FOR a few months around September 2014, while I was campaigning for independence, I had to take on some shifts as a social care worker on minimum wage. I’d left my previous job to begin my diploma in legal practice at Dundee University – and I needed to make ends meet.

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But I didn’t last the pace. The work was heavy and involved personal care as well as what would have been considered nursing care in the past. I generally had 15 minutes per client, which included the time I spent driving between people’s homes. Even though I had other commitments I was constantly asked to do more shifts and made to feel guilty when I had to decline. As a woman, I was expected to care first and worry about my own needs last. From the very creation of the welfare state, the predominantly female workforce in the care sector has suffered exploitation and discrimination.

“Women’s work” has been taken for granted, demeaned and disrespected in the workplace and the home. Women’s efforts are either trashed – like people walking over a newly mopped floor – or they are patronised as “angels”. And when they dare to take action for fair and equal pay, they are condemned as selfish and irresponsible.

I’ve been supporting the fight for equal pay in Glasgow and elsewhere since the issue first raised its head when I was an MSP between 2003 and 2007. Back then, the Labour-LibDem coalition was in power at Holyrood and Labour controlled the vast majority of Scotland’s councils. In November 2006, I brought forward a motion in Holyrood calling for the Lab-Lib Scottish Executive to take action along with councils to treat the issue as an emergency that “should have been sorted out many years ago”. I warned that the resistance of Scotland’s local councils to rectifying this historic injustice was “legally dubious”. That’s what I said then, and I’m damned sure I’m not going to water down my support for the cause of equal pay now just because the political colours of councils have changed.

I find it dispiriting that some independence supporters are equivocal and worse over this dispute. I don’t have data to prove this point, but I suspect that many – and probably most – of the 8000 women who took part in the equal pay strike this week would have been Yes voters in 2014, and still support independence today.

This is not a Unionist conspiracy. It is an outpouring of impatience towards political authorities of whatever political persuasion who have talked endlessly about this problem for years but so far failed to deliver.

And yes, the Labour Party has behaved with bare-faced hypocrisy on this issue. For 20 years, from 1996 until 2016, Richard Leonard was an influential full-time official with the GMB trade union which, along with other unions, acted according to equal pay lawyer Stefan Cross “with complete apathy or even hostility” towards the marathon battle for justice.

And he wasn’t the only one.

I remember rollicking arguments with male trade unionists (of all parties and none) and with some SSP activists. A big section of the political left was at best lukewarm towards the call to reimburse woman the money that was stolen from them. Bin men would lose their bonuses. Councils would go bankrupt. Jobs would be lost.

They were quick to condemn lawyers such as Cross and Carol Fox for making money by taking up individual cases. But let’s be honest – if it had been left to the trade unions and the labour movement, we’d be still be stuck in 2006. It was legal action that changed the game.

Now women are striking and marching in opposition to an SNP-led council. And quite rightly so. The idea that thousands of bolshie Glesga women, as has been suggested by some soothsayers on social media, have somehow been manipulated into taking action by a Labour Party on its knees and led by a man who couldn’t light a sparkler, in some sort of politically motivated campaign to undermine the SNP and independence, is dangerously deluded and insulting to the women.

And it ignores the sea change that has taken place in Scottish politics as a result of the 2014 referendum, seriously eroding that historic link between the Scottish trade union movement and the Labour Party.

Even before 2003, when I was a Unison branch secretary, the grip the Labour Party once had on the trade unions was weakening. Many trade union members had already begun switching allegiance to other parties, including the SNP, the SSP and the Greens.

In Scotland today, many, if not most, trade union activists support independence. I know people who went from being Labour Party and trade union activists in 2003 to chapping doors for independence in 2014. Many of them are now in the leadership of the unions. I’ve also seen people suggesting that the 20,000 teachers who demonstrated in Glasgow on Saturday had somehow been whipped up by Corbyn’s Labour Party. This completely mystifies me. Perhaps something to do with Corbyn’s corduroys and Hush Puppies? Or perhaps, more credibly, just a genuine march in favour of better pay.

Again, there will have been thousands of teachers on that march who support independence. That doesn’t mean they’re going to put the rest of their life on hold in the meantime. If every public-sector workforce, straining under a decade of pay freezes, is to be treated as a Unionist enemy, then where on Earth do people think an independence majority is going to come from?

If we are to achieve independence, who are we expecting to vote for it if not the carers and cleaners and classroom assistants of Glasgow and the rest of the country?

Are we really going to dismiss the voting power of 50,000 teachers?

I absolutely agree that the Labour Party’s role in the Glasgow City Council equal pay scandal is deplorable. But whitabbootery will not deliver to the women what is long overdue – the money that has been denied them for over a decade.

The SNP undoubtedly inherited the problem. And they’ve also inherited officials who seem to be among the main road blocks holding back a settlement. But the current council has now been in power for 18 months – and still the women have not had their money.

I understand that it will have to be found in the midst of biting austerity. Various options have been floated, from selling off some council assets such as Dali’s Christ of St John on the Cross to borrowing money on a 50-year loan. Many of the women involved might feel that selling off a painting depicting a human sacrifice might be a fitting conclusion to this dispute. Many have literally died waiting on a settlement.

But wherever the money comes from, and however many whitaboots are traded in the course of this sorry saga, let’s be under no illusions, it’s the women’s money – and it belongs in their bank accounts now.