Local Campaign Forum - the Experience in Edinburgh

by Mike Cowley, CfS Publications Officer

Edinburgh LCF meetings have become an increment more interesting over the last year or so. With CLPs seeking to fill their full quotas of delegates, the Forum has emerged as a focal point for discussions around the Labour Group’s majority decision to enter into coalition with the SNP.

At All Members LCF meetings (the next one is scheduled for the 2nd February, 10am at Nelson Hall), activists gathered have offered criticism of the cuts programmes in which Labour is complicit. Members recognise the good that Labour Groups do, as well as the kinds of policies – the privatisation of refuse services to take one instance – which might go ahead were we to withdraw our moderating influence. However entering coalition has consequences too. Morally, the LP must take partial responsibility for the escalating cuts inflicted on some of the most vulnerable people of a city often thought of as ‘booming,’ a beautiful Grecian diamond in the Scottish rough. In fact, Edinburgh has some of the worst levels of poverty in the country.

There is of course some sympathy for those Cllrs supportive of remaining in the coalition. There are no easy options for socialists. But the political price we pay – hamstrung in our criticism of the Scottish government and SNP-led council, unable to develop the ‘21st C municipal socialism’ urged by SLP leader Richard Leonard and colluding in cuts that can no longer be described as ‘humane’ – can no longer be ignored.

A minority of Cllrs maintain that a line has been crossed. They point to the SNP leader Adam McVey’s false promise to lobby the Scottish government for a settlement sufficient to off-set austerity. The SNP have failed, both locally and nationally, to frame an anti-austerity approach consistent with their rhetoric. Devolution was not secured as a conveyor belt for the passing on of Tory ideology. Where are the SNP activists leveraging pressure on their representatives from below? Conspicuous for their silence and fixated on independence, they care little for the real life consequences of their government’s agenda.

At what point do Labour Cllrs say enough is enough?’ The coalition agreement locks both parties into a campaign of lobbying the Scottish Executive for additional funding. The SNP Group has reneged on that commitment. It is up to CLP activists to send delegates to the LCF well versed as to the circumstances their communities now find themselves in. Grassroots activists should voice the anxieties of their neighbours, friends and families as more millions are severed from a budget already ill-equipped to meet basic needs.

If your CLP has places unfilled, consider standing. It’s a forum much under-used, and an injection of anti-austerity blood can bring even the most moribund LCF to life.