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Extract from Aamer Anwar’s 2019 Jimmy Reid Foundation lecture

Uncategorized Oct 09, 2019 Add a comment

Tomorrow (Thursday 10 October 2019) Aamer Anwar will say 

In an extract from his forthcoming 2019 Jimmy Reid Foundation lecture called ‘The struggle for justice, equality and freedom in Scotland’, Scotland’s leading human rights and criminal defence lawyer, Aamer Anwar, will set out a wide-ranging analysis, saying:

‘Jimmy Reid is often described as the best MP that Scotland never had, but he was much more than that: he was the conscience of his generation. Many claim to honour his legacy and, as a nation, we claim to be left of centre. But I believe we are failing the weak, the poor and the vulnerable. There is much I will try to cover in my memorial speech and it is a daunting task to try and follow in the footsteps of the giant that was Jimmy.

But I am tired, some 20 years after the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar, of seeing families still screaming for justice whilst young people incarcerated in our prisons take their own lives as their cries for help go unheard. Be it in Scotland – or, indeed, England – those who wear a uniform appear immune from any sort of justice when it comes to as death at their hands.

Behind the scenes the Scottish Legal Board is slowly preparing to dismantle our legal aid system along the very same lines as the Tory government did, which will leave the weak, the vulnerable, the guilty and the innocent without justice.

On the political front we have a Tory government with a veneer of positive Britishness but a reality of imperialist values, racism, and anti-immigrant hysteria. We are in dangerous times as the right, with the failure of the left, begins to fill the vacuum.

For Scottish Labour, so obsessed with its own internecine warfare, there is simply no point in constantly mentioning one hundred years of previous labour struggles, if in this century there are none to see. Where there is an opportunity to unite, they oppose through a visceral hatred for the SNP.

As for the SNP, being a party of government for twelve years, has created a sense of complacency and arrogance. The inevitable road to independence must not blind it to immediate demands for justice and accountability. Ordinary people are desperate and they cannot or will not wait.

Be it in Scotland, England or Wales, we cannot build a ‘land of opportunity for all’ on the ruins of a million more children living in poverty or the bodies of those broken by being forced to work till 70.

But whilst Jimmy would have been angry at the political landscape we see today, he would also have been full of optimism, because he had a fundamental belief that there has always been a spirit of dissent in the younger generation, untouched by the defeats of the past.’

Seventh annual Jimmy Reid lecture, 10 October 2019 – tickets now on sale

Uncategorized Jun 23, 2019 Add a comment

Tickets are on sale here – click this link

Scotland’s leading human rights lawyer, Aamer Anwar, to give 2019 Jimmy Reid annual lecture

The Jimmy Reid Foundation, in conjunction with the University of Glasgow, is delighted to announce that Scotland’s leading human rights lawyer, Aamer Anwar, is to give the seventh Jimmy Reid annual lecture on 10 October 2019. Currently, Aamer is the Rector of the University of Glasgow, as Jimmy Reid was in the early 1970s, and will give the lecture in the Bute Hall where Jimmy gave his famous rectorial address in 1972 called ‘Alienation’ and known as the ‘rat race is for rats’ speech.

The title of Aamer’s lecture is ‘The struggle for justice, equality and freedom in Scotland’. In it, he will not only discuss the state of justice, equality and human rights in Scotland but examine how the battle for these can be pursued in the face of opposition from the Scottish establishment.

Looking forward to giving the lecture, Aamer said:

It’s an honour to walk in the footsteps of Jimmy Reid. As Rector, he gave what has been described as one of the greatest speeches since Lincoln’s Gettysburg address in which he spoke out against injustice and inequality, urging our students to reject the values of the ‘rat-race’. Since then, we have achieved much that as a nation we can be proud of. However, injustice, inequality and racism remain deeply rooted in our institutions and society. We continue to sleep walk in complacency whilst politicians issue sound bites of comfort.  Nearly 50 years after Jimmy spoke, the vulnerable, the poor, minorities and the weak are despised, abused and silenced. It is time that the voice of the voiceless was heard.

Professor Gregor Gall, director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation, commented:

Jimmy Reid would have been delighted that such a leading campaigner for social justice as Aamer Anwar is to give a lecture in his honour in the very hall where Jimmy himself gave his trailblazing 1972 rectorial address. In Scotland today, there is no one more qualified and suited to walk in Jimmy’s shoes than Aamer Anwar.

Tickets are on sale here – click this link


  • Aamer Anwar is a longstanding anti-racist and human rights campaigner. He became a solicitor in 2000 before going on to found Aamer Anwar & Co, Solicitors & Notaries, in 2006. He was elected rector in 2017, having attended the University of Glasgow from 1986 to 1994. He was ‘Solicitor of the Year’ in the Herald’s Law Awards of Scotland 2016 and 2018, and ‘Lawyer of the Year’ at the fourteenth Scottish Legal Awards in March 2017. He is also a patron of the Jimmy Reid Foundation.
  • The 2019 lecture will take place from 6.30pm onward at the Bute Hall, University of Glasgow on Thursday 10 October 2019.

