18-04-2007 PRO'S & CON'S OF UNIONISM PART 12

With the May election just days away every political party is starting to get prepared for the big day. Much is being written at this time to persuade voters to turn out and put their mark in the appropriate place. Crann Tara though not a political organisation believe that if people have a vote then they should use it come the day of the election.

Here is another set of articles about the coming election and how it could affect Scotland and the union post May 3 rd .


First Minister Jack McConnell set out the choice that voters face in the upcoming election when he addressed the STUC today. He also attacked the plans of the SNP and Liberals to increase the tax hard working families while freeing the wealthiest from paying for local services.

He said:
"Labour has published the most comprehensive and strategic manifesto laid out by any political party since devolution.

"We have made it clear that t he economy is our foundation, education is our priority and we have zero tolerance of crime and antisocial behaviour. We believe in Scotland . We are passionate about Scotland . The question is: what is best for Scotland ? What is the future that will build prosperity for hardworking Scots?

"I believe that the future success of Scotland lies in the skills and talents of our people. To put the people of Scotland first; we must put education first.

"The SNP's ideology is based on a premise that national boundaries are what define national identity. They are a party whose values lead to grievance, conflict and discord.

"They will not stand up for hardworking Scottish families.

"The SNP, and the Liberals for that matter, want to introduce a new income tax to replace the council tax. They want to charge every working person in Scotland around 3p in the pound extra.

"The council tax is not perfect � few taxation systems are. But I believe in progressive taxation. And without a tax on property, the wealthiest people can get off Scot-free. Every one of us remembers the Poll Tax and how Scotland fought tooth and nail to get rid of it. The SNP's Local Income Tax is the Poll Tax Mark 2. At least under the Tories' poll tax the wealthiest people paid something.

"The SNP's Poll Tax means that people who live off their wealth, from dividends, shares and interest from their riches, will not pay a single penny for local public services.

"It is a tax on working people. And it will hammer Scotland 's hardworking families most.

"Young couples at the beginning of their working careers will be worse off. Families with young adult children living at home while they wait for their first home or save for their first mortgage will be much worse off.

"The SNP want people to think that this new Poll Tax doesn't kick in until you earn well above average earnings in a Band D property.

"But the vast majority of Scots don't live in Band D properties, they live in smaller homes. Less expensive homes. So it doesn't take a maths teacher to work out that there are hardworking families the length and breadth of Scotland on below average earnings who will be much worse off."



Lorna Martin, Scotland editor
Sunday April 15, 2007
The Observer

On a map of Scotland , published recently by the Scottish Executive, an entire swath of land appears to have disappeared and fallen mysteriously into the sea. Coincidentally, it happens to be the country's second most marginal constituency. A mere 50 votes are at stake in Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, the sprawling constituency in the south-west of Scotland that stretches from the former mining communities of Kirkconnell and Sanquhar in the north, through the hills, valleys and rolling farmland around the thriving market town of Castle Douglas, to the busy port of Stranraer in the west.

On the face of it, Labour has little to fight for here anyway. It is a clear two-horse race between the Tories and the SNP. At the last Holyrood election, Alex Fergusson, a farmer turned Tory MSP won the seat with a majority of only 99. He took 11,332 votes over the SNP's Alasdair Morgan, who got 11,233 votes.

But in many ways it is the disaffected Labour voters who will decide what happens in this constituency, as in the entire election. As such, it is a key target for the Nationalists.

Fergusson is acutely aware of this and has made the battle to save the Union , rather than simply holding on to his seat, the key issue in his fight with his opponent. In the last election, his campaign slogan was 'Keep Galloway SNP-free in 2003'. This time it is 'Keep independence at bay, vote Alex in May.' Interestingly, he admitted than on many issues, such as local transport, health and housing concerns, there is no 'clear blue water' between him and his SNP opponent. The one fundamental difference between them is the constitution.

'The constitutional question was not something I was planning to make a big deal of,' he said. 'But it has been raised so often with me. A lot of non-SNP voters are seriously concerned about the consequences of an SNP victory. Non-Nationalists are afraid that we are in danger of sleepwalking towards independence. I don't want that and I don't think most people in this constituency want it.'

Even Fergusson conceded that it's too close to call, admitting he wouldn't be surprised if he won or lost. However, he said: 'I keep reading of this massive SNP lead all across the country, but I don't find it on the streets. Genuinely. You can't be certain of anything when you have a majority of 99, but I'm increasingly confident that we can hold onto this seat.'

