COP26 brought the trade union movement sharply back into the spotlight in Scotland. As with any news cycle though, attention moves on, and while the rats in Glasgow haven’t moved on, their press coverage certainly has.

With the dust settling and with the ability to look at that situation from a new perspective, it now seems that the GMB as a union lost control of what was going on locally and that the activists on the ground were calling the shots; and while Anas Sarwar may have tried to capitalise on the situation, it certainly wasn’t driven by him.

He is apparently as much in touch with the trade unions as his boss Keir Starmer, who must take full responsibility for the announcement from the Unite union that they have officially cut their political funding of the Labour Party. Though still remaining affiliated, this is a clear indication of the massive gulf which now exists between the Labour Party and the 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.

Unite now seek to back the political parties and causes which best serve their members, and this mirrors the action carried out by the RMT in 2004 where they backed the Scottish Socialist Party, an action which led to their complete disaffiliation from the UK Labour Party.

This freedom to choose a path in line with members’ wishes saw the RMT back independence in 2014 after balloting its members, while other unions with strong ties to Labour backed Better Together without consultation.

It was this act which saw many members desert the trade union movement in Scotland and which has led to the formation of Trade Unionists for Independence, who believe that strong trade union representation is vital and that we need to get active in our unions – otherwise we not only lose the rights and protections we have gained, but we hand those organisations to the British nationalists by default.

A fantastic example of action by pro-independence activists within their trade unions is the breaking news that the Communications Workers Union (CWU) – which backed the No campaign in 2014 without consultation with the grass roots membership, and which used their money to support Better Together – has now voted at their annual conference to instruct their National Executive to support both the democratic right of the Scottish Parliament to hold an independence referendum and also the democratic right of the Scottish people to determine their own future.

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.

I would again encourage anyone who is not a trade union member to join one, and to be an active and vocal voice for independence for Scotland within that union. By doing so we will speed the day when we see the trade unions back Scottish independence wholeheartedly – and with that 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.
James Cassidy
Trade Unionists for Independence