Labour for independence? Really?

Labour for independence? Really?

by Euan McColm
article from Wednesday 31, July, 2013

ONE of the more interesting – and surprising developments – in the referendum campaign has been the emergence of a group called Labour for Independence.

This organisation claims to be “campaigning within the Labour Party and throughout Scotland, making the case for the benefits that independence will bring”.

Labour for Independence dresses itself in the party’s red – replacing the rose with a thistle - and its leader, Allan Grogan, is a card-carrying member.

The organisation has grown in profile, receiving press and television coverage, most recently for a conference last weekend at which members backed a trident ban.

Voters are entitled - positively encouraged – to believe that Labour for Independence represents a growing movement with the Labour Party in support of Scottish Independence.

On this page is a photograph of five people posing proudly in front of a banner.

In the centre is Alex Bell, chairman of Labour for Independence. Bell is a member of the Labour Party.

The other four? Spot them all – wearing SNP rosettes – in those other photos.

The chunky fellow to the far right at that Labour for Independence stall is Councillor Douglas Reid, the SNP leader of East Ayrshire Council.

Eighty per cent of those rallying round the Labour for Independence banner in that photo, circulated by the group itself, are supporters of the SNP.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop Yes Scotland campaigners and Labour for Independence members – or a lone member – posing for a happy photograph, together, but why else would Labour for Independence circulate it if not to give the impression that it enjoys wider support? The group is using SNP members to publicise itself, to give the impression it’s running a vibrant campaign.

What about the bright young chap clutching a bundle of Labour for Independence leaflets in that other photograph below, taken in Glasgow last week?


He’s Greg Hepburn, Director of Communications and Events of Young Scots for Independence, the youth wing of the SNP.

Hepburn explained to me that a friend asked him to hold the leaflets and pose. When the photograph appeared online, Hepburn commented “leafletting (sic) like a boss”.

There are similar reports of SNP members in other areas of the country turning out in support of Labour for Independence.

Working “within the Labour Party”?

Last weekend’s Labour for Independence conference could be attended by anyone who chose to join.

Thus, prominent independence campaigner Pat Kane - avowedly a member of no party, but a man with little affection for the present day Labour Party – became a member of Labour for Independence.

Shona McAlpine – office manager to the rising SNP star, Humza Yousaf, Minister for External Affairs and International Development – also participated.

McAlpine, a former Secretary of the SNP’s Glasgow Regional Association, tweeted: “I am in no way an SNP member/supporter, Nor a member of @labourforindy ... Just a free spirit representing @WomenForIndy :)”

Ah, yes, some might argue, but we’re interested in Labour’s traditional values or some such. But that would be disingenuous. This is Labour for Independence, not Sympathisers with Labour’s traditional values for Independence. And, anyway, that group already exists in the form of the left-wing of the SNP.

We struggle to find any credible supporters for Labour for Independence from within the membership of the Scottish Labour Party.

In fact, those who have encouraged the group have had a vested interest in the story that a growing number of Labour supporters actively support Scottish independence.

There were no key Labour party figures at the group’s launch last year, though it was addressed by Dennis Canavan and Blair Jenkins of the Yes Scotland campaign.

Why wouldn’t they? The Labour for Independence story helps. Even if it’s not true.

I hoped to speak with Allan Grogan about the Labour for Independence group. He asked me to submit questions by email.

I wanted to know how many members Labour for Independence has and how many of them are card carrying members of the Labour Party.

I was also keen to learn when Grogan had joined the Labour Party and, if he had joined on more than one occasion, when he had most recently done so.

Grogan explained that he joined in December 2010, though he remains a little known figure among party activists in his home patch of Angus.

In an illuminating little moment, during an online “debate” with Labour MP Tom Harris, Grogan, tweeting from the Labour for Independence account, wrote: “So those in your party who disagree with you and leadership must be Nats there is no other alternative?”

Harris replied: “Odd that you say "your" party, not "our" party...”

Grogan also tweeted: “To clear something up, said many times. We are for Labour members/ex members supporters/ex supporters and hopefully supporters yet to come.”

So, people for independence, then?

A real Labour for Independence group would be a fascinating addition to the referendum campaign, though its existence would represent a huge political improbability.

There are Labour Party supporters – even members – who also back Scottish independence. Polls have put the numbers at anything from one-in-ten to one-in-eight.

But independence is not central to their political ideology in the way it is to nationalists. If it was, they’d be in the SNP.

