Sunday, 14 December 2014

Time for Fresh Thinking

 The announcement of Jim Murphy as new Leader of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party will be covered from all angles over the next few days. While I have no doubt that the mainstream media will attempt to steady the capsizing ship HMS SLab the final nail in the coffin of a once proud party has already been set in place. 

Yesterdays announcement will be for many a realisation that this party no longer reflects the ideals and beliefs upon which it was founded. Neither does it represent the working class of Scotland which it was created to speak on behalf of. My realisation of this came about at the referendum, which I felt was the last opportunity to return the party to it’s roots. For those who backed a Neil Findlay and Katy Clark they must now see that the progressive left within the party is now the minority. That the opportunity for fresh thinking and a revitalisation of the socialistic tendencies within the party are now mere fantasy. 

The question for the left and those who are now feeling lost within the Labour Party is how best we go from here? We have an opportunity for a strong progressive left to take the initiative in a nation, post referendum which is more politically attuned than it has been for generations. 

This will be done through policy forums such as the Common Weal, discussion platforms provided by the Scottish Left Project and new media platforms like independence live, the national and The Scottish Independent. In the main of this must be electoral and campaign efforts united under the banner of the Scottish Socialist Party. 

Since the referendum the SSP has been renewed in our vigour to create a mass political party of the left. I along with a great many others have been welcomed into the party and given avenues to debate and contribute to the growth of the party. 

Part of that journey is to not only create new ideas but also to present them in a language that is accessible to the masses. For most of our recent political history, socialist theory is far too often based on the teachings of Marx and Engels. While theses teachings are important as are the subsequent models of their theory in gaining an understanding in our cultural and political history as socialists it is important to remember that the Scotland we live in today is far different to the German state which Marx was writing about in the 1850’s. Climate change, fuel poverty, the threat of nuclear weapons, drug abuse and cyber crime are just some of the issues which were not reflective in the thinking of the time. Yet these and many other issues now must be prevalent in our thinking.

As is the fact that we live in a globalised world and as such must consider the implications this brings to our progressive visions of how we implement a fairer and more equal society. This requires new thinking and new ideas. 

In light of this I would like to present 3 proposals over three articles which would have lasting benefit economically, socially and culturally for Scotland should they be implemented. The purpose of these proposals here is to stimulate debate and discussion which may lead to further ideas and development occurring. 

Working life

In addition to any academic stigma we have, there is also a employment stigma which prevails in our society. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, and bankers are seen as having a higher value in comparison with someone in the manufacturing or service industry. Yet these positions play an important role in the creation and sustainability of a society. The only way for a society to see as much value in all areas of work is through financial re-enumeration matching the value we place on our workforce. 

The creation of a £10 an hour living wage is vital not only for creating a thriving economy, but also a confident, proud workforce. One of they key features of socialist thinking is individual and collective responsibility. In order for citizens to become responsible they must also feel valued. 

One of the criticisms of a Nordic Scotland would be the need to pay higher tax. Yet this does not address the full issue. By creating a society in which full employment and a living wage is definitive, we can see the true measure of what Scotland could really achieve.

The cost of supporting small businesses in the inception of this policy would be to provide government subsidy to ensure that businesses are able to be maintained until the influx of additional personal finance is floated into the economy. This would be afforded by increasing the top rate of tax to 50%. 

Studies have shown that the majority in Scotland do not object to paying the current level of taxation or higher levels if it delivers high quality public services. Today the UK is the 4th most unequal in the world. The only sure way to decrease inequality is to have a well-paid workforce with dignity and pride in their position of employment. 

Working Hours

Since the service industry has became such dominant force within the Scottish working industry; working life, home life and social life has never before been so indistinguishable. Today people wonder how they will survive Christmas Day without a visit to Asda or Tesco. This has led to 12-hour shifts for minimum wage the night before Christmas, Sunday shifts with no double time. A consistent shift from family time to families living as one-parent families, arranging shift patterns to avoid paying for childcare their low wages cannot afford. This is nothing in comparison to the single parent families losing family contact to provide for their family. 

A successful Scotland not only requires a strong vibrant economy, a wage for workers equal to the cost of living, but also include the value of social and family values intrinsic to building communities, and on that a more inclusive and socially responsible nation.    

 That is why the relationship between Scotland’s working life and social/family life needs to be re-addressed. Indeed it addresses the very core principles of what the socialism is all about; society over profit. 

That is why I propose we support a mandatory day of rest on a Sunday for all non-essential workers. Those who must work on Sundays must be appropriately compensated financially and in family leave recompense. 

