delay and broken promises to tenants. 35 new social rented homes were built there in 2010.

“As you know there has been a major and welcome development at Maryhill Locks with the completion of another 106 social rented homes and 19 shared equity properties in 2015 also.

“More social rented units are also planned and of course there has been various other builds including 6 self-build properties, private, shared equity and mid-market rent. Sorry I don’t have more details to hand but I wanted to ensure I contacted you before tomorrow.

“I would be happy to discuss with Glasgow City Council the Collina Street proposals which I understand is 125 units for low cost home ownership. I’d be keen to learn more about this.”

I trust this is helpful. I will continue to liaise with Bob and the local Councillors as this situation develops.

Best wishes

Patrick — Patrick Grady Member of Parliament for Glasgow North Chief Whip, SNP Westminster Group

#patrickgradymp #bobdorismsp #SNP #wyndfordtenantsunion #collinastreet #maryhill #glasgow #stillgame #landlordism #buytolet #socialhousing #livingrent #greummaolstevenson


by Greum Maol Stevenson

Photo: Babs Nicgriogair

Despite unfriendly weather, there was a good turnout for today's Vigil for the Valley in protest of the sell-off of land previously used for social housing.

Disappointingly, no SNP leaders attended, but Keiran O'Neill, Scottish Labour and Co-operative candidate for Maryhill and Springburn, did. He said, “The strength of feeling in the wider residents of the local community is very clear. There was over 30 people attending the safe, socially distant demonstration that Living Rent and Wyndford's Tenant Union organised.”

Read Glasgow Live's report here.

Photo: Nick Durie

#wyndfordtenantsunion #glasgow #collinastreet #maryhill #stillgame #landlordism #buytolet #socialhousing #keiranoneill #greummaolstevenson


by Greum Maol Stevenson

Help stop the death of a working class community.

I invite you to a physically distanced outdoor vigil tomorrow, Saturday the 14th November, at 1 pm, that Living Rent tenants and Maryhill residents are organising anent the sell-off of Collina Street to private housing developers by Glasgow City Council.

The site of a scheme, and where Still Game was filmed, lies empty because the Glasgow Housing Association tore down the scheme. Surely justice would mean that land should be prioritised for public housing.

Living Rent has put forward a tenants' manifesto for the election. In it, we call for vacant land, particularly land that is vacant because of the demolition of public housing, to be prioritised for public housing. Collina Street was home to The Valley scheme, and sits on arguably the bonniest part of Maryhill, with commanding views over the city and access to the Forth and Clyde canal and Kelvin water.

The Council, without any consultation, intend to flog Collina Street off for 100% private housing. Not only that, the Scottish Government will hand the highest bidder money to build 105 of said houses. These will be “affordable” – which means a person will have to have tens of thousands of pounds to be able to have any hope of buying them. The majority will surely end up in the hands of buy to let landlords.

STOP THIS. We want the sale halted. We want a local consultation over what should happen to this much-loved place. We have invited all the local politicians and election candidates and the media to come along.

Will you join us?

#glasgow #livingrent #glasgowhousingassociation #buytolet #landlordism #wyndfordtenantsunion #collinastreet


by Greum Maol Stevenson

Four years ago, I was preparing to leave the US, where I had lived for 22 years. I decided to leave when Trump got the Republican nomination. I was certain he would win the Presidency, but I intended to leave even if he lost, because I was unwilling to live in a nation where someone like him could be taken seriously as a political candidate.

Though he will soon no longer be President, it is the same nation.

Biden, and others, have said of Trump's America: “This is not who we are.” But it is.

Had it not been for Covid-19, Trump would have won easily this time. He lost by a narrow margin, with the second-highest number of votes in the nation's history, which means almost half the population supports him after seeing what he has done for four years.

Leaving aside the fact that Biden is not much less right wing than Trump, only less incompetent, what is there to rejoice about? Well, America will probably rejoin the Paris Agreement, and...

And that is about it. Capitalism will continue to reign, people will continue to die of being unable to afford healthcare, black people will continue to be murdered by police, and the working class will continue to rarely even be mentioned by the millionaires in elected office, who will pay lip service to protecting the middle class.

