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.