Much like Germany, Sunday, regardless of religious association will become a day for social/family relaxation. One day of the week in which every member of a family, relationship or brethren can share. This will build stronger basis of home and communal life further increasing life profit over GDP. 

At the heart of this is to be that there will be a larger focus on family/ leisure time than on a continual working environment.

I hope this will be taken in the spirit for which it is intended and create debate throughout the not only political circles, but also people at home engaging in new ideas. One of the most positive aspects of the referendum campaign was to raise the bar in terms of political debate I hope we can continue this. As Labour and the no parties dwindle, let it be the left who unite together raising new ideas to create a new platform for politics of the working class. 

Friday, 28 November 2014

An Update

It has been sometime since I have written something for this blog and so while I do have several slow burning issues in the fire, one of which I hope to write about this weekend. I felt an update was in order for the one or two folk who have taken the time to keep up to date with this website.... My mum and wife mostly.

After the result of the Smith Commission I have been suitably depressed and unsurprised by the result, neither have I been shocked to see Labour and The Record try to paint this as anything but a full vindication of the vow. These proposals in truth, fall far short of what would mollify the 15% who possibly changed their vote based on the vow, never mind the 45% who outright rejected the notion of Westminster rule. In light of this I wanted to note down some of my thoughts, however after reading our National Spokesperson Colin Fox’s remarks I felt they shared my feelings on the issue enough to move on from it. You can view the article here. 

It has been a busy few months getting to grips with being in a new party. I must confess it is often difficult to hear about the Labour Party and not associate it with yourself after all these years. It’s almost like driving past your childhood home, fully aware that it is no longer yours, that the people in it are different to you, watch different TV to you. And are probably sitting there drinking Fosters thinking it is very ‘internationalist” of them.

I must thank my comrades throughout the Scottish Socialist Party for making me feel very welcome and at home in the party. In particular my Dundee branch, who have even adopted bringing baking to meetings. My taste buds thank you if my jeans don’t. In the last few months we have begun to really organise in our local area, canvassing working class areas, fund raising and beginning to create a public discussion forum for new recruits and old to continue to engage in the political debate that was resurrected by the Yes campaign. I recently re-watched the wonderful Richard Attenborough film Ghandi; In which I was reminded of the great Ghandi Quote.. “Even if you are minority of one, the truth is the truth.” It is becoming more and more clear that the SSP are far more than a majority of one, in fact a growing number of socialists who are realising the way forward is to shape the SSP into the obvious party of the working class people... We have the truth and right on our side and it is beginning to shine out.

I am delighted to have been asked to speak for the SSP in Edinburgh at St Marks Church on December 1st and in Perth at The Gateway on The 4th of December. I have also accepted to speak in Fife in Mid December for The SSP, with details to follow. In addition to this I am continuing to work upon an energy vision paper to put to the party which should be ready by the turn of the year.

I finally want to comment on the decision by the SSP Executive Committee following the SNP’s refusal to take part in an electoral Yes Alliance in 2015 as offered by the SSP. We have chosen to offer candidates in specific areas in Scotland. I strongly support the proposal following our very gracious offer to put aside party politics to continue the independence movement. Now that it is clear this will not occur. With both the Greens and SNP selecting candidates for areas we will now move forward as a party working hard to promote our aims as the only socialist party in Scotland. I am emboldened by the opportunity to state our case for an independent republic of Scotland. While I wish my comrades in the SNP and Greens well in their campaigns it will now be time to acknowledge the different visions we had for an independent Scotland and the different visions we have for a Scotland today.

There is hope I will make time this weekend to share some thoughts on a different way of socialism. In the meantime a very happy St Andrews day tomorrow to all, in both camps of the independence debate.

Much more to follow..

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Save the Children Staff Offer Human Side to Charity

There is no question that this will bring the good name of Save the Children into disrepute. Much respect to the staff members who have stood up to this executive decision. That allows a war criminal to be awarded a Global Legacy Award.

Tony Blair Awarded Global Legacy Award.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A New Start for Socialism

Malcolm Tucker: That's your fucking career over, right? Okay, you're fucking dead. And those three little words, "Tim in Ruislip", are the fucking nails in your coffin, dear.
Malcolm Tucker: Tim. In. Ruislip. Tim in fucking Ruislip.

So this article isn’t about Tim in Ruislip, it’s not even about Malcolm Tucker, although the notion of an (obvious) Labour spin doctor is perhaps systematic of the decline which I am writing about. But this quote, has been stuck in my head for the last few weeks.. Ever since Jim Murphy announced his candidacy for Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. 

