Chair of the Scottish Co-operative Party Mary Lockhart addressed the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Dundee last week with a message underlining the strength of the co-operative movement and the relationship between the two parties. Read her speech below.

Chair, Comrades – thank you for inviting your sister Party, the Scottish Co-operative Party, to address you in this United Nations International Year of Co-operatives.

When a Party is in Government, it rarely has time to look to the future beyond one Parliamentary term. It has to concentrate on governing in accordance with its manifesto, and making the machine of government run as smoothly as possible. In opposition, a Party has to challenge the ruling Party – or parties – and to plan for the next general election. It has to discuss existing problems, and how to resolve them. It rarely has time, or the mechanisms, to discuss and explore ideas for the long term future.

The Co-operative Party is neither a party of government, nor a party of opposition. So while our sister Party has been constrained in opposition to discuss developing a more ethical, more responsible capitalism, the Co-operative Party has been discussing taking capitalist enterprises into public ownership through mutuals and Co-operatives.

Whilst David Cameron has been talking about the “anti-business snobbery” which objects to paying bonuses to the chief executives of loss making publicly owned banks, and looking to sell them off as quickly as possible at a massive loss to the public purse, the Co-operative Party has been campaigning to have those Banks owned by the people, and run in the public interest.

Whilst RBS has continued to make massive losses, The Co-operative Bank has gone from strength to strength, successfully merging with the Britannia Building Society, and currently on the verge of buying 620 Lloyds TSB branches, which will give it a branch network all over Scotland. The Bank consistently wins awards as the most ethical, sustainable bank in the UK, and over the last 10 years has turned away more than 1 billion pounds worth of business from companies which do not meet its stringent ethical standards. It is the only UK High Street Bank which derives absolutely no income from the manufacture and export of arms and armaments, including cluster bombs and depleted uranium shells.

And it is currently making sure that Lloyds TSB will have shed any accounts, however profitable, which Co-op members would ethically dubious before the acquisition is completed.

Comrades, no capitalist business has ever been, or will ever be that responsible, or that ethical.

Whilst other retail business have had to yield to public pressure to force their withdrawal from the abomination of schemes which force unemployed workers to work in their profitable businesses without wages, neither the Co-operative Group nor Scotmid Co-operative Society took part in these exploitative workfare schemes in the first place.

Whilst Alex Salmond has been putting Scotland’s capacity to generate renewable energy on the global market, the Co-operative Party has been campaigning to have both the means of production, and its subsequent distribution, co-operatively owned by the people of Scotland, not the rulers of Qatar.

Whilst the SNP at Holyrood has been taking power and democratic accountability away from local councils, the Co-operative Party has been developing policies and ideas to devolve power, control, ownership and governance to the communities of Scotland – and we welcome the initiative of the Labour Group in Edinburgh to develop a Co-operative Agenda which would give Scotland’s Capital her first Co-operative Council.

Whilst the SNP’s rhetoric at Holyrood falls lamentably short of delivery on Councils they control, throughout Scotland, Labour and Co-operative Party councillors are advancing workable ideas for increasing community, citizen and worker involvement in service provision and delivery, and for avoiding outsourcing and privatisation by the back door.

The Scottish Co-operative Party has established a Councillors’ Network, which allows Co-operative Party Councillors to exchange and develop ideas, plan pilots, and support each other in enhancing local democracy.

But Comrades, the Scottish Co-operative Party would like to engage far more with the whole of the Scottish Labour Movement in developing ideas, providing a forum for discussion, and advancing strategy for the longer term. The Scottish Co-operative Party is for life, not just for elections!

We want to look beyond the Referendum on Independence, to what kind of democratic socialist Scotland we want for future generations, and at how we can plan to make that a reality.

We want to look at how we can ensure that services and resources already owned by the people cannot be privatised at the stroke of a government pen

We want to look how to develop new models for co-operative ownership which would include workers, service users, councils, and government.

We want to look at how to take into full co-operative public ownership businesses which require public subsidy, yet which distribute profits to shareholders.

We want to look at how we can use our existing skills and resources to generate a thriving and sustainable manufacturing sector, with training and secure jobs for all our people

We want to look how to develop schools, colleges, and Universities which are respected and emulated throughout the world.

And we want to help the Scottish Labour Party to develop the strategies and policies which will inspire the people of Scotland with new hope, new challenges, new opportunities, and a new vision for the future which only a Scottish Labour Government can achieve.

Comrades, we in the Scottish Co-operative Party are firm believers in the principle,

“From each according to his/her ability, To each according to his needs”

If you are a Trades Unionist, we need you for your experience of the workplace.

If you are young, we need you for your vision and imagination.

If you are an elected politician, we need you to represent the people.

If you are old, we need you to teach us the lessons you have learned from the recent past.

If you are disabled, we need you to tell us what will make your disability less problematic.

If you don’t believe in co-operatives and mutals, we need you to tell us why……

If you are a free market capitalist…………………………………………………, sorry.

Even the most inclusive of Parties has to draw the line somewhere………

Comrades, if you want to build a better, more equal, more equitable, more ethical, more democratic socialist Scotland, the Scottish Co-operative party needs you, needs your ideas, needs your criticism.

And we believe that if the Scottish Labour Party is to be in a position to deliver a better, more equal, more equitable, more democratic socialist Scotland, it needs, and you need, the ideas and imagination of the Scottish Co-operative Party.