Saturday, 19 November 2016

Sleepwalking to the Abyss

2016 has been some year so far. A year in which Scotland once again failed to qualify for an international football tournament and 2 months into the new qualifiers already look out of the next one. A year which every celebrity is wondering if they will be next for the Grim Reaper.

In politics the shocks just keep on coming, with pollsters wondering if they are remotely relevant at all. Following a 2015 election win for the Tories they overtook the Labour Party to become the official opposition in the Scottish Parliament at the Holyrood elections this year. Following that was the earthquake referendum result which saw Britain sign up for an EU exit resulting in a PM departure, A new PM unelected by party or public and a strengthening of mandate for a Labour leader trying to bring the party back to its founding roots. Now finally a new President of the United States, not the one that was expected or for most within America and around the world..wanted. The TV star and multiple business failure Donald Trump.

Pollsters are shocked, the public are stunned. Just what is going on with the western world at the moment? Why is fear and hatred winning out over logic, reasoning and compassion? What kind of society and world are we heading into? Well perhaps we are already there.

For years the Third Reich in Germany, Hitler and the Nazi’s have been a curious fascination to many, prompting thousands of books and documentaries of their rise and fall out of power. It has always seemed so surreal. How could a country allow itself to be engulfed by an such a monstrous ideology led by crazed and evil men who wished to destroy a race of people and the very notion a of civilised world. For many German citizens at that time they don’t really recall how it happened they just seemed to sleepwalk into it. As bizarre as it seems we here in the UK are sleepwalking towards this more and more.

After the First World War, Germany was in a state of disarray, an attempted takeover by the communists which was ill planned and without mass support was soon extinguished after a split between the Bolsheviks and the SPD who stated.

Socialism cannot be erected on bayonets and machine guns. If it is to last, it must be realised with democratic means. Therefore of course it is a necessary prerequisite that the economic and social conditions for socializing society are ripe.

Needless to say it was soon destroyed by the ruthless Freikorps. What followed was a weak democracy which accepted in full the demands of the Treaty of Versailles in spite of the impact it had on the German people’s self pride and their finances. Through mass loans from the US the German economy was able to rebound until the Wall Street Crash in 1929 when the US required all debts to be re-paid sending the German economy into a tailspin leading to huge volumes of quantative easing leading to a huge deflation of the mark.This led to the rise of extremes,with the public utterly disillusioned with a government and a system it no longer trusted seeking alternatives… any alternatives. Sound familiar? Hitler who had been seen as a comedic figure and as such gained more traction in the press than most of the minority parties. Hitler used this notoriety to send the message of hatred and fear that eventually led to the rise of the Nazi Party and the Third Reich.
To see a re-run of this in modern day look out for the satirical film on Netflix ‘Look who’s back.’ Hitler was entertainment value for the democratic elite (See Nige Farage).

There were many Germans who were hurt, angry and frustrated following the First World War. For some they found their home in the National Socialist movement. Like wise after the crash in ‘29 and the weak and insipid responses by the Weimar Government. Germans looked to extremes and Hitler’s message of blame was seen by many as a solution. Why take responsibility or accept shortcomings when the blame can fall on the Versailles traitors, Jews and others who are not ‘us’.

Yet in spite of this the Nazi Party never received a majority vote in multiple party free elections. How then did they come to power? Edmund Burke’s famous line is most apt. While those who wished to change the system to harsh bigoted and fascist extremes did so. Those on the left were a disorganised rabble obeying orders from Moscow no matter the damage. While most Germans just stood back and got on with life. Those who survived the experience looked back on this time as simply not recognising the symptoms and the growth of fascism before it was too late. Are we likewise? How far to extremes will we go before we awake from this slumber.

Since the ascent of New Labour there have been many warnings as to the rise of the far right with parties such as the BNP and EDL rightly investigated and outed for the organisations they really are. Since that time however we have had a Conservative Government aided by a right wing media in attaching blame for the financial crisis, not at the banks or big business which led us to ruin and refuse to pay tax. Rather at an easy target without the financial muscle to fight back. The poor, the disabled and migrants coming into the UK to find work. Despite tax evasion costing some £14bn last year to an estimated benefit fraud between £1.6 bn -£3.3bn. 

Make no mistake the ascension of ideologies of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have long been in the making. One need only to look at Benefit Britain on Channel 5 or…. well basically any article in the Daily Mail for the last 10 years. The rise of Nigel Farage, even when an unelected leader of a small political party into becoming a regular on media should set alarm bells ringing. Remember in Germany who was also given free press as he was seen as a fool.

Perhaps the biggest mistake we made when seeking out the rise of the right in the UK was that we looked to the BNP to backstreet pubs and shady politics when the real dangers were dressed in expensive suits under the guise of a quiet Home Secretary keen to observe your internet searches and a bumbling Mayor of London. The notion that we are sleepwalking into the abyss should have been awoken with the Nazi-esq front page of the Daily Mail calling UK judges enemies of the people for daring to rule in favour of the democratic rule of parliament.

How did we get here? Yes the governments more extreme ideologies are beginning to show more with May than Cameron’s ‘Compassionate Conservatism,’ Yes we have a right wing media with a clear agenda to suppress any notion of progressive politics but we too as the left must hold our hands up as culpable too. For far too long and far too often we have fought each other rather than the real enemies of working class people. Too often have we embraced ism’s to attack our own declared the state of the world is purely down to bigotry, sexism and racism. That Donald Trumps success was working class men trying to hold onto power! That the leave victory is down to ignorance, racism and bigotry.

This is a sham. Yes, racism and intolerance has begun to breed in this country and other parts of the western world. But it is not the cause rather the effect of factors that for too long we have neglected to address. This lazy blame culture removes the need for  real assessment of the lefts failure to articulate solutions to the social and economic conditions that are prevalent and have allowed the right and far right to successfully peddle these distortions based on fear and hatred.

How long will it be before the left decide it is better to understand than to grandstand? To find solutions than to find someone to blame? More worryingly how much more will it take for the people of this country and others to wake up and begin to reject this move towards a fascist state?

With the election of Trump the coronation of May and potential far right gains in France and Germany next year, How much longer will good men and women do nothing and allow the triumph of evil over hope and progress? 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

What is the Point?

It’s the 21st of September 2016 and the new Labour Leader Owen Smith takes to the stage for the pinnacle of the Labour Party Conference. Congratulated by the ousted Jeremy Corbyn, Smith begins to set out his vision for Labour in Britain to thunderous applause from the Parliamentary Labour Party and his own supporters who rushed from a planned boycott of the venue to grab a seat once hearing the biggest upset in modern politics had taken place. Despite leading in the polls and an increasing membership making the Labour Party for a brief time the largest socialist/social democratic party in Europe, the majority of whom joined in support of Corbyn. Owen Smith, thanks to an unprecedented purge of members and applicants to join has defied the odds to take the leadership against the polls, the bookies and a true democratic process. But where do they go from here? This will be the harsh reality for the Labour Party should they succeed in removing, refusing and voiding ballots of enough Corbyn supporters. Where do we go from here?

