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

Our Rights, Our Jobs, Our Unions – No TU Bill No Austerity

Nov 17, 2015 Add a comment

As part of its campaign against the Trade Union Bill, the STUC is organising an event on 24th November at 6.30pm which will livestream the First Minister’s Lecture ‘Worker’s Rights are Human Rights’ followed by a Panel Discussion. The venue is the STUC, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow G3 6NG.

A video which outlines the issues and promotes the lecture is now available

For more information and to register open STUC event

Please note tea and coffee will be served from 6pm
For more information on the campaign and updates on the event go to

3rd Annual Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture

Oct 18, 2015 Add a comment

The 3rd Annual Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture “WORKERS’ RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS” will be delivered by Rt. Hon. Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland.  The meeting will be chaired by  Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the STUC.

Tuesday 24 November at 6.30pm in the University of Glasgow G12 8QQ

Doors open from 5.30pm.

Free entry is by ticket only.

The tickets had been allocated within 24 hours and a waitlist has been operating.  Some more are now available online at 

In honour of workers’ leader Jimmy Reid, Nicola Sturgeon will address the issue of why workers’ rights are human rights and how this can be used in defence against the Tory Government’s attacks on workers’ economic, political and social rights in Scotland. The First Minister and guests will be welcomed by the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anton Muscatelli. Following the speech, there will be a question and answer session. Our Director; Professor Gregor Gall will make a short contribution on our work programme to conclude the event. The Foundation has just published a policy paper on this issue, available at our website. 

Jimmy Reid was installed as elected Rector of the University in the Bute Hall in 1972, where he made his famous “The rat race is for rats” speech. A souvenir programme will be available containing the speech. His archives and those of the UCS Work-in are maintained by the University and some will be on display prior to the Lecture. We are grateful to the University for their assistance in organising the Lecture.

Facts on Trade and Development

Sep 09, 2015 Add a comment

The Jimmy Reid Foundation today publishes a major new critique of government handling of the Scottish economy in terms of the critical component of trade and development.

Written by renown independent economist/statistician, Margaret Cuthbert and entitled Growing the Scottish Economy: is Scotland well served on international trade and development?’, the paper casts grave doubt upon the Scottish Government’s ability to increase competitiveness and tackle inequality when the data needed to assess how well the Scottish economy is performing in trade and development is so woefully incomplete and inaccurate.

The findings of this paper are:

  • There has been a fundamental failure of the UK and Scottish governments in the collection, collation, and analysis of trade statistics for Scotland.
  • Existing data on trade and development is unjustifiably time-lagged, does not cover all sectors, is sketchy on sectors that are covered, and is based upon low return rates from respondents.
  • It is difficult to have much confidence in the data. Yet the agencies like Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International present themselves as providing excellent value for money in gather this poor quality data.
  • Without a timely good quality data on how well Scotland is performing on trade; without an analysis of trends; and without connections being made between trade patterns and trends in the economy, it is difficult, if not impossible, to see how any government can devise, monitor, and evaluate the trade part of an economic strategy.
  • With further devolution under the Smith Commission, these matters will only become more pressing as the Scottish Government becomes more responsible for managing Scotland’s economy.
  • Recommendations for change are made including the way data is gathered and when.

.Margaret Cuthbert commented: ‘Without good data, economic strategies can end up as ‘wish lists’ and can actually harm the economy. The effect of past strategies in Scotland cannot be adequately scrutinised to determine whether or why they were successful and cost efficient, or why they failed. We fool ourselves about our economic strategy without knowledge based upon analysis of the facts’.

She continued, saying ‘My conclusion is that unless there is a radical change in attitude, in systems, and in working methods by government and government agencies, Scotland will be seriously hampered in improving trade performance, and in particular, in trade helping to make substantive inroads into austerity and into improving economic growth’.

A copy of the Paper is attached. Trade and development

Economic and Social Rights are Human Rights

Aug 10, 2015 Add a comment

In this latest policy paper Carole Ewart urges us to use international human rights standards to create a fairer Scotland. 


