THE Troubles aren’t over. Ask Michael Pike, who’ll tell you about the film he watched recently and how it brought back memories of the time he held a gun to a man’s face and nearly pulled the trigger.

“I found myself getting really f****** angry,” he says. “I had to draw the curtains and open a can of beer and think: tomorrow is a new day.”

Or ask Helen Whitters, who’ll tell you about the secret British Government file that has her son’s name on it. He was killed by a plastic bullet in Londonderry/Derry nearly 40 years ago but she still hasn’t seen what the file contains.

And ask Ian Wood, who will talk about the recent fire attack in which a pub was destroyed, and the young men who enjoy strutting their stuff in the flute bands, on both sides.

All of these stories are about Northern Ireland, but they are stories about Scotland too. Michael Pike grew up in Glasgow. Helen Whitters has lived for most of her life in Clydebank. And the pub that was burnt out last month, it isn’t in Londonderry/Derry or Belfast, it’s in Govan

Both Michael and Helen know the connections well because they’ve lived them. But their experiences reveal the bigger story too: how Northern Ireland has affected Scotland, and the role Scots played in the Troubles. Many Scottish families suffered direct bereavement. Some Scots saw themselves as brothers-in-arms with their comrades over the water. And during the Troubles, around 40,000 Scottish military personnel served in Northern Ireland, often experiencing the worst of the fighting.

Michael Pike, known as Spike, was one of those soldiers. Michael was born in 1960 and grew up in a council house in Milngavie. His father was English, his mother was from Yoker, and he says his childhood was pretty rough at times. His father was violent and Michael remembers tiptoeing round the house trying not to provoke him.

As for religion, Michael’s mother was Protestant but he says it wasn’t until primary school that the religious divide was thrust upon him. The Catholic kids from up the road would pick on him. He remembers putting a brick in his bag and hitting one of the Catholic boys with it.

With the lure of travel and adventure, he joined the Scots Guards in the late 1970s. If there had been some goodwill when British troops were first deployed in the late 1960s, then it was long gone by the time Spike arrived. Scottish soldiers had been accused of brutality during a crackdown imposed on the Falls Road, and on March 10 1971, the Provisional IRA murdered three unarmed soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Royal Highland Fusiliers.

He arrived in 1981. “Kids would throw bricks or anything they could get their hands on,” he says. “Old women would spit at me and call me a Brit bastard; people would set dogs on you.”

Back home, some other Scots were feeling the same way, and were prepared to take action. Money was raised here and sent to Northern Ireland to fund both Loyalist and Republican terrorists; others smuggled arms into the province.

Here Michael was, a working-class lad from a council house in Glasgow, and he was pointing guns at men who were a bit like him, and he sometimes felt the connection. “It was unconscious,” he says. “I wouldn’t say in front of the other lads.”

In a way, Helen Whitters felt something similar, especially when she was regularly stopped and searched by the military in her home city of Londonderry/Derry. For a time, Helen, her husband Des, and her young son Paul lived in Clydebank, but they returned to Londonderry/Derry in the mid-1970s when there was a ceasefire and they thought things were looking up. They were wrong. A few years later, the hunger strike of Bobby Sands in 1981 provoked rioting and Helen’s son Paul, by then 15, was there. There was a knock at the door and a boy told Helen, “your son has been hit with a plastic bullet”.

He died 10 days later.

For years afterwards, Helen couldn’t bear to talk about what happened. “I didn’t want to know that a gun fired at 160 miles per hour and that someone fired that at my son’s head,” she says. But now she is campaigning to see the file that the British Government has on her son’s death. It is marked “sealed until 2059”. Helen is 73.

“There’s never been a real investigation,” she says, “Paul didn’t need to be shot. Paul could have pushed to the ground. But they got away with those things at the time.” We do know that Paul was shot by a member of the RUC. And we know the plastic bullet that killed him was made in Scotland.

Eventually, it was all too much for Helen. She was trying to keep things from her younger son Aidan, her marriage broke down, and she decided to come back to Glasgow, where she has been since. “I had to choose,” she says, “and it was the best thing I could do at the time. I know we have a problem with sectarianism and football and all the rest of it in Scotland, but it’s still better than Northern Ireland.”

There was never a complete escape from the Troubles in Scotland, though. In December 1971, the UVF detonated a bomb at McGurk’s Bar in Belfast; the explosives came from Scotland. Eight years later, the UVF bombed two Catholic pubs in Glasgow, the Old Barns in Calton and the Clelland Bar in the Gorbals. And in 1981 a bomb was detonated at the Sullom Voe terminal in Shetland during a visit by the Queen. It was attributed to the IRA. There were no injuries in these attacks.

Ian S Wood, the historian and writer who has contributed to a new BBC documentary about the Troubles, says that in many ways Scotland was lucky not to have suffered worse attacks.

He explains: “A crucial factor was the Provisional IRA never undertook offensive operations in Scotland or hardly ever.

“I have never found the proof the Provisional IRA had a standing order forbidding bombings in Scotland – it’s often said and I’ve heard Republicans say it and I don’t doubt it.”

Wood is also concerned that the Troubles, 50 years on from their beginning, are fuelling sectarianism. He worries about the impact of Brexit too.

He mentions last month’s suspicious fire at the Tall Cranes pub in Govan, which was a base for a Republican flute band.

“There are young men in Scotland who still like to think themselves as keepers of the flame, be they Loyalist or Republican,” he says. “And the fact that the Loyalist bands in Scotland are stronger than they have ever been, that’s a product of the Troubles, without a doubt. I think for a lot of people in Scotland, a very vocal body of opinion at Celtic games, there’s still the sense of unfinished business.”

In the years that have followed, Michael has thought deeply about what he was doing in Northern Ireland, as a soldier, and as a Scotsman, and as a socialist. Part of his way of dealing with all these questions is to throw himself into his activism with campaigning group Veterans for Peace. Helen Whitters is doing something similar with her mission to see the report on the death of her son.

She also values her life in Scotland. There’s been sectarian trouble in Glasgow recently, she knows that, and she knows that the Scottish scars of the Troubles haven’t healed yet. “But if there’s something wrong, I’m not going to ask you if you’re Protestant or Catholic,” she says. “I think we’re more positive here in Scotland, and that’s why I came back.”

The War Next Door: Scotland And The Troubles starts on Tuesday at 10pm on the BBC Scotland channel