We need to stop and consider the impact on children of accepting and promoting transgender explanations for children’s feelings

Tear down sunday

I woke up Sunday morning with fixed purpose of getting to the allotment and starting to organise all the plastic, wood, metal, paper and other stuff ready to get taken off site. After all sorts of delays, with friends popping round for coffee and lunch, I got there just after one. Then lots of visitors came to see me on the allotment – neighbouring plotholders, the allotment committee people, a friend from the gym with her own allotment and then by 3.30 Gary arrived to help, pissed off that Hibs lost 1-0 to Motherwell. But soon he was getting stuck in to the dismantling. A plot neighbour offered all sorts of tools, mallet, pickaxe, choppers – in return I let her dig up one of the rhubarb plants to transplant to her allotment. These are an old and rare variety of rhubarb which is very tasty. Next year hopefully we will have a good crop of this.  Advice from everyone was to have a great onsite bonfire of the wood,  on top of the ground elder if possible to help get rid of that.  The metal is worth money and could go to Willie Waugh’s Granton scrap yard where we will be paid real money for it.  And so  it was agreed that there would be a communal  allotment bonfire on our plot on the 18th August, with tatties, music, and other fun. Unfortunately we wont be there as we are off to Mull for long weekend. Next Saturday is clearing day.

Before I left I got blackcurrants and redcurrants and made a lovely sauce out of them. The plum trees are set to deliver a bumper crop – none at all last year I was told, so this is very lucky for us.  Plum  Autumn ahead

Maggie Mellon: Why the Named Person legislation is not a progressive measure

 

 Feminist campaigner and  social worker Maggie Mellon makes the case against the Scottish Government’s ‘Named Person’ scheme

SCOTLAND, like the rest of the UK and much of Europe, is an increasingly unequal society.

Poverty and inequality are what stunt children’s lives and these things cannot be tackled by caseworking the entire population of children. Instead, housing, jobs, income, education, health services and the environment are the basis for the overall wellbeing of children. It is these that are, or should be, the business of government, rather than the micro-management of family life.

However micro-managing is just what the ‘Named Person’ law, and the Getting It Right For Every Child policy it comes from, set out to do. These measures are part of the popular un-progressive dogma that it is predominantly parents’ behaviour and choices that shape children’s lives.

These measures are part of the popular un-progressive dogma that it is predominantly parents’ behaviour and choices that shape children’s lives.

This and the relentless focus on ‘risk’ have created an authoritarian rather than a supportive approach, certainly in social work, my own profession. This has made child and family social work increasingly disliked and distrusted among the very families who should be being helped, and made the job increasingly stressful for social workers.

I believe that this authoritarian approach to families is being extended with the introduction of the Named Person legislation. Not only will there be more families under investigation, but stress and risk aversion will permeate further into education and health services.

They, too, will be judged on factors that they can’t control – poverty, despair, stress caused by structural inequality. What we have with the Children and Young People Act and its Named Person provision is a conflation of need and of risk. It is in essence an attempt to ‘casework’ the whole population of children and families, and will bear particularly on the poor, the different, the most disadvantaged.

It is, in my view, the exact opposite of the progressive universalist measures that are needed. It is worth noting that this idea of monitoring ‘wellbeing’ on a child-by-child case, mainly on the basis of their private home lives, has emerged at a time when more and more children are being deprived of the basic essentials for their healthy and optimum development – not by their parents, but by institutionalised inequality and poverty.

What is the ‘named person scheme’ and why are people worried about it?

All of this investigation falls disproportionately on poor children and families, who are being policed rather than supported as actual support services are cut. Imagine what all those assessments and investigations and meetings cost. And imagine instead an investment in open door help and support.

If you have not experienced the juggernaut of child protection investigations in your or a friends or family members’ lives, or seen the damage done by heavy handed, intrusive intervention, you may be able to believe that ‘services’ are benevolent and that all parents need to be watched very carefully in case one child slips through the net.

I have heard the justification that ‘families are where children are abused’ often, but families are more usually the place that keeps children safe and happy, and parents are more usually children’s defenders and champions against the often casual carelessness or cruelty of services. Children separated from their families in care and in schools are more vulnerable to abuse than children who remain within their families.

Much of the opposition to the Named Person law has been led by the Christian Institute, which has tended to stress parental rights and authority. This has been made much of by defenders of the Named Person scheme as proving the case that it is mainly reactionaries who oppose the law.

The Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Scottish Parent Teachers and Friends, Scottish Child Law Centre and other organisations oppose the legislation. The majority of local authorities expressed opposition during the consultation stage.

The Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Scottish Parent Teachers and Friends, Scottish Child Law Centre and other organisations also oppose the legislation. The majority of local authorities expressed opposition during the consultation stage. The Scottish Association of Social Workers did not support the proposal.

But this opposition does not fit with the narrative that this is a battle between a good welfare state against rightwing Christian fundamentalists and has tended not to get much attention, at least until recently when Iain McWhirter and other commentators began to pay attention and to comment. It seems to me to be the case that many supporters have not read the legislation.

Supporters in government and in the children’s charities who are the main spokespeople continue to insist that the Named Person is an ‘entitlement’ for parents. They point to leaflets and other government material which explains that it is all voluntary and a response to parents’ requests for a single point of contact. They might intend it to be so, they might wish it to be so. It is not.

Those who are in doubt should go and read the legislation. It is online and easy to get hold of. It is unequivocally a no opt-out scheme for all children, with clear powers to override parents’ or children’s views or wishes.

This is not an entitlement, nor can parents afford to ignore the Named Person’s view, as their role does not depend on parental consent or agreement (there were and are already sufficient powers available to override parents’ and children’s wishes or views if a child is feared to be at risk of significant harm).

Those who are in doubt should go and read the legislation. It is online and easy to get hold of. It is unequivocally a no opt-out scheme for all children, with clear powers to override parents’ or children’s views or wishes.

The Named Person role and responsibilities do not come with any power to allocate homes, food, clothes, holidays, home helps, or even just therapeutic or health services. There are fewer services on the ground providing practical help and those that do are facing the biggest cuts.

But the Named Person juggernaut is set to roll on. I think that last paragraph says everything that needs to be said about wrong priorities for legislation and for services.

Continue reading “Maggie Mellon: Why the Named Person legislation is not a progressive measure”

Glasgow Flourishing A story of a possible Glasgow By Maggie Mellon

The Clyde rolls into Glasgow from its source in the hills to the south east, tracing lazy loops as it flows under road, rail and foot bridges and motorway flyovers, through into the dense heart of the city, then broadening out towards the Firth of Clyde and the sea. The city was founded here on this river. It is surprising how much green there is in Glasgow.

