Notes From the Northern Colony

GM Stevenson, living and writing in Scotland

Outdoor life in Glasgow today was like an enactment of China Mieville's novel The City and the City. But, instead of two different nations in the same place, there is a Glasgow where there is a lockdown because of a pandemic, and a Glasgow where there is no plague, and no such law has passed.

And these two cities exist on the same streets.

The law requires us to stay at home unless we have an essential reason to go outside (for exercise, or to get groceries, for example), and no more than two people from different households are permitted to meet, and are required to maintain social distance. And there are people obeying the law, and many of them are wearing masks. But, on the same pavements are groups of four, six, more, unmasked, not distancing, talking and laughing together as they walk, because in their world there is no virus, never mind one that is more easily transmitted by talking than by coughing.

And, in blocks of high flats, there are signs next to the lifts declaring that only one person should use the lifts at a time, and that masks should be worn. And in those same blocks, unmasked strangers get in the lifts together. These two Glasgows met when a resident of one Glasgow — me, wearing a mask — got in the lift, and two residents of the other Glasgow — men without masks — tried to join me.

“One at a time,” I said.

“How come? We can all get in and just stand with our backs to each other,” one of them suggested. He was not joking.

#glasgow #scotland #pandemic #covid19 #coronavirus #lockdown #coviddenial #scottishblogs #plaguediary

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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Richard Leonard has resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party. Incompetent, conservative and sexist as he is, I am sorry to see him go, because his incompetence, conservatism and sexism were an asset to Scottish Independence supporters, helping make his party a travesty. He is loved by some of us in the SNP for the same reason we love Boris Johnson (whom some of us think is doing more for Scottish Independence than Robert the Bruce and William Wallace combined).

I would have liked Mr Leonard to remain leader until the election in May, so he could help ensure that the SNP wins by the predicted landslide. While it is hard to imagine the Scottish Labour Party finding someone equally hapless to replace him, whoever gets the job (Jackie Baillie? Anas Sarwar?) is unlikely to be able to repair the damage he has caused his party in the next few months.

#richardleonard #borisjohnson #scottishlabourparty #snp #scottishindependence #scottishpolitics #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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There can be no denying the notability of Maria Fyfe, who died last month. Born in the Gorbals in 1938, the child of a tram driver and a shop assistant, she became, as Nicola Sturgeon said, “a feminist icon.” Rising to prominence in the days when the Scottish Labour Party was still left wing, she became the first female MP for Maryhill, Glasgow. And now there is a petition to rename Maryhill Library after her.

Maryhill Library needs no change of name. It is a library, in Maryhill, and it belongs to the people of Maryhill, as it has for 116 years. It is a place where anyone can go for information and be treated with kindness and respect by the staff who serve the community. It is not the territory of any politician or political party. When Maria Fyfe had her office there, it was a constituency office, not a personal space.

It is significant that the proposal to rename the library after her comes from Keiran O’Neill, the Scottish Labour and Co-op candidate for Maryhill and Springburn. The Scottish Labour party is now a grim ruin of the party Maria Fyfe was a member of. Under the inept and dishonest leadership of Richard Leonard, it is right wing and sexist. It resisted equal pay for women at Glasgow City Council, and then when the council agreed to equal pay after 8000 workers went on strike three years ago, Mr Leonard audaciously praised the decision. Naming the library after Maria Fyfe would be a chance for the current Scottish Labour Party to emphasise its (merely historical) link to her.

This is not a criticism of Mr O'Neill; I appreciate his support for the Wyndford Tenants' Union, of which I am a member, and if he were in the SNP (of which I am also a member) I might vote for him. But the difference between the person and the party brings up a broader reason why public libraries, and other services, should not be named after individuals.

We are living in an unprecedented culture, and cult, of personality. It is how America got Donald Trump, and how England got Boris Johnson. Policy takes second place to personality, if it takes any place at all. History shows this is the soil in which fascism grows, and it is vital that we venerate the institutions that are essential to our culture — libraries, and the NHS, being two of them — rather than individuals who took part in them.

And this is not to deny the historical importance of monuments. Maria Fyfe campaigned for a statue of Mary Barbour to be erected, and it might be equally fitting to erect a statue of Maria Fyfe. But no individual, however admirable they may have been, should have their name or likeness on the services that belong to us all.

#mariafyfe #marybarbour #keiranoneill #richardleonard #scottishlabourparty #maryhill #glasgow #maryhilllibrary #scottishpolitics #cultofpersonality #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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I spent most of January 6 reading news updates about the attempted coup in the US. I lived there for 22 years, and was among the minority on the left who predicted that Trump would become President, but, even though I left immediately after he was sworn in, I never imagined it becoming so dystopian so quickly. I am grateful to be in Scotland.