Tickets are on sale here – click this link

‘Neo-liberalism and the new institutional politics of universities’ – paper now available

Uncategorized May 30, 2019 Add a comment

The Jimmy Reid Foundation launched its latest paper called ‘Neo-liberalism and the new institutional politics of universities’ by Jeremy Valentine (formerly Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh) at the UCU Scotland offices on 30 May 2019.

The Foundation would like to thank Jeremy as well as Ann Gow, past president of UCU Scotland, and Eurig Scandrett, past vice-president of of UCU Scotland for being the discussants at the launch as well as Murdo Mathison and UCU Scotland for hosting the event.

The paper is  now available here.

Launch of ‘Neo-liberalism and the new institutional politics of universities’, 30 May 2019, Glasgow

Uncategorized Apr 29, 2019 Add a comment

The Jimmy Reid Foundation will launch its latest paper called ‘Neo-liberalism and the new institutional politics of universities’ by Jeremy Valentine (formerly Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh) from 6pm-8pm on Thursday 30 May 2019 at the UCU Scotland offices, 4th floor, 227 Ingram St, Glasgow G1 1DA

Jeremy Valentine will lay out the how, where and why of neo-liberalism now dominating the way universities are run and the purposes they are run for. Alongside Jeremy will be speaking Ann Gow, president of UCU Scotland, and Carlo Morelli, president-elect of UCU Scotland. There will be plenty of time for Q&A. All are welcome.

The paper will be available at the launch and uploaded to the Jimmy Reid Foundation’s website the day after the launch.


UNISON Scotland commissioned report on alternative sources of funding for local government

Uncategorized Apr 15, 2019 Add a comment

UNISON and Jimmy Reid Foundation call for fundamental review of funding local government

UNISON Scotland and the Jimmy Reid Foundation are calling for a fundamental review of funding local government. The call was made at the launch of joint UNISON and Jimmy Reid Foundation report: Additional Revenue streams sources of funding for the delivery of local government services at the STUC 122nd Annual Congress  in Dundee.

The Report states that expansion of local public services is possible with a fairer system of property taxes, and environmental charges. Local government has borne the heaviest burden of austerity cuts to the Scottish Budget since the financial. There just isn’t enough money in the local government budget to meet the needs of our citizens. We need to examine new and alternative sources of revenue for local government.

Mike Kirby, Scottish Secretary of UNISON said:  “Over the years, the balance of funding for public services through local government has shifted from approximately 50% coming from national government to 50% being raised directly by local authorities, to 85% of funding coming from central government and 15% being raised directly by local authorities.

Together with an overall reduction in funding, during a period of austerity, this has resulted, in severe financial pressures and impacted upon, the quality and delivery of vital public services. Politicians in all spheres must create the time and space for a fundamental review of funding local government. This report is a contribution, to that essential debate”

Professor Mike Danson, the lead author of the report said: “Within the constraints of the fiscal powers devolved under successive Scotland Acts, there are still some opportunities to generate greater funding for public services locally. Some changes will require time to explore, plan and introduce but it is economically efficient and effective to shift the tax burden onto property and land owners and away from Council Taxpayers, making the tax system more progressive and more based on ability to pay.”


The report recommendations:

i)        Recruitment of additional council, government and agency staff to ensure that registration, regulation and collection of revenues is undertaken in order to identify where loopholes, avoidance and coverage has allowed some to escape making their fair contribution.

ii)       Committees of the Scottish Parliament should examine whether the Small Business Bonus Scheme, and other reliefs from Non-Domestic Rates, are fit for purpose and determine what alternatives could support private and social enterprises and other bodies more effectively.

iii)     Unions should remind the Government and Parliament of how the Fair Work Framework should underpin both these reviews and implementation of tax changes. Making reliefs and subsidies and tenders for public procurement dependent on good practices at the local level should raise revenues indirectly for Council budgets.

iv)     Parliament, councils, unions and communities should explore how new taxes and levies can be introduced to support inclusive growth and the foundational economy. Attention should be paid to the opportunity for such initiatives to change behaviours and overcome negative externalities and market failures.

v)      Unions should consider how municipalisation of buses, energy, and other public services could be appropriately pursued. This may require powers to be devolved from Westminster.

vi)     Unions and others should also explore how local authority debts and PFI/PPP contracts can be taken over by the Treasury, saving local government many billions in interest charges each year and so releasing tax revenues for investment in local economies and communities.

vii)   UNISON should consider establishing improved research and policy facilities through collaborations with academics and others in the STUC research network to assist in the above.

Some of the proposals that may follow from these recommendations would generate new income for local authorities while others may rebalance the burden of taxation onto the wealthy and higher income groups.

Some of the changes that may follow can be implemented immediately, some would require legislation by the Scottish Parliament, and others would require significant further devolution of fiscal and other powers from the Westminster Parliament.

Cuts to local government funding:  

Local government has experienced substantial cuts to its budget and ability to deliver services to the public.  The Information Service Annual Benchmark report shows what’s happening to funding for individual services.  Total revenue funding for councils has fallen by 8% in real terms across 8 years.  Spending on teacher numbers and social care has been relatively protected. Education and social care make up 70% of expenditure within the bench-marking framework so this means substantial cuts have had to fall on other areas.

