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New Labour group is committed to Scotland

Like many children of the 1980s, I was brought up in a fiercely Labour household.

Living in Dundee, against the backdrop of a seemingly never-ending Conservative government, the atmosphere was ripe for political unrest.

So why have I, a man with Labour in his blood, apparently turned away from the party to form what is seen as a breakaway group? Labour For Independence held its first conference a few days ago in Glasgow, attended by 100 enthusiastic supporters. So this is my political journey.

My earliest political memory was when I was eight, distributing fliers at the 1992 General Election, only to wake up to five more years of a Tory government, one that neither my family, nor most people in Scotland, voted for.

Like many, I watched excitedly in 1997 as Labour achieved a landslide victory. Unfortunately, it seemed that in the long wait to govern, a new Labour party had emerged. While there were positives – minimum wage, child tax credits – the 13 years of government were a regular disappointment. The most shocking fact was the continuing disparity between rich and poor.

During that time, I went to university to study politics and joined the party. I was proud to see a Labour-led coalition at Holyrood move closer to real values on tuition fees and elderly care. Politics was a regular topic of discussion and debates with friends, some of whom were SNP members. Often the only thing we agreed on was the need for Scottish independence.

In my final year, at an independence debate, I tackled a Labour representative about supporting independence while being a party supporter. Shockingly, he said if I wanted independence then I should vote SNP, a line repeated often by senior Labour members. But I could never see conflict between independence for the betterment of the people of Scotland and supporting a party long held to be the "voice of Scotland".

I went to South Korea to work as an English teacher. It was during these four years that my sense of Scottishness kicked in, learning to embrace our culture, uniqueness and history. From overseas, I watched the 2010 General Election unfold. Once again, Britain had voted the Conservatives in, and again the people of Scotland had not. I vowed that when I went home, I would fight to restore Labour to the party that once was the voice of Scotland. But I found a party in disarray. The only Labour leaflet to come through our door landed two days after the election.

Independence always seemed an obvious choice for me, especially when considering how effective Scottish governments have been within the scope of their limited powers. Independence would lead to full control of Scottish resources which reflect people's wishes.

I was saddened to hear of Labour's decision to join the No campaign, particularly because it was not discussed or approved by members. It was less of a surprise, given the same small group of Labour "high heidyins" who made the decision also chose to shift further from real values on healthcare and education, citing a "something-for-nothing society" in Scotland.

When I started Labour For Independence, it was to give a voice to party voters, supporters and members who shared my belief in independence, and to convince the undecided and debate with Labour members on the other side of the argument.

Currently, the Scottish Labour Party has policies and beliefs dictated by the Westminster Labour group – policies aimed at re-election in Westminster by targeting key areas for victory, namely Middle England and London. But these policies neither reflect nor respond to the core issues affecting Scotland.

Ideologically, Scotland places greater value on education, protection of the elderly and healthcare, proud in our belief that these are free at point of service. At the Labour For Independence conference it was a joy to hear real Labour values aired by people like Dennis Canavan and Tommy Brennan, who have never lost their passion or their convictions. We want to see the party return to traditional Labour policies, reflective of the people of Scotland.

Rosemary Goring is away.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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