YES Scotland response to STUC Just Scotland



The Yes Campaign has demonstrated that it wants to engage with the Trade Union movement by responding to STUC’s report on A Just Scotland. Although, given the policies constraints of using a shared currency and the EU as envisaged by the Yes campaign, the document asks almost nothing which could not be answered by greater powers to a Scottish Parliament or ideally a federal arrangement within the UK .

The report states that “It does not seek to guarantee or predict any one outcome from independence…” and “Of course, how Scotland would use new powers… is not for the Yes Scotland campaign to say – we leave that to the political parties.” It does not, however, stop the document claiming things for an independent Scotland as if they could make firm policy commitments.

At the heart of the Yes Campaign’s response is a desire to incorporate the trade unions in the “project” of an independent Scotland as if all class conflict would evaporate. They claim that “there is a consensus amongst citizens, civic groups and organisations, as well as political parties and indeed some of our most successful entrepreneurs”. I am sure some of the employees of Brian Souter and Jim McColl find them a long way from the Yes Campaign’s view of “a virtuous cycle of enterprise and compassion”.

It claims that the Scottish Government and COSLA are working to ameliorate the impact of changes to Council Tax included in coalition welfare policy, but neglects to mention the SNP’s attack on local government with its imposed Council Tax freeze on local government since 2007.

In its section on Labour Market and Rights the theme of incorporation continues with the promotion of “social partnership” with government and employers. Many would argue that Trade Unions have a different role to play and should not allow themselves to be sucked into a cosy relationship with employers instead of standing up for their members’ rights.

As for workers’ rights the document can only echo Alex Salmond’s half hearted comment “There is little appetite in Scotland for a further diminution of workers’ rights”, ignoring the fact that we already have the most restrictive laws in Europe and ones which have been repeatedly condemned by the ILO. Such a phrase clearly indicates the SNP’s wish to keep big business on board and should be a warning light to the TU movement. The TU movement would continue to be hamstrung by legal restraints. This itself should be concern every trade unionist.

The document is right in saying that the debate provides a unique opportunity for Scotland to address key questions for Scotland ‘s future, but as the Red Paper Collective argues, the answer is not independence, but to make a start by using those powers already available to the Scottish Parliament.

The Red Paper Collective’s exploration of how to bring about greater equality and fairer redistribution of wealth and how to gain democratic control of our economy suggests the need for much greater change that would impact more on most working people than the timid approach on currency, defence, the monarchy and industrial development demonstrated by the Yes Scotland Campaign.


Red Paper seminar – quick summary

The latest Red Paper seminar was held at the STUC in Glasgow today. Pauline Bryan outlined the purpose of the seminar was to influence the next Red Paper book on constitutional change.

Jackson Cullinane set out the background to the Red Paper in Scotland with a class not nationalist perspective on constitutional change. Stands proudly in the Home Rule tradition of the Labour Movement going back to Keir Hardie. He was critical of the Better Together campaign because it was perceived as supporting the status quo. Can agree with much of the Radical Independence vision, but that vision is not on offer. Independence will be defined by the SNP who are not offering a radical vision. He gave a range of examples including SNP MEPs voting against the Robin Hood Tax and opposition to an amnesty for striking miners.

Lynn Henderson set out the significance of the independence debate for her UK civil service members in PCS. Concerned about anti-English tone creeping into debate – little evidence that Scots are automatically more radical. Need to look at the UK consequences of the debate and break away from polarised debate. We should set out Labour Movement alternative, very different from Better Together approach, particularly the attack on universal public services. Independent Scotland as defined by the SNP is a business agenda and current actions in many policy fields are less than radical.

John Foster highlighted risks of the written constitution proposed by the SNP. It entrenches neo-liberal European Union constitution making it very difficult to adopt more radical approaches. Balance of economic power not in Scotland and that will not change in an independent Scotland. He focused on public and social ownership outlining the current concentration of means of production in a few hands. Challenge for Red Paper is to bring together forces of class and nation.

