Monday, 4 November 2013

Consulting the Members

The blog is back! and firstly I should note my delight that a former leader of the best employer I ever worked for, Strathclyde Regional Council, has endorsed Independence.  Well done Charles Gray!

I am moved to share my thoughts on the continuing debate within the Trade Union movement on Independence given the mysterious decision of the GMB to announce that they back a No vote. Mysterious in the sense of lack of clarity about how this decision was reached.

The GMB position as announced by their leadership is curious.  Here's a resolution that the GMB put the Scottish Trades Union Congress this year;

"That this Congress notes the continual contraction of the Scottish Economy, the rise in unemployment, particularly youth unemployment and the clear evidence that Austerity is NOT working. What jobs there are, are temporary, insecure, part-time and low wage....
Congress believes that there is an alternative path based on a people-centred economics, which puts democracy at the heart of it.
Congress calls for the development of credible, popular alternative based on common ownership. Investment in public services based on need, a manufacturing renaissance and full and fulfilling employment as an urgent macroeconomic goal, greater industrial economic democracy, including co-operatives, pension fund reform and proper investment in and the reconstruction of, our industrial base. This requires a wide- ranging STUC led campaign, building on the platform of, There is a Better Way."

Also reads like the Common Weal project to me. 

Last week the Scottish Council of the GMB voted to support the No campaign.  How does this motion square with the statements by both Labour and the Tories that over £2 billion of cuts are on the way in 2015? 

Having spoken to many GMB members over the last two days, I can say that they are in shock at this decision.  Claims of an extensive consultation appear wide of the mark - a consultation can only be a consultation if members feel involved - and can be described as patchy at best.

Here's some of the questions GMB members have been asking;

(1) How were consultation meetings advertised, and why do so many members claim they didn't know about them?
(2) How many attended meetings?
(3) Were both sides of the debate asked to send representatives to engage in hustings?
(4) Was a vote taken at these meetings?
(5) Why make the decision now, before publication of the White Paper, and the Labour Party's report on further devolution of powers?
(6) What was the level of engagement?
(7) Why were members not balloted on an issue of such importance?
(7) How does this square with the STUC stance of asking both sides questions, and keeping a neutral approach?

GMB members deserve answers to these basic questions.  If the process has been found to be flawed, they have a duty to re-open the consultation.

We now have 5 Trade unions, traditional full time official led - as opposed to lay member led - making decisions on members behalf on how their money will spent on the Independence Referendum.  In each case, the level of  trade union member engagement and consultation is open to question.  In most cases, these Trade Unions have lost members - usually to other Trade Unions.

Other Trade Unions should think very carefully about how they engage with their members on this issue, and should serve as a warning that top down diktats will alienate their members.

In a time of deregulated markets, a low wage economy, attacks on health and safety legislation and cuts to the public sector, the role and function of Trade unions is as important as ever.  The Trade Union movement, as the largest part of Scottish Civic Society, has a duty to full engage with members on the biggest political decision in decades.  Those Trade Unions backing No appear to have done members a disservice.

Finally, I am curious as to where Trade Union funds will go.  It was my understanding that United with Labour was created to give trade union activists and labour party members some space to campaign to remain in the UK in the absence of Conservatives.  What exactly is the relationship between United with Labour and Better Together?

Union members are entitled to know where and how their money is being spent on campaigning and what exactly is funded by whom to do what. In other words...follow the money ?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


Hoping to claw back some semblance of control as the Falkirk debacle unfolds, Ed Miliband has launched  a "reform" of trade union levies going into the Labour Party.

Whilst the aim of "opting-in" is entirely laudable, and to a certain degree already operates in practice within UNISON, a key statistic not widely reported in the media is that over 360,000 UNITE members do not pay the political levy to Labour.

Other Trade Unions correctly take the view that their political fund should be used to fund campaigns of candidates of various political parties - for example the Fire Brigades Union who have funded campaigns of the last two parliamentary elections campaigns I have been involved in.  The RMT similarly fund campaigns in this way, both unions choosing to support candidates who have a track record in supporting fairness at work.

The problem,( depending on your point of view), is that explicitly funding a candidate of a political party other than that of the Labour party results in that trade union being expelled by Labour.

I am prepared to wager that the above scenario will remain the case in this so-called Labour reform.

UNITE have a point when they criticise their arch-nemesis Progress for indulging in the same sort of candidate fixing that they are accused of in the Falkirk case. Actually, a glance at any Left labour blogs can provide chapter and verse on the inglorious history of New Labour fixing to purge any candidates with anything other than strict adherence to centre right orthodoxies. Ironic that Falkirk is the seat under the spotlight as the deliberate exclusion of Denis Canavan in the run up to 1999 is the prime example of this so the double think airbrushing of history that the current leadership are hoping to achieve.

All of which leads to the following conclusions;

Firstly with New Labour, supporters of austerity, taking a similar path to the Tory-led Government, why shouldn't trade unions, in this age of multi-party politics not fund campaigns of those seeking political office whose views and values are sympathetic to the Trade Union Movement - SNP, Plaid Cymru, the various Socialist Parties, and indeed Labour candidates. It's tempting to label those as "what's left of the left" in the Labour party, but it's simplistic and trite to label those who support  workers rights, decent working conditions and fair pay as "Left" - but let's leave challenging the language of the right wing media for another day.