·         a 22% reduction in culture and leisure spending

·         a 34% reduction in planning

·         almost 15% reduction in roads spending and

·         almost 10% in environmental services spending

Children’s Services

The education budget has reduced by 2.5% since 2010/11 but the number of primary school pupils and pre-school registrations has increased by 30,000. That is a big cut in the money available for each pupil. Total spending on primary and secondary education has grown in cash terms the real spend per pupil has fallen since 2010/11. (8% for primary and 4% for secondary). Satisfaction with schools has fallen for the sixth year in a row.

Adult Social Care

Total social care spending has grown by 10% since 2010/11 although spending on home and residential care for older people has fallen as a percentage of that total.  Although the number of hours of home care has been relatively static spending on home care has risen by 15% since 2010/11. Much of this is due to paying staff the living wage.  Spending on residential care has fallen by over 12% although the number of residents has only fallen by 2%.

Culture and Leisure Services

Culture and leisure services have seen substantial increases in demand alongside a 22% spending cut. Sports facilities have increased visitor numbers by 19%, libraries by 36% and museums by 29% over the period analysed. Spending on parks has also reduced by 5% . Public satisfaction rates have fallen for all culture and leisure services in the last 12 months.

Environmental Service

Despite the direct importance of these services to the health and safety of citizens real spending has reduced by 10%. Waste management has been cut by 3%, street cleaning cut by 27%. Preventive services like trading standards and environmental health have been cut by 18%. Spending on roads has fallen by 15%.

The full report can be read here JRFUnisonScotlandtaxreportfinal


Into 2019: Broadening Human Rights Horizons and Ambitions

Uncategorized Jan 11, 2019 Add a comment

Carole Ewart surveys the terrain for prospect of advance in 2019

I expect the reputation of human rights as a delivery framework for social and economic fairness to be significantly enhanced in 2019 as 47 recommendations are rolled out from reports of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee at the Scottish Parliament and from the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership.  We have waited 21 years for human rights to be explicitly mainstreamed across public services and understood as applying to us all equally.  Now we all must be vigilant to ensure these roadmaps for change are delivered and sustained.

The Labour Government elected in 1997 delivered a human rights legal framework through the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Scotland Act 1998 which gave domestic effect to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).  Importantly, the ECHR is not tainted by Brexit as it is a treaty of the Council of Europe.  Both UK Acts of Parliament develop and add to the layers of protection already provided by the EU, as well as the UN whose treaties provide extensive rights.  A favourite of mine is the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which includes the right to an adequate standard of living, to food, clothing, housing, fair work conditions and adequate remuneration.  However, political complacency abounded after 1998 as saying ‘let it be so’ did not deliver the seismic cultural and operational shift needed across the public, private and third sectors.  Unsurprisingly to many of us not much changed and the power of human rights continued to be overlooked as well as becoming a ‘bete noire’ to the Tory right which realised that giving people minimum rights meant they could not be economically exploited and socially disadvantaged.  Human rights are, after all, about enabling human beings to thrive not just ‘scraping by’.

Unfortunately, the Scottish Parliament intake from 2003 – 2007 [1], fell into the trap of viewing human rights and their enforcement as a problem for the State.  MSPs specifically banned the newly created Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) from undertaking, advising or assisting people to bring human rights cases.  Failing to provide a realistic threat of publicly funded test cases by an expert body such as on health and housing provision, enabled complacency.  Now our norm is ‘pockets of good practice’ and the benevolence of staff which of course can lead to arbitrariness.  When UNISON Scotland asked its members what the problem was, they advised “that they don’t generally operate in a human rights culture” [2].

The report ‘Recommendations for a new human rights framework to improve people’s lives’ produced by the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership makes seven recommendations and the context and detail runs to 79 pages. Published in December 2018 [3], the First Minister immediately committed to set up a National Task Force to deliver on the recommendations [4].  Nicola Sturgeon’s aspiration for the whole of her Government is to ‘ensure Scotland is an international leader in building a rights-based society’.  If followed through, this is a game changer and an admission that good intentions, laws on rights and the £10m spend on the Scottish Human Rights Commission’s work has not achieved the dramatic change in outcomes for people.

The seven recommendations include: passing an Act which provides human rights leadership, capacity-building to enable effective implementation of the Act to improve people’s lives, a Scottish Government ‘National Mechanism for Monitoring, Reporting and Implementation of Human Rights’ and development of ‘human rights-based indicators’ for Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF).

