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GMB Scotland to campaign for a “No” vote in independence referendum

Scotland and the GMB

This week the GMB has announced that we will be campaigning for a “No” vote in the referendum. Let there be no doubt that there is a real hunger for radical social and economic change among GMB members. Support for “No” should not be seen as support for the status quo, far from it. We are looking for a redoubling of efforts right across the labour movement, inside and outside our parliaments, to secure the GMB’s goals of industrial and economic democracy, an equal society with social and economic welfare from the cradle to the grave.

This vision represents big changes, but they are the changes that we need if we are to build the better society working people demand. The current balance of economic forces we face dictates that we should not breakaway and withdraw but actively engage at the level where power, especially economic power, lies.

The decision to campaign for a “No” vote is therefore not a negative move or one forged in fear, but one taken with the intended purpose of closing the real democratic deficits and divisions in our society. It is also taken because the GMB wants to show some leadership on this important question. We couldn’t in all conscience sit on the fence for the next ten and a half months.

Let me be clear about this too. It is a decision taken by GMB Scotland’s Regional Council: a body made up entirely of lay representatives newly elected this year from right across Scotland, and from a cross section of industries, public services and commercial services where we organise.

The decision follows debates at GMB Congress in 2012 and 2013 when the union’s own parliament, as a matter of principle devolved this question to GMB members in Scotland.

Over the last 18 months consultation meetings open to all GMB members have been held in Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Falkirk and Kilmarnock. In each location meetings were held both in 2012 and again in 2013.

And make no mistake GMB members who are members of the SNP and Labour for Independence took part in these local Political Forums. They were joined by Labour elected representatives but mostly by GMB activists with no party political affiliation at all.

National debates have also taken place in Glasgow where ex Labour MSP and GMB member John McAllion set out the case for a “Yes” vote and Professor John Foster argued for a “No” vote.

Add to this extensive coverage and repeated calls for views in the union’s journal which is mailed three times a year to every single GMB member in Scotland and we contend that the consultation has been robust and the decision democratic.

I labour these points simply because there have been a few people since the announcement who in truth oppose the outcome but who have instead mischievously opted to concentrate on the process.

Some of the same people have also claimed that the GMB should have had its own referendum on the referendum. An argument incidentally, that was not advanced before the vote taken and the result declared, only afterwards. As a union we make policy through our representative/delegate structures whether it is Congress or the Regional Council. These delegates are elected and accountable for their decisions. We do not make union policy through ballot or referendum and never have.

I am reminded too that last year when the SNP decided to support membership of NATO there wasn’t a referendum of SNP members on this. It was quite properly determined by delegates after a debate at their conference. So too the POA has recently decided, as is it is perfectly entitled to, to support a “Yes” vote next year, but there have been no calls for a referendum on the referendum amongst the POA’s membership by supporters of independence.

People are looking for hope, and desperate for change. If the only hope and prospect for change on offer is with the false trail of a “Yes” vote Scotland could yet vote for independence. That’s why we say that if we are to stir the “No” vote to turn out next September Scottish Labour will need to put forward a positive case, outlining not just what we are against but what we are for. There must be a credible, compelling and distinctive Scottish Labour vision for an equal and democratic country. This conviction and radicalism is not a luxury but an absolute necessity if we are to not simply defeat the Yes campaign but win the referendum as well, and deserve to win it.

Image: Welcome to Scotland sign A1 road by Amanda Slater (Flikr)

One Comment

  1. Ian Brown says:

    Richard Leonard of the GMB in his article describes the reasons the GMB have come out in opposition to a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum, but concedes in his final paragraph that the Labour Party needs to state what it stands for rather than what it is opposed to, if the No camp is to defeat a yes vote for Independence next year.

    Some of us have been waiting a long time for this, but to no avail so his current thinking is a false optimism if past experience is anything to go by. The response below is a more accurate reflection of what the Labour party now stands for as it cuddles up to bed with such strange bedfellows as the Tories, the Lib Dems, the Orange order, and the BNP.

    Perhaps he will reflect a bit more on what the Labour Party has become, and illustrate how he believes the GMB can change things, since the Tories that Labour are now in bed with, have been rejected in Scotland, and Labour have as well with the SNP filling the void that Labour have left .


