News of what's going on in radical politics in Scotland.

Stop Trident Renewal!

Nov 25, 2016 Add a comment

On Thursday 24 November 2016, the Jimmy Reid Foundation launched a major new research paper examining the economic, political and social costs of renewing the Trident nuclear missile system for Scotland.

In ‘Trident and its Successor Programme – the case for non-renewal, employment diversification and contributing to peace’, Professor Mike Danson, Karen Gilmore and Dr Geoff Whittam make three sets of arguments against Trident’s renewal. These concern i) the moral and philosophical case against renewal; ii) the economic case for non-renewal; and iii) the defence case for non-renewal.

The report also examines the impact of non-renewal in economic, social and military terms, specifically looking at the impact of job loss as a result of non-renewal and assesses the case for diversification in terms of skill redeployment and benefits.

The report will be launched in the Scottish Parliament at 1pm by Professor Danson with contributions from Green, Labour and SNP MSPs (Alison Johnstone, Elaine Smith and Bill Kidd respectively). 

Amongst the report’s major findings are:  

    • Only 600 civilian jobs are dependent on the existing Trident system at Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Clyde (Faslane and Coulport): 520 on missiles and the equivalent of 80 on maintenance. The other 3,721 jobs at HMNB Clyde work on other submarines and surface ships and are not at risk.
    • The Trident Successor programme will not lead to any new jobs but merely maintain 11,520 across the UK at a cost of £205bn to the UK taxpayer or almost £18m per job.
    • Employment has been falling at HMNB and generally in defence in Scotland due to cuts to fund Trident and the Successor programme. Expenditure on Trident and the Successor Programme are costing defence jobs throughout Britain.
    • The very high cost per Trident job is wasteful of skill and other resources; offers little to the Scottish and UK economies in the way of economic activity and multiplier effects; and threatens to lead to ever-increasing costs of procurement. Engineering skills are needed elsewhere in the economy, and diversion of these to Trident is socially unacceptable.
    • Trident and Successor does not represent investment into manufacturing but provides benefits to banks, multinational enterprises and arms suppliers.
    • Austerity cuts have led to over 30,000 job losses in local government in Scotland with more forecast, damaging the delivery of vital public services. The transfer of a modest amount of Trident monies would easily reverse these cuts.
    • There is no military necessity for renewal of Trident say former senior members of the Armed Forces, with resources consequently being diverted from essential defence needs.
    • Continuing decline in the armed forces and defence expenditure has already resulted in many job losses on the Clyde and other defence centres.
    • Trident and the Successor programme increasingly dominate the defence budget leading to cuts in jobs and equipment elsewhere. There are major employment consequences for Clyde shipbuilding in a decreasing defence budget if Trident is not cancelled with, for example, fewer orders of new Type-26 frigates.
    • The Successor programme means importing technologies and weapons, not producing and servicing them domestically, so that multiplier effects are reduced and so fewer jobs, supplies and incomes are retained within Scotland and the UK
    • Scotland is not threatened with a loss of ‘vital jobs, skills and the high value terms’ if Successor was abandoned. Scotland has been and will continue to face skill shortages in sectors where growth and development would be enhanced by recruitment of workers on Trident-related and Successor programmes.  
    • The Scottish Government should establish a ‘Scottish Defence Diversification Agency’, as proposed by the STUC, whose main focus will be planning and resourcing the diversification of jobs away from defence projects, such as Trident, and promoting the greening of the Scottish economy.

Professor Mike Danson, the lead author, commented:

‘Our report demonstrates that far, far more is to be lost than gained by renewing Trident. Trident does not save jobs but costs jobs. Trident does not enhance our skills base but degrades it. Trident does not bring economic benefits to the local area but leaks them away from it. All in all, renewing Trident makes neither economic nor social sense. It also an affront to democracy and humanity, and makes the world no more safe than it currently is.’

