UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Power for Scotland's People. A Labour Movement View

A debate on the Left alternative to the ‘sterile argument between unionists and nationalists’ on Scotland’s future will be launched by the new ‘Red Paper Collective’ at a seminar in Glasgow on 23 June. Reflecting the UNISON and STUC positions of starting with the position of it not being about powers but what we want to do with them to create the kind of Scotland we want to see for our people, the collective takes this a step forward to look at the detail of how best this can be achieved.

So far the mainstream debate has been lacking in that detail. On the one hand independence is a portrayed as a panacea to address all ills, underpinned by a thinly disguised call to patriotism. The opposition is so broadly ‘unionist’ that it seems to be able to do little more than be ‘against’ with a promise of jam tomorrow. What it all really means for social and economic democracy has been crowded out – or not even articulated in the first place.

“The debate so far misses the crucial dimensions of class politics and the redistribution of income and wealth”, argues the seminar pamphlet. https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B4mGMLu_gab8enRpRVY0MUpHN0k

Admittedly the basis of the SNP left argument is that we cannot achieve the social and economic change we want without independence. This is reflected by others on the Left across parties and organisations, who point to a view of Scotland as inherently more ‘social democratic and egalitarian’ than England and are frustrated by years of imposition of unwanted policies from UK governments.

The frustration is understandable and shared across the movement. But would independence really deliver on the aims of this Left perspective? Not under what is currently on the table, the pamphlet argues.

If Scotland is more ‘social democratic and egalitarian’, it is not something that is magically in our genes and will necessarily always be there. It comes from a history of communicating values and ideas. From trade union, community and political activism, argument and debate - taken out to wider civic Scotland, faith groups and other institutions. Concepts that are not owned by people in Scotland but are shared in many communities across the UK. That will need to continue no matter what.

The unions’ “transforming impact on political attitudes only occurred when struggles against Scottish employers merged with wider British struggles and brought the trade union movement into collision with the class power of the employers at British level”, the pamphlet points out.

The limits of the current SNP vision of Scotland – and the realities of who controls capital at UK and global level - mean the same root issues for the Left would still have to be addressed, probably in even more difficult circumstances.

“An ‘independent’ or ‘devo-max’ Scotland, without a high level of unity and working class mobilisation, would become a low tax, low wage economy which would struggle to maintain public spending and jobs at current levels”, argues the pamphlet.

The pamphlet outlines a detailed ‘Left Alternative’ range of measures including national parliaments and England devolved structures within an overall federal parliament; a needs-based redistribution of resources, power over a fairer tax system, borrowing powers, the ability to take land, property and enterprises into public control and powers to create publicly owned enterprises to rebuild Scotland’s industrial base.

It acknowledges that some of these measures would require a challenge to EU law and changes in UK Company law but it argues that “with political will and a united Labour Movement this kind of devolved settlement is achievable and is what the left should be fighting for.”


The seminar runs from 10.00 – 13.00 on Saturday 23 June in UNISON House 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow. Please reserve a place at the seminar by email: paulinebryanuk@yahoo.co.uk or telephone: 0141 333 9335 or 07753546538

See also ‘Scotland the Real Divide’ http://unisonactive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/scotland-real-divide.html
See more constitutional blogs at http://unisonactive.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Independence