The decline of my former party has been evident to anyone paying attention. This of course means that no-one outside of Labour for Independence and a few other Yes voters seemed to notice. A landslide electoral victory by the SNP in 2011 was considered a blip, a poor leader. Enter J. Lamont. I don’t specifically feel any great ill will toward Johann. I don’t think she is a bad person, just misguided particularly in the referendum. She isn’t evil, just not genetically programmed to lead a political party. 

By election victories maintained the bravado. Yet these victories were in towns where so strong is the tradition of voting Labour, they could put a red rosette on a Tory and still get elected... Some would argue they already have. Ironically for the Scottish Labour leadership it was their biggest victory which finally provided them with the reality check. The referendum result saw a mass sign-up to membership of the three independence parties. With opinion polls now showing that the SNP could take 52% of the Scottish vote in May with the Greens and the SSP looking to increase that Yes supporting number to 60%, reality has now dawned on the rag tag leadership of the Scottish Labour Party. 

Lamont has now jumped before being pushed, Sarwar has stood down as Deputy to leave the path open for Westminster's preferred choice as leader being an MP, (Thus needing a deputy MSP) gaining a seat in the shadow cabinet for his sacrifice... Labour is lost at sea without a rudder. 

Step forward Jim Murphy. 

Actually before we continue, let’s remind ourselves of Jim’s record. 

-Since 2001 Mr Murphy has claimed over £1 million in expenses
-Mr Murphy voted to cap benefits in March 2014
-Mr Murphy failed to show up for the vote against the Bedroom Tax
-Mr Murphy voted for tuition fees despite being NUS president.
-Mr Murphy went on 100 day tour of Scotland campaigning for a no vote, which meant leaving his  Eastwood constituency without an MP for almost 1/3 of a year. Yet claimed over £200,000 in Westminster expenses.
-Mr Murphy is a major figure in Labour Friends of Israel, who refuses to recognise of the state of Palestine.
The man who strongly supported the illegal invasion of Iraq and strongly unaligned himself with Ed Miliband when he apologised for said invasion.
Most worryingly Jim Murphy has never rebelled against the party line in Westminster.

This leadership election is now being played out as a battle between New Labour and Old, Right and Left, Murphy vs Findlay. Sarah Boyack seems to have been left out of the equation. 

The reality of this media drama is far from that. The truth is despite the support for Findlay within the trade unions and the socialists in the party, the media and more importantly Westminster want Murphy to be leader. While Findlay still has an outside chance, what he will discover if elected leader is that he will be punished for daring to upset the apple cart, offered less control and authority than even JOLO and will put his coat on a shooglie peg, the first day in office. 

I speak of this whole debacle no longer a member of the Labour Party, rather a proud member of the only socialist party in Scotland, The SSP. It is with that SSP hat that I write this article. You see Labour is dying, independence was the last chance to restore it and so typically of the party it shot itself in the foot. The fact members like myself, steeped in family tradition of Labour activism should leave is testament to that. These are the dying embers of a once grand party we socialists used to be proud to call home. The question is how long will it take to die out? 

In my view that depends on the decision they make with their Scottish Leader. An unlikely Findlay victory will delay the inevitable, a Murphy rise to the top will lead to the death of the party, no longer will they have the vote of Real Labour in Scotland.  

Within the SSP we must prepare ourselves for both outcomes, at conference we supported a yes Alliance in 2015, but we must think beyond that. We need to become the obvious choice for the socialists within the Labour Party to join. While over 2500 have applied to the SSP since the referendum, much more comrades have taken the step to join the SNP hoping to bind a nationalist party to a socialist cause. 

They do so because we are not there yet. We are not in the position to receive them, to let them know that this is the party for them. That if you are a socialist you belong in the only political party who fights for the working class, and rejects big business, neo liberal capitalism, the Scottish Socialist Party. Despite this we must be ready, Abe Gubegna, the Ethiopian novelist and playwright once wrote;

“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle... when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.”

We need to get running, we need to create a socialist agenda that will appeal to the socialists throughout the Labour Party, the SNP and even the Greens. We have much to do but our first step should prove to people the of Scotland, who and what we stand for. 

Clause iv was removed by Tony Blair as a symbolic gesture that the Labour Party was open for business, that it was no longer ‘Real Labour’ but wolves in sheeps clothing. Our constitution has a reworded version of Clause iv. I propose we amend it to its original text; 

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

Let this be the message to those who believe in a better way that we are the party for them. Let this be the symbol to the socialists within the Labour Party that we are home for you. This is not the sum of our change, rather the first firing shot over the bow that the Scottish Socialist Party are here and we are the mainstream, the real socialist voice of the people of Scotland. 

Oh ... And if Labour vote for Jim Murphy...

Malcolm Tucker: ..those three little words, "Jim Fucking Murphy", are the fucking nails in your coffin, dear.
Malcolm Tucker: Jim. Fucking. Murphy. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Time for a Change

This past Saturday I was overwhelmed by the welcome I received by my new comrades at the Scottish Socialist Party conference in Edinburgh. I made the comment to someone throughout the day that it was so nice to see members of a political party enjoying each others company, respectfully debating issues and uniting in the common good of the people they have set out to represent.

I am delighted to have joined the SSP at a time of great importance within the party. I believe we stand at a crossroads in which we have seen a rejuvenation in not only the party but also what it stands for.

Since the referendum more than 2500 people in Scotland have applied to join the SSP. New branches are opening all around this country. A packed conference this weekend was testament to the fact that new ideas and possibilities were boundless and welcomed within the party and it’s leadership.

When you compare the position the party is in to that before the referendum, it is truly remarkable. Many considered the party to be a spent force, unable to recover, yet throughout the campaign, led wonderfully by the thoughtful, passionate and principled leadership of Colin Fox and Sandra Webster. The party has reinvented itself. The very fact that it has done all this despite little to no media attention to being shamefully snubbed by the Smith Commission as the only political party to be involved in the referendum not invited to take part in the debate, is an even greater herculean effort.

Yet the resurrection of the party is perhaps less impressive as to how, along with Labour for Independence and Radical Independence and individuals such as Dennis Canavan and Jim Sillars they have been able to resuscitate the term of socialism.

I have spoken before of the effect of the Cold War in bastardising the definition of socialism. I have also often described the great attempts made by the Labour Party to dilute the name or only to rekindle it in times of great need, yet the reality never seems to match the promise. (see The Vow, New Labour, autonomy in Scotland)

The reality is that socialism is coming to the fore again in Scottish politics in spite of the death throes of the Labour Party. This is in part due to the fact that they would not listen to LFI and those who wanted change; the 40%. This is why they are now in disarray. They may have won the battle of September 18th but the war is far from over. Yet socialism is now an acceptable term again. This rejuvenated, energised politically active nation has come to terms with the definition that socialism is not Trotsky or Lenin or Stalin; rather the betterment of the many than the few. We are now having grown up discussions on how best to change our country and socialism is becoming more and more popular...

In truth, it always was, we the Labour voters, the traditional Labour voters, the Real Labour voters were told our values, our morals, our beliefs that have been prevalent in our society for generations. We were told that these values were distinctly Labour. Now though, now people realise these values and beliefs, this Real Labour IS SOCIALISM. Our beliefs haven't changed in the referendum all that has changed is that we no longer accept the word according to the Labour Party.

The Labour Party however has changed. The odds on favourite to become Scottish Branch Secretary is Jim Murphy. Let us look at Jim Murphy’s record.

Since 2001 Mr Murphy has claimed over £1 million in expenses
Mr Murphy voted to cap benefits in March 2014
Mr Murphy failed to show up for the vote against the Bedroom Tax
Mr Murphy voted for tuition fees
Mr Murphy went on 100 day tour of Scotland campaigning for a no vote, which meant leaving his Eastwood constituency without an MP for almost 1/3 of a year. Yet claimed over £200,000 in Westminster expenses.
Mr Murphy is a major figure in Labour Friends of Israel (The uncool LFI), who refuses the recognition of the state of Palestine.
The man who strongly supported the illegal invasion of Iraq and strongly unaligned himself with Ed Miliband’s apology of said invasion.
Most worryingly Jim Murphy has never rebelled against the party line in Westminster.

This, comrades is Labours future, not just in Westminster, but in Scotland too.

The hardest thing I have ever had to do was to leave the Labour Party, it was my home politically, my families home through to my great grandfather. But I’m glad I did because it is a shell of the party that was created. Even if by huge chance they pick someone other than Murphy there is little chance of recovery. Remember this is the party who needed a year to decide that the Bedroom Tax was a bad idea. Nye Bevan, Jimmy Maxton, James Keir Hardie; to use the great Dennis Cannavan’s words... must be burlin in their graves.

