It has been a momentous year for Scottish politics, Johann Lamont told delegates at the Co-operative Party Conference in London. The leader of the Scottish Labour Party, who received a standing ovation from delegates for her speech, called for unity and a co-operative approach to addressing the nation’s problems.
Referring to the recent Scottish referendum, she said: “We have a huge job to tackle that nationalist idea. We have a job to do to try to understand why 44% of the population was attracted to vote yes, and the message of solidarity and co-operation was not enough.”
Ms Lamont thinks the co-operative movement had to answer problems such as the lack of jobs or the needs for food banks.
“People are looking for scapegoats to blame rather than understand the causes and come together to tackle those causes,” she said, adding that the Co-operative Party can bring a philosophical argument to the debate.
“The message of co-operation, of finding what we have in common and working together is at the very heart of the co-operative movement, as is the idea that power should be as close to people as possible.” She explained that although Scotland agreed to stay in the UK with the Scottish Parliament due to have more power, the question should now be how to use this.
Ms Lamont said the co-operative approach was particularly important in the context of devolution because it helped empower communities.
“When people take control and are able to shape what their communities are like, I think that has a huge impact.”
She explained how the co-operative model could be applied across different sectors, from housing to agriculture and fishing.
“The co-operative movement has shown in the past that its ambition is limitless. And it is about always being aware of the co-operative model, the co-operative option. It shouldn’t be something seen as for local or small communities only. It can be applied across all sectors,” said Ms Lamont.
With the referendum now over, the Labour and Co-operative parties should try to address the concerns of people who voted in favour of independence, she said. The leader of the Scottish Labour Party believes co-operation can be the answer to increasing equality and access to opportunities.
“The best thing we can do is to talk about politics, be more excited about our politics. My daughters will have opportunities I didn’t have because of the Labour movement.
“Scottish politics will never be the same again. UK politics can never be the same again.”
For more from the Co-operative Party annual conference, click here