Lee Jeans Sit-in

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 10 March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S3M-7898, in the name of Duncan McNeil, on the 30th anniversary of the Lee jeans sit-in. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament remembers the 240 women who staged what it sees as a historic sit-in at the Lee Jeans factory in Greenock 30 years ago, beginning on 5 February 1981; notes that the workers barricaded themselves into the canteen for seven months in protest at the decision to close the factory; salutes the workers for capturing the imagination of the whole country and achieving a landmark victory against a US multinational; wishes the former convener, Helen Monaghan, and machinists, Margaret Wallace and Catherine Robertson, well for the 30th anniversary reunion event that they have organised, and considers the Lee Jeans sit-in to be an inspiration to women workers all over the world.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

I thank everyone who signed the motion to celebrate this event and everyone who has stayed behind for the debate.

In a week when people all over the world have celebrated international women’s day, I welcome Helen Monaghan—the leader of the Lee jeans sit-in—and Catherine Robertson and Margaret Wallace, who have travelled through from Greenock for today’s debate, giving us this opportunity to recognise the 30th anniversary of the Lee jeans sit-in.

The VF Corporation, a multinational, was attracted to produce Lee jeans in Greenock with the help of a Government grant, on the basis that it had to stay for a fixed period. That period had come to an end, and it was the company’s intention to move to Newtownards in Northern Ireland to take advantage of a similar grant that would be available there. The management confirmed the closure of the factory to the workforce on 5 February 1981. The response from those workers was swift and direct—barricading themselves into the factory and preventing stock and machinery worth around £1 million from leaving.

That response was completely understandable, given the background of the time. Scotland’s unemployment rate was 13 per cent. In Strathclyde region, it was 17 per cent and, in some areas of Greenock and Port Glasgow, it was as high as 25 per cent. The women had witnessed the effect of that on their communities and families—their fathers, their brothers and their husbands. Many of the women were the sole earners in their households. They were not working for pin money.

The women’s first task, of course, was to inform those families that they would not be home that night—no easy task before the advent of mobile phones. Indeed, it would lead to many difficult discussions. At the recent celebration, one of the women, Marie, told me about her call to her young husband to inform him that she would not be home because she was sitting in. He was incredulous; he had just got home from his work and demanded that she get home as well. However, she was equally determined to stay. “Who’s gaunae make my tea?” he asked. She would not be moved and spoke to her father, a trade unionist and Labour man, who intervened on her behalf. Her husband had to get used to making his own tea while Marie, with others, would go on to make Scottish labour history.

I am told that that first evening was exciting and fun. There were songs and stories and 240 fish suppers washed down with Irn Bru. David Whitton, who was an industrial correspondent at the time and who visited the factory regularly—he would have loved to be here, but he has a family celebration to attend this afternoon—claimed that he bought the fish suppers. Many people claim that they did that—I even think that we claimed it for a while.

It is fair to say that the women did not expect to be there for seven nights, never mind seven months. News spread quickly. It was the talk of the shipyards the next morning. I had known Helen Monaghan for a considerable time, attending the shop steward courses at the local college, and I and other colleagues went to the factory that morning with some money and messages of support. I can still recall speaking to Helen through those meshed windows that could not open properly. All the faces at the door made me feel like I was visiting prisoners.

I can also remember one of the first public meetings—a Clyde shop stewards meeting in Port Glasgow—at which we heard Stan McNee’s rallying cry that we would “not let these Yanks take the jeans off our women”. The remark proved very popular, given the traditional rivalry between the local young males and the United States navy personnel who were also based in the area, and we collected a lot of support as a result.

I also recall Helen Monaghan speaking at one of these traditional town hall mass meetings—other members will know what I am talking about. Confronted with a room filled from floor to gallery with all these shipyard bears, she choked with emotion during her speech and, of course, many heads went down. Noses were blown and handkerchiefs were common; there was not a dry eye in the house. When she finished her speech, the audience rose as one and supported the women in their industrial dispute for the duration of the fight.

Back at the factory, with its more female occupation, there did not have to be any warnings about bevvying or vandalism. Cleaning and cooking rotas were implemented; the place was spotless. Moreover, maintenance continued to be carried out on the factory machinery, because people fully expected to be working on it.

