I was a young rebel aged 16. It was the early 1970’s and I had been interested in politics at school and joined a political party which I though best represented my views.
After being informed that I had been selected to go to a major conference in my home town of Glasgow, I chose to speak on a subject that was close to my heart: public transport.
The bus fares had been rising progressively for some time with no apparent improvements in the quality of service. I decided that radical, direct action was required to bring this to the forefront of political debate.
The conference was being held at a major venue in Glasgow and I was becoming increasingly nervous as the date neared. This would be the first time I had spoken in public and I began to wonder if I was perhaps out of my depth. What if I made a laughingstock of myself? Was I just kidding myself that I could make a difference?
Anyway, the day had come and the venue was packed out. Before it was my turn to talk, I heard speeches from people who were obviously very experienced. They didn’t help me feel less worried.
It seemed like ages before the Chairperson declared that a motion on public transport was to be debated. I felt sick and my stomach was doing somersaults when my name was called.
I had done my homework and made my way to the podium, clutching my prepared notes and feeling very nervous. Standing at the table, looking out at the hundreds of faces waiting to see what I had to say, I have to admit I thought about running for the door.
I started my speech, gripping the table to stop myself from falling over, and went into a tirade about the unfairness of the high bus fares and how it affected people with very little income and prevented them getting out and about in the community.
There was warm applause and it looked like I was winning the audience over to support my motion. I suggested that we should organise a campaign of direct action and ‘take over’ targeted buses, lock ourselves in and demand the lowering of fares and increased services!
Although this was well received by the younger elements in the audience, the more experienced in the room disagreed and explained that this may actually isolate public opinion and that a more pragmatic campaign of leafleting and approaching local representatives may be a better approach.
Although I still felt that the more radical approach had merits, I agreed with the more experienced colleagues that we needed to win public support on the issue.
I was, however, quite proud that I had actually managed to get through to the audience and that by working together we’d be able to make positive changes in people’s lives.