Lines on Thatcher's legacy

12th April 2013 at 01:00

Before Voldemort, Scotland had Thatcher. I was a child in the 1970s, born the year after the baroness took over the Department for Education and Science in 1971. By the time she handed over to John Major in 1990, I was part of a generation that had never known anything but her reign.

As I grew up, it was clear that she was beyond hated. It wasn't a passion that was felt - more a fact, as plain as the grey sky. I once asked an Orcadian what they thought about the Scottish Parliament, and they replied that it had nothing to do with them. That's how Scotland felt about Thatcher's Westminster dynasty - it was observed rather than experienced.

As education secretary, she earned the moniker of "milk snatcher" for cutting funding for milk provision to primary children. Interestingly it was a Labour government, prior to hers, that had done the same for secondary schools, but the name stuck to her. We even chanted it in the playground. Much of what is thought of Lady Thatcher is a cocktail of passion, fact and invention, especially to the young and the careless, and that was as true then as now. She presided over a term of office in which she signed off more schools into becoming comprehensives than any other education minister, yet she was seen and remembered as the grande dame of tripartite education. Edward Heath, her prime minister, barely tolerated her. Scotland would have agreed. I didn't know a single person who would admit to supporting her; in my university days she was the Clause 28 bogey lady. I marched - with many others - on demonstrations that chanted for her to be "out, out, out". Twenty-five years later, that same venom bled to the surface again in George Square, Glasgow, as witless children raised on ghost stories, chanted "deid, deid, deid". Few things are as unattractive as hubris.

There was a sign on the M8 this week between Glasgow and Edinburgh. It read "Scotland's partying - burn in hell MT". I hope it isn't, but I know it is.

There is too much anger in a country that knows how to nurse anger. Maybe this death can bring something that Scotland badly needs - to move on, and look ahead, not back.

Tom Bennett, secondary RE teacher.

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