Corbyn offers hope for Scotland and Labour

joe cullKilwinning councillor Joe Cullinane, Scottish Labour candidate for Cunninghame South in 2016, says electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader can put clear red water between Labour and the SNP.


Scottish Labour is on its knees after May, but let’s be honest, our problems have been a long time in the making. For many Scottish Labour members it feels as if we are in a perpetual leadership campaign. The candidates’ faces change but the message is almost always the same – Scottish Labour needs to change and I am the change candidate.

With a few notable exceptions, the majority of the answers are about party organisation. We were told that part of the reason for our defeat in 2011 was because our CLPs were based around Westminster boundaries. That MPs and MEPs should be allowed to stand for Scottish Labour leader, as long as they agreed to stand for the Scottish Parliament next time around, because the issue shouldn’t be which parliament our leader sits in but rather who is best to lead the party.

And our response to the rise in SNP membership and support for independence was to drape ourselves in a saltire and call ourselves ‘patriots’, a move that was always going to fail.

May’s result shows that the changes we have made to the party’s organisation have not made an ounce of difference to our electoral prospects. The problem with tinkering with the organisation of the party is that, quite frankly, ordinary voters couldn’t care less how party structures work. They are more interested in what a party has to say and what it offers them and their families.

Somewhere down the line Labour simply stopped speaking to the hopes of the Scottish people. We became too obsessed with the SNP’s failings (and there are many) rather than talking up our own Labour values and how we would put them into practice in government to better the lives of ordinary Scots. We lost our way, and people stopped listening.

Our long-term problems were merely compounded by last year’s referendum. By taking part in the Better Together campaign we presented the SNP with a free platform to steal our clothes and make our social justice mantra their own. They were able to attack us as working “side by side with the Tories against Scotland”. They spoke of Westminster not as a place but as a type of politics which is outdated, regressive, impossible to reform and, most importantly, doesn’t represent Scotland. All the while we were unable, or unwilling, to defend our record in government or present a positive Labour movement case for the UK.

There were late attempts, primarily through the Labour No campaign, to talk up Labour values – of solidarity with our neighbours in the rest of the UK and how a UK Labour government in 2015 would start delivering social justice again, not only for Scotland for the whole of the UK. Unfortunately, too many traditional Labour voters by this time had deserted our cause, sold on the SNP’s message that only through independence could social justice be delivered in Scotland. And they didn’t simply return to Labour after a No vote as we had hoped.

Although I have no time for nationalism as an ideology I think I understand what drove so many traditional Labour voters to vote Yes – it was a feeling of hope. And it’s been a long time since Scottish Labour was able to convince them that it is us who offered them it.

That’s why Jeremy Corbyn is the best choice for Scottish Labour members.

Jeremy isn’t offering to move the deck chairs on a sinking ship, he is looking to change the ship. He’s about repair, refit and relaunch. He gets that, in order to win voters back to our cause, we must change our offer not our internal structures. He is setting out a vision and policy agenda which is giving people hope that social justice can be delivered at a UK level again.

He is making it clear that there is an alternative to austerity – an alternative that puts people first. A moral and ethical way of making sure that we have a prosperous economy but not at the cost of the low paid, young or disabled. Where the folly of privatisation is challenged and we have a debate again about public ownership. He offers an economy that works for the many and a society (and welfare state) that cares for everyone. He represents the best of the Labour movement, offering to change how the system works, not simply manage the current one a bit more fairly than our opponents.

And importantly, for us in Scotland, he offers to put clear red water between us and the SNP. A chance to finally put to bed the myth that the SNP are Scotland’s party of social justice.

Scottish Labour members should be excited by the buzz surrounding the Corbyn campaign and embrace it, and clearly lots are doing so with almost 2000 signed up to attend his rallies in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow this week.

This is our chance to rebuild our party, become a movement for social justice again and start winning back votes from the SNP. As a Labour councillor and candidate at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections I’m excited about standing on a platform that offers hope of change not only in Scotland but across the UK. It’s our best chance of winning constituency seats next year.

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10 thoughts on “Corbyn offers hope for Scotland and Labour

  1. “We became too obsessed with the SNP’s failings (and there are many)”

    Unless Labour in Scotland adopts those “failings” themselves they will always be the party of opposition. Is Corbyn the only visionary left in Labour?