Trump's political rise would not have been possible were it not for the culture of disinformation we live in, a world of “alternative facts.” But Trump's administration did not create that world. It was created largely by those who use Facebook or Twitter.

I say those who use those platforms, not the companies themselves, because the companies could not have caused the harm they have caused — getting Trump elected, causing deaths by spreading lies about Covid — if so many people did not support them by using their products. Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey did not create these monsters; their customers did. It does not matter what your own political views are if you help enable the machine that enabled Trump, and that will continue to enable Trumpism.

When looking at the horrifying scenes from Washington, DC, users of Facebook or Twitter should not think of the MAGA thugs as “them,” but rather as “us.” They are your fellow members of your favourite surveillance capitalism community. People often justify their use of these products by saying they have to use them because “All my friends are on there, so it's convenient.” You can choose convenience or decency, but, in this case, not both.

#twitter #facebook #donaldtrump #attemptedcoup2021 #uselection #markzuckerberg #jackdorsey #disinformation #surveillancecapitalism #alternativefacts #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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On Hogmanay, the streets of Glasgow were quiet. An hour before midnight, England left the EU, dragging Scotland with it.

Not for long.

Nicola Sturgeon knows this. That is why she immediately tweeted, “Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on.”

The UK is like the character played by Bruce Willis in the film The Sixth Sense, who is dead but does not yet know it.

It became terminally ill when Scotland voted against Brexit — a vote that was ignored by the UK government.

It died when the Scottish government voted against England’s “rotten” Brexit deal, which excludes Scottish seed potatoes — a vote that was ignored by the UK government.

The death certificate will be signed at the Scottish election in May, when the SNP will win by an unprecedented majority, and the Scottish people will insist that the election is also a mandate on Scottish independence. The UK will not be brought back to life by those who quaver that England should be able to decide whether a Scottish referendum is “legal,” or by reactionaries who chatter that there is “division” in the SNP because of the presence of such relics from the 80s and 90s as Joanna Cherry, Joan McAlpine and the lurching zombie that was once Alex Salmond, who led us to defeat seven years ago.

This year, Scotland will tell, not ask.

Bliadhna mhath ùr.

#scottishindependence #brexit #nicolasturgeon #joanmcalpine #alexsalmond #snp #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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Mammon The Worship of Mammon by Evelyn De Morgan

The Scottish government has announced that, instead of letting people spread Covid-19 for five days at Christmas as previously planned, it will now only allow it on Christmas Day. This is one day too many, but obviously better than five.

Because of this, some people are complaining that Christmas 2020 has been cancelled.

It has not.

Rampant consumerism and partying have been put on hold (not cancelled either). But neither of those things is Christmas. Christmas will go ahead this year as it always does.

#christmasduringpandemic #covid19 #coronavirus #scotland #scottishblogs #plaguediary

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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danse macabre

The Scottish government has not announced any plans to ease the laws against robbery, assault or drunk driving.

However, despite condemnation from The British Medical Journal and The Health Service Journal, this Christmas you can cause the deaths of any number of people without penalty, though the government would prefer that you did not. Indeed, it “strongly recommends” that you do not, but leaves it up to you.

In an ususual joint editorial both medical journals said, referring to plans to ease lockdown regulations at Christmas, “We believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives.”

The government does not even deny this, but has decided that it will allow up to eight people from three households to meet indoors for five days... though it is asking them not to. In an announcement today, Nicola Sturgeon said, “If you haven't made plans to form a bubble yet, please don't. If you're still swithering, please decide against. And if you have made plans, but think they're not really essential, perhaps think about postponing until later in the year.”

Other behaviours that endanger people are not left to individual choice. They are banned by law, and the law is enforced. Why? Because there are people who will risk other people's lives unless they are stopped. So how many people does the government expect to follow mere “recommendations”?

#scotland #covid19 #coronavirus #scottishgovernment #nicolasturgeon #publichealth #pandemic #scottishblogs #plaguediary

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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Dockyard Press has put out three new books: The Night before Christmas of the Living Dead, a holiday-themed zombie thriller by M.V. Moorhead; The Heavyweight Champion of Nothing, a Chicago novel of working-class disillusionment—and burglary—by Zak Mucha; and Shot, by Gerard Brennan, the first in a new Northern Irish crime series featuring Shannon McNulty, a former London cop gone home to contend with the murder of her gangster uncle and the disappearance of a politician’s daughter. All titles are available as e-books through our in-house store, and in paperback at all discerning bookshops.

#dockyardpress #books #crimefiction #horrorfiction #gerardbrennan #zakmucha #belfastnoir #mvmoorhead #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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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 are not 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 #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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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 #scottishblogs

—GM Stevenson

Email: contact at stevenson dot scot

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