Professor Gregor Gall, director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation, commented: ‘We very much welcome this robust and rigorously researched report. Without a doubt, it makes the case that renewing Trident is not in the interests of the citizens of Scotland. We look forward to politicians and political parties taking up its findings and promoting them in order to do all that can be done to stop the renewal of Trident.’

The report is now available to download Trident Report 24th Nov

JEREMY CORBYN GIVES JIMMY REID MEMORIAL LECTURE ON A PRODUCTIVE ECONOMY AND GOOD SECURE JOBS

Oct 28, 2016 Add a comment

www.sunnygovanradio.com

 

The Rt. Hon. Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party delivered this year’s Annual Memorial Lecture. The topic was “Industrial Strategy” and he set out the way forward on a productive economy and good, secure jobs. 

The full speech is available to watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNpElyrZpgE&feature=youtu.be  thanks to the STUC.  If you want to listen to the full lecture and questions from the audience  while you are travelling or taking exercise, you can download at http://www.mediafire.com/file/b9y8prx7kjlawa5/Corbin_speach_with_questions_%28mp3%29.mp3     Thanks to Sunny Govan Radio for making this recording.

The Foundation Convener, Bob Thomson said “The subject matter of Jeremy’s lecture was very timely and welcome for the Foundation which has produced a number of policy papers on industrial strategy and related matters. Good, secure jobs require a productive economy. Moreover, the BHS scandal and other corporate excesses and recent disputes in the rail and offshore oil industries have highlighted the need for radical reforms. Jeremy is committed to investing in research and development, better training, ending zero hour  contacts, providing safe working conditions, ensuring fair equal pay and giving workers  a say in how their organisation is run. He is not a recent convert to these ideals but has a long track record of support.”   IMG_3034 (2)

Jeremy Corbyn said ‘Jimmy Reid was one of the most outstanding trade unionists and socialist fighters that Scotland has ever produced. He led the UCS Work-in whose legacy is that we still have shipbuilding on the Clyde today. His message of the necessity of human dignity at work reverberates down the years and is a theme that I campaigned on last year – and am campaigning on again this year – in order to make sure that Labour represents the interest of workers.’  

Sunny Govan Community Radio  is a registered Scottish Charity: SC031526, broadcasting across Glasgow on 103.5FM and around the world on www.sunnygovanradio.com

Unions and Europe: what are the choices?

May 12, 2016 Add a comment

A Quick Note by Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations, University of Bradford

It has become evident that the referendum on 23 June this year is a referendum on whether Britain’s membership of the European Union should be maintained regardless of the deal David Cameron struck with the EU member countries on 19 February 2016 (on freezing on in-work benefits for EU citizens working in Britain; stopping all payments of child benefit going to children living outside Britain; safeguarding to protect countries outside the eurozone against regulation made by those inside it; and not being covered by deeper EU integration). This is, therefore, not the referendum Cameron intended to have. He sought to narrow the referendum question posed by the terms of his agreement. As such, the questions facing unions and their members are even more profound and searching than could have been expected. Boycotting, active abstention or not taking a position (as some unions did in the Scottish independence referendum) are not then quite so credible options in this referendum as the contours of the debate are clearly only about ‘in’ or ‘out’ per se with the choice faced being one of working out which is the least worst option.

The Quick Note is available to read here   JRFEuropequicknote

Agenda for Action

Apr 25, 2016 Add a comment

Agenda for MSP Action

 The Jimmy Reid Foundation (JRF) has published its ‘Agenda for Action’ highlighting seven areas requiring the immediate attention of the newly elected Members of the Scottish Parliament.  Drawing on JRF publications, independent research and events, the recommendations cover workers’ rights, human rights, developing Scotland’s ports, the fiscal settlement, and getting better data to make informed decisions to grow our overseas trade and the economy.

Professor Gregor Gall, Director of the Foundation said today “As the newly elected Scottish Parliament gets down to business  with a minority SNP government, we are providing a list of seven urgent actions that should inform internal and cross party discussions.  We are determined that our research makes a positive impact and is not ignored despite the uncomfortable and disturbing issues that the independent research has revealed.  Policy and services must be improved in Scotland using evidence based research.”

