Scottish Labour Party Conference

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

THE SCOTTISH Labour Party’s Spring Conference took place on Saturday at Glasgow Science Centre. Two notable persons were absent in body: neither Jeremy Corbyn nor John MacDonnell were to be seen, despite Corbyn being in the city the day before.

According to Kezia Dugdale this heralded a “new age” for the Scottish Labour Party, which meant “the Scottish Labour leader is in charge of what happens in Scotland”. But both Corbyn and McDonnell were there in spirit.

Kezia Dugdale, who defeated left-winger Neil Findlay in the post-general election leadership contest, sounded very much like Corbyn. She said the party’s manifesto for the forthcoming Holyrood elections was the “most radical Labour manifesto ever”, and actually used the S word by declaring “I am a socialist” before correctly accusing the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, of only “posturing as a socialist when it suited her”.

She assured the masses that Labour would totally ban fracking, with no secret deals with billionaire refinery owners, accusing Sturgeon of leaving the door open for fracking by promoting “loaded studies reporting, conveniently, after the election”.

Denouncing the long litany of the record of the Salmond—Sturgeon years for using Holyrood “as a conveyor belt for Tory cuts” she pointed out that Scottish National Party (SNP) rule had resulted in 4,000 fewer teachers and increased class sizes, and denounced the SNP’s plans to privatise the ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne.

Dugdale also denounced the “party funded by Brian Soutar” for refusing to introduce any regulation of bus services in Scotland.

At the conference Unite’s youth and community activists raised the issue of the growing number of zero-hour contracts. The Office of National Statistics recently reported a 15 per cent increase in their use, now affecting about 56,000 Scottish workers.

Stepping up the fight against the Tory trade Union Bill and increasing the numbers of workers in unions is the only way to defeat precarious employment.

On the following Tuesday Dugdale “stole” one of the SNP’s long standing policies. This was to abolish the Council Tax. Perhaps “stole” is the wrong word because it might be more accurate to say that she picked up a policy long thrown away by the SNP.

upsetting

Since coming to power at Holyrood the SNP could at least have attempted to implement their own policy, but they choose not to do so for fear of upsetting their more well-heeled supporters who would inevitably lose out if a scheme based on the a new valuation of properties now proposed by Labour was introduced.

Instead the SNP have plans to tinker with the existing system they formerly denounced. Labour’s plans for an outright scrapping of the present system were one of the options presented by the official Commission on Local Tax Reform.

Despite the abundant evidence of the record of the SNP, and numerous scandals involving SNP parliamentarians, recent polls suggest that Labour will have a hard fight on their hands with the Tories — but only to see who will come second or third.