Secondly, if candidate fixing is ok for Progress and not the Trade Unions, what legitimate voice and role remains for the trade union movement in todays British Labour Party?

Thirdly, if this is a step to reduce trade union influence (openly admitted by the leadership) then surely it is time for unions to look elsewhere? Members may wonder what precisely their hard earned subs are going toward if unions will carry less influence than a think tank or lobbying firm when looking to advance their cause of protecting jobs and conditions ?

Surely now, more than ever, it is time for trade unions to ditch New Labour.

Monday, 8 July 2013


The European Commission estimates that the costs of tax evasion are 1 trillion euros a year – more than the combined debts of each EU member’s state.

Let’s consider that shocking statistic for a moment, and reflect that if it were not for tax avoidance or evasion then these times of austerity may not have been necessary.  All the pain and suffering could have been avoided if some unscrupulous companies had acted in a proper fashion.

  For that reason, I support a Financial Transaction Tax in which the money raised in that country goes to the member state.

Tackling Tax avoidance and evasion rather than making some of the poorest in our society suffer through so called welfare reforms should be among the top priorities of the EU.


As someone who started working when Thatcher was Prime Minister the EU was looked upon as the saviour of public sector workers as TUPE provided a degree of protection against Thatcherism, however conversely Europe took a rightward shift.

As austerity has kicked in an assault on workers’ rights has taken place, most notably by an ideological right wing government at Westminster who have removed health and safety protection and cut the statutory redundancy notice period to 45 days.

As casualisation increases the EU need to protect working people in Europe.

We need to create a set of core standards that apply to all workers.  We also need to address the EU Posted Workers Directive to ensure that migrant workers are paid the same rates of pay, thus closing a loophole in which companies choose migrant workers to drive down wages.



One of the major bugbears for public sector workers and elected parliamentarians and councillors seeking to secure jobs with decent wages and conditions is EU Procurement Regulations.

They must be changed.

My own experiences of these regulations came about in 2000 when the then Scottish Executive outsourced the maintenance of Trunk Road contracts citing EU Rules , and then more recently when Glasgow City Council outsourced its glass recycling service – bizarrely the Council claimed at Committee that this service was not being delivered in-house, only to admit to the Trade Unions that it was months later.
Both these experiences bitterly exposed the lack of protection of workers transferring from one body to another, and the lack of social clauses of these contracts.  In the recent glass recycling case there was no provision to adhere to the Glasgow Living Wage, making it much easier for a private contractor to claim the contract. 
In addition to this, Both Central and Local Government appear hamstrung to use Procurement to support local economies to strengthen communities, by ensuring contracts are given to local firms.
That’s why I believe Procurement Regulations need to be changed, to introduce social clauses protecting workers, and their wages, and to allow Procurement decisions to be taken in a way that can consider local economic factors.


Saturday, 6 July 2013

Its Time to End Austerity

This will be first of four blogs over the next few days articulating what I believe to be the main issues facing the EU at the elections next year, and where I believe I can play a part as an SNP MEP.

It truly is time to end austerity, why? It has failed.  It has failed to reduce debt, as debt is rising; it has reduced living standards across the continent causing economies to remain stagnant, and has failed to deal with tax avoidance and evasion.  Common sense alone dictates that repeat doses of harsh medicine that obviously isn’t working is certain to maintain the economic malaise afflicting Europe rather than affect a steady recovery.
As STUC research has shown in Scotland 70p in every £ of public money ends up in the private sector economy, I see no difference in that happening elsewhere.
To grow the economy we need investment.  We need the EU to spend in infrastructure across Europe, providing incentives to those receiving that investment to provide jobs, skills and training to young people aged between 16 and 25 years of age.  Youth Unemployment is a scourge in our society which needs to be dealt with.  The Scottish Government rightly invests in Modern Apprenticeships and Europe must use this example.  Youth Unemployment in some parts of Europe is over 50%.  We can provide further opportunities here and abroad to tackle youth unemployment, and provide the infrastructure required to grow the economy.
With Balls and Miliband’s recent U-turns by suggesting austerity will continue, it is left to the Scottish National Party to fight to end austerity measures – and surely now only             Independence can now deliver the real opportunity to deliver a better way and a better society.

Austerity is merely an excuse to drive down living standards and wages, to reduce the states capacity to affect real positive changes to our economies, and to drive us at the mercy of market driven choices.
It hasn’t worked – it’s time for a better way.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Poverty of Ambition

It is hard not to come to the inescapable conclusion that the strongest weapon in the Referendum campaign for a YES vote is the performance, and utterances from the official opposition at Westminster.

Today's statement from Ed Balls demonstrates that things won't change anytime soon, if Scotland retains its place in the UK.  The statement that only a Labour Westminster Government can deliver social justice and so wait till 2015 is now a fanciful and risible notion.

The attack on universalism is a dangerous course, -  how far does mean testing go, if we start with winter fuel payments, then what is next?  Surely Peter Hain is correct when he says " if middle Britain ceased to benefit from the welfare state through some of the few universal benefits that are left, how can we convince them to fund the larger part of that budget through their taxes?”