  2. Interesting article Joe although it is impossible for yourself and Scottish Labour Party to get over the SNP the bitterness and hatred it is engrained in your psych and until you move on from blaming others you will have little chance to succeed. Out of the four Labour leader candidates I agree that Jeremy is the best but as you say the ship is sinking and all that Jeremy will do is to keep bailing water out to keep the ship afloat. Your only chance is for the creation of an Independent Scottish Labour Party and breakaway from the Labour Party UK entity, as for your chances of getting elected at next years Scottish Parliment elections I wish you the best of luck as according to the polls you will need it as it looks as if Scottish Labour Party are heading for a wipe out with another SNP Tsunami.

  3. Joe, why don’t you forget the SNP, and confront Scottish Labour’s real problems.
    Decades of cronyism, indolence and indifference to the plight of communities which formed Labour and voted decade after decade for a return. Blair, Brown and Mandelson were more concerned with the interests on non-doms than Ayrshire or Fife mining communities.
    As for ‘Nationalism’, isn’t Labour(and the Tories and LibDems) a ‘Nationalist’ Party in the same manner as the SNP is accused of being?
    Doesn’t Labour now support the Tory referendum on the return of something called ‘sovereignty’ from the EU to Westminster?
    This while siding with those same Tories on denying a return of ‘sovereignty’ from Westminster to Scotland.
    I hope Corbyne is elected, but, as his main opposition is from his comrades within Labour, I have no doubt this will lead to a shambles, not a triumph.

  4. Excellent article, Joe. An intelligent and articulate summary to date. Those telling us the ‘forget the SNP’/’stop being bitter about the SNP’/’Labour have themselves to blame’ do a disservice to those of us who were against the ‘Better Together’ campaign from the outset and to those of us who have closely followed the Scottish Government’s political, social and economic policies. It is now well-docmented that there are 7 more billionaires in Scotland since the SNP were in power. And that hundreds of millions of cuts were applied to those areas which were already devolved. In particular, it is heartening to see in print that there were entirely understandable reasons for people of Scotland voting for the SNP, given the state of the Labour Party who, I may confirm, did not speak for all of its members. Now that the idea of a second Independence Referendum has finally been put to bed, here’s hoping that we can all unite as members of the wider mass worki8ng-class movement needed in these tumultuous times. Thank you for writing about this.

    1. Hi Marie,
      Can you advise were I can find some evidence regarding the 7 more billionaires comment? Would be interested to read it.

  5. If the last leader of the “Scottish Labour Party” didn’t/doesn’t support Jeremy Corbyn, what chance is there.

  6. Marie if the SNP are no good please can you explain why the polls indicate that they are going from strength to strength and forecast a wipeout for Scottish Labour Party at next years Scottish elections, as for a second independence referendum it will be for the people of Scotland as Nicola said to decide on that matter, and issues like a possible Brexit with Scotland voting to stay in the EU could trigger another referendum.

  7. I doubt anything can stop the SNP juggernaut in 2016, but having some of JC’s platform in the manifesto would certainly sway me- a Labour man who rarely votes Labour these days. Unfortunately I fear the SDP/Blairite crowd will be very disloyal and make it hard for him to make his voice heard. Labour members will need to be ready to threaten deselection to stop the plotters.

  8. I am an SNP member, not because I’ m a Nationalist but because it is historical fact that the Tories have had a greater impact on my 49 years than either Labour or The SNP. In fact I would consider voting Labour again at Westminster with Corbyn in control.
    What I worry about is the failure to recognise that all future , right wing Tory governments will continue to ravage Scotland without maximum devolved protection.
    You will probably see that as a failure to pool and share resources. I would say that Corbyn is making one huge mistake in not adopting a radical Federal solution, which would pool and share power and resources. That would be a radical departure from Labour centrism but just maybe the only way to stop the Tories, ‘neo Liberal advance, retain elements of pooling and sharing resources and allow ‘regionalised Labour parties to radically improve peoples lives, while also keeping Scotland within the UK.
    You can of course continue to insult mine and others intelligence by branding us Nationalists when of course we are mostly all looking for similar outcomes of social justice.

  9. Corbyn has still only dropped hints about where Labour might go. We get no social democratic or socialist vision of Future UK and certainly not even a hint for Future Scotland. This morning Kezia was banging on about Scottish Labour formulating its own policies but nothing from her about whether they might be binding under a UK Labour government if they don’t correspond to the party’s UK manifesto.
    If Corbyn wins, Labour’s right-wing will immediately begin its campaign to undermine him. He will then drift to the right to try to rally support from non-Blairites but he will be ousted well before the next General Election under a barrage of London media and UK establishment abuse and lies.
    The SNP knows all about Project Fear. Now the Labour left is in its sights. As the song goes – Don’t believe me? Just watch!

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