For most political parties that have just lost their second General Election in a row, a leader who inspires and reinvigorates hundreds of thousands of former and potential members to become once again interested in politics would be cause for celebration. In particular for a party that has been dominated by a small group of elected officials and MPs which hold the values of Blairism and New Labour so dear, more inspite of than because of the fact that between 1997 and 2005 he managed to lose 4 million voters facing a Conservative Party in the wilderness. For so long all political parties were accused of being the same. Now there are clear lines of divide again. Vote for a Conservative Party that supports an austerity laden agenda which creates further inequality as the rich are left to corrupt and be corrupt, while the poorest in our society are punished for the actions of the banks and those in charge. Vote for Labour to reject austerity and promote a fairer, more equal society one in which no one will be left hungry homeless, or behind.

Yet there are some, worryingly some with major levers of power and control within the party that have seen fit to attempt to sabotage the progress the party has been making. By-election victories, two mayoral victories, more votes than the Tories have all been signs of steady progress, especially when you consider the ongoing media attacks in which a large part of the shadow cabinet were complicit by leaking on a daily basis. In spite of all of this many people in the UK decided to take the leap forward to join or rejoin the Labour Party in support for a real alternative to the current agenda, a real change to the way we do things in this United Kingdom.

Since the resignations of 172 members of the PLP it has been clear that the attempted coup had no plan. They assumed Corbyn in the face of this aggression would pack up and leave. They did not count on the support he would receive from the membership or the strength of the man himself. Rather than destroy the movement for change, more applied to join, more joined up as registered supporters. It was clear that despite a campaign to keep Corbyn off the ballot, a reduction to those eligible to vote and a bizarre overruling by a long time friend of Tony Blair…. despite all of this it was clear Corbyn would win comfortably.

That is when the purge came into affect. As obvious as McCarthyism and as outrageous as Stalin. The outgoing Labour NEC have taken it upon themselves to reject any membership applications from those who not only once were members of other parties but also those who voted for them or have been caught on social media offering support or praising members of other political parties. Current members are not safe either with many losing their ballots and even their memberships for the above reasons, for calling fellow members Blairites or for some, social media tweets that don’t seem to exist. No excuses accepted, no real reasons given and for many no chance for appeal.

I am one of those former members who applied to rejoin. My application was refused as after leaving the Labour Party I joined the Scottish Socialist Party. I accept I shouldn’t have left, that joining the SSP was a mistake, but looking back I’m sure even if I was a member I would have been kicked out this summer.

As a socialist, yes supporting Corbyn advocate I have too many crosses on my belt to be allowed back in with the current management. Strange how most of those being refused entry or purged are Corbyn supporters, strange how the likes of Michael Foster despite calling fellow members ‘Stormtroopers’ and Lord Sainsbury donating £2million to the Lib Dems have not faced expulsion. Stranger still as to why most of the mainstream media are keeping very quiet about the whole affair.

I could use this time to argue why I believe in a real Labour Party and my support for the aims and beliefs of the Labour Party, but it would be futile. As a lifelong supporter and until recently a member of the Labour Party I have grew up in a family that for generations have been Labour members and supporters. I am a socialist, I believe in the re-enactment of Clause 4. I am a committed activist with experience in community and national organising. If this is not what the Labour Party want in it’s membership,,,, then what do they want?

That’s the point, after an election defeat and humiliating result in the Scottish Elections, surely they must know that the only way to win again is to win over those who have voted for and even been members of another party. Politics after all is the power to persuade and reform others opinions and beliefs to your own. If they wont be accepted into the party because of their past beliefs then why would they consider given the party their support come election time?

Maybe those within the Labour Party who claim Corbyn would be happy to lead a protest party are themselves the ones who want to lead a party of protest. Anything to maintain the status quo, to keep those in nice suits and expense accounts in the luxury they demand.Smith himself if he wins, which he wont will be a dead duck. Theresa May will have a field day.

“Owen you had to ban half your members from voting to win leadership… you can’t do that at an election you know.” You can almost hear the cries of laughter now.

So what is the point in all of this? Hopefully the new NEC will pull the party to its senses, hopefully the current crop will not be able to damage the party beyond repair. Hopefully enough members will be left to ensure Jeremy is still leader and hope still remains. It just seems such a terrible waste of everyones time. We have so much to do, to prevent this Tory Government from inflicting on us all and yet as a comrade put it, we are watching an episode of Takeshi’s Castle seeing who will survive. What a terrible waste!

You can follow me on Twitter @allangrogan

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Moving Forward to Yes

With almost two years past since the Scottish Independence Referendum. It seems the movement towards a second referendum is beginning to take shape. Yes 2 put forward by the Yes bikers typify the very nature of the initial referendum, while the SNP slowly, cautiously take more email addresses into their canvass data to assess the situation.

September 18th 2014, went for most of us I’m sure, like a blur, for me I remember the next day more. Getting home from the count at 7am to grab an hours sleep before work. My biggest memory of this referendum is one of shame and regret, waking up that morning and seeing my three sons, holding my 5 month old youngest and breaking down thinking I hadn’t done enough and we had all let my children and so many others down. No doubt throughout this country an array of stories similar to mine can be told, likewise there will be many tales of celebration and jubilation from no voters that their children’s futures have been secured.

That’s the thing, you see for too many of us on the yes side, we have claimed the referendum as our own… in true Scottish style, as a glorious defeat. One in which we had the best ideas, put forward direct visions and engaged a nation in confronting a ‘British’ entitlement over our nation. Yet in truth the referendum belongs to both the yes and no camps.

The 2014 referendum marked a watershed in which we as Scots began to discuss what truly defines us. Is it class, or nationality? Is it age or gender or race? In this referendum, while at times hyperbole, it allowed us to question our relationships with our closest neighbours and begin to analyse if our own national cringe is inflicted through established oppression or through our own perpetual negativity.

What we found was most likely more questions than answers. What it did allow us was an opportunity to reflect… on ourselves, our communities and our nation; regardless of whether you view that ‘nation’ as a multi national one or Scotland in its own right. We will all have different experiences and revelations of this.

As someone who defines himself as a socialist I recognise that I have more in common with the worker from Liverpool than the banker from Edinburgh, yet I consider myself Scottish first, European then (and only at a border crossing)… British. How then can you regulate yourself in this? For me the notion of Britishness is antipathy to my beliefs… I believe this would be the same had I been born in Newcastle, Tredegar or Belfast. The very notion of Britishness of imperialism and colonialism is alien to me. I embrace own nations history, it’s battle and sacrifice, yet I would not consider myself a nationalist, or if I am it is a small n, certainly no more so than anyone of any world citizen would embrace their national identity…it is also not a nationalism which shaped my vote in September 2014.

It’s all very confusing, yet it is through this confusion, in which the referendum allowed ourselves to open our eyes and awaken. It is right that we ask ourselves difficult questions. For me it was clear that Middle England will never accept a ‘Real’ Labour Government… I hope Jeremy can prove me wrong. And so the way to achieve a fairer, more equal and socially just society was through independence.

We all have different reasons for voting yes or no. For many who voted no, they will probably share a closer political affinity with me than other yes voters. Throughout the last referendum campaign I met a lot of voters who were voting yes or no for varying reasons, this should be respected and encouraged. My willingness to work with almost anyone and debate anyone through this period is because every view must be discussed and deliberated on and respected.

Yes Scotland grew from an HQ in Hope St where a fair few people made a lot of money and only one or two actually deserved it. The real yes campaign grow from that… into Yes regions and yes groups one of which being Labour for Independence. We made the case and still would, that independence is not about the SNP… even within the SNP there is no one line on what independence would mean. It is about an opportunity to create a better way.