    The Advance of Decline

    As a former Labour Party member I am saddened by what I see the Labour Party has become. I have never voted Conservative and never will, but I have observed the advance of decline we all experienced under thirteen years of a Labour Government, and is continuing now they are in bed with the Tories. In the meantime, as the party canvasses for votes in advance of local elections planned for May as well as for the General Election whenever that is held in 2015? – the real issues of the day are ignored or brushed aside.

    Iraq, Afghanistan, the NHS breakup, transport policy, PFI schemes, rising fuel costs, rampant privatisation, poverty, Bankers bonuses, the closing of factories, attacks on the disabled and the welfare state, the ongoing fiddling of expenses and endless stealth taxes being introduced, savage cuts in health care and the public services to name a few, where comparisons can be easily drawn linking the Tories and Blue Labour. If more examples are required, please do not hesitate to ask.

    I doubt if these characters could have made more in the private sector should they have chosen to enter it instead of politics. Certainly those who leave Parliament for ‘non executive directorships’ and selling their personal connections to the highest bidder make wad loads of cash, but we need to pay them lots particularly in non -taxable expenses to ‘ensure quality’ and stop them leaving is a pathetic propaganda mantra that sadly many of them espouse.

    In the meantime they huff and puff about a global crisis and do absolutely nothing realistic to stop the ever increasing tax increases on fuel, energy, and foodstuffs which are affecting ordinary people daily while they remain immune from such pressures. Time and money moves on for them and will never stop.

    The generation such as myself at 70 years of age don’t remember World War 2, but those who did, are almost all but gone, and their offspring are now pensioners – they too are saddened by the demise. These good people were the backbone of the Labour Party with their work ethic, the upholding of traditional values and experiences, and once preserved a society which created a sense of community to be cherished throughout the UK.

    This is something that only Independence in Scotland has the best chance of recreating, except that the people there are being exposed daily to vile abuse, invective, lies, and personal attacks on leading individuals much of which is perpetrated by that so called bastion of responsibility, and impartiality called the
    BBC.(British Brainwashing Corporation) and the Mainstream Media (MSM)

    The decline of standards amongst many of our elected representatives who attend periodically the Doss houses in the Westminster area called the House of Commons (not Commoners) and the House of Lords, is all too evident as their only desire is to cream off as much as they can in expenses, and by ensuring that they have the best pensions in Europe for themselves.

    Years of aggressive individualism have created a greed society where people are judged by what they have, rather than what they are. Politicians are some of the worst offenders. Just look at the millionaires in the Cabinet, and many of those who would like to be. There they are claiming payments for their Gas and Electricity whilst pensioners, the poor and disabled go cold and hungry.

    We have seen the John Lewis list for their second homes when the details of the perks and privileges for themselves and their relatives became public. This type of behaviour has become the norm with the advent of ‘career politicians’ many of them straight out of University or the so called professions, with little experience of real life, and even less by way of experience.
    Most of the others that remain see politics in a different way from the good old style former Labour politicians like Dennis Canavan, who was once expelled from the Party, for having socialist or traditional values. Many others like me left of our own accord. By abandoning its traditional support and expecting a blind loyalty vote for Labour, it has within this policy of courting the Conservative vote of middle England, managed to create the seeds of its own destruction. Their attitude towards Trade Unions is equally appalling and reminds me of an unscrupulous hotel landlady — Just send your money – but don’t bother coming’

    Becoming a politician is now regarded by those seeking high office and others, as a ‘self advancing’ trough swilling career move, rather than a public service which should be one where they are charged with representing the people in their constituencies. This self serving opportunistic attitude is likely to be the most remembered as the most obvious Labour legacy. It is for some of these reasons in addition to adopting Tory policies, that the Labour party has advanced the decline in standards and lost much of its traditional support.

    The Scottish Government through a Yes vote for independence in 2014 therefore represents the best hope for the future of our children, at least in this part of the British Isles.
    Although I cannot vote, I wish them all the best in their efforts for a better Scotland. The people there will at least have a choice between Warfare or Welfare. The answer is easy…

    In the words of a famous Scot – the late Jimmy Reid which I repeat here, “I never left the Labour Party – It left me”

    Ian Brown
    12 th November 2013

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