Labour for Independence has been good value for the SNP. It has – for a while at least  helped created the impression that even among the nationalists’ fiercest rivals there –are those who share their mission.

Usefully for the SNP, the group is difficult for Labour to criticise: we can already hear the accusations of control-freakery that would follow.

Voters who believe Grogan and his acolytes represents a real movement for independence within Labour ranks are being conned. From the people in its publicity shots to the activists leafleting “like a boss”, Labour for Independence is kept alive by Scottish nationalists. The impression of momentum is down to the involvement of people such as an SNP Minister’s bag carrier, and the support of senior Yes Scotland officials.

Labour for Independence is a sham, a tawdry little con in which some of the party’s most bitter rivals are complicit.

Headline Picture: ThinkScotland does not have rights to the individual photographs shown but was provided with a composite which we decided to publish in the public interest.


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User Comments

The author has removed all context, which clearly showed and referenced the fact that the photo showed Labour For Independence besides YES EAST AYRSHIRE. The photographer also tweeted that information at the time, and another photo on the time line showed the front of the stall, revealling it to be a YES SCOTLAND stall. This article stems from a deception practiced on the readership. Not that I expect any contrition from the author, who seems to have had this as his intent all along

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Robert Blake
You use a Better Together doctored photograph to make a specious arguement. Your reputation for truth and accuracy has been shredded.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Max
This kinda puts paid to his 'scare' story. In fact I think it makes him look a fool.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Ged Mitchell
I look forward to seeing you in the dole queue, Euan. Here's the pic BEFORE you cropped the caption. Reads a little differently, don't you think?

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by ThereWasACoo
Good article Euan in exposing this fraud.When Nat Councillors have to pretend to be Labour supporters they've lost the arguement big time.This organisation is no more than 2 men and a dug - Grogan & Bell on an ego trip no more.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by David Smeall
Pretty desperate stuff from the Cybernats. We can't find supporters in the LP so let's invent some. "Labour" is a brand, and the word and symbol are surely protected?

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Matt
Is it any wonder that disillusioned Labour supporters such as myself would seek an organisation or group claiming a return to traditional Labour values. Where has the Labour party been in opposition at a time when we have food banks in our cities, the mentally ill wandering the streets due to homlessness and hard up OAP's facing eviction due to the hated bedroom tax. The fact that the the current Labour leadership refuse to fight these draconian policies is the reason I will vote YES in 2014 and seek to change this corrupt system we are forced to live under. Lifelong Labour supporter no more, stop taking people for granted.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Alex Clark
Doug Daniel, with that beard of yours I would imagine it would be obvious to everyone that you weren't a women, thus if you were handing out Women for Indy leaflets your position would be obvious. On the other hand, SNP members supporting LFI without making their credentials obvious is simply a sham, end of. The other hair splitting arguments on here are along the same lines, and a thinly veiled threat of violence hardly helps refute the claims of misrepresentation. Let's see, an SNP member with an insubstantial history sets up an organisation called SNP for the Union, and poses for photos with Tories whose party credentials aren't made clear. Sounds very dodgy to me! Mind you, with Alex 'Five unions & pensions' Salmond now to an extent the nationalist corollary of Allan Grogan, it clearly works both ways!

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Stuart Winton
So some SNP members wearing their Yes Scotland hats hand out some leaflets for a fellow independence-supporting group? Big deal. I'm not a woman - does that mean I can't hand out Women For Independence leaflets? I'm not an official member of the Scottish CND - does that mean I can't hand out their leaflets? I'm not from Dundee - does that mean I can't hand out Yes Dundee leaflets? Etc etc ad nauseum ad infinitum. Meanwhile, Better Together have been known to advertise for paid "volunteers". Have you checked they've all signed up to the Better Together campaign? Do we know if the people handing us Better Together leaflets even support the union? I've got a story for you Euan. It's about a supposedly neutral journalist who gets found out doing the dirty work for a political party. They're incensed at a small group of their membership campaigning against unofficial party policy and desperately want them to go away, claiming at all times that the group doesn't contain genuine party members. Step forward our plucky hack, who does a hatchet job on the group and then declares their demise. Ach, actually, you probably wouldn't be interested.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Doug Daniel
The original caption of that photo is "Lab4indy in Killie today campaigning alongside Yes East Ayrshire" Proof:

