Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Dear English Labour Party...

Dear English Labour Party,

I just wanted to drop a note asking you for a favour.

First let me explain who I am. I'm a teacher. I live in Scotland. I've never, knowingly, voted Tory. In fact, what the Tories stand for; what they arrogantly lie about and how they profit from fear and misery, is totally abhorrent to me.

Now, I'm originally from Northern Ireland, and when I came over to Scotland in 1993, placing my X beside the box that said "Labour Party," is an event I will never forget. At last I was able to vote for a party NOT tied up in sectarian religious shite. I was able to vote for a party which, at that time, had a huge amount of socialists in its ranks- and a party I believed was one that stood up for people in poverty; people looking for work; the disenfranchised; minorities and workers.

Now, I see that down there in England, socialists have been fighting back against the centre left liberals who pulled the party away from its socialist roots. Its bedrock. Its rudder. I hope you win that fight and I hope you can build support for sensible, progressive policies that move England towards an equitable society.

Meanwhile, the Tories are wrecking all that Labour built post war. The post war settlement; welfare, an NHS, free comprehensive education, publically run public transport, a manufacturing base that ensured skilled, well paid jobs etc -all has been dismantled and sold off and is stored in money form in bank accounts on the Cayman Islands, and other tax havens. Those who caused the impoverishment and abuse of once proud working class communities roam the world in massive yachts and personal jets, while here in Glasgow, 1 in 3 children live in desperate poverty. That's 38000 children who are hungry, cold, and unsafe. That to me is a statistic so disgusting, I really don't think I need to quote another one. Scotlands biggest city has 38000 children who are scared, malnourished and unsure of having enough food. One city.

Now, I know that isn't your fault. Capitalism and huge income disparities add to that.

But even with our centre left Government, that sits to the left of the current Scottish Blairite Labour, who are mitigating a lot of the appalling destruction the Tory Party Government are causing (eg the Bedroom tax; the welfare "reforms," the selling off of the NHS etc), Scotland is unable to help those 38000 children. We can TRY to use the money we are given via the Barnett Formulae, but in reality, we are bailing out water from a leaky boat.

Some of you have said it is unfair of us to leave you to the Tories, if we vote Yes in the upcoming referendum.

I say, if you help us get to the source of the flood, by helping us achieve independence, then rather than trying to cope with 38000 hungry, unsafe Glaswegian children by bailing out the boat, we can move upstream, and stop the flood. What a legacy for Labour!

Giving us our democracy will ensure we, a left leaning country; a social democratic-left country, can help the 1 in 4 Scottish children out of poverty- and when we do that, you, the English Labour Party, will have somewhere to point to close to home to say, "look- it can be done." And you know what? I'll go down there and help you campaign on that basis. I promise.

Scottish Labour; mostly disaffected Blairites; don't see it that way. And their Blairism and alliance with Tory Unionists at the last independence referendum all but destroyed them. They are continuing in that path- destroying a once great party  as they go. And I haven't voted for a labour candidate since I witnessed Labour Party members, officials and representatives hugging representatives of the most vicious Tory government in history. In Glasgow. After they stopped us from escaping a generation of Tory Governments. While 38000 children starve.

Please help us achieve independence, English Labour Party. And can you please chat to your Scottish comrades?


Yours in solidarity,

Neil Scott

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Track of my years: Just Send My Heart...

19 -a time when you think all might be possible; you test stuff; you embrace friendships, are open to new experiences and people, and fall in love. And everything is confusing - but no way will you admit that. At least, that is what  in and around Banbridge was for me. I fell in love; I loved being with my friends; I loved drinking beer- Summer 1985 was about all of those things. But it was also about music- gorgeous, haunting, uplifting, kick-ass, defining pop music. And confusing feelings, relationships and politics.

One piece of shimmering pop stands out- and it'll be one few of you will have heard of. The Northern Irish Troubles were raging all around us – me and my friends and wee town - in the news, bomb scares, bombings, shootings, friendships, bigotry and in communities coming together, over beer; dancing; singing the same songs (sometimes) and kissing girls.

I met a girl, a girl in a white dress; but this isn't about her. Well, it's about longing for her. Missing her; but it is also about discovery - knowing the community I was part of went further than the box the media and some of those in my troubled province wanted to put me in.

The girl in the white dress was a class apart. Literally. She was from a family of millionaires- but to borrow a Mrs Merton phrase, that was not what attracted me to her. She was beautiful and a bit wild - her wealth, education and life experience placed her on a level with me - someone who wanted to break out of the drab mid-Ulster working class expectations placed upon me by all of the restrictions around me. A culture I couldn't belong to. A culture that didn't, to me in my teenaged snobbish way, feel that cultured. And the girl in the white dress brought that to me - her culture, which, ultimately couldn't be mine... in short bursts, as she went to public school in England.

Our love affair was through letters and on her school holidays and then later, when she went to Lucy Clayton finishing school; and then on financially crippling and financially educating journeys to London.

