I WAS recently commissioned to write a wee thing about the Radical War, also known as the Scottish Insurrection of 1820. A part of our history I admittedly knew nothing about beforehand. 

It was a fascinating subject to delve into, reading about how the workers of Scotland went on strike to demand better pay, better working conditions and a better standard of life for themselves and their families. 

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It was focused in particular on one man, Andrew Hardie, who found himself at the very epicentre of the uprising. 

It’s something I think a lot of people would enjoy reading about and would encourage you all to go and look up his story online, I can’t really do it justice here in just 800 words. 

What it got me thinking about was some interesting parallels between then and now. 

With a lot of talk online just now of Scotland trialling a four-day working week, people wanting Universal Basic Income, demands for an increase of the minimum wage and the news of Universal Credit cuts and national insurance increases, it seems like people are ready to once again apply some pressure and demand that things get better for us all instead of worse. 

It got me thinking about how, even though conditions for workers are undoubtedly much better than they were in the 19th century, there’s still some aspects which seem completely draconian and archaic. 

I remember working a 14-hour shift in a sports shop when I was 16 for £3.93 an hour. 

A whole day of my life sold for the princely sum of £55. 


It’s illegal to get a 16-year-old to work such a shift, I knew at the time and so did my employers but what would have happened if I’d challenged it? 

I was still in my probation period so I could have just been told I failed and shown the door. 

They could’ve decided I was a troublemaker and reduced my hours until I left by my volition, jumping before I was pushed. 

Extended opening hours at Christmas meant we would open the shop at 8am and remain open until midnight. 

I’d do a long shift where I’d help close up, get home at almost one in the morning then have to get up and get ready to go back to work for eight. 

I thought of doing that as a kind of badge of honour, I was a grafter.

I just got on with it and didn’t moan. Some of you reading this almost certainly work a lot harder than I ever did in a sports shop and work longer hours under much more difficult conditions. 

You probably think I’m being a work-shy layabout by moaning about it now. I respect that, but the fact remains that no-one, and I mean no-one, should have to do that in this day and age.

It’s madness to me that we all just go along with it.

After about five years in the sports shop, I decided to perform my own wee acts of rebellion against the system. 

I’d started reading a lot about communism and for some reason became interested in what the world could be like if everything got better. 


Until that day came though, I was going to rebel in my own way. I was on minimum wage and so that meant my employers would be getting minimum effort. 

“If they could get away with paying me less,” I thought, “They definitely would.”

I was well regarded in the shop as one of the hardest working there so that meant they’d notice any dip in my form. I had to be clever about it. 

I cultivated an air of being stressed at all times. 

I’d take on two different jobs at the same time, given to me by different managers and would complete neither of them, blaming one manager when questioned by another. 

I was a master of doing hee-haw. I’d mentor the new starts in ways that they too could get away with doing nothing. 

The best places to hide in the shop, the easiest tasks that took up the most time, how presenting yourself as being good at cleaning could buy you an hour of chilling in the staff room when you were supposed to be cleaning it. 

They brought in a new system of clocking in which would dock you fifteen minutes pay if you clocked in one minute past your starting time. 

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Why come in straight away if you’re five minutes late, I thought. Just chill and take your time in that case, you won’t lose any extra. 

Looking back on all this now, it is a miracle I wasn’t simply sacked. 

I’ve no doubt that, in my lifetime, we’ll see the introduction of a four or even three-day working week. We’ll see Universal Basic Income in some form as well. 

Things will get better, whether those at the top want them to or not. There’s more of us than them. 

Until then, do what you can to rebel against the system and we’ll get the changes we want eventually.