Monday, 15 September 2014

Labour Mayor asks Scots to vote YES - to help England too

A Labour and trade union figure from the North of England is urging Scotland to vote YES.

Craig Johnson, who is the former Labour Mayor of Carlisle, believes independence will “energise the debate about devolution” across the UK by encouraging a movement of power from Westminster to the rest of England.

While campaigning for Scottish independence in Glasgow, he said that if people miss the chance to vote YES on Thursday, they will lose a huge opportunity.

Mr Johnson, who describes himself as ‘tribally Labour’, joined the party just before Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. As a councillor he refused to pay the poll tax, and was Mayor the year Tony Blair won the 1997 elections.

But he soon felt let down, believing that the New Labour replacement to Thatcher was almost as bad as her Tory government was.

“I don’t want the Labour party to be like it is,” he said. “ I can’t support a Labour party that introduced the Private Finance Initiative and let the moneylenders into the NHS - Nye Bevan’s temple.

“This is the party that oversaw the crisis, bailed out the bankers and started selling off the NHS. These are the people who are trying to scare us now.”

Mr Johnson, who now works as a regional organiser for the RMT union which backed a YES vote next week, hopes that in an independent Scotland people who have a trade union agenda could have more influence.

He said he hopes a new constitution will implement workers’ rights and “instill a bit of fairness in the workplace”, starting with access to workplace tribunals.

“But a Yes vote isn’t just a vote for Scottish workers - that is was one opportunity that Scotland shouldn’t miss.”

Dennis Canavan, the Chair of YES Scotland’s Advisory Board, welcomed Mr Johnson’s intervention, saying: “This is yet more evidence of the breadth and sheer energy of the Yes campaign.

“Craig Johnson is a highly respected civic and political figure in Carlisle, which of course sits very close to the border and for centuries has had strong links with Scotland.

“He’s seen the evidence of the better and fairer society we’ll build with Yes, and he believes it could encourage a to return proper democracy to England too, countering the massive imbalances between London and the North in particular.

“It’s yet more evidence that independence won’t just be good for Scotland - it’ll open up all sorts of exciting possibilities for the rest of the UK as well.”
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