Not surprisingly, Morgan, who was the MP for the area after defeating then Tory Scottish Secretary Ian Lang in 1997 and who won the seat in the first Holyrood election in 1999, does not agree. He accused his opponent of 'gilding the lily'. 'In his campaign leaflets and posters, he's not emphasising his unionism. He's stressing that he's a local. In fact, on posters, his name is in huge writing, but you would need a magnifying glass to read the tiny letters at the bottom saying Conservative party. This is simply because the Tories are still seen as an anti-Scottish party.'

As well as seeking out the 709 Scottish Socialist Party votes from last time, Morgan also believes the Nationalists will take votes from disgruntled Labour voters as well as Tories. 'People desperately want a change. The south-west cannot and will not progress until Scotland does and people are realising that there is only one opposition to Labour. I have spoken to voters who have previously voted Tory but who realise now it is a wasted vote. There is only one option to get Labour out and that is the SNP.'

Ian Livingston, a co-owner of an antique restorers and furniture makers in Castle Douglas, said in the past he had voted SNP but was undecided this time. 'I'm not convinced anything tremendously positive would come out of it,' he said. 'Instead I think it would just result in more political in-fighting and there would be a huge cost involved. As a businessman you want stability.'

But Roddy MacLeod, 31, who moved to Castle Douglas from Edinburgh seven months ago said 'it's time' for a change, mimicking the SNP's campaign slogan. 'I will definitely use my vote tactically,' he said.

If the Scottish Executive thinks this area has ceased to exist, angry locals, who have long felt neglected by their political leaders in Edinburgh , feel differently. A spokesman said the map was merely a guide and not a representation of Scotland . 'This is no way meant as a slight against Dumfries and Galloway ,' he added. 'We definitely want to hear people's views.' On 3 May they will.


Unions endorse Labour - by only one vote


JACK McConnell will today try to prevent a haemorrhaging of Labour's traditional support after his party only narrowly won the endorsement of Scotland 's trades unions.

The First Minister will use his keynote address to the Scottish Trades Union Congress to seek to re-establish his party's credentials after


the STUC's general council, its ruling body, decided by only one vote to back Labour in the Holyrood and council elections.

Unions including the PCS and Unison - both of which represent public sector workers and oppose policies such as the private finance initiative (PFI) - were against a move to support Labour. The Fire Brigades Union, the UCU university lecturers' union and the left-dominated rail union the RMT were also opposed to endorsing the party.

However, unions affiliated to the Labour Party, including the Transport and General Workers Union and Amicus, argued that, although there were differences over some areas of policy, the STUC should throw its weight behind Labour.

A call for union members to recognise that having Labour councillors, MSPs and a Labour Executive was "in the best interest of Scottish workers" was put to the vote in the general council on Sunday and passed by 14 votes to 13.

The recommendation is due to be voted on by the congress in Glasgow today, but last-minute efforts to avoid a potentially embarrassing setback for Mr McConnell have ensured it will not be discussed tomorrow.

Last night, the First Minister's political opponents seized on the knife-edge vote as proof of disillusionment with Labour.

Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy leader of the SNP, said: "This is a watershed moment in Scottish politics. Labour no longer have anybody's vote in their pocket.

"They are reaping the whirlwind for their unpopular policies of the last ten years - particularly their agenda to privatise our public services through PFI.

"If even the general council of the STUC can barely bring themselves to support Labour - and Unison , Scotland 's biggest union, abstains - then it illustrates the depth of the crisis they are facing across Scottish society."

Colin Fox, the leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, urged STUC delegates to reject the general council recommendation.

Speaking at an STUC fringe meeting yesterday, he said: "The fact that the 'vote Labour' call scraped through the general council by one vote itself speaks volumes about trade unionists' disillusion with New Labour.

"When the call is put to delegates, I urge them to reflect the real opinion among Scottish trade unionists and vote against a call to back New Labour."

In an effort to turn the tables on the nationalists, Mr McConnell is planning to tell the STUC today: "The SNP will put jobs and prosperity at risk. They would tax every hard-working family in Scotland more with their plans to increase income tax.

"Everyone knows that the SNP don't come without independence. And independence does not come without a cost."

John Quigley, the Regional Secretary of Amicus, said: "We supported the drafting of a statement on the election as we believe it is important for the STUC to take a view on major political events.