  • Human rights have not realised their potential to protect individual rights e.g. respect for family life and collective rights e.g. to belong to a trade union.
  • Successive governments, or part of them, have marginalised human rights which means that public support for human rights is worryingly low. Civil society, in particular unions, have an important role to play in reversing this view by identifying the relevance of  human rights to workers’ everyday lives and acknowledging their importance in delivering a fair Scotland and UK. For example using human rights arguments in the public procurement process.
  • The UK Government seems to be adopting an anti-human rights position in respect of trade union rights eg voting thresholds and abolishing ‘check off’.  The Scottish Government, which must to apply the HRA can be more proactive with legislation and subordinate legislation, guidance etc. to actively support human rights across devolved functions.
  • Upholding our human rights, contradicts the free market economic philosophy of the UK government.  However our Government has inherited an undertaking to the UN, that it will ‘progressively deliver’ to the ‘maximum extent of available resources’ defined economic and social rights eg the right to an adequate standard of living.  Human rights compliance should, therefore, be central to the economic strategy which businesses operate in, underpinned by a philosophy that respecting rights equates with business success.  The UN’s framework on business and human rights allows our government’s economic strategy to fit a globally recognised model.
  • For ‘rights holders’, there is a lot of catching up to do in terms of building the knowledge base and skill application. For example by changing the terminology from an “ask” to an assertion of specific rights to the duty bearer eg a local authority or health board.  And an understanding by the duty bearer that they must act and if not there is a reasonable expectation that the human right will be enforced.
  • We need to be more astute in linking human rights with policy and legislative opportunities, eg in the forthcoming social justice consultation, the Community Empowerment Act 2015[1] and its implementation.


  1. Civil society and trade unions should build the knowledge and skills of workers and empower them to assert and enforce their human rights.
  2. Consideration should be given as to what can be achieved within the devolved settlement to expand human rights to include worker’s rights as defined in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This could begin immediately, include new powers via the Scotland Bill and target manifestos for the Holyrood elections in May 2016.
  3. Unions should offer evidence to the UN on the application of ICESCR in the UK, during the formal Hearing process 2015 – 2016, on how workers do not equally enjoy economic and social rights which results in measurable disadvantage to them and their families.
  4. Poverty is a menace which needs to be addressed by structural reforms in our economy and there is an opportunity to deliver that change by contributing to the Scottish Government’s baseline research on ‘business and human rights’.

The full paper is available Workers Rights are Human Rights 10th Aug 2015


Economic and social rights are human rights

Jul 16, 2015 Add a comment

Carole Ewart argues human rights are the framework for a fair society

A child witness project in Canada evaluated its service after ten years. Respondents, by this time adults, were asked which part of the service had the biggest impact and one replied the worker handing her a tissue when she was crying in the witness box. Until the system was reformed to be human rights compliant for both victims and the accused such behaviour would have been interpreted as coaching the witness and, therefore, forbidden. Enabling the child to have dignity and respect when giving evidence against her abuser, who had violated her human rights, was crucial to the successful delivery of the service.

This good news story about the impact of human rights contrasts with its sustained demonization by politicians and some media, portrayed as friend only to the prisoner, terrorist and generally undeserving. That strategy contradicts international law which states that human rights are to be equally enjoyed and entitle each of us to basic economic, social, cultural, civil, political and environmental rights from which we realise our dignity as individuals.

The right to a decent standard of living, the right to social insurance, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health are to be progressively realised and to the maximum extent of Britain’s available resources. Collective rights are also set out such as the right to join a union so that one’s interests are represented. These internationally agreed human rights sit uncomfortably with the British Government’s austerity strategy. The political gain in marginalising an asset and making it a liability is that the Westminster government can use its power to promote an ideology rather than being constrained in practice by international human rights standards.

Ensuring human rights principles and standards are respected and promoted in the design, delivery and funding of public services will re-balance power between people and government, and deliver a more just and fair society. People can assert their rights and the government, via public sector agencies, has a duty to proactively deliver those. Unsurprisingly, politicians have invested so much effort into convincing us that human rights are the problem rather than the solution to the injustices that face too many people in our rich nation.

The Labour Government was guilty of this tactic too and was criticised by MPs, as far back as 2010, for not delivering on the very Act it introduced in 1998: ‘The Government is, of course, to be commended for introducing the Human Rights Act; but too often subsequently there has been a lack of leadership to use the Act to its full potential, ensure that public bodies promote human rights as well as do the minimum necessary to comply with the legislation’ (House of Commons House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights Paragraph 20, 2010).

Now the Conservative Government thinks it can get away with abolishing the Human Rights Act and maybe even withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. Instead of Russia initiating a fracture in compliance with European human rights standards and remedies, it could actually be Britain.

How mortifying, but we need to park the emotion and focus upon mounting an effective and inclusive campaign of opposition and therein lies the problem. Domestic human rights activism has been notoriously weak in Scotland and possibly that is part of the political calculation that ultimately there will be no broad coalition of sustained action in support of human rights. A strong campaign needs people and influential organisations who are persuaded of the relevance of human rights to everyday problems.

Public support is thin on the ground as British-wide polling by the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF, showed those who are pro-human rights make up 22% of the populace; those who are conflicted are 41%, uninterested 11% and anti 26%. The sample size from Scotland, although small, confirms similar views although polling was done before the referendum and the general election. Contradicting the propaganda that human rights are bad as well as persuading people that not only should human rights be equally enjoyed but that they are relevant is a bit of a mountain to climb in a comparatively short time. So we need some big wins and quickly.

