Labour’s Scottish leader backs co-op ideas

Scotland's new Labour leader is calling for worker control of companies and a social housing programme

Richard Leonard, who has won the Scottish Labour Party’s contest for the leader, is set to support a co-operative economy in Scotland.

Mr Leonard, who was the Scottish Co-operative Party’s nominee for the election, is a long-standing member of the Co-operative Party. Ahead of the election, he told Co-op Party members: “Our approach to the economy must be to promote and encourage greater industrial democracy, with those who create the wealth having greater influence and control over that wealth.

“That encouragement cannot simply be warm words – we need to give workers the first right of refusal (similar to that contained in the Land Reform Act) to buy the company they work in. We need to create a properly-resourced Scottish Investment Bank and put in place preferential finance for workers to support worker control.  We need to review Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), put it on a statutory footing and give it the instruments of investment needed to grow the co-operative sector.

“We need to look at our procurement rules and regulations, and assess how these can be used to help support and grow co-operatives and worker-owned companies.”

Richard McCready, the Co-op Party’s political officer for Scotland, said: “In his time in the Scottish Parliament, Richard has been at the forefront of arguing for a more democratic economy. Richard supports massively expanding the co-operative sector and he is looking to expand the role of Co-operative Development Scotland to achieve that. He has led debates in the Scottish Parliament on that very topic.”

He has also committed to promoting a Scottish version of the Marcora Law from Italy which gives workers first refusal to buy their company when it is put up for sale or facing closure

Mr McCready added: “Richard is also campaigning for ‘Mary Barbour Law’ to fix the broken private rented system in housing. He is looking to our history to find ways of applying the radicalism that took Mary Barbour from the Co-operative Women’s Guild to running a rent strike in Glasgow during the First World War to being one of the first women elected to Glasgow’s City Chambers and finding ways of applying that radicalism to 21st century problems.”

In an article in the Scotsman, Mr Leonard said: “In this campaign I have made clear that we must end poverty including poverty pay, promote the Living Wage and trade union organisation and make work secure; that we need to tackle rogue private landlords and embark on a massive social housing building programme; that we need an industrial strategy for the 21st century; re-empowered and properly resourced local government; a renaissance of public and co-operative ownership and new and innovative public investment in public services; more economic planning and less market in the economy and a radical redistributionist policy that taxes wealth as well as income more progressively.

“These are the radical ideas that can reach out and win back those voters that Labour has lost in Scotland. It is an approach which will build a bridge to young voters, and it will bring renewed belief to Labour voters who have stuck with us through thick and thin.”

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