"It's our strong opinion that only the Labour Party can deliver a workplace policy agenda in government. People need to be reminded of the political landscape of ten years ago and the difference Labour has made for workers in Scotland and the UK ."

In an effort to refute suggestions the STUC was moving towards supporting the SNP, union leaders pointed out that a motion from the GMB on the economy, which rejects "arguments for a separate Scotland ", was likely to be passed today.

Holyrood candidates must address workers' concerns

GRAHAME Smith, the newly appointed general secretary of the STUC, has warned politicians not to allow the campaign to become dominated by the debate over independence.

Mr Smith said: "We meet during an election campaign which so far has been dominated by constitutional issues and a narrow business-focused debate on growing the economy.

"While recognising the legitimacy of the debate around separation, it is crucial that politicians focus on the priorities of the Scottish people. Trade union members across Scotland tell us that issues such as skills at work, workplace health, climate change, public services and job security are the real concerns."

Mr Smith added: "These are the priorities that will be debated during the next few days.

"I suggest to any aspiring MSP or minister they could do a lot worse than pay close attention to the priorities of 640,000 trade union members in Scotland ."

Sourced from the Scotsman



THESE ARE exciting times for John Swinburne as he and his fellow "grey power" candidates contemplate the possibility of being involved in a coalition government. But, as you might expect of the man who put pensioner power into Scottish politics, Swinburne is taking a measured approach.

He says: "We don't want to peak too soon. We will leave the early frenetic activity to other parties."

Swinburne, who won a Holyrood regional seat last time around after being in politics for only 11 weeks, is confident he will be joined by more Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party (SSCUP) MSPs after May 3. "Some people are in for a shock," he says. "I think the SNP in some areas might lose as much on the regional lists as they win in the constituencies."


He estimates his own party's potential number of seats as "somewhere between zero and 12", but fully expects to be in a position to "offer our services in government".

There will be a certain piquancy if Jack McConnell has to rely on a handful of pensioner MSPs to retain power; especially as Pat Lally, first on the SSCUP Glasgow list, could be one of them.

In a previous life as Labour general secretary, McConnell was inquisitor-general as Lally and other Glasgow stalwarts were shown the instruments and suspended from the party over sleaze allegations. Lally went to court and had the suspension lifted.

Lally remained active in Labour politics but "the realisation of how little attention party leaders pay to members' opinions and the invasion of Iraq " took him onto the path which led to joining the SSCUP.


Lally and the senior citizens' party are a good fit. The party's logo, a variation on the Smiley face, bears more than a passing resemblance to Pat, whose own countenance can be as cheery as a City Bakeries Halloween cake.

Lally is known as "Lazarus" for his ability to rise from the political dead. How many comebacks will that be if he is returned as a Glasgow MSP? "Who's counting?" he replies.

At 81, Lally is in slightly more of a hurry than Swinburne to get on with the hustle of the hustings. Retirement from politics was never on the agenda for Lally or his wife Peggy who, although facing serious illness, maintains her high level of encouragement.

However, Lally does foresee the end of his active political life. "If elected to Holyrood," he says, "I definitely will not serve more than two terms."

The SSCUP have grown rapidly from the one-man band of 2003. This time they are fielding 53 candidates from various walks of life. More importantly, Swinburne has managed to surround himself with seasoned Labour activists disenchanted by the direction their former party has taken.

As well as Lally, George Henderson and John Mulvey have joined the senior citizens' cause. Henderson was a national organiser with the Transport and General Workers Union and is well-connected politically; Mulvey was Labour leader of Lothian Regional Council.

Time is on this party's side, with so many voters already having or being about to attain bus pass status.

The SSCUP are a straightforward party. They only have five items on their manifesto, which is probably something of a blessing if some of your candidates are in their 80s. These policies all relate to a better financial deal for pensioners on such issues as council tax, care and means testing.

But these senior citizens are not stuck in the past. On their website,, they even have a blog. It's called Grey Matters. The blog has a link to a "senior citizen merriment" site which has sections devoted to "Fun with blondes" and "Types of farts". Boring old farts they're not.

WITH hardly an election shot fired, Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity seems to have won at least one victory over the group's former brothers and sisters in the Scottish Socialist Party: Sheridan has managed to take the luvvies and the socialist showbiz faction with him to his new movement.

