I’VE NEVER watched more than a few seconds of Big Brother. I couldn’t tell you a single name of any of the “non-celebrity” contestants, and only a very few of the “celebrity” ones.
But I do know that Tommy Sheridan, the former Scottish Socialist/Solidarity MSP (note to The Independent: he was never an MP) is on Celebrity Big Brother at the moment. Here in Scotland, where people have actually heard of him, his appearance has caused a bit of controversy. Personally, I am overcome with apathy.
However, now is as good a time as any once again to scotch the Myth of Tommy the Poll Tax Martyr: there are those who cling to the belief that Tommy was jailed back in 1990 for refusing to pay the poll tax. He wasn’t.
In fact, in Scotland non-payment of poll tax was not an offence that could carry a custodial sentence. He was actually jailed for breaking a legal interdict not to attend and protest at a warrant sale. Warrant sales were auctions of debtors’ domestic property carried out to rase money to pay their debts, in this case unpaid poll tax. A barbaric practice, of course, and Tommy deserves some credit for the highlighting and ultimate scrapping of a practice that many had never heard of before he took to the streets with his megaphone.
Nonetheless, poll-tax non-payer he undoubtedly was – poll tax martyr he ain’t.
Just so we’re clear.