Open Letter: Scottish Labour for Radical Democracy

This is an open letter from Labour activists across the country. Bella has no position on this other than to say it seems significant that a large group seems to be mobilising within Scottish Labour, and this is to be welcomed as the aftermath and consequences of the election sink home. The letter is confined to Labour Party members. Go here to sign.

We demand radical self-determination for Scotland. The Scottish people have, in successive elections to both Holyrood and Westminster, elected majorities in favour of a new referendum on independence. Setting aside the arguments for and against independence, we must not allow a hardline Tory government – which has no mandate here – to override Scotland’s democratic will.

Should all attempts to secure a second referendum by legal and constitutional means be obstructed by the UK government, we support an escalating strategy of non-cooperation and civil disobedience against that government, pursued at all possible levels: from the Scottish Government legislating on, or refusing to cooperate with, matters ‘reserved’ to Westminster, to grassroots non-violent direct action within and outwith Scotland.

We support a deep and radical vision of self-determination, encompassing political, economic and cultural life. In particular, we believe that in spite of defeat, the policies put forward in Labour’s 2019 general election manifesto still offer a valuable starting-point for tackling the climate emergency and redistributing economic power to the working class, who produce Scotland’s wealth and have the right to control it. Successive Scottish Governments have failed to use the full range of devolved powers to transform Scotland in this direction, despite their repeated insistence on Scotland’s progressive consensus.

We also believe, however, that the limits of devolved power must not be treated as the closed horizons of Scotland’s future, and we demand that the Scottish political establishment begins to think and act ‘as if’ it has the requisite independence to radically address the overlapping crises facing working-class communities in Scotland, from the climate emergency and austerity to drug deaths, housing and the hostile environment.

We refuse to abandon the people of Wales, Northern Ireland and England to Tory rule, even if Scotland chooses to pursue its own road to socialism. We believe that real self-determination can only be achieved through cooperation between movements and across borders. We call on the left across the UK to back our demand for a second referendum on independence and to fight with us to secure a radical democracy for all the peoples of these islands.


