28 September 2010

Why the SNP should be glad that Ed has won..

This is going to be a slightly controversial post, but let’s take a wee step back and examine what just happened this week in the Labour Party and what this means for the North British Branch. Apart from the high profile David M supporters ( Murphy, Sarwar, Bain, Harris..) , many in Scottish Labour are highly delighted at Miliband Minor’s win and the very public break with the New Labour brand, calculating that this will bring electoral rewards next May. That level of optimism verging on arrogance and complacency will only help our campaign, as Scottish voters don’t like being taken for granted.
However, what if Labour’s strategy for the next five years is to stop drinking Southern Comfort and sup Boddingtons, Newcastle Brown and Tennents instead ? Is a move to the left (actually the centre , it’s only the media that define the middle ground in politics to the right) going to prove a tonic to the troops but a turn off to the voters south of the border ?
When there’s a significant divergence between Scotland and England in terms of preferred political parties, then the pressure grows for change. Obviously the greater the vote for the SNP, the more legitimacy for independence and that is what we are all campaigning hard for. However.. what if.. Labour’s Year Zero (as their conference has seemed to be this week) and retreat to the heartlands gifts the ConDems their re-election but has Scotland rejecting them and their little liberal helpers completely ? The same level of pressure will build from all part of Scottish society and that delivered the parliament – not one political party can claim that result, it was a collective effort, the settled will of the Scottish people. We are moving to the next phase as the union is gradually and inevitably fragmenting.
 Incidentally one of the better quips from Labour conference was that well-known joker, Liam “there’s no money left” Byrne when he emphasised the importance of attacking the Tories instead of the Liberals – Business before Pleasure …

05 September 2010


The biggest political lesson to be learned this week is that still even after all these years New Labour just don’t get Scotland.

Firstly we had the Dark Lord Mandelson saying that Scotland will soon clamour for the public sector reforms already put in place in England – Er no thanks!

Then as if we didn’t know, Tory Blair – Sorry Tony Blair – puts the boot into Gordon Brown in an interview, followed by the revelations in his biography that he didn’t quite understand devolution.
Scotland has consistently rejected the Blairite reforms on public services such as Foundation Hospitals, school academies, and other reforms which are code for outsourcing and privatisation.  Indeed the example South of the Border is that these reforms have led to a reduction in services, so why should we go down that path? Even Scottish Labour haven’t put these forward when in government in Scotland, which begs the question – if their MSP’s recognise that their selections and elections would’ve been scuppered by openly advocating an advanced New Labour agenda, doesn’t that mean there’s a different dynamic in Scotland ? A different country perhaps ? Although that didn’t deter Wendy Alexander from championing home ownership at the expense of public sector housing investment – apart from PFI/PPP, the biggest failure of Scottish Labour is in housing policy. Remember this was devolved, and it’s entirely their failure to deal with the erosion of quality public housing through right to buy and insisting on stock transfer as the only game in town. An expensive and unnecessary delay that was an entirely political decision - instead of investing in council housing – and all because the public sector borrowing requirement had to be curtailed (cue ironic laughter).

Blair’s admission is more stark, when you consider the debate to move on from devolution is in the ascendancy.  It is obvious that Labour do not want to open the debate towards full financial powers or even Independence.

New Labour just doesn’t get it.   A political philosophy to suit natural Conservative voters was never going to have resonance here.

The debate thankfully has moved on both fronts, any move to towards a Blairite agenda will be a disaster for Labour.

David Mliband, the choice of both Mandelson and Blair to succeed as leader will turn voters in Scotland away in droves. Incidentally, your starter for ten as to who in Scottish Labour has turned their back on the ethos of democratic socialism and wealth redistribution is to examine the supporters list of the Heir to Blair…

19 August 2010


Today I said farewell to a friend, Jimmy Reid, as I attended his funeral in Govan.

As I have commented elsewhere, he was quite simply a giant n every sense of the word.

A number of occasions stick out in my memory.  Firstly in 2000, at the Annual Conference, I chaired a fringe meeting with him and Roseanna Cunningham as part of the launch programme for the Scottish Left Review Magazine.  He opened his remarks by saying that he was convinced that Scotland was on the road to Independence.  This was a full five years before he joined the party.  Everytime Jimmy was speaking at a fringe event the room was crowded.

At the STUC in 2005 held in Dundee, my proudest moment being an SNP member arrived when Jimmy announced he had joined the party.  He was on great form and the pride of every SNP person in the room was simply uplifting.

For me, coming from a family involved in Shipbuilding this was a profound moment, Jimmy always has and always will be held n the highest regard with anyone who has a direct or indirect connection with shipbuilding.

When he joined the SNP it was only right and proper that we nominated him to be the President of the SNP Trade Union Group, along with Billy Wolfe who helped founded the Group in the first place. I and Malcolm Balfour had the honour of proposing and seconding both.
From then on, escorting Jimmy to SNP events was a massive honour.  I once joked with Jimmy that our members practically bowed when they shook hands with him.

