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A report of a vital conference was held in November 2014, which features contributions from

Agne Tolmie (Past President STUC),

Ben Chako (Morning Star Editor),

Drew Smith MSP,

Jane Carolan (UNISON General Council & Executive Committee)

Jackson Cullinane (Political Officer, UNITE Scotland)

Colin Findlay (EIS Nationak Council)

plus reports & contributions from local Morning Star Readers and Supporters Groups across Scotland.

PDF is available to download here .

Malcolm Burns

Monday 6 october 2014

peoples assembly scotland 800

THE People’s Assembly Scotland has called for activists in the Yes and No referendum campaigns to unite and channel their energy into fighting austerity.

Community campaigners and trade union activists from all sides of the independence debate came together at the People’s Assembly Scotland AGM in Glasgow on Saturday. 

They agreed to present an agenda to the Smith commission on devolution demanding real powers which will challenge austerity. 

dave moxham peoples assembly scotlandSTUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said the huge referendum vote was “a fantastic democratic outpouring” which had been driven to large extent by anti-austerity feelings.

“The People’s Assembly will now be a vital organ in the post-referendum period to win ‘powers for a purpose’ for the Scottish Parliament,” he said.

But he warned that the “nettle of fair taxation” must be grasped. 

“The ability to shape the issues of fair pay, decent jobs and public services should underpin what powers we seek,” he said.

“We are not just talking about tax powers but tax reform — about progressive but also redistributive taxation.”

Bill Greenshields of the People’s Assembly thanked Scotland for the referendum campaign which had “given the lie to the notion created by the ruling class that ordinary people are not interested in politics.”

But he said it was vital that the anti-austerity campaign should now become a movement.

People’s Assembly Scotland chairman Phil McGarry said: “We have a formidable task to unite both referendum groups, but it is vitally important if we want the powers to combat austerity and make a real difference for people on issues like fair taxation, employment, trade union rights, public services and health and safety.”

Malcolm Burns 6/10/2014 

2014 oct star panel1 700

THE leader of Scotland’s biggest union put class politics in the centre of the debate over Holyrood powers yesterday at a packed Morning Star conference in Glasgow.
Unison Scotland convener Lilian Macer said: “The outcome of the independence vote was about change — whether you were in the No or the Yes camp.
“People have demonstrated that they value public services, they don’t want more cuts, they reject privatisation and they want a fairer and more equal society.”
And she made an impassioned call for unity on the left, saying both sides must work together to empower Scotland’s Parliament in the fight against austerity.
“The real question now is how we make sure new or existing powers are used to create decent job, tackle low pay, end poverty — and deliver for working class people.
“We cannot allow any division from the referendum to deflect from that higher mission.”
2014 oct morning star conference Jennifer McCareyLabour shadow cabinet minister Neil Findlay said it was time to “move beyond some of the entrenched positions of the last few years around the referendum.”
Mr Findlay said the big challenge is how to bring the left together as a campaigning movement.
“Talk of creating yet more parties on the already crowded left, and especially talk of creating new trade unions by some, are extremely misplaced.”
He called on those who voted “yes from a left perspective to use their influence over the Scottish government and tell them it’s time to deliver on a social justice agenda.”
Edinburgh Labour councillor Gordon Munro said the “groundswell of opinion and activity in the referendum came from the grassroots and the shop floor”
and left needed to recognise it.
“We need to make the case for progressive taxation, that seems to have got lost a bit since the only redistributive tax measure in the referendum debate was lowering corporation tax below whatever George Osborne would do.”
SNP Trade Union Group secretary Chris Stephens said there were “opportunities” arising from the referendum despite the disappointment for those who had delivered the large Yes vote.
“Winning powers over employment rights, health and safety, welfare and broadcasting would be positive developments in Scotland’s story.”

 2014 oct morning star conference afternoon panel


The leadership’s right-wing policies helped the SNP’s rise, says Solomon Hughes

For years, the Labour Party thought that “new Labour” won votes for free. Now it looks like there is a bill to pay. It might cost all of Scotland.

New Labour cost a lot in the short term as voter turnout slumped to record lows, but Blair, Brown and their ministers always covered up discontent with a great big election win.

From 1997 to 2010 new Labour sold the party’s principles. It cost the health service millions of pounds paid to privatisers as Labour started a commercialisation of the NHS which even Thatcher could not implement. 

It cost all public services billions as Labour handed the banks and big contractors swathes of the public sector in the private finance initiative. 

It cost a lot in terms of civil liberties as Labour brought in draconian powers in the name of fighting terrorism.

