Time to honour Mick McGahey in our Parliament

James-KellyJames Kelly, MSP for Rutherglen and Scottish Labour’s Business Manager in Holyrood, is campaigning to honour Mick McGahey by naming a space in the Scottish Parliament after him.

Thirty-one years ago, I made my first ever public speech for the Labour party.

It was during the miners’ strike of 1984/85 and the Rutherglen and Cambuslang CLP campaigned alongside the Trades Council in support of the miners, organising collections and meetings.

On December 12th the local campaign held a public meeting at the Cambuslang Institute. At the age of 21, I spoke from the platform on behalf of my branch.

Mick McGahey was the main speaker. At that meeting, I was struck by his passion, commitment and integrity.

This year, MSPs were given the opportunity to put forward a name for the dedication of a meeting room in the Scottish Parliament. I decided to nominate Mr McGahey.

James Kelly MSP at the Mick McGahey memorial in Cambuslang.
James Kelly MSP at the Mick McGahey memorial in Cambuslang.

He is the former vice-president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and president of the Scottish NUM. He grew up in Cambuslang, in my constituency, and worked in the Gateside Colliery from the age of fourteen.

McGahey was an early advocate of the Scottish Parliament and very influential in changing STUC policy in favour of a ‘worker’s parliament.’

The trade union bill being pushed forward by the Tories at Westminster goes against everything our movement stands for.

While we are in a new generation of politics from that of Mick McGahey, the rights of working people remain a target of right wing governments.

This piece of legislation would erode the rights of working men and women across Scotland. It is vital that Holyrood does everything in its power to stop this law from applying in Scotland.

MSPs had the chance to do that when a legislative consent motion was put forward by the Scottish Government. The Presiding Officer ruled to block the debate of a this, preventing Members from taking forward the option to block the legislation from applying in Scotland.

Labour MSPs have been pushing for a change to the standing orders of Holyrood to allow any Member to put forward a legislative consent motion.

The trade union bill goes against our very beliefs. Labour’s Holyrood group have used every available opportunity to block this law. Party members across Scotland have held street stalls and collected signatures. There is no question that our movement is fighting the bill hard.

Dedicating space in the Scottish Parliament to one of the giants of trade unionism would be a fitting recognition of workers’ rights.

As we enter 2016, Holyrood can make a commitment to trade unionists: by honouring the contribution to Scottish Life made by individuals like Mick McGahey, and by opposing the draconian trade union bill and continuing to fight for the working rights of the next generation.

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6 thoughts on “Time to honour Mick McGahey in our Parliament

  1. ” It is vital that Holyrood does everything in its power to stop this law from applying in Scotland.

    MSPs had the chance to do that when a legislative consent motion was put forward by the Scottish Government.”

    Not quite true James.

    “Labour’s Holyrood group have used every available opportunity to block this law”

    Again James, we know this is not quite true.

  2. I worked underground at Killoch Colliery until it shut, then at the Barony until it shut.
    A few facts.
    The Labour Party as an organisation did NOT support the miners in 1984/5, though individual members did.
    I recall Foulkes marching though Cumnock, arm in arm with Scargill. Its a pity he wasn’t closer to McGahey, who had a settlement to end the strike in the summer, vetoed by Scargill who wanted a political, not an industrial outcome.

    Foulkes got a Peerage—could anyone say why?

    After the pit closures when Labour came to power, they did very little to re-industrialise the areas affected, even though these areas had voted in Labour MP’s for decades. Some villages in East Ayrshire lost a third of their populations. THAT is one reason Labour has zero MP’s in these areas.

    Nor did they bother to reassess the victimisation of people “fitted up” by the police, when they could easily have done so.
    I liked McGahey for all his faults, but honour him? Don’t think so !

  3. As someone who covered the strike (for The Scotsman) and spent many hours with Mick and the Scottish NUM executive (‘Invitation to conference reception/dinner: 5.30pm for 8pm..’)this is a very fitting proposal. Mick was a great Communist – and a democrat who believed in empowerment from below (as well as from above)and who privately saw the error of not holding a strike ballot. And he was a great (non-nationalist/working class) supporter of Scottish interests.
    BTW: a wee photo of Mick here would be welcome…

  4. James sorry to say your wee bit of grandstanding in the Scottish Parliament during the debate on the trade union bill was a bit of a joke as all of the MSPs of all parties had previously expressed there opposition against it and your attempts to pressure the presiding officer over what is a reserved matter at Westminster was ill judged. As for the nomination of a name dedication for the meeting room I would prefer one of the following:-

    Margaret Irwin – Trade Union and Suffrage Activist. 1857-1940

    Margo MacDonald SNP MP MSP

    Jimmy Reid Scottish Trade Union Activist

  5. The Left of the Labour Party never called the shots in Scotland, the Right did.
    Btw Jimmy Reid wasn’t a supporter of the miners strike.
    See Glasgow Herald and his column at the time.

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