In November 2018 ‘Getting Rights Right: Human Rights and the Scottish Parliament’ was published by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee.   Its 40 recommendations, to be delivered over a nine-year timeframe, followed an inquiry which was influenced by extensive oral and written evidence as well as overseas visits and informed opinion from the UN. The report recognises that a human rights culture, human rights knowledge, human rights practice, human rights monitoring and human rights law all need to be in place as it is the sum of the parts that will deliver impact rather than a single strand of activity. The recommendations are targeted at the Parliament itself such as developing scrutiny of human rights through the Scottish budget process and investigating a strengthening the SHRC’s powers.  Recommendations for the Scottish Government include the production of an annual ‘human rights report’ for the Committee to scrutinise and to fund civic society to scrutinise compliance with UN ratified treaties in devolved and reserved matters.  Recommendations for the SHRC include ‘developing a parliamentary engagement plan’ for Scotland’s National Action Plan on Human Rights’.[5]

2019 will herald a period of realism, addressing the barriers to mainstreaming human rights across publicly funded services which have built up over the last twenty years. Now we need to see clear signs of a meaningful rights respecting strategy designed to achieve genuine social and economic change.  The two reports require people and organisations to rise to the challenge of leading change, in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government, the SHRC.  That leadership will individually and collectively impact on the public services, and on those delivering services of a public nature including the private sector eg in procurement.  Key to progress are duty bearers understanding their obligations, which extend to preventative as well as enforcement measures, and rights holders being able to know and assert their rights effectively.  Politicians of all parties can lead on delivery by ensuring the recommendations are acted upon and we can lead too, by holding politicians to account. I hope you agree to be a Human Rights Leader!

Carole Ewart is a public policy and human rights consultant and serves on the Project Board of the Jimmy Reid Foundation.

[1] See Scottish Parliament for more information https://www.parliament.scot/msps/24068.aspx

[2] Response of the Human Rights Consortium Scotland To ‘Scottish Independence Bill: A consultation on an interim constitution for Scotland’, October 2014 https://consult.gov.scot/elections-and-constitutional-development-division/scottish-independence-bill/

[3] Available on the Advisory Group’s designated website  http://humanrightsleadership.scot/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/First-Ministers-Advisory-Group-on-Human-Rights-Leadership-Final-report-for-publication.pdf

[4] See press release of 10th December 2018 at http://humanrightsleadership.scot/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/First-Ministers-Advisory-Group-post-10th-December-update.pdf

[5] Available on Committee website at https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/106453.aspx

Frances O’Grady delivers annual Jimmy Reid Foundation Memorial lecture, 27 Sept 2018

Uncategorized Sep 30, 2018 Add a comment

The Lecture can be viewed via YouTube.

Report of Proceedings and Text of Lecture

The Lecture began with Frances O’Grady introduced to the audience by Lynn Henderson, the vice-chair of the project board of the Foundation. Lynn is also this year’s STUC President and a longstanding national officer of the PCS union. Lynn was preceded by a welcome from the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Eva Bolander.

Jimmy Reid Foundation wishes to thank Glasgow City Council for facilitating the lecture in the Banqueting Hall in the City Chambers and to the numerous unions,  trade union solicitors and other progressive organisations for sponsoring the published programme of the lecture.

“A future after Brexit? Unions and the Scandinavian model of social democracy”

Lynn, Lord Provost, friends . . . comrades.

The phrase “working-class hero” has become something of a cliché. Used and, sometimes, abused.

But tonight, we remember someone worthy of the title.

Jimmy Reid was certainly working-class. He was born in Glasgow and left school at 14.

His father was in and out of work.

One of seven children, three of his siblings died in infancy.

And, as was the way for many of his generation, he was self-educated.

Once, when a somewhat pompous academic asked him which university he’d studied at, quick as a flash, Jimmy replied: “Govan library”.

And for millions of people, Jimmy was also a hero. Not least for the shipyard workers, whose livelihoods and communities he did so much to save.

An engineer by trade, Jimmy was a union organiser by vocation.

And his cause was human dignity: standing up for people facing everyday humiliations and petty tyrannies; borne of an economy rigged in favour of the few.

He was from the school of trades unionism that spoke the language of morality.

And he had faith in working people’s ability to shape our own future.

You could say that Jimmy was the trade union movement’s Steve Biko.

Raising consciousness. Instilling class pride. Building self belief.


For Jimmy, class struggle wasn’t just a matter for theoretical debate. It was about how we live our lives.

Fighting for our rights, yes. But also encouraging each other. Looking after each other. Friendship, love and compassion.

As a French socialist once said: the brain works on both sides of the body. But the heart – the heart –  beats only on the left.

The work-in was a case in point.

A magnificent rebuke to the bosses’ age-old tactic of a lock-out.

And an industrial tactic of immense intelligence and imagination, for which, of course, Jimmy Airlie deserves great credit too.

But it was also about an appeal to fellow human feeling.


And the world was watching.

During the dispute, the situation became so serious that Ted Heath’s press secretary urged him to abandon his yacht race and return to number ten, as he said, “at great inconvenience”.

In fact, he urged the Prime Minister to do so, and I quote, at great “demonstrable” inconvenience. An early example of political spin.

But the public was unimpressed by the grandiose sailor’s sacrifice.

On the contrary, the work-in inspired support for the shipyard workers, far and wide.

And from all walks of life.

At one point, a cheque for £5,000 arrived simply signed “Lennon”. One shop steward remarked: “It canna be Lenin – Vladimir’s dead”.

