Business and unions: the bedfellows bankrolling Scottish Labour

In recent years, Scottish Labour has liked to decry the SNP as the party of big business, pointing an indignant finger at the eye-watering donations from Brian Souter.  They personalise the issue of donors and donations in a way no other party does.

So it’s time to turn the tables.  FACT:  Scottish Labour received more donations from businesses and companies in the run up to the Scottish elections than the SNP did.

One of the biggest was the Co-Op, or to be precise, the Friendly Society that is Scottish Midland Co-operative Society.  Known locally as Scotmid, it exists in local communities all over Edinburgh and the Lothians, these supermarkets service the convenience market and those who are too poor, old or disabled to be able to make it out to a bigger store for their weekly shop.  Nice to know that the extra pennies (the convenience premium) they charge on every pint of milk and loaf of bread sold convert to donations totalling £10,000 for Edinburgh and Lothian CLPs.

Here is the full roll of donors and donations, as recorded by the Electoral Commission:

Peoples Ltd donated travel, presumably cars, to the value of £3,993.66;

Moorpost Ltd gave administrative services worth £3,500 (this may in fact have been take away meals as this is Moorpost’s line of business);

ScottishPower plc provided sponsorship in February 2011 to the tune of £2,937.50;

Chivas Brothers Ltd provided more sponsorship worth £2,850.00 – that will be the whisky company in Jackie Baillie’s constitutency which opposed minimum pricing, saying it threatened jobs;

Thompson solicitors donated £2,500 in February 2011 and a further £7,000 in April – the firm that is supporting John Park MSP to draft a member’s bill on the living wage;

Holland House Property Investment Ltd gave £2,000;

G1 Group plc, owners of the Corinthian Club and Ghillie Dhu and many other clubs and pubs, gave £10,000;

Training Initiatives Ltd, based funnily enough in the same building in which Douglas Alexander MP has his constituency office, donated £2,750;

Aldergate Realities, MGN Ltd, which appear to be based in Nottingham; Oakford Farms Ltd which are located in Essex and GVA Grimley Lt, a property consultancy with its head office in London – all donated £2,000 each.  What was that about folk donating to elections they don’t have a vote in again?

Digby Brown solicitors in Edinburgh gave £2,000;

And lookie here, what’s this?  a donation from a bus group!  The £,2000 from First Group plc is ridiculously small beer compared to Souter’s wads.  But his donations are from his personal wealth, which I do acknowledge was gained from the cut-throat and rather unpleasant world of the de-regulated bus market.  But here is a company which has also benefited from the privatisation of bus and train routes donating profit to Scottish Labour.  It isn’t the first donation either, and they have also received personal ones from its former Chief Executive, “Sir” Moir Lockhead.  Gosh, doesn’t this all sound very familiar?  What’s that you say about people in glass houses?  Quite.

You want another odd one?  Okay, how about £2,400 donated by Law Society of Scotland Services Ltd.  That’s right, the body which purports to “lead and support a successful and respected Scottish legal profession” wanted Labour to win the last election and was prepared to fund it to do so.  I wonder if it consulted all its members before deciding to donate?

ADDENDUM:  Ian Smart, former President of the Law Society points out that it sponsored events for each of the party conferences and as he rightly points out, that should show in their recorded donations – Labour did not get anything different from any of the others is his point.  Yet, the Electoral Commission entry does state that Labour’s was a cash donation, so I have encouraged him to check and follow up with the Commission.

The amounts are pretty trifling, particularly when weighed against the costs of an election campaign, but it is the principle and the actuality that counts.  And according to the donations declared to the Electoral Commission for the first six months of this year, Labour had considerably more financial backers from business than the SNP.

However, it remains the case, that at UK, Scottish and local level, trade unions are still Labour’s biggest financiers.  Indeed, should the unions ever shun, either voluntarily or by changes to the rules, its support for the supposed party of the “working man” (sic),  Labour would be stuffed.  Here’s what different trade unions donated to their comrades in Scottish constituency parties or to the Scottish party generally between January and June 2011:

ASLEF  (train drivers and engineering personnel)  £6,000

Communication Workers’ Union (the posties) £11,000 approx

UNISON (public sector mainly) £16,600

COMMUNITY (manufacturing sector mainly) £27,200 and an additional £4,000 approximately in sponsorship and auction prizes

GMB (mainly manual and lower skilled workers ie the ones who tend to be lowest paid) £114,000 and it also donated £4,348 in staff costs

RMT (rail workers and seamen) £2,000

UCATT (specialist construction workers) £6,000

USDAW (shop workers)  £42, 800

UNITE  (the biggest union in Britain)  £94,500

Transport Salaried Staff Association  £4,000

Ultimately, all of us – businesses, unions and individuals – are free to give our money to causes which we share and deem appropriate.  But it is the hypocrisy and lack of transparency that bothers me.  The audit trail shows quite clearly that Scottish Labour is more beholden to business than the SNP is, but it does not stop the puerile taunting and jeering.