There needs to be knowledge building and sharing using respected institutions. For example, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2001 pointed out that poverty is: ‘a global phenomenon experienced in varying degrees by all States … While the common theme underlying poor peoples’ experiences is one of powerlessness, human rights can empower individuals and communities. The challenge is to connect the powerless with the empowering potential of human rights. Although human rights are not a panacea, they can help to equalize the distribution and exercise of power within and between societies’.

More recently, the UN recognised that in the global economy there is a role for private companies to adopt a ‘respect, protect and remedy framework on human rights within their sphere of influence’. No longer is it just up to governments to deliver on human rights. The UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on business and human rights have influenced the Scottish Government which is in the process of commissioning a baseline survey to develop an action plan on business and human rights so that companies based in Scotland comply domestically and in their work globally. That may prove challenging to the political ideology on austerity in Britain.

Working family tax credit is being culled as the Tory Government rolls out delivery of its manifesto promise to cut a further £12bn from the welfare bill. This ‘welfare’ payment is paid to the in-work poor so reductions in tax credits are likely to lead to increased child and family poverty. Such actions are regressive which contradicts international human rights obligations.

According to research from Citizens UK, our low pay culture is costing tax payers £11 billion per year. Too many people are in work but poor. Over 5.24m people in Britain, 22% of all employees, are earning less than the Living Wage ( The research shows some of the UK’s largest retailers businesses are benefiting a low wage strategy with Tesco paying £519m in tax but receiving £364m in public subsidy for its 209,000 low-paid workers.

Ultimately, we need to give effect to the new politics in Scotland and work effectively with likeminded people including sympathetic Conservatives. A cross-party coalition working with unions and civil society in support of the Human Rights Act is possible and tests us to think differently about how to achieve the best results using our public services. Mainstreaming human rights in Scotland will rebalance the power relationships between government and people, and between businesses and workers to make our democracy stronger and poverty a thing of the past. That does not need to be a party political issue.

Carole Ewart is a public policy and human rights consultant. She is also a member of the Jimmy Reid Foundation project board and, in this connection, will shortly be publishing a major paper on the issues of workers’ rights as human rights for the Foundation. For more information on human rights in Scotland see

Barnett Formula post Smith Commission

Jul 15, 2015 Add a comment

The Barnett Formula under the Smith Reforms is examined by Dr Jim Cuthbert in a paper for the Fraser of Allander Institute. Building on previous work, it turns out that both relative population growth, and the relative rate of growth in the relevant tax base between England and Scotland, will play an important part in determining the behaviour of the Barnett formula as modified by the Smith Commission proposals.

In particular, the modelling indicates the potential for the emergence of dynamic effects, in which relative population growth could interact with growth in the tax base, in a way which could adversely affect Scotland.

Barnett post Smith 25 6 2015

Smith Commission proposals revisited

May 27, 2015 Add a comment

The Jimmy Reid Foundation has published a fresh analysis of the Smith Commission proposals.  CuthbertJRFSmithPaperMay2015

The paper, ‘Smith Commission: why the economic and fiscal arrangements need to be changed’, by renowned independent economists, Jim Cuthbert and Margaret Cuthbert provides a critique of both the economic and fiscal arrangements recommended by the Smith Commission and the proposals for implementing these recommendations set out by the Westminster government.

Amongst the issues they critique are the nature of the mechanisms necessary for the successful operation of a monetary union between Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK), and what sort of implicit economic model underpins the Smith proposals. They conclude that:
  •  The income tax base is very different between Scotland and rUK. This means income tax is an unsuitable choice as the primary vehicle for giving the Scottish parliament greater fiscal responsibility.
  •  There is no adequate solution to what we have called the ‘gearing problem’, namely, the problem that arises when changes in rUK in a tax which is devolved to Scotland are allowed to impact on reserved services: (that is, services, like defence, which are for the UK as a whole.)
  • The Scottish Government is being given responsibility for living within its tax resources, without being given adequate powers to grow the economy, and hence its tax base.
  • The technical arrangements surrounding the operation of the new system are unduly complex, and are unlikely to be able to be operated in an open and satisfactory fashion.
  • Implementation of the Smith proposals will weaken the mechanisms for determining fiscal transfers which are a necessary part of the operation of a successful monetary union.
  • A Scottish government operating under the proposed reforms will find itself severely constrained in its freedom of action, with the danger of Scotland finding itself locked into a self-perpetuating cycle of economic decline.

In terms of solutions, the Cuthbert’s argue the Smith Commission proposals will not be workable unless further reform is carried out in three main areas:

1.         Recognition that fundamental constitutional change is required, not just in Scotland, but at Westminster. The paper argues satisfactory implementation of Smith depends on implementing a properly federal system at UK level.

2.         Scotland requires much greater powers if it is to have a chance of making a success of increased fiscal responsibility. These powers are required in three main areas of a) more taxation; b) more economic powers; and c) ability to exploit and benefit from its major natural resources.

