Inspiring women

March 7th, 2011

I had the pleasure of welcoming three amazing women to the Scottish Parliament this week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Lee Jeans sit-in.

Helen Monaghan, Catherine Robertson and Margaret Wallace were among the 240 women who fought to keep their jobs and captured the imagination of the country that was being crushed by unemployment.

To mark the occasion, we held a debate in the Scottish Parliament to pay tribute to that momentous struggle.

It was a great just to share memories and stories about those days, which I witnessed at close quarters as a trade union convener at the time.

This was very much a female occupation and there were no warnings about bevy or vandalism. Instead, cleaning and cooking rotas were drawn up and babies were even brought up in the factory.

These women became an inspiration, not just because of the stand they took, but because they won that fight and kept their jobs.

It happened at a time when the trade union movement was demoralised, with the loss of the militant car workers at Chrysler, the Red Clydesiders watching the shipyards being closed, the steel plants being shut down and the mighty NUM under attack and on its knees, the Lee Jeans offered a spark of light in very dark times.

Those women inspired a generation of people, including many of those who now join me on the benches in Holyrood.

I like to think that the Scottish Parliament was brought about by the resistance of those who fought and did not get victory.

This year, we need to use those examples of the commitment and determination to fight for the right to work.

It is a reminder that this parliament was set up to ensure that the people of Scotland were protected from uncaring governments that believe that unemployment is a price worth paying.