In 2024, the traveller entering Glasgow from any direction will find that food is being grown everywhere. The whole city is growing, harvesting, cooking or trading food: food to be eaten, sold or swapped for other life necessities and luxuries.

On windowsills, in communal back greens, in private gardens, in cans and tubs on the balconies of high flats, on thousands of allotments, everywhere there is earth, there is a plant. The ground around high flats, on wasteland, the grasslands next to now silent motorways, have all become urban growing grounds tended by families, individuals and small businesses. Every back green and street corner has its communal compost heap.

And the green city rewards its workers with potatoes, leeks, rosemary, thyme, carrots, onions, garlic, brambles, parsley, sage, turnip, apples and pears, beetroots, blackcurrants, strawberries and raspberries, barley, oats, milk, honey, cheese – all produced from Glasgow’s land by Glasgow’s people.

Folk who only knew chips, pies, burgers, pan loaves and sugar-stuffed sweeties and puddings now dine on broth, leek and potato soup, baked and mashed tatties, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, bran bread, oatcakes, flapjacks, crowdie, bramble jam, cherry pie, rhubarb crumble, stewed apple and yoghurt.

Cows, sheep and goats graze on Glasgow Green and in Queen’s Park, King’s Park, in Possil Park, Kelvingrove Park, and they are milked in dairies in Maryhill, Partick and Pollock. Byres Road has a byre again. Fresh eggs are collected from free-range hens in runs protected from foxes and other predators. Beehives, tended and sheltered from harm, provide wildflower and clover-scented honey.

Cooperatives have sprung up everywhere organising not just the growing but the cooking and distribution of food. Glasgow’s produce is sold at markets in every quarter of the city. Produce can be bought or swapped for food, fish from Oban or Ardrossan, bags of flour and oats, vouchers for clothes, or for other goods made in or brought into the city, from surrounding farms and sometimes from further afield.

Cafés, fine dining restaurants, takeaways and soup kitchens all base their menus on what is grown in season or what is preserved. School kitchens are provided with vegetables and fruit for free, and grow their own, so that a free school dinner is served to every child every day of the week, and to other folk in need of a good meal too.

Out of school, children play and work on the allotments alongside dads and mums who have something to put on the table even if no paid work is available. Teenagers are allotted their own allotments. Men who have had no work for years, if ever, compare the size of their carrots and the crafting of their hutties built from old doors and plastic sheeting, where often they spend the afternoons, tending their tatties, and brewing tea.

Glasgow has flourished.

You will have heard a lot of claims about how it happened. A lot of people insist that they were responsible for the saving of Glasgow. It was the Greens. It was the SNP. It was the guerrilla gardeners, Sew and Grow Everywhere or the Allotment Bandits. It was the Health Board, the economic regeneration people, the social entrepreneurs. It was the experts, or it was the amateurs. Young people claim it. Older people claim it. Women claim it. The Brownies, the Guides and the Scouts have claimed it. The council claimed it. The Scottish Parliament claimed it. The Scottish government claimed it. The police claimed it. Celtic and Rangers both claimed it. All the churches had a hand in it apparently. What is the truth? How did it happen? ‘Who cares?’ some folk say. ‘It happened.’ But that is not helpful. You want to know what it took, how it came about, what helped and what hindered.

We were not making our daily bread. There was no work. Money was not safe in the bank. The supermarket shelves could be full or they could be empty but everything was expensive. And there was the land everywhere, in and out of the city. Land for growing, unused, neglected, and who was to stop us taking it?

We woke up and realised that the future was in our own hands. And the roots, the seeds, the mulch of what happened are so particular to us, so part of us, that all we can do is tell you our story, all our stories, and you can see if this explains our flourishing, and how your city might flourish too.

In Easterhouse children and adults are having dinner in the open, in the field between a school and a community centre. Fruit trees and trellises provide shade and shelter for tables and benches. A field kitchen made of wood and tarpaulin is staffed by parents and other volunteers who cook and serve the food. The children and parents are joined by guests from nearby sheltered housing and by others who pay with cash or tokens which they have earned or been given. All of the children have been involved in growing at least one part of the summer dinner today. Herbs, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, raspberries and strawberries all come from the school’s or the centre’s gardens. The children are encouraged to bring in contributions to the menu from home – a bag of carrots or onions, or some scones, or jam.

A sign reads:

EASTERHOUSE SUMMER KITCHEN

Children under 11 and guests free

Payment by cash or voucher otherwise

MENU Thursday 13 July

Summer vegetable soup

New potatoes

Tomato chutney, cheese, salad

Green beans and with garlic

Rhubarb and oat crumble

As the children, having eaten, go off to play, or to read, or water the plants, the adult helpers sit down to eat their dinner and tell their stories. Lauren is as thin as a greyhound, narrow, nervy. She rarely stops moving, always has something to do, something to set to rights, to see to.

‘In 2012, I was 26, with three children under 8 years old. Nae money, nae life. I wisnae the only one. There we all were, in our wee flats or our wee houses. Nowhere for us to go that didn’t cost money. We had nothing. We couldnae even afford the community centre coffee, that’s how poor we were. Well, of course now there isnae any coffee anyway, and we still can’t afford it. But back then, you could sit in your house all by yourself for days at a time, saving money with the lights off and the heat off and the telly off so that the power card lasted for the kids after school. I used to march the weans past the shops when we walked back from the school going, “Don’t even look. I’ve nae money, you’ll just torture yourselves. There’s beans and breid till payday, and that’s that.” There were plenty of us in the same boat. So when the centre came up with the idea of an allotment – we were, like, “What? Grow things in the mud and eat it? Aye, that will be right. The weans’ll get poisoned and we’ll have the child protection onto us.” But then we went, “Well, it’s do it or starve.” We had no bloody clue at first, but there was some of the older yins minded how, and we had the internet, and the library, and soon enough we were pulling some food out of the ground. Magic. You felt you’d got one over on the world. Food was free if you put in the work. We all started at it. The adults, the children, old yins, young yins. We did composting, and we put in some cold frames, and we learned. Then there were more and more people wanting to join in, so we began to think a bit bigger. There was the land going to waste all round the centre and the school – all round the area, really. And now look . . . there’s allotments, huts, picnic tables, fruit trees and our kitchen. That kitchen, I am out here far more than I am at home. With all my pals, my family, and my kitchen . . .’

*

Sitting with Lauren and the other adults is Rosemary, who feels more than a little satisfaction and quite a lot of surprise too, as she sits here on this summer’s day, eating and chatting, and planning what needs doing next.

‘I’ve been working the centre here for over 30 years. And lived here for longer. That was one of the big differences between us and people who used to work here. They came in at nine and went home at five again. What was supposed to regenerate Easterhouse was just going out of the area in salaries. There were the community regeneration team, the housing workers, the health workers, the social workers and the teachers. Easterhouse paid a lot of mortgages off all right. But our centre was started with the belief that the best people to work in the community are from the community. The ones that would come in and go home again, they were not here at the weekend or in the evenings. People were just left to get on with it. As Lauren will tell you, there were children going home to cold houses with no food. There were young folk hanging around, fighting one another, doing drugs, drinking. It’s a lot better now, a lot better. Even children whose homes are not what they should be, they have safe places to come to, they have good food to eat. This is a much healthier place today than it was, in all ways. We have gone and regenerated ourselves, so we have. But listen to me blethering on! All this talk does not grow any tatties. On you go, and see what else you can see.’

*

Moving on towards the centre, through Shettleston, Bridgton, Parkhead, Tollcross, you will find the same story. Every bit of ground used. Areas that were wasteland, full of plastic bags, dog shit, human shit even, Durexes, broken bottles, cans, fag ends. The streets are clean: no glass, no gum, no rubbish. The gardens and balconies and windowsills are full of greenery. All is different and fresh and renewed.

You want to know more about how it started? And the problems we might have had? Let’s go to the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green. Where else would the heart of Green Glasgow be? On the north bank of the Clyde, near the centre, Glasgow Green is common land, owned by the people for grazing, washing and drying clothes, growing, playing; the site of speeches, concerts and fairs. Now, the Green has been returned fully to the people, for growing, and grazing. A salmon fishing hamlet in the sixth century on the Molendinar burn, which ran into the Clyde here, is believed to have been the first settlement in what was to become the City of Glasgow. The Clyde once again hosts salmon and other fish, and some fishing is allowed from the banks on the Green. The People’s Palace, museum and café, is now the headquarters for SAS: Sow and Survive. The conservatory here is no longer a café but is used for growing and cultivating hardier versions of Mediterranean fruits and vegetables – tomatoes, hot chilli and bell peppers, melons, aubergines and avocados. Above the front door of the palace is a banner saying ‘Who Digs Wins! Sow and Survive!’

*

Eleanor Murray is working in the main office, a well-organised space with charts marking out green sites and potential developments. There are screens, webcams and online communication all across the city and links with green cities all round the world. Eleanor clears a space at the table and offers us cold mint tea to drink and fruit flapjacks.

‘You want to know about the start of it, and the problems? Well, you have the right woman here. Before this all kicked off, I was involved in environmental campaigns. A tree hugger, as they used to say! They said we wanted to go back to the past, that we were against progress, but it turned out they were living in the past, and we were progress.

We have had a few bad years with the weather, and that is not going to get any easier, but we seem to always come up with solutions. Even the big environmental problems, like flooding and storms, can be turned into an advantage of sorts with the right technology. You’ll have heard that the university here has just patented a new material. It lets light in so it acts like a glasshouse, but it’s strong as metal, and flexible like plastic so it doesn’t break. But the exciting thing is it can trap rain power and turn it into heat or other energy. It’s going to be a major export for the city, so that should boost trade a good bit. So, I’m optimistic about the technical side. It’s the problems with people that could drive you mad. I think I have been involved in every single battle we’ve had. And that counts all the internal ones.

I always tell two stories that show what we were up against at the start. One is about the campaign against the M74 extension, which we lost. But the developers had agreed to consult the community about the green space promised as compensation. So, at the meeting with them and the council, I suggested that instead of the beech trees they proposed we should plant apple trees. This guy – council I think, but he might have been a developer, we could never tell them apart – he stared at me like I was crazy, and then he went, ‘Are you stupid?’ I went, ‘No, I don’t think so. Why do you ask?’ I nearly told him I had a PhD in sustainable development, but he might have seen that as proof that I really was nuts. So, then he goes ‘Why? Why do you think? Because they would just eat them!’

Imagine! Free food! Children just eating it! Civilisation under threat, no doubt about it. You might be thinking he was worried about whether the apples would be safe. But no. It was a good fifty metres back from the motorway. And anyway their case was that the motorway was perfectly safe and the green space would be better than anything the children had before.

Anyway, motorways and roads were running through farmland right across the country then, with crops and animals right beside them. No, he was just outraged at the thought that ‘they’ were going to get free food! How mad is that? He just could not get his head round it. Food was a commodity that had to be owned and sold, not just grown and eaten. Incredible, eh?

But now we have the fruit trees, and we have allotments, and a green gym, and rope slides and stuff. And the motorway? Well, like all the motorways, it’s only open once a week for the permitted driving day. The rest of the time, it’s cycles and skateboards. And the children can eat as many apples as they can grow there.

And the other story is just as ridiculous. There was Glasgow, with the worst health record and the worst diet in Europe. There was violence, drugs and too much drink. And that was just the councillors.

So, when the whole grow-your-own thing took off you would have thought they would have been delighted at the demand for ground. Not a bit of it. First of all, there was a rule they dreamt up that you had to be employed to get a council allotment. Otherwise, they said, the unemployed would be at work on them, growing free food, with no incentive to find work. This is when there was 60 per cent youth unemployment in some areas. They thought it was better for all the young people to be in training centres writing CVs, or in training to stack supermarket shelves.

That’s just two stories, but there have been others too. One was when they wanted to shut us all down because there were some food poisoning cases. I’m not saying you take that lightly of course; we don’t. But the solution is putting the information out there about the right ways and the wrong ways to do things, not red tape.

Anyway, you would have thought that growing your own food was as dangerous as handling nuclear waste. From them having only one guy dealing with allotments, there was suddenly an army of people going round closing everything down, threatening to prosecute folk for growing food for themselves and their neighbours.

And when you looked at the alternatives – malnutrition, cancer, heart disease, low birth weight, all the other ills – growing our own food has turned out to be very low-risk. The biggest challenge we have now is in growing enough, whatever the elements throw at us.

Now, I have to get on with things here. You should take yourselves up to George Square and find out what’s going on up there. You can see the market, and you can go into the City Chambers to find out what the talk of the day is.’