As for the union money?  Well, it’s one reason I opt out, for I don’t believe any union money should go to fund any political party.  But aside from the likes of John Park MSP, who takes his union antecedents with him into the Parliament and focuses on issues that matter to union members like training, skills and the living wage, I think Scotland’s union members might be entitled to question what they get for their bankrolling.  What does Labour do for them that they cannot get from the SNP these days?

Scotland awakens to a watershed political and historical moment

What a night.  Having had no sleep, it is hard to order one’s thoughts but here goes.

First, no attempt here to jump on a bandwagon.  As someone sitting on the outside of the SNP looking in these days, I grumped and moaned and doubted all the way through this election.  Perhaps because I work closely and feel a frustration at the national narrative not turning into delivery on the ground.  And I work with and for so many people who have been promised social justice for generations and have yet to see it happen.  You cannot ignore it and it shapes your view and judgement.

But I was wrong, the SNP was right, they have fought an absolutely wonderful campaign, Alex Salmond and his team have achieved an incredible feat and have not only broken into the Labour heartlands in the central belt but have turned the whole of Scotland sunshine yellow.  Amazing, quite amazing.  Salmond deserves his victory and is spot on in claiming the SNP to finally be the national party of Scotland.  His team deserve this victory and huge congratulations to them all.  In particular, I am delighted to see MSPs like Sandra White, Maureen Watt and Adam Ingram rewarded with constituencies of their own.

A lesson learned then.  Believe and don’t doubt.  Something for the burd to think about.

But if I’ve got some pondering to do, it is nothing as to the root and branch review that Labour now has to undertake.  The defence line that was trotted early in the evening that this was a Lib Dem collapse that then coalesced around the SNP was remarkable in the scale of its denial.  Former minister and Labour big hitter after another fell as the dominoes began to topple.  And still the team that had failed to create a coherent, positive national campaign continued to ignore reality.  Until John Park turned up on STV.

Yes he shares the blame, as campaign co-ordinator, he must do.  But his role was to deliver the organisation on the ground and he did.  What failed was the lack of vision, positivity, the lack of an air war.  And when it was time to hold the hands up, John Park did.  The first to say we failed, this is a bad night, and Labour is going to have to do some long hard thinking in the months ahead.  Good for him.  A little honesty goes a long way.

The Labour group that goes into Holyrood on Monday is almost totally unrecognisable.  Who’d a thunk it?  And they must use this opportunity to rethink how they engage with the Scottish people and consider their values, and how they provide an alternative to a triumphant SNP.  They need to totally re-evaluate who they are and about time too.

Not only them of course. The Lib Dems are finished as they are.  Tavish must go and the rumours that he is positioning himself as the next Presiding Officer are astonishingly arrogant.  Who is Tavish kidding?

Moreover, the Tories have lost seats – not only to the SNP (Edinburgh Pentlands!) but also to Labour who against all the odds, held Eastwood.  Annabel, your time is up, time to ship out.

The count continues today.  As James Mitchell – part of the STV team which provided outstanding overnight coverage – pointed out, they finished at 5am with 46% of the vote and the SNP’s heartlands have still to declare.  The early list results suggest the numbers will keep on stacking up all day.  The SNP is on course for an absolute majority.  Wow.

It has been truly wonderful to watch through the night, old pals and new faces being elected to Scotland’s Parliament.  There are many fine people going to Holyrood.  And interestingly, from my perspective anyway, the SNP group will have quite a different shape and flavour to it.  More women (including my old boss Fiona McLeod, a real champion for children, back with her own constituency in Strathkelvin and Bearsden), more people from what used to be seen as the left of the party, Holyrood’s first visually impaired MSP in Dennis Robertson, a long time disability campaigner.  And of course, a fine replacement to Bashir Ahmad in Humza Yousaf, who has so much more to offer Scotland than the fact that he is from the BEM community.

Expect more focus on social policy and social justice.  That in my book can only be a very good thing.

But 5 May belongs to the victors.  And also to all those who helped make this astonishing seismic shift possible.

A hat tip, then, to the backroom staff – the men and women who have worked tirelessly for the SNP for many, many years.  Long hours, pittance pay, for the love of country and cause.  Peter Murrell, Ian McCann, Kevin Pringle, Trudi Logan, Alison Hunter, Beverley Murray, Irene White, the late wonderful Joan Knott, Lorraine Reid, and Stephen Noon who developed and produced the manifesto.  And as Alex Salmond himself pointed out, people like his longstanding election agent Stuart Pratt.  A man who has worked all his life for a day like this.  None of them seeking the limelight particularly, all of them doing it for others.

