As Convener of the legal aid committee of the Law Society of Scotland it was my job to negotiate with the Scottish Government over our terms and conditions. I dealt with two different Ministers. Cathy Jamieson for my own Party and Kenny MacAskill for "them". He was by light years the better Minister.
But my job was to get the best deal for the "members" and that required me to consider who exactly these members were. For there were three different groups of members here.
The first were those who objected to my very existence. They did no legal aid work and saw no reason why I should be given office and resources to negotiate on "their" behalf. I wasn't myself being paid for this position but the research and support staff undoubtedly were. Which these objectors were paying for. I fought that battle every day, A profession should be a profession.
The second were those who, like myself, thought that Legal Aid was an essential public service but that reform might see it delivered more effectively. Those who saw (micro politics here) that moving to a block fee system which rewarded those who did the job efficiently at the expense of those who did not, benefited not only the better lawyers but the clients themselves. They were the people who saw me through.
The third however were the lump. And it was a big lump. Those who insisted that nothing should change, ever, except that they should be paid the same, and a bit more, for an otherwise never changing system.That the purpose of Legal Aid was not to provide a service to the public but to provide a living to them.
I went round the country on this round for four and a half years and invariably encountered the latter in significant number. I would like to think my own "but what about?" argument usually prevailed but, to be honest, that depended on the balance of those present. I certainly departed more than once with the message that "Drumsheugh Gardens" should "listen to the membership" and that I personally should resign, ringing in my ears. Except that on the train home I worked out that there were 200 members in the town of..... and that there had been 12 at the meeting.
And that is where the EIS is, I think, tonight.
The vast majority of teachers want to get back to work. They care for the children they teach and, when parents themselves, also realise the damage being done to their own kids lives by a lack of ongoing education. They get that there is a marginal risk to their own health, but that it is, now, clearly marginal and a risk worth undertaking for the greater good.
But the EIS is not listening to them. They are listening instead to those who go to meetings to insist that malingerers should be indulged. Malingers who declaim that their going to work would endanger the life of their elderly maiden aunt without ever being asked when they last actually saw the lady in question. And, by the way, could the Union just confirm they'd still be paid in full?
Scotland is a small country. I have known Larry Flanagan since he was a Trot in my Constituency Labour Party back in the early 1980s. I still felt him a sufficient acquaintance to call in a favour on a suggested expert witness in a personal injury case a couple of years back. A call he was good enough to assist with.
But he needs to listen to the vast majority of teachers who want to go back to work, To certainly sort out the personal protection they need and insist on it, But not to let policy be dictated by the minority who would find an excuse to never go back. Until their pension can kick in. And in the meantime be prepared to go to (virtual) meetings to protest as much.
For they are not the majority,
Call off the "holidays" and spend the next fortnight preparing to get back to work on 11th August, Then perhaps we could all stand on our doorsteps on a Thursday night and applaud the teachers. Dare I say to Larry, who I suspect knows his Lenin as well as me, and his Trotsky somewhat better, that would be the strategic move,