There were even babies in the factory, because some of the women had to take children there. Theatre groups performed for them; indeed, our own Sarah Boyack celebrated her birthday at the factory in a red revue performance. Helen Monaghan tells me that, during the difficult times when people started to drift away and morale inevitably began to dip, those performances greatly lifted the women who remained.

Of course, as with all families, there was some tension among the women. Margaret Wallace and Catherine Robertson were young and full of energy. They could not do enough and were demanding to do more; to put it bluntly, they were doing Helen Monaghan’s head in. An ideal opportunity came along in the shape of invitations to speak to a range of wild—perhaps that is a Freudian slip—and wonderful groups that had shown an interest in what they were doing, and they toured the country. Catherine and Margaret were sent away to tell their story and to raise support and much-needed finance. The money was distributed on the basis of the needs of families, not individuals, which is interesting and was a new approach.

That released some tension until Margaret and Catherine returned with their various reports. The final straw was when Margaret returned. As she describes, her appearance had changed dramatically over the couple of months. She had been transformed into a person with a cropped haircut, whose favourite colour was black and whose favourite footwear was a pair of Doc Martens. She reported meeting Vanessa Redgrave, who had suggested that armed insurrection was the only reasonable way of gaining success for the working classes. Helen quickly changed tack, and Margaret was redeployed to collect money from shipyards and pitheads, just in case her energy and enthusiasm led to a civil war.

That straightforward, honest and committed approach to saving jobs confounded and surprised many, and it certainly shocked VF Corporation and the local management, who had abandoned those involved early on. The trade union officials of those involved were bemused and confused by their single-minded determination and refusal to compromise, and the women certainly surprised the wider trade union movement, which was demoralised by the loss of militant car workers at Chrysler, red Clydesiders joining the dole, and shipyards closing. We witnessed the closure of steel plants and, of course, the mighty National Union of Mineworkers was on its knees and under attack.

In many ways, the people involved in the sit-in gave as much to the labour and trade union movement as they received. They provided a spark of light in a very dark time. Many shared a great sense of achievement with the victory in August 1981. Those people were an inspiration in their leadership under Helen Monaghan. Many who clearly remember the events and many who are MSPs today have told me that they were inspired by those actions.

While we celebrate the victory this year, I would like to think that the Scottish Parliament was brought about by the resistance of those involved and the resistance of those who fought and did not get victory. This year, we should use the example of their commitment and determination to fight for the right to work and to remind ourselves that the Parliament was set up to ensure that we protect the Scottish people from uncaring Governments that believe that unemployment is a price worth paying.

I look forward to the film of what happened, and suggest that Peter Mullan or even Ken Loach could make a great film. If Dagenham women can do it, our women can do it. I also look forward to the 40th anniversary of the sit-in and to having a pleasant lunch with Helen, Margaret and Catherine after the debate.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

I congratulate Duncan McNeil on securing the debate.

I was an eight-year-old at the time of the sit-in and do not really have a clear picture of what happened, but I remember growing up in Port Glasgow and viewing the decimation of the area as thousands of redundancies occurred with the closure of the shipyards and the engineering companies. There was no sign whatsoever of a bright future.

Duncan McNeil touched on the unemployment statistics. It was reported at the time that there was 25 per cent unemployment in the Greenock area. Much of the consideration of job losses then focused on men but, as our discussion shows, women, too, were adversely affected.

In preparing for the debate, I spoke to a range of people within and outwith the Scottish National Party to get a bit more understanding of elements of the campaign. One local member told me that the campaign was very much community oriented and that the whole Inverclyde community rallied round. I was told that there was political and financial support from throughout the United Kingdom, which highlights the effect of the campaign not just on the population of Scotland but on that of the UK as a whole.

Jim Sillars told me a couple of things about the campaign. He said that it was a genuine community and working-class campaign. That highlights the strength of the population of Inverclyde and how our community spirit rallied to fight on local issues. It still does. He also said that there was no political sectarianism whatsoever, which demonstrates how parties and people who are not aligned to parties can and do work together for the public good.