America is still the nation that elected Trump four years ago, and came close to electing him again having learned both that he is incompetent and that he is a totalitarian. Trumpism is more powerful now than it was before, and, in the wake of the election being called for Biden, we can expect violence from the fascists Trump enabled.

Americans ignore policy and respond to personality. They support political parties the way people here in Scotland support football teams. Barack Obama, a charismatic Dick Cheney, took George W. Bush's policies even farther than Bush himself dared. Bill Clinton was more of a conservative than his two Republican predecessors. But Democrats were fine with all that, because it was their party leaders. And now, as they cheer, they're cheering for their team, not for any change.

America is a good place to leave.

#usaelection #americanelection #donaldtrump #joebiden #fascism #populism #greummaolstevenson


by Greum Maol Stevenson

On November 7, Scotland becomes the first country in the U.K. to ban adults from using violence on children, which is now a criminal offence.

In the Scotland in which I was a child, the tawse was used routinely in schools, and teachers would also slap children on the head or face, shove them, shake them, even choke them. Corporal punishment was banned (or “phased out”) in Scotland in 1982, but it’s taken 38 years for domestic violence against children to be banned.

In England and Northern Ireland, you can still batter your children as long as it is “reasonable chastisement.”

I hope the legendary George Purves, a career child-abuser while pretending to work as a maths teacher and “guidance teacher” at North Kelvinside and then Woodside Secondary Schools in Glasgow in the 1970s and 1980s, is still alive to see himself and his world consigned to shameful history, and children recognised as human beings.

#smackingbanscotland #violence #childabuse #scotland #greummaolstevenson


by Greum Maol Stevenson

As readers of this blog are aware, Craig Murray likes things to be all about him. So it is unsurprising that he has decided to run for the position of President of the SNP, and still less surprising that he has once again embarrassed himself.

Murray took out an ad in The National with the headline “Craig Murray for SNP President and Independence in Two Years”. He declares:

“I am standing for President because I want the SNP to be a party whose overriding priority is to obtain full, completed and internationally recognised Independence for Scotland within a maximum of two years from this date...

“As I was a British diplomat for over 20 years, including six years as a member of the Senior Management Structure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I can assure you that MI5, GCHQ and the other organs of the UK security state are targeted on us. Scottish Independence supporters are rightly perceived as the biggest threat to the UK state.

“My intention is to ensure that we are indeed the biggest threat to the UK state. Anybody who believes that the security services are not already targeted on us is a fool. The security services would not be doing their declared job otherwise. This new legislation is a threat to us. Remember Pat Finucane. Remember David Kelly. Above all, remember Willie McRae.”

While Murray is right about the urgent need for Scottish Independence, it is pitiful that he presents himself as the person to bring it about within two years if he becomes SNP President (which he will not). The position is an honorary, unpaid one, without power or influence. Its only reward is the spotlight Murray seems to crave.

We need to demand another referendum, without asking England's permission. (See this column by Xeno Albannach). But the struggle will not be helped by grandstanding, personality-centred sideshows.

#craigmurray #SNP #scottishindependence #scottishpolitics #xenoalbannach #greummaolstevenson


by Greum Maol Stevenson

Yesterday I received the above letter. It is one of at least a dozen I have received in the last three years. These letters are always addressed to “The Legal Occupier,” which I find overly familiar. Only my closest friends call me “The Legal Occupier.”

Here is an earlier one:

There are two things it did not mention, despite its bullying, threatening tone:

1) The threat of “a visit” means nothing, because they have no right to enter your premises without a warrant or an invitation.

2) They will not have a warrant, because they are not police. They are not even the BBC; they are a private company hired by the BBC to intimidate people.

Several times, after receiving such letters, I have written to them: “​You are not welcome to visit, and have no legal right to insist on doing so. If you do, I will file a lawsuit for trespass, both against you as a private company and your client the BBC.” They do not visit, but the letters keep coming.

What I find the most obnoxious about these form letters is that they are obviously aimed at scaring vulnerable people — elderly, immigrants, anyone who may not know their legal rights — and is one more reason to boycott the BBC, or refuse to pay for its programmes.

#bbc #boycottthebbc #tvlicence #bullying #intimidation #greummaolstevenson


Enter your email to subscribe to updates.