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Scott Bernard

Bernard Scott

Born in 1923, Bernard Scott was born in the inner-city community of Armley in west Leeds and lived in the city all his life. After leaving school, he became a librarian. During the second world war, he trained as a pilot with the Royal Air Force, returning as a Warrant Officer. He then went to Leeds University and became a history teacher, which he remained until his retirement. He taught in one of Britain’s first comprehensive schools, Foxwood in Seacroft in east Leeds and was  active in the National Union of Teachers.

In the late 1940s he joined the Communist Party, where he met Rita Ford, who he went on to marry and have two sons with, Raymond and Geoff.  The latter told the Morning Star: “He did football reports for the Daily Worker during the heyday of Leeds United, writing under the name Ron Ford. I used to deliver it with him in Armley and Wortley in Leeds during the 1950s and ’60s.”  Among his many comrades in Yorkshire was Anne Lee, also a teacher. “I got to know Bernard personally when I canvassed for him in the 1970 general election,” she said. “He was one of two candidates who stood in Leeds. On the door steps there was evidence that he was a well-known political and trade union activist — one feller in Quarry Hill Flats shouted at me, ‘bugger off you lot! I’m voting for Bernard Scott’.”

After retirement, he and Rita moved to the market town of Otley, outside Leeds, where he founded a Communist Party branch, establishing a Saturday Morning Star round. Together with comrades, he helped initiate the Otley Peace Action Group, supporting the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament but with a wider anti-war agenda.  He was on a committee that organised mass “peace picnics” at the US National Security Agency’s satellite spy base at Menwith Hill, outside Harrogate, in 1981-2.

The miners’ strike of 1984-5 saw the founding of miners’ support groups across Britain as the dispute lengthened.  Bernard was involved in founding one in Otley, co-operating with another support group in nearby Yeadon. Activists in the two communities had links with Sharlston colliery, a pit employing 1,000 miners 50 miles away, between Wakefield and Doncaster. Miners from Sharlston joined the Otley and Yeadon activists staging street collections every Saturday. Among the Sharlston men was Mick Appleyard, who became the pit’s delegate to Yorkshire area council of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). “We collected money together in Otley during the strike,” he said. “I liked collecting with Bernard because he was so intelligent. He taught me a lot. From day one Bernard was helping us financially and morally — I salute Bernard for what he did for the miners of Sharlston during the strike.

Anne Lee said: “Bernard was with the Sharlston miners every week throughout the strike. Despite initial hostility, owing to media propaganda depicting the miners’ pickets as violent, they won the townsfolk round.” Friendships between the Sharlston miners and the Otley activists continued after the strike, particularly through NUM involvement in the peace movement.  “The miners never forgot the support Bernard gave, and the friendships he made lasted until his death,” said Ms Lee.  Bernard Scott was involved in building the anti-poll tax campaign which preceded the downfall of Margaret Thatcher.

Concerned about reformist moves to the right in the Communist Party of Great Britain, he was a founder member of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) in 1988, which retained possession of the Party’s programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism, and loyalty to the Morning Star. He was for a period Leeds and Yorkshire district secretary of the CPB. Anne Lee said: “Throughout his political activism, Bernard was unwavering in his deep commitment to Marxism-Leninism. As secretary of Leeds and Yorkshire District, his concise political analysis and his leadership provided inspiration for younger comrades.”

Bernard Scott died on February 22 at the age of 94, his wife, Rita, died in 2006. 

Peter Lazenby

Based on his Obituary in the Morning Star of 10 March 2017