One of the 240 women involved in the sit-in, Ellen Church, was a distant family member of mine. Sadly, Ellen has passed away, but I asked one of her sons, Paul, whether he was happy for me to mention her name in the debate. Paul was happy for me to do that, and he told me about Ellen’s contribution to the campaign and the hardship that women and their families in the Inverclyde area—particularly those involved in the campaign—had to contend with at the time. Paul was greatly proud of his mother and her contribution, but he was also proud of all 240 women for their fight and what they achieved.

The campaign highlighted various things. It demonstrated the battle for jobs—a battle that continues—on the part of the working class. It showed that the working class in industrial areas are prepared to fight for a better future for themselves and their communities and that the all-female campaign resonated with many people. It highlighted the strength of the Inverclyde women.

Once again, I commend Duncan McNeil for securing the debate. It is not only a fitting tribute to the 240 women but a fitting way to highlight an important part of Scotland’s industrial legacy, and that of Inverclyde in particular. I hope that there will be more debates about the campaign in future. As parliamentarians, we cannot let that history die. We must continue to promote it and to tell people what we fought for in the past.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I, too, congratulate Duncan McNeil on securing the debate on the sit-in at the Lee jeans Greenock plant.

Like every other Scottish trade unionist, I was astonished when I heard of the sit-in, which was led by Helen Monaghan, Margaret Wallace and Catherine Robertson. I feared that it would be over in a couple of days. How wrong was I? Within days, there was stalwart support from, among others, Jane McKay of the trades council. The late John Hardy of the former T and G, who was a district manager at the time, gave the campaign his support, although my understanding is that he was not allowed into the factory at the beginning of the sit-in because men were not allowed in—that sounds like a good idea to me. There was support from the women’s family and friends and, as has been said, the local community.

Those courageous women of the lower Clyde demonstrated that they would not be dismissed so carelessly and coldly by their American masters in the VF Corporation. Their American bosses must have been stunned by the affront of the 240 women in a Scottish town somewhere on the Clyde—a town whose name those bosses probably pronounced “Grenock”. As Duncan McNeil said, the multinational company was eager to shift its Greenock operations to Northern Ireland during the troubles in order to obtain further funding from the Thatcher Government. However, on the lower Clyde, a small, ably led group of Scots women sent those indifferent, unthinking capitalists homeward to think again.

Let us not forget that Helen Monaghan and her comrades offered to negotiate a three-day week and a programme of job sharing. As Duncan McNeil said, some of those women were the sole earners in their families, yet they were still willing, initially, to make compromises.

One of my abiding memories of that historic moment is of Helen Monaghan somewhat nervously clutching her handbag in front of her and addressing a wild group—as Duncan McNeil would call them—of National and Local Government Officers Association members who were all social workers, in the Glasgow city halls. Hugh Henry and I were among them, as at that time we were shop stewards. Helen Monaghan spoke to the trade unionists in a plain but heartwarming way about the need to stand our ground when faced by capitalists who are interested only in giving comfort to their shareholders and themselves. She told us that she had no idea what her boss was going to tell her when he called her in. She came out of his office stunned and spoke to her fellow shop stewards and the other women who were there. They knew that they had to make a decision immediately. When in doubt, what do you do? They barricaded the boss in his office, sent out for fish suppers, had a singsong through the night and decided what their next step would be in the morning—sorted. A typical women’s response.

We took heart from and immense pride in the actions of those brave and stoical women of the lower Clyde. As Duncan McNeil said, it was a significant moment in Labour’s history. However, the Lee jeans sit-in should not be seen only as part of history; it should serve always as a benchmark of what to do when we need to challenge those who have power over us economically and politically. The Lee jeans sit-in by Helen Monaghan and her comrades is an example of an honourable refusal to acquiesce in decisions that are taken by others that affect the lives of ordinary people everywhere, and we should not forget it.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I well remember the Lee jeans sit-in, as I visited the factory on a number of occasions. I was then a Liberal councillor in Inverclyde and also the vice-chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party. I thank Duncan McNeil for bringing the debate to the chamber, because I am in no doubt that the sit-in was an enormous triumph for the 240 women in the factory. It was a tremendous triumph for the leaders—Helen Monaghan, Margaret Wallace and Catherine Robertson—and for the trade union movement in Greenock and the west of Scotland. I am not a trade unionist but, sadly, I have marched with Duncan McNeil on too many occasions when the rights of workers and their jobs have been threatened in the community in which I was born and brought up and in which I am proud still to live.