The seven issues are:

1. The UK Trade Union Act should not be implemented in Scotland. 

We call upon the Scottish Government to give a pledge that where it is the direct employer, it will not seek to enforce the new balloting mandate thresholds or the new picketing requirements; it will agree to the extension of balloting mandates; it will support measures to introduce e-balloting; and it will agree to notice of action remaining at one week. We also call upon the Scottish Government to use its influence with those public bodies which it directly funds to do the same.

2. Economic and Industrial Democracy

Currently, both Scotland and Britain are in the bottom half of the European league table for democracy at work. The Foundation does not believe the Fair Work Convention’s ‘Fair Work Framework’ will drastically change this situation because it has no statutory underpinning. The Scottish Government should adopt a strategy which gives workers the means to control their work and working lives which will then enable the economy to thrive.

3. The Fair Work Convention

The Scottish Government established the Fair Work Convention in order to engage in a limited form of social partnership with unions and employers. The Convention has published the framework document by which it hopes to facilitate this social partnership.  Many legislative powers relevant to the FWF are reserved to Westminster but the Scottish Government can use its limited devolved powers to make an impact.

4. Scottish Government’s Block Grant

The Scottish Government’s block grant (BG) has been adjusted now that the fiscal settlement has been agreed to cover Scotland’s increased devolved powers from Westminster via the Scotland Act 2016.  The negotiating processes for the fiscal settlement have resulted in a poor deal for Scotland and that needs to be fixed.

5. Soundly Based, Timely Statistics are Essential for Economic Growth

Two problems remain to be addressed if the Scottish Government is to increase competitiveness, tackle inequality and move onto a more balanced growth path which better withstands global economic shocks: decide if the current management of trade support agencies is likely to achieve the objectives of the Scottish Government’s economic strategy; whether the quality of the databases available, the most fundamental tool by which to judge performance, are up to the task in hand.

6. Scottish Ports

Scotland’s major ports are inadequate, outdated, and expensive. Freight traffic moving through Iceland, Ireland and Flemish ports is far greater than in Scotland despite our economic growth depending on trade expanding.  The Scottish Government must act to enable our economy to benefit from direct access to international markets via advanced, low-cost ports in Scotland and related shipping services.

7. Human Rights

The Scottish Government should give effect to its high level commitments on human rights by changing the framework for respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights.  That includes establishing a Human Rights Committee at the Scottish Parliament and amending the law to enable the Scottish Human Rights Commission to take ‘test cases’.

The full document is available Agenda for Action May 2016 

Failure of the Fair Work Framework

Apr 17, 2016 Add a comment

In a new ‘Quick Note’ for the Jimmy Reid Foundation, the recent announcement (21 March) of the ‘Fair Work Framework’ is critiqued. The Framework is the first major publication of the Fair Work Convention which was established by the SNP Scottish Government in 2015. The critique by Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Bradford, shows that while the Framework has laudable aims it is completely woeful in providing the mechanisms by which to achieve these aims. Professor Gall, thus, concludes that the Framework fails at the first hurdle. Professor Gall will launch the critique at a lunchtime fringe meeting at the STUC Congress in Dundee this Monday 18 April.

The Fair Work Framework states its vision is that ‘by 2025, people in Scotland will have a world-leading working life where fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, businesses, organisations and society’ with the fair work being defined as that which ‘offers effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect; that balances the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers and that can generate benefits for individuals, organisations and society’.

So the Framework is strong on aspiration but entirely woeful on the means of delivering these aspirations because the Scottish Government refuses to contemplate using its existing and future legal powers to compel employers to achieve the aims in their workplaces. In other words, the Framework is an entirely voluntary affair like other initiatives of the Scottish Government (like the Scottish Business Pledge).

The critique for the Jimmy Reid Foundation suggests that not only could the SNP Scottish Government’s considerable power through procurement be used but that the Scottish Government abdicates responsibility for its own Framework by ruling out having an accreditation system (like the independent living wage system has) for employers seeking to implement the Framework’s aims or periodic reviews of progress made towards attaining those aims.

