• MySTV

Thatcher remembered: The 'Poll Tax' protester Tommy Sheridan

He was a young firebrand when Margaret Thatcher introduced the poll tax. Here Tommy Sheridan reflects on her decision and the anti-poll tax campaign.

Tommy Sheridan: Served just over a year in jail.

Tommy Sheridan. Secretary of Pollok Anti-Poll Tax Union, Chair of Scottish and All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation. Tommy Sheridan, jailed for six months for attending a warrant sale demonstration in Turnbull Street on October 1, 1991. By the time John Major called time on the community charge in 1992, he had become one of the most recognised faces in Scottish and UK politics. Here he shares his memories of Margaret Thatcher's legacy in Scotland.

“One thing needs to be made clear. The poll tax demonstrations weren’t a call to arms by the Labour Party or the Anti-Poll Tax Union or Tommy Sheridan.

The anti-poll tax demos were the result of one thing. Poverty - and that was a poverty caused by one woman and her politics, Thatcher.

She came to power in 1979 and before Thatcher and Thatcherism, someone of my generation, someone growing up in Pollok, didn’t know what the dole or unemployment was - or the apathy, despair, drugs and homelessness that it led to.

Hers was a politic that was a horrific turn on Robin Hood, robbing the poor and giving to the rich.

The Community Charge, or the Poll Tax, was this in excess. It represented the most graphic attempt to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich.

All of a sudden a normal Glasgow family living in a tenement would find themselves paying more to keep a roof over their heads while someone in a mansion would be paying less.

When it was announced that Scotland would become the guinea pig for this new regime then fear of poverty was followed by resentment and revolt. This was where Margaret Thatcher set her downfall.

Until then, Thatcher had picked her fights individually. There was the miners, the steelworkers, all of these different groups who she had taken on separately and beaten. But this time she was taking on everyone together.

For the campaigners it was a matter of telling everyone that she couldn’t hurt society if society all stuck together.

People talk of the miners’ 12 months of strike action which brought communities together as a civil war without the bullets, and it was. It brought whole communities together.

The anti Poll Tax campaign was another act of civil war. Except this time it was a whole nation that was brought together.

And they did come together.

We started with hundreds of people taking part in marches and demonstrations but it quickly grew to tens of thousands and to give it some perspective, by 1989 there were one million people involved in the non-payment campaign.

One million people in Scotland alone refusing to pay this new tax - and that was despite the fear of warrant sales, of officers breaking into people’s homes and taking their goods, things they had worked hard and saved to buy.

It was the warrant sale protest in October 1 1991 that led to me going to jail but it was worth it.I had been interdicted from attending a proposed warrant sale against a lone parent who could not afford to pay her Poll Tax.

Her seized goods would were to be sold at an auction and 300 of us attended to demonstrate and to stop it going ahead.

I went to prison for six months but it helped stopped the officers and the Government humiliating a lone parent. The fact that, to this day, not a single warrant sale has taken place is truly uplifting.

What is inspiring is that those Poll Tax demonstrations, which started in Scotland and then moved to England and Wales, showed the power of society working together.

Thatcher was seen as unbreakable and too powerful to be taken on. But when the rest of Britain reacted in the same way as Scotland and the number of non-payments stretched to millions of people, the poll tax proved unworkable - and she was no longer the Iron Lady.

It helped bring an end to Margaret Thatcher’s reign and brought an end to Thatcherism.

But the poll tax isn’t Margaret Thatcher’s true legacy. Her true legacy is giving birth to New Labour.”

STV Local reporting team: Neil Drysdale, Graham Fraser, Kayleigh McLeod, Douglas Barrie, Jonathan Rennie, Kris Gilmartin, Laura McLean, Greig Gallagher & Ian Hendry.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.