Monthly Archives: July 2015

MY SPEECH FOR THE LEADERSHIP OF THE SCOTTISH LABOUR PARTY

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“Ladies and gentlemen, comrades, members of the press. Today I announce my candidacy for the leadership of the Labour Party of Scotland. These are exciting and challenging times. After that crushing defeat in May, it is time to rebuild and renew, to slay sacred cows and chart a new way ahead.

Yes, our disastrous defeat in May was down to poor leadership and a total failure to connect with the people of Scotland. But more than that, we were beaten so comprehensively because of a more fundamental problem, and that is for the past 10 years the Scottish Labour Party has been at least 10 steps behind the ambitions of the Scottish people. We have tried to disparage that ambition, neuter it and hold it back. With me as your leader, we will never be put in that position again. I promise to you to work with the grain of Scotland’s constitutional ambitions.

More than that I want to lead that ambition, to work with its flow, to realise its potential. I want to lead a new Scotland, secure in its own skin dependent on nothing other than the endeavour and the creativity of Scots themselves.

This is why, comrades, that one of the first things I will do, as your leader, will be to review our historic opposition to Scottish independence. As your leader, I want us to consider all constitutional options for the future of our wonderful nation. I pledge to you that I will commission a review of our opposition to independence and full fiscal autonomy and if it finds that this is what our nation requires I will support it wholeheartedly and redefine our party and bring it into line with the aspirations of the Scottish people. It is time, comrades, to put our opposition to independence aside, to look at the national interest, and to work for a new and better future for all the people of Scotland.

Comrades, it is clear that there is a new national consensus in our nation. Scotland wants further, deeper constitutional change and it is time for us to climb aboard. I will continue to oppose the SNP, every government needs effective opposition, but my opposition will be considered. I will lend support in the national interest but question when required. But comrades, the day of the knee jerk ‘SNP bad’ to everything the SNP do must come to an end. We can not define ourselves in respect of others. We must find our own agenda, our own voice.

It was the Labour Party that delivered the Scottish Parliament. It is the Labour Party that has, throughout the decades, championed the values of social justice and equality. Comrades, are we seriously saying that we cannot build on these fine founding principles in an independent Scotland – an independent Scotland that we can shape according to our values? I say no comrades, No… Enough is enough, it is time to get with the national project.

The alternative is continued Tory Government in Westminster, unwanted by the Scottish people and alien to our values. Are we really saying that it is preferable to have a Tory Government running all these reserved responsibilities, rather than having them returned to Scotland and put under the democratic control of the Scottish people in our, in Scotland’s Parliament, in a Labour controlled independent Scottish Parliament?

I will never again allow our once great party to campaign with the Tories, saying no to Scotland, to invent reasons why the Scots aren’t creative enough to make a success of our independence. I will not allow anyone to talk down my fellow Scots any longer.

Comrades, our illogical and pathological hatred of the SNP has blinded us to what is right for the people of Scotland. It is now time for that to come to an end. It is time to be on right side of history, to do the right thing. Comrades, the time is right for Scottish Labour to climb aboard the new Scotland. Vote for me. You know it makes sense…..”

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OPPOSITION

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In politics opposition is relatively easy. There are always a number of reasons to vote against something and explain why you might be able to do it differently. That is, unless you are the UK Labour Party. Our comrade friends have found this task a wee bit daunting recently, forgetting that opposition actually requires that one vital ingredient to make opposition work and that is to actually oppose stuff.

It was almost unbelievable that they got the last week of Parliament so wrong. Not only did they effectively fail to oppose the welfare reform bill, but they at the same time managed to divide their party! Then, just to compound their situation, they decided to sit on their hands for the first exclusively Tory budget bill for 18 years after voting against the previous four coalition ones. Labour are, of course, currently leaderless just now. They are also close to an existential crisis following their crushing defeat in the General Election. Their difficulties have also been compounded and made even more apparent by the clear opposition offered by the SNP group who have quickly taken advantage of the opportunities afforded to us as the new third largest party in the House of Commons.

We have secured solid results in these last few weeks. The Human Rights Act kicked into the long grass, the EU referendum ruled out for the same day as our Scottish elections, English votes for English laws withdrawn, and by simply saying that we would vote on their fox hunting plans, they were hastily abandoned. We have demonstrated that this Tory Government remains vulnerable and we really need Labour to get their act together to help us stop them implementing the more callous aspects of their agenda. If they can’t, they really need to make way for us so we can show the British people what opposition to the Tories looks like. That is why we symbolically occupied the Labour benches on the last day of Parliament.

The Tories look at our benches with something close to bemusement and befuddlement. They have never been challenged from a position like ours and they do not understand or comprehend our mandate and the position of strength we speak from. The Tories remain wary of us, but still seem to think that they have the legitimacy to vote down issues required, agreed and requested for our Scottish Parliament, and they have used English votes to achieve this. Bit by bit they are eroding the foundations of the union they seek to maintain. It is exploring that tension we will move on to when we return to Parliament after the summer recess.

The new SNP group have exceeded all expectations and I have never worked with a more talented group of people. Some of the maiden speeches have been simply outstanding with subsequent contributions seriously challenging the Tory Government and exposing their frailty. We are now on recess and when we come back the SNP group will only be stronger.