Martin Le Brech, Aberdeen Central CLP / IWGB
Didier Alexandre, Aberdeen Central CLP
Scott Abel, Aberdeen South CLP
Reuben Duffy, Airdrie & Shotts CLP / GMB
Emma Milligan, Airdrie & Shotts CLP
Brendan Moohan, Almond Valley CLP / Unite
Graeme Hyslop OBE, Ayr CLP / EIS
Ryan John MacKenzie, Caithness & Sutherland CLP
Annette Thomson, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley CLP
George Thomson, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley CLP
Huw Sherrard, Clackmannanshire CLP, Social Media & Press Officer
Avar Wilson, Clackmannanshire CLP / IWW
Matthew Gallagher, Clydebank & Milngavie CLP / EIS
Ryan Bazga, Coatbridge & Chryston CLP, Social Media Officer / Unite
William McCabe, Coatbridge & Chryston CLP / Unite
Stella Rooney, Dundee CLP, Youth Officer / Unite, Chair of Young Members in Unite Scotland
Owen Wright, Dundee CLP / Unite
Drew Livingstone, Dundee CLP / Unison
James Thomson, East Kilbride CLP / PCS
Emily Talbot, East Lothian CLP / Unison
Alistair Craig, Eastwood CLP
Calum Barnes, Edinburgh Central CLP / Unite
Ian R Close, Edinburgh Central CLP
Paul Cumming, Edinburgh Central CLP / PCS
James Cameron, Edinburgh Eastern CLP
Matthew Beven, Edinburgh Eastern CLP / Unison
Tommy Martin, Edinburgh Eastern CLP / Unite
Ally McIntyre, Edinburgh Eastern CLP
Jessica Fenn, Edinburgh Eastern CLP
Robert Dransfield, Edinburgh Eastern CLP / Unite Community
Adam Knight, Edinburgh Eastern CLP
Claire Thomson, Edinburgh North & Leith CLP / Unite
Patricia Johnston, Edinburgh North & Leith CLP, Youth Officer / Unite Community
Paul Tait, Edinburgh North & Leith CLP / UCU
Oliver Goulden, Edinburgh North & Leith CLP
Mike Cowley, Edinburgh North & Leith CLP
Shaun Cassidy, Edinburgh North & Leith CLP
Morgan Tooth, Edinburgh North & Leith CLP / Unite
Lorcan Mullen, Edinburgh North & Leith CLP / Unison
James McPherson, Edinburgh North & Leith CLP / Unite
Finn Oldfield, Edinburgh Southern CLP
Rory Scothorne, Edinburgh Southern CLP / UCU
Magnus Gwynne, Edinburgh Southern CLP
Declan Prosser, Glasgow Anniesland CLP
Alana McKenna, Glasgow Anniesland CLP
Michael John O’Neill, Glasgow Cathcart / BECTU
Scott Lumsden, Glasgow Provan CLP / Unite
Oliver Robertson, Glasgow Provan CLP / Unite
Alice Bowman, Glasgow Provan CLP / GMB/Unite
Kyle Scott, Glasgow Provan CLP / Unite
Ryan Byrne, Glasgow Provan CLP / Unite
Stephen Campbell, Glasgow Provan CLP / Unite
Matt McDonald, Glasgow Southside CLP / Unison, IWW
Laura Dover, Glasgow Southside CLP / Unison
Ewan Gibbs, Glasgow Southside CLP / UCU
Tam Wilson, Glasgow Southside CLP, LGBT Officer / GMB
Jessica Shenton, Glasgow Southside CLP / Unison
Thomas Baylis, Glasgow Southside CLP / Unison
Mark Faulkner, Glasgow Southside CLP
Bruce Milne, Glasgow Southside CLP / Unison
Giancarlo Bell, Glasgow Kelvin CLP, Vice Chair / Unite
Ben McKinlay, Glasgow Kelvin CLP
Ross Clark, Glasgow Kelvin CLP
Hollie Cameron, Glasgow Kelvin CLP / Unite
Ewan Kerr, Glasgow Kelvin CLP / EIS
David Clayton, Glasgow Kelvin CLP / BMA
Rob Jones, Glasgow Kelvin CLP
Madison Plumridge, Glasgow Kelvin CLP / Unite
Duncan Hotchkiss, Glasgow Kelvin CLP
Clare Patterson, Glasgow Kelvin CLP
Paul Rolwich, Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse CLP
Fraser Finlayson, Inverness & Nairn CLP
Mikey Reynolds, Kilmarnock & Loudon CLP / PCS
Dougie Main, Linlithgow & East Falkirk CLP
Gwen Wall, Maryhill & Springburn CLP, Fundraising Officer / BFAWU/GMB
Tessa Buddle, Maryhill & Springburn CLP / UCU
Cameron Thompson, Na h-Eileanan an Iar CLP / Unison
George Corner, North Ayrshire CLP / Unite
Malcolm Petrie, North East Fife CLP / UCU
Angus MacDonald, Orkney CLP
Lauren Gilmour, Paisley CLP / EIS/Unite
Simran Kaur, Renfrewshire North & West CLP / Unite
Rosaleen Leonard, Rutherglen CLP / Unison
John O’Neill, Perth & North Perthshire CLP / Unite
Tom Flanagan, Stirling CLP / CWU
Cian Lloyd Ireland, Stirling CLP / GMB/IWW
Matthew Ferrie, Stirling CLP / IWW
Daniel Deery, Stirling CLP / IWW
Callum McCormick, Strathkelvin & Bearsden CLP / EIS/UCU
William John McCabe, Uddingston & Bellshill CLP / Unite
Billy Stewart, Uddingston & Bellshill CLP / Unison

Comments (27)

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  1. Ray Burnett says:

