What’s Left? – 23 February 2023


The SNP Leadership contest has opened up the debate on what’s “Left”? Kate Forbes and Ash Regan have been attacked for their views on the transgender debate and the former on her views on same sex marriage and abortion. They’re important issues but they’re conscience issues rather than the defining issues for being a radical or even a socialist.

Some spouting the bile against these two ladies have been orchestrating a climate of fear within the SNP. Joining in the clamour are the Greens who want a veto on who can lead the SNP and become First Minister. Given the mess they’ve caused it’s risible.

But the idea that these critics speak from of for the left’s wrong. As Jimmy Reid once commented Scottish socialism’s history’s always had more to do with “morality” than “Marxism”. In the early days an archetypal Scottish radical was defined as a “dissenting weaver”. Their English or Welsh colleague a “methodist” one. That changed as the industrial revolution took over and shipyards and mines became the powerhouse for socialism, as well as the economy.

But the values of many of the leaders never changed. Those dissenting radicals from Thomas Muir’s day, many of when were in secessionist churches, became the Red Clydesiders. Of the latter, two Stephen and Barr were United Free Ministers. Kirkwood was an elder in that Kirk, just as John Wheatley and so many other were pillars of the Catholic Church. In England the doyen of fledgling socialism was Tom Mann who at one stage considered another calling. Temperance was another issue to the fore, as was espoused by Willie Gallagher before he became a communist and a teetotaler he remained.  

Societal changes have come about and are welcome. No one’s suggesting proscribing same sex marriage or outlawing abortion. But holding personal views on them’s perfectly legitimate in a democracy. Similarly, arguing for sex-based rights isn’t a right-wing narrative but supportive of long held women’s rights.

Scottish radicalism was founded upon tackling land ownership, addressing poverty and reducing income inequality. That’s what Scotland needs and want’s not the PC brigade who espouse their social agenda, berate those who aren’t equally zealot or simply disagree with them on conscience grounds, yet ignore class and income inequality.