The second day of the ASLEF conference

21 May 2013

Became the first union to back the campaign to retain Scotland in the UK • Heard from the General Secretary of the Scottish TUC • Offered support for the Palestinian people • Discussed domestic abuse by women • Was addressed by the leader of the Scottish Labour Party • Hopped with the Durham miners!


ASLEF has become the first trade union to back the ‘No’ campaign in next year’s Scottish independence vote. Delegates at ASLEF’s annual conference in Edinburgh unanimously agreed to campaign for a ‘No’ vote and to affiliate to the ‘Better Together’ campaign.

The union’s officer in Scotland, Kevin Lindsay, said that not one ASLEF branch in Scotland is in favour of taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom. But he stressed, ‘This is not about bashing Alex Salmond. It’s about a vision for Scotland within the United Kingdom.’

He told delegates who had come from all over the UK, ‘You didn’t get asked on your way here to Edinburgh for a passport, you got asked for a ticket,’ and he pointed to the bizarre fact that, ‘The preferred option of the SNP is the pound issued by the Bank of England and controlled by the Bank of England. There’s an indication in that name of who will be running the Scottish economy!’

Some delegates were wary of affiliating to the ‘Better Together’ campaign as it had funding from Conservative Party donors – but Kevin refuted this. In this broad campaign we welcome people from other parties who

believe we will be Better Together.

‘I want a United Kingdom that delivers for the working-class people of this country,’ he said, as he urged, ‘Let’s not put borders up, because borders divide people.’

A delegate asked if there was any point in leaving a right-wing Westminster government to get a right-wing Holyrood government. ‘I think too many people got carried away watching Braveheart!’ he declared.

Another delegate argued that the referendum should be UK-wide and not just include Scottish voters before delegates voted unanimously to campaign to retain the Union.


The main points Grahame spoke about were the active role ASLEF played in the STUC, the STUC’s views on the future of the Scottish railways, the devastating effect of the Tory’s austerity policies, the loss of jobs in Scotland and the STUC’s view of the independence referendum.

He said the STUC was committed to making the Scotrail franchise, due to be let again next year, a public enterprise before speaking about the decline in real incomes in Scotland under the Coalition government and the loss of jobs in food processing, construction and mining. ‘The fact is that if the private sector is not investing, then the public sector must. We have won the argument that austerity is unfair and bad for the economy.’

The STUC has not taken a view about the independence referendum because it believes the main issues are ignored. ‘We want a debate about what independence would mean for the working people of Scotland, for union and employment rights, about social progress and equality.

‘I call on both sides of the debate to raise their game. Scotland deserves more than slogans, personal attacks and political point scoring. It trivialises the issue and encourages cynicism.’


Delegates welcomed United Nations recognition of Palestine statehood, adding they were appalled at the Tory-LibDem government’s abstention on this matter.
AAD deplored Israeli’s policy of building illegal settlements in the occupied territories, flouting UN resolutions, and noted that Palestinians working in settlement areas do not receive the same benefits as Israeli workers are entitled to by law, such as holiday, overtime payments, health insurance and sick pay.

The union will promote and assist the Palestinian trade union movement, and progressive Israeli people, in the development of a two nation status as set out in UN resolutions.


Members underlined the union’s policy on domestic abuse by unanimously passing a motion which noted, with regret, that incidents of recorded domestic abuse where women are the perpetrators have increased by 150% in the last five years – although they were mindful that these represent a small minority of cases.
The Executive Committee will lobby the ASLEF Parliamentary group to raise this in parliament as a matter of urgency.’


Johann Lamont, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, said she didn’t – and no one should - underestimate the challenge of wining back the trust of the people of Scotland for Labour - and that includes many trade unionists.

‘I want trade unions to form the policies, not accept them. I want you to shape policies, not hear them from me. ‘

She said unions should inform the argument about what a fairer Scotland can be. ‘I want real politics,’ she declared. ‘I am tired of fantasy world debates about an independent Scotland that is either the land of milk and honey or a place of doom and depression. I want real problems to be discussed – unemployment, education, too many life chances defined by the age of , better transport ...’

She declared, ‘Salmond wants to divide Scots and English. Cameron wants to divide between rich and poor. Falange wants to divide between people and immigrants.

‘I want to unite and progress.’

Speaking about unions and industrial disputes, she declared herself in favour of ‘a level playing field’. Companies with lawyers to stop strikes by picking up legal details is not the answer.

Labour in Scotland will consult on a mutual model for rail. ‘We are developing firm ideas for a mutual alternative. We will have to pour over the books when we eventually win back the trust of Scotland, but then we want a railway that does not have funding taken away to line investors pockets, and is democratically accountable.’



Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, which organises the annual Big Meeting, the Durham Miners’ Gala, received a standing ovation when he spoke about the future of the Labour Party, the labour movement, and the working-class in Britain.

He told delegates: ‘We’ve lost our way somewhat. There used to be miners’ galas all over the country, chances to get together at big public meetings. People didn’t used to go into politics to make money, as they seem to do today, they went into politics to make things better for ordinary working people.

‘We’ve got, as trade unionists, to get back into the Labour Party and we’ve got to get accountability into the Labour Party.

‘We need to get rid of this government and the people in the Labour Party who don’t believe in the working-classes and who don’t believe in socialism.’

Dave, a deep pit miner in the North East for 27 years, added,‘I didn’t respect Thatcher because she didn’t respect working people.’

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