    At last. Writing from a non-party position and a member of RIC, I warmly welcome this most heartening development within the LP in Scotland. I hope others on the pro-self determination radical left, of all parties and none, will also give it a warm and comradely welcome.
    My only caveat with the broad thrust of the letter is the manner in which it includes ‘Northern Ireland’ as a constituent nation within ‘these islands’. The issue of the Stormont statelet is not that it is a ‘nation’ under Tory rule but that it is the partitioned province of a partitioned country. Our solidarity should be with the people of all Ireland, north and south. And, indeed, , of Europe and beyond.
    One of the most obvious issues I can see on the horizon is in relation to the 2021 Holyrood elections. Whether we successfully secure the right for our Scottish Parliament to hold its own referendum or not, there will still be the issue of who to vote for in 2021 when gaining a pro-independence majority will be crucial. A choice in some constituencies and on the lists of: SNP, or Green, or pro-independence Labour could be damaging so addressing that issue early on would be wise.
    It is an impressive list of pan-Scotland signatories. And coming in the wake of Paul Sweeney’s intriguing comments earlier this morning, it is a most encouraging sign.
    The signatories will get a tough time from within the ranks of their own LP. I hope the response from within the ranks of the wider pro-independence movement will be warm and genuine. They deserve it.

  2. Dougie Blackwood says:

    An interesting contribution but we shall see what the wider Labour party does. They have been intrasagent in sticking with much of their Red Tory recent history.

    There is no doubt that the SNP government have not been as radical as much of their membership would like. There are things that they should have been doing but I believe they have realised that in a minority government and both Labour and Tory opposition to EVERYTHING they propose the game may not have been worth the candle.

    Most people outside outside the Holyrood bubble would like to see things done differently and if this group can bring a positive momentum to our life then it is to be welcomed.

  3. tartanfever says:

    It may be beneficial to show growing support from a cross section of Scottish society that you carry out your demands and actions under the Labour banner . This would show the general public that a demand for another referendum is indeed diversifying beyond the current narrow boundaries.

    Maybe you can keep us updated on progress with your discussions with the Scottish Labour Party, it’s officials and MSP’s and more importantly, Ian Murray, Scottish labour’s representative in Westminster ? Any progress in influencing them I’m sure would be gratefully appreciated by all in the Independence movement.

  4. Alan Bissett says:

    Fair play to you all. This is welcome, sensible, long overdue and also within a Labour democratic tradition that seems to have been abandoned by the ‘stop independence at any cost’ Britnat diehards that have led the party off the edge of a precipice in Scotland. I’m glad the penny has finally dropped, because there is absolutely no road back for Labour in Scotland if they continue to take the Tory stance of blocking a second independence referendum . They’re already well-tarnished by the fact of them standing side-by-side with the Tories for three years during the first indyref campaign to tell the Scots that we are uniquely incapable among the peoples of the world at running our own country, applauding when the likes of George Osborne were forbidding us use of the pound. And then to see Richard Leonard even deny us the right to make the choice again, despite the vastly changed circumstances since 2014 and a clear mandate?
    If Labour has any future in Scotland it is because clear thinkers like the names above have realised the idiocy and moral bankruptcy of this position.
    Hats off to them. And here’s hoping your leadership listen.

  5. Ollie Bowen says:

    West Suffolk CLP

  6. John Monro says:

    Goodness me. I had wondered for some long time if the Labour Party in Scotland, its people and its principles, had somehow plunged off some cliff in the Highlands like so many lemmings, never to be heard of again (and I live in NZ!)

    At long long last a blast of left wing political polemic from a bowed but not entirely defeated socialist politics in Scotland that will accept the severance of formal ties with UK Labour Party as presently constituted and an acceptance of the worth, and challenge, of an independent Scotland. The SNP can’t do it all on its own, nor should it, it’s not politically or socially healthy, and will breed very quickly political stasis, a feeling of entitlement and eventually a degree of corruption. And in any case, the SNP is progressive with a very small “p” indeed. Scotland desperately needs a socialist party that supports independence, to fight the battles for its traditional supporters, to represent socialist principles and aspirations in a humane and politically well informed citizenry who come with a proud history of such aspirations, and which will become a fixture in an independent Scottish Parliament and a worthwhile opposition or indeed future government for Scotland.