The Lee jeans factory was important, not just because of the 240 women who worked there, but because in the 1960s it became clear that there was a difficulty in having all of Greenock’s economic eggs wrapped up in sugar and shipbuilding. In the middle of the 1960s, the then chief executive of the Greenock Corporation, Mr J D Smith, said that we must broaden the industrial base, and so the Larkfield industrial estate was created. Among the earlier incomers to that estate was Lee jeans.

There was a real sense of hope and an expectation that the broadening of our economic base was important. So when in 1981 the VF Corporation—acting like the very worst of grant-hoppers and seeking to exploit the grant that it had received for coming to the Larkfield industrial estate—wanted to ditch the workforce and the plant and simply move to Northern Ireland, there was anger in the community. That was not only because of the prospects for 240 of our workforce, but because the efforts that the whole community had made to bring in companies and broaden the economic base were being threatened by a selfish and self-centred group of people.

Like Duncan McNeil, I remember the early visits to the sit-in. It was a bit quaint conducting a visit from the other side of the grilled windows. I was not absolutely sure that I was in Larkfield industrial estate and not on prison visit duty at Gateside prison. I wonder how on earth Helen Monaghan, Margaret Wallace and Catherine Robertson and the others managed to organise those visits, as we had no mobile telephones, as Duncan McNeil said. On my second and third visits, I got the information through that I wanted to provide support and then the meeting was conducted from inside the factory. The way in which they were able to persuade the security guards and so on was remarkable—the management had given up; they knew that they were on the wrong side of the argument and they certainly were not going to get in the road.

I simply do not know how the women managed to sustain their efforts over the seven days that turned into seven months. The personal sacrifices, difficulties and issues for them and their families were huge. It is bad enough facing up to your old man to tell him he’s no getting his tea for tonight, but it is another thing to explain to him that he his no getting his tea for the next seven months, and we should acknowledge that.

We should recognise the enormous courage of these people and the enormous sacrifice that they made. They gave the community the sense that people who wanted to exploit the local workforce in Greenock by taking advantage of grants and so on were in the wrong place. The community of Greenock had more to it than that—more gumption and more conviction. I congratulate everyone who took part in the sit-in.

I was privileged to meet them in my capacity as a local Liberal councillor and as the vice-chairman of the local Liberal Party. Our small demonstration of support probably meant absolutely nothing, but at least it ensured that it was genuinely a cross-party issue for the community.

I congratulate Duncan McNeil on giving us the opportunity to remember people who deserve the credit for what they achieved.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Scottish National Party

I grew up in Greenock and Port Glasgow. My dad was in the Army and we travelled to Germany and various parts of England, all of which was a great experience. However, our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were always in Greenock. It is where we went for all of our holidays and it is where my heart was. In 1974, when I was eight, I and my sister Janet, who is in the public gallery today, were finally taken home to settle in Greenock.

There was much to be proud of in my home town. The shipyards always held a real excitement for me. When the hooter went off at 12, we could only stand back and watch as literally thousands of men poured out and headed to the nearby pubs for lunch. The pubs would have the drinks waiting, having spent the previous hour pouring them, preparing for the rush.

It was a busy, thriving industrial town. However, in the late seventies, things started to change. I recall the sinking feeling every Monday morning when I was at first year in high school and we would be sitting in registration class and the teacher would ask how our weekends had been. Every Monday, someone else reported that their dad had been made redundant from his job in the yards. My best friend’s mum worked in the yard canteen and she lost her job too. Every Monday, someone else told the same story—some other family wondering what on earth the future held for them. After a time we came to expect it and, eventually, I was in the minority of pupils in my class whose parents had jobs—they were psychiatric nurses at the local hospital and there was no shortage of jobs for them.

The experience changed us. It changed my friends. It changed their parents. It changed Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow. Like many towns and cities in the United Kingdom, we suffered greatly under Thatcher’s harsh policies and her refusal to support working people.