*

Let’s leave Eleanor to her potting and planning and go to George Square, the heart of the city, where all sorts gather to sell, to gossip, to complain and quarrel, to argue and settle. In the Square, and down Queen Street, and into Exchange Square, there are stalls selling not just food and produce, and gardening equipment, but also kitchenware, clothes, gadgets – everything under the sun. Currency is a mixture of ‘real’ money and local ‘Greenpay’ vouchers, which can be obtained in exchange for work, goods or services. Fine cotton towels and bed linen, dinner sets, stainless steel pots and pans, crystal glasses, canteens of cutlery, can all be bought or exchanged alongside spades, twine, wellies, plant food, seeds, plants, wheel barrows. And so, also, in quieter corners, can marijuana and home-made alcohol.

The biggest trade is in plants and gardening equipment – bug-resistant plants, trays of seedlings for those who have not the skill or the patience to grow from seed, safe organic fungicides, canopies, glass and plastic cold frames. And in food, flour and oats are brought in to the nearby stations from the surrounding countryside, or further afield. Bread, rolls, cakes, wine, beer and juices are all ready to eat as you graze the market. When you have had your fill here, the City Chambers provides a rest.

The City Chambers sits on the east side of the square, its stony great face boasting of the city’s riches from its days of empire. Blood red marble inside; white cold face to the outside. For over 130 years it has watched the goings on in the Square and held to itself the whispering and manoeuvring and betrayals inside. Now it, too, has been renewed. People flow in and out of and around the building, letting the good air in and the bad air out. Many decisions are now made locally, closer to the ground. Now, the old council chamber, unused for much of the time before, is an open space for lectures, debates and speeches.

Liz Burns is in her regular place in the hall. She’s well known here. Liz used to be one of the city councillors. She got a bit frustrated with committee meetings, and she and some like-minded citizens set up the Allotment Bandits: a retired chief constable, an ex-gang leader and one of the best lawyers in the city. These Robin Hoods claimed land all over the town, using every law and every lever they could, and handed it over to local folk. They were charged, threatened with violence, deplored in the Parliament and the press. But the Bandits defeated everyone and everything that stood in their way. Now, Liz is a fair age and she dwells on the past quite a bit. She comes back to the Chambers most days and, like the old politician she is, will give anyone who is around the sharp edge of her tongue.

*

‘You’ve come to hear how it all came about? And how to do it for yourselves? Well, the first thing I will tell you folk is this – we didnae do it with a bloody strategy! Do you know how many strategies we had in Glasgow in 2012? No, and neither do I. We never counted them. But too many. Too many to read, never mind to implement. I kid you not. We had strategies for play, regeneration, community safety, parenting, antisocial behaviour, harm reduction, leisure, suicide, dementia, fuel poverty, care in the community, homelessness . . . That enough for you? Well, it wisnae for us. Oh no. We had strategies for excellence in everything, for reducing crime, mental health, physical activity, oral health, breastfeeding . . . We had an equality strategy. Everyone had to have an equality strategy. Equality was the law so they said, but not for food or money or housing or education. So everything got more and more unequal.

There were people writing strategies in government, in every department of the council, in the health board, the housing agency, every wee charity or trust that tried to draw breath. There were strategies for evaluating the impact of strategies. There were hundreds of meetings, minutes and records, reports, committees and commissions.

None of them were any damn bit of use at all. Except for keeping some folk in a job, including me. Better than no job, which is what a lot of people in this city had. No job, no hope and really bad food.

Of course, in the recession, governments could only afford strategies. In the fat years, they would rub regeneration funds into sore places like Glasgow. Hundreds of millions of pounds. Chicken feed to the banks maybe, but still a lot of money over the years. But even then there was damn all regeneration. Somehow the funds never stuck where they were meant to. The poor stayed poor.

Some folk made a good living out of it all, in the fat years, and in the thin years too. Regenerated their own bank accounts time and again. It kept the mortgages paid for some, the airports and package holidays, the multiplexes, the restaurants all going. In 2012 we had strategies and we had services; we were turned into a country of people that just used services. Public services, or private services, we were all service users, or customers, or clients, but we produced nothing.

There we were in 2012, rich in strategies, but still, or because of them, the sick man of Europe. Still with the worst health, the highest mortality rates. The butt of jokes, the cause of shame and despair. Our babies were born too early and too small, with the shortest lives and the worst rates of cancer and heart disease in Europe to look forward to. There were generations of unemployment and illness in some families in some areas.

And there was the food. The food we ate was terrible. White bread, processed meat, deep-fried everything, drinks, sweeties and cakes made of sugar and chemicals. The alcohol was cheap, cider was cheaper than juice, and bottled water dearer than fizzy drink.

So how are we now the most sustainable city in the world? We woke up and smelled the coffee as we used to say in 2012, when there was a lot of coffee to smell.

The best I can tell you is that the roots of the change were there, even then in 2012 when things were at their worst. In fact, the roots were in the very dirt of how bad things could be. The roots were how bad things can be. We just woke up. And that is how the Allotment Bandits and a whole lot of other good groups got going. Come back another day and I’ll tell you about that.’

*

Across the Clyde in Woodville Street, near Ibrox, below the high flats and in the wasteground beyond that, a small co-operative farm has been created, run by local people, mostly young men and women. Ten years ago this ground was ‘No Washing’ and ‘No Ball Games’, green but useless grass, an opportunity gone to waste. Now it is laid out in small fields, each with a crop, some with plastic poly tunnels, and all round the edges, herbs, flowers, cherry and apple trees, raspberry canes and blackcurrant bushes. There is a fenced-in sports pitch to one side, and to the other a picnic area with tables and barbecue pits. There is a market stall, selling whatever produce is available on the day.

Paul and his friends sit on old plastic picnic chairs at the door of a large shed. A sign ‘Woodville City Farm’ hangs on the door with a laminated ‘Green Glasgow – Safe Organic Produce’ certificate beneath it. They are all young – Paul, Magda, Julius, Linda, Bobby and Bruno – the Woodville City Farm Crew; hands dirty and rough, boots muddy. Paul is always the first to talk.