3.         Technical problems surrounding the implementation of the Smith proposals need to be tackled. No satisfactory solution can be found without a radical simplification of the whole approach but such a simplification would only be possible under a federal approach.

Jim and Margaret Cuthbert commented: ‘The paper is of particular importance just now, when the new Conservative Government is putting forward its proposals and timetable for implementing the Smith recommendations: and when the SNP will be seeking to use its increased muscle at Westminster to modify the proposals to give Scotland greater powers’.

They continued: ‘The debates about implementation and modification have to be informed by a proper understanding of the problems inherent in Smith, some of which are highly technical, but have profound consequences. What our paper does is to provide a thorough analysis of the problems – as well as putting forward solutions’.


Archive of Jimmy Reid

May 05, 2015 Add a comment

Glasgow University holds the personal papers of Jimmy Reid.  The full reference for the collection is: University of Glasgow Archive Services, Papers of James Reid, GB0248 DC455

The catalogue for the Jimmy Reid collection is available online here:

Scroll down in the right-hand pane to browse through the collection in reference order, or click on the folders and links in the left-hand pane to jump to particular sections.

To arrange an appointment, please use the webform here:

and a campus map showing the archive location at 13 Thurso Street is here:

For further information contact:

Archive Services
University of Glasgow
13 Thurso Street
Glasgow G11 6PE

Tel: +44 (0)141 330 5515
Fax: +44 (0)141 330 2640

Serious Criticism of Smith Commision Tax Proposals

Mar 31, 2015 Add a comment

Leading independent economist submits critical evidence to the Finance Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the implementation of the Smith Commission proposals.  

Dr Jim Cuthbert has submitted critical evidence on Scotland’s Fiscal Framework in response to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee’s call for evidence on the implementation of the Smith Commission proposals. The submission was made on behalf of the Jimmy Reid Foundation.

The evidence took the form of written responses to specific questions in the Finance Committee’s call for evidence. The common theme running through the responses is that it is difficult to envisage how the Smith Commission proposals can be implemented in a fair and equitable way, and without adverse unintended consequences, unless deep-rooted reforms in the constitutional and funding arrangements for Westminster are also implemented.

Commenting on this, Dr Cuthbert said: ‘This problem arises because of the implications of what is known as ‘the gearing problem’. It arises if changes in income tax rates in the rest of the UK (rUK) are allowed to affect not just ‘devolved’ services in rUK, but also reserved services for the whole of the UK’.

Dr Cuthbert continued, saying: ‘The proposed way in which the ‘no detriment’ principles in Smith are to be implemented does not provide a satisfactory answer to the gearing problem: instead, it leads to a situation where, if Westminster decides to change rUK income tax to fund a reserved service like defence, then this will force the Scottish government to increase the Scottish rate of income tax, or to cut Scottish devolved services like health or education’.

Dr Cuthbert’s evidence also discussed a number of problems which will arise in the implementation of the Smith proposals such as the operation of the proposed method for indexing the abatement to the Scottish Block Grant, and the need to index the adjustments to the Block Grant which will be required in the light of decisions to change rUK income tax.

In concluding, Dr Cuthbert proposed to the Finance Committee that the most appropriate way to resolve the issues in a satisfactory manner would be to have a rUK chamber responsible for taking the rUK Block Grant, setting the rUK income tax rate, and determining spending priorities on health, education, etc., from the resulting budget. There would also need to an over-arching body setting the whole UK budget, and determining the allocation of UK resources, (excluding income tax and other devolved taxes), between reserved functions and the territorial Block Grants.

The full submission is available here Finance Cttee submission

Outsourcing public services is damaging for staff and service users, says TUC

Mar 04, 2015 Add a comment

The outsourcing of public services provision to private providers has a detrimental impact on the workforce and a knock-on effect on the quality of care, says a new TUC report.

The research, conducted by the New Economics Foundation on behalf of the TUC, looked at the scale and scope of outsourcing in five key sectors – social care, health care, offender management, local government and employment services. The report also examined the effects of outsourcing on staff working in a variety of public service jobs, such as care workers, nurses, prison officers and security guards.

The TUC findings show that compared with public service employees, workers in privatised services are more likely to work longer hours, receive less pay and be on insecure or temporary contracts. Some key figures broken down by job-type are:

  • Security guards are more than twelve times more likely to regularly work longer hours (more than 48 hours per week) if they are employed by a private company rather than the public sector.
  • The hourly wage for a private prison officer is more than £4 less than an equivalent public sector employee.
  • Residential care workers employed by the public sector typically stay in post more than three times longer than private sector workers.

Low pay and poor working conditions in the private sector can affect the commitment and the motivation of employees and have repercussions on the quality of service provided.

For more information and a breakdown of the statistics see the full press release at