New Worker Banner

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


A Busy Weekend

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

Shifting the Balance between Capital and Labour was the title of the Scottish Morning Star Autumn Conference held at the Scottish TUC on Sunday.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard opened proceedings by deploring a litany of Scottish National Party (SNP) sins ranging from them attempting in August to prevent the publication by Scotland’s biggest Sunday newspaper of photographs of pictures showing a prison inmate being dragged by guards just before his death to voting the previous week against Labour’s attempt in Holyrood to effectively nationalise Scotland’s railways.

This week at Holyrood Labour will amend the Transport Bill to municipalise the bus service council house building programme, drastic reforms to employment law and an industrial strategy. Leonard also vowed to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a Senate of Nations and Regions, but this was dependent on electing a “radical transforming Labour government” led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Skilfully avoiding giving any specific any view on Brexit he seemed to endorse a second vote — but it was phrased so carefully for this particular audience that nobody could be absolutely certain.

Jane Carolan of the Institute of Employment Rights welcomed that the fact that Labour has adopted radical plans to reverse the still-in-place Thatcher anti-union laws and will create a new Cabinet-level minister for industrial relations. She said that “democracy should not end at the workplace gate” and that a return to sector-wide bargaining is vital. She also welcomed the ‘Office of Fair Work’ established by the Welsh Government.

The consequences of the present weaknesses of trade unions was highlighted by Unison Scotland Political Officer Simon Macfarlane, who said that in-work poverty amongst council workers has never been higher. He also decried the actions of the charity Cornerstone, which has recently de-recognised Unison and noted that this is an organisation almost totally funded by the SNP government.

After interesting discussions on the merits and possible drawbacks of a universal basic income, climate change and class politics, attention turned to the possibilities of rebuilding the working class movement. Lyn-Marie O’Hara, who was a leader of the recent successful campaign that secured a massive equal pay victory for Glasgow’s 8,000 care workers, said that this had provided a massive injection of money into Glasgow’s economy. But she noted that around 200 effectively did not benefit from the bonanza due to them having accumulated council tax and other arrears because of the earlier low wages.

Amongst other points raised was the absurdity of turbines for an offshore windfarm off the fife coast being built in Indonesia rather than in an empty yard just six miles from their ultimate destination. It was also noted that Argyll and Bute council promote local food producers at the same time as local hospitals get their food supplies from Bristol.

Last week a by-election in an Aberdeen ward maintained the status quo when a deceased SNP and a resigning Tory councillor were replaced with the Tory topping the poll. Labour slumped to fourth place behind the Liberal Democrats. A hitherto unknown ‘Red Party of Scotland’ collected a magnificent nine votes, which suggests that the left has some work to do before we have a “radical transforming Labour government”.

Also last weekend the nationalist marching season came to an end with a parade in Edinburgh on Saturday organised by ‘All Under One Banner’ (AUOB). This is an event that brings out the sort of people who travel across the country to attend these events and whose standards of fashion sense include tartan sunglasses and hair dyed blue and white in the shape of the St Andrew’s cross.

The organisers claimed 200,000 took part in the march and SNP MP Joanna Cherry upped that figure to 250,000. A more modest but precise figure of 11,826 was recorded by ‘A Force For Good’, a fiercely anti-nationalist group whose founder, Alistair McConnachie, was expelled from UKIP in 2001 after claiming that gas chambers were not used by the Nazis to murder millions of Jews during the Second World War.