‘I was nineteen in 2012. My life was nothing but drink, drugs, fighting, stealing, the courts and prison. That kept the bizzies and the briefs and the screws all busy too, of course. Useful employment for us all, eh? I was sick of it all but couldnae see a way out of it. I had a baby with my girlfriend, Linda, wee Frankie. He’s eleven now, fantastic boy, my best pal in life. Great wee footballer too. But back then he was just a baby. I kept looking at him, thinking, Will his life be like my life? My dad died the same year he was born. Cause of death: Glasgow. Would I go that route too? So I was thinking, thinking about what life was in front of me. When the guerrilla gardeners as they called themselves started digging up and planting up the bit of wasteground up next to the flats, I thought it was crazy, a bit of a laugh, but I used to take the wean up in the pram and just stand there watching. It minded me of when my dad used to take me up to his dad’s allotment in Springburn. He had a wee hut, and there was always tea and a bit of grub on the go. I have a photo of the three of us. My dad looking young – handsome like me, of course – nice clothes, happy. Like he was hopeful about things. But then my granda died, and that was it for the allotment. But I minded picking and eating blackcurrants and raspberries, and once my granddad washing a carrot for me to eat raw. But I wouldnae touch it because it came out of the ground. Crazy, eh, we didnae realise that that was where food came from, out of the ground, and that you could get it for free. We thought that anything that came out of the ground couldnae be any good.

So anyway, what with one thing and another, in the good weather, that spring, in 2012, somehow I ended up digging away too with the bandits and the guerrillas and that. So did other folk. Some of my pals started coming, and some of the asylum folk that had been put in the flats. That’s how I met Julius. My other best pal in life now. Whatever it was, if they could grow it, they would grow it, and they would know how to cook it too. Linda and me, we hadnae a clue about cooking really. If it didnae come out of a packet with instructions then it couldnae be cooked. But we learned. So it just went on from there. Food got dearer in the shops, and scarcer too, but we had food for free.

When we had trouble from the local kids, some thieving, stone throwing, we just opened the door to them. We told them. Here you are, it’s yours. You can fuck about and make a nuisance of yourselves or you can get intae it. We had a sign – ‘Food for free. If you help grow it you can eat it’. Now some of thay wee tearaways are running their own fields, or wee businesses, and they keep telling us they’re better at it than us. They fucking are too, but we’re not telling them that. Anyway, Magda’s the brains of our outfit. Well, that’s what she says, and she keeps the books so we don’t argue with Magda . . . Gonnae tell them your story, Magda?’

Magda, in headscarf and boots, sits with a small laptop computer on the table in front of her.

‘Well, thank you, Paul, so complimentary. But of course I am not the only brain here, there is my husband too! I trained as an accountant in Poland. Don’t ask me why I came to Glasgow. At first it was a shock to me, how people lived here. The dirty streets, the bad housing, the very small wee people. Bad teeth. The bad food. I met Julius here – he is from Uganda and not from Glasgow so he is very handsome and tall. Yes, Paul, only joking, some Glasgow boys are tall and handsome too. Now we have two children, both wee Glaswegians. They get a hard time sometimes – there are still some bad attitudes about different skin colours. From Poles most of all sometimes. But less now. And finally I got to be an accountant and not a cleaner! I do the books for three co-operatives. Two co-operative farms and our jam and pickle co-operative. Members bring their produce and it gets weighed, and then they get a share according to how much they bring and how many hours they put in. Julius and Paul take care of this co-operative here. And we are helping other people to set up co-operatives in more places, outside Glasgow now. In the summer we do work hard, the children go to school and then come to play here near us. They do their homework here. We cook out on the barbecue pit. Potatoes, beans, onions, scones, chapattis, chutney. Like Paul said, we just tell everyone, there’s no point in stealing it. It’s everyone’s earth, everyone’s food. If you help to grow it, you can eat it.’

*

But not much time now till the sun goes down. So, whoosh, back across town from the north-east to the south-west, to Pollock, to the Glasgow Girls allotments. Here are the girls, some in hijabs, some without, working away together in a large allotment, created from wasteground near Darnley Street.

Nusra is in jeans and hijab, her feet bare and muddy. She is planting out rows of parsley, coriander, sage and curry in raised planters that sit on a bed of gravel chips for drainage.

‘I am a Glasgow girl. Me and my friends and some other girls have our own allotments here. It’s not just for Muslim girls, it’s for Glasgow girls. Me and Evie here are the main organisers, the bossy ones! No boys allowed, and no men allowed. No mums allowed either except by special invitation. Well, I do bring my wee brother sometimes. I like just coming here at the weekends and the evenings, and we just talk, and do things together. It feels really good to be able to take food home. And we even have a stall sometimes at the market selling curry and other stuff from our own vegetables, and we make some money. The worst times we had were the two summers when it rained and rained, and we could not get out much. The crop was poor then. And one time when all the wee seedlings got eaten by bugs. But we are much smarter than the bugs now. And we have even got round the rain and the droughts too. We build up the beds and use lots of gravel below so that the water drains off quicker, then we trap the rain so that we have water when it is dry.

I am going to be an energy engineer and build rain farms and wind farms. But I will still come back here. To the girls’ allotment.’

Evie, her long dark hair tied up out of the way, is tying up the peas and picking ripe pods.

‘I am a Glasgow girl too. I used to be a vegan who did not like vegetables, and now I am a vegetarian who likes chicken. There are still some vegetables I don’t like. But I like growing them anyway. At first you don’t think it will work, but it does, like magic. You put seeds in the ground, and then up come the plants. And it’s nice to come here and be just with girls. Boys can be very silly and they don’t work hard enough. And as well as growing stuff, I like to draw the plants, and the other girls working, and the slugs and insects. Before we kill them. The bugs, not the other girls. We had an exhibition at school last year of our drawings, photographs and the history of the Glasgow Girls Allotment, and it won first prize in the Glasgow Schools Green Art competition. Next year it is art school for me, but I will still come here. Unless us older ones get thrown out by the younger girls. They are really scary, that lot!’

*

Leaving the girls, going back across the river and out west from Charing Cross out through Kelvinside, past the Botanic Gardens on both sides of the Great Western Road, in the grounds of the University, in Kelvingrove Park, and outside the Museum and Art Gallery, we find the same. Food is being produced from well-tended ground, in gardens and parks, on unused land, in oil drums and raised beds, in school playgrounds, in hospital grounds. University students eke out a living growing their own, and working in the cafés and restaurants.

Further out west, in Knightswood, the park is now a patchwork of allotments, but the little burn is still a tadpole heaven for children. Every garden has a vegetable patch. The park café is back, and business is booming. And westwards, in Drumchapel, they specialise in berries. You can spend a morning picking your own from the bushes and canes, or you can go to the market and buy raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants and blackberries by the punnet.

Fish in the river. Food in the ground. On both sides of the river and from north to south, east to west, Glasgow is flourishing, a dear green place again.

How did it start? As this story ends. Press enter. <<enter>>.

