Over the last six years Scottish politics hasn’t been a place for the faint-hearted. The election of a majority SNP government in 2011 thrust constitutional politics to the top of the British political agenda. The following years were dominated by an, at times fierce and always passionate debate about the future of Scotland and the United Kingdom. For those in the frontline of the referendum debate the campaign was long, at times very divisive, but also an exciting and demanding experience. The repercussions are still being felt today.
This book began as a personal record of the referendum campaign (during which time I took part in 65 public debates) that I would write and keep for reading whilst sitting in my rocking chair with a cocoa and digestive biscuit in my latter years. It was not meant for publication but I was soon forced by events to continue my scribbles when after the victory of the “No” campaign Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont resigned and I became a candidate along with Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack in the contest that followed. Party members will have a sense of déjà vu that we are in yet another Scottish Labour leadership election.
The book details that leadership contest and the key events surrounding it. It continues through the short-lived Jim Murphy era and the 2015 election disaster where Scottish Labour was reduced to a single Commons seat and its very existence was being questioned. Finally, it tells of my role as Scottish campaign manager for my good friend Jeremy Corbyn during his two successful Labour leadership elections and his role in the remarkable 2017 general election when Labour began the fight back across the country – with seven MPs elected in Scotland.
I also reflect on two very significant personal events that impacted upon my life. The first my wife Fiona’s diagnosis and successful treatment for breast cancer and secondly the death of my political mentor and friend Tam Dalyell. Both had a profound impact on me politically as well as personally.
What started out as a few personal notes developed into this book.
Socialism and Hope gives an insight into one of the most turbulent periods in the history of the Scottish Labour party. A time when the party was on the winning side in a major constitutional referendum yet the fallout from it almost destroyed the party.
Unexpectedly elected to parliament in 2011 It follows my footsteps from bricklayer to parliamentarian and gives an insight into the daily work of an MSP and the ups and downs of life as a campaigning MSP. It covers issues such as my close working with trade unions on blacklisting, the undercover policing scandal and justice for miners arrested during the 1984/85 strike, with women’s groups exposing the transvaginal mesh scandal and with local communities opposing flight path expansion and fracking.
As a lifelong socialist, trade unionist and community activist, steeped in working class culture, I hope my book is able to reflect my love and respect for the community and people I grew up with, live beside and represent today. I hope it shows my deep commitment to my class, the Labour Party and the labour movement and my unwavering belief that this movement remains the greatest vehicle for progressive social and economic change that there is.
I wrote this book to put on the record my experiences of a period when the Labour side of the story has not really been told for obvious reasons.
I hope you will read it and enjoy it and in doing so donate to a good cause. This is where all proceeds from the book will go.
Neil Findlay is MSP for Lothian. Socialism and hope – a journey through turbulent times is out tomorrow and can be ordered online priced £12.99 plus P&P.