Something Different and Subversive: Victories for Scottish Labour Young Socialists
Lauren Gilmour, Paisley CLP and co-chair of Scottish Labour Young Socialists, reports on a step forward for the left in Scotland.
FOR AS LONG AS MANY OF US HAVE BEEN INVOLVED in Scottish Young Labour (SYL), the right wing of the Party have dominated its structures. Many young people have been unaware for quite some time that Young Labour actually exists. It met sporadically and was invisible in the wider structures of the labour movement. It didn’t communicate effectively with its members. That has now changed.
For months the left, and Corbyn supporters in general, had been mobilising through SLYS in Scotland to ensure that a wide variety of people attended SYL Conference. While undergraduate students were definitely still in the majority, there was a bigger representation of young workers, school students, trade unionists, LGBT people, disabled young members, postgraduate students, young carers and young people in care than ever before. Nonetheless, we still need to ensure that our conference is gender-balanced and that we get more BAME people at our conferences. This is a theme that was woven through the conference weekend and something that I know the newly elected SYL committee will take forward and act on.
The conference began with a series of wins in the liberation caucuses, with left wingers elected in the women’s, disabled and LGBT caucuses. Campaigning appeared to be the safest topic of discussion over the weekend. There were three different sessions where we discussed campaigning. It was widely felt that this was repetitive, and that the time might have been better spent on discussing policy and ideas. The agenda also wasn’t announced until the night before the conference, which is totally inaccessible to people with disabilities, who may have had to factor in additional planning to their journeys.
SLYS stood candidates for the majority of positions on the SYL committee, and won convincingly. Perhaps the most resounding victory was that of Lyndsay Clelland, who won the contest for Chair by an astounding 50-22 votes. The position of Vice Chair was also won, albeit far more marginally at 38-33 votes. The rest of the positions, save West of Scotland regional chair, were uncontested.
The left won for many reasons. Firstly, we mobilised young people through the Campaign for Socialism youth membership. We contacted every single person who was a member of the SLYS group and asked them if they were coming to conference. Although we didn’t have the connections that the opposing candidates had, we managed to win over people we didn’t expect to vote for us. We focused on having actual conversations and ideas to get young people involved again, rather than relying on our campaigning experience, on how many doors we’ve knocked or how ‘great we are’. While all of our candidates had that experience, that alone isn’t conducive to radically changing the youth structures. There was a general feeling that Scottish Young Labour had to change and SLYS candidates put ideas across that would actually change SYL structures most convincingly.
Secondly, we had a genuine grassroots movement. None of the SLYS candidates had ever worked for a Labour elected member or had been a paid member of party staff. Our candidates were from all walks of life, from postgraduate students to shop workers on zero-hour contracts. This is the kind of wider movement we need to speak out to, not just students. Also, we didn’t have endorsements from party bigwigs, as our opponents did. Our success shows that young people are not prepared to be told how to vote by people far too old to vote in the election.
It was a positive conference for the left. The lack of opposition from the right showed that they are disorganised and are losing their grip on the Party. The weekend was topped off by a wonderful rendition of The Red Flag. For the first time ever, the new SYL Committee is committed to changing SYL for the better and I hope you can join them in their endeavour.