Thus actors such as Peter Mullan, Gary Lewis, Davie McKay, and Martin McCardie have been working on Solidarity's television party broadcast and stand-up comedians Mark Steel and Glasgow 's own Des McLean have been treading the boards at fund-raising events. ( Sheridan 's adventures with the News Of The World naturally provided a rich vein of material.) Steel, of the TV lectures fame, marvelled at the fact the Solidarity comedy show had been going for three whole hours and there hadn't been a single split or schism.

Sheridan said it was brilliant socialism and laughter could go together - though this theory was tested when McLean 's skit on neds was interrupted by an irate socialist accusing him of "demeaning the proletariat".

GORDON Brown will be relieved Marvin Andrews, the player he persuaded to re-sign for Raith Rovers, will not be working against Labour in the elections.

The born-again defender made a keynote speech at the annual gathering of the Scottish Christian Party (SCP) last year. But Andrews will not be taking an active part in wooing voters away from un-Godly parties such as Labour.

"He will not be campaigning, but he will, of course, be praying for us," an SCP spokesperson said.

Sourced from The Herald on Sunday



Unions have publicly backed Labour's campaign in the Scottish Parliament and council elections.

Delegates at the Scottish Trade Unions Congress (STUC) acknowledged past and future "differences" with the party.

But they approved a motion which said that a Labour victory would be in "the best interests of Scottish workers and their families."

The carefully-worded statement, drafted by the STUC's general council, was only passed after some soul-searching.

The statement was approved by a clear but slender majority.

While only a few delegates voted against it, a sizeable minority abstained.

'Disastrous course'

Among those who abstained were Unison, the PCS civil service union and teaching unions.

The statement was put to the conference by STUC general secretary Grahame Smith.

He told delegates: "It is incumbent on the STUC to express a view on an election which could push Scotland down a very different and potentially disastrous course."

In a later debate on the Scottish Parliament, delegates massively backed a motion calling for unions to be consulted on ways of "enhancing" the devolution settlement.

The STUC currently represents 46 trade unions and has 630,000 members - about a third of the Scottish workforce.


This was only carried by one vote. How much credence should be given to this statement? If the vote had been overwhelming in the support of the UK government then people would have paid attention, but one vote is a very small margin for error.

Many union members on Scottish forums have been complaining about what has been stated. They are disgruntled that their shop stewards have voted against independence without consultation of their membership. One of the members Robert Gorey, from Montrose, said that he could not support Labour because in the last ten years they have done nothing for Scotland or the working class. He was annoyed at his union representative voting against something that he firmly believes in without asking his opinion, he said, �I have been in my union for many years and paid my dues. I was never given the chance to voice my opinion on the forthcoming election. Labour has done nothing for my family or me. Why has this happened? I am contacting my union immediately and if they can't give me satisfactory answers to my questions then I will resign� he said � I have been a loyal union member but this makes me feel sick, I would urge all union members who support independence or don't support the Labour party,to contact their representative and let their feelings be known. They can't be allowed to dictate their personal views on politics to the members of the union they represent. They are there because we voted them into office, and we can vote them back out if they don't do as we ask�

So what do you think of union officials using their personal views on political issues? Write to us and let your feelings be known. We will publish any mail received in our Pros and Cons section.






A senior Liberal Democrat has warned his party not to close down the option of coalition talks with the SNP.

Newly retired MSP Donald Gorrie said it should "never say never" to an independence referendum.

The Nationalists are committed to one, but Scots Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen has regarded it as a "significant block" to a power-sharing deal.

Mr Gorrie said this need not be the case, and has urged all party leaders to set aside "macho posturing".

He said they should be prepared to "negotiate away disagreements" after the May election, adding that Labour would have the Lib Dems "over a barrel" if it became clear they would not talk to the SNP.

Possible compromise

Personally, Mr Gorrie favours referendums, but politically, he expressed concern that the Liberal Democrats would weaken their negotiating position by ruling one out.

The Holyrood and Westminster veteran has suggested a multi-option referendum as a possible compromise.

The Liberal Democrats, he claimed, may have to choose whether to form a coalition with Labour or the SNP.

He said they should do so on the basis of which party would help deliver the Liberal Democrats manifesto.

Sourced from BBC News




Labour has been dealt a devastating blow in the build-up to the Scottish election.

A new poll shows the SNP has its biggest ever lead over the Labour Party.

The Scottish Opinion poll for The Scottish Mail on Sunday reveals the Nationalists have a 12 per cent lead over Labour - a resounding six points more than previous forecasts.

