As ever the Scottish Co-operative Party was strongly represented at the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Perth on 30th, 31st October and 1st November.

The fraternal greetings from the Scottish Co-operative Party were given by Ian Miller.  Ian paid tribute to those Co-operative MPs who were not returned at the General Election, Ian Davidson, Mark Lazarowicz, Cathy Jamieson, Tom Greatrex and Gemma Doyle.  The loss of these co-operators from the House of Commons was a blow for our party and our movement.  Ian also thanked those members of the wider labour movement especially in the trade unions who had supported the Co-operative Party in our Keep it Co-op Campaign.  Ian drew attention to the creation of an Armed Forces Credit Union and highlighted the support for it that had been given in the Scottish Parliament by Co-operative MSPs.

Ian expressed the delight of the Scottish Co-operative Party that one of our MSPs Kezia Dugdale was now leading the Scottish Labour Party.

As one of delegates our Political Officer, Richard McCready spoke in the debate against the Trade Union Bill.  Richard pointed out the shared heritage of the trade union and co-operative movements as the industrial and consumer wings of the labour movement.  Co-operatives are about people getting together to organise themselves.  Whether it is workers getting together to form a workers co-operative or consumers getting together to form a retail co-operative. The Scottish Co-operative Party believes that we have an inalienable human right to organise ourselves.  The Trade Union Bill is an attack on that inalienable human right and should be opposed.

On members’ Sunday the Scottish Co-operative Party had submitted a motion promoting co-operative housing.  We were delighted that our motion was amongst those chosen to be composited and selected by conference for debate.  One of our delegates Sandra Macdonald was able to second the composite motion on housing which included a strong commitment to co-operative housing.

Sandra spoke strongly in favour of empowering tenants to meet their own housing needs, by giving them ownership of their own homes and transforming the communities in which they live.  The motion on housing including its strong commitment to the co-operative model was accepted unanimously by conference.

Many other speakers spoke at the conference in favour of co-operative policies and the co-operative model.

The Scottish Co-operative Party held two very successful fringe meetings.  The first ‘Power to the People:  The future of Co-operative Community renewable Energy’ heard from one of our MSPs Claudia Beamish a member of Scottish Labour Shadow Environmental Justice team, Cllr Lesley Hinds our candidate for Edinburgh Northern & Leith in 2016 and the Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, Dr Richard Dixon and was chaired by our own chair Cathy Peattie.

Richard Dixon spoke first and set the context around community renewables and the attacks on them by the UK Government.  He also outlined the important role co-operatives could play in genuine community renewables.  He also praised the work of our members Sarah Boyack MSP and Mark Lazarowicz who he said were responsible for getting the Edinburgh Solar Co-operative, which he now chairs, off the ground.

Claudia Beamish spoke about the need to promote energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty.  She spoke of the need to promote community renewables.  Claudia spoke passionately about the role that co-operatives could play in developing this important sector.

Lesley Hinds spoke about the work of City of Edinburgh Council as a Co-operative Council and how it is making a difference to how they deliver for the people of Edinburgh.  She spoke about how the Edinburgh Solar Co-operative was part of that different approach and how she had been able to deliver this important part of the agenda of the council as a Co-operative Council.

Like our meeting on Community Energy our fringe meeting on ‘Land for the People: A co-operative and mutal agenda for Land Reform’ was packed.  Cathy Peattie again chaired the meeting and it was addressed by the Chair of our MSP Group Johann Lamont MSP and Sarah Boyack MSP Scottish Labour spokesperson on Environmental Justice.  Johann spoke about land reform in the context of justice and equality.  She spoke of her own roots in Tiree and how this motivated her to take land reform seriously, and how Scottish Labour had achieved much on land reform when it was in power but there was now unfinished business.  She also pointed out that the current bill did not fulfil the expectations of the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group.

Sarah Boyack said that the bill must be about promoting the sustainable use of land for the benefit of communities.  Sarah pointed out that SNP members at their conference knew that the Land Reform Bill wasn’t radical enough and said that her team, including Claudia Beamish, would co-operate with others to create radical land reform for Scotland.

The party had a stall at conference and there were a steady stream of delegates there joining the Scottish Co-operative Party and supporting our campaign to create a people’s BBC, which was an issue which many people were concerned about.

As well as our success in the ballot on members’ Sunday we were also pleased to find a co-operative thread woven all the way through the Scottish Policy Forum Document.  Some of the highlights include:

  • A commitment to a democratic economy
  • A review of Co-operative Development Scotland aimed at strengthening it.
  • Promotion of employee-ownership.
  • Consideration of amending planning legislation to promote genuine community co-operative ownership.
  • Promotion of local marketing co-operatives to protect our high streets.
  • Ensuring education on the co-operative model is available at all levels of education from school to university.
  • Support for our People’s ScotRail campaign.
  • Developing co-operative and mutual models for bus services.
  • Support for a variety of co-operatively owned energy models, including local renewable energy co-operatives and mutual bulk buying schemes.
  • Support for the co-operative model in local government, empowering local people.
  • Promoting radical land reform and especially promoting co-operative and mutual models of land ownership.
  • Consideration of ways to promote co-operative and mutual models of wraparound childcare.

The Scottish Co-operative Party looks forward to campaigning for the election of a Scottish Co-operative and Scottish Labour led Scottish Government at the elections in 2016.

For many people the highlight of the conference was the excellent speech by Kezia Dugdale MSP.  Which demonstrated the excellent work which she is doing and her commitment to creating a fairer, better, more co-operative Scotland.