However, when the women at the Lee jeans factory in the Larkfield decided that they were just not going to take it anymore, I vividly remember feeling that all was not lost, that people had rights and that if those rights were not being recognised, they had the right to fight for them. That is precisely what the women were doing. What they were also doing—although I did not realise it at the time—was helping to shape me politically. If the mass redundancies fuelled my interest in politics, the women at Lee jeans fired me up at the age of 15 and made me realise that it is possible to fight back.

The Thatcherite policies of condemning communities to the scrap heap and playing one community off against the other showed us just how regressive a central Government can be, but the women at Lee jeans proved how effectively communities can be empowered just by working in solidarity with one another in a disciplined but humanitarian way.

Those women were not political, and they certainly were not party political. What they were was determined. I believe that they had a distinctly female type of politics that makes me wonder how different the world would be if women were making more of the world’s decisions—perhaps Greenock women, in particular.

For instance, how many men would have thought to use Persil coupons? When Margaret Wallace and Catherine Robertson travelled across the UK to speak at rallies, they used two-for-one train vouchers from Persil packets, to save as much money as possible for the families at home.

I will talk about how those involved continued to support their families. Because of the mass redundancies in the traditionally male industries in our town, many women were the main breadwinners, so donations were distributed out again to the families. Every woman’s family was considered individually and how much they received depended on their individual circumstances and need. How much better a place the world would be if that principle were applied today to close the massive gap between rich and poor in the world.

I have thoroughly enjoyed talking about my home town, particularly as most speakers have been fellow Greenockians—or Portonians, as some of my colleagues have pointed out. I particularly enjoyed the image of Duncan McNeil arriving the day after the sit-in started with bags of messages—I had pictured Fine Fare’s carrier bags, but he was talking about messages of support. I have also enjoyed paying tribute to Helen Monaghan and the other women who helped to shape me politically and without whom I might not be standing here today.

I end simply by reflecting on the fact that we continue to live in the shadow of Thatcher and Tebbit’s unfair trade union laws—I notice that no Tories are in the chamber for the debate, which is no surprise. I look forward to the day when the Parliament has the normal powers of a normal nation and the powers to set our own socially just labour laws. [Applause.]

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I say to our guests in the public gallery that, although they might be tempted to applaud, our rules do not permit applause from the public gallery.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I, too, congratulate Duncan McNeil not just on securing the debate but on making a powerful and emotional speech, which was worthy of the women whom we are here to celebrate.

In 1981, I was a young schoolteacher down in Rothesay, and I used to travel home at weekends. On every journey home, I witnessed what was happening in the west of Scotland, as I did in my working life, where I saw young children whose hope for the future was being squeezed out of them as unemployment rates rose. I was also a young activist in the labour movement.

It is genuinely hard for me to overstate the impact of the Lee jeans women and the sit-in on my politics and my view of what politics was about. It transpired that trade unionists were not just men—they included these wonderful and inspirational women. Trade unionism was not just about heavy industry and shipbuilding, which was my picture of it as the daughter of a seafarer—Port Glasgow was the dry dock—but about the importance of other work to communities. The stereotypical view of the trade unions’ role did not apply. Here were women with great optimism and great humour who were standing up for themselves, their families and their communities. In the few words that I can say today, it is impossible for me to tell the Lee jeans women how important they were to all of us and how exciting it is to speak in the debate.

In the past 30 years, what politics is about and what the role of ordinary people is in changing communities have been redefined. That can be tracked back to women such as those from the Lee jeans sit-in, who said, “This is not good enough. We will stand up for our families and our communities.” Not only did they say that in a time of great depression and fear about what was happening around them, but they could win. We hold on to that now as a powerful message about what people can do when they come together.

The Lee jeans women quietly made history. We are good at celebrating our heroes, but we need to do more to remember the history of women such as the Lee jeans women—we need not only to ensure that their history is celebrated but to demand that their legacy shapes our future action. We can think back to what happened in the 1980s, when—as Duncan McNeil said—unemployment was said to be a price worth paying, and we can look ahead with fear because we might have people in power now who take the same view.

Decisions that are being made now are having a disproportionate impact on women—on their capacity to get jobs, because their jobs are disappearing, and on their capacity to be supported, through child care and other measures, to go out to work. The services on which women rely disproportionately are under attack. Even a very simple figure sets that out. A calculation of the changes in benefits, tax credits and so on has been made that shows a loss of something like £4 a week in a man’s wage but £8 in a woman’s wage.