It cost thousands of Iraqis their lives as Labour became the party of war. 

All told, the Blair-Brown plan cost Labour its soul. But it didn’t seem to cost at the ballot box, which meant discontent within the party was always damped down. 

Lots of Labour members complained. Hundreds of thousands left the party. But there was no major confrontation within the party on the big issues. 

I’ve been to every Labour conference since 1999, and the sad truth is that the opposition to new Labour was very small. Lots of Labour members bit their tongues. 

For example, many Labour members were active in the anti-Iraq war campaign on the streets. But the Iraq war was only debated at Labour conference once — in 2004. 

Worried about the upcoming election, the party decided not to rock the boat and voted to back the continuing, disastrous occupation of Iraq.

A lot of members thought that Tony and Gordon did a lot of bad things, but they did win elections. That success, in contrast to the defeats of the previous three elections, and the occasional good thing it enabled — the minimum wage, higher social spending — was enough.

There were new, striking electoral victories over new Labour from the left. 

George Galloway in Bethnal Green. Ken Livingstone winning the London mayoralty after he was kicked out of Labour for opposing the wasteful Tube PFI. Dai Davis becoming Blaneau Gwent’s MP in 2006. The Scottish Socialist Party winning seats in Holyrood. 

Caroline Lucas’s victory as Britain’s first Green MP in Brighton and Richard Taylor’s election in opposition to health privatisation in the Wyre Forest in 2001 weren’t strictly challenges from the left, but they attracted a lot of disenchanted Labour votes.

These challenges were serious, but ultimately the left outside of Labour weren’t able to hold together. We were too prone to internal division and self-destructive behaviour. So Labour rested easy and stuck with variants of Blairism.

But Labour should have spotted the signs. 

Because the Scottish National Party did. Salmond built the votes for his party on the back of discontent with new Labour. 

In a particularly self-harming way, Scottish Labour is even more “new Labour” than the party in the UK as a whole. 

So, especially after the financial crisis, Salmond swam in the opposite direction. No NHS privatisation, no welfare cuts, no bedroom tax, no Trident, no English Tory-Labour Westminster consensus. 

These are the building blocks of the Yes campaign. If Blair and Brown were going to detach these sentiments from Labourism, Salmond would connect them to Scottish nationalism. 

The SNP built votes when Blair and Brown were in government. But their big breakthrough came in the 2011 Holyrood election — this victory also won them the chance to hold the referendum. 

Their big breakthrough came when Ed Miliband was trying to shuffle Labour leftwards. 

But Ed’s little moves, muffled by ridiculously right-wing Scots Labour figures like Johann Lamont or Jim Murphy, were too little, too late. Labour’s continued commitment to austerity was a huge gift to the SNP. 

The idea that Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband can make big breakthroughs against the Yes campaign, when they were in charge when the SNP grew, is unconvincing. 

The “fear factor might just be enough to win No in the referendum. 

But they have lost Labour a huge swathe of their electoral base. Labour’s enthusiasm for the “banks won’t like it” argument against independence shows that the party’s instinct is still to follow the diktats of the banks and the City. 

Unless there is a major change of direction, they are also going to continue on the road to long-term decline.

JOHN ELDRIDGE introduces the valuable work of the Poverty Truth Commission


“Turning up the volume on poverty” was the theme of a recent public presentation in Glasgow of the Poverty Truth Commission, which I attended, along with some 400 others. 

Founded in 2009 and drawing inspiration from other truth commissions around the world, the group brought together some of its economically poorest citizens with some of Scotland’s best-known leaders. 

It is based on the conviction that we cannot understand poverty, let alone address it, until those who live with its reality every day are at the heart of the process for change. 

As one participant called Patrick — we used first names only — put it: “The commission is unique in building bridges and promoting the idea that people are experts on their own lives. It’s about vulnerability being given a platform.”

I would strongly encourage readers to Google the Poverty Truth Commission, where they will find good accounts of its history and ongoing work and the realistic hope that it can generate. 

As Anne-Marie put it: “The combination of members, and the influence that some have, allows the voices of those living in poverty to be heard in places which were never accessible before.”

Those voices were heard loudly and clearly at the June public meeting. 

There was black humour, anger and tears from the participants. 

Some things I already knew in my head, but to hear the narratives based on personal accounts was very challenging. 

So, for example, the choice that some people have to make between heating or eating as a result of rises in fuel and food costs, is literally true. 

Thus people who use pre-payment meters are put on a higher rate than direct debit customers and have to pay for the upkeep of their meters. 

