Paul McNamee: Time to follow the northern lights

The next revolutionary step is coming from Scotland, and it is led by women

It’s worth looking to Scotland from time to time.

The Scots frequently lead and others follow. You may well agree and point to David Hume, Adam Smith and the rest of the lads who fundamentally changed European thinking through the Enlightenment. Or Alexander Fleming with his penicillin (useful) and John Logie Baird with his TV (also useful). I give you Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson – revolutionary figures all. And Alan McGee, who made the careers of Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub AND Oasis, thereby making the world immeasurably better. And then there’s Armando Iannucci, the great interpreter of our times. This list could grow.

All of these names have one thing in common. They’re all men. Is this my shortcoming or that of history?

Ever in the vanguard of change, the next revolutionary step is coming from Scotland, and it is led by women. But it is coming quietly. For now.

The battle for equal pay has been rumbling for many years

Some days ago thousands of working women across Glasgow voted to go on strike. They are not the people who normally dominate media or political discourse. They are carers and school admin workers, school cleaners and nursery staff. They are asking for equal pay. Which seems like a legitimate request. There are more than 5,000 of them.

About 3,000 are employed by Glasgow City Council and over 2,000 by Cordia, providing services under contract. The ballot to strike was backed by over 90 per cent of union members. There are at least the same number again who aren’t members. This is a significant moment.


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The battle for equal pay has been rumbling for many years. The city council condemned the strike plan as “putting vulnerable people at risk”.

I’d suggest that these women have been doing quite the opposite for their entire working lives. They are the quiet safety net that has been catching the young and the vulnerable for so many years.

That they haven’t been properly rewarded for this is not their fault. It’s the opposite of their fault.

Perhaps it’s a dividend of Me Too that working-class women are having their voice heard in this environment now. About time.

There is so much of life around us that is framed and built by quiet and stoic working-class women who in the past have allowed loudmouthed men (like me) to get on while they have just carried the weight. My life has been built on the shoulders of brilliant women like this. Yours probably has too.

Let’s not make any more excuses. Let’s stop trying to guilt them out of what is long overdue. If the Glasgow example leads to other moves in other cities, let’s support that too.

It is time.