We need to reaffirm the importance of understanding the important role that women play in their families, communities and the workplace. It is timely for us to remember, in celebrating everything that the Lee jeans women did, and to reaffirm, that this place—this Parliament—should have high levels of women’s representation and that it should speak for women’s interests. In the 1980s, the powerful women’s voice stopped a huge company in its tracks. That voice will also have an important job in protecting women, families and communities in the times ahead.

I thank the Lee jeans women for everything that they did to give us hope in the 1980s. They transformed the view of women’s role and the power that women have when they come together. We need to ensure that this celebration is also an inspiration for the future.

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

I warmly congratulate Duncan McNeil on bringing the debate to Parliament and for telling the Lee jeans story so well. The common theme in the debate is that the Lee jeans experience touched us all. I was born and brought up in Greenock. I have lived in Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow and been to school there. I think that I became an economic migrant during that time of 25 per cent unemployment. It is a real privilege, therefore, to make this contribution.

As others do, I owe those ladies a debt. Their action in the 1980s woke me up, as it did others; it convinced me that things were clearly not right in Scotland. I saw that we had sleepwalked our way into a very bad position and their action helped me to build my political philosophy. It saw me leave a multinational and start my own business. It persuaded me that Scotland needed better than branch-economy status. It highlighted for me our vulnerability to the next hungry area of the world to where disloyal nomadic employers will relocate because people in those places are willing work for less.

The influence of the Lee jeans ladies and that of Jimmy Reid must have shaped what I have done latterly. Back in 2003, when I stood for Parliament and Jimmy Reid signed my nomination papers, I was determined, influenced and focused on researching and understanding why the action had happened and what could be done to benefit my home town and other parts of Scotland. Today, I join other members in the Scottish Parliament in telling the ladies that they were right. They were right to take a stand and right to see how wrong the Lee jeans management was on moral, ethical, human and economic grounds. I want to contribute to the vindication of their action and to celebrate the stand that they took.

The pendulum is now swinging back in the direction of the 1980s, but the message is getting through. People such as Rosabeth Moss Kanter at Harvard Business School are beginning to point out that the companies that are succeeding in the 21st century are the companies that adopt an ethical approach to their customers, employees, suppliers, communities and—of course—shareholders. Also at Harvard, Michael Porter is saying that the companies that will survive in the 21st century are those that identify the concept of shared value. He talks of those companies redefining profits to benefit customers, employees, suppliers, communities and the taxpayer—generally, the approach tries to lift all the boats.

The financial crisis has seen us come to the end of an era in which it was okay to thrash the assets and be callous about all the people who are involved in the business, just to show the next return. That is not okay; it was never okay. The stand that Helen Monaghan, Margaret Wallace, Catherine Robertson and their 237 colleagues took at Lee jeans was prescient and right. They showed the way it has to be.

The work of a couple of amazing guys with Scottish connections—Kenneth and William Hopper—tells us that America grew great in the period 1850 to 1950 because of the country’s wholesome ethos at the time. America was trying to create a heaven on earth by bringing everyone into the camp and thereby lifting everyone’s living standards. At that time, Americans were willing to open themselves to new ideas and improve things in an open way and for ever.

They lost the plot in 1911, when the cancer started and Frederick Taylor arrived with his stopwatch to do the time and motion studies that broke the morale of working folk, created the gap between working folk and management and created the fallacy of scientific management—that it was okay for people to go from making jeans to agriculture, production and banking without deep knowledge of the sector, and that short-termism was okay. We have allowed that approach to penetrate the City of London, Wall Street and master of business administration courses. Recently I heard the nice comment, “Do you think that India and China are going to let Wall Street and the City of London clean the profits off the top? Certainly not.” They will certainly not allow short-term management to do that.

We need a better way and we need to understand that there is a moral obligation on society and players in the business space to try to work in a collegiate way with their workforce. We can have economic companies thrashing the assets, or we can have companies that are organic, that work in an egalitarian way with their communities and that allow those communities to evolve into new missions, as old missions are overtaken by the passage of time, by new inventions and so on. That fulfilment is the key thing that we see in companies such as Tullis Russell Group Ltd, