Notes From the Northern Colony

scottishlabourparty

by Greum Maol Stevenson

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 #scottishlabourparty #snp #scottishindependence #scottishpolitics #scottishblogs #greummaolstevenson

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by Greum Maol Stevenson

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 #greummaolstevenson

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by Greum Maol Stevenson

Being dead makes people like you better.

In this article, Gerry Hassan eulogises Donald Dewar, Scotland's first First Minister, who died 20 years ago. Mr Hassan's admiration for Dewar seems to be based on how bourgeois he was:

“Donald Dewar was a profoundly decent person, imbued with an older sense of public mission and morality, who often seemed out of kilter with the times – drawing from a deep reservoir of how the middle and professional classes used to behave. His death robbed the Scottish Parliament of leadership and aided a period of institutional instability, but even more began a series of steps that led to Scottish Labour’s long descent into near-irrelevance.”

Mr Hassan is right about one thing: “Dewar as First Minister was no natural leader, but his death removed a politician who could speak to the Scotland beyond Labour.” He appealed to the right wing as much as to the left, because he was an establishment shill who, either through ignorance or dishonesty, played down the hardships so many people living in Glasgow endured.

In 1990, Dewar appeared on the STV show Scottish Books to discuss Alan Spence's novel The Magic Flute. Dewar complained about Mr Spence's description of Glasgwegians in the 1960s living in slum flats without bathrooms, or even hot water on tap. He declared that no one in Glasgow was living in such conditions by then.

If Dewar, a doctor's son and a lawyer who became a millionaire, had bothered to visit Maryhill in the 1970s, he would have known that not only was Mr Spence's description correct, it was still that way a decade later. In Raeberry Street and Mount Street, to name only two, people washed at the kitchen sink, with water boiled in a pot, and, if you were lucky, you had a toilet (just a toilet) in your flat, instead of a cludgie outside that you shared with neighbours, and that is how it was until 1978, when the buildings, which were also infested with rats, were demolished.

It is hard to believe Donald Dewar was unaware of this. Perhaps he was too busy counting his millions to notice.

#donalddewar #gerryhassan #scottishlabourparty #scottishpolitics #glasgowslums #maryhill #poverty #bellacaledonia #alanspence #scottishblogs #greummaolstevenson

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