Big turnout at Labour For Independence event

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By Lynda Williamson

Following the remarkable turnout at the first in their landmark series of national events throughout Scotland in 2014, Labour For Independence have announced the dates of the next two debates in the programme.

The first will be held on the 20th February at the Mark Henderson Centre in Dundee and the next on the 29th of March at the MacRobert Building, Aberdeen University.

Last week more than 200 people turned out to hear a Labour vision for Independence as the series kicked off in Glasgow. Eminent Labour stalwarts Alex Mossan, Dennis Canavan and Jeane Freeman joined LFI Leader Allan Grogan and Deputy Leader Deborah Waters, to spell out a vision of what a Labour government could achieve in an independent Scotland.

They were joined at the event by former chairman of the Scottish Labour Party Bob Thomson who discussed the Common Weal and Elaine C Smith who chaired the event.

Within a short time of the doors opening at the main conference hall at the STUC it became apparent that the hall was not going to be big enough and a second hall would have to be opened to accommodate the sheer number of people who wished to attend.

A second hall was opened and two meetings were held in tandem, with the speakers rotating between the two.  Even this was not sufficient capacity and people were turned away at the doors. Also watching the event were a further 200 people who joined online via a live stream.

In his speech, Grogan cited some of the policies he and many people in Scotland would expect from a real Scottish Labour Party, including rebuilding social housing, the introduction of a living wage and removal of nuclear weapons.

He also pointed out what he saw as the very real dangers of a No vote in the September referendum:

“Parents are going without food to feed their kids, pensioners are having to choose between having a meal or heating their homes. Parts of Glasgow have a lower life expectancy than the Gaza strip. For the first time in over a century parents today can no longer hope to give their children better than what they have had………..For too long we have waited in hope for more from the Westminster Government, We are not better together… We can do better and we must do better.”

Deborah Waters discussed the growing unease within the Labour movement at the shift in society under Westminster governments:

“I’m weary of the less than 1 % of benefits that are fraudulently claimed being an excuse to torment the weak, disabled and dying. I’m weary of being told we need more cuts when huge corporations hide their profits and cheat us of £25 billion in tax every year. I’m sick and tired of ¼ of Scottish children being born into poverty ……and not the cheap shoes and big sister’s clothes poverty of my youth, but the gut-wrenching, hopeless, grinding poverty of our grandfathers’ time.”

Chairman of Yes Scotland Dennis Canavan, told the audience that independence could invigorate the Scottish Labour Party:

“A Yes vote is not a vote for Alex Salmond or a vote for the SNP,” he said. “On the contrary, independence could help secure the election of a Labour government in Scotland.

“Labour supporters can vote Yes in the referendum and then vote Labour in the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 2016.

Following the event, LFI Chairman and former Dundee Labour councillor, Alex Bell highlighted the attendance and overwhelming support given on the night:

“I am delighted to see so many people within the Labour and trade union movement attend the event tonight. This proves that there is a great number of Labour folk who are realising the need for serious change in our parliamentary system. That change can only occur with independence.”

The success of the event comes in a week when the SNP claimed that their internal polling during the Cowdenbeath by-election (in which Labour scored a comfortable win), showed support for independence ahead, with Yes on 41%, No on 36%  and 23% who don’t know. Allan Grogan claimed that the growing strength of Labour For Independence would support these findings showing that some traditional Labour voters may support independence while being reluctant to vote for the SNP. Speaking to Newsnet Scotland he said:

“The results of the polling in Cowdenbeath taken by the SNP merely back up the enormous response we had for our event in Glasgow which offered a Labour vision for independence. This certainly seems to suggest that people are beginning to realise that a vote for yes is not for the SNP. But a vote for Scotland’s future.”

Also this week, veteran independence campaigner Jim Sillars, who left the Labour Party to form the breakaway Scottish Labour Party in 1976, and later went on to become deputy leader of the SNP, has claimed that he might rejoin the Labour Party if it rediscovers socialism after a Yes vote in 2014.

Mr Sillars made the comment following the launch of his book, In Place of Fear II, which outlines a socialist vision for an independent Scotland.

Watch the event here