We should back co-operation and partnership over division and grievance

Senior trade unionist John Paul McHugh of Community Union writes: “The vote on Scotland’s future is rapidly approaching.

What must surely be the longest campaign in political history now has just over five months left to go.

The choice facing people in Scotland is stark. We can work together with brothers and sisters in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland to bring about the kind of change that the working people of our isles need; or we can turn our backs on the solidarity that has achieved so much over the years and leave the UK.

As a trade unionist, I know that the answer is always to work together in solidarity. Walking away can never be the solution.

Too often, we take for granted what we have achieved together as part of the UK. Our NHS was created by a Welshman; the welfare state was established by an Englishman; and a Scot founded the BBC and the Bank of England. It was a Labour Government that introduced the minimum wage, which benefits millions of working people in Scotland and throughout the UK. And it was a UK Government that delivered on devolution.

As proud as we should be of these achievements, those of us who want Scotland to remain in the UK cannot fall back on past glories. We need to look to the future. It’s there where our strongest arguments in favour of staying together can be found.

The Nationalists desperately want to frame the referendum debate as one between change and no change. They know that is deceptive and far from the reality.

What Scots face in September is a choice between a leap into the unknown with separation or building on the success of devolution to create a stronger Scottish Parliament backed up by the strength of the larger UK.

That’s the journey I want Scotland to go on to bring about the change we need to achieve.

There is much about the UK that needs to improve. You will be hard pressed to find anybody on our side of the debate who would say that things are perfect. Yet I passionately believe that the best, and in fact only, way to achieve the progress necessary is to work together with people across the UK.

We have the strength in numbers to meet the challenges faced by a rapidly growing elderly population.

By being part of something bigger the opportunities for our young people to find employment and get on in life are so much greater than if we separated.

And by working together as a united trade union movement across all of our isles we can better improve the conditions for working people.

It’s no surprise that there is strong support for keeping Scotland in the UK from a number of Scotland’s largest trade unions.

My own union, Community, supports a No vote in September, as do a number of other unions such as the GMB, train drivers’ union Aslef, tshopworkers’ union Usdaw and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

I know from speaking to colleagues in the trade union movement that there is real concern about the consequences of breaking up the UK.

We need answers about what would replace the pound and what would happen to the funding for our schools and hospitals. But there is something more fundamental than that. I want to live in an outward looking country where solidarity with others is seen as something to embrace and is not a source of grievance.

In the future, when people ask me about the referendum debate, I want to be able to say that we thought long and hard about the choice we face but, ultimately, we chose working together in solidarity with friends, neighbours and colleagues across the UK rather than walking away.

The legacy I want this generation of Scots to pass on to the next is that, when it came to the crunch, we backed co-operation and partnership over division and grievance. In short, we backed the trade union way.” (http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/agenda.23970456) See also – (http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2014/03/letter-belfast-support-irish-unity-all-time-low)

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