Friends and comrades who are still in the Labour Party I have only one thing to say... You owe nothing to a political party, you may have been Labour all your life but they are not Labour anymore. You believe in traditional Labour, old Labour, Real Labour then you are a socialist and the only party that is a socialist party in Scotland is the Scottish Socialist Party.      

You can hold on for what never will be again or you can be a part of the party for the people.

 Join us and create the party we were waiting for all these years.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Why I Left Labour and Joined The SSP

For the last two and a half years I have campaigned within Labour for Independence to win a yes vote at the referendum. Not only did I feel that this was an incredible opportunity for Scotland and it’s people but also it provided a real chance to return the Labour Party to it’s founding principles. Back to becoming a real Labour Party again. 

Throughout the campaign, debating with the likes of Margaret Curran, Lynsay Roy and Anas Sarwar has made me realise that a yes vote was the last chance to save the soul of the Labour Party. Unfortunately the referendum result did not go our way; and after much soul searching I realised I could no longer be a member of the British Labour Party. The final straw for me personally was seeing the Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont outside Asda, smiling for a picture because they had announced raised prices in an independent Scotland. What a vile act for someone claiming to be Labour, let alone the leader of the party. Regardless of her voting preference the fact she should take enjoyment out of rising prices that will effect the poorest and the working class the hardest is unconscionable. 

 I am incredibly proud to have been the co-convenor of Labour for Independence throughout this campaign and look forward to continuing within the group as it becomes a campaign and political education based organisation. 

Personally I feel that there is a void that needs to be filled by a major political party in Scotland. The position is the real Labour values or to put it another way.. Socialism. At the post referendum LFI planning meeting I made my opinion clear that due to dramatic influx of members into other Yes parties that while there is a prospectus of huge Real Labour/Socialist vote in Scotland. It would have to come from one of the existing Parties. 

Throughout this referendum I have been especially impressed with the hard work, commitment and cross party work of members of the Scottish Socialist Party. It was a great pleasure to have worked with them throughout this referendum. As most people are aware the party have had issues which has held them back in the past but thanks to the terrific leadership of Colin Fox and Sandra Webster they have helped to bring socialism back to the political debate in Scotland. 

I was pleased to hear that the party’s membership has risen rapidly since the referendum. It is clear that they are the only party which reflect the traditional or real Labour sentiments which so many in the Labour Party still cling to... Put it another way, they are the only political party that represents socialism and the inherent values which was the basis for creation of the Scottish Labour Party in 1888  

 It is for this reason that I have decided to join the Scottish Socialist Party. I do so as I believe they reflect the real socialist values that I have campaigned during the referendum campaign and throughout my life as a Labour Party member. 

I am aware that the SSP is currently considered a minority party in Scotland, however I am confident after speaking with many within the party that there is real determination to create something much bigger. I am delighted to add my name to this and work hard to ensure the SSP becomes a major player in Scottish Politics. 

John Smith once said that to succeed in politics you have to be prepared to take a risk. It is time for the Scottish Socialist Party to step out from the comfort zone of the political fringes, to begin to campaign for the 40% of Real Labour socialists who are lost and without a home, to step into the political mainstream bringing forth our values and ideas, showing the Labour movement that the SSP is the home you have been looking for. 

The referendum debate created a more involved, more democratic people, the opportunity for serious, sensible socialism is at hand. I am fully confident that with the leadership of Colin Fox and Sandra Webster we can further professionalise our operations, create a political thunderstorm and put socialism back at the forefront of political life in Scotland. I am committed to doing all I can to further our cause both at local and national level.

While disappointment prevails after the referendum, there is much to be hopeful about. After September 18th we were plunged into darkness but we should not fear. Darkness is just the other side of light it’s what comes before dreams. Our day in the sun is yet to come comrades, we will have an independent socialist republic in Scotland and the SSP will continue to play a major role in that. I look forward to working with you all to achieve a better way. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

My Submission to the Smith Commission

As part of the wider Yes movement Labour for Independence campaigned for the opportunity to create an independent Scotland. As founder of this organisation this is written on a personal level. I, within the wider movement accept the democratic will of the majority of Scots to stay within the UK. However I would argue that the closeness of the result and subsequent reasons why many voted no determines that great developments must occur.

In order to satisfy the will of the 45% who voted yes and the great number who voted no only after being assured of more powers it is my submission to the committee that all domestic economic and social powers should be fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament, with defence and foreign policy matters being held at Westminster. 

All economic control should include oil revenues, air passenger duty and all tax powers. Social powers shall include those already devolved to Scottish Parliament and include social security, pensions and the right to nationalise public services such as energy, transport and the Royal Mail.