It was, of course, from John Lennon.

In the trade union movement, Jimmy’s life and times still inspire us.

And that’s why it’s a such huge honour to be here in George Square, in the presence of Jimmy’s family, to deliver this lecture.

And doubly so in a year when the TUC celebrates its 150th birthday.

So I’d like to thank the Jimmy Reid Foundation, for inviting me.

The City Council, for kindly hosting this event.

And all of you, for coming along tonight.

I’m hoping that, in Jimmy’s words, they’ll be no hooliganism or vandalism.

But perhaps, later on, we’ll enjoy some bevvying.


Tonight I want to talk about how we can draw on Jimmy’s spirit and insights to win justice for working people.

But I should warn you that this won’t be an exercise in nostalgia.

I believe that would be a disservice to the memory of a man who was so far sighted.

And to the new generation of workers who need unions to solve the problems of today, not yesterday.

Including, those brave strikers at McDonalds and TGI Fridays;

Those leading the brilliant Better than Zero campaign here in Scotland;

And the hundreds of low-paid young workers, helping the TUC to test out new digital models of organising across the UK.


Because, of course, capitalism has changed from the model of forty years ago; When huge swathes of the workforce were employed in heavy industries.

That means we must change too.

Just a decade ago, the Lehman Brothers crash exposed the neglect of the real economy and the consequences of the financialisation of capital.

But now it’s changed again.

Today, corporate wealth lists are dominated by tech giants like Amazon and Apple.

Multinational companies that respect no borders and salute no flags.

Accelerating the speed of globalisation.

Combining corporate, social and digital power on an unprecedented scale.

And heralding a period of major disruption – industrially, politically and at work.


Jimmy famously spoke of how we are not rats.

Perhaps today we need to assert that we are not robots.

Except that, in my experience as a trade unionist, robots get much better care and maintenance than many workers do.

So let’s say, we refuse to be slaves to an app.

Like Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders.

Or Amazon’s mechanical turks.

Not just alienated but atomised.

The ultimate flexible workforce.

Working tiny bits of time for tiny bits of pay.

….And, our challenge, brothers and sisters, is to organise them.


So, I want to focus on prospects for the new working class and the future of work.


But first I need to say something about the B- word. Brexit.

Because just over 180 days from now, Britain is due to leave the EU.

The greatest peacetime challenge we have ever faced.

And it’s one almighty mess.


While the TUC campaigned hard for a Remain vote, we respect the referendum result to leave the EU.

As always, now our task is to unite workers. And that’s true, whichever way they voted.

So the TUC has argued for a Brexit deal that puts working people first.

That secures the trade, investment and growth on which livelihoods depend.

That guarantees a level playing field on rights at work with our friends in Europe.

And one that safeguards peace and the Good Friday Agreement, that trade unionists on both sides of the Water, worked hard for together.


The TUC has looked at all the options and we believe that workers’ interests would be best served by what some call Norway plus the Customs Union.

Because, if we trade from outside, expensive red tape and tariffs will: hike prices, hit pay and hurt jobs.

Because it would avoid the current contortions over the border in Ireland.

And because, the safety net of rights we fought for, from consultation rights to holiday pay, can’t be unpicked by any Tory government, as long as we have to stick by single market rules.

If anyone’s got a better idea, then we’re open to ideas.

But, so far, we haven’t heard any.

And we reject the Hobson’s choice of a bad deal or no deal. If Mrs May’s proposals would hit working people hard; Boris Johnson’s no deal nonsense could break us.

And even if Brussels agreed Mrs May’s withdrawal proposals, it’s unclear whether Westminster will.

As we all know,  the governing party in Westminster is at war with itself.

Many Conservatives seem more interested in who’s going to get their own top job, than saving anyone else’s.

So it seems a little unfair for Mrs May to accuse Brussels of showing her no respect, when her own colleagues have made no secret of the fact that they’re busy collecting signatures to dump her.

Meanwhile, many people are watching this spectacle with dismay. They’re worried about their own livelihoods, and in particular, job prospects for their kids.

It’s little comfort that the Prime Minister finally understands what it’s like to be on a zero hours contract.


The hard Brexiteers on the back benches are ready to pounce.

The likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg.

I confess that, in the past, I’ve likened them to Lord Snooty and his pals from The Beano.

But they are not just harmless English eccentrics.


What the hard Brexiteers really want is a low-tax, low-regulation, free-for all.

Carving up our NHS and weakening workers’ rights.

A dose of capitalist creative destruction.

Shock and awe.

All under the guise of shaking up an Establishment, of which they are the top brass.


These are dangerous times.

And the rise of right wing nationalism should worry all democrats.

Inspired by Trump in the West and Putin in the East, across Europe, the new far right is gaining traction.

President Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon has set up office in Brussels.

And the far right’s campaign strategies are getting more sophisticated.

Their anti-immigration, anti-Muslim message mobilises thousands on the streets, but millions more online.

They have big money and are globally networked.

Grooming right-wing politicians in mainstream political parties.

Targeting blue collar workers who are rightly angry about an economic system that is failing them.

