It is a terrible thing to lose one's faith in one's country, and if I'd not been asked the independence question I might well have kept quiet about it, but I don't want to be queried in future days about what I did during the debate and have to reply,

Forty years ago, my parents returned to Scotland to manage a training centre.

They were treated as incomers (and not in a nice way), victimized, assaulted and on one occasion locked out of their place of work. On another occasion, threats were made to evict them from their tied house, which would have left us homeless.

This went on for thirteen years, I grew up hearing about it every night and, as the Hopi and Navajo believe, it was as if a dark wind entered my soul. My father once defined the attitudes we encountered as "a drip of poison."

My mother was forced to retire early because of the vicious treatment she received from an official at Strathclyde Region, then the largest local authority in Britain. My father was a World War II veteran, and my mother always said the bravest thing she ever saw him do was walk back into the training centre after they'd been locked out, and face up to the people who'd done it.

The way you are treated in your formative years shapes you for the rest of your life.

We bought our own house in another part of Scotland, where the people were different, and did our best to put it behind us.

But of course, you never quite forget.

Just before the turn of the Millennium, I was asked to catalogue the local subscription library on behalf of South Lanarkshire Council. I agreed to do so, and voluntarily worked every weekend for a year to complete the job on the understanding I'd receive a letter from the council thanking me for doing so.

I also quietly said to myself that I'd do my job, and as long as they carried out their part of the bargain, I'd put my memories of Strathclyde Region behind me.

One simple letter.

They didn't do it. The reason given (and this is verbatim) was:

"Ooooh, we cannae do that. The council widnae like it."

I ended up paraphrasing Tunes of Glory, calling the then-leader of South Lanarkshire Council the meanest of mean men, and swearing I'd never lift a finger to help the council again.

Time went on and, as detailed in Dear Miss Landau, I joined a Scottish public sector organisation about the same size as the late and unlamented Strathclyde Region.

I have not the space adequately to describe the horror of realizing that virtually nothing had changed since the days of Strathclyde Region. The organisation completely failed to deal with my Aspergers, pushed me into a near-nervous breakdown, left me hanging in redeployment hell for years and finally, disgracefully, offered me a part-time post in writing, put me through twelve weeks of trial (which I passed with flying colours) and then and only then told me there was no work.

People with autism often have limited employment options, and that job was my holy grail.

To offer it to me and then withdraw it at the very last moment was utterly beyond the pale.

I had no respect left for authority after that.

Before I left the organisation, I contacted the Scottish Government several times re the treatment I had endured. I received nothing except bland reassurances in reply and suggestions I contact ACAS.

Holyrood seemed identical to Westminster, and the whole lumpen morass of government and public sector just felt like Strathclyde Region all over again.

I kept the correspondence, by the way, and that might well have been the end of it.

It's no revelation to say that as they grow older, people can become very disillusioned with politicians, the public sector and governments - in fact with just about everything. Life is unfair, and it's also hard, brutish, nasty and short.

But now the Scottish Government is talking of independence. There are good arguments both for and against, but rather than just putting up with the status quo I'm being asked whether I want them to be my leaders, YES or NO.

It's vital to say that I also met very kind people in the organisations for which I worked, that I am grateful beyond words to the union representative who unstintingly fought tooth and nail for me for years, and that without the help and commitment of autism charities I would have been destroyed, but do I really want the same kind of people who ran Strathclyde Region, South Lanarkshire Council and that public sector organisation in charge of me?

Am I willing to trust them?

No, I'm not.

It's a pity, because if Strathclyde Region had welcomed my parents with open arms, if South Lanarkshire Council had written one simple letter and if the organisation had delivered on their promise of a post after several years of hell, I might be talking a different tune.

But they did not, and I am not.

It is a terrible thing to lose one's faith in one's country, and if I'd not been asked the independence question I might well have kept quiet about it, but I don't want to be queried in future days about what I did during the debate and have to reply, "well, I didn't want trouble so I just kept my head down."

Scotland is a fine country, but I'll never trust its leaders again.


James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.


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