Co-operative policies can empower Scots
Johann Lamont spoke at Co-operative Party Conference in Cardiff this morning.
Fellow co-operators it is a great pleasure to be here today. It is great to be at Co-operative Party conference. Co-operation is an idea whose time has come.
It is also great to be here in Cardiff in a country with a Labour and Co-operative Party government.
The last year has been a busy year for the Scottish Co-operative Party. With the small matter of an election. We are delighted that one of our MSPs, Kezia Dugdale, is now the leader of the Scottish Labour Party. Kezia and our group of MSPs will make the case for co-operative policies in the Scottish Parliament.
In the Scottish Parliament election there were a number of co-operative policies in the Scottish Labour manifesto. The Scottish Co-operative Party used its influence to ensure that Scottish Labour put forward a significant number of co-operative policies. These included:
- A commitment to a democratic economy
- A plan to review the work of Co-operative Development Scotland aimed at strengthening it
- The promotion of employee-ownership
- Consideration of amending planning legislation to promote genuine community co-operative ownership
- Promotion of local marketing co-operatives to protect our high streets
- Ensuring education on the co-operative model is available at all levels of education from school to university
- Support for the Co-operative Party’s People’s ScotRail campaign
- Developing co-operative and mutual models for bus services
- Support for a variety of co-operatively owned energy models, including local renewable energy co-operatives and mutual bulk buying schemes
- Support for the co-operative model in local government, empowering local people
- Promoting radical land reform and promoting co-operative and mutual models of land ownership
- Consideration of ways to promote co-operative and mutual models of wraparound childcare.
We took forward a strong set of Co-operative policies both in the Scottish Labour manifesto and in the Scottish Co-operative Party manifesto which was developed by party members across Scotland. In this session of parliament, we will be working hard to deliver on these policies.
The election was another difficult one for us in Scotland but there were successes for the Scottish Co-operative Party. We doubled our number of MSPs from four to eight, with Kezia Dugdale, Claudia Beamish, James Kelly and myself being returned and joined by Neil Bibby, David Stewart, Rhoda Grant and Ken Macintosh. Since the election Ken has been elected as the Presiding Officer but we have an effective and committed group of MSPs and I am pleased to serve as the Chair of our Group.
We were sorry to lose people like Sarah Boyack and Cara Hilton who were strong co-operators in parliament. We also had a number of excellent candidates who were unsuccessful but who served the party well in the election and hopefully will do so again in the future.
In the Scottish Parliament we have taken the fight to the SNP. We have tried to make them turn their rhetoric into action. We pressed for Land Reform which empowered local people and gave them a real say in the ownership of their land. The Scottish Government refused to explicitly back co-operative ownership models. Along with colleagues I will continue to press for Scottish Government support for co-operative ownership models of land.
Likewise, in Community Empowerment the Scottish Government has given theoretical support for co-operative and mutual ownership models. We believe that they must give practical support as well. The Scottish Government Agency Co-operative Development Scotland should give practical help to communities which want to exercise their theoretical right to co-operative ownership.
The MSP group will continue to promote Co-operative policies in the Scottish Parliament. We want to empower the people of Scotland, whilst the Scottish Government centralises power in Holyrood. We want to make a difference in our communities whilst the SNP obsesses over the constitution.
Whilst thanking those who were unsuccessful in this year’s election I also want to thank all those who make the Scottish Co-operative Party happen especially the office-bearers on the Scottish Executive, Cathy Peattie, Marjory Smith, Rita Miller and Hugh Donnelly, and all those people who take part in our local activities. I also want to pay tribute to the wider co-operative movement in Scotland who inspire us to action. I want to thank all those Co-operative Group members in Scotland who helped us to Keep It Co-op.
2017 will be an important year for our party. We will celebrate the centenary of the Co-operative Party. Scotland has a rich history of Co-operation. The Fenwick Weavers are the first co-operative for which documentation exists. It was in Scotland that the Welshman Robert Owen put into practice his theories of co-operation.
In my own area it was in Glasgow that involvement in the co-operative movement led Mary Barbour on the path to political activity. Leading rent strikes and eventually serving as one of the first female councillors in Glasgow. Mrs Barbour’s army is still on the march and I am looking forward to her statue being unveiled in Govan in the not too distant future.
Mary Barbour served our movement in local government and 2017 sees all out local government elections right across Scotland.
Our councillors have been at the forefront of the fight against Tory and SNP austerity. Working for their communities. Looking to do things with their communities rather than to their communities.
Glasgow and Edinburgh are Co-operative Councils. They have both done a great job supporting co-operative enterprise and demonstrating the difference that co-operatives can make.
I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Councillor Andrew Burns, the leader of City of Edinburgh Council and the Chair of the Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network. Andrew has indicated that he will not be standing for re-election next year. I want to pay tribute to the work that he has done for our movement.
City of Edinburgh Council has worked on a number of innovative projects such as the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative which is using Photo-voltaic panels on public buildings to produce renewable power.
In Glasgow the council has helped establish a number of co-operative enterprises. Such as Bala the Fairtrade Sports Ball manufacturer. This summer it was great to see the Homeless World Cup taking place in Glasgow – using Bala Fairtrade Footballs which were sponsored by Scotmid in an excellent example of ‘Co-operation amongst co-operatives.’
While we are on the subject why aren’t the footballs used the Euros or the World Cup or the SPFL or even the English Premiership Fairtrade? We all know that football needs to clean up its act maybe we should campaign for Fairtrade, co-operatively produced footballs to be used in all tournaments.
The Scottish Co-operative Party’s top priority for the next year is the election of as many co-operators as possible to Scotland’s councils. We will be campaigning for councils that do things differently, we will be campaigning for councils which promote co-operative ideas.
We want all pupils in our schools to be taught about co-operative values and principles. We want councils that will promote co-operative enterprises. We want councils that will support credit unions and housing co-operatives. We want councils that support the Fair Tax mark and give contracts to companies who pay the appropriate amount of tax in this country.
We want Co-operative Councils, and I hope that some of you will join with me in marking our party’s centenary by electing co-operators across the length and breadth of Scotland.