One participant said: “I have to switch off my electric in winter as I cannot afford to put money in the meter. Three days before my giro payment it comes down to ‘heat or eat’ as I often cannot afford to do both.” 

There is a challenge here to energy companies to review their policies to pre-payment customers.

It was deeply troubling to hear about the effects of sanctions being imposed on benefits claimants, which can break people’s spirits. 

Benefits may be suspended if, for example, you are a few minutes late for an appointment or applied for one less job than you should have done. But they can also be the result of bureaucratic errors at the jobcentre. 

The sanctions policy is being disproportionately and unfairly applied. 

It was wryly remarked that “you used to come out of the jobcentre happy if you had found a job. Now you come out pleased if you haven’t got a sanction.” 

This represents a serious challenge to the way the Department of Work and Pensions carries out the government’s draconian policies. 

It is drummed into benefit claimants that the way to get out of the poverty trap is to get a job. 

This is, at best, a half truth. From the commission we learned that in Scotland there are now more people living in poverty where at least one person in the household is working than in homes where no-one is in paid employment. 

The expense of childcare arrangements, travel-to-work costs and the falling real value of the minimum wage are things to bear in mind here. 

But so too are the effects of zero-hours contracts which give maximum flexibility to the employer but minimum security and maximum uncertainty to the employee. 

The rise of foodbanks set against welfare cuts can be seen as a social indicator.

It is also a challenge to our collective sense of social justice. While the charitable impulses of those who organise foodbanks are impressive and highly commendable, the underlying fact is that they should not need to exist. 

Yet it is not only unemployed but also low-paid workers and pensioners who are reluctantly forced to use them.

We live in a world abounding in stereotypes, whether in relation to race, gender or class. 

But it is also the case with the poor and vulnerable in our society. Myths of “scroungers” and the “undeserving poor” are still perpetuated. 

Such myths have to be challenged and are being so by the Poverty Truth Commission. 

With its feisty motto: “Nothing about us without us is for us,” it will, I believe, form a growing challenge to our politicians and policy-makers. 

Whatever the result of the forthcoming referendum in Scotland, the commission will continue to give voice to the need for policies of redistributive justice and a progressive move towards a more equal society. 

In that way not only Glasgow but Scotland will flourish.

While they may be appealing on the surface, worker involvement schemes risk undermining trade union collective bargaining, says JACKSON CULLINANE


A MAJOR plank of the Scottish government’s pledge to workers in an independent Scotland is the proposition for increased employee involvement outlined in its Scotland’s Future white paper.  

On the face of it such suggestions look attractive, contrasting sharply with the Con-Dem attack on trade unions and employment rights.

However, it is to be hoped that the recent input of trade unionists in the Scottish government’s “working together review group” — where the case has been made for the promotion of trade union recognition and collective bargaining — becomes the driving force for industrial relations in Scotland. 

It is also to be hoped that the Scottish government shifts from its temptation to base its proposals on employee involvement on the adoption of imperfect European “models” involving non-union reps on employee forums, works councils and company boards. 

As STUC general secretary Graeme Smith recently pointed out, there are “dangers if the focus is to be on employee representation rather than on trade union representation” or “employee involvement schemes that are used by some employers to bypass and weaken trade union involvement.”

The relevance of Smith’s warning is borne out by the fact that one of the companies that has established a works council is Ineos, the same organisation that is engaged in unfairly dismissing the trade union convener, the non-recognition of democratically elected shop stewards and the withdrawal of  “check-off” facilities for the collection of trade union dues. 

There are many other, albeit much more subtle, examples of employee involvement schemes being used to undermine trade union organisation. 

As a young shop stewards convener in the chemical industry, I had to grapple daily with the employer’s attempt to weaken established union bargaining processes by taking issues out of the bargaining arena and floating them in a limited consultative process, within which “stock-market sensitive” information was denied to us. 

The employer also initiated several attempts to bypass trade union reps completely through so-called “quality circles,” team briefings, suggestion schemes and “continuous improvement” work methods, while presenting these as positive steps to “encourage” and “value” the involvement of the workforce.

We should reject the suggestions being made in some quarters in Scotland that trade union involvement on boards should be limited to one union representative, sitting alongside potentially two non-union reps elected via a works council. 

As presented by advocates of industrial democracy in the ’70s and ’80s — when the theme was previously dominant on the left — workforce board representatives, as well as those on employee forums/committees, should be elected by and from the trade union members at the workplace. 