Often in the campaign I went to unusual stomping grounds for a Labour member. In fact as a Catholic, Celtic supporting Labour member a trip to a masons lodge in Kirriemuir to speak with an SNP MSP is about as far out there as you can go. But in that meting a gentleman asked why I disagreed with the SNP plan to cut corporation tax. My reply was honest… That if taxes are cut they should be of benefit to those that need it most… not big business.

Speaking to the gentleman after, he appreciated my honesty and looked forward to the debate in an independent Scotland.

This is what a democracy is. This is why I took exception to the Yes HQ/RIC banner that a yes vote will mean no more Tory Governments. The truth is it would lead to no more Tory Governments we didn’t vote for. But we have to accept that there has always been a 20-25% of Scots who support the Tories and that cannot be ignored.
This article is a bit of a ramble.. still looking at answers and still asking questions. If the first referendum was a cultural, political self awakening then the second one must be decisive. Questions must be asked and answered, plurality must be acknowledged meaning not everyone voting yes is a ‘Nat’ and not everyone voting no is a ‘Tory’.
We as a nation, and as a people have so much to offer, yet we also have so much we need to work on. Lets work together to find out who we are, what we want and where we are headed. There is hope for this tiny land with a cringe on it’s shoulder.

In politics if thou wouldst mix,
And mean thy fortunes be;
Bear this in mind, be deaf and blind,
Let great folk hear and see.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Why Yes Labour Supporters Should Back Corbyn

The collapse of Andrea Leadsom’s campaign for Conservative leadership and the coronation of Theresa May as not only the new Tory leader but also the Prime Minister. On Labour’s side, 172 MP’s feel they should decide the leadership rather than the 500,000 Labour members and supporters who gave Jeremy Corbyn a clear and decisive mandate. Since being voted onto the ballot the Labour NEC have came up rules and regulations to restrict any new members or supporters from voting, pricing new supporters by having to pay £25 to vote. Now reports are unfolding that the NEC are suspending all CLP meetings to prevent any support for Jeremy to be organised. It is clear democracy is taking a back seat in Westminster.

We in Scotland are more than used to that, having continually rejected Conservative politics and their austerity ridden vision more often than not in my lifetime we have had a Conservative Government. As a simple electoral maths shows, the bulk of the UK population lies in Middle England and London and ultimately they will choose the UK government. Being a traditional Tory heartland means that Conservative Governments are usually more successful, unless Labour operate in a Tory lite, New Labour viewpoint.

The arrival of Jeremy Corbyn as leader has put an end to the dominance of Progress and the leaders of dark arts Mandleson and Campbell (although you imagine they have still been pulling the strings somewhere in this attempted coup). Yet his leadership raises questions for socialists like myself who also believe in Scottish Independence, not through the perception of a nationalistic standpoint, rather an attempt to create the optimum environment for socialism and the betterment of the lives of the many within it.

During the previous referendum, I wrote...

Why the socialists voting no in this country feel we must tie ourselves down to successive governments which do not reflect or respond to the needs and aspirations of people in Scotland is difficult to comprehend. It is clear the interests or if we are to follow the supposition that Britain is a nation, the national interests are at best skewed from the interests of Scotland. These national interests are controlled by those who control the central economic and political institutions which as proven by Westminster have no relation to common interests. Why we would want to remain as part of such an institution is baffling, particularly when change is not only a possibility under independence but a likely reality. The greatest help we can make to our comrades in the Rest of the UK is to lead by example.

If Corbyn was to overcome the leadership challenge he faces and continue to build this momentum across the country then we may very well have a socialist Labour Government in the UK by 2020. This would then remove one of the many, but one of the biggest reasons I would have to continue to support Scottish Independence.

Unfortunately for this theory, the Labour PLP coup has already put paid to this. While Corbyn and his brand of politics may not be to the presses liking or even most of his MP’s. It has shown itself to be effective. Over half a million members now belong to the Labour Party, in 4 by-elections Labour have won them all, increasing the share of the vote in all but one. Opinion polls showed Labour begin to overtake the Tories with an Ipsos Mori poll showing an 8 point swing to Labour to give them a 5 point lead the week before the EU referendum.

Since the coup, any such lead has been shattered, the Tories now have an 11 point lead, attacked by the media and his own MP’s any purposeful opposition Corbyn has had at PMQ’s has been washed away, leaving him easy pickings for rude and undignified rebuttals by both Cameron and May.

At this point in time it would be fair to point out I am not a Corbynista, or a member of Momentum. I see that Jeremy is not the perfect leader, but he is the right leader at the right time for this Labour Party. I believe that with the disaster that was Brexit, that with a marked change in the public opinion of austerity and inequality that we are beginning to see that it would have been possible, despite opposition from the Labour grandee’s (some who had 8 years and still never won an election) and the mainstream media, that the message Jeremy Corbyn spread could have been successful at the next General Election. Now thanks to the plotters, schemers and those who have for the last 22 years attempted to rip out the heart and fabric of the Labour Party. The Tories may in all likelihood been handed another General Election victory. To be clear any new leader of the Labour Party will achieve less.

My friend Alan Wylie wrote a piece just yesterday which he argues that due to the likelihood of another Tory Government in 2020 that independence is now more important forever to be achieved.

It is now obvious that the PLP has doomed the UK to a generation of Tory rule. Far from being a government in waiting. Jeremy Corbyn was always in a no-win situation – he’s had to face a torrent of abuse from fellow Labour MPs, who employed dirty tricks and black ops within the media, yet gets blamed for the ‘unelectablity’ of the Labour party. It’s near-on impossible for Jeremy Corbyn to lead Labour to success with so many knives stuck in his back.

So what does this mean for Scotland? Short answer – a lot. The longer answer is that the implosion of the Labour party will have a fundamental effect on how Westminster politics will be in Scotland. Without a functioning Labour party at Westminster then Scotland is doomed to a generation of Tory rule, which Scotland did not vote for. We are doomed to years of right winged Tory Governments with absolutely no means to get rid of them.
While I agree with his premise, it is important that those within the Labour movement and Labour Party are not so quick to abandon ship. I said above that Corbyn is the right leader at the right time for Labour, it is also more than that. Any independence movement in Scotland must bring with it the Labour movement. That’s why it was pleasing to see Alex Rowley’s comments supporting a second referendum. An independent Scotland must acknowledge and accept that it’s closest partner, geographically and politically should and will be the rest of the UK. We must seek to have a partner in this who will promote the values of fairness, equality and social justice. Only a Labour Party can achieve this. Only a Real Labour Party that is led by the likes of Corbyn can possibly remove the establishment agenda that has promoted inequality and poverty for so long.

Furthermore, as socialists it is our duty to support and ensure a better life for our comrades in other nations. I said many times during the first referendum that my solidarity does not end at Dover and it will not end at Berwick in an Independent Scotland.

To paraphrase the great political leader Simón Bolívar; “Political gangrene cannot be cured with palliatives and Britain is totally and utterly infected with gangrene. A green mango will ripen, but a rotten mango never ripens; the seeds of a rotten mango must be saved and planted so that a new plant may grow. That is happening in Scotland today.”

