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. “


Monday, 21 January 2013


Thanks to the support and encouragement from a number of colleagues I am indicating that I’ve been nominated by a number of constituency associations to be considered as one of the six candidates for the European Elections.  It’s a positive sign of the party’s engagement with Europe that a number of colleagues have decided to do the same, and to them best wishes and good luck.
I gave this decision a lot of thought, consulting colleagues, as well as the two MEP’s.

I have decided to seek nominations for a number of reasons, and feel that the following issues are where I can make a contribution to the healthy debate we’ll be having about our country’s future in a 21st century Europe.
Firstly, austerity at home and abroad.  I take the fundamental and principled view that cutting public spending not only increases deficits but harms the private sector economy.  With 70p in every £ of public money going into to the private sector economy, ideological decisions to cut public spending are just plain wrong.  The examples of so-called smaller countries ( I prefer the term normal sized nations), who have dealt with the financial crisis without attacking public spending or welfare programmes is a useful tool to bring into political debate in 2014.
Secondly, I want to ensure the Social Chapter is protected and enhance it if we can.  I have a real suspicion of the Tory led Government agenda – when they say that Europe needs reformed they mean dumping the Social Chapter, as well as EU Human Rights legislation.  The social chapter has improved the lives of millions of working people, and the Tories wish to opt out will only serve to increase short term employment, and a low wage economy.  The example of European Governments who have better employment protection is in stark contrast to Westminster, and the recent move to reduce the statutory notice of redundancy will only make it easier for multinational companies to close UK workplaces, at the expense of those elsewhere.
Thirdly, I feel due to successive UK Government negligence, we need to do more to access EU funds. It is utterly negligent of the UK Government not to apply for funding that can help small and medium size enterprises, and structural funds have helped alleviate long term unemployment – for example the City Centre Rep service in Glasgow.  Indeed our farming communities would benefit by the tune of £150 million in an Independent Scotland.
Fourthly, we have an opportunity to support our current group on reviewing EU procurement rules.  It is correct that clauses should be inserted to allow local and central government to take procurement decisions which would assist their local economies.  This will allow local economies to grow.
This brings me to the last reason.  2014 is the year we determine Scotland’s future, and I believe I can make a contribution articulating why an Independent Scotland in Europe will benefit our fellow citizens, rather than the increasingly insular attitude we see at Westminster.  Political reality says that Scotland will be welcomed with open arms inside the European Community.
I will over the coming weeks share these views further.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


I have decided to start blogging again, which is now my 3rd blog.  I have been meaning to do this for quite some time, and have been encouraged to do so by many, though the last catalyst was actually a family member who told me that I should be doing more political writing. Hope you enjoy reading the first effort.  Here goes;

The Scottish National Party has dominated political debate in the last decade culminating in an extraordinary electoral result in 2011.  It had been coming and certainly the runes were there for all to see.  It has been said that 2012 was a bad year for the Party, and whilst there have been a few bumps as should be expected for a party which has been in power for five years, its polling and electoral performance still outstrips that of 2007.

Still firmly camped in the Social Democratic Centre Left in the European tradition, it has not been challenged adequately in the Scottish Parliament from the left, and with a Labour Party fixated in its Cuts Commission, cheered on by the Tories – who are using it to bash the Labour Party in Wales, it doesn’t look like it will be.

The positioning of the unionist parties into sharing the same vision on welfare, the economy, and the role of the public sector opens I believe many opportunities for the Party and the Yes Campaign for Independence.  Rather than different visions of Independence being a hindrance, it exposes the narrowness of the No campaign, and how little can change by being part of the Westminster system.

The Tory led Westminster Government’s efforts on the economy have demonstrated that austerity is a failure, and that rather than growing the economy to cut deficit, cutting public spending is growing the deficit.
The recent proposed changes to redundancy legislation, which cuts the statutory notice to 45 days, will inevitably lead to more unemployment, and a culture of short term employment.  A deregulated labour market will encourage large employers to close operations in the UK, in times of difficulty, as it is easier to sack workers here than elsewhere.

It is my hope that in 2013, the party develops some of the following in its thinking and vision of Independence;
(1) Tax and Economic Growth
A progressive taxation system and a starting point a comprehensive review of all taxation, to help make the tax system fairer and more progressive, with less reliance on regressive taxes.  Alongside this an economic strategy founded on growing the economy, and developing this narrative as an alternative to austerity.
(2) Extending the Social Contract to Non Devolved Areas
As part of the above of course, and moving into areas like employment law, as a means of securing long term employment and encouraging fairness at work.  Some of the strongest economies in the world have better employment rights than the UK.
(3) Regulation
Developing themes of stronger regulation on energy and fuel prices.
(4) Tackling Poverty
The Westminster’s Government’s Welfare Reforms will be disastrous for the poor and disadvantaged, as well as harming the overall economy, as a recent Glasgow City Council paper alluded to.  Tackling poverty and developing policies such as a Citizens Income will contrast positively against the current Westminster thinking.
(5) An International Agenda based on Justice and Peace
The UK Government’s foreign policies in the last decade from entering from entering illegal wars and provide military aid to regimes who have a cavalier attitude to human rights is a disgrace.  Independence provides an opportunity for a different approach, and one based on the protecting human rights.  In Europe, a positive outlook rather than the Tories whose price for staying in will be an opt out of the social chapter, based on fairness and opportunity will ensure Scotland is welcomed into the EU with open arms.
These are of course only my suggestions, and I will play my small part to help develop similar thinking.
All in all, I firmly believe there is a lot to be optimistic about the SNP and the Independence Campaign, into what many consider to be a defining point in the party’s history.