By Lynda Williamson
Labour for Independence held their first conference in Glasgow on Monday night and an audience of around eighty people gathered to hear speeches from former politicians, union leaders, academics and musicians on the need for an all-encompassing Yes campaign.
Guests from across the independence movement spelled out their visions for an Independent Scotland at the fledgling group’s first conference at Glasgow Caledonian University.
The Labour for Independence movement has come a long way since it first launched on Facebook less than a year ago. This was evident in the impressive list of speakers who agreed to share their views at the very first conference.
Ricky Ross from Deacon Blue was joined by former Labour stalwart Dennis Canavan and respected former union leader Tommy Brennan as each took it in turns to address an intrigued audience.
Former advisor to Jack McConnell, Jeane Freeman eloquently explained the experience of women in today’s Scotland and Dr Tom McDonald explored the, often overlooked, issue of an Independent Scotland’s international footprint and its relationships with other countries.
Both Dennis Canavan and Tommy Brennan felt that, in the words of Jimmy Reid, they hadn’t left the Labour party, the Labour party had left them.
Mr Canavan said that a yes vote in 2014 would be the best thing that could happen to the Scottish Labour party and that independence would see it return to its traditional socialist roots.
He added, “An independent Scotland would mean an independent Scottish Labour Party which would be free to determine its own agenda in accordance with the values and aspirations of the people of Scotland.”
A recurring theme was that of socialist ideals and the feeling that the Labour Party had lurched to the right and forsaken their socialist roots, that they are no longer the voice of the people and now spend more time defending the Union than defending the workers.
Much was made of how an independent Scotland must reflect our “Scottish values”.
Another theme focused on the drive for independence and the need to ensure that the SNP do not become the sole focus of attention. Speakers insisted that if the Yes campaign was to succeed then it had to involve people of all political persuasions and none.
The importance of the persuading traditional Labour voters of the benefits of a Yes vote was stressed with both Alan Grogan, founder of Labour for Independence, and Dennis Canavan insisting that Scottish Labour supporters would be crucial to success in the 2014 referendum.
Labour Party members were urged to take the Independence debate to their branches and begin the fight to win back their party.
Quote of the evening went to Tommy Brennan who said that we must “feed the needy and curtail the greedy”.