Professor Gall commented: ‘Given that the Scottish Government is intent upon pursuing a voluntarist approach to achieving ‘fair work’, it should at least commit to periodic assessments of its plan. And because the Scottish Government is the employer or awarder of contracts through procurement, it should specify a contract of rights for workers to attain the aims of the Framework. Ultimately, the Scottish Government must undertakes steps to put on a statutory footing the institutional mechanisms for achieving the aims of its Framework. Otherwise, it will not be worth the paper it is written upon’.

The critique of the Fair Work Framework is here FWCframework  and a recent paper for the Jimmy Reid Foundation on achieving industry democracy using an array of means which including statutory powers can be found at http://reidfoundation.org/the-library/

 

Economic benefits of public sector provision

Mar 30, 2016 Add a comment

‘The economic benefits of public sector provision’ is the title of a new report commissioned by the RMT union into life-line ferry services in the Clyde and Hebrides.  Written by Jeanette Findlay, University of Glasgow, the report examines the relative merits of the private and public sector bidders in retendering process in relation to the fulfilment of the contract itself and other elements which have an economic value to the island economies and to the Scottish economy. This is done in the context of the Ferries Plan 2013-22 of the Scottish Government. The report notes that the dangers identified in the competitive tendering process since 2005 still pertain including those of ‘moral hazard’ and ‘the Principal Agent’ while observing CalMac Ferries Ltd has operated in an efficient, innovative and  strategic way in the conduct of the contract and has shared with the Scottish Government all the benefits of cost savings. Meanwhile, Serco has an extremely troubled history in relation to its public sector contracts; it has no significant experience in the maritime industry and its financial health and business model raise concerns in relation to any unforeseen aspect of the current contract as it proceeds. CalMac has employment policies and values which are fully in line with Scottish Government thinking in these matters.

The full report can be read at http://www.rmt.org.uk/news/new-report-reinforces-case-for-keeping-calmac-public/

Human Rights Inquiry Concludes with Letter

Mar 29, 2016 Add a comment

The European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament launched a ‘Human Rights Inquiry’ in 2015 to which the JRF made a submission. The Inquiry has now concluded and Carole Ewart has written a Blog on the Committee’s letter to the UK Government and what steps the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament can take to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. Carole has written two policy papers on human rights for the JRF and is a Project Board Member. The Blog can be found on the Glasgow University Policy Scotland website at http://policyscotland.gla.ac.uk/human-rights-inquiry-concludes-with-rights-on-message-for-scotland/

Human Rights Protection in Scotland – Raising the Bar

Mar 03, 2016 Add a comment

Today the Jimmy Reid Foundation publishes a new policy paper on why Scotland must do better to respect, protect and fulfil human rights across devolved functions.  Publication coincides with Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights giving evidence to the European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament as it concludes its ‘Human Rights Inquiry’.

Human rights are under attack from the UK Government which is threatening to abolish the Human Rights Act (HRA), possibly withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and introduce a British Bill of Rights.  Although the Scottish Government explicitly supports the HRA and the ECHR, the real problem remains the failure of ‘duty bearers’ ie the public sector and those providing services of a public nature, to comply with existing human rights obligations.  Fixing that problem should occupy the political energy and practical action of our elected politicians with a consequent gain of the public understanding that human rights are relevant and powerful in making our lives better, and Scotland fairer.   A YouGov poll for the Scottish Government in 2015 confirmed the difficulties in perception with one in five Scots saying human rights are for minority groups only and two in five Scots saying they have no bearing on their everyday life.

Carole Ewart who wrote the Paper pointed out that

“Applying human rights equally and fairly can address urgent issues including poverty, poor care for elderly people and unfair employment practices.  Scotland must now take deliberate, concrete and measurable steps to comply with existing human rights law, address the reputational damage which has led to people regarding human rights as weak, owned by a minority and of little relevance, and focus on enforcement action which makes Scotland a model of best practice.

