Scottish Election 2021: George Galloway pledges to tackle ‘scourge of separatism’

george galloway and jamie blackett
The All For Unity manifesto was launched by party founder George Galloway (left) and leader Jamie Blackett

By Bill Heaney

Big George, big bad George, is back in town with wee Jean Annie (Get yer gun) Mitchell, a Labour defector who has twice been rejected by the electorate in West Dunbartonshire, as one of his sidekicks.

Fedora sporting Galloway, the controversial founder of a new pro-union party, has pledged to “tackle the scourge of separatism” as he launched its Scottish Parliament election manifesto.

George Galloway said the All For Unity party was standing candidates in all eight regions of the country.

The party says indyref2 should only happen if a majority of Scottish adults vote for pro-independence parties.

And it says regions that vote No should be allowed to remain in the UK if the country as a whole backs independence.

Galloway, a controversial former Labour MP who tried but was defeated by [Lord] John McFall in his attempt to obtain the seat then held by Ian Campbell in the Dumbarton in 1987, wants to form a cross-party Government of National Unity with Scottish Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MSPs after next month’s election.

But they have distanced themselves from the new party, and have claimed that voting for All For Unity in the regional list could actually reduce the number of pro-union MSPs at Holyrood.

Galloway has dismissed this claim, and insisted that he is “the one the separatists fear” ahead of the election.

Galloway, the party’s lead candidate, said All For Unity’s other election hopefuls included businessmen, doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers and former military officers.

He added: “Politicians at Holyrood are rightly criticised for having little experience of the real world.

“We’ve got, without doubt, the most qualified and capable candidate list of any party to take the fight to the separatists in the next Scottish Parliament.

“All For Unity will open the books of the Scottish Parliament, tackle the scourge of separatism and save our Scotland”.

Galloway’s sidekick Jean Anne Mitchell with Jeremy Corbyn before quitting the Labour Party.

All for Unity candidates include Jean Anne Mitchell, a daughter of Clydebank who has twice stood on a Labour ticket but been beaten by fellow Bankie Martin Docherty Hughes for a seat in the Westminster parliament.

West Dunbartonshire’s Labour candidate has apologised “unreservedly” after forwarding comments about a reporter’s Jewish heritage.

Jean Anne Mitchell, who was standing in the 2019 general election, shared details about Nick Robinson’s Jewishness after he chaired a debate involving Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mitchell shared comments with a candidates’ Whatsapp group that had been made by an unnamed individual.

The post stated: “We watched the BBC Leadership Debate chaired by Nick Robinson. Throughout the debate, we felt that Robinson gave Johnson an easy time, allowing him to avoid answering the audience’s questions and instead giving him free rein to attack Corbyn. We thought he was biased. And then we Googled him.”

The WhatsApp message quoted excerpts from the Google search: “His mother was born in Shanghai, where her German-Jewish parents fled during the 1930s.”

When The Democrat tried to speak with her, she refused us an interview. Galloway will soon let know that silence is not a productive way of getting your message across to the electorate. She is standing in Glasgow.

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What elections are happening? On 6 May, people across Scotland will vote to elect 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The party that wins the most seats will form the Scottish government. Find out more here.

What powers does the Scottish Parliament have? MSPs pass laws on most aspects of day-to-day life in Scotland, such as health, education and transport. They also have control over some taxes and welfare benefits. Defence, foreign policy and immigration are decided by the UK Parliament.

How do I vote? Anyone who lives in Scotland and is registered to vote is eligible, so long as they are aged 16 or over on the day of the election. You can register to vote online.

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The party’s manifesto says that indyref2 should only happen if pro-independence parties are backed by a “clear majority of Scots entitled to vote (rather than those who actually do vote)”.

It also says any referendum should allow Scots living in other parts of the UK to have a vote.

And it argues that, if the country does vote for independence, each region of the country should be allowed to choose whether they want to remain in the UK or join the new independent country.

The manifesto also proposes renaming the Scottish government as the “Scottish Executive”, which it was until 2001, and says powers should be devolved to the regions of Scotland, rather than central government.

The comedian Sir Billy Connolly once called it “a pretendy wee parliament,” although he appears to have changed his mind mon that.

The Unity Party manifesto states the SNP’s “14 years of corruption and failure have shown the constitution settlement to be flawed”.

And it calls for all Scottish funding to be “properly accounted for and audited each year by an external auditor”.

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Andrew Kerr, Political correspondent, BBC Scotland

George Galloway can still attract a crowd.

Car horns tooted as we interviewed him in Glasgow city centre, his old stomping ground when he was a Scottish Labour MP.

All For Unity would certainly not attract this attention without his presence.

It’s an unusual party, campaigning for anyone but the SNP in the constituency – there’s even a recommended list of how you should vote.

But they are asking for your vote on the regional list.

Mr Galloway insists he can take a seat on the list in the south of Scotland, highlighting one recent poll.

He says he believes in the union in the way that he believes in a trade union: “stronger together and divided we fall.”

For those in Holyrood currently defending the union, he’s less than complimentary – saying they have a highly paid and well upholstered existence.

He denies he’ll be taking votes from them.

Known for his eloquence and colourful past, when questioned about his work for Russian state-backed media he hit out at the BBC as “British government backed media.”

Mr Galloway says his long and controversial career will be an advantage and that Holyrood needs a proper parliamentarian.

His friends – and opponents – may well salute “his courage, his strength and his indefatigability.”

Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party in October 2003 in the wake of his outspoken comments on the Iraq war, which the then Labour chairman Ian McCartney claimed had “incited foreign forces to rise up against British troops”.

He stood as the Respect Party candidate in the Bradford West by-election in 2012, and won the seat from Labour.

All For Unity party leader Jamie Blackett said he was a traditional Conservative supporter who would until recently have thought it “inconceivable” that he would be sharing a platform with “a man of the left like George Galloway”.

“We want the return to Scotland of solidarity, community, excellence, entrepreneurship and good humour. We need unity not division in Scotland. We want a vibrant, self-confident country that is at ease with itself.”

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a referendum in the first half of the next parliamentary term if there is a pro-independence majority after the election.

Ms Sturgeon says a referendum is needed to ensure the country does not go in the “wrong direction” by leaving decisions on the coronavirus recovery to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Her stance is backed by the Scottish Greens, who say “decisions about Scotland should be made by the Scottish people.”

But the Scottish Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats all argue that the “divisiveness” of a referendum is the last thing the country needs as it attempts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

And they say the focus should be on rebuilding the economy and the NHS and improving the country’s education system rather than the constitution.

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