Scott Arthur reflects on his first Scottish Labour conference, at which major debates were held in an atmosphere of comradeship and respect.
Last weekend in Perth, Scottish Labour demonstrated it is a party of the left which has democracy at its core. Furthermore, Kezia Dugdale MSP demonstrated that she is the party’s leader, not its dictator.
Whilst it is tempting to focus on the differences of opinion expressed in the many debates, it is important to note how those arguments were made and received. As a first time delegate to the conference, I was impressed by the atmosphere of respect and tolerance within which the debates were conducted. There was no acrimony.
During the TTIP and Trident debates in particular, I watched as speaker after speaker was warmly applauded (and often cheered) even by those who did not agree with the arguments which were made. This was not a conference of robots being dictated to by a leader who could not be questioned, but a gathering of comrades agreeing on how to reach a common goal – a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.
During the Trident debate in particular, we heard fantastic speeches from the conference floor. MSPs, councillors, trade unionists, and ordinary delegates all offered differing views. The key debating point was the impact of cancelling Trident on Scotland’s industrial capacity.
But whilst the delegates had to make a difficult decision, it is important to note that Kezia Dugdale did not try to influence the debate – she remained inscrutable throughout. Her leadership and the nature of the debate made us stronger, not weaker.
The Trident motion does not mean that Scottish Labour can demand Trident is scrapped, or that UK Labour must change its policy on the nuclear deterrent. It does, however, mean that the party can speak with authority in the broader debate surrounding Trident renewal.
The same is true of the many other motions that were proposed by members and often passed unanimously – meeting Shelter’s social housing targets, protecting public services from TTIP, defending trade union rights, buying back PFI debt and many others. Progressive policies and mature debate from a party which is worth a fresh look.
21 thoughts on “Progressive policies and mature debate”
The Trident debate is largely meaningless—the policy having been already decided in England, as we were reminded by Angela Eagles at lunchtime on Radio4.
Kezia knew this already. She can be content to lead an “autonomous” Party which has no authority but can, via the Record and BBC Scotland, offer the pretence it has. Will it win votes? I have no idea.
There were, indeed, interesting debates, and many fine speeches over TTIP or Trades Union rights etc, but the boat sailed on these issues with the Better Together “victory”. You reap what you sow. Labour wanted a ruling government in London, now you have it ruling over Scotland.
As for Housing or PFI debt. Why did Labour sell off public sector housing? Why did Labour use the ruinous PFI model of financing?
thanks for reading!
1. Scottish Labour will dictate views to neither UK Labour nor the Scottish people. We seek to win arguments.
2. PFI type models have been used by the Tories, Labour and the SNP. I think now only Labour(?), SSP and the Greens wholly oppose PFI.
Thanks for your reply, Scott.
I used to enjoy the buzz at Speakers Corner ( before they ruined it ). It was a great spectacle, with jugglers, escapologists and spikes being driven through flesh, etc.
There were interesting and coherent debates and arguments in front of, often, huge crowds. However they didn’t change one thing. We generally expect politicians to do that, and Scottish Labour has no leverage over English Labour on the subject of Trident. England has a huge fiscal reason for welcoming a renewal of Trident with thousands of jobs in the design, construction and maintainance of the system—-in a way Scotland, quite simply, has not.
Labour built up huge debts on PFI in a way no other Party has. We are paying for it yet.
Well I’m glad to know you were all very comradely on planet conference. I joined the Party in fit a of solidarity following May’s rout. Now it seems to be heading off into righteous protest mode, is there any point in continuing? I support the Faslane shop stewards ( not to mention the defence of the country).
How do you defend a country with weapons you can never use until the country has been destroyed?
Scottish Labour’s position was always anti-trident. I am happy for the UK to retain a nuclear capacity, but there is so much I agree with Scottish Labour over I am not going to question my support on the basis of Trident. I hope you remain a committed member.