“Although human rights are to be included in the National Performance Framework, there is a fear that it will fail to deliver a prompt impact, and promises to consult on extending out list of human rights will serve as a distraction from the main problem of delivery and delay positive action further.”

The paper argues that in the longer term consulting the people of Scotland on what further rights they would like to see enforceable in domestic courts in very welcome particularly on economic and social rights.  Thus far a Bill of Rights has been hijacked as a tactic to constrain human rights by the UK Government whereas in other countries a Bill of Rights is regarded as a positive vehicle to mainstream and enforce human rights and we can learn from such experiences eg from the State of Victoria in Australia.  The paper concludes with four recommendations which can be enacted now and after the May Holyrood elections:

1. The Scottish Government should entrench its commitment to human rights by proactively ensuring that our 10,000 + public services in Scotland fulfil their existing obligations to comply with the ECHR as well as international law. The model of the Charter of Rights in the State of Victoria, Australia, should be considered.

2. The Scottish Parliament should entrench its commitment to human rights by setting up a Human Rights Committee to provide scrutiny of all Bills, inquiries etc. and ensures a focus on the impact on our human rights.  In particular the current human rights inquiry being undertaken by the European and External Affairs Committee should focus on duty bearers’ compliance with existing human rights obligations which are 18 years old.

3. The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) consulted on, designed and established the framework for Scotland’s National Action Plan on Human Rights (SNAP).  Whilst a welcome development, and after two years of delivery, it is time to change the delivery mode from persuasive to compulsion supported by funding.

4. The Scottish Parliament elections in May 2016 provide an excellent opportunity to focus on human rights delivery in Scotland with each party setting out specific commitments in its manifesto.  Those commitments should include: agreement to improve human rights protection regardless of what the UK government decides on the future of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights; a public consultation on what human rights should be added to those which are currently enforceable in Scottish domestic courts; as a priority in May 2016, the elected Scottish government should require public authorities in Scotland to explicitly promote and comply with existing human rights law via regulations or legislation.

The Policy Paper is available here Human Rights 1 March

The agenda and papers for the European and External Relations Committee meeting on 3rd March can be found at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EuropeanandExternalRelationsCommittee/Meeting%20Papers/EERC_Public_papers_3_March_2016.pdf

Democracy at Work – launch of JRF report on economic and industrial democracy

Feb 11, 2016 Add a comment

The Trade Union Bill will shortly become law. It will undermine workers’ rights and enhance the power and control of managers and employers. But even without it, workers in their workplaces still continue to experience a fundamental lack of democracy and control at work. Currently, Scotland and Britain are in the bottom half of the European league table for democracy at work. This timely new report for the Foundation analyses the contours of this present lamentable situation and outlines a number of proposals to give workers the means to control their work and working lives.

It is called ‘Rights and Respect: a vision for democracy in the workplace’ and  is written by Gregor Gall, Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Bradford. It is being launched today (Thursday 11 February) at a conference in the STUC as part of #heartunion week campaign against the Bill.

Amongst the proposals are measures on workplace and sectoral collective bargaining, right to take industrial action, co-determination, a strategy of encroachment upon the managerial prerogative, public ownership, worker cooperatives and tripartism.

The right to sectoral bargaining is worth highlighting in particular as a means to stop the ‘race to the bottom’ by taking out wages and conditions as a factor of competition between companies in the same sector. A form of co-determination is also worth highlighting so that workers can have their own representatives on the board of directors of the organisations they employ them.

In themselves the various proposals put forward are not new but what is new is using them together as a joined up, strategic means to solve a much longer standing issue of disempowerment and disenfranchisement in the workplace. Some of the proposals would provide for workers the greater ability to advance and defend their interests at work on immediate and day-to-day issues in the workplace – on such issues not just as pay but also the organisation of work – while others would allow workers to influence the decision making process within employing organisations and at the level of the economy. Without the latter, any advances in the former could be undermined.