Surely providing some universal benefits for everyone is a matter that encourages citizenship and electors to fund the welfare budget through taxation?

And how much does means testing cost?

Curiously, Peter Mandelson outlined in his book The Third Man, the debates which took place in 2010, where he persuaded Gordon Brown that cuts had to made rather than grow the economy out of the crisis.  This being the case then, Brown was correct and Mandelson was wrong.

If Labour do support a continuance of austerity where does that leave them with their European colleagues?

In my recent visit to Brussels I listened to the former Minister for the National Economy for Greece, who advocated massive cuts to the public sector, including cutting jobs, wages and welfare payments. (perhaps a good reason why he was the former minister).  This proposed medicine would only make the Greek situation worse.

As the European Union realises that austerity measures aren't working, why are Labour going down the same road as the Conservatives?  What is noticeable is the tired and dreary vision being recycled by a shadow cabinet led by former policy advisers who are stuck in a 1990's timewarp, convinced that what won the election in 1997 was "iron discipline"  i.e. sticking to Tory spending limits - and that this bitter medicine should be prescribed again. Once again proving that Labour are a party with a past, and not much of a future.

It is a grave error indeed to suggest that demonstrating you can be trusted to run the economy means more cuts and more restraint.  The answer to austerity is to grow the economy and invest.

An Evening with Denis Goldberg

In an age when the phrase "modern day hero" is often overused, It was a privilege and a pleasure to meet on Friday night, a man who certainly qualifies as one to many people not only in South Africa but across the world.....Denis Goldberg.

At a fundraiser in the City Chambers for his charity, Community Heart, a packed room listened intently to his recollection of the ANC's struggle to overcome apartheid, and the challenges facing South Africa to transform a society and how this can be a long and slow process.

Denis demonstrated his love of poetry and in particular, Rabbie Burns reciting A Mans a man for a' that (one of my favourites).

The discrimination faced by black South Africans in schooling, medical care and housing was highlighted, as well as the campaign called African claims - a forerunner to the UN Human Rights charter.

Denis thanked those around the world for the support and international pressure, which he believes kept him and other ANC leaders alive during the Rivonia Trail - the 50th anniversary of which is this year.  Denis survived 22 years in jail, which he believes was worth it to see the end of apartheid.

He made a statement which has stuck with me since Friday night - Dreams become reality when you mobilise people.

Although he accepts that South Africa faces many challenges, he correctly in my view articulated the advances that have been made in that 90% of South African children go to school (half didn't under apartheid), that universities are now populated by people who under apartheid were denied the choice, the millions of South Africans who now have access to running water, and the massive house building to accommodate its people.  These are huge advances in the lives of South Africans.

He also spoke about the complexity of transforming a country into a functioning democracy and that this would be a long slow process.

The night would not have been complete of course without highlighting the excellent work undertaken by Community Heart, and his encouragement of children to read and to take up music.

I am delighted that Glasgow City UNISON continues to fund these projects, and that the Scottish Government has provided support.

A very serious man, who reminded us all that the roots of injustice and poverty lie in the unequal distribution of reward for those who labour and those who own - and that struggle is universal and not confined to one country.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Level of Debate

The news that ASLEF have showed their hand by formally backing the No Campaign - whilst disappointing, is no surprise given they were already providing financial support.

I am not sure what mechanisms of consultation were used to engage their membership, but I find the claim that not one member will vote for Independence incredibly silly.

Other Trade Unions are correctly taking a longer term view and engaging with their members through the STUC "A Just Scotland" consultation, which correctly challenges all sides of the debate to demonstrate how the options will benefit the lives of working people.

But lets come back to ASLEF.  Simple research uncovers a rather offensive article in their Newsletter last year, where a certain Tom Burns of their Perth Branch wrote in inflammatory terms.

Among the gems of criticism were

(a) no guarantees that the heirs of Queen Elizabeth would be head of state in an Independent Scotland
(b) the stated intentions of multinationals to relocate south of the border - without naming anyone in particular
(c) That Holyrood is a single legislative chamber with no checks and balances - but the devolved parliament isn't a stand alone institution and ignores the ongoing debate about where powers should sit at an even further local level in Scotland
(d) That the SNP Government discriminates against English Students - ignoring legal context
(e) The SNP is anti-English - despite the existence of English born parliamentarians and Government Ministers and activists who are entirely comfortable with campaigning for independence - as it's about the right to self-determination not tribalism

It is of course the prerogative of ASLEF to publish such arrant nonsense, but leaves serious questions as to why such an article would find itself in a Trade Union news sheet, as is the decision to show their hand in the constitutional debate now.

Interestingly the debate within the Trade Unions is beginning to heat up after STUC Congress and UK Conferences due to take place over the Summer.

The Jimmy Reid Foundation also has very useful suggestions, in its new document "The Common Weal", on the type of economic and social renewal that can take place in Scotland - looking at examples in the Nordic and Germanic countries.  Dealing with issues such as Tax reform, welfare, a proper investment bank, and various models of company ownership are just some of the issues which should lead the debate over the next year or so within the Trade Union Movement.

