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



10 thoughts on “Red Paper seminar – quick summary

  1. If this is accurate, I’m unimpressed by what these people have to say. An over-emphasis of the SNP to argue that an independent Scotland would not be inherently more radical than the UK. Where is the evidence that a written constitution would entrench neoliberal values? And why does London’s “power of capital” make an argument to remain married to it? There are many centres of capital in the world. Making political union with each of them would not further the march of socialism – if anything, it could hold them back.

    Really, my only question to these people who want leftist policy and the like: why not vote for a leftist party in an independent Scotland? The referendum is not an election; it is not a choice of policy, but a choice in government structure. Leftists in Scotland should be jumping for bloody joy at the prospect of independence, given that it means the next election they vote in will be carried out through the Additional Member System, not Westminster’s broken first-past-the-post, and there will be no House of Lords holding back democracy.

  2. A fair summary of the independence debate so far. We know that an independent Scotland isnt going to be able to tackle the real issues facing Scotland – our finances will be controlled by a foreign country, and John Swinney has said our taxes wont be going up. So starting off with a deficit, the “markets” will demand cuts to balance the budget. And we’ve seen from the SNP’s cheers as they cut millions from the Further Edcucation budget that they will be happy to oblige.

  3. John Ruddy states “We know that an independent Scotland isnt going to be able to tackle the real issues facing Scotland”.
    You sure about that John? You must be the only person living in Scotland at this present time that believes independence wont change anything.

  4. Dave Watson states “Dave Moxham agreed that Labour needs to develop a new narrative to explain what it exists for”. What an admission. Stand back and think about that statement Mr Moxham. The organisation that you represent the STUC are afflilated to and contribute to a political party that in your opinion, does’nt know what its purpose is.
    Farce is not my favorite type of humour but you guys are good.

    • It might help if you had a better understanding of the Labour Movement in Scotland before criticising. The STUC is not affiliated to the Scottish Labour Party and certainly doesn’t fund it.

      • OK, I defer to your expertise. Here’s me thinking that the trade union movement founded the Labour Party, sponsors their MPs and has funded The Party’s campaigns for over 100 years, so please enlighten me.

        • Happy to enlighten and in that spirit I should point out that trade unions haven’t sponsored MPs or any other parliamentarians for many years.

  5. Dave, I just logged on to the Unison website, 1.3 million members (biggest in Europe). They boast two political funds that members contribute to, the Affiliated Political Fund or Labour Link as it is now known and the General Political Fund for the purpose of “lobbying at branch, regional and national level”.
    You may be right in that trade unions no longer top up Labour MPs and MSPs substantial salaries with ‘contributions’, more commonly known as bungs, but there is no denying that large amounts of money still flow from the trade union organisations through members contributions to one political party and no other.
    And in my opinion, there lies the problem for Scottish Trade Union movement. Because the pay back ie the benifits received from the LP to the TUC in return for their financial support means that the Scottish trade union movement cannot be impartial in the referendum debate. They are tied into British Labour’s postion, which is hard edged unionist.
    And as a consequence, as Scotland makes the biggest ever democratic decision any country will be asked to make the STUC are in the ridiculous position of having to stand back and say ‘we have’nt made our mind up yet’ and ‘we’re waiting to see what the Yes /NO camps say’. A bit like eunuchs in a harem watching other people getting on with it but unable to participate themselves..

  6. Come on brothers sisters there must be more than Dave and myself following this, join in.
    I really love debating politics with Socialists. They are so mixed up not least because as they struggle for the rights of the working classes you find that most are doing relatively well in life; mortgage, decent job, kids at a good comprehensive. I know because I was that soldier.
    But then I realised something about those on the left, trade union leaders and those that claim to represent the working classes They are, and I’ll qualify it, not all but many, either in a job within the Trade Union movement, as a politico, or they are aspiring to one. They talk about defending the rights of the unemployed and low paid but they aspire to something completely different.
    There was a great debate amongst socialists in all countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break up of of the Soviet Union; is socialism dead? The answer is yes, of course, but smart socialists realised the industry was not. The good jobs were still there, there was in Scotland a whole new parliament that needed to be filled with well paid MSPs, and their researchers. And someone had to do it.
    That’s when I changed my mind. (to be continued).

  7. I just read my last comment and it was a bit snide, so please accept my apologies.
    Following on from yesterdays history lesson there is a point I would like to make here and it means going back to the break up of the Soviet Union.
    Before the break up, 25/30 years ago, the EU had 15 members. Now it has nearly 30. Another fact, we have a parliament in Scotland that’s been running for nearly 15 years. The new members of the EU are mostly small countries the size of Scotland and they look to be doing OK. These are the realities of political events within Europe’e recent history. They are events out with our control, but events we need to deal with.
    It is my contention that the creation of the Scottish parliament resulted in an additional tier of government that is not required I don’t think many people will argue against that, except maybe politicians. Scotland has far too many politicians. We can do away with a tier and life in Scotland would still carry on. Scotland was governed from Westminster for 300 years without a parliament, But we’ve got one now and next years referendum has given us an opportunity to change things, I would argue that it offers us the chance to bring Scotland in line with 21st century Europe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *