Opening this weekend’s Morning Star Scottish conference on new powers for the Scottish Parliament, STUC general secretary Grahame Smith stressed the importance of winning a progressive vision for Scotland. Read full report of this well supported and representative conference.

‘The issue is not so much which powers are held but how they are used. Will they be used to create a more equitable and socially just Scotland? Will there be the political will to challenge the big business austerity agenda – including that imposed by the European Union – and to champion the kind of policies outlined in the STUC’s Better Way campaign ?’.
 
This call was echoed by the leader of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie MSP, who reminded delegates that his party supported Scottish independence. ‘But we don’t want a Scotland that stumbles forward using a failed economic model simply aspiring to be the tax haven of the north.’
 
Representing civil servants in Scotland, Scottish Secretary of the PCS, Lynn Henderson returned to John Maclean’s vision of a Scottish republic. ‘Maclean’s target was the British empire. Today we face a world dominated by imperialism of a different kind – the influence exercised over the British government by the US and through the EU. We need unity to secure alternative power structures and this is why the coming industrial action on 30 November, now uniting twenty unions, is so important. The fight to protect pensions represents a fight for a society that values working people.’
 
For Richard Leonard, Political Officer of GMB Scotland, the key issue was not shifting powers from one parliament to another but shifting it from those who owned our wealth to those who produced it. Detailing the level of external big business control over the Scottish economy, Mr Leonard said the priority was to develop a class consciousness across both Scotland and Britain that could challenge this control.
 
In a written statement to the conference, the SNP Chief Whip, Bill Kidd MSP, argued that any new powers decided by the Scottish people in a referendum had to be accompanied by the financial powers to implement them – in terms of funding for benefits, welfare and housing. ‘No less, we need the power not to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that monster Trident that is still eating up billions of public money’.
 
Labour MSP Neil Findlay challenged anyone to show that the problems of the last four years had somehow been created by borders rather than by bankers and financial speculators. ‘We want independence from unemployment, poverty, war and homelessness. Independence “in the EU” is a contradiction in terms. We don’t want simply to change one set of bankers for another. ‘
 
Tom Morrison, Scottish Secretary of the Communist Party, reminded delegates that it was the struggles to save the Upper Clyde shipyards in 1971-72 that led to the 1972 Scottish Assembly and the call for a Scottish Parliament. ‘It was to be a “workers’ parliament”, according to then general secretary of the STUC Jimmy Jack. Today we need to remember that democracy is only real for working people if it is sustained by class mobilisation.’
 
Summing up the conference, the Political Officer for UNITE Scotland, Jackson Cullinane, stressed the Scottish labour movement’s long support for Home Rule going back to James Keir Hardie. ‘The Scottish Parliament already has many powers that it has not used – because there has not been the political will to use them. There are also other others challenges that will require the united strength of the British working class movement such as external control of the economy and the undemocratic power of the EU. Raising class consciousness is the key to
democracy and to Scottish devolution’.