I read today an article in the Guardian about the independence generation, the idea introduced by Alex Salmond of a generation of young people who believe in independence. What it turns out to be is another name for the youth wing of the SNP, rather than a true grass roots movement for independence.
However, that doesn’t mean that we should ignore it. In fact, we should copy it. Scottish Labour should work to having a strong and vibrant youth movement, encouraging young members to speak out against injustice and campaign for the ideals we all share. We need to work to recruit students, especially from those institutions under threat of an SNP-enforced merger, or those Colleges cutting places thanks to a swingeing SNP budget cut.
In order to attract these new young members, we need to have a positive vision for Scotland, based on our ideals and values. We should set out that our first reaction to the financial crisis is not to demand a cut in corporation tax for the wealthy, but to help support those least able. We need to show that we will work to remove the scourge of youth unemployment – something which is not being tackled at present with the vigour that it deserves. Our policy focus should be on Education and Employment – the two pillars of opportunity that is what we must deliver for our young people.
We also need to encourage our new members to stay – probably by changing the way we do business. A stuffy meeting filled with technical jargon is not going to do it! We need to have more interest – perhaps discussions on policy and current issues, maybe speakers to tell us about their work campaigning in the Scottish parliament, or from Westminster. We should also have more social events. These can act as fundraisers, but more importantly they should be the vehicle for engaging with our new young members – making them feel welcomed, that their opinions are valued. I was particularly impressed with the work that Alison Evison has done in Aberdeenshire to engage youngsters. The result has been the creation of a team of campaigners who I am sure will help the older hands to gain a Labour seat next may.
Too much these days, we are quick to dismiss the young has not having had experience, but the youth of today if they have not already experienced the cuts, will do shortly, and their views are as valid as anyone else’s. If we engage them, they will be up for the fight, and if we do, we will surely suceed.