jamiekerrJamie Kerr, a member of the new campaign group Labour for Scotland, writes about its origins and intentions, and invites you to its inaugural meeting on Saturday.

 

Labour is facing a battle just to hold on in its traditional heartlands.

The four areas to vote Yes on September 18th were Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire, Dundee and North Lanarkshire.

Labour was founded in the shipyards and factories and mines of industrial Scotland to give working people a voice. When so many of them have spoken, and are demanding change, the party has to listen and reflect.

For the past two years, the narrative of Scottish politics has been dominated by the referendum campaign and what people have seen is Labour running a joint campaign with a Conservative Party less popular than a fart in a space suit.

You can’t talk credibly about solidarity on the same platform as a party whose policies are fundamentally at odds with the view of people in Scotland. Every photocall with Conservative leader Ruth Davidson was another lost vote.

Ask yourself how Donald Dewar might have reacted if someone had suggested he team up with Michael Forsyth? Labour must never campaign with the Tories ever again.

The key dividing line in Scottish politics is not whether we voted Yes or No. It is about the values that motivate our politics. The meeting organised by Labour for Scotland at Strathclyde University, on October 18th, is a chance to begin that conversation.

Speakers so far confirmed include the STUC’s Dave Moxham, former MSP Pauline McNeill, and Dave Watson from Unison.

Labour politicians have campaigned for Scottish self-government for over a century. Keir Hardie was also the founding vice-president of the Scottish Home Rule League.

We need to define what home rule means in the 21st century, with a radical vision that shifts power from every level of government closer to people and communities. It must be about the redistribution of wealth as well as responsibility.

It is time for Labour to surprise people with its ambition and imagination.

Our next manifesto could contain a commitment to a higher minimum wage in Scotland, a local sales tax on alcohol with revenue ring-fenced for councils to provide better sports facilities or opportunities for young people. Or how about public ownership of Scotland’s railways?

All of this becomes possible if we can create a real debate that engages all members from the grassroots upwards about how we make Scotland a better country.

As a first step, we also need to make Labour itself more democratic. The party in Scotland should have the right to write its own constitution and appoint its own officials.

But why not go a step further and enable members to elect the Shadow Cabinet at Holyrood? This would give members a stronger voice in important decisions and help to create a culture of debate and accountability within the party.

Labour for Scotland is not offering a plan, or a blueprint, but we want to talk. Come along on Saturday, tell us what you think and what we should do next.

 

The Labour for Scotland meeting will be at 2pm on Saturday October 18th at Strathclyde University’s Graham Hill building. All Labour members and supporters are invited.