© 2017 Maggie Mellon All Rights Reserved

Maggie Mellon: Why Scottish Women’s Aid should change course on its prisons position

 Feminist campaigner Maggie Mellon explains why she believes short term prison sentences are unhelpful – even in domestic abuse cases

SCOTLAND may be poised to take a big step away from having one of the highest rates of imprisonment in Europe. 

Eighty-four per cent of respondents in a recent government consultation favoured a presumption against short prison sentences – which basically means encouraging the courts not to hand down short jail terms – being extended from the current three months to 12 months. This would have a big impact on prison numbers – among the highest in Europe – and release funds for alternative sentences and services that work.

Offenders are mainly poor, badly educated, and suffering from all sorts of health and social problems. Women for Independence’s (WFI) Justice for Women Campaign was part of the 84 per cent in favour and had in addition called for remand to be banned for any offence for which there was no reasonable prospect of a prison sentence.

I believe that Scottish Women’s Aid should abandon its demand for the retention of the presumption for short prison sentences for cases of domestic abuse.

However, Scottish Women’s Aid’s (SWA) response was not part of the 84 per cent and made a strong call for an exception to the presumption against short prison sentences in respect of offending associated with domestic abuse. This has caused some debate within WFI.

I believe that the SWA approach is mistaken, and that there are very strong reasons why SWA should abandon its demand for the retention of the presumption for short prison sentences for cases of domestic abuse.

This is not a case against prison for violent offences. Nor does imposing a presumption against short prison sentences mean that they can never be handed down.

Short prison sentences make reoffending more, not less, likely

People who serve short prison sentences are more likely to reoffend on release than those who serve other sentences. This means more, not less, abuse for victims. People on short prison sentences are not eligible for the programmes and group work which are aimed at tackling the reasons for offending: anger management; cognitive behaviour therapy; drug and alcohol addiction; relationship counselling etc.

Therefore, the sentence is wasted time in the sense of rehabilitation or treatment, and usually instead strengthens offender identity.

Sexual and domestic offenders in prison tend to reinforce rationalisation and victim blaming

Prison sentences and remand bring together men who abuse women and children. Men sent to prison meet other men who have committed offences within intimate relationships. Together, they tend to reinforce each other’s rationalisations for their behaviour and their feelings of injustice.

Rationalisations can be: the child or woman asked for it, the women and/or children were lying, the courts are biased; or that they are mad, not bad, and can’t control themselves; ‘a moment of madness’ occurred under pressure.

Some will explain that they were abused as children, their fathers were violent or abusive, or their mothers were cruel or ‘slags’, and so they cant help themselves. In prison on short sentences, these rationalisations are reinforced, not challenged.

Men who are violent and controlling towards women are often passive and unchallenging to other men, so they don’t get into conflict in prison, and are often seen by the prison officers as harmless.

‘Escape’ is, in most cases, not realistic as it means losing family, friends, neighbours and community. It also puts the responsibility on the woman to change her life and not on the man.

That is often the case for men even on longer sentences, too, but they may be offered the opportunity take part in programmes which challenge and not reinforce their ideas.

The SWA argument for retaining short prison sentence for domestic abuse is not that it will improve the men but that it is a necessary expression of society’s attitude to domestic abuse, and a short respite for women victims, and that even a short sentence can present the opportunity for women to escape, i.e. to move house, area, school, job etc.

‘Escape’ is, in most cases, not realistic as it means losing family, friends, neighbours and community. It also puts the responsibility on the woman to change her life and not on the man.

‘Respite’ from violence can also have the effect of increasing the wish to believe the offender’s remorse. Often, a prison sentence will mean a loss of income for the woman and dependence on benefits, and of debt and even sanctions.

Additionally, even if one woman victim escapes, at whatever cost to herself and her children, the man will emerge from prison still posing a risk, probably even a greater risk.

He can and will find another victim, so short prison sentences probably create more victims, not fewer.

Can men who abuse others change?

‘Desistance’ studies of why people stop offending have (among other things) recognised the need for a ‘good person’ identity (‘I have done bad things but I am not a bad person, I can be a better person and not do those things again’) rather than trying to impose or to reinforce a ‘bad person’ identity (‘I am a bad person and can never change, I can’t control my badness and have no right to a happy family or intimate life’).

This is very relevant to people who have perpetrated crimes against other human beings, particularly intimate partners or children. It does not mean letting them off the hook, rather it insists on accountability for harm caused, but allows for hope and redemption.

In the case of violent repeat offenders, lack of accountability and continued risk may mean that they can never be released, or only be released subject to heavy supervision and monitoring.

Women will be affected by any exception for domestic abuse offences and more women will be remanded and sentenced to prison for domestic abuse-related offences

The extension of the definition and understanding of domestic abuse to include threat, coercion and control and the demand for prosecution of all such offences and offenders has had the perverse consequence of drawing many more women into the criminal justice system.

Here are Scottish Government figures for women charged with domestic abuse:

– Incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police in Scotland with a female victim and a male perpetrator represented 79 per cent of all incidents of domestic abuse in 2014-15 where gender information was recorded. Since 2005-06 this percentage share has fallen from 87 per cent.

– The proportion of incidents with a male victim and a female perpetrator (where gender was recorded) has increased from 11 per cent in 2005-06 to 18 per cent in 2014-15.

Source: domestic abuse recorded by the police in Scotland, 2014-15

A recent paper for Police Scotland estimated that under the broader definition that is now being used, women were responsible for 40 per cent of all cases of ‘domestic abuse’. This is the direct result of a zero tolerance ‘gender blind’ approach and shines a light on the direction we are heading.

A Justice Watch morning in court provides ample evidence. Women appear in the dock for trivial domestic abuse=related offences – where the ‘I will kill you’ threat of a seven-stone woman is treated as seriously as if she were a 16 stone, 6ft man. Women are arrested and handcuffed in front of their children for such trivial reasons. We need to acknowledge and act on the understanding that the criminal justice system from police to prosecutors, from court to prison is often misogynist – it is in itself a form of violence and abuse of women and children.

We need complete reform, not more of the same revolving door of prison, re-offending, arrest, prison – not least because its an expensive way to fail to change anything.

There are therefore strong reasons for SWA to abandon its demand for short prison sentences and support the demand for progressive change which should include:

– Firstly prevention: early intervention freely available for self-referral by women or men whose private relationships are characterised by violence, abuse, coercion and threat.

– Secondly, offer diversion from, or suspension of prosecution for first and minor offences for those willing to undertake remedial therapy and work.