To do otherwise is to encourage non-union representation, ensure that real power and influence continues to rest with the employer and potentially undermine trade union organising strategies, based on the goal of 100 per cent organisation, empowerment of shop stewards, accountability to and communication with the membership and a preparedness to act on issues of concern to the workforce.

If we should be wary of any attempt to limit trade union representation in proposed employment involvement schemes, we should also guard against any attempt to limit the agenda and the range of issues which those reps should have a right to engage with. 

If genuine industrial democracy is the objective, the issues to be addressed by greater employee involvement should include a right to participate in examination of business opportunities, improved work routines, workplace layout and design, the purchase and operation of machinery and resources and the general process of production or service delivery — as well as the obvious issues of hours, holidays, grading and training. 

We should also be careful not to underestimate the potentially negative effect of any schemes which emphasise the “benefits” of “collaboration” and “common interests,” seemingly denying that there is an inherent conflict of interest between capital and labour. 

Industrial democracy and collective trade union organisation should not only be about genuine employee participation, it should also be about building workers’ power, valuing their experience and expertise, giving them more control, ensuring fulfilling work, raising self-esteem and developing the confidence that they can forge alternative workplace relationships including, ultimately, an alternative to capitalism itself, through the realisation that we cannot fully control what we do not own. 

On that score, the case for industrial democracy is inseparable from the case for workers’ control and common ownership in industry. 

It should also link to the issue of community ownership triggered by the community right to buy in land reform legislation in Scotland. 

After all, if the benefit of democratic ownership of the land on which a community relies is now, rightly, acknowledged in Scots law, why not also recognise the benefits of collective worker and community ownership of the industries upon which those communities also rely?

It is long overdue that the left revisited the issue of industrial democracy. In this respect, the discussions triggered by the Scotland’s Future white paper references to employee involvement serve a useful purpose. 

However, we should not allow trade unionism and collective organisation to be undermined by charades of involvement used by some employers to break collectivism, making individual workers feel important while providing them with no real influence and failing to address the need to redistribute power as well as wealth.

As Tony Benn put it in his Arguments for Socialism: “We must reject the idea that one worker on the board is industrial democracy. 

“We must reject phoney works councils not rooted in the strength and structure and traditions of the trade union movement. 

“All of these are window dressing designed to divert the demand for democratic control into utterly harmless challenge. We should be talking about the transfer of power within industry.”

Jackson Cullinane is political officer at Unite Scotland.

Women may be more likely than men to vote against Scotland’s independence and a persuasive new book explains why, says JEAN TURNER


Women Saying No: Making a Positive Case Against Independence

Edited by Maria Fyfe

(Luath Press, £7.99)

IN THE eternal political debate about the pros and cons of Scottish independence there has been a very important viewpoint missing, that of women. 

Yet they are the silent majority who are apparently more likely than men to vote No in the referendum.

In this book, 14 Scottish women give their personal reasons for voting No. They include women deeply embedded in the Scottish working-class and Labour movement such as Maria Fyfe — the book’s editor and former Labour MP for Glasgow Maryhill — Johann Lamont MSP, leader of the Scottish Labour Party and Sarah Boyack MSP, Labour shadow cabinet member for local government and planning. 

Others are leaders of pensioners and disabled people’s organisations, community activists, trades unionists, feminists, social workers, representatives of the Asian and African Scottish population and a solitary student. 

What is obvious is the pride and commitment these women have in their Scottish ancestry or adopted Scots nationality. Despite this they express serious misgivings about a Yes vote which would set back all the advances made by devolution. They argue that devolution retains its traditional links with progressive and working-class forces in the rest of Britain while establishing a clear Scottish governmental identity. Some hint at a federal Britain.

Many envisage the disruption to family ties if a border were formed between Scotland and the rest of Britain, separating them from their relations and roots there. 

Anna Dyer looks at the effects on women in the newly independent states of eastern Europe, where free market economics and foreign investment have resulted in a drastic decline in the percentage of women in the labour force and their involvement in politics. Privatisation has removed their leading positions in industry and state enterprises. 

Even in the Scandinavian countries, the social-democratic social fabric has been eroded by global neoliberal forces. Could an independent Scotland prevent this, she asks? 

Few of the contributors are in favour of a withdrawal from the European Union — which overrides Westminster powers anyway — although Elinor Mackenzie points out that better social welfare provisions in some EU states are the result of a stronger class struggle than has taken place in Britain. 