(an update – as soon as I had done this, I started remembering all the folk who I hadn’t mentioned.  Not just Allison, her daughter Mhairi, and Claire Bennett, another HQ stalwart.  And others like John Fellows who was at Westminster, John McInnes in the Scottish Parliament office and then in Alex Salmond’s team, the younger turks like Geoff Aberdein, Ross Ingrebrigsten – the boys in suits who work ridiculous hours and whose speciality is blending into the background! I’ll still have forgotten some who deserve a mention, if you think of any add them in the comments thread…)

And of course, this day is the realisation of a dream, for all the Nationalists who spent their lives working for a day like this but did not live to see it.  It was a wee tweet that caused the burd to totally fold into a sobbing mess, from an old hand from Cumbernauld who was there when the seat was East Dunbartonshire and it was taken first in 1974 by Margaret Bain, as she was then.

Margaret was my godmother, and is still often in mine and my family’s thoughts.  A wonderful, compassionate, intelligent woman and politician.  Who like many lived and breathed the see-saw SNP years but never gave up.  The old guard in Cumbernauld were delighted not only to take the seat, but to take it back, for Margaret.

A day like this belongs more than anyone else, to her, to all the others – Alan Todd, Allan McCartney, Neil McCormick, Billy Wolfe, Danny Coffey, and so many more.  Who worked, and dreamed, and who never stopped believing.  That a day like this was possible.  That Scotland would shift.  That the Labour heartlands would fall.  That Scotland would vote for hope over fear.

Our politics have changed forever.  Make no mistake, this is a watershed moment for Scotland.

The Big Count: bellweathers, seats to watch and wildcards

Because it’s all going to take a while to get going tonight – earliest results predicted for around 2am – the burd, ever thoughtful has provided a couple of posts to while away the hours.  This one – a joint one no less – from me and Graeme Downie.  Graeme is even more of an election junkie than the burd, and that is saying something.

This is the quick version, simply listing our bellweathers:  the results that will tell us which way the electoral winds are blowing;  the seats to watch:  those that have been target marginals and will provide the night’s excitement;  and the wildcards – the ones that if they happen will provide us with our 2011 Portillo moments.

Of course, the situation is complicated somewhat by the likes of Fife, Clackmannanshire and Stirling and others not starting to count until Friday morning.  So we won’t have a complete picture until teatime tomorrow.  Yep it’s a marathon not a sprint…

For anyone staying the course, I will be live blogging along with the other Better Nation team members through the night.  Please do join us!

Coming up shortly, is Graeme’s detailed analysis, outlining why and how and whom these seats he predicts will fall to.  Well worth treating as a compendium companion and dipping in and out of.

Our bellweathers:

Graeme’s are – Cumbernauld and Kilsyth;  Dundee City East;  Glasgow Kelvin;  North East Fife; Perthshire South; Edinburgh Western; Glasgow Southside; Cunningham North;

The Burdz are – East Kilbride (likely to be one of first to declare, will give us an idea of swings going on between Labour and the SNP);  Orkney (another early declaration and will tell us just how low the Lib Dem vote is likely to go);  Almond Valley (Labour’s number one target seat in terms of swing required, will tell us how close their challenge is likely to be);  Glasgow Pollok (these are the kind of seats where Labour normally weighs its vote but how far can the SNP close the gap?);  Perthshire South (this is the kind of seat the SNP should hold comfortably but by how big a margin?)

Our seats to watch:

Graeme’s are:  Eastwood;  Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley;  Galloway and West Dumfries;  Dumfriesshire;  Linlithgow;  Midlothian South;  Edinburgh Southern;  Edinburgh Central;  Edinburgh Eastern;  Almond Valley;  Dunfermline;  Stirling;  Aberdeen South and North Kincardine;  Caithness, Sutherland and Ross; Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch;  Western Isles;  Argyll and Bute;  Airdrie & Shotts; Aberdeen Central;  Clydesdale;  Clackmannanshire and Dunblane;  Dumbarton

The Burdz are: Glasgow Southside;  Cunningham North;  Eastwood;  Renfrewshire North;  Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley; Galloway and West Dumfries; Dumfriesshire ; Midlothian South; Edinburgh Southern; Edinburgh Central; Dunfermline; Stirling; Dundee City West;  Aberdeen south and North Kincardine; Caithness, Sutherland and Ross; Argyll and Bute; Airdrie and Shotts;  Falkirk East;  Linlithgow; Aberdeen Central

Graeme’s wildcard – Shetland

The Burdz – Edinburgh Western