Progressive United Left (sic) Scotland

November 21, 2017 at 9:05 am (labour party, reformism, scotland, sectarianism, Unite the union)

Above: Lennie, some flowers, and Agnes
By Anne Field

Even by its own sorry standards, the grossly misnamed “Progressive United Left Scotland” (PULS) – summoned into existence by the bureaucrats of Unite the Union Scottish Region in 2016 – excelled itself at the recent Unite Scottish Region Labour Party Liaison Conference.

(Regional Labour Party Liaison Conferences are open to all Unite members who are CLP delegates. Apart from hearing speeches, they also elect the Regional Labour Party Liaison Committee for a three-year term of office.)

The PULS slate for the Scottish Labour Party Liaison Committee was elected in its entirety. Who was on the slate was rather less significant than who was not on it, i.e. who had been targeted by PULS for removal from the Committee. These included:

Helen McFarlane: Vice-chair of the United Left at a national level. Labour candidate for Airdrie and Shotts in the general election. Lost by just 195 votes. (Pity that no-one in PULS bothered to campaign for her.)

Scott Walker: Former chair of the United Left Scotland. Current chair of the Unite Scottish Region Executive Committee. Unite convenor.

Jim Harte: Current chair of the United Left Scotland. Was chair of the outgoing Labour Party Liaison Committee. Labour councillor on Renfrewshire Council. One of the founders of the rank-and-file electricians’ campaign of 2012 against BESNA.

Vince Mills: Former chair of the Campaign for Socialism, and current vice-chair of the campaign. Currently setting up a “Morning Star Readers Network” in the Campaign for Socialism. (In the United Left’s political universe, that counts as a good thing.)

Other one-time members of the Labour Party Liaison Committee did not need to be voted off it by the PULS slate.

In 2016 three PULS members, handpicked by Unite Scottish Regional Secretary Pat Rafferty, sat on a ‘disciplinary panel’ and banned three members of the United Left from holding office in Unite for a minimum of five years.

Not content with removing leading Labour Party and trade union activists from the Labour Party Liaison Committee, PULS made a laughing stock of itself by not only including Agnes Tolmie on its slate but also ensuring her election as the Committee’s vice-chair.

That’s the same Agnes Tolmie who joined Les Bayliss’s “Workers United” grouping and backed Bayliss against McCluskey in the first post-merger election for Unite General Secretary.

The same Agnes Tolmie who long ago lost the support of the United Left Scotland after circulating a series of unfounded and scurrilous criticisms of members of the United Left Scotland.

The same Agnes Tolmie who had a hand (or rather more than a hand) in dragging Unite in front of the Certification Officer after the Unite National Executive Council had voted unanimously – with the exception of A. Tolmie – to allow a blacklisted member to remain on the Council.

The same Agnes Tolmie was backed by the right-wing and pro-Coyne Unite Alliance when she sought re-election to the Unite National Executive Council earlier this year – because no-one else was prepared to go anywhere near her.

She lost. But, thanks to PULS, has now re-emerged as a stalwart of the Labour Party Liaison Committee.

How ironic that just when Richard Leonard’s election as Scottish Labour Party (SLP) leader signals a shift to the left in the SLP, PULS is dedicating itself to driving the SLP’s biggest affiliate in the opposite direction: from bureaucratic inertia to full-blown sclerotic paralysis.


  1. Dale Street said,

    The Rake’s Progress*

    From the moment that Mark Lyon launched the Progressive United Left Scotland (PULS) it was obvious that he was predestined for a Unite Regional Officer’s job.

    To realise his destiny, Lyon had two tasks to achieve. One was to undermine the United Left in Scotland. The other was to act as McCluskey’s election agent in the Unite General Secretary election.

    Of course, Lyon proved less than competent in both tasks.

    The actual United Left Scotland still exists. PULS has shown itself to be little more than a back door for Agnes Tolmie’s rehabilitation. And there is still no sign of the “friends” in the United Left at a national level whom Lyon boasted of as long ago as August of last year:

    “It is important to say that we [i.e. Mark Lyon] have a level of support for this intervention [i.e. creation of PULS] from friends within the National United Left Committee.”

    McCluskey, it is true, was re-elected as Unite General Secretary. But with a wafer-thin majority. And the Certification Officer has yet to decide on Coyne’s complaint about the conduct of the election.

    Even so, this sufficed for Lyon to officially join the ranks of the Unite bureaucracy, recently securing appointment as a Scottish Regional Officer in the Unite Edinburgh offices.

    But spare a thought, and some sympathy, for the hapless John Gillespie.

    Gillespie was a member of the disciplinary panel which banned three members of the United Left (who are also all members of the Scottish Campaign for Socialism) from holding office in Unite for five years.

    The lack of justification for such a penalty was exposed on appeal. In two of the three cases the penalty was quashed in its entirety.

    Gillespie was subsequently awarded a place on the PULS slate for the Unite National Executive Council elections, for one of the industrial sector seats. But, unlike the United Left Scotland candidate for the same seat, he lost.

    Presumably by way of consolation, he was then appointed chairperson of PULS. Unfortunately, this leaves him with prime responsibility for trying to justify the PULS slate for the Unite Scottish Region Labour Party Liaison Conference.

    And he can hardly distance himself from the slate’s contents: he helped distribute the slate himself.

    * The Rake’s Progress: Opera by Stravinsky. Tom Rakewell abandons the virtuous Anne Trulove and decamps to London, accompanied by Nick Shadow. Rakewell carries out the bidding of Shadow, who turns out to be the Devil, and immerses himself in all the vices London has to offer. (In some versions of the opera Rakewell’s downfall is set in Holborn.) The opera ends with Rakewell confined in Bedlam, an asylum for the insane and mentally unhinged.

  2. Mr man said,

    Stan the Crook you really are a very bitter and twisted little man. No mention that you are barred from office for misappropriation of branch funds. Shame on you, shame

  3. Mr man said,

    Anyway this is all sour grapes.

    Ask yourself why most of the main industrial activists in Scotland have moved to PULS they are well organised and well supported by all the big players in Scotland, I do have some sympathy with `scott Walker but the others represent nobody. And if PULS didn’t have support outside the Region how did Eddie Cassidy get elected onto the EXECUTIVE F&GP?

  4. Political Tourist said,

    Serious fallout i take it within the Jock camp. Tut tut comrades. Even the Glesga Bigot isn’t that nasty.

  5. Dale Street said,

    Some simple questions for Mr Man:

    1) Why did PULs decide to bump a number of prominent Labour Party and Unite activists from the Labour Party Liaison Committee?

    2) Why did PULS have Agnes Tolmie on its slate for the Committee, and for vice-chair of the Committee?

    3) What is the relationship between PULS and the bureaucracy in John Smith House (which may well provide an explanation for the answers to questions (1) and (2))?

    4) Given Mr Man’s concerns about (alleged) misappropriation of Unite funds: Are there members of PULS who are not Rule-Six-complaint but who sit on committees for which Rule Six compliance is required?

    These are some very simple questions. Ones which are not going to go away.

    And it cannot be pointed out too often:

    – Airdrie and Shotts is now the third most marginal target seat for Labour in Scotland.

    – It is now the seventh most marginal target seat for Labour in the whole of the UK.

    – But PULS deliberately bumped from the Regional Committee the Unite member who had stood as the Labour candidate in that constituency in June, and whose campaign (supported by the United Left Scotland, but not by PULS) transformed it into a marginal seat.

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