And using Brexit as an opportunity to destabilise a model that, while far from perfect, has kept the peace in Europe for nearly seventy years.


So as we count down to March next year, the stakes could not be higher.

Not least here in Scotland, where nearly two-thirds of voters wanted to remain in the EU.

And where communities that are already struggling will pay the highest price.

Like the TUC, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon has rightly called for an extension to Article 50.

To give us a chance to negotiate a deal on new terms. A deal that protects jobs, rights and peace in Ireland.

But the truth is most people don’t trust the Westminster government to get that deal.

And we’re running out of road.

So I have been taking the same message to all politicians.

This is not the time to keep your head down.

We need to hear more voices speaking up for working people, wherever they live.

I hope that Nicola Sturgeon will join me in putting the Prime Minister on notice.

And warn Mrs May that if we don’t get the terms working people need, we will mobilise for a popular vote on the final deal.

People deserve the final say.

After all, trade unionists are required to put the outcome of a negotiation to a ballot of members.

Why shouldn’t the Conservative government have to put the terms of their deal to the vote too.


But whatever happens with Brexit, we must all get to grips with the way he world of work is changing.

A capitalism which is more global, more mobile and more ruthless than ever before.

But also more digital too, reshaping power, politics and work in profound ways.

In the late twentieth century, finance capital called the shots.

Markets were deregulated. Banks began to gamble. Private equity, hedge funds and shadow banking became more powerful.

Trillions of pounds could be moved at the flick of a switch. Financial investments began to crowd out productive investment. And exotic new derivatives products were invented.

As workers’ bargaining power was attacked, cheap debt took the place of wages as a driver of growth. And the inevitable result was the meltdown of 2008.

But today’s capitalism is different.

The new masters of the universe make their money from information.

Data is the new oil.

And, by the way those companies are taking much of that data from us, for free.

The tech giants’ ambition is not just to drive down wages and drive up profits, but to redefine work itself.

As adept at sidestepping labour standards as they are at avoiding tax, they are uprooting the lives of millions of workers.

Reducing employment to a digital platform. Replacing jobs with gigs. And in the process, stripping out even our most basic rights.

Uber is a transport firm but owns no vehicles and employs no drivers.

Amazon likes to call its warehouses ‘fulfilment centres’. But it tags staff like cattle. To time and track workers too afraid to take sick leave, or even a toilet break.

And Deliveroo has ordained that its digital army of riders are self employed. So there’s no right to the minimum wage, no right to holiday pay and no right to be accompanied by a union rep.

Workers without a workplace. Hired and fired by smart phone. No boss to negotiate with. On the go for twelve hour shifts. Relying on food banks to feed their children and loan sharks to get through the week.

Britain today.

But we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Artificial intelligence, automation and algorithms will transform work.

The Bank of England tells us that 15 million jobs could be vulnerable to new technology.

Not just the likes of cooking, cleaning and driving.

But white collar and professional jobs too.

And the Westminster government’s message?

Be grateful for having a job. Any job.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can choose to do things differently.

And forge a fair transition from the old world to the new.

Jimmy Reid famously challenged “the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable”.

And that must be our guiding principle now.

Of course, there are threats ahead.

Some jobs will go. Some will be created. Many more will change.

The idea that steel workers will move seamlessly into jobs as software engineers won’t wash.

But we could set ourselves a positive goal.

To replace mind numbing, monotonous, soul destroying work.

With better paid, more skilled, more satisfying jobs.

There is plenty of good work that society needs to be done, involving skills that can’t be replaced by tech.

Creativity and care are just two examples.

That’s why the TUC has argued for a commission on future of work, bringing governments, employers and unions to the table, to plan a fair transition.

Scotland could lead the way.

Looking at how to invest in and deploy the new technologies, so we upgrade firms and skills.

And, when it comes to the predicted multi-billion pound productivity gains: to figure out how workers – and our public services – get fair shares.


I contend that the promised gains from technological change should mean more time for ourselves and our families .

Something that feels all the more important in a week when we’ve learned that nearly a quarter of  young girls are harming themselves.

And that, every year, the same proportion of adults suffer from a mental health problem.

No doubt the causes are complex.

But the twenty-first century sickness of anxiety, stress and low self-esteem is spreading.

Families need more time together,

But with the cost of childcare rising three times faster than wages, many parents only manage by working back to back shifts.

When they get home, they’re exhausted.

Job intensity, impossible workloads, and the lack of any sense of a voice, or control over our working lives are all taking their toll.

At our 150th Congress, I said that if the big victory of the last century had been a two day weekend, then surely this century we should lift our sights to a four day week.

As Jimmy Reid argued (and I quote):

“If automation and technology is accompanied as it must be with full employment, then the leisure time available to man will be enormously increased. If that is so, then our whole concept of education must change. The whole object must be to equip and educate people for life, not solely for work or a profession”.

How the tech revolution pans out in the future is all about the choices we make now.

We’ve got nothing to fear if it’s matched with a revolution in skills, workplace rights and social protections.

If we revitalise and spread collective bargaining, so the gains are not just grabbed by the greedy.