It is not only in our interests that we vote yes, but also the working class of the rest of the UK. We can lead by example, proving to them and the world that it is possible to have a socially just, fair and equal society one in which responsible businesses flourish in a vibrant and diverse economy. But it is also important that within the UK currently we continue to support those who will bring a better way for our friends south of the border. That is why I support Corbyn and the Labour Party and why I will still support a yes vote for an independent Scotland.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

A Letter to Jeremy

In light of the news I received yesterday I wrote this letter to the Labour Party Leader. 

Dear Mr Corbyn, 

We have never met, but I wanted to write to offer my support to you as you undertake such a difficult time with the PLP and a minority of the Labour membership. 

I am a former member of the party who left following the Scottish Referendum in 2014. I had founded an organisation called Labour for Independence. Some within the Scottish Labour Party accused us of being an SNP front. We were not... By the end we had a membership of over 1000 including Bob Thomson the former chair of Scottish Labour, Les Huckfield a former cabinet member of Callaghan's Government among others and the support of Dennis Canavan. I appreciate and respect we have differing views on the independence question but I believed and still do that it would lead to a return of a real Labour Party much like the one you are promoting. 

I left the party upset about the way the Scottish Party had behaved and joined the Scottish Socialist Party. This was a mistake on my part. My aim was to try to bring them to a more traditional Labour position but it was not to be. As a member I campaigned for them in the General Election which has lead to my current issue. 

I applied to rejoin the Labour Party last week. It had been a major consideration for me for some time as Labour will always be my home. The final impetus was the attempted coup to your democratic leadership. 

Unfortunately yesterday I received word from a journalist that my application has been refused as I had campaigned previously for another party. I'm sure there are many members within the party who have been in other political parties and as such will have campaigned for them. Although I have yet to receive an official decision. I intend to appeal this and hope that I can once again rejoin the party, and under your leadership help to reinvigorate and rebuild the party in Scotland. 

If I am unsuccessful, I wanted to wish you the very best of luck. Please know that regardless of any final decision on my membership I will continue to support you, your leadership and those who fight to return Labour to a party of equality and social justice. 

Good luck in your continued efforts. 
Best wishes

Allan Grogan

Thursday, 7 July 2016

An Apology That Will Lead To Justice

Blair must face justice for the decisions he made. 
Yesterday the hurt and anguish felt by so many families of service men and women was laid bare. After 7 years The Iraq Inquiry, chaired by Lord Chilcot was finally produced. At over 2.6 million words in length the complete findings will take some time to be poured over. What the 150 page summary did produce was damning evidence as to the ineptitude of the intelligence provided, the legitimacy to go to war and the planning for during and aftermath of the invasion. While this report has added fresh impetus to the responsibilities and criminal actions by several in the UK government, not least the Prime Minister. It will be scant relief for those families, nor a nation which has lost 250,000 lives and been plunged into a world of extreme violence and terrorism.

One line in the 150 page summary of the report which particularly stands out is Blair telling Bush that he ‘will be with him, whatever.’ This highlights the obvious corruption and criminal negligence in avoiding any attempts to achieve a more peaceful resolution. That he was willing to fabricate, or at best exaggerate the intelligence findings and push through a war on a country, based on deception, lies and an alternative agenda of oil excavation.

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a despotic tyrant, but not any more so than others who Blair courted during his reign and which Britain have played a role in installing when it has suited their agenda. Hussein himself was at one time the preferred dictator of the UK and US, with them arming him in his war against Iran. However, despite his dictatorial regime it is incredible for Blair to that Iraq is in a better place than under Hussein’s rule especially not after this weekend when over 200 Iraqis died in yet another terrorist attack.

Iraq is now in the midsts of a bloody civil war between the Sunnis and Shaites, they have been invaded and poisoned by terrorism and in the North faced with the Islamic State regime. Make no mistake this is a direct consequence of the invasion by UK and US forces. The fact Blair still refuses to accept this or apologise for his role in the destruction of a once peaceful nation speaks volumes about his integrity and moral fibre.
The consequences of regime change has lead to terror and destruction in Iraq.
Nor does he display any semblance of guilt in putting British armed forces in danger, many losing their lives or suffering serious injury. The refusal to meet families of soldiers who lost their lives such as Rose, the mother of Fusilier Gordon Gentle shows his contempt for the consequences of his decisions made in office.

What is clear is that he must face some form of punishment for his actions. It is my understanding that the International Criminal Court will only look at abuses from soldiers. They fact that those who sent them there in the first place will not be tried, beggars belief. Neither will there be prosecution of Blair in England, even the chances of a trial for war crimes are unlikely in Scotland unless new legislation is introduced. Therefore I ask, no I plead with the Scottish Parliament to introduce an Iraq War Crimes Bill to allow justice to be done and for Blair and others who were culpable be convicted for their actions.

While Blair ducked and dived away from meeting any families of any responsibility in his media appearances. It has been left to the current leader to stand up and do the decent honourable thing and apologise on behalf of the Labour Party for leading Britain into this war. He apologised not only to the people of Iraq but to our own armed forces and the families of those who have lost. Dignified and respectful; in one day Jeremy Corbyn has done more to improve Middle East relations than Blair did in 13 years in power. He looked and acted like a true leader. As opposed to Tim ‘told you so’ Farron and Dodgy Dave, whose hero Blair was defended to the hilt. It is of no surprise that the Blairites and the likes of Hilary Benn were so keen to remove Corbyn before yesterday as his humanity and conscience only made their attitudes and views all the more repellent.

The lessons are there to be learned from the Chilcot report but I doubt the usual suspects will ever learn. That is why the leadership of Corbyn has been so refreshing. As someone who has long opposed the war in Iraq, his morality in this is without question. He was not the one who needed to apologise, yet he took that step as it was the right thing to do. I commented in an article last week that Corbyn was the right leader at the right time for the Labour Party. Yesterday he proved that in spades.

This will not however bring back the loved ones lost in our armed forces or those casualties from Iraq. This will not stop the continual bloodshed, including over 200 lives being lost this past weekend. Apologies will not repair their lives, will not fix a country in ruins, but it is an important first step on the way to justice. Something Mr Blair must surely face if we are to maintain any sense of morality in this world.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Where does it all end?

My current take on the whole Labour coup is that there is no easy way out of this. Most disappointingly of all is that this has came at a time when the Tories should have been on their knees. The pound crumbling, losing the AAA credit rating, Osbourne having to finally admit there would be no surplus by 2020. Instead of a united front going in to attack a wounded and hugely flawed Tory party. Our MP's decided to go after our own leader who has a huge mandate from our membership.

From what I can tell here are all the choices, none of them play out well for Labour and all play well for the Tories and on the plus side (Personally speaking...) for Scottish Independence. 

- Tomorrow Watson manages to agree a deal with the TU's this results in Corbyn having to resign but with his policies being maintained. The membership rejects this as a coup from 172 MPs and any new leader is hindered right from the start.
- The Watson/ TU meeting has no resolution and Eagle and or Smith challenges Corbyn.

. Corbyn wins and the party splits

. Corbyn wins and the party stay in standstill.

. Corbyn loses and the majority of Labour activists leave in protest. (Unlikely) 

Party splits:
- The New Labour/SDP 2 have the second largest group of MP's ... say 120/30 but no activists and few members. Corbyn's Labour has fewer MPs than them and possibly SNP. Now have an opposition with no support election is called Tories win with Corbyn Labour a long way off as opposition SDP 2 doesnt get off the ground.