In addition to this the right of a Scottish Parliament should be enshrined into a written constitution and should no longer have it's existence or legislative powers altered on a whim of current Governments in Westminster or the House of Lords. Additionally the Human Rights convention and our alignment to this should be determined by the Scottish Parliament not altered via Westminster. 

In delivering true Devo Max, the commission will be representing the wishes of the people of Scotland on both sides of the debate. As federalism may be the saving grace of a union, the Scottish Parliaments powers and remits should be reflective of this. 

Allan Grogan 
Labour for Independence Founder. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

An Opportunity Missed

Part of the success of the yes campaign was that we were able to convince a great number of people that Scotland was capable of running our own affairs. That we were capable of taking hold of the key issues and institutions which were crucial in the development of a Scottish society. One which enhanced the case of fairness and equality. 

It then comes as surprise to me that the Scottish Government has awarded the franchise to run Scottish railways to Dutch state owned Abellio. 

I have seen many on social media rush to defend the SNP over this policy but the truth is regardless of how good a deal this was and it does look like a reasonable deal regarding the living wage, apprenticeships and Union members on board. It does refute an opportunity for Scotland to nationalise their railways, incorporate all the good within this deal, ensure that this is actually followed through and ensure all profits are going into Scottish Government rather than a combination of Dutch state and Serco. 

I fully back RMT when their General Secretary Mick Cash said: 

 “There is no question that this whole franchising process could and should have been halted, pending the ratification of the post-referendum devolution settlement, instead of rushing headlong into a deal that will deny the Scottish people ownership and control of their railways for many years to come.”

I do not buy this notion that we had to make a decision right now. Theses issues have a habit of being delayed and with an understandable reason of unknown powers during this time has meant that an extension of Scot Rails franchise for 6 months in extraordinary circumstances. 

For those that are arguing the 1933 Railway Act prohibit us from nationalising the railways this is however not true. 

ASLEF say that:
" The key to doing anything is the powers under Section 26(z)(a) of the Railway Act 1993 

This section applies where either: The Scottish Ministers receive no tenders; or “It receives a tender but considers that the services would be provided more economically and efficiently if they are provided otherwise under a franchise agreement entered into in response to the tender.” In those circumstances the Scottish Government can enter into a franchise agreement with someone else (by definition if the alternative agreement is more economic and efficient) or, under Section 30, the Scottish Government will be under a duty to run the franchise themselves as an operator of last resort"

What the Scottish Government has done today is to remove an excellent opportunity for Scotland to further differentiate ourselves from Westminster Government. That we take notice of what the public want. A vast majority of the public not only in Scotland but UK as a whole support nationalising of railways. It also puts the profits back into the peoples hands. It ensures that the benefits of any deal are offered by ourselves guaranteed rather than hopefully kept by a company, which if their running of East Anglia Rail does not bode well for our railways. 

To those who have argued that we couldn't afford it. We currently run Prestwick Airport which despite an additional £10 million being invested this summer is losing over £2 million a month. This was a decision I fully supported incidentally. This was not a huge sum required £30 million which would have began through rejecting other bids as muted by Aslef. 

Perhaps a more worrying notion I have seen appear is that all decisions by the SNP and the Scottish Government must not be questioned for fear of ruining the Yes movement. It is a ridiculous suggestion that anyone should not be permitted to question their governments actions for the sake of winning GE in 2015. This critique is not coming from a Labour member (anymore) nor will I vote for Labour in the General Elections. RMT supported a yes vote and don't fund Labour so any accusations of siding with Labour on this are also false. 

This decision was wrong, would it have been different had there been a yes vote? Probably, but we cant continue to blame a no vote to inflict bad policy. The truth is there were ways in which the Scottish Government could have made our railways nationalised they didn't. We cant blame losing a referendum for this, nor should we hold our tongues because it is the SNP which made this choice. When statements like this start coming out, an Orwellian future is never far behind. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

I am a Socialist... Reflections of a Referendum

As a newly qualified primary school teacher one of the key aspects of our teaching is now focussed on becoming reflective practitioners. To engage in what went well. What we could have changed to improve and what we learned about ourselves. There could be many articles written about the experiences I had as Co-Convenor for Labour for Independence during this campaign. Those are for another time, the pain of the battle lost is perhaps too raw for that. In terms of what I learned about myself is something that I would like to explore.

