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Voices of Scotland With an industrial strategy for Scotland, Leonard's Labour is taking the lead

IT IS a wonderful thing to hear so much talk of industrial strategy. Over the last 20 years even in the labour movement only a few on the fringes of the party were bold enough to push for a strategy beyond that of the free market.

For the last 40 years those in positions of power have been sold on the private sector. They have dismantled our public services, sold off and ignored important work bases and even encouraged deliberate managed decline of mass industries.

For decades the Tories argued the best way to secure economic success was to leave the market to its own devices.

We now know, and the reality is that we have known for many years, that this results in massive inequalities, corrosive levels of unemployment, it promotes insecure work, low-paid jobs and workplaces that contribute little to surrounding communities.

In comparison the stable industrial employment of the past resulted in strong unionised workforces who could improve terms and conditions of employment and help communities fight for their rights.

These developments were hard-won but history continued to spur workers to keep fighting.

In my community, all this has been systematically eliminated in my lifetime. Folk in Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley were shocked to their very roots by the strategy of the Thatcher government.

Thatcher didn’t just shut down the mines, she destroyed the surrounding communities and the lasting effects of that are still to be felt.

Of course the communities still blame Thatcher but also recognise that successive governments have not done enough to address the aftermath of her destructive policies in the decades since.

But the purpose of this article is not to dwell on the past — it is to say let us seize upon the reinvigorated debate on industrial strategy and take this opportunity to make it work for the people who need it most.

We can argue about the various failures and shortcomings of previous governments but I think most people want to know what can be done to ensure better opportunities for people and who can be trusted to deliver on this.

Put simply, people want decent jobs, good transport links and access to lifelong education — and they want to ensure that these opportunities are available to everyone.

When I campaign in my area it is clear that people want decent work with prospects and opportunities, they want something to be proud of and something for young people.  

Over many years, I have campaigned in former mining communities, talking to people about how to bring work back into the area. These conversations always focus around the need for fundamental change in the way we run our economy, with more power transferred from central government to local communities.

Now after many, many such conversations there is something with substance on the table: Richard Leonard and the Scottish Labour Party’s industrial strategy.

Scottish Labour’s industrial strategy is rooted in the view that the government should not just preside over the macroeconomy, it should proactively target industrial and fiscal policies at a regional and local level to promote sustained investment, fostering innovation and the development of secure, high-quality jobs.

New industries around climate change, sustainability and automation offer opportunities to develop a highly skilled 21st-century workforce and the Scottish Labour Party paper acknowledges the need to transform these industries to maximise their contribution to our communities.

Labour has taken the lead on an investment bank and made clear commitments on procurement and the ethical use of government money to ensure quality jobs, a living wage, improved terms and conditions and apprenticeships.

There is no doubt that the Scottish Labour Party vision is bold and transformative in its nature and central to its ethos is the notion that the industrial strategy must not only transfer finance and wealth, it must transfer power.

My enthusiasm for the strategy is strengthened by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. His commitment to workers is second to none and he has a lifetime of commitment to this.

I have heard Richard speak many times and he never finishes a speech without reminding us that the Labour Party is a party of labour not of capital and that through our hard work and endeavour working-class people create the wealth and should share in it.

It is not me who needs to be persuaded that Richard and the Scottish Labour Party can deliver on this important change but it is me and people like me who have to deliver the message to the doorstep and so it is essential that I make my fundamental point understood.

An industrial strategy is a critically important document but it is only transformative if it is implemented. We need to speak to people about the strategy in a way that is meaningful, step away from economic jargon and step into the world of paying the bills, running a home, finding childcare, looking after family members.

Scottish Labour must now talk about bringing work to the local area, about wages, nationalisation and workers coming together through collective ownership. We must talk about public money being spent on quality services staffed by well-paid workers with good terms and conditions .

When challenging Richard Leonard to deliver for working-class people it would be remiss of me not to mention Keir Hardie.

Richard knows that when travelling Keir Hardie always kept his watch on Cumnock time to keep him close to his family back home. If the Labour Party can look at the industrial strategy through the lens of Cumnock and similar working-class areas and communicate its message in language that resonates with those that make up these communities then we really can start to transform the social, economic and political landscape. 

Cumnock time is still worth watching.

Carol Mochan was a Labour candidate in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections and 2017 general elections. She supported both Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard in their leadership campaigns.

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