Party standstill:(Unless mass support for Corbyn)

Election is held Tories win, Corbyn never given chance to put forward a programme with full support of PLP and Labour. Regardless of deselection Labour sent into a decline that will take 10-20 years to recover. Chances of Scottish Independence increase but steep divide between England and Scotland.

I am for independence for Scotland, not just because I believe that it is the best chance for Scotland to become a more progressive and fairer society, but also that it will allow greater autonomy for nations like Wales and Northern Ireland and an opportunity for the north of England to create trade from other avenues. None of this will happen without a Labour Party capable of being united and winning elections. This includes in Scotland where a one party populous, or a Tory opposition which will drive the SNP further right.

Scotland and the UK need a strong left of centre Labour Party. The wider left has proven itself incapable of taking up any sort of coherent position to enable it to get beyond 1% of the vote.

At a time when national borders should be even less important we seem to have stumbled into a Scotland, a UK and a Europe unable of finding any source of sanity and togetherness. Sturgeon has performed admirably but the issues affecting Scotland, the UK and Europe cannot be met by one woman or one party alone. This makes the collapse of Labour all the more tragic.

It is clear to me that we must unite and support Jeremy Corbyn and enable him to make the case for deselection of his MP's in any forthcoming election and campaign on an anti austerity ticket, moving forward with an economic plan that will include large scale infrastructure rebuilding, an internationalist view of any negotiations with the EU and the development of a basic income ahead of the growing technological revolution.

If not the future may become very bleak indeed.

Friday, 1 July 2016

What Makes A Leader?

Over the last 7 days there has been endless discussions on television, print and social media about the qualities of leadership. Since the EU referendum which has sent Britain on a one way ticket out of the European Union and sent forth economic and constitutional turmoil which will undoubtedly have a lasting impact.

This week may have been the most bizarre week that I have ever observed in British politics. With the pound collapsing, credit ratings diminishing and the EU urging the UK to speed up their go slow exit. The resignation of Cameron, the ascension and destruction of Boris you would have imagined that it would have been a pretty awful week for the Tories. Yet they have somehow managed to come out of it, if not smelling of roses certainly surviving through anonymity. Instead the Labour Party through an attempted coup supported by their usual friends in the media has taken the main spotlight. The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) claim that despite convincing 2/3’s of Labour supporters to vote remain, it wasn’t in fact Cameron or Boris or even Farage who is responsible for Brexit but rather Jeremy Corbyn. Citing him lost in leadership and lacking the necessary skills to do so.

As the coming days go by more and more people are aware that Brexit is but a timely tool for the PLP to begin this hostile takeover but it does beg the question...What are the merits of true leadership? 

There is no question Nicola Sturgeon has shown this week that she has it in spades, while panic consumed Westminster, she appeared Statesperson-like and dignified. She did not rush to the quick quip or told you so as her predecessor may have made the mistake of doing. But what of other leaders? Farage seems to be immune to scrutiny by the BEEB who have used him as a poster boy then wonder why UKIP have advanced. Is his leadership of a one man party, leading from the front the model of a skill set required? If so why does his most talented politician and only MP shudder when he hears quotes from dear old Nige? 


Perhaps it is Cameron who has shown the necessary leadership qualities, he who in an attempt to soothe his backbenchers announced this referendum then promptly quit before any of the long negotiations that his decision led us to began. Or maybe Boris Johnson; who saw the opportunity (always good in a leader) and subsequently realised he was in over his head. Or perhaps Michael Gove who saw an opportunity to stab his Brexit buddy in the back and announced that Boris lacked the leadership qualities needed to be PM (sound familiar) and instead for the good of the county, he of multiple hand claps should run.

It could of course be that true leadership lies closer to home within the Labour Party. Like Angela Eagle who was visibly upset at having to resign for Jeremy’s cabinet days after her leadership website was created, she who turned on Corbyn despite the support for the leader of her own constituency group. Perhaps we should look to our ‘greatest leader’ Tony Blair to see what it takes. Good communication, comfortable dealing with the Murdoch press, has the visions and values that makes most Tories stand up and admire him. Possibly could be in a whole lot of trouble over war crimes should a new Labour leader not hush it up.

In truth if this is what it takes to be a leader then Jeremy Corbyn should resign.....He wont attack a country that is not a direct threat to the UK like Blair, he wont pretend to support someone or something for the sake of political clout. Perhaps he doesn't always seize the moment or communicate his values and ideas as well as we would like... Or maybe he’s just not been given that voice.

The truth is in standing up to a hostile press, an establishment who wants him out and his own parliamentary team who seem to be more afraid of Corbyn winning an election thus angering their own backers than actually doing something that helps those that Labour were created to protect... Through all of this, despite the pressure, strain and attacks. Jeremy Corbyn refuses to stand down. Instead he holds true the belief that the leader of a party is elected by all of it’s members regardless of their rank, friends or donation. One member one vote has taken years to be adopted by the Labour Party and that is now the crux of this battle. Who really is in charge? The PLP taking advice/orders from PR companies with tenuous ties to culpable agents in a Chilcot enquiry.... Or the membership?

It is in light of this that I have made the decision to rejoin the Labour Party. I do so after months of consideration and also as a matter of expedience. Labour is, was and always will be my home whether I am a member or not. It is in my blood. I believe that the best of the Labour Party is the shining force in changing peoples lives for the better. It is this ideal that through all of my actions within the party and beyond I have always strived for.

The final decision was prompted by this Labour coup. I know Corbyn is not the perfect leader, but he is the leader we need, in the party we have, for the times that we are living. He will not turn away and run when it gets tough like Cameron. He will not lead you up the garden path and then head off with his ball when the going gets tough. Nor will he knife you in the back. His honesty while often his undoing is what attracts thousands to hear him and 60,000 in the last week to join/rejoin the party. This is why his argument on the EU... That it is not perfect nor should it be abandoned. That the deprivation and despair of many working class areas of the UK is not down to immigrants, rather the austerity environment we live in today.... Resonated with those who truly listened.

I believe with a party supporting him fully, with a shadow cabinet free from past history of PFI’s, votes on welfare caps and austerity and votes on Iraq and Syria... That Jeremy Corbyn can resonate with the people of the United Kingdom and create a fairer more equal society.

I believe this is why the Labour Party was created and I believe it can be achieved under the strong leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. That is why I have rejoined the Labour Party and hope to help make it real again.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Why I rejoined the Labour Party

The last few months I have been considering this more and more. I think my time in the SSP made it more obvious that my political home for better or worse was and is the Labour Party. I will always support Scottish Independence as I believe it is the best way forward for the people of Scotland and the working class in the whole of the UK. That a strong, fair and socially just nation leads the way. This independent Scotland will need a real Labour Party to ensure we are to progress in this manner. I will continue to campaign for Independence and seek to persuade as many Labour voters and others as possible for when INDYREF 2 comes around. The final reason I have rejoined is in support of Jeremy Corbyn. The democratically elected leader with an enormous mandate from the membership. What the Blairite PLP careerists are attempting to do must be stopped at all costs. Only the membership have the authority to remove the leader of the party. I believe Corbyn still has their support. I fully support him and his new shadow cabinet.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Politics of Separation

