ScotLab17: Two Steps Forward, One Step Backward

Campaign for Socialism welcomes Scottish Labour’s commitment to a federal UK that will meaningfully empower workers and communities.

Scottish politics is caught in a blind alleyway of discussing our future purely in terms of the constitutional relationship between Scotland and the UK. A model of radical federalism will help to deliver secure jobs and sustainable economic growth for the entire UK. We commend the Scottish Labour Executive for endorsing a commitment to “a progressive federal structure for the UK”.

Kezia Dugdale signalled a further positive by committing to raising Child Benefit is precisely the sort of policy Scottish Labour needs to be putting front and centre. Unfortunately these promising moves were undermined by more unhelpful contributions. Sadiq Khan and Tom Watson’s proposals for a “New Act of Union” rooted the debate in a nationalist quagmire. Khan’s speech was hastily edited after he linked Scottish nationalism with racism. This overshadowed the rest of the conference and distracted attention from the real substance of our federalism programme.

Kezia Dugdale’s speech only reinforced this. Dugdale chose to centre her speech around opposition to independence. This was a purely defensive move and was a missed opportunity to reposition Scottish Labour as the democratic socialist party our members and historic supporters desire. Instead, Dugdale reinforced perceptions of Scottish Labour as a spent force that has abdicated pursuing social change.

Sunday was the most positive day of conference with many new members buying day passes for Jeremy Corbyn’s speech. Corbyn delivered the message of economic and social change that Scottish Labour sorely needs if it is to survive. Corbyn defined the central purpose of a future Labour government: to redistribute wealth and power from the unaccountable rich and to give workers and communities more control over their lives. Scottish Labour is better placed to deliver these changes now that it is committed to a federal UK. Control by unaccountable big business and the politicians who serve it can be ended, but only if we keep building for a socialist labour movement and government.