Colin Turbett

Social History, Social Work, Bikes …. and Socialism


"Social Work was always the only thing I really wanted to do. Experience of life in Scotland and of working within a Social Work Department in 1973-4 led naturally to job applications, a Trainee Social Worker post with Lanarkshire County Council, and then to training. I was lucky to be coming into the job at that time: although this was no golden age, there was enthusiasm amongst staff and public support for social work.  The recent 1968 Social Work Scotland Act was imbued with the notion of "community" as being central to where resources should be, and to practice. Managers that I met and knew welcomed keen and critical social workers. I spent three years at Moray House in Edinburgh (1975-78) where ideas of community social work were fundamental to the course. So were notions of social justice and the role of social work in promoting a better world. We were encouraged to question and challenge, characteristics I never wanted to give up. I started writing about social work matters in 2004 after completing a Masters Degree a few years earlier, and have had two books and some academic papers published since. Subject matter has been related to rural practice, radical forms of practice in the frontline, Scottish Gypsy Traveller rights, and Asylum Seeker and Migrant rights. I have also tried to promote progressive ideas through activity with my trade union UNISON, through the professional association SASW (and BASW) and through the Scottish Socialist Party.  I am also pleased to have had some writings published by IRISS in recent years.

In late 2020 I joined Common Weal Scotland's Care Reform Working Group. Through them have written some published contributions to their efforts to bring about radical change through the proposed National Care Service. This is an amazing collective with some great people involved who I'm proud to sit alongside: convenor Nick Kempe, Marion MacLeod, Mark Smith, Kathy Jenkins, Jeanette Hill, Neil Watson and staff from Common Weal, Craig Dalzell and Robin McAlpine. 

Doing Radical Social Work was written over six years ago now. It represents a culmination of thoughts and ideas about the job that had synthesised over many years of practice. It was written because at the time I couldn't find anything that represented my views as a socialist working in social work, that was in any way applicable to practice, and which remained optimistic about the prospects. As the most important thing I have ever written I hope it remains true to that vision."

1978 Drumchapel, Glasgow

Published Writing

Link provided where there is one: if you want anything else that is listed below please contact me

Peer Reviewed Journal Papers:

2004 - Ten Years After Orkney - Towards a Practice Model for Social Work in the Remoter Areas of Scotland   BJSW

2006 - Rural social work in Scotland and eastern Canada: A comparison between the experience of practitioners in remote communities  IJSW

2009 - Tensions in the delivery of social work services in rural and remote Scotland  BJSW

2013 - Radical social work in the frontline: a survival toolkit for the UK  CRSW


2009 Too Much Pessimism chapter written with Catriona Grant in "Social Work After Baby P - Debates and Alternative Perspectives" edited by Iain Ferguson and Michael Lavalette. Liverpool Hope University

2010 Rural Social Work Practice in Scotland Venture Press

2014 Doing Radical Social Work  Palgrave Macmillan

UNISON/BASW/SASW Members' Guides (with Kate Ramsden and John Stevenson)

2014 Supervision and Workload Management

2017 Refuge and Asylum in Scotland


2019  Social Work Across the UK: Legal and Policy Differences from a Scottish Perspective

Magazine Articles

2011 A Rurally Different Challenge

2015 Lets Get Radical

IRISS Publications

2017 Gypsy Travellers: Human rights and social work’s role(with Shamus McPhee, Roseanna McPhee and Ken MacLennan) Insight 35

2018 Community social work in Scotland A critical history, fifty years after the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968

2019  Rural Social Work in Scotland Insight 47

2020  Rediscovering and Mainstreaming Community Social Work in Scotland   Insight 57

Commonspace Articles

2016 Why social work is under siege thanks to the UK Government

2016 Let’s make ‘Named Person’ work – a radical social work view

Scottish Left Review

2017 - Scottish Gypsy Travellers

Social Workers Without Borders

October 2020 - Link to article on building radical social work in the workplace can be found on the SWWB Education page: 

Common Weal - Source

March 2021 - Link to short piece on the need to refrom social work in Scotland

Common Weal Policy Paper - Struggling to Care  

This longer paper, published in late March 2021, argues for reform of social work in Scotland as part of a National Care Service - and details where the system has gone wrong and what we can do to save social work from the marginalised position it finds itself in. 

Common Weal Policy Paper - Care in Your Community - Putting Community Hubs at the Heart of a National Care Service. 

This policy paper argues on the basis of histotrical context that the success of "community hubs" in the pandemic offers opportunity to adopt them as a model for public service delivery to bring services back into communities.

Left Ungagged Blog  

5/2/2022  Piece co-written with Roseanna McPhee laying bare the truth behind Jimmy Carr's offensive 'joke' about the Holocaust and Gypsies.

Common Weal - Major Report 'CARING FOR ALL' - a blueprint for a new National Care Service for Scotland

20/2/2022 Contribution to a collective effort by Common Weal's Care Reform Working Group. Report published with video and link to the report














Reunion after 37 Years......

In 2019 I was reunited with a family I was involved with as a social worker in Drumchapel in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was an emotional and truly amazing experience. The story is covered in these two pieces:

John Buultjens wonderful story is told in his book Ride BMX Glory Against All the Odds (2017) and a Hollywood Movie to be released soon.

John Buultjens, his brother and sister Thomas and Rachel Craig, and Colin, August 2019

Ardrossan Children and Family Colleagues 2014

UNISON LG Conf. Fringe Event on Asylum Seekers June 2018