I wrote this during the Scottish Referendum and seems perhaps even more fitting now as we head towards another referendum this one based on fear and hatred. .
The Politics of Separation.
Other than the term nationalist, the term most commonly used by the no camp describing yes voters is the term separatist as in to separate or create division. Yet it can be argued that this notion of division has been evident as part of the United Kingdom for the last 60 years.
Since the end of the Atlee Government in 1951, the UK has gradually shifted towards a ‘Me First’ society. The theory behind this is that if the richest get richer then the wealth will trickle down to the poorest. Yet this is very rarely the case, that is why the UK is now the 4th most unequal society in the western world. How in this case do the people of a country so unfair and unequal not rise up? In order to continue this profligation, diversions have to be created to ensure the public do not focus on how corrupt the current system is.
These diversions aided by right wing press such as the Daily Mail, take the focus away from the real issues and create a tension and separatism within society. Immigration is an obvious and lasting avenue for rationalisation of poverty and inequality. This is not anything new. In the 50’s unemployment was blamed on the Irish and Caribbean migrants taking jobs away from “British” people, this continued with Asian immigrants and now Eastern Europeans.
Of course this pretence only goes so far and so in recent years politicians and the media have found a new channel for shifting the focus away from the real issues. Attacking the ‘undeserving poor.’ is the way to ensure deep rooted divisions within the working class. This diversion has proved particularly successful thanks to an onslaught of political accusations and continual media enforcement of this. One needs only to look at the Channel 4 show Benefit Street to see the major attempts to create tension between the working poor and poor. Throughout this campaign I have met people who fully believe that the reason they are struggling is down to those who won’t or can’t work.
The reality of the situation of course is very different. The UK has one of the lowest levels of social security in Europe. The fact that people who work 40 hours a week are receiving less than those on social security is not an indictment of unemployment wealth, rather the low paid, zero hour culture that is prevalent within our society. Yet this story is all too often untold, leaving those in abject poverty to fight over the scraps off the corporate table of wealth.
The Labour Party, used to stand up to these myths and fight for a more fairer society, yet those days seem to be a thing of the past in Westminster. In the past Labour used to raise funds for campaigns by going to the miners and social clubs. They used to work with the trade unions with the mutual interest of protecting the people who had elected them. Now far removed from their trade union links they host fundraising dinners at £1000 a table. Who can afford that? The same businesses and interest groups that seek to maintain the same cycle of me first politics. Scotland deserves better, a society which represents the needs of all not just those that can afford to have their say.
The purpose of the Common Weal, is to create an ‘All of Us First’ society, ensuring that we tackle the real causes of poverty and inequality. Independence offers us this opportunity, the chance to say we will not tolerate excuses and diversions over real answers to social issues. The opportunity to say we will no longer accept playing off religions, races or genders against each other. That we can’t play off young against old, rich against poor, poor against the poorer, that there is a better way.
On September 19th after a yes vote the easiest thing to do would be to continue as a smaller version of what the UK is. But we deserve better than this, we can do so much better than this. Issues at the very heart of poverty and health issues must be addressed, jobs must be created, pride must be restored in all forms of employment. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth fighting for ever is.
This campaign has seen the largest civic movement in recent history, millions of Scots yearning, demanding a better way, we owe this to them that we deliver on the ideals put forward in this campaign. Independence isn’t the destination, merely the beginning. The hard work starts there. The opportunity given to us with independence must not be squandered, we should make no excuses or diversions, we owe that much. I look forward to working with comrades within a real Labour Party, and members of all political parties and none in achieving a better way, a better Scotland and a better tomorrow.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Some Thoughts The Day After

Looking at some of the discussion of the election last night. I have to disagree with some of the analysis even from close friends in politics that we should blame the SNP 1&2 strategy. The SNP made this pretty clear this was not a vote for independence rather electing a government in the Scottish Parliament. I think it is right that unless there are extenuating circumstances there shouldn't be another referendum within the next five years. I don’t think we can criticise SNP members for voting SNP as long as they are not saying it was best for independence. Likewise it is wrong for SNP members to blame the Greens for unionists winning constituencies as Alex Salmond ever so subtlety hinted at with Alison Johnstone (of course even though she was perfectly entitled to stand). Questions need to be asked why a more popular candidate wasn't chosen to take on Jackie Baillie a very winnable seat.

Undoubtedly the results were based far more along constitutional lines than at any other election. Labour had a nightmare but more worrying is the spin that the media are putting on it that they went too far left, Corbyn effect etc. (Again Salmond’s whopper that you cant out left the SNP, OBA, local council cuts, top rate of tax etc are all areas that credible opposition can be taken on the left of the SNP). The truth is the rot for Labour set in when Blair, Brown and cohorts made the choice that to win elections they had to appeal to the Middle England vote to do so would go against the voters of North England and Scotland but the assumption was they would never vote Tory. They didn't count on the SNP filling that traditional Labour role (on societal issues at least).

Perhaps even more alarming for Labour and Dugdale is not only the decline in seats but who actually won seats for Labour... Sarwar, Baillie, McIntosh will all try to move the party back to a new Labour track.

I think there are positives, the increase in Greens, the fact the SNP don't have a majority means they will have to seek more of a consensus which worked well for them in 2007-11. A Conservative opposition may also allow the pro independence parties to set dividing lines which are more evident than comparisons to devolved parliament and Westminster.

For those pro independence non SNP/Greens supporters the question is what next for you? As a former Labour member are they kicked hard enough down that the pro yessers can rejoin and have a positive impact? Or are they a busted flush. Should we throw our chips into the Greens or SNP and try to move them onto a more socialist agenda? Or is there a void which now needs to be filled?

One thing you can’t say about politics in Scotland. It sure isn’t boring.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The End... RIP Labour Party.

After a decimation in Scotland last May, the Labour Party may awaken on May 6th to the fact that had it not been for a proportional representation system it would be wiped from the map in national Scottish politics. From being the Scottish Government and having a majority of MPs less than a decade ago to potentially becoming the 3rd largest party in Parliament, it has been a decline of staggering proportions. The effects of which we may not have fully seen so far.

Despite leaving the party after the referendum this does not fill me with joy as I’m sure it will (perhaps understandably) for others. You don’t give 20 years of your life to a party, an ideal and walk away from it. In truth the line I often heard in the referendum could not be more fitting... I didn’t leave Labour, Labour left me.

The very heart and soul of this once proud and principled party was well and truly ripped out by the Blairites and New Labour drones obsessed with winning, winning over Middle England at any expense... Including the loss of the whole of Scotland. With the election of Corbyn and perhaps the most left wing manifesto in years at this Scottish election, the Progress prowlers are still waiting in the wings briefing against the party, sowing seeds of disruption in collaboration with the main stream Media and the Tory government who they have more in common with.

During the referendum campaign Labour for Independence argued that independence would be the only way to save the Labour Party in Scotland from itself. To move away from the Labour Party of Westminster which wanted to cut harder and faster than the Tories, that wanted to keep trident, to appeal to the leafy suburbs and Middle England at the expense of their base and the voters the party was created to protect. We believed independence held the key to a return of a real Labour Party.

In hindsight I think we were wrong. While independence would have given us the opportunity to create a fairer more equal society, it would have been too late to save Scottish Labour Perhaps 5-10 years ago this would have been possible, but I think the party now is too infected, even in Scotland with New Labourites, filled with cronyism and careerism.

That is not to say there are no real/traditional Labour members and politicians left in the party. But for every Neil Findlay there are more Anas Sarwars, for every Mary Lockhart and Nathan Morrison there are Blair McDougalls and John McTiernans with more sway, more power at the top of the party.