Throughout the campaign I had the honour of sharing a platform with many incredible speakers and personalities. Yet throughout the two and a half years, 2 comments from other speakers really stood out. The first was by Jim Sillars, he said that throughout this campaign we are all on a learning journey, you(the audience) hopefully learn from us and we (the speakers) also learn from you and each other. To make this statement stand out might make me seem arrogant, it wasn’t the case. I knew personally that I was learning from audiences and fellow speakers, Yet only through reflection did I realise how much my political psyche was changing.

My beliefs in what is fair and what is right haven't changed in these last two and a half years, I still believe in social justice, equality, in the theories of justice set out by John Rawls; yet there are two major factors which have been altered.

(i) How I project my beliefs.
(ii) How I come to regard myself.

(i) How I project my beliefs.

Throughout the campaign I was asked to speak throughout Scotland. Initially in many areas such as Dundee, Clydebank and Glasgow I was comfortable in making the ‘Real Labour’ case for independence. In other parts of Scotland, Angus, Borders, Highlands I held back my own beliefs to promote the reasons why the majority of people in that area should vote yes. Often I would use lines such as; The Scottish Government has said...  I did so not to mislead voters but rather to project the wider Yes message to constituents who would be dismissive of the type of independence I and a great many others in this nation would wish to see. Undoubtedly this was an easier time for my fellow panel members from Yes Scotland HQ and the SNP., but it didn’t hold true to my own ambitions for what this country could achieve.

Throughout the course of the referendum I learned to be true to my own values, I learned that while people in Auchterarder might not like my vision for Scotland, at least they would know the truth. There is nothing worse than hearing people talk of things that they don’t believe themselves. During the campaign I learned to be truer to my convictions and be frank that whichever way the public voted there would be differences of opinion in how to move forward. Sometimes this had unexpected results. In my home town of Carnoustie, no bastion of socialism, I recalled a speech from Simon Bolivar to wide applause, in other areas it met stony silence. Regardless I felt the audience respected me more for giving my honest opinion than a set Yes line.

Perhaps the reason this springs to mind is that in a meeting I attended this week the issue was raised as to whether the Scottish Government should have mitigated the effects of the bedroom tax, that perhaps the public would have voted yes had it been further subjected to the brutality of Westminster.

This is perhaps an argument for another day, but were we to abandon our political ideals and human decency for the ultimate objective? Was independence worth seeing the poorest in our society suffer more? I believe the SNP made the right choice there. I can say that as the Labour for Independence Executive Committee called for it 3 months before Scottish New Labour did.

It raises the point however, that we must keep our own beliefs and principles throughout. That we must not give in to sacrificing any in our nation for the purpose of the greater good. I am glad I learned the importance of remaining true to myself through this campaign and believe I made better arguments for yes because of it.

(ii) How I come to regard myself.

I was brought up in a traditional (or as I have likened it ‘Real Labour’) household. I have been steeped in Labour since a very early age. Yet from an early age I have no real knowledge of real Labour in power. My first political act at the age of 8 was to campaign for Labour in the 92 General Election. But the leader I was supporting paved the way for radical centre/centre right reform of the Labour Party.The difference at that time was that there were ‘Real Labour’ politicians still within the throngs of power. It can be argued that the saving of the Labour Party, at least for a while was losing that election and the election of a Real Labour man as leader in John Smith.

Whether we would have seen a true Labour Government had Smith lived to be elected, we will never know, but the fact is by the time I was old enough to join the party New Labour were in their second term. The reality was that I joined the party based on the ideals of the past than the evidence of the current.

Most of my adult life I regarded myself as something I am not. I fell into the trap set by New Labour, UK Governments and the United States to believe that the tag I am closest defined by, does not fit me at all. The ‘S’ word. Something that is only okay to use if you add Democrat at the end.

It is not only within the Labour Party that this terminology became common. Chomsky stated that the term socialist had been ‘bastardised’ by both America in their capitalist agenda that socialism equated to Communism and by the Soviet Union that Socialism was the cover for a totalitarian regime.

In truth socialism is the pursuit to ensure the betterment of lives of the many rather than the few. This was the ideals of the Labour party in it’s creation. It is shameful Labour have moved so far away from this.

I mentioned two speakers at the beginning of this post. The second was Jeane Freeman. She said that we do not owe political parties anything. What we have to do is to be able to look into the mirror everyday and say that I live by the beliefs and ideology that I believe in.

It was this statement more than any other which permeated my thinking in the aftermath of September 18th and was a major reason why I resigned from the Labour Party.

I am a socialist. I have learned throughout this campaign that I am proud to say so. I have learned that socialism is not dictated by Marxism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, these terms are only reproduced by the neo-liberals who seek to split the power of the people in creating a fairer and more equal society.