    The present UK Labour Party will then split into a few constituent parts, the English/Welsh part who will have to fight their own battles in a very hostile environment. Having said that, I believe all those Blyth Valley Labour supporters who incredibly stupidly, in my opinion, abandoned the Labour party for the uncharted waters of Brexit and the worthless promises of a rogue and braggart will, after a very short period of time, realise they we conned (even if complicit in their own conning) and return to Labour in droves. In addition Labour as a political entity has wonderful and determined support from a huge majority of worthwhile young people, that relationship needs to be desperately needs to be nurtured beyond all others, as us older less reliable and rather too smug older folk die off in our teeming millions over the next couple of decades.

    The new Labour leadership in London is going to have to let go of Scotland as a branch of its London office, and help the new Scottish Labour party to succeed in any way it can. (Though in the present circumstance, is that a promise or a threat?) And an interesting point about N Ireland from Ray Burnett, though we should admit that at least one well known Labour politician, Jeremy Corbyn ,has long supported the re-unification of Ireland when it becomes appropriate.

  7. Jim Bennett says:

    I presume that the first sentence of the last paragraph means that this is, despite the bluster, a unionist grouping? Or could someone translate for me?

  8. David McGill says:

    Did someone mention socialists? There already is a Socialist party in Scotland and they have supported independence from day one. I’m sure you’d all be very welcome.

    1. John Monro says:

      Thank you – can you tell us a wee bit more?

  9. C Welsh says:

    Abso-bludy-lutely. Big hugs y’a’ xox⭐

  10. Henry Holland says:

    This is a highly welcome step, in tune with the very people in Scotland who the Scottish Labour Party most wants to work with: lower income households/ households with people in insecure employment / people in economically deprived areas: all statistically more likely to vote independence. You people should either demand a guarantee of 2021 independence referendum from UK Labour leadership candidate, or, if this fails, field your own UK candidate on this platform. Living permanently outside UK, I won’t join Scottish Labour. If I lived in UK, this letter would push the balance, and persuade me to join.

  11. Stephan says:

    I worry that by seeking to have Hollyrood directly act against Westminster, they will use that as the excuse to shut it down. It think it would be playing into the Tories hands. Better I think to stick with the legal route, Joanna Cherry has been doing a terrific job so far to date.

  12. Michael Anderson says:

    What powers in devolution are unused?

    1. Jim Bennett says:

      I would suggest the existing powers are underutilised rather than unused. A prime example would be in Land Reform where legislation has been made but is tentative rather than a finalised product.

      1. Dougie Blackwood says:

        Our Scottish Government should tackle the nonsense of our outdated Council Tax and local authority structures.

        We have monolithic local authorities like Argyll & Bute where overpaid officials make the decisions and tell the councillors what can and cannot be done. Decisions are based of consultant reports and most work is contracted out to companies that do half a job then walk away. There are no employed staff left to maintain the exorbitantly priced vanity projects we are left with.

        We need to break up our “Local Authorities” into councils that are really local and return decision making to local people through their councillors. Do away with the highly paid officials and bureaucratic empires to make local government real again.

  13. James Mills says:

    Welcome , friends ! But until we see an equivalent statement and list of signatories from Scottish ( sic ) Labour then we will continue to have a fifth column working against Scotland’s best interests .

  14. Andy Anderson says:

    As an ex-miner, and ex-NUPE official and life-long socialist and member of the Labour movement I am delight at long last to see my trade-union and Labour comrades reject the ridicules connection with the Tories on the anti- independence stance, which has done so much damage to the Labour Movement. However better late than never, An Independent Scotland is now desperately required, and an independent Scotland will need an active and viable Labour Party. So I hope that the Labour party will reject the Tories and reconnect with the Scottish people, demand another referendum and vote for Scottish independence. Then Labour can re-build the party in Scotland and can give support and advice to our comrades elsewhere in the UK, and the wider world.

  15. Alison Norcross says:

    Let’s hope it isn’t too little too late, considering labour’s position in 2014. Welcome to the movement now, if we get to our goal of freedom. Can anything be done about constantly digging up Gordon Brown?