You have to feel even for Kezia Dugdale. In a job she is probably 10 years too early for, she tried to shake up the party and bring in fresh blood to have Sarwar top of the Glasgow list guaranteed a seat. Not only that but his acolytes are already plotting her internal demise as voters her public one.

For those within the pro independence movement who celebrate this demise, be careful what you wish for. The battle in this election has been for second the SNP’s success is not in doubt, only the size of the majority is the question. Yet it has also been one of the most uninspiring elections in such a long time. It seems a lot longer than 20 months ago when the referendum was in full swing, with a country educated and engaged.

So many in this nation now have no home, for many like myself who do not find the notion of the SNP a comfortable one are not enticed to the far left of RISE or the Greens who for many still fail to convince.

The Labour Party will continue its slow demise this week, It may survive until next years council elections... But it wont last long... The question we should all be asking is what happens next?

Friday, 29 April 2016

SSP/RISE No More: Looking Ahead

I joined the Scottish Socialist Party after the referendum as I believed this could be a party that had the potential, the drive of membership increase and good hard working activists to allow it to develop into a major force in Scottish politics.
I had been a Labour member, voter, activist of some description since I was 8 years old. I left the party after the referendum due in part to watching unconscionable acts by the leadership,campaigning with the Tories, smiling at Asda when they announced food costs would go up in an independent Scotland (Why smile at buying groceries being made more difficult for people). I watched as members like myself and a great many others were castigated for daring to ask for the parties position on the question of independence to be decided democratically. I do not regret leaving the Labour Party in September 2014 it was the right thing for me to do.
I was approached by Colin Fox soon after and also a member of RIC now a leading figure in RISE who wanted to start a new party out with the SSP on the left. To me it seemed that with 3000 new members applying to join and the impressive attitude and drive its members showed in the referendum campaign that the SSP had huge potential. I met with Colin and discussed where I felt the party needed to go and how it could be improved. I felt the SSP could take on the mantle of Labour in Scotland over time by moving away from the fringes of the far left and convincing traditional, real Labour voters that real Labour was actually socialism and that despite new Labours best intentions these members and voters were and always had been socialists. The SSP could and should be the new home for them. I wont recount private conversations but for my part the SSP needed a fresh look, a clear narrative, to continue to build on their improved social media campaign, to develop their media strategy and build a team around the co-spokespersons.Most importantly policy needed to be fully costed, for too long the left have been accused of pipe dreaming we needed to professionalise and take ourselves seriously before we could ask anyone else to do so.
After several discussions with Colin mainly, I felt confident that we were all on the same page and strived for the same goal I agreed to join the party. The SSP gained the media press it sought from this and I was warmly welcomed at the annual conference in October. I conveyed the same message f change to the party and felt it was received well. Following this I spoke at two events sharing a platform with Colin. The second of these was described by an observer as ‘two people arguing that the other was talking shite but doing so in the politest way possible.’
I offered to and did produce a costed energy policy. Scotland’s Energy Future in Scotland’s Hands was submitted to the Executive Committee in April last year and despite 8 months of myself being on the Executive I wager it has still never been discussed, despite great chunks of it being in the 2015 general election manifesto.
I could go on to discuss the negotiations with RISE, how I told the conference that the next day despite the motion being that the EC would negotiate, that the Sunday Herald would run that we had voted to be part of the alliance. I could mention how repeatedly I warned the EC and specifically Colin Fox that the SSP would either be subsumed into RISE or they would have created a party that will be directly opposed to you standing on your same platform of policies. I could go on and on and on ...but it wont.
I’ve probably bored you all into submission by now, if not I’m sure the last few months have made you rethink whether you should read my articles. So what’s the point of this? Today i received a message from an SNP supporter who I met on the campaign. He mentioned how this experience had not left me to contribute positively, he is of course right. I have become a bit of a moany sod. I don’t want to be anymore and so I need to let go.
In truth I was never truly at home in the SSP. The Labour Party has always been my home but that now seems a stranger to me too. As does any other political party. Surprisingly I do not regret my time in the SSP it proved a place to learn and more importantly allowed me to meet and work with a great many members, activists and friends who I hope will continue to work with me and consider me a comrade regardless of the roads we travel on.
I believe that the SSP had it followed a positive course of action could have spent the past 18 months since the referendum building a party that would have gained enough votes for at least 1 or 2 MSPs allowing the party to build in communities for the council elections next year. Instead of moving to becoming a major force in Scottish politics they have now aligned themselves with a far left group that does more harm to progress than good. I believe that by July the SSP will be no more... or little less than a rump of its former self. I also believe there are bigger issues to complain about. I believe that there are too many people, children, families,pensioners starving, struggling o heat their homes, pay their bills...most of whom are in work. They are blighted by a corrupt and incompetent government in Westminster. I still believe in independence for Scotland not because it is a nations right but because it will allow us to create a better, fairer more equal society.
I look forward to watching the outcome of the Scottish Election, I do so with itchy fingers ready to type, itchy feet ready to walk the streets and a voice that has been held down for too long and an anger that has been misplaced. We have so much to do, I look forward to working with you all to make a real change in our society.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Scotland's Energy In Scotland's Hands

During my time in the Scottish Socialist Party, I was tasked to create a coherent energy policy for the party. Produced in April 2015, Scotland's Energy in Scotland's Hands. was presented to the party and indeed parts were used in the 2015 General Election manifesto. It was however never discussed within the Executive Committee or any National Councils. This was due in part mainly to the consumption of the party in the constant discussions and disagreements on the alliance with RISE.

Despite this Scotland's Energy in Scotland's Hands altered to a non political party paper and produced here on my own website. I do this in the hope that some of the ideas may promote discussion in an attempt to stimulate a debate on what is for me the central issue moving forward which could potentially have a lasting effect on a plethora of economic and social issues. Below is a brief article explaining some of the main points of the paper. Full report to follow.... Allan.

It’s just not working! To begin with, it is clear that Scotland’s energy system just isn’t working. Scotland is an energy-rich nation with an abundance of oil, gas and renewable energy resources, not to mention nuclear, coal and the potential energy sources through fracking. In spite of this, over 1 in 3 households in Scotland (900,000) are living in fuel poverty and over 10% in extreme fuel poverty.

The challenge for us in Scotland and indeed throughout the world now is to create a fully-funded energy vision which can bring about real and lasting change for the benefit of all in our society. Scotland’s Energy Future in Scotland’s Hands is the product of this ambition.

Energy is a difficult policy area to comprehend, as the consequences of policy changes can be far-reaching. For any political party, this must be seriously considered before adopting any energy strategy. One case in point is the current ownership of land and seabeds 14 miles off the coast by the Crown Estate; another is the heavy subsidising of land-owners for pursuing onshore wind farms.

These policies severely inhibit our ability to utilise the resources and profits from potential energy sources. That is why this policy document calls for dramatic changes to land reform legislation to return all land and seabeds from the Crown Estate to the people of Scotland, and an 80% reduction in subsidies to land-owners for the placement of onshore wind farms.

The purpose of this paper was not to push forward the entrance to a renewable age, nor the finale of fossil fuels. Rather, it is based on an understanding that this is the most difficult time to plan and create an energy strategy – but also the most important time.