This book represents a very important area of criticism from the women’s angle on the issue of Scottish independence. As retired book seller Esme Clark — concerned for her pension and taxes and the future of national cultural collections — says: “I admit it, I’m feart.” As an Anglo-Scot she feels safer with her British passport when travelling abroad. “Why would we want to take apart something that works?” she asks.

Not high politics, but a viewpoint that many must feel in their hearts.

STUC blasted both sides of the independence referendum campaign yesterday, accusing them of messing up their economic figures and ignoring economic inequality.
“Despite inequality of income and wealth becoming a major theme of the referendum campaign, no detailed remedies are proposed by the Scottish or UK governments,” STUC economist Stephen Boyd wrote in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.
The STUC attack follows a row between Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander and Scottish Finance minister John Swinney over the costs and benefits of independence and the union.
Mr Alexander said the SNP’s proposed £1,000 “independence bonus” for every Scot was “wishful thinking,” before suggesting a “union dividend” of £1,400 per head.
Mr Swinney responded that coalition cuts to the Barnett formula would cost Scotland £4 billion.
But Mr Boyd said recent “extensive papers” from the Scottish and UK governments justifying and promoting their “independence bonus” or “union dividend” had failed to identify who would benefit from either.
He asked: “Will the dividend/bonus be evenly spread across the income distribution? Or will those at the top benefit disproportionately?”
Mr Boyd called for honesty on the level of taxation needed to address inequality.
“Few if any in the Yes campaign can summon the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that the Nordic society they desire and promote so relentlessly simply cannot and will not be funded on current levels of taxation.
“Action on minimum and living wages is a welcome but insufficient response.”
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Unite leader Len McCluskey said yesterday that the union movement would be “the one constant” in Scotland before and after September’s independence referendum.

He told delegates that he didn’t address the thorny issue in his conference address on Monday “because I was saving the best until last.”

He set out the benefits of the union’s position of “positive neutrality” in the debate during his closing speech.

“Our members up there are not recommending either a Yes or a No but insisting that the debate is about working people, their concerns and their aspirations,” he said.

“We’re determined that the fabric of society will not be broken whatever the result. The one constant before and after the referendum will be the trade union movement.”,-says-Unites-Len-McCluskey#.VC1zmBZRx8E

The ‘Your Choice’ document reveals a plan for a deregulated Scotland and is reason enough to vote No, says Richard Leonard

Vision is essential in politics. It illuminates the possibility that things could be different, better and inspires people to not just believe in change, but to be driven to do something about it. That’s why it will play a big part in determining the outcome of next month’s referendum on the question of a separate Scottish state. 

Yes Scotland’s vision is set out in a new pamphlet called “Your Choice.”

In it we are told how so different things will be six years after independence. Of course, to suit the argument in this “imaginary community” as it is described, some things will remain exactly the same. 

Side-stepping the impact of EU membership and Britain’s opt out from the Schengen Agreement, English-born “Scott” will need no passport and pass no border controls or customs posts when he visits his family in Manchester in 2020.

“Maisie” will continue to get her triple-locked old-age pension from the same neighbourhood post office. And “Laura” still has no university tuition fees to worry about, while “Suresh” continues to receive free personal care. Both the latter two measures were already introduced and sustained under the existing devolution settlement. 

The fictional character in this imaginary community who attracts my attention the most however is “Barbara.” A publican, her life is transformed in an independent Scotland. How? She is “freed up from high business taxes and red tape.” 

Perpetuating the myth that business is overtaxed, the SNP has pledged to cut the main rate of corporation tax by up to three percentage points below the prevailing UK rate. It fails to mention that the main rate of corporation tax is only payable by big businesses with an annual profit of £1.5 million or more, meaning that “Barbara” would be exempt anyway. 

The Malt and Barrel might be a thriving pub in 2020 but it is unlikely to be earning super profits of this order. As every trade unionist knows “freed up from red tape” is code for cuts to health and safety regulations or perhaps in this case food hygiene and environmental health regulations or maybe even licensing requirements. 

There is a final part of this vision of Scotland in 2020 which concerns the pub’s workers who we are told are “happy and productive thanks to the new guarantee to raise the minimum wage at least in line with inflation.” So there we have it: a deregulated, minimum-wage society reliant on failed trickle-down economics where the burden of taxation shifts from big businesses to working people. Any trade unionist thinking of voting Yes should read this.

There is a much more audacious and radical vision if the people of Scotland vote No — one which appeals beyond naked self-interest to the wider well-being of community and class. It takes us back to out very roots as a movement.

