Exclusive: Scottish Young Labour slam “disastrous” and “untrue” Sadiq Khan Scottish nationalism statements

Official party youth group kick-back against “overall political direction” after Scottish Labour Conference

SCOTTISH YOUNG LABOUR (SYL), the official youth group of the Scottish Labour party have kicked back at accusations by London Mayor Sadiq Khan that Scottish nationalism is a movement akin to racism.

In a wide ranging statement that criticised Scottish Labour’s conference and “overall political direction” SYL said the party appeared to have “given up” on winning back supporters lost after the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. The statement claims this and other faults are the cause of Scottish Labour’s worsening electoral position in Scotland.

The statement, seen by CommonSpace before its launch, reads: “Scottish Young Labour welcomes the commitment to a federal UK. This takes the constitutional debate towards empowering workers and away from the blind alley of reconfiguring a centuries-old treaty.

“The intervention by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was disastrous with his linking of far-right racism and hundreds of thousands of progressive voters in Scotland.” Scottish Young Labour

“However, we would like to express our fundamental disappointment with the overall political direction that emerged over the course of Scottish Labour Conference. With the Scottish Labour Party increasingly close to hitting single figures in the polls, we believed that conference offered the opportunity for a bold, radical and socialist alternative to be outlined against both Nationalism and Unionism. Sadly, the reality which unfolded betrayed that belief.

“Scottish Labour appears to have given up on winning back hundreds of thousands of its former voters who voted ‘Yes’ and now support the SNP. There is little other explanation for why the party leadership believes tacking to a more hardline unionist position will help reverse our electoral fortunes. The intervention by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was disastrous with his linking of far-right racism and hundreds of thousands of progressive voters in Scotland.

“We believe that such language is not only unhelpful to Scottish Labour, but is simply untrue in regards to Scottish nationalism. Scottish nationalism seeks to divide working-class people based on national borders, while the far-right seek to actively attack minorities within any given society. Although this approach went down well with some delegates in the hall, it simply reinforced our decline in the wider country.

“Scottish Labour appears to have given up on winning back hundreds of thousands of its former voters who voted ‘Yes’ and now support the SNP. There is little other explanation for why the party leadership believes tacking to a more hardline unionist position will help reverse our electoral fortunes.”

“An online petition against a second independence referendum is not going to cut it, especially when Scottish Labour is languishing at 9 per cent in the polls amongst young people aged 16-24. A whole generation of young people have abandoned our party with no alternative on offer to win their support. The new Scottish Young Labour committee has made it clear that our main priority would be to rebuild support amongst this generation.”

Besides criticising the party for its constitutional vision, the statement also attacks the party for failing to be more radical in its resistance to austerity measures.

It reads: “While the party has little to say about the savage cuts in further education, SYL will be there organising and mobilising college students on campuses across Scotland to fight back. While the party pays lip service to the idea of trade unions, we’ll be launching our priority campaign to organise alongside young and migrant workers within their workplaces. Even if the party shies away from issues like insecure employment, crippling student debts and increasing rents, SYL will tackle them directly and will be actively working throughout the year to fight alongside and represent those young people directly affected. We’re clear in our purpose to be an active and socialist youth wing in the struggles ongoing across Scotland. We will stand up, not stand by even if Scottish Labour is sadly choosing to do the latter with its ever increasing focus on constitutional politics, rather than on the real issues of class in Scotland.”

“While the party has little to say about the savage cuts in further education, SYL will be there organising and mobilising college students on campuses across Scotland to fight back. While the party pays lip service to the idea of trade unions, we’ll be launching our priority campaign to organise alongside young and migrant workers within their workplaces.”

The Scottish Labour conference in Perth (24-26 February) saw the party adopt a policy of establishing a people’s constitutional convention to debate the creation of a federal UK.

At the conference, Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said such a convention could decide on campaigning for a written constitution, new forms of devolved power including a “council of the north”, and repatriation of powers from Brussels to the Scottish Parliament after Brexit.

Scottish party leader Kezia Dugdale called the adoption of the policy “historic”. However, much of the discussion around the conference was dominated by remarks made by Khan, who intervened in the conference to liken the Scottish independence movements to rightwing populist forces around the world such as UKIP and US President Donald Trump.

Responding to the statement, a Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Scottish Labour is the only party that is standing-up to SNP austerity.

The SYL statement is another instance of the worsening relations between rival factions in the party.

“The Nationalist/Green budget stitch-up will cut £170m from valued local services. Labour in contrast would ask the richest one per cent in society to pay a 50p top-rate to invest in education.

“We also announced at conference our plan to use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to top-up child benefit. Our plan would see hard-pressed families £240 a year better off by 2021.

“Like the majority of Scots, Scottish Labour opposes a divisive second referendum on independence and believes that together we’re stronger.”

The SYL statement is another instance of the worsening relations between rival factions in the party. The leftwing faction loyal to UK leader Jeremy Corbyn recently took control of SYL and increased its seats on the Scottish party’s leading executive committee.

Further Reading: London Mayor u-turns over likening pro-independence Scots to Trump racists

Further Reading: Federalism: A fix for Scotland and the UK in crisis, or something more?

Picture courtesy of Richard_Gough

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