Of the proposals, Professor Gall said: ‘The advance of neo-liberalism under the guise of human resource management has left workers in their workplaces more disempowered than ever before. This situation will only get worse with the arrival of the Trade Union Bill on the statute book. It is, therefore, imperative that in addition to opposing the Trade Union Bill the union movement takes a step back from this immediate task and considers how long-term and deep seated positive change can be brought about in workplaces so that workers empowered and enfranchised.’

He continued: ‘Although the times may seem inauspicious with a Conservative government and another looming recession, there are opportunities to be taken advantage to promote this radical reform of how workplaces are governed. Not least there is the new leadership of the Labour Party and in Nicola Sturgeon the first leader of the SNP who proclaims to be a social democrat. To do so would be to begin putting Scotland on Britain on a par with the current leaders in the field in Europe of workplace democracy like Germany and Sweden.’

Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) General, Secretary Grahame Smith added ‘Launched during #heartunion week, this paper makes a very welcome and positive contribution not just to the case for the value of trade unions, but by providing a vision of how properly organised workers, able to collectively bargain and participate in the management of their companies can change the industrial relations and the economy of this country for the better. The STUC intends to widely disseminate this paper which should part of the basis for unions’ work in improving the architecture of industrial relations in a Scotland.’

The full paper is available JRFRightsandRespect

Adjusting the Scottish Government’s Block Grant: taking the wider perspective

Jan 27, 2016 Add a comment

 As the negotiations between the Holyrood and Westminster governments over the fiscal settlement for Scotland continue and inch closer to some kind of deal, leading independent economist, Jim Cuthbert, argues there are ways to avoid Scotland falling into the ‘fiscal trap’ in a new policy paper for the Jimmy Reid Foundation called ‘Adjusting the Scottish Government’s Block Grant: taking a wider perspective’.

In noting the possibility of Scotland falling into ‘fiscal trap’, Cuthbert critiques the recent IFS report, ‘Adjusting Scotland’s Block Grant for Tax and welfare Powers; Assessing the Options’, and then lays outs the strategic alternative options.

Each option varies in its nature of method of indexation used for the block grant adjustment and outcomes of taxpayer fairness (see Appendix 1). The four options are Option A – Tax Revenue automatic; Option B – Tax Base manual; Option C – Fixed increment manual; and Option D – Fixed increment hybrid. For the purposes of comparison, Option A was based on the aforementioned IFS report.

Although not without their challenges, Cuthbert argues that Options C and D are by far the more meritorious. Option C indexes the block grant adjustment by a fixed low real percentage each year but faces potential problems of future, on-going adjustments. Option D goes a step further, addressing the problem of Scotland losing control over its own income tax rate when Westminster changes rUK income tax to fund reserved services. Thus, Option D restricts Westminster so that it could only change income tax in relation to ‘devolved’ services.

Turning to the political terrain for implementing either options C or D, Cuthbert argues 

‘While Option D solves the problem of Scotland losing control of its income tax rate in the event rUK changes income tax to fund devolved services, mechanisms for implementing Option D would involve something akin to federalism. Consequently, there would need to be an over-arching chamber setting a block grant for each of the parts of the UK, and making decisions on reserved services. Westminster (or that part of it which would be akin to an English parliament) would be responsible for topping up its block grant through income tax, and other devolved taxes, to fund its spending on ‘devolved’ services. This would obviously be a major constitutional step’.

Concluding the paper, Cuthbert states:

‘Options A and B are unacceptable, on the grounds that both options involve Scotland engaging in an economic race with rUK, when the risks and penalties are out of kilter with the limited economic powers available to Scotland. They are unacceptable to those Scots interested in implementing a more progressive tax system, now we know that elements on the unionist side regard these options as requiring Scotland to do precisely the opposite, and introduce more regressive taxation. Option D is probably a step too far, given public attitudes in England – which means there may be room for compromise around Option C’.

Download the Policy Paper JRFCuthbertSmithpaper Jan 2016