If we make sure that tech poor towns and communities are included.

If we agree to prioritise the common good.

Instead of enslavement, tech could be a force for liberation.

For better work and richer lives.


And this takes me onto our third priority.

And an alternative vision for the future.

The digital capitalists have got theirs.

The right-wing populists have got theirs.

It’s about time we spoke up for ours.

Now when I was invited to deliver this lecture, I was asked to talk about unions and Scandinavian social democracy.

And at a time when the hard Brexiteers want to drive us towards aping Trump’s America, there’s a compelling case for instead looking across the North Sea.

If the only choice we faced was between Trump-style populism or Nordic social democracy, then there’d be no contest.


It’s easy to see the attraction of Scandinavian social democracy.

In its different manifestations, it’s been more resilient than other models.

Sweden’s welfare state shows that with fair taxation you can deliver world-class childcare and social care.


Denmark guarantees a high minimum wage and more generous unemployment benefit, providing security for the low-paid and those without work.

And Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, built up from North Sea reserves, has become the world’s richest pension fund.


Contrast that with how Margaret Thatcher squandered our North Sea windfall paying for mass unemployment and tax cuts for the rich.

Not surprisingly, the Nordics are still near the top of the world rankings for happiness, openness, education and gender equality.

I remember many years ago when I was pregnant campaigning for the UK to sign up to the EU directive on better paid maternity leave.

I wore a badge carrying the slogan ‘I’d rather have a baby in Norway’.

Because women were granted nearly twelve months of paid maternity leave.

And whole cities were designed and planned around the needs of children.

Moreover, it was taken for granted that a good society needed active citizens.

And, that the great majority of working people should be protected by collective bargaining.

So yes, post-Brexit Britain could do a lot worse than go Scandinavian.


But we must recognise that the world has changed: and social democracy – even Scandinavian style – is under pressure.

Since the crash, many social democratic parties have tanked at the ballot box.

In France, the Socialists attracted just 6 per cent of voters in last year’s Presidential elections.

In Germany, the latest polls show the SPD is only one point behind the neo fascist AFD.

And in Denmark, it pains me to say that, on immigration, the social democrats’ rhetoric seems to be trying to outflank that of the right.

Blaming the victims of poverty for so-called ghettoes. Scapegoating migrants for society’s ills.


But as the Labour Party has shown, there is an alternative.

For all its difficulties, Labour has reinvented itself by moving decisively to the left.

Yes, didn’t win the 2017 general election. And yes, it has its work cut out to inspire the same confidence and hope in blue collar heartlands, that it has inspired among the young.

But having started the campaign with 27% support, by Election Day four in ten people cast their vote for a party with a red-blooded popular programme.

Can Labour get over the 45% line by appealing to blue collar aspirations, as well as middle-class insecurity? It won’t be easy but it can be done.


Now Jimmy Reid was a supporter of Scottish independence, and it’s not my intention to use this platform to wade into that debate. Nor is it my place.

Scotland’s future is a matter for the Scottish people.

Likewise the question about whether the SNP is a genuinely social democratic party.

And the broader issue of whether, whatever it’s political hue, a coalition based on nationalism can hold.


But I am a trade unionist.

And I still hold with Mick McGahey’s view that workers here in Scotland will always have more in common with workers in London, Durham or Sheffield, than with ‘Scottish barons or traitor landlords’.

Capitalism knows no borders, and neither should organised labour.

We need a new socialist politics, strong enough to reverse the obscene shift of wealth and power into ever fewer hands.

After all, workers create the wealth. And they deserve a fair share of it.

Economic justice is the only way to build a strong society.

More equal, more welcoming, more humane.

Investing in schools and hospitals, building council homes, strengthening pride in our communities.

Taking strategically important industries like our railways and the post back where they belong, into public ownership.

And making the rich and big corporations pay their fair share of tax.

(And, I might add, certainly not giving the likes of Amazon tax breaks, when they rip off workers and refuse to recognise a union.)


As Jimmy Reid rightly identified, alienation – “the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision-making” – remains one of our biggest challenges.

As he saw it, the untapped resources of the North Sea were nothing, compared to the untapped resources of people.

For Jimmy, political democracy had to be matched with industrial democracy. He argued that: “Government by the people for the people becomes meaningless unless it includes major economic decision making by the people for the people.”

And he was right.


In my view, democracy should not stop at the workplace door.

Every worker should have the right to a collective voice through a union.

Employers should have an obligation to collectively bargain with us.

And our voice should be heard at every level, up to and including the boardroom.


For inspiration, we should be guided by what drove Jimmy Reid throughout his life: human dignity.

The dignity of doing a good job, fairly rewarded. Of being respected at work and in society. Of having somewhere decent to live.

And of knowing that from cradle to grave, good public services will be there when you need them.

That’s the dignity that inspired Jimmy Reid, that inspires me, that continues to inspire millions of trade unionists today.


Jimmy’s political affiliations may have changed – from Communist Party to Labour to the SNP. But his values stayed true.

As the former Labour MP Brian Wilson wrote: “Few individuals in the political or trade union arena over the past century have raised so many spirits, challenged so many assumptions or offered more vivid glimpses of a different social order”.

