When Aberdonian Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove wanted someone to write a new history syllabus – “history as a connected narrative” – for schools in England and Wales he turned, in May this year, to fellow Scot Niall Ferguson, a renowned Glaswegian hedge-fund adviser, TV history pundit and, according to Eric Hobsbawm, a “nostalgist for empire”.

Credit to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, then, who announced at the funeral this week of 1970s Clydeside communist councillor and shop steward Jimmy Reid, a commitment to make Reid’s famous ‘rectorial address’ available to every Scottish secondary pupil. Material on Jimmy Reid will be promoted to teachers of History and Modern Studies as being of great importance in understanding modern Scotland.

Here’s just three extracts from Jimmy’s speeches that might be considered to have a bearing on, or perhaps a vague relevance to current political issues…

“…this bunch of political hatchet-men that are masquerading as a government that can take anti-human and uncivilised decisions of this nature are going to be confronted with a fight…”

“It can’t be justified economically, but even more disastrously, it could never be justified with the social consequences of their action….its pre-Keynes, it’s prehistoric, and it belongs to the C19th and I think that despite their suavity, how suave and well-mannered and well modulated their voices I think we’re dealing with a bunch of political cavemen.”

“We’re taking over the yards because we refuse to accept that faceless men can take decisions which devastate our livelihoods with impunity.”

(From Fighting and Winning – the work-in at UCS)

Of course Gove and Ferguson, students, respectively, at Lady Margaret Hall and Magdalen College, Oxford would no doubt be amongst the first to recognise Jimmy Reid (autodidact, Govan Library) as the product of a “Big Society”; one that comprised of voluntary organisations providing mutual assistance, protection, and a schooling in the democratic politics of self-help.

Just a pity that as school kids aged 4 and 7 years old at the time of UCS, they must have missed out on ‘history as a connected narrative’ for Scotland.

Advertisements