The level of the debate within Trade Unions has the capacity to lead the way, and perhaps ASLEF will regret showing their hand and their arguments so early on - as all it would take to completely undermine their stance is for one single ASLEF member to come forward and express their support for independence.

Sunday, 19 May 2013


Possibly due to being a largely English electoral phenomenon, I have not really encountered UKIP until recently, and only saw them register in the margins in canvassing and survey returns.

My first real engagement with them was last month at a Strathclyde University debate where I was on the side of the UK remaining in Europe - which won handsomely in a vote at the end.

During the debate the UKIP spokesperson in answering what was a reasonable point on the success of ERASMUS - a body which enables higher education students to work and study abroad as part of their degree stated that this body was designed to "enslave today's students to be part of the EU bureaucracy."

A rather dangerous and eccentric view to put it politely.

There is something deeply troubling about their rhetoric on immigration, their outlook to our partner countries in Europe, and their simplistic approach to leaving the EU.  Indeed it appears to have passed them by that joining the European Free Trade Alliance would result in them having to sign up to their pet hates of European Regulation to be part of that body too.

UKIP are on the side of those who see workers rights and hard fought protections such as the Social Chapter (deemed too left wing incidentally, by Major, Blair, and Brown) as troublesome regulation, whilst opposing a financial transactions tax and the capping of bankers bonuses.

On your side? No chance.

The mutual talking up of a Conservative/UKIP arrangement in a future UK election demonstrates that the electoral survival of Tory MP's is more important than being part of a rational debate about our relationships in the world and having a positive vision for our future.The case being put forward to leave the EU is based on a fantasy of turning back the clock to 1973 without consequences - a fanciful delusion.

The case for staying in an institution that has improved the lives and working conditions of millions of working people in Europe, now needs to made in a concise, clear and positive way.

The case for leaving the EU, is a classic case of the race to the bottom.

Monday, 6 May 2013


As much as I've been entertained by the farcical 500 questions from the Better Together campaign (providing light relief for a holiday weekend) , the matter of the English local elections and their potential significant bearing on Scotland's decision in September 2014 has been the hot topic this weekend.

Two immediate thoughts spring to mind.  Firstly,  on this showing, Labour will not be elected as the next Westminster Government in 2015.  The rule of thumb from considered political experts is that they needed approx 500 gains to be in a position at this stage of the political cycle to be heading in that direction.  Labour gained half that total.

This fact will no doubt worry Labour activists, and will I am sure lead to some debate as to whether they continue the Tory-lite approach favoured by the Westminster Front Bench , or do they start to provide a clear narrative articulating their differences with the Tories? 

Secondly, and perhaps related was that the rise of the UKIP vote demonstrates that Scotland and England are becoming two, distinct, political countries.  As a regular delegate to the UNISON UK Conference, the reaction from Scottish TU colleagues listening to the challenges faced by TU members elsewhere in the UK, is met with support but also relief that some of the attacks facing public sector workers - for example the abandonment of the two tier workforce agreement by the Tory led Government - are not being faced here in Scotland.

Whilst the defeat of the BNP in Burnley is most welcome, the results indicate a move to the right.  The UKIP agenda of playing to prejudice and grievance, of trying to blame someone else for the country's problems rather than the Government plays into the Tories hands.

The sight on Friday afternoon of Simon Hughes of the Liberal Democrats discussing anti-immigration measures is testament to that.

But perhaps the harshest lesson is that the rise of the UKIP vote, and the pandering to it by the Tories, is that the biggest threat to Scotland's place in Europe, is not an Independent Scotland, but by staying in the UK.

Lets consider this, there is no doubt that Cameron will veto measures such as, a financial transactions tax, limits on bankers bonuses, and extensions to social protections. Are these not policies that a Scottish Government and most Scots find favour with?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013


A chance conversation earlier this evening with a UNISON Branch Secretary got me thinking - he revealed that today was his daughters 16th birthday, and so she was born the same day that Labour was elected or Tony Blair got his hands on the reins of power -  depending on your viewpoint

Indeed - the New Labour Project with its figurehead Tony Blair won in a landslide 16 years ago.  My thoughts today turn to the mess the Labour Party finds itself in now.

What was once a confident looking, positive party has been reduced to a small minded, vitriolic, inconsistent shambles.

In my time at the STUC Annual Congress when talking to delegates their real concern was the association with the Tories in the Better Together campaign.  A perfectly justified concern, given the many public pronouncements from Better Together come from a centre right political position - witness the huge publicity afforded comments from the CBI yesterday as a classic example. As one Labour activist commented privately " I didn't come into politics to wrap myself in the Union Jack and campaign alongside Tories ".

Add in a very public attack on the UNITE General Secretary from Ed Miliband and it's little wonder that many Trade Union activists are supporting Independence.

With the Westminster Labour front bench being led to the right by the Tory-led Government on the economy and welfare (and can we reclaim the language by using "Social Security" whenever possible ?) , the joy and relief on that morning in 1997 when the Tories had been ousted, seems generations away.