There were a range of contributions in the questions session. A common focus was the importance of devolution not stopping at Holyrood, given the increasing centralisation of services away from local government.

After the initial contributions and questions, participants broke into four workshops covering the the main sections on the next Red Paper book:

Economics of Social Progress
Democratic Control and Ownership
Changing the Balance of Class Forces
The Political Challenge

The plenary session focused on the political challenges.

Eric Shaw outlined the changes in voting patterns connected to societal change. However, he saw an opportunity to build a new community of interest across the public and private sector and between what he regards as an artificial middle and working class divide. Labour needs a long term strategy around the social democratic project, rather than simply short term reactions to SNP shortcomings.

Dave Moxham agreed that Labour needs to develop a new narrative to explain what it exists for. There needs to be new mechanisms that rewards the devolved administrations for initiatives that actually saves the UK government money. Examples include investment in new jobs and child care. On fiscal policy, Scottish Labour has to decide to what extent it wants to adopt policies in Scotland that are different to the UK. So many powers are already devolved but not understood or used. Powers to revitalise local democracy, land reform and gender disadvantage already here, but no political party appears willing to adopt policies on these issues.

Vince Mills tackled the different approaches on the left. An independent Scotland on the terms the SNP are proposing would make it even more difficult to achieve the five principles in the Radical Independence agenda. The power of capital rests in London and therefore outside the UK we give up any real chance of tackling that power. The track record of the SNP government on these issues gives no cause to believe they can be achieved in an independent Scotland.

In discussion speakers highlighted importance of getting the rest of the UK engaged in discussion around constitutional change. The Red Paper needs to be seen as part of a long term campaign to make the case for socialism not nationalism. We need to talk about issues that matter to working people.


If you have a view on any of the issues coved by the Red Paper we want to hear them. Contact us here



Red Paper seminar this Saturday

The Red Paper collective meets again in Glasgow on Saturday to consider the impact of constitutional change on working people. The group, made up of labour movement activists, trade unionists and academics are hosting a seminar at the STUC to publicly discuss the content and main themes of their forthcoming book.  

The Red Paper Collective argues that Labour’s involvement in the Better Together Campaign brings it too close to the Tories and Lib-Dems and is preventing it from using the referendum to articulate a vision for greater equality and economic democracy. On the other side the Red Paper Collective criticise Yes campaigners for selling independence as the medicine to cure all ills arguing that independence will actually give little scope for genuine change.

Pauline Bryan Editor of the Red Paper said,

 The Red Paper Collective came together to revive the tradition of the first Red Paper for Scotland (1975), which explored how Scotland could have greater equality and democratic control of its economy.  The current contributors reject both independence as offered by the SNP and the restricted vision of the Better Together, Devo Plus and Devo Max campaigns.

 Leading thinkers on the left in Scotland will come together on Saturday to present their ideas for discussion and feedback.  The outcome will be to describe the society we should be aiming for and then ask, what powers we need to achieve it.   Thereafter, the ideas that emerge will then be advanced in the Scottish Trade Union and Labour Movement.

 The Red Paper is touching a nerve with Labour and trade union activists, in a way that I’m afraid the Better Together is not.  Its coalition with Tories and Lib Dems is quite simply failing to inspire people.  Labour should be using the referendum to explore and call for a vision of greater equality and economic democracy. We hope that the Red Paper Collective can help stimulate more radical thinking on the constitutional issue in the Labour and Trade Union movement.

 Another member of the group, Neil Findlay MSP said,

 The Red Paper Collective is producing some very important material and much needed evidence that I believe is helping to inform the current debate. It is vital that the Scottish people make a decision on our future based on evidence rather than assertion.

 The Red Paper Collective is first and foremost organised and based around the principle of what is best for working people. Its asking how we tackle the obvious inequities that exist in Scotland today and how we build a better tomorrow for all our people. Saturday’s event builds upon our previous work and will help us develop strategies and campaigns towards a better and much more equal Scotland.    

 The meeting is at the STUC in Glasgow, on Saturday 16thFebruary from 10am until1pm.