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Alistair Davidson
Euan, we discussed this (shortly) on Twitter. A mountain of crap out of a dangleberry. I am not a member of Labour for Independence but have looked at their website and looked at their aims and objectives. No one who is a member of another Political Party other than Labour can join. It is open to all Labour voters OR Labour Members. The photo's shown mean nothing. YES Campaigners often support the individual Groups within YES. So, no surprise to see the same people in different photos with different Party colours. This must have cost you a few hours of your life. I hope you think it is worth it. BTW Alan Grogan is a wrestler. We might find you somewhere tied in a knot after the abuse you have hurled at him. Question for all. Can a Labour Party Member not have their own thoughts on the Independent issue? Does all Card carrying Members have to do and think as they are told? The stifling of debate on this subject within the Scottish Labour Party is damaging and I can see more Party Members joining Labour for Independence after this free publicity you have given them.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Dennis Webster
"Voters who believe Grogan and his acolytes represents a real movement for independence within Labour ranks are being conned." Shame. I was hoping it meant there were some genuinely left wing people in the Labour party who want what's best for Scotland rather than Westminster, want rid of Trident, support the Commonweal ideals put forward by the Jimmy Reid foundation and were working for a more democratic Scotland where people can become involved. That's a Labour party I'd be more than happy to return to. Sad to hear that's not true at all and in reality, "Scottish" Labour really is as bad as its leadership makes it seem. I'll stick with the growing number of people who've defected to the SNP then. Thanks for the heads up.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Cath
"I wanted to know how many members Labour for Independence has and how many of them are card carrying members of the Labour Party." I want to know how many members the Labour party in Scotland has funnily enough , it's a secret.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Angus McPhee
"The Labour Party" does not own the word labour, it represents those who work for a living. Therefore anyone has the right to "campaign within Labour" for independence, even within the Labour Party. You are playing with words as much as they are. Pox on both your houses.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by John
"Labour for Independence is kept alive by Scottish nationalists" or, in other words, Labour for Independence is kept alive by people who support independence? Well, obviously. Of the people who will vote for independence, many are or were - and hope to be again - Labour supporters. I think it's that demographic they seek to attract, and represent. Not just current Labour members, which would frankly be pointless. If representing the real political instincts of many in the independence movement who would prefer a real Labour party in an independent Scotland is "a tawdry little con", I hate to think how you would describe Labour's stance on almost every substantive issue facing Scotland today, from the Bedroom Tax to Trident. They aren't Labour at all, they are Tory-lite. Now that's a con.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Iain
You state "prominent independence campaigner Pat Kane - avowedly a member of no party, but a man with little affection for the present day Labour Party – became a member of Labour for Independence." Pat Kane's own website boasts that he was the SNP candidate for the rectorship of Glasgow University in 1990. So he's a Nat for independence.....

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Alex Gallagher
An interesting story. But it should really have been two stories. There's a story about SNP apparatchiks showing up in Labour for Indy guise. Trivial? Perhaps, but it fails the smell test. They should know better and those involved have displayed very poor judgement. The other story seems to be more about whether organisations like "Labour for Indy" (and perhaps we could add "Conservative Friends of the Union" and others) should even exist, unless they are headed up by members of the party apparat. In a world where "Scottish Labour" can appear on ballot papers, the answer is clearly "yes". You can call your campaign group pretty much whatever you like. It might be best to pick an appropriate name - so "Labour for Indy" would be good if you want to attract Labour-minded people, while "Conservative Friends of the Union" might work if you want Conservative-minded ones - but apart from that the world would seem to be your oyster. So should we expect to see "Jedi Knights for Undecidedness" and "SNP Vote No" soon? I don't see why not. And doesn't everyone claim to want people more involved in politics?

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Angus McLellan "It’s not just for our members, our activists, our voters. It’s for anyone in Scotland who wants to help the cause." Ruth Davidson, home page, Conservative Friends of the Union

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Tom Hogg
Feeling rattled, are we, Euan?

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Graeme
"There are Labour Party supporters – even members – who also back Scottish independence. Polls have put the numbers at anything from one-in-ten to one-in-eight." Actually polls (including Ipsos-MORI) put it as high as one in five.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Dr Alan McCowan
The bilious desperation with which British Labour rent-a-hacks like Euan McColm rail against Labour for Independence is evidence enough of the group's significance and effectiveness.

Posted on Wednesday 31, July, 2013 by Peter A Bell