Ailsa McKay 1963-2014

What a shock today to Google the name of Ailsa McKay and to find she had died in the last 24 hours. I wanted to get in touch about an interview with her and didn’t realise she was so poorly. Such a grounded and committed woman to lose at any time but with Scotland in political turmoil her presence was like a rock. My condolences go to her family.


I always loved her description as a feminist economist and her no-nonsense sentiments on life and economics, how she worked her way through the ranks to become Professor of Economics and a UN adviser and was guided by who she was…a strong Scottish working class woman. She wrote about the role of women in the referendum and why they might be less inclined to vote Yes. Here is a quote:

The position of women in the Scottish economy has left them extremely vulnerable to the impact of economic recession. Both as workers in the public sector and as users of public services women have been hardest hit by the level and range of public sector spending cuts imposed as a result of a favoured austerity agenda.

Women’s unemployment in Scotland has almost doubled over the period from 2007 to 2012. Over the same period a rise in the number of part time jobs against a fall in full time jobs amongst women indicates that women may be ‘underemployed’ in a stagnating economy. In addition, reform to the welfare system has resulted in wide ranging reductions in benefits, an increase in pension contributions and an increase in the age at which pensions can be drawn. This comes on top of a two-year wage freeze for the majority of workers in the public sector in Scotland.  So the terms and conditions of public sector workers, the majority of whom are women in Scotland, are deteriorating. Furthermore, as the public sector continues to contract, a consequence of increasing austerity measures, more women will lose their jobs and at the same time will find their eligibility and access to social security payments significantly restricted. The full article is here’s-future-do-women-care.

She will always be a reminder of what we are as a nation – tough, inspired and uncompromising, overlaid with wit. Her presence in the campaign and contribution to Radical Independence has provided a beacon for all. We should all be grateful for her.

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19 thoughts on “Ailsa McKay 1963-2014

  1. She was the one Economist that I felt talked “to” me and not “at” me …. a distinction that is lost on many others I feel. My condolences not only to her family but to her colleagues who I am sure will miss her academic rigour and laser sharp wit immensely.

  2. It is unfortunate I know that I should bring this up among the comments to your piece on the life of Ailsa McKay but the common humanity of the sentiments you express are somewhat at odds with my recent experience on this blog and I find this very concerning.

    I thought there was some sort of community of interest here. – a broad mutually supportive church open (mostly) to like minded people who had the interests of Scotland at heart. So I am disappointed to find that for some reason my comments have been “moderated” out of existence.

    I take no personal offence, I’m too old and mature for that, but I do have serious concerns as to why there should be any such censorship among people who should be friends actively working towards a common cause – after all we have enough enemies out there. I can’t think of what was so offensive in the comments I have made to justify my exclusion. So before I get out of your hair permanently it would be interesting to know on what basis I have been effectively silenced.

    I don’t really expect an answer because I assume Derek is far too busy for that. So to whoever makes these “moderating” decisions for him just pass on my well wishes to him, I had a lot of respect for him. You have my email address. I am perfectly happy to “belt up” but it would be interesting to know what the hell is going on.

    • You weren’t moderated – you were forgotten – along with some others I missed as I sometimes do because this is like a full-time job and with my other duties I sometime make mistakes. I may need to take on help soon if the pace keeps up so don’t be surprised if a Donate button courtesy of Bateman Global Media appears on the blog to help keep the show on the road. Early donors will get Foundation Status and special offers!

      • Thank God for that Derek. I wondered if that could be the case – that somehow the posts had been overlooked. But when it happened a couple of times I thought “bloody hell what is going on”. I couldn’t believe that you were rejecting the stuff I was saying. So thanks for taking the time to give me a prompt answer.

        Again strength to your elbow. I very much appreciate the effort you are making for our communal cause.



      • macgilleleabhar

        It is sad losing someone at any time but Ailsa McKay was at an age when many are just getting into their stride.
        As regards donations Derek I would welcome the chance to pay back some of the pleasure I enjoy in reading your blog.

  3. I was shocked when I heard the news yesterday. I took it for granted that she would be at the forefront of making Scotland a better place after the Yes vote, so it’s tragic that she won’t even be here to see the referendum result. I always loved seeing her on TV as she had brilliant ideas, and was such a welcome change from the usual economist attitude. I’m glad there’s a YouTube clip of her speech at the RIC last year, forever capturing her warmth, humour and passion towards making Scotland a better place. Hopefully some of her ideas will be adopted – I suspect she was influential in the SNP’s childcare policy, but she had many other great ideas.

