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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Red Paper - latest pamphlet

The Red Paper collective published their latest pamphlet over the weekend.  People Power, the  Labour Movement Alternative for Radical Constitutional Change, includes a series of articles on key issues in the constitutional debate.

The Yes and No campaigns in the referendum are both captured by a view of Scotland dominated by the power of capital. This paper seeks to identify something better. If we are to have greater devolution or independence, it must be for a significant redistribution of wealth within Scotland and greater control over the economy by working people.

The Red Paper tradition in Scotland goes back to 1975. That Red Paper is remembered because Gordon Brown edited it. However, it argued for democratic devolution as part of a Labour Movement tradition for home rule within the UK, championed by Keir Hardie and others.

I was pleased to contribute to the 2005 book and the current pamphlet. This time on the fiscal implications of constitutional change. I have tried to show that it is not the mechanisms of fiscal autonomy that matter, but what we would do with these powers.

Richard Leonard spells out the realities of economic power in Scotland today. As usual, with his strong grasp of history he explains how Scotland's regional business ownership has been taken over by corporations based in London or increasingly overseas. This has profound implications for the constitutional debate, largely ignored elsewhere.

In a similar theme, John Foster argues that economic nationalism may have been a mobilising force a century ago, but questions if it can be today. There are few signs that SNP policy is aimed at challenging neo-liberal economic policy or the power of capital. He also argues that the left nationalist analysis takes Scotland's radicalism for granted. We need constitutional arrangements that support the productive economy against the power of big business and the bankers.

Pauline Bryan pulls some of these themes together by reminding us that neither an independent Scotland or the staus quo can achieve the conditions where the power of capitalism and the use of markets can be brought under democratic control. It is the politics of class, not nation, that should be the driving force in Scotland.

The pamphlet also includes some perspectives from Northern Ireland, Wales and England on devolution and regional government. The constitutional debate can be seen as parochial and the Welsh FM, Carwyn Jones, has rightly made the point that there should be a greater focus on how the UK is governed, "not by one but by four administrations, which are not in a hierarchical relationship one to another."

I hope people will find the pamphlet a useful contribution to the Labour Movement's consideration of the constitutional debate. Shifting the focus from flags, to the social and economic consequences of change and then onto a vison for the Scotland we would wish to see.


  1. As a life long socialist (I bought the original Red Paper in '75 which shows I have been a socialist for a while!) I never fail to be amazed by the class v nation argument, it seems those who still punt the politics of class will never learn (especially when it comes to Scotland).
    The argument put forward above is the same old pre-Thatcher type mantra that red revolutionaries like Gordon Brown were punting in the '70's.
    The class struggle is gone, deid and buried by Thatcher in another century.
    Thankfully most socialists in Scotland now heed the wisdom of John McLean,James Connolly and Jimmy Reid and recogise that there can be no social justice in Scotland until self determination has been achievied.
    Independence will allow Scotland to thrive as other independent nations have done and will rid the Scottish people of the regressive right wing policies which both Labour and the Tories seem so keen to inflict on the people of the rUK

  2. I wish I could see the evidence that "Independence will allow Scotland to thrive as other independent nations have done and will rid the Scottish people of the regressive right wing policies which both Labour and the Tories seem so keen to inflict on the people of the rUK".

    Although we are having to wait until December 2013 at the earliest for the prospectus, early signs are not good. Scotland the tax haven is hardly progressive and a Scotland directed by Matheson, Souter and co does not fill me with joy.