One of my political highlights to date was chairing a fringe meeting in 2006 with Nerys Evans of the Plaid Cymru Trade Union section, and now an AM in the Welsh Assembly, Bill Speirs, and Jimmy.  Jimmy started by saying he was a proud member of the Trade Union and Labour Movement, not the Labour Party, and for half an hour, without notes, spoke about how Labour had destroyed their founding principles and how and why he had joined the SNP, as we hold those principles.  He was utterly convincing that night, and held the audience who were hanging on his every word.

Jimmy’s contribution to Scottish civic life will never be forgotten, and as his funeral showed today, just how admired he was from across the whole of Scottish society.

As a number of commentators have suggested over the last few days, his rectorial address in 1972 is as relevant today as it was then.

The best tribute we can pay him is to make sure we hold the principles of that address, or as the First Minister called it today a masterpiece, in our hearts and minds as we resolve the issues brought about by the current financial crisis. Far too many people try to tell us that resistance is useless, that the forces of global finance and faceless power brokers can’t be beaten and that workers need to “adapt” (code for accept what’s on offer whether it’s job loss or pay freeze). He and the workers of UCS showed that collective, disciplined, articulate resistance can deliver a result that’s right for the workforce, right for the industry and right for the economy and our country.

So long Jimmy, you and your principles will never be forgotten.

18 August 2010


Who is ripping off Glasgow?  Well we now know who wants to.  The news this week that Glasgow Council Leader, Gordon Matheson wants to increase the Council Tax, is the most inept piece of political thinking there has been for a long time.

Let’s consider this.  The Calman Commission estimates that a 1 % increase in Council Tax equates to raising £20 million for all of Scotland’s Local Authorities.  Therefore to replace the £70 million the Scottish Government puts in would require at least a 3.5% increase in Council Tax.  So to even replace this revenue would require an inflation busting rise. 

At a time when the public are justifiably angry at having to pay for the Bankers Bail Out, to call for an increase in a piece of taxation that is fundamentally regressive is the economics of the madhouse.  With some Banks now recording huge profits, the debate should move onto who pays, and turning the screw on the CON DEM coalition.  A golden opportunity for Labour you may think.

But no, what we get is a demand for an increase in a regressive piece of taxation that is so unpopular the only people who want to keep it, are the unionist parties in Holyrood.

You couldn’t make it up!

Considering that Scotland local authorities spend £48 million on consultants alone, you wonder about priorities.
What was even worse was Councillors Matheson’s performance on Newsnight Scotland where he stated that there will be pay restraint for public sector workers.  So applying this logic, low paid Council Workers will be hit with a double whammy to pay the price of the Bankers Bail out and see their local services cut – a triple kick in the teeth.

This absurd piece of thinking only shows how unfit Labour are to run our country.  The more questions they are asked between now and next May, the more Glasgow and Scotland will reject them.

The case for progressive taxation, full financial powers and Independence for Scotland grows stronger.

18 July 2010


This weekends newspapers would make one weep as story after story is all about the cuts to the Public Sector, as the CON-DEM Westminster Government continue their Butcher Knife assault for purely political philosophical reasons.

The only one of two countries in the g20 not to try and grow their way out of recession, the future is bleak.  Aided and abetted by elements of the media who support this crusade, and despite evidence to the contrary, would have us all believe that cutting public sector spending will reduce the deficit.  The Tory vultures attack on the NHS, Education and the rest ensures that their friends the spivs and speculators who brought about this current economic crisis will be last to pay their fair share.

It makes ones blood boil to read of those who benefited from free higher education to demand that this current generation of school leavers should pay tuition fees and/or a graduate tax.  Another story today, highlights the demand for the privatisation of Scottish Water – a fairly efficient public sector body – as the cult of right wing ideology grips the country.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  As a self confessed socialist in a civic nationalist social democratic party, and the most social democratic government Scotland has seen in over 30 years, the current situation presents opportunities as well as challenges, as we head into the Holyrood Elections next year.

What is socialism or even social democracy in the current context? For me it is about ensuring a safety net for those less fortunate in society.  That means continue the move to free prescriptions so the sick are not taxed, protecting public spending so that our services to the public are maintained, that our NHS and Education services, including Higher Education are free at the point of use, and creating apprenticeships to help young people into work, and to address our skill shortages.  A taxation policy that is progressive and fair.  Privatisation means that services are delivered less well and less often, and this can be evidenced; unlike the private sector is best mantra that underpinned the entire New Labour project. Note that the male apprentices to the architects of the Project are trying to secure the Labour leadership by deploying the “nothing to do with me guv” line.

 It is obscene that the poorest in our society are paying the price of the bankers bail out. Even the Big Lottery funds are being raided to steal money from community based projects and subsidise opera and ballet instead in an outrageous move to redirect funding to the big and vocal national arts and sports organisations whose interests serve elites rather than grassroots. Private schools will be able to access funding as charitable organisations but your local state school will be specifically barred as it’s in the public sector. Class war ? Look who’s starting it.