The results are disastrous for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who - despite visits to Scotland last week - have failed to halt the march of Alex Salmond's party.

The poll shows the Nationalists with a 12 per cent lead over Labour in the ballot for first-past-the-post seats and an 11 per cent lead in the second vote for regional MSPs.

If reflected on polling day, the SNP would more than double its MSPs at the Scottish parliament to 56, giving them 16 more seats than Labour.

The result - the best poll showing yet for the SNP - paves the way for the party to form the next Scottish Executive and launch its Bill for a referendum on independence.

The poll came as it emerged that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor had a heated argument just hours after leaving Scotland last week about who should take the blame for the widely expected election disaster.

Mr Blair, who is now planning a series of trips to Scotland to try to bolster Labour's flagging campaign, warned Mr Brown not to hold him responsible for any defeat. The Chancellor in turn claimed he was doing all he could to prevent a meltdown.

Labour had been bracing itself for significant losses on May 3, with the party's own internal polls showing a significant lead for the Nationalists.

But this new poll forecasts an even worse result for Labour than even the most pessimistic of its supporters would have predicted.

Senior Labour figures have insisted the party's support is not in 'meltdown' and that the SNP is simply 'hoovering up' votes from the smaller parties.

But the figures show that, while the smaller parties would lose 14 seats, Labour would lose ten - while the SNP would gain 29.

The poll also puts renewed pressure on Jack McConnell, with voters believing Mr Salmond would make a better First Minister.

Mr McConnell has failed to capture the public imagination during his five-year tenure and has been struggling to make an impact on the campaign trail despite the heavyweight support of Mr Brown and Mr Blair.

Privately and for the first time, sources say, Mr McConnell now admits he is close to defeat.

The poll showed only 17 per cent of voters thought he would make the best First Minister, compared to 23 per cent for Mr Salmond.

The poll, based on a survey of more than 1,000 people, shows the SNP set to return 56 MSPs to Holyrood, Labour 40, the Tories 17, the Liberal-Democrats 13 and other parties three.

It has the SNP on 40 per cent for the Holyrood constituency vote, with Labour on 28 per cent, the Tories on 15 per cent, the LibDems on 14 per cent and other parties on 3 per cent.

In the second vote, for the top-up party lists, the Nationalists are on 39 per cent, Labour on 28 per cent, the Tories on 14 per cent, the LibDems on 10 per cent, the Greens on 4 per cent, Solidarity and the SSP both on 1 per cent and others on 3 per cent.

The figures do not include voters yet to choose. According to the poll, 29 per cent are still undecided and 6 per cent will refuse to vote.

Despite having the largest number of seats, the SNP would still have to form a coalition with another party to have an overall majority.

This would most likely be with the LibDems, who helped Labour form previous coalition Executives. They have been to reluctant to agree to a referendum on Scottish independence, but would be willing to agree a compromise in exchange for more powers for the Scottish parliament.

The SNP claims its election campaign is about to reach its 'take-off' point, with the party buoyed by its biggest ever election war chest, planning to distribute a million magazine-style manifestos and make 100,000 telephone calls to voters.

SNP campaign manager Angus Robertson said: 'It's clear that Labour's negative, London-led campaign is in deep trouble. They must be reaching for the panic button in Labour's London HQ.

'We are delighted with this poll result. It's the 11th poll this year to put the SNP ahead and we go into the formal campaign period for the first time ever with a clear lead.'

Senior Labour sources said they believed the SNP was taking votes from smaller parties and that Labour was ready to mobilise its support.

A spokesman added: 'This latest poll proves voters face a real choice on May 3. Do we build Scotland with Labour or break up Britain with the SNP? Labour is fighting hard and working hard for every vote in this election.'

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said: 'The voters see us as relevant because our policies are bread-and-butter issues. The voters also like the fact that our policies, unlike other parties, are not for sale.'

LibDem campaign director Tavish Scott said: 'I am waiting for the poll on May 3, but meantime this opinion poll shows a significant improvement for the LibDems compared to the last poll by the same company.'

John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University , said: 'Labour appears to so far behind that the SNP is a distant speck on the horizon. We have had months of campaigning and the SNP has remained ahead. The election is now only four weeks away.

'Labour's tactic has been attacking the SNP and independence and emphasising the partnership with London . The odds are against them being able to turn the election around with that kind of strategy.'


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