How about Trades Union rights? How about signing up for perpetual fiscal surpluses? How about cuts in Working Tax Credits? I know Dugdale has said she’ll reverse them but hasn’t given any credible means of paying for it. What would cause you to question your support for Labour?
thanks for reading. I think everyone in the conference supported the workers involved in Trident. Personally, I think the debate was good, it but did not cover all of the issues.
‘The key debating point was the impact of cancelling Trident on Scotland’s industrial capacity’
According to newspaper reports the key point was the impact on the loss of 1000’s of jobs, which turn out to be roughly 500 directly involved with Trident. The bottom line surely is you could, once you regain power, award every one of the redundant trade union workers a million each and every year till they retire and still have enough savings left to transform our NHS
I think a million a year is far too much.It would lead to a lot of resentment.If Westminster does decide to scrap Trident,I think much more of the savings should be diverted to NHS and other things too.
thanks for reading. You appear to be arguing AGAINST points which did not win the debate. Why?
Nonetheless, suggesting that just 500 people can design, built, test, operate, support, maintain and decommission Trident from now until 2018 for £167b is fanciful.
Staffing is covered here: http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-should-we-scrap-trident/13202
Whatever the figure,the more people that are taken off Trident and put to well paid work in a more beneficial capacity,the better.£167 billion is just far too much and I think there’s a growing recognition across all parties that Trident replacement simply isn’t value for money.The successful Labour amendment at Holyrood could be the catalyst to turn things round at Westminster.The Tory majority isn’t unassailable.
The figure of approx 500 workers being directly dependent on Trident has been suggested by the MoD. The UK workforce is merely involved in storing Trident until the USA decides to fire it. The regular Royal Navy is a separate issue
“The Trident motion does not mean that Scottish Labour can demand Trident is scrapped, or that UK Labour must change its policy on the nuclear deterrent. It does, however, mean that the party can speak with authority in the broader debate surrounding Trident renewal.”
Comrade when you say authority what do you mean? It all boils down to delivery and we can’t deliver the scrapping of Trident the only hope for us is to breakaway from the Labour Party UK and form a new Scottish Independent Labour Party until we do this we will always be known as the Branch Office.
thanks for reading comrade! Scottish Labour will dictate views to neither UK Labour nor the Scottish people. We seek to win arguments – this vote helps us do that. It’s that simple!
Comrade I think that the Scottish Labour position on Trident is good although I cannot see us us changing the Labour Party UK position as it would be like arguing with a lampost for the reason that whilst the UK government can locate the nuclear base in Scotland they are not worried if it was to be moved to England then they would soon change their tune that’s why we need to breakaway from the Labour Party UK and form a new Scottish Independent Labour Party.
“Last weekend in Perth, Scottish Labour demonstrated it is a party of the left which has democracy at its core”. There is no doubt about it Scott Arthur, the present Labour Party believes in everything, it just depends on who you ask. That is pure democracy. It is beautiful to watch. I want to personally thank Kezia and Jeremy for their contribution to making politics fun again.
There seems to be a fashion for describing Scottish Labour as the branch office.So what’s wrong with being a branch of the UK Labour Party and what’s wrong with having and holding office?
Comrade it’s not funny when you knock on doors and somebody shouts from inside who is is it at the front door and they would reply with howls of laughter its somebody from the Branch Office, if we breakaway from the Labour Party UK and form a new Scottish Independent Labour Party then the next time there is a knock at the door the reply instead will be its sombody from Head Office. I have an idea for the name of the building that the new Scottish Independent Labour Party will be located in it would be called the Jimmy Reid House, if Comrades have any suggestions for alternative name I would be interested to hear them.
I actually see a lot of merit in a much more federal almost quasi-independent party.My post above was more about thinking carefully about the strength in unity that might be lost in the process.
Comrade Kev forget the federal almost quasimodo-independent party position I think we should grasp the nettle and go the whole hog with forming the new Scottish Independent Labour Party, this unity thing you mention is not working the Labour Party UK said it is the Labour Party UK policy to renew Trident so Scottish Labour policy to scrap Trident cannot change whatever goes into the Labour Party UK manifesto so we are powerless in Scotland and on a UK basis.
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