If New Labour at Holyrood is the answer it must be a daft question.  They are as stated in the latest issue of the Scottish Left Review a talentless, negative bunch, and at some point they will be asked to provide answers, as to what they would do instead of whining from the sidelines.

With Scotland in surplus, the case for Scotland having control of its own finances is unanswerable; the case for Independence grows stronger with each passing day of this malevolent Westminster administration. 

20 June 2010


I have just returned from Bournemouth where I made my annual pilgrimage to the UNISON UK Conference.  The highlight was attending the Denis Goldberg fringe where he read from excerpts of his book, The Mission.  Another highlight was pointing out the difference between Council Tax freezes in Scotland from that of England, and I welcome the setting up of a Council Tax working group to look at this.

However, the consistent theme, was the fight for public sector service provision, with more and more services in England being outsourced, the fight for Scotland’s Public Sector remains and will I believe dominate public debate between now and the next Scottish Elections.

This will prove crucial as Osborne wields the butcher’s knife to the Budget, aided and abetted by his Lib Dem poodles.

This will require a strong and unequivocal response from the Scottish Government.  New Labour, who are trying to convince us that we have collective amnesia over what they did over the last thirteen years, in particular presiding over an unregulated market which brought about this mess, are desperately trying to position themselves to the left of the SNP, confirmed by a quite idiotic editorial by the Daily Record yesterday – even by their standards – who incredibly suggested that the SNP were in favour of a smaller state and smaller spending – TRIPE.

The SNP is well placed to meet the challenge head on.  Outflanking New labour who sooner or later will let the mask slip as they will sooner or later revert to type by demanding more outsourcing and PFI – having been responsible for saddling the country with a mountain of PFI debt already, by continuing to believe that in-house provision is best, as we have done with cleaning contracts in hospitals for example, has more resonance in Scotland, and with voters than believe that strong, accountable public services deliver the best services.

 The other challenge will be in protecting public sector pensions, which UNISON members and other Card carrying trade union members will hit the streets for if necessary.  Even I was speechless when I heard Nick Clegg talk out about gold plated public sector pensions, really?  The average public sector pension is £4000 a year, and the average for women is £2,600 – hardly gold plated.  The cost of public sector pensions in Britain is £4.1 billion.  The cost of tax relief for private sector pensions for the richest one per cent is a whopping £10 Billion.  So when I hear the Tory vultures and the Liberal poodles’ talk of us all being in this together, I just shake my head in disgust.

It was clear to me during the election that people are not willing to pay the price for the Bankers bail out. 

The fight starts on Tuesday when Gideon takes to his feet.  I believe that the SNP have a unique opportunity to show Scotland that there is a better way.

Let’s start by talking about tackling tax avoidance, the waste of hiring consultants – who are manly hired to hive off services, bring in a Tobin Tax, and above all cutting Trident.

20 May 2010


The battle lines are becoming clearer since the Liberals did the dirty deed with the Conservatives, and could lead to an interesting battle for the Holyrood Elections next year.

The Liberals, to paraphrase George Galloway, look set to get the mother of all hidings next year, for propping up a Government who are set to use a butcher knife to public services.  I am starting to believe that it is not altogether surprising given the authors of the Orange Book are now the leaders of the Lib Dems.  The proposed part privatisation of the Royal Mail is only the beginning I fear for public services.

It will be incumbent on all of us of a left of centre persuasion in Scotland to ensure that we protect our country’s vital services and infrastructure against these attacks from the Tory vultures, and their Liberal poodles.  The SNP are well positioned to be the social democratic champions.  All Lib Dem votes are up for grabs.

Labour in Scotland has many choices, but will I believe be also held to account for their lack of achievement at Westminster.  For a Party to have had two landslide majorities and one comfortable one to have failed on so many fronts will not be forgotten in the context of a Holyrood Election, where the understandable fear of a Tory Government was so prominent only a couple of weeks ago.
The disgraceful court decision regarding the BA strike, thankfully overturned today on Appeal, is a result of the last Westminster Government failure to bring about real change to employment law, and to bring some justice to working people.  An outrage for a party funded by Trade unions.

The idiocy of New Labour allowed itself to be attacked by the Tories from the left on civil liberty issues.

Even today the Holyrood Labour group have not grasped opposition, and stand accused of double standards.  Iain Gray complains about cuts to Health Service Jobs, yet his Finance Spokesperson, Andy Kerr, criticises the SNP Government for delaying Westminster cuts till next year.  Indeed only a few weeks into the SNP administration, New Labour demanded 4% efficiency savings, more than the SNP asked for.  Put simply you can’t ask for more savings then complain about cuts.  It is this lack of thinking and strategy which will ensure they have no credibility.

Next years elections will be determined by those who can stand up to the CON-DEM coalition.  The votes of those who ran, understandably, to Labour a few weeks ago as they were the least of the two evils, know they have a different choice for Holyrood.