This week Labour have a difficult juggling act to pull off - attack the Tories in England to win council seats in the local elections (but not frighten the horses aka Daily Mail readers who might vote UKIP instead), but at the same time retain the base vote being hardest hit by public spending cuts, but not be tagged as Red Ed,  but keep the trade union funding and support (by verbally biting the hand that feeds you through the subscriptions of low paid workers - very odd, Ed) - and at the same time have your Scottish party members campaigning using materials funded by questionable sources and working Better Together alongside Tories ? Tricky..
Their desperation to secure a No vote in 2014 and the increasingly tribal, bitter nature of the attacks on all independence campaigners (and even against the thoughtful, not made their minds up, willing to have a decent debate people ) is entirely down to one clear dynamic - the survival of the Labour party as an electoral force is dependent on Scotland's votes and a cohort of MP's ( Cohort is the kind word) to boost the Labour numbers on the green benches in Westminster. Victory (or a negotiating mandate with any Libdems that are left after their ride into the valley of electoral death in 2015) is not a given - and without those Labour Scottish MP's  Miliband minor will never walk through the door of number 10.

16 years on, the conclusion can only sensibly be - don't let the survival of the "people's party" (largely populated by shiny clones who've never worked outside of the political career bubble)  be more important than a decent debate about Scotland's future and let's not have the largely self centered and biased worldview of the Labour tribe get in the way of the facts.

Saturday, 30 March 2013


Thousands of people were marching today to protest against yet another weapon being deployed in the Con-Dem war of attrition on the poor- the Bedroom Tax – the tip of a deadly iceberg, the latest in a tsunami of cuts set to devastate families and hit the disabled hardest. This is even before Universal Credit, a tornado of chaos due to hit in October. The only faint hope lies in an announcement sneaked out late on Thursday. The DWP are delaying three out of the four pilot Universal Credit projects due to go live on April Fools Day.  The best case scenario is that IT glitches and the sheer unworkability of this welfare “deform” will see it hit the buffers before the next Westminster election…except…what difference would it make if the Tories are booted out and New Labour come to power again in Westminster ?

It is a truth that has to be universally acknowledged (apologies to Jane Austen) that despite the real and genuine opposition to the bedroom tax and “welfare reform” amongst grassroots Labour and their trade union comrades, their leaders in the Shadow Cabinet and most of their MP’s are in a different head space. Labour MP’s are currently displaying levels of industrial deception (and possibly self-deception, to be kind to some of them) by running around their constituencies collecting signatures on petitions opposing the bedroom tax without any intention of repealing said tax if in a position to do so.

This is the acid test for Labour, and especially Labour in Scotland. Predictably enough there have been howls of outrage at the SNP and other parties in the Yes campaign pointing out that the consensus in Scotland is against punishing the most vulnerable in our society by implementing crude measures such as the bedroom tax. Therefore, a vote for independence in 2014 is the only way to ensure those powers to decide what sort of society we want and what measures we put in place to support those most in need will be in the hands of our local decision makers. Welfare and benefits are not devolved, nor are all the economic levers in place to control the finance required for a socially just Scotland. Apparently, pointing this out is “cynical party political point scoring”.

Surely there is a degree of cynicism in pretending to be against policies that your leadership team have every intention of implementing when/if they come to power? I stand to be corrected, but what with Liam”no money left” Byrne as Shadow Work + Pensions minister and a track record from his colleagues of equivocal statements all round (a YouTube clip of Helen Goodman trending on twitter, Ed Balls still talking about a “tough but fair” approach to welfare reform) , it’s fair to say the Labour Party could be accused of facing both ways at once. Campaigning against the very welfare “reforms” they will sadly, reluctantly have to continue with as unfortunately when we all vote out those nasty Tories, they open up the books and, oh, guess what..there’s still no money left…Well, surely politics is all about the choices we make especially when finances are tight and choosing to dismantle the welfare state is an odd choice for a democratic socialist party..

The Bedroom Tax is the most pernicious piece of legislation since the Poll Tax, and arguably worse.  It is designed to divide the poorest and weakest in our society.

If the official opposition at Westminster continue to show a lack of vision or a real alternative to the current path of austerity, then a No vote in September 2014 is a vote for no change at Westminster.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Making Our Mark

My pitch to be one of the SNP Candidates for the European Election



 Thanks to my colleagues who have supported me, the

Constituencies who nominated me, all of you for to speaking to

 Me and my colleagues who hope to represent Scotland in Europe.

I joined the SNP at 16 years of age,

 My first subs were paid for with my paper round -   in those days

I was paid a penny a paper!

 It was a long paper-round.

What drew me to this party almost 25 years ago is that it best reflects the values of

Internationalism, Social democracy and compassion for those at

home and abroad that we all share.

In submitting my name, I am so conscious of the serious

 Responsibility to deliver for the people of Scotland.

The responsibility to make our mark in Europe and across the


We all know what happens in Europe is crucial to Scotland.

 Why else are our opponents trying using the EU as a scare story

Against Independence

Why else are they trying to create problems when none exist?

Why are they so scared of a strong Scottish voice in Europe?

What matters to Scotland is to build relationships and provide a

 Positive contribution to the EU and beyond.

