Opinion

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.

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.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
My child was awarded disability benefits after five years of fighting. Why don't I feel victorious?
disability benefits/ mother and child
Cathy Reay

My child was awarded disability benefits after five years of fighting. Why don't I feel victorious?

Four million Brits struggle with problem debt. Now's the time for the next government to step up
debt
Vikki Brownridge

Four million Brits struggle with problem debt. Now's the time for the next government to step up

There's so many questions needing answers this general election it's hard to zone in on just one
Rishi Sunak calling a July 4 general election on May 22
Paul McNamee

There's so many questions needing answers this general election it's hard to zone in on just one

This government failed to end rough sleeping – so now they're trying to police it out of existence
The Criminal Justice Bill criminalises rough sleeping
Tom Kerridge

This government failed to end rough sleeping – so now they're trying to police it out of existence

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know