But this isn't about her and how we split up and got together – and split up and got together and - three years later, in my burgeoning realisation we were world's apart; a class apart, calling it a day- wrecking my young head in the drunken process. No- it's not about her. It's about longing and it's about the search for a culture beyond the drums and the Britishness I didn't understand. That I felt outside of.

This week a song kept going through my head. A song from an album that barely scratched the charts, but an album so beautiful, in my mind and memory and emotions, that I was afraid to buy the follow up three years later. And the fact that both albums bracket the girl in the White dress is interesting- but only interesting in that I couldn't buy that follow up.

The song from the album that suddenly entered my head this week is a beautiful track called "Always." But the song that brought this Belfast group to my attention back in the beautiful summer of 1985 – the summer of Live Aid and barbecues and being caught in showers walking through Belfast windsurfing and pernod and black currant, was the song, "Send my Heart."

Every Friday night I got myself ready- showering the stress of the boxed in workplace from my head, and changing clothes; changing skin; spraying smells onto my body, wearing my collar up and meeting the lads in the Coach Bar. And when the weather was good, the sun would stream through the front bar doors and that first pint as we all met would feel freeing; a gateway into a world away from the need to work.

And the girl with the White dress wouldn't be there; she'd be in her very English world and every song on the video juke box would either remind me of her; make me cry inside for her or be something new I'd want her to hear.

The song began with four strums of a silver guitar. That took my attention. And then this video, that made me sad; a song that made me choke with loneliness; chords that played out a story of someone from my country leaving for a life that took him away from the girl he once loved; a bitter end to love.

The video showed places I'd recently discovered with the girl in the White dress. Dublin. Dublin buses. And they were dressed in the mid eighties fashions of Dublin - a city that just seemed stylish- a city pumping out coolness and oozing confidence and a city that seemed like everyone in the world had discovered at the same time as me.

And then the chorus, "Just send my Heart..." The name of the song- and the name of the group. The Adventures. And they weren't from cool Dublin. They were from battered Belfast- and from part of Belfast that I was led to believe was not part of my culture. And I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand why my “culture” didn't produce songs that made your heart rise into your throat.

So I bought the album- Theodore and Friends. Her mum thought it was beautiful- I remember her saying that. And it is. The songs are beautiful. Part of the foundations of what became Celtic Rock. Songs that were produced in a way that made them almost timeless because they weren’t Erasure or Depeche Mode or Heaven 17 or the likes. Beautifully crafted pop songs, with lyrics that made me want to embrace the other part of the culture that was split- wrenched- exploded apart. Soaring choruses and melodies that lifted your eyes as the trust around us was being shot to pieces.

The beauty of my town and the protections it had, was that some of us – most of us young people – the future – a generation that could perhaps end the shite around us - were able to mix across the sectarian divide. We had interfaces such as the local technical college; before that, "Summer School," a "club" run by teachers - from, if I recall rightly, the local catholic High School and from the technical college, during the summer holidays. Catholics and prods came together and played and went on trips together. And we had nightclubs- The Coach being the biggest (the biggest in Europe at one time) and the one people came to from across the province. So I had my prod friends- but I also had Catholic friends. But interfaces or not, some harboured hate and killed in our names and hated for us.

Theodore and Friends was such a beautiful album of discovery for me and from a time I never wanted to end- but had to- and did- that I couldn't buy the next album. But it was a song from the next album, "The Sea of Love," that sums up what was happening all over the North at the time- including in the lives of the members of the band- Terry Sharpe’s friend, Thomas Reilly was shot by a young soldier in Belfast. Another statistic in the awful, illogical story of the world around me. Sharpe’s girlfriend, Sara Dallin of Bananarama, wrote a song about the dreadful murder – Rough Justice - and the music industry mourned, recalling the dreadful Miami Showband killings.

Our land, our community, was indeed a Broken Land.

I remember seeing the Adventures in concert in The Mandela Hall in Queens University, and Terry Sharpe, the lead singer, using the pay phone as I was led to an office to have my camera confiscated -yet again- until after the concert. A claim to fame that means nothing – as people have forgotten this beautiful group.

And I never listened to that second album until today. That album that bracketed the love I had for the girl in the White dress; but was the beginning of a new struggle for me- the struggle to piece together me; to find my part in all of this and to break out of the walled in, frozen piece of a culture I couldn't be satisfied in.

I've listened to "The Sea of Love" a few times today. A forgotten album from the eighties, along with Theodore and Friends- but as beautiful -if not moreso than The Adventures first. An album of beauty and heartache that sounds like the broken community it came from-a community wanting to reach out and discover each other, to embrace, to stop being apart – a community longing to hold hands and walk together. Songs of longing, love and of the girl in the White dress- across the sea; in a letter of love; but ultimately a love lost.

Other Tracks of my years here-

Joy Division - a track of my years...

Sinead O'Connor - My Danny Boy...

Jim Morrison... The City of Lights; Newry, Paris, Budapest, Stuttgart...