It is one where we have economic as well as political democracy which is the very essence of socialism. It demands intervention at the level where economic power lies. Because the reality is that Scottish economic interests and working people’s jobs in Scotland are inseparable from those of England and Wales. 

Scottish-based businesses export twice as much to the rest of the UK as they do to the whole of the rest of the world put together. In some industries like financial services it is ten times as much. Four out of five big businesses in Scotland are owned outside Scotland. 

Most are either quoted on the London Stock Exchange or wholly owned subsidiaries of overseas-owned multinational corporations.  

So while there is the possibility of voting for some form of political independence on September 18 it will not bring about economic independence. One without the other renders the hope of socialist transformational change a false one. As GDH Cole wrote: “In politics democracy can nibble, but it may not bite, and it will not be able to bite until the balance of economic power has been so changed as to threaten the economic dominance of capital.”

So it is only by acting across the whole of this unified and integrated economy that working people can bring about root-and-branch change. 

A change that doesn’t just tinker with this or that policy but whose aim is a reconstruction of society itself and the relations of power within it. 

As power relations are determined by economic relations that means above all a change to the balance of power between those who own the wealth in the economy and those who through their hard work and endeavour create that wealth. 

It is a change which will provide for public utilities like electricity and gas, water, the Royal Mail and the railways to be publicly owned and accountable at the level which makes the most sense on the grounds of social justice, environmental sustainability and economic efficiency. 

A change which will usher in an economy of the people for the people by the people, that means the equal participation of women and men in order to challenge economic power where it rests — in the City of London and where it is organised at the level of the British state, and where it is unleashed, in the workplace.

A change which will prioritise meaningful work for all in greening the economy and building a socially just society. Reducing social security spending not by attacking the poor but by enforcing a living wage not a minimum wage and by building again — not least the affordable council housing that we desperately need. 

Exercising the power of public procurement as a force for common good and community benefit. A regional policy renaissance too as part of a new planned approach to the economy but within Britain in a co-operative manner rather than outside it in the competitive race to the bottom favoured by the nationalists.

A change built on the substantial but unrealised potential power of working people’s pension and insurance funds to control the commanding heights of the economy through direct democratic means. 

New forms of industrial democracy too with statutory rights for workers to convert their employment into co-operative ownership and so grow economic democracy from the bottom up.

A change brought about not because profit-taking businesses are contributing less through taxation but rather more. And where change is manifested in greater wage solidarity and equality between those at the top and bottom of the pay scales of public as well as private corporations. 

It is not a weakness but a strength that this kind of alternative political and economic strategy is being called for by trade unionists and those on the left of politics right across Britain. We have always had to counter the dominant ideas and culture from the sanctity of ownership to the iron rule of the market. And we must do it again. 

History has shown us that we need hope and progressive ideas and so a vision. But we need to retain the means of realising that vision if it is to become more than a dream. 

The shape of today’s Scottish economy demands that if the working people of Scotland are to have any control and ownership of it, as I believe we should, then continued political and formal democratic participation at a British level isn’t just sufficient it is wholly necessary for that change to come. 

The people of Scotland are being offered a vision of change while being urged to vote in such a way will make it impossible to realise. That’s why they should vote No.

Richard Leonard is political officer and regional organiser at GMB Scotland

Gesture highlights Commonwealth persecution of LGBT people


THE rainbow flag is be flown on buildings across Scotland in solidarity with persecuted LGBT people in Commonwealth countries.

Trade union offices in Glasgow will fly the flag for the duration of the Commonwealth games, which start today.

The Scottish government will also fly the rainbow flag outside St Andrew’s House for the first time in its history, alongside those of the Commonwealth and Scotland. 

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “By flying the rainbow flag, the international symbol of LGBT equality, we aim to recognise the human rights of LGBT people and celebrate the distance that Scotland has come in promoting equality.”

He said the campaign offers a message of hope to LGBT people and a rejection of the anti-homosexuality laws that still exist in 80 per cent of Commonwealth nations.

Forty-two out of 53 Commonwealth countries criminalise homosexuality and LGBT people are at risk of death, imprisonment, harassment and degrading treatment.

“This is simply unacceptable and it is right that we should use our Commonwealth Games to raise awareness and promote a more positive vision of the future for a persecuted minority,” added Mr Smith.

Several councils have also pledged to fly the rainbow flag throughout the campaign.

The public is also being encouraged to support the campaign by sharing images using the hashtag #gamespride on social media site Twitter.

Commonwealth Games cabinet secretary Shona Robison said: “It’s important we reinforce our strong support for and commitment to progressing equality and human rights issues.”