Through reflecting on this referendum campaign my thoughts are this. If you are a socialist, embrace that. This campaign has taught us we can unite for common goals without losing our own ideals. We believe in a better Scotland but disagree in how to achieve it.

My point is this; If you are a socialist don’t give yourself up to fear by holding on to something you don’t believe in. Since the referendum all Yes Parties have gained support. The SNP more than most. I know a great deal of socialists who have joined the SNP... But I ask, with no disrespect meant to the SNP.. Why? The SNP aren’t socialists, they have never claimed to be. Don’t let the notion of a greater good disregard your own views or the betterment of your nation.

Reflecting on this campaign, I know I have learned a great deal. I have met many great people from all walks of the political spectrum. More importantly I have learned to embrace who I am.

I have accepted and embraced these past two years that I am not Labour... Not in the current vein.. I am Real Labour, a position lost within the Labour Party. I am a socialist.. We must embrace the lessons learned in this campaign. Whether for me this means joining a socialist party, waiting for something new, or walking alone within politics true to my own beliefs. That remain to be seen.

But for those within the Labour Party who thought a no vote would kill the revolution of social justice and socialist thought on the wider left and within the party... They will be in  for a stark shock.

We will have our independence, but we cannot let those who suffer most be the sacrifice to that goal.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Dear Johann

It may have been the constant emails, even after I had unsubscribed, or maybe it was the just revenge for how Labour acted throughout the referendum... But sending this back in this form felt good

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

After 23 Years With a Heavy Heart

 Throughout my campaigning life which began at 8 years old leafleting for Labour unsuccessfully against Major’s Tory Government, through to the last 2 and a half years as Co-Convenor of Labour for Independence. I have written many political posts. This is unquestionably the toughest statement that I have had to write. 

I have often told this story of how I was brought up in a Labour family. My great grandfather was a strong working class Labour member in Dundee. My grandmother would tell me about the real Labour Party we had after the war. One who protected the workers, created the welfare state and the NHS. Looked after the sick, the old and the poor. Both my parents campaigned for the Labour Party, up until recently my mother still did. If red wasn’t the colour of blood I would have bled it anyway.

I began Labour for Independence because of the refusal of the party to give it’s membership the vote on where we stood regarding independence. In truth it was much more than that. Labour had long lost it’s way. It took me a while to realise, perhaps clinging to blind hope more than anything, hoping we could return to the days my grandmother talked about.

This campaign convinced me that we had a real opportunity to see a return to a real Labour Party in Scotland. Even after the polls had closed I spoke to a great many comrades at the count who yearn for change, even those voting no are aware of it. Yet the truth is the no vote will be seen as an endorsement of the Scottish Labour Leadership and how they defer to their masters at Westminster. Promoting right wing policies which have no place in the party of Bevan, Smith, Maxton and Hardie.

I’m sure many of you will have been aware of the constant slurs and abuse Labour for Independence have endured by our own party members. Yet this is not what has led me to this statement. It has been the constant that Labour has refused to acknowledge their roots or the very reason for their creation.

In this campaign we have had Labour leaders call us a ‘something for nothing society’ that we are not ‘genetically programmed to make our own decisions.’ We have seen our so called comrades high five Tories at counts. Some, like Jim Murphy hugging Tories in Clydebank of all places. Already we are seeing a backtrack on more powers and now a real terms cut in child benefit. But for me personally the final straw was seeing our Scottish leader Johann Lamont outside Asdas smiling for a picture because they had announced to raise prices in an independent Scotland. What a vile act for someone claiming to be Labour, let alone the leader of the party. Regardless of her voting preference the fact she should take enjoyment out of rising prices that will effect the poorest and the working class the hardest is unconscionable.

It has taken me close to a week of soul searching, but I have come to the conclusion that it is no longer possible to save the soul of the Labour Party. The great history and names within the party will live on, but they will live on with those who hold true their ideals and beliefs. Not by having a red membership card.

Therefore it is with deep regret that I resign my membership of the British Labour Party. They no longer represent me or the million or so Labour supporters in Scotland, nor a great many in other parts of the UK. They no longer represent their own history.

In light of my resignation I will also be stepping down as Co-Convenor of Labour for Independence and my place on the Executive Committee. I will accept a place at the future planning meeting on October 4th as a delegate of Angus. Where I will look forward to hearing real Labour comrades put forward what if any future Labour for Independence may have.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me throughout my time within the party and as Co-Convenor of LFI. I look forward to what the future brings.

Allan Grogan