Scottish Labour Party highlights co-op influence

The Co-operative Party was represented at the Scottish Labour Conference on 30 October – 1 November. Greeting the conference on behalf of the Co-operative Party, Ian Miller paid tribute...

The Co-operative Party was represented at the Scottish Labour Conference on 30 October – 1 November.

Greeting the conference on behalf of the Co-operative Party, Ian Miller paid tribute to those Labour/Co-op MPs from Scotland who lost their seats at the general election: Ian Davidson, Mark Lazarowicz, Cathy Jamieson, Tom Greatrex and Gemma Doyle.

Mr Miller thanked the members of the wider movement and trade unions for their involvement in the Keep it Co-op campaign. He also highlighted the success of the Party in lobbying for the creation of the Armed Forces Credit Union, saying that it had also benefited from the support of the Scottish Parliament and Co-operative MSPs.

The Scottish Co-operative Party was delighted that one of its MSPs, Kezia Dugdale, was now leading the Scottish Labour Party, he said.

The strong connection between the party and the trade union movement was a recurrent topic at the conference, with a separate debate on the Trade Union Bill.  “Co-operatives are about people getting together to organise themselves.  Whether it is workers getting together to form a workers co-operative or consumers getting together to form a retail co-operative. The Scottish Co-operative Party believes that we have an inalienable human right to organise ourselves.  The Trade Union Bill is an attack on that inalienable human right and should be opposed,” said the political officer of the Scottish Co-operative Party, Richard McCready.

Scottish co-operative party members also unanimously adopted a motion on housing that included a strong commitment to the co-operative housing model.

The Scottish Co-operative Party hosted two fringe events at the conference. The first, ‘Power to the People: The future of Co-operative Community Renewable Energy’ featured a presentation from MSP Claudia Beamish, a member of the Scottish Labour Shadow Environmental Justice team. Also speaking at this event, Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, outlined the important role co-operatives could play in genuine community renewables. Dr Dixon is also chair of Edinburgh Solar Co-operative. He said the project had benefited from the support of MSPs Sarah Boyack and Mark Lazarowicz.

Former BBC presenter Heather Reid helps pupils at Gylemuir Primary School launch Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative's share offer
Former BBC presenter Heather Reid helps pupils at Gylemuir Primary School launch Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative’s share offer

Claudia Beamish also said it was important to promote energy efficiency and tackle fuel poverty by promoting community renewables. Another speaker at the fringe event, Cllr Lesley Hinds talked about the work of City of Edinburgh Council as a Co-operative Council, and in particular how Edinburgh Solar Co-operative was making a real difference.

The second fringe event focused on a co-operative and mutual agenda for land reform. Chair of the party’s MSP Group, Johann Lamont MSP said that Scottish Labour had achieved a lot on land reform when in power but that the work had to continue. She also pointed out that the current bill did not fulfil the expectations of the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group. Sarah Boyack said that the bill must be about promoting the sustainable use of land for the benefit of communities. She argued the bill was not radical enough and said the Scottish Labour Party would continue to put pressure to achieve radical land reform for Scotland.

Another issue raised at the conference was the Co-operative Party’s campaign to create a People’s BBC.

In addition, the Scottish Policy Forum Document adopted at the conference also includes some commitments to the co-operative model, particularly:

  • A commitment to a democratic economy
  • A review of Co-operative Development Scotland aimed at strengthening it
  • Promotion of employee-ownership
  • Consideration of amending planning legislation to promote genuine community co-operative ownership
  • Promotion of local marketing co-operatives to protect our high streets
  • Ensuring education on the co-operative model is available at all levels of education from school to university
  • Support for the People’s ScotRail campaign
  • Developing co-operative and mutual models for bus services
  • Support for a variety of co-operatively owned energy models, including local renewable energy co-operatives and mutual bulk buying schemes
  • Support for the co-operative model in local government, empowering local people
  • Promoting radical land reform and promoting co-operative and mutual models of land ownership
  • Consideration of ways to promote co-operative and mutual models of wraparound childcare.
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