Our opponents prefer an insular and narrow minded argument

I hope to follow in some pretty big footsteps because over

Centuries scots have made their mark in Europe.

 like the very first President of our party Robert Bontine

Cunninghame Graham, who

Made his mark travelling seeing the potential of a Europe of

Enterprise compassion and democracy

 before becoming a folk hero in South America.

  A former Liberal MP, founder of the Scottish Labour Party, who

Then made his political Journey to found the SNP

 He remains an inspiration to all of us, and dare I say should to the labour party

Here in Scotland

 After all he decided that the snp was the true home for the values

Of fairness and equality……………..

Some years later another great Scot, Winnie Ewing, an inspiration

to us all, gave Scotland a powerful Voice in Europe,

 securing for the Scottish Highlands European Funding.

And now today in the European Parliament our mep’s are

Doing great work to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard.

So what do I want to do?  I spent the first years of my life in

Drumchapel. I have seen communities in poverty. and seen the

desperate need for investment, and neglect from an uncaring


To suit its anti european agenda the UK Continues to fail to apply

for Funding that could transform Scottish Communities.

Whether it is funding for small and medium business, or social

funds to help the long term unemployed, I will fight to get the

best deal for Scotland

I want to represent Scotland to ensure all of our communities get

Access to funds vital in securing recovery

I want Scotland to continue to make its mark by showing our abilities as a nation to make

friends and to ensure that our interests are respected

In looking at the stories of our friends and partners, in Europe, we

can see why Independence is Essential. 

 Scots are being ground down by a cold, ideological cuts agenda

 That few recognise or support.

If we are in a worldwide crisis why are other countries taking a

different route?

 Take America, where President Obama recognises investment in

people and jobs is the most Effective recession busting strategy….

Can they see that at Westminster?  No they can’t!

 On my first day in Brussels I will fight against the tory

Threat to abandon the social chapter, an agreement that

has improved the lives of millions of working people including

here in Scotland

   We know that Independence will protect the rights of working people

 Westminster repeatedly fails to do so,

I support our MEP’s in seeking changes to Procurement

regulations, which are currently complex and problematic

So that decisions affecting Scottish workers and their families are

taken here in Scotland. so we can strengthen the

Rights of workers, so we can boost their wages, so we can create thriving communities,

I am ready to play my part in that transformation

Those who of you who know me are aware, in my Trade

 Union Activism, my experience of negotiation, and the issues I hold dear. 

 In Europe I will work tirelessly on issues that matter and impact

 on the lives of scots every single


 standing up for our fishing communities

  And our farming and rural communities

Standing up for the Cities where lack of investment has left

Deprivation that shame a country prevented from doing so much

More for its people

I will stand up for Every Scottish community abandoned by every

Westminster party

 Selection for the list is a very great honour, as is the opportunity

 To serve our nation.

 I realise you have a difficult decision to make.

 I know how I will cast my vote, but

Everyone submitting their name is an asset to our party.

 I hope you support my nomination and

I look forward to campaigning alongside all of you for the

European election to come and as we deliver independence

For Scotland

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A Dark Day for Labour

A dark day for Labour and even worse for the vulnerable.............

This was the statement made to me earlier today on Twitter from Lynn Henderson, Scottish Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union. (and best wishes to civil service workers on strike tomorrow).

Todays vote in the House of Commons which saw the Labour Front Bench abstain from the Workfare vote was yet another dull thud on the bruised body of the wider labour movement. A timely reminder that the shiny shiny New Labour bureaucrats still have their clammy hands on the tiller to make sure that their managerial agenda for servicing business first, working people second, isn't too compromised in opposition by such tricky things as principled positions.

To stand back whilst the Tory Government unilaterally and retrospectively change the law to ensure the continuation of unpaid labour, and see workers wages undercut by Workfare is a dereliction of duty and against the very principles of the Labour Movement and the historic aims of the Labour Party.

Todays events remind me of Jimmy Reid when he said "I didnt leave the Labour Party, the Labour Party left me", I am sure that there are many who feel like that today. Co-inciding with the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War , it's an unfortunate reminder for many who've stuck with the party despite everything - it's not that there ever was a golden age and the battles between left and right in the party are legendary, but the rights of working people were one of the key principles that the 20th century Labour movement held dear and fought hard for. The Labour party in the 21st century is a different construct and no amount of singing the Red Flag and celebrating its history can hide that, waving banners and turning out to parade on May Day is a faint echo of past struggle rather than a proud celebration of current principles. (With some exceptions that prove the rule).

The Labour Party has a great history, but surely now for many - the party is over


Blogging has been lighter than I would have liked with the touring of Constituencies around the country, which I have found enjoyable, and the good camaraderie with the other Candidates.

It is to my complete astonishment that I read this week, that the Labour Front Bench abstained on a vote to remove from 2500 PCS members, the right to strike in Customs and Immigration.

The honourable John McDonnell probably puts it best when he says

"This is the first time in the Labour Movement - the first time ever in the history of the Labour Party - that his party has supported in Parliament the removal of trade union rights for trade unionists"

Had it not been for John McDonnell's intervention the Labour Front Bench would have supported the measure!

News also reaches me that the Labour front bench are likely to abstain in tomorrow's vote on Workfare.