– Protect women’s safety through use of electronic monitoring, bail hostels, curfews, movement orders.

– Use evidence-based progammes, counselling, supervision, mentoring as part of prison and community sentences.

– Increase services for victims (rather than wasted money on courts and short prison sentences).

Published In Common Space September 2016

Women for Indy Justice Watch Blog august 2016

In this blog, I am going to write about not just my own experience and views but also cover some of the issues that we all have encountered and the experiences of women in a number of courts.

A fair hearing?

Readers who have not been in a criminal court will have seen film and TV court scenes. In these the public gallery can hear everything clearly and understand it too.  But its not like that at all. Those who have been in an actual court will probably have had a different experience.

Continue reading “Women for Indy Justice Watch Blog august 2016”

How the Named Person crusade could damage the case for Scottish independence

 

Feminist campaigner and former social worker Maggie Mellon explains why she’s welcoming a recent decision from the Supreme Court on the controversial Named Person law

WHY has the Scottish Government allowed itself to be undone by a scheme with an Orwellian name which it never able to explain without contradicting themselves?

On Thursday, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on the case against the Named Person law (Part 4 of the Children and Young People Act, 2014). The appeal was upheld on two crucial grounds.

There are excellent accounts of the ruling (link to CelticKnot blog) and I won’t go into these here. I want to discuss the politics of the whole thing. I felt relief to hear the verdict. The scheme would not go ahead in its current form. As an opponent of the Named Person law, I could not be anything but relieved and pleased.

Read more – Nicky MacCrimmon: What the Supreme Court really said about Named Person and what it means

But I had other feelings, too. As a Yes campaigner and a member of Women For Independence – and indeed an elected member of the WFI national committee – I also felt really regretful that it had come to this.

A government that I genuinely want to support, and which has done some very good things, has been humiliated on a UK and world stage on an issue of human rights, which it prides itself on upholding. This has allowed the Tories and the rightwing press, which care not a jot for European rights legislation, and who rejoice in the austerity being imposed on our poorest children and families, to celebrate and crow.

I hate that. I hate it as much as any member of the SNP, or any supporter of independence. But I am not responsible and I don’t feel guilty. The case needed to be brought, for the sake of families and children, and it was right that it was won.

When the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of the Children and Young People Act 2014, it ignored the good legal advice of the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland, the Child Law Centre, Clan Law, and of leading legal minds such as Professors Elaine Sutherland and Ken Norrie.

The parliament also ignored the criticisms and concerns of local authorities, the majority of whom were against at the consultation stage as the costs and burdens of allocating a Named Person to every child in Scotland would fall to them.

It ignored the concerns of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, and of many other smaller organisations including the Scottish Association of Social Workers who warned of confusing child protection with wellbeing, and of diverting resources from the most vulnerable.

In the period between passing the law and implementation which was to be August this year, it should have been a red warning sign to ministers and to their special advisors and senior civil servants that they were constantly having to literally ‘spin’ the message 180 degrees in response to challenges.

A government that I genuinely want to support, and which has done some very good things, has been humiliated on a UK and world stage on an issue of human rights.

One day, the message was that Named Persons were a voluntary service that parents had asked for, and the next it was necessary to impose Named Persons on all children in order to protect the most vulnerable and prevent child deaths. Families with nothing to hide had nothing to fear.

One day the scheme had been successfully piloted in Fife and in Highland it was flawless. The next, in response to the deaths of children in those very authorities, we were told that the Named Person scheme was not responsible for protecting children, just the promotion of low level wellbeing.

We were also told that the ‘successful’ pilots had not in fact been pilots at all, as the law was not implemented yet.

Challenge after challenge emerged – about guidance which advised that the Named Person would check on children having choice in their home lives about bedroom décor, and bedtimes, about children being told that their parents were gardeners but the Named Person was the head gardener, about 261 risk factors that Named Persons had to consider, (one risk – ‘being under five’ – gives an idea of the nature of this scatter gun approach), about what happened in the school holidays (an unnamed would be holding the baby), about why 16 year olds could vote and marry, and leave school but still needed a Named Person.

Then it emerged that a child’s Named Person would be informed of significant health or other issues in the lives of over-12s, but whether parents were told would be up to the Named Person. Not surprisingly, the draft guidance was condemned by almost everyone except its authors as confusing and inadequate, and it could not be issued in time to train the thousands of Named Persons for their new responsibilities.

A disaster waiting to happen, I am sure I am not alone in feeling that I could hardly bear to watch as the shambles got worse. Worse was having tried to raise all these problems and issues and being told they were complete nonsense. Nothing, it seemed, could give the government pause to consider the risks.

Read more – Swinney defends Named Person scheme in wake of Supreme Court ruling

Come June, when Nicola Sturgeon appointed John Swinney as the new education secretary, I optimistically thought that she was creating a golden opportunity for a strategic step back. We had been there before with the women’s prison, a campaign I had been involved in.

But Swinney, a normally astute politician, waded right in and insisted that Named Persons would be implemented and that anyone against it had to be rebuffed strongly. However, he announced that the August implementation date would be put back until after the Supreme Court ruling.

Why was he so confident that any ruling would be in the government’s favour? Is the advice of government lawyers so duff that they did not prepare him for possible defeat? Did he seek no other advice? Did he have a Plan B? The whole world now knows the ruling wasn’t in the government’s favour. Very clearly not in favour.

Government announcements, however, in a piece of astonishing spin, insisted that the Supreme Court had praised the scheme and its intentions, and had only upheld the appeal on a couple of technical grounds which would be a mere trifle for the government to sort out.

The Supreme Court had in the judgement commented that the Act’s stated aims were legitimate and benign, but this was nothing more than a polite statement of the obvious. No-one has ever suggested that the aim of promoting children’s wellbeing is a bad aim, or that it is not a legitimate aim for the Scottish Parliament or Government to hold.

No-one has ever suggested that having a single point of contact for parents and/or children is a bad thing. But unfortunately that is not what the law set out. The law does not mention parents or children’s rights, their consent, or even consultation.

Named Persons were clearly to be assigned as a point of contact about parents and children, not for parents and children (except in a ‘we know best’ way). That is why the Supreme Court upheld the appeal – the law as passed allowed for non-consensual sharing of information about children and their families without any threshold or protection. That, as the government was warned, breaches European Convention rights to private and family life.

A disaster waiting to happen, I am sure I am not alone in feeling that I could hardly bear to watch as the shambles got worse.

