LABOUR’s relationship with the union movement has frequently been difficult and could become even more so in Scotland because of its stance on a second independence referendum.

Unite has cut its political funding to Sir Keir Starmer’s party, although it still remains affiliated, and the Bakers’ union BFAWU disaffiliated from Labour in September.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) also appears to be uneasy about aligning itself to Labour after a motion was passed at its conference last month urging its national executive committee (NEC) to support the Scottish Government’s “democratic right” to hold indyref2, “as Conference notes it is the democratic right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future”.

The motion went on: “The mandate for this request was reinforced in the Manifesto of the Scottish National Party, who won 48 seats and 45% of the vote in the Westminster 2019 election … the Conservative Party stood on the opposite principle and lost eight Scottish seats in that election.

“Furthermore in the 2021 Scottish elections pro-independence parties won a majority of 72 MSPs and the Conservatives, who campaigned exclusively on ‘No to indy ref’ were soundly defeated.”

The CWU’s Highland branch tabled the motion, and secretary Robbie McIlwraith said he was pleased that it passed: “It’s a turnaround from the 2014 position, which was we recommended a no vote and put out a booklet basically giving the pros and cons, but very heavily weighted towards the no vote, the no arguments. We recommended the no vote so I’m quite pleased.”

James Cassidy, from Trade Unionists for Independence, said this was a “fantastic” example of pro-indy activists taking action within their union: “This is a massive win for the Yes movement and is a real sign that in any future referendum campaign the British Nationalists cannot rely on the broad support of the trade union movement and that there is a real recognition of the benefits of independence within the wider trade union movement.

“At a UK level we are seeing trade unions taking stock of their relationship with the Labour Party and many don't like what they see.

“They see a party which endorsed privatisation and which, in actions if not words, is indistinguishable from the Tories.”

He said Labour had backed Better Together in 2014 without consultation, an act that saw many members “desert the trade union movement in Scotland and which has led to the formation of Trade Unionists for Independence”.

Gary Clark, branch secretary of the CWU’s No2 branch in Scotland, which has around 4000 members, said many people were disgusted by events in Aberdeen, where nine Labour councillors were expelled after taking tier group into coalition with the Tories.

“They had their coalition with the Tories, the enemies of working class people and they’ve been readmitted to the Labour Party while good socialist trade unionists have been expelled.

“I joined the Labour Party in 1985 and it was a different party then. I’ve been active in the labour movement since then.”

He said his union’s NEC had planned to oppose the motion on indyref2, but changed their mind: “On the day of conference, the NEC changed its position to support the motion, which was significant and a result of the pressure they were put under.”

However, he said: “It’s not a pro-independence or anti-independence motion, it’s about the right of self-determination.

“There will be a referendum at some point and once it’s called we have to consult, have proper consultation with our members.”

To make his own position clear, Clark said: “I support independence, but I support a campaign for a socialist Scotland … there’s no point taking the Union Jack down and putting the Saltire up if conditions are going to remain the same.”

Cassidy encouraged people who are not members to join a union to “speed the day when we see the movement backing independence.

He added: “Perhaps even the Labour Party too, which would leave the Tories as the isolated defenders of the Union in Scotland.

“When that point is reached then independence will surely be imminent and we can perhaps finally get on with building the better Scotland we have been dreaming of. The dream will not have died, it will be reality.”