Energy encapsulates all that we do and for the next generation it will play a determining role in every facet of policy. This is why this set of proposals recognises the continued need for oil and gas over the foreseeable future as we develop our capacity for a fully renewable energy mix.

A newly formed Scottish Energy Agency would oversee the creation of a Scottish Oil and Gas Company (SOGC). The SOGC would ensure continued investment and growth, leading to a potential nationalisation of the oil industry through the purchase of small energy fields and independent exploration in the Hebridean Islands.

More significantly, the SOGC would be charged with taking control of the Grangemouth Gas Refinery. This would be achieved through a compensation package which reflects the profit made by Ineos, and is therefore small. Most importantly, it would mean Scottish gas supplies and workers in the industry would never again be held to ransom by the greed of individuals or private companies.

It is clear that while we will need to create a new way, lead with a vision, pioneering policies which resonate and mean real change, the media often calls into doubt the financial viability of left-wing policies. This report aims to put forward a fiscally sound energy alternative.

While this paper calls for returning the National Grid to public hands, for reducing transmission charges, for extending the grid to ensure remote renewable energy is more accessible, and for cutting energy bills, it does not call for the nationalisation of the major energy companies as it is not financially viable at this time.

Rather it supports a windfall tax on their profits, which would go towards bringing an end to fuel poverty. This paper also supports an alteration of their contracts to ensure planning and profit are in public hands.

While this paper's main focus is to develop and maintain acceptable energy levels and reduce prices, it is our responsibility to ensure the transition from reliance on fossil fuels to renewables does not impact the environment. In light of this, an enhanced role for SEPA and continual joint tidal planning with Marine Scotland is advisable.

Additionally, the creation of the Scottish Renewable Energy Commission (SREC) and a public renewable energy company (SRC) would ensure the continued development of renewable energy. The paper also proposes the creation of three new facilities:

A manufacturing facility in Greenock, which would design renewable energy materials to be produced in factories in Ravenscraig, Linwood and Paisley – creating urban regeneration in areas with a long history of successful manufacturing and development.

A Research & Development facility in Falkirk, which would exist as a branch of Stirling University. It would continue developments in tidal, geothermal and hydrogen renewable potential, subject to funding from the National Renewables Infrastructure Fund (NRIF).

An air maintenance/restoration facility in the North East, which would protect offshore farms and tidal power sites based predominantly in the Highlands and Islands, but also be able to access the Pentlands Firth. This facility would also allow for the breakdown of dilapidated onshore wind farms into spare parts.

The creation of these three facilities would ensure the incorporation of the renewable energy sector into the national economy, guarantee the process of manufacturing, engineering and repair, and reduce capital costs, allowing an increase in employment opportunities while keeping energy bills down. The potential for employment within the sector would be at least 15,000 new jobs with the creation of these facilities and would ensure effective transition and communication through all stages of development.

The radical reforms recommended in the paper also include decentralisation, with Regional Energy Committees taking charge of local energy grids and geothermal potential. 7,000 new small to micro hydro sites developed by Local Hydro Initiatives would ensure that local energy stays local, reducing transmission costs and lowering prices.

In its recommendations, this paper sets out a radical yet feasible plan for Scotland to meet the challenges of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy; to end fuel poverty while creating jobs; to rebuild the manufacturing industry; and to increase trade-able energy capability.

This paper also offers recommendations to decentralise the production and transmission of energy, giving more responsibility to local communities. Each public body – from the Scottish Energy Agency to Regional Community Energy Committees and Local Hydro Initiatives – would give a voice to consumers and energy employees so that the voices of the many will be heard rather than the voices of the few.

At this time more than ever, we must ensure our current energy potential is not squandered, that our natural resources are nourished, refined and ready to create an energy system that is environmentally sound, job-creating and economically stimulating – an energy policy which puts all aspects of Scotland's future into Scotland's hands.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Why Scotland Needs a Strong Real Labour Party

With the announcement that the EU referendum will take place a little over a month after the Scottish Parliamentary elections it seems David Cameron is confirming what everyone in Scotland already knows. That an SNP government is a foregone conclusion. Most discussion in mainstream and social media is not whether the SNP will win a majority but rather by how much, and whether SNP 1&2 is a good strategy.

For the Labour Party their decimation within Scotland will continue, no longer the Party of Scotland, they are now afraid to lose the mantle of the opposition party in Scotland, with the Conservatives getting ever closer to their share of the centre right vote. As a former member who left after the referendum, I take no pleasure in seeing their collapse. Too many good people have invested too much time in building this party that it is still painful to see it collapse in such a way.

Fingers are often pointed at the staggering contempt Scottish Labour showed the people of Scotland during the independence campaign campaigning with the Tories, others see the removal of clause 4, the era of New Labour and the illegal invasion of Iraq. In truth the beginning of the end for Labour started far longer ago. From the refusal to support direct action on the Poll Tax, the shift to the centre ground, changing it’s long standing position on nuclear weapons and position on the House of Lords. It is fair to say that Labour abandoned the policies, so strongly supported and therefore abandoned the people of Scotland long before the voters in Scotland abandoned them.

 Campaigning in the Scottish referendum as part of Labour for Independence, we argued that the only way for Labour to be restored to the party of the people of Scotland was to support independence and remove itself from an English Labour Party who could only win an election by supporting ‘Tory Lite’ policies to appeal to Middle England. Ironically it is the Labour membership in England and Wales which has supported a return to real Labour values (despite protestations from the PLP), while the Scottish Labour Party has voted for a their list candidates to highlight the inadequacies of their current MSPs by bringing in Westminster already decimated by the SNP such as Anas Sarwar to top their regional list.

Supporters of the SNP and Scottish Independence may be quick to dismiss the importance of a Scottish Labour Party that is capable of challenging the SNP in opposition and as a potential governing party. There are however great risks involved in such dominance by one political party. Without the checks and balances of opposition the SNP are liable to end up the same way as Scottish Labour did... No longer representing the people they elected to represent.

Some of the shine may already be coming off the SNP train, with a worrying lack of commitment to banning fracking, the imposition of brutal local service cuts by SNP majority councils and a reticence to announce a referendum in their election manifesto. The problem being there is no political movement or party capable of offering opposition, nor a credible alternative to what the SNP propose.

After the referendum it became clear that the Labour Party could no longer be relied upon to deliver a coherent opposition let alone a vision for Scotland. I joined the Scottish Socialist Party with the belief that if it was able to organise and move from the far left fringes of the electorate to appeal to traditional Labour voters on a platform of transitional socialism. Unfortunately due to the alliance with RISE it seems the party is not capable of moving into a position of mass appeal. The political alliance is stuck firmly in far left political sphere leaving the Scottish political scene to continue to have a void of an effective political opposition to the SNP.

 Scottish Deputy Leader Alex Rowley has recently stated that it is vital for Labour to be seen to be ‘standing up for Scotland.’ This is a clear indication that Labour for Independence’s critique is still a valid one, that the only way for the Labour Party in Scotland to embrace independence both as a party and for Scotland. Only then will they begin to develop a trust with the electorate that they really do have their best interests at heart.

These would of course only be the first steps. After a spate of elections, referenda and leadership changes, Labour need to use the post council election lull to begin to develop their own vision again, one centred in the communities of Scotland, representing the people of Scotland, the working class, those whom the Labour Party was created to serve. In the interests of plurality, in the interests of democracy, Scotland needs a strong real Labour Party... So too does the SNP.