The best way we can honour Jimmy’s memory is to fight for the future.

As the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in showed, we can achieve great things together.


It’s no coincidence that UCS came to stand for “unity creates strength.”

And whether it’s the rise of the right or the rise of the robots, we need that same sense of solidarity now.

A new class politics. A new shared identity. A new humane socialism.


Frances’ lecture was covered in the Morning Star the following day: see here.



Successful launch of municipal socialism policy paper at the Scottish Parliament

Uncategorized May 30, 2018 Add a comment

There was a successful launch of the new Jimmy Reid Foundation report on municipal socialism in the Scottish Parliament today with 6 MSPs and 12 others in attendance.

We are grateful to Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard MSP, for hosting the meeting and introducing the paper.

From the press release for the paper:

Following on from his earlier (2017) JRF paper on public service reform, Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland, sets out  what he terms ‘a modern approach to municipal socialism’. He defines this as not just being one that is more efficient vis-à-vis  service delivery and raising revenues, but also being as part of creating a fairer and more democratic society in this age of increasing inequality in wealth and power and decreasing democracy.

Despite the denigration and destruction of local government by central governments, Dave Watson begins by setting out his case in its historical context where municipal ownership in the 1940s provided 30% of local authority income. He suggests that returning to such a situation will allow local government to be part of the solution to the challenges society faces in twenty first century Scotland. And here the case for municipal socialism is based upon collective provision that involves sharing risk, wealth redistribution and improving living standards. It also has to involve elements of popular control through participative democracy. Simply delivering more services through a weak local state is not enough.

From this, the paper identifies a number of services that could be delivered locally through municipal socialism. Dave Watson starts by arguing that traditional public services like housing, social care and childcare need to be brought back in to an integrated public ownership services model. He then moves on to arguing that municipal socialism can be applied to energy, transport, water and broadband as well as banking and public finance.

He then turns to advocating that information technology can be a key element of service delivery and enhancing participative democracy so that local people are not treated merely as consumers of services but are participants in deciding the how, where and when their services are delivered.

Dave Watson said: ‘As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the recreating of the Scottish Parliament, the political window of opportunity is now open to debate and discuss ideas within Scotland about how we can make our society better and fairer. My model of municipal socialism challenges the logic that either the market or senior government officials know best because it argues for reimaging and reconstituting local government not only as a very much enlarged operation but one with popular participation at its core so that we do not return to the ‘command and control’ model of before. I think both Keir Hardie and Jimmy Reid would have welcomed the application of their ideas, showing that socialism makes sense for the modern age.’

Gregor Gall, JRF director said: ‘This new paper by Dave Watson will find a ready and attentive audience. From the Scottish Labour Party, we have new leader in Richard Leonard who is keen to develop policies that expand economic economy and popular participation. From the Scottish National Party, we have a leader who has commissioned the party’s Growth Commission on how Scotland could prosper both economically and socially under independence. From the Scottish Green Party, we have a leader who wishes to integrate environmental justice with social justice. All three parties will find stimulating ideas within the paper to help flesh out their policy ideas. The paper will challenge some parties more than others. But at its heart, the paper issues a challenge to all three parties to recognise that local government should be seen as part of the solution and not part of the problem to delivering a fairer and more democratic society. But as Dave Watson argues, for this to happen, local government must be completely re-imagined and re-constituted as a form of municipal socialism’.

The paper can be accessed here:

New policy paper: ‘Municipal socialism for modern Scotland: local public enterprise for the common good’

New policy paper: ‘Municipal socialism for modern Scotland: local public enterprise for the common good’

Uncategorized May 28, 2018 Add a comment

In this new policy paper, Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland, sets out  what he terms ‘a modern approach to municipal socialism’. He defines this as not just being one that is more efficient vis-à-vis  service delivery and raising revenues, but also being part of the process of creating and a fairer and more democratic society in this age of increasing inequality in wealth and power and decreasing democracy.

The full paper can be read here: JRFDaveWatsonmunicipalsocialism


Launch: new JRF paper on municipal socialism by Dave Watson (UNISON Scotland), Scottish Parliament, 30 May 2018

Uncategorized May 22, 2018 Add a comment

‘Municipal socialism for modern Scotland: local public enterprise for the common good’

Following on from his earlier (2017) JRF paper on public service reform, Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland, sets out  what he terms ‘a modern approach to municipal socialism’. He defines this as not just being one that is more efficient vis-à-vis  service delivery and raising revenues, but also being part of creating a fairer and more democratic society in this age of increasing inequality in wealth and power and decreasing democracy.

The paper will be launched in the Scottish Parliament at 2pm on Wednesday 30 May 2018. The meeting is hosted by leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard MSP. Richard will also speak at the launch and there will be time for questions and answers afterwards.

If you wish to attend, please email Gregor Gall (gregorgall@outlook.com) and come to the public entrance of the Scottish Parliament building for 1.30pm so that you have time to go through security. There will be a sign for where to gather in the public lobby before we go up en masse to the committee room.