By Allan Grogan
|Twa Rich Embra Lawyers|
Going against the grain can be a daunting, yet sometimes, uplifting experience. But in politics it is often viewed as an ink blot on your copybook – by both sides. Disagreeing with the Labour Party in its opposition to independence and founding Labour for Independence guaranteed an uncomfortable ride. Suspicion among some Nationalists as to our intentions was to be expected. But it has been closer to home where we have faced our harshest critics.
Labelled a front for the SNP by no less a figure than our Deputy Scottish Leader Anas Sarwar, we at Scottish Labour for Independence (SLFI) have taken these accusations on the chin while insisting that independence will not only be good for Scotland, but for the Labour Party too.
Funnily enough, we never attended an SNP conference, meeting or social event. So it came as some surprise to me when I read that our former Chancellor, eminent Labour politician and Chairman of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, was to appear at the Scottish Conservative conference in Stirling.
If nothing else comes from this referendum, surely this indicates a seismic shift within the Labour Party in Scotland. The sight of a senior Labour politician at a Tory conference must have Keir Hardie, Bevan, Smith and Dewar burling in their graves.
The Labour Party's very foundations are fairness and equality, so in the interests of these values let's ask: If I were to represent SLFI by speaking at the SNP conference, how many of my party members would call for my immediate expulsion?
Other questions about Mr Darling’s curious decision need to be asked. Was our Scottish leader Johann Lamont, for example, aware of this engagement? If so did she try to forbid it?
If the answer is yes, then surely Mr Darling’s actions present a clear and present danger to the Scottish Labour Party.
The truth is that many within Labour are no longer sure where their party lies within the No camp. Was it a voice of protest from within the membership calling for a removal of Labour from Better Together that prompted the creation of United with Labour? If this is the case, then why is Mr Darling still the head of BT? More importantly, why is he given carte blanche to speak at another party's conference?
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I accept that currently SLFI is in a minority within the Labour Party in relation to the referendum. I also concede that when I speak, I do not do so for the Labour Party; I do not have that mandate. But nor does the Labour leadership, because they have acted without a members’ vote on such a crucial issue.
Yet I want to make clear that our issue is not with the Labour Party, the members, supporters and voters... we are still among you. Our battle is against the top brass taking our party to the brink of the abyss in Scotland.
In Westminster we are seeing Labour chase the tail of UKIP and the Tories. The desire to gain election-winning votes in Southern England is causing Labour to be further removed from its values and founding principles. One need only look at Ed Balls for proof of this. Despite demanding a Plan B for three years, he now declares Labour will continue the austerity package. This means further cuts, harder days and nights ahead for the poorest and most vulnerable. Some of the poorest right here in this country.
This is not why I, nor most Labour members in Scotland, joined the party.
Independence is not, of course a silver bullet. There is no magic potion to Scotland's ills. But many a learner driver will tell you that the only way to succeed is to have full control of all the levers of power.
For those within my party who say that a change of government is all that's needed, let me say this: If the imposition of the Bedroom Tax, ATOS deciding disability benefits, and anti -trade union laws, are not enough to convince you Scotland can do better, then the fact that the Labour Party in Westminster either voted for or abstained on these issues surely must.
It occurs to me that the longer Labour for Independence has been in existence the further the UK Labour Party moves to the right. But the more this happens, the more it proves our message to be true. Labour for Independence doesn’t just believe in Labour policy. We believe in what Labour truly stands for. We believe in a vision of a society based on equality, fairness and justice. We believe in a society for all. This vision is not only shared by members of our party but by former members, voters and supporters yet to come.
We are proud of Labour's trade union links, not because they fund us, but of who and what they represent. Most importantly we are proud to support Scottish independence, not as a final destination, but a starting point to a better, fairer and more socially just society.
At the Stirling Conference there were those listening to Mr Darling - and there were many more outside protesting the UK Government’s actions.
Labour for Independence was outside, with the people, where Labour belongs.
This is the full version of the extract that appeared in the Daily Record on Saturday 15th June, 2013 and has been lifted by me (Tris) from the Labour for Independence site.