The court’s warning about the dangers of totalitarianism was not an accusation against the government but an explanation of the importance of respecting and preserving the ECHR right to privacy and family life. The family does not belong to the state, and is not for regulation, no matter how benign the stated intention. The road to hell, as we know, is often paved with good intentions. But so much for the legal story and the route to disaster.

The appeal and the campaign has been largely funded by the Christian Institute. I considered my position in relation to this very carefully before I agreed to lend my name to the campaign. I agreed to support the campaign only when I had assured myself that it would not be party political, would not promote any one religion or religious belief, that there would be no anti-gay, anti-women, or racist sentiments espoused, and that it would not defend the physical punishment of children.

I and others also stressed that the campaign would defend families of all shapes and sizes and beliefs. Christianity is a religion which is as entitled as any other to its beliefs. In fact, religion is a protected characteristic under equality law – every religion.

It is ironic that many people who decry Islamophobia seemingly don’t believe that Christianity is entitled to the same tolerance as Islam. When I spoke at public meetings of the campaign I met families who were genuinely frightened of having the care of their children threatened because of their religious beliefs.

They are entitled to their beliefs – and they have a right to tell their children what they believe even if it is seven-day creationism. I shared beliefs with my children about lots of things that the government of the day or even their head teacher might have found objectionable. Indeed, Section 28 was still in force when we told our children it was wrong.

The Christian Institute people no doubt found some of my beliefs objectionable as I would theirs, but the No2NP campaign did not stray into promoting any such views. So much for the campaign and its supporters.

Worse was having tried to raise all these problems and issues and being told they were complete nonsense. Nothing, it seemed, could give the government pause to consider the risks.

But what were and are the government’s motives? Why was and is the government so wedded to a policy that it can’t really defend or explain? What can we make of the intransigent, defiant and unrepentant stance of the government and its supporters? Why were they so committed to this ‘flagship policy’ which had the marks of confusion and impending disaster from the very start?

Is it just that the SNP does not ‘do’ policy very well itself and thus is prey to half-baked ideas promoted by enthusiasts as ‘big ideas’? It’s a reckless government that legislates in such central areas of Scottish life as football and families without really knowing what it is doing. And it is reckless legal advice that allows it to do so.

Has it completely misunderstand the difference between a universal service and a universal imposition? The NHS is a service free at the point of need. Demanding weekly medicals from every citizen is an imposition.

Has it misunderstood the Christie Commission recommendation for prevention to be at the heart of public service so entirely that it thinks this means giving public services more and wider powers to tell parents and others how to live their lives?

Prevention means public services should serve the public, not that the public have to serve the services. Maybe there is a bit of all of that. But the explanation that I find most plausible is that if a government does not have the will, or the necessary bottle, to fundamentally tackle poverty and inequality, then promoting ‘child rescue’ is very attractive.

This brings it closer to charities whose funding and position depend on maintaining ‘child rescue’ as their mission. This explains the big charities’ support for the Named Person. This explanation would also tie in with other parts of the Children and Young People Act which focus on care and after-care, and particularly on adoption (the ultimate example of child rescue) rather than on support for families.

Is it just that the SNP does not ‘do’ policy very well itself and thus is prey to half-baked ideas promoted by enthusiasts as ‘big ideas’?

Take a child out of a bad family and put them in a good family. No need to change society. Changing a family is much easier. Rather than one-stop family centres, and a focus on support for families in adversity, providing refuges, nutrition, holidays, childcare, high levels of child benefit, the CYP Act set sail in the opposite direction.

This was not prevention, whatever the government claims. And the proof is that Scotland now has the highest rate of children coming into care (that is away from their families) in the whole of the UK.

However, there are some who believe that the government has been kidnapped by a sinister ‘Big Data’ agenda, which aims to ensure data mining of the whole population – and that children are just the soft end of getting public acquiescence to this.

Getting a single database of all children in Scotland with an account of their birth weights, post codes, educational attainments, hereditary illnesses and conditions, and all sorts of ancillary information about their parents and wider families’ health, income, life incidences, would be an enormous prize not least to multinational companies in their search for profit and control.

The intrusive and unevaluated ‘surveys’ that the private sector Dartington Unit has persuaded various authorities around Scotland to administer without parental knowledge or consent are just a small example of the kind of data-gathering that should never be embarked on, particularly in unregulated hands of the private sector.

A very dangerous prize for whoever can access it. And this is where the Scottish Government is (hopefully was?) heading with plans for one enormous database for all children. Extremely expensive, possibly unachievable, and definitely dangerous, not least for very vulnerable children.

I don’t see any sign that lessons have been learned about how to work with opponents, or doubters, or even to collaborate with anyone who does not give 100 per cent support.

Who guards the data? Where now? There was too much of last week’s spin and bluster that was reminiscent of 1984. I found it chilling to watch John Swinney misleadingly reassuring supporters that the Supreme Court ruling was a vindication, denying the facts about just how wrong his government had been.

Worse than that, he seemed to be trying to work gullible government supporters to self-righteous anger against those of us who had dared to challenge the government in court. This was an attempt to have the Named Person scheme scrapped, he fumed, and it would not succeed.

Determined to clothe himself in the justification of ‘benign and legitimate’ aims, he was unwilling to accord any such good faith to those who oppose the scheme and who took to court to save our rights. The opponents have benign and legitimate aims, too.

And these happen to accord with the ECHR, which the Scottish Government claims to be strongly committed to upholding and keeping. The government has 42 days to go back to the Supreme Court with a proposed redraft of the legislation and guidance which will meet the requirements of European law.

John Swinney has announced that he is consulting with the same charities and public sector leaders who supported the law and wrote the guidance. The Sunday Herald writes about a ‘compromise’ position that would entail parents signing agreements to allow information sharing but being allowed to see and correct any information.

Do they think that they are entering a negotiation with the Supreme Court on human rights? That they can offer to meet them half way? That won’t do.

There has been no overture to the Scottish Parent Teacher Council or to anyone else involved in successfully challenging bad legislation to ask for assistance or opinion.

If this is the case, then I sadly think that any renewed campaign for independence is not going to be able to win over the 10-15 per cent that are needed to win another referendum.

I don’t see any sign that lessons have been learned about how to work with opponents, or doubters, or even to collaborate with anyone who does not give 100 per cent support.

If this is the case, then I sadly think that any renewed campaign for independence is not going to be able to win over the 10-15 per cent that are needed to win another referendum.

Unbending commitment to imposing the Named Person might prove to be a bigger millstone than any other single issue.

By Maggie Mellon