    She favourited one of my more Cybernatty tweets recently, which gave me a bit of a thrill – no airs and graces there, just a down to earth, intelligent person trying to do her bit in the world. Definitely a big loss.

  4. There is poll data showing women are one of the big No groups.
    Women make up a large part of public service employees, such as hospital staff, so it is quite concerning to hear they oppose Independence.
    As pointed out the public services are being targeted in the rest of the UK. So far the Scottish Government has promised to protect those jobs as much as possible.
    But pressures on the Scottish budget could affect them.
    If there were a No vote the pressure would be much greater.
    There seems to be a complacency among workers inthe Health Service that they believe they will be safe.

    • One of my closest friends – a single woman in her 40’s, working for the NHS – has been “informed” that the funding for the NHS in Scotland is regularly topped-up by the NHS in England and that a vote for independence will end this auxiliary funding and start risking many jobs within NHS Scotland. For this reason, she is planning on voting “No”. If this is something that’s being peddled widely throughout the Scottish NHS then that might help to explain some of the polling figures. I’ve already raised this with my SNP MSP but I’ve had no response thus far. My next step is going to be to try and raise it directly with Alex Neil, our Health Secretary.

      • Doug not heard that one but there is unfortunately a lot of staff who think it is one big NHS.
        Did notice though the GMB were out in force a few weeks ago …

  5. For Ailsa McKay and all those who have gone before and upon whose shoulders we stand;

    Thank you and we will do our utmost to deliver independence.

    Saor Alba

  6. A fine woman.I hope we can do her memory proud in our new Scotland.Yes we can.

  7. I meant to add its good that we have the community we have here.I am outnumbered 101 in my job in the insurance industry.I sometimes feel I have to defend everything on my own.

  8. Such thoughtful and well meant comments will not be forgotten by Ailsa, her colleagues or friends and family. Real community stuff indeed. Lots of love to all.

  9. Dunkie, here is the difference in aproach from Derek and NNS, and to whom NNS, I wish all strength to your elbows, but a real response, halleleujia!!!!

  10. She was the only economist I knew to ask the fundamental question: what is the economy for? A sore loss to the community.

  11. A great inspirational Lady

  12. Derek, your blog always proves an enlightening read. I am cheered that you are publicly campaigning for a Yes vote.

    Regarding the BBC, I have observed your gradual acceptance of their bias although you still believe it is not organised and co-ordinated. I like many others who have commented believe it is just that; however whether it is or isn’t, the result is the same – the BBC is definitely an active campaigner for a No vote. So much so that they have overplayed their hand and lost much of the credibility they formerly enjoyed in Scotland. Regarding Naughtie (Wormtongue) I think most people can see what he is up to and don’t take him very seriously.

    STV’s coverage, miniscule compared to the omnipresence of the BBC, seems to me to be less focussed on promoting a No vote, however their coverage is mixed and it is clear they do not wish to enable a sensible debate format/moderation but prefer to set up a sensationalist barney which leaves no chance for the viewers to learn anything. Pathetic!

    Mainstream coverage of the referendum is designed to prevent a Yes vote and it is up to us ordinary Yessers to just laugh and take the mickey out of them; not difficult with the increasingly predictable, ludicrous scaremongering and undisguised threats they dish out daily. It is one way to counter their on-air dominance and their unremitting stream of negativity towards Scots and Scotland.

    The first thing I usually say to anyone in reference to the referendum is don’t believe the BBC. Undecided folk are often willing to engage in a sensible discussion. However as a matter of fact my experience of trying to discuss the referendum with acquaintances/strangers who hold a No view is that they invariably clam up, get angry and refuse to talk about it at all. I assume this is because they have no coherent case to remain in the union – like Better Together.

    I have been optimistic since the the Referendum became a reality that the result will be Yes, despite the power of the British State and its willing North British accolytes (aka. Scotch Toadies). I also put faith in the Yes leadership which seems to me to have a well thought out strategy. The London media remain in willful denial and prefer not to notice the freight train of Scottish independence rolling down the tracks towards them. I trust they will get a shock on Thursday 18th September.

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