What on earth is going on?

Have we really reached a point for no return where the Labour Party at Westminster now see the rights of workers and Trade Unions as expendable? Are they so cautious and sensitive to accusations of "Red Ed" being held hostage by the unions that they are prepared to sit back and let those self same members who actively support the Labour party (by choice and opt-in)  through the trade union levy go to the wall ?
This is the enduring mystery at the heart of the Labour party - significant sums of money and resource support the party and individual MP's, MSP's, councillors and constituency parties - cheques written from political funds established though the political levy from the wages of many low paid workers. And what exactly do they get in return for all this support - other than warm words ("Comrades .. as a democratic socialist of course I support you..But...) and cool distance when councils set budgets, and parliamentarians cast their vote.

This ideological right wing Coalition Government must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Who do working people support now.

Westminster has failed working people.  If the Government and the main opposition cannot protect workers, then surely only Independence can.

Only the SNP support the removal of anti-TU laws, with the rights of workers to begin on day one of their employment.

Surely now, only Independence can protect workers in Scotland through the European Social Chapter, which the Tories are desperate to ditch.

I would encourage everyone to sign up to Trade Unions for YES - facebook page up and running.

Westminster has repeatedly failed in the protection of working people in Scotland.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


Whoever the genius was who inspired the twitter hashtag - #PulptheFiction can take a great deal of satisfaction from this weekends events, as the Referendum debate hots up.

I had the privilege of listening to Dennis Canavan at the Glasgow UNISON AGM Independence Hustings.  At the same time the Better Together were preparing for a big campaign weekend around the issue of stability - the proverbial "don't frighten the horses"  visionless unionist argument. Perfectly encapsulated in the desiccated persona of Alistair Darling.

Only hours later the news that the UK has lost its AAA Credit Rating became public.

I personally support the view of many that the media obession with credit ratings and the Better Together campaign's use of their status as a weapon of choice gives them a validity and credibility that they do not deserve. After all, the judgement of the international global financial institutions they serve is so sound and reliable.... Alice in Wonderland casino economy forecasts are barely worth the ticker tape they're printed on these days. 

In any event, whilst at a Euro Hustings in Ardrossan on Saturday I was advised that the Better Together campaign were handing out a leaflet stating amongst other challengeable assertions -  "Scots save billions on the costs of mortgages due to the UK's credit rating"

Er...unfortunate timing, but perhaps the Better Together crystal ball was a little cloudy when the order went to the printers - remind me again, who's the main economic genius figurehead leading the campaign? Therein lies the Labour contradiction at the heart of their involvement in Better Together - on the one hand arguing that UK PLC delivers stability, certainty, reassurance, on the other hand campaigning as a party against Gideon Osborne and his bunch of Eton chums not being fit to be in charge of the school tuck shop funds...

The official position from the Better Together is that the leaflet being referred to is "one year old".

If this is correct then why.....

(1) Was Better Together 2012 Ltd Incorparated at Companies House on the 1st June 2012?
(2) Was the leaflet distributed in Glasgow Pollok this weekend? (along with Double Agent Ian Davidsons infamous Clyde Yards leaflet - Doom ! Gloom ! Independence will cost you your jobs and a stable future...)
(3) make the claim that the leaflet was one year old and was not being distributed?

As momentum switches so do the questions and the claims.  The politics of this of course are that if the AAA credit rating is a reason for staying in the UK, now that it no longer has this rating why stay? The online gymnastics from the Better Together spin meisters frantically try to say..nothing to see here, move along...
Incidentally is it just me or does an argument for a secure future for everyone and prosperity all round based on endorsing the status quo of global exploitation, greed, mass poverty and inequality seem a bit..odd ?

In closing the over-arching feeling is how does the UK result in stabilty when the arguments have to change every few months?.......

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Opinions as Facts?

The best piece of advice I ever received from a Senior Trade union lay activist was if you put two lawyers in a room you get at least three opinions.

That should inform any analysis of the carefully primed over-reaction in the press trailing the news that Monday  would be a dreadful day for the Yes Campaign as a definitive report was going to be published telling you Why You Can’t Vote Yes Because Clever Lawyers Will Tell You Independence Will Be Terribly Difficult  And  A Bad Idea.

It now appears that the legal advice received by the Westminster Government is not what they thought it would be – despite being announced in the Ultra Establishment venue of the Signet Library in Edinburgh, with all the subliminal resonance of   “we are your social and intellectual masters who reserve the right to hand down our judgements to the restless natives”…it hasn’t gone entirely according to plan.

14,000 treaties became 8,500 then 14,000 again, and then the leading academic presenting the opinion messed up the battle plan by stating that negotiations to be members of the UN or the EU would not be difficult, and that the Scottish Government’s stated timeline is entirely realistic.