  16. Bill Ledger says:

    I and others are very interested. I have been a Labour activist since 1965. From 1973 -1977 was the Leader of West Sussex County Council. So far the only time that we have achieved this position.
    I am a member of the East Neuk & Landward Branch Labour Party. Ward 19 of the NE Fife CLP. Please add my name to your list of supporters

  17. Arboreal Agenda says:

    I’m wondering – how clear is this statement that they wish to actually support a Yes vote?

    Clearly it is coming out in favour of a second referendum but beyond that I’m not sure how ‘We demand radical self-determination for Scotland’ squares with both ‘Setting aside the arguments for and against independence’ and ‘We refuse to abandon the people of Wales, Northern Ireland and England to Tory rule’. It goes on ‘… even if Scotland chooses to pursue its own road to socialism. We believe that real self-determination can only be achieved through cooperation between movements and across borders’. That sounds a bit like hot air to me (like NS saying how much she ‘cares’ about people suffering in England) – what can really be done electorally by a Labour party in an independent Scotland for people in England, Wales and NI? Precious little really.

  18. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Congratulations on your courage for publishing this letter and appending your names. I welcome you to this side of the debate.

  19. William says:

    Why do i have to sign up to a Google Account in order that i can sign the letter,which i refuse to do,or is there another way i can sign,
    I use Firefox/Safari on a Mac
    Cheers William

  20. Delta says:

    Fabulous nothing like a bit of civil disobee-lets block the streets, dismantle St Andrews House and disrupt the railways. Lets have a sit in in Holyrood with Nicola glued to the preciding officer.

    And do you think this will have any effect on Westminster or that the people of Leeds/Wigan/Bolton or Sheffield will give a stuff? doubt it – it’ll just be the jocks kicking off again about something.

    Meanwhile ordinary folk will have their working lives, education, hospital care disrupted. Just remind me what did les Evenments in 1968 really achieve or even the Gilet’s Jaunes?

  21. Ron Birrell says:

    This letter seems to me to be a typical 1980’s left-wing statement. ‘We demand’, ‘We support’, We call on’ etc. All very good, and it’s a good start. What are they actually going to do? Where and when are they going to hold their initial conference for Labour members to decide a plan of action? How are they going to get the Unions to support independence? Are they planning to hold meetings with every Labour CLP to persuade them to change? A national rally for Labour supporters to highlight their demand for independence? I repeat, it is a good start, but without political action, it is of limited value.

  22. William Nigel says:

    What a hopeless bunch of socialist (so-called) turncoats. ‘Radical democracy’…’radical self-determination’ What trite rubbish. What’s’ radical’ about nicking the sole policy of the SNP. These people want to take along, hard look at what they’re asking for – indyref2. I say, why don’t you just join the SNP and be done with it. Despite December’s set-back, I still believe in a United Kingdom and showing solidarity and fraternity with every ordinary working family on these small islands. II voted No Thanks in 2014 and will continue voting to remain in the UK in any subsequent vote. And because I’m happy with the status quo, I don’t want another divisive referendum – not for a generation, at least. Anyone who wants Indyref2 wants it because they want to vote for independence. Let the politicians play the game of ‘mandate.’ Only they know the rules, which are unwritten.’ For me, a life-long socialist and trade unionist, the Act of Union of 300 years ago gives anyone the right to say and do anything he/she wishes in every small part of the UK. Socialism is supposed to be about pulling down barriers – not erecting them

    1. Wliie L says:

      You are happy with the status quo! So you (as a guid socialist) believe in a United Kingdom where one family rules the roost. They can fly from London to Balmoral ignoring government guide-lines then get preferential treatment from Grampian Health Board. Is that your kind of socialism? Also nuclear weapons based under 30 miles from Glasgow and supported by EVERY unionist political party. Is THAT your kind of socialism? Do you believe in democracy and I’m no talking about British democracy but real democracy. Do you accept that Scotland should always decide her own future or do you subscribe to the belief that England must rule?

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