We then ended the night with the risible sight of David Mundell  (fast approaching Ian Davidson double agent territory in his frantic attempts to hang on to his job) , explaining that the Independence Referendum was not about the Treaty of Union as that isn’t relevant.  An argument that even supporters of the Union will find mildly offensive and a woeful and deliberate misreading of history. It’s actually counter-intuitive of the No campaign to imply that Scotland isn’t an equal partner and historic entity in its own right as this flies in the face of one of the few resonant arguments in favour of maintaining the status quo, namely that Scotland is a nation bonded by “choice” to other nations to form the UK, not a subdued or conquered country.  Using the language and adopting the attitudes of colonialism is a sure fire way to get intelligent and thoughtful voters considering if they wish to be governed by people who deploy such simplistic and arrogant arguments.

The issue of whether Scotland is a continuing or successor state, or even extinguished one, is probably where there will be disagreement from other academic and legal experts.

The underlying tone however from the Tory led Westminster Government is one that should be taken to task.  The tone of too wee, too stupid and things will be difficult will not cut much ice with the regular and informed voter.

Important to remember - who makes laws and where do legislators get their mandate from? Are we governed by lawyers or democratically elected representatives whose role is to action their mandate from the people?


Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Before Christmas the Westminster Coalition sneakily inserted a new clause to the Enterprise and Regulatory Bill which will impact on workers who seek compensation for suffering injury at work.

The clause (Clause 61) was inserted at the Report Stage of the Bill, has not been subject to public consultation, and overturns what has been established law for over 100 years.

Currently regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act contain statutory duties that ensure employers maintain safe workplaces.  The Westminster Government wishes to remove what is known as strict laibility.  For example as the employee does not have control over the selection, buying or maintenance of work equipment, the employer takes the risk if the equipment injures someone or is defective.

If the proposed change remains it will remove all opportunities for an injured worker to seek compensation from an employer for breach of a statutory duty, and employers will no longer be liable in civil court for breaches of Health and Safety at Work regulations.  The only remedy available will be to prove employer negligence.

The Westminster Governments own impact assessment demonstrates that negligence is more difficult to prove.

The reality of this situation is that fewer claims will be pursued and fewer injured workers will receive compensation, and they and their families will have will pick up the consequences whilst Insurance compnaies will be the gainers.

Compensation is not a prize or bonus for employees, it is simply compensation for injury suffered.  If this proposal is allowed to stand it will be a further eradication of workers rights in the UK, a dangerous, pernicious, and ideological backward step and a signal to bad employers that they have a better chance of getting away with poor health and safety provision. 

This is quite simply a scandalous piece of legislation hidden under the disguise of deregulation.

Thursday, 31 January 2013


It was with a real sense of anticipation that I went to Govan last night to hear Alex Salmond deliver the Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture.  I worked alongside him and other SNP Trade Union group colleagues to promote our vision for working people and the FM was correct to reflect on his legacy when he  said that Jimmy Reid was one of Scotland’s great political thinkers.
The evening started with a peculiar prelude outside the venue of Govan Old Parish Church.  I was handed a leaflet from “Glasgow South West Labour” which attempted to make the case that Independence would inevitably result in shipyard job losses.  The tone was literally “doom and gloom” (words actually used in the text of the leaflet) , asserting that jobs are always safe under the UK umbrella, and anything else will lead to disaster and unemployment.  This alarming assertion flies in the face of reality -  as I know from personal experience. Family and friends have lost their jobs in shipbuilding whilst being continually told that only remaining in the UK protects the industry.  A rather clunky and simplistic message designed to provoke a “No” vote, and more proof of my pet theory that Iain Davidson is an active Double Agent for the Independence movement. The campaigning tactics of fostering fear and anxiety , overlaid with a paternal and patronising tone are the blunt instruments of the last century and conjure up a dismal vision for the future under “ Scottish” Labour.

Inside, I was struck by the thoughtful and considered contribution from the First Minister.  He outlined a compelling case for how Independence can address some of the social ills which blight our country. It was a message that decisions and political choices can either deal with or exacerbate these problems.

I had not quite appreciated that there is a very damning statistic showing that 700,000 working Scots will be adversely affected by the Tory-led UK Governments ideological welfare changes.  Comparing that political cost to the price of replacing Trident brings that stark choice home.

I was also encouraged by his clear promotion of universal provision of health and education, and agree that Scotland is taking a different course from Westminster in this regard. The Scottish government and the SNP has a far more coherent narrative around the benefits of universality, strongly supported by the public. Interestingly, the elements in Scotland that are challenging that consensus are also the parties most active in the “No” campaign – the Tories and Labour. Looking at the erosion of universality and accountable public services south of the border I can only observe that if that is “better together”, then why do many people I speak to ( who aren’t SNP voters )freely state that they value the devolution of some power in Scotland as that’s been a protection against the worst excesses of bank balance led “choices” for health and education. The harsher the rhetoric and crueller the cuts the more it prompts many non political people to wonder whether devolution has gone far enough.

 The key theme for me, was his praise of the Scottish Parliament, and political institutions working with civic society in doing all we can to tackle social ills.  He was clearly advocating the case for Independence in a social justice context , not for economic or emotional reasons but as a route to showing how we can assert our values of common weal,  and action our empathy for  fellow citizens – the real better together in Scotland message.

As the Reid Foundation has stated today on their website - an excellent and fair analysis of the nights proceedings  “Time and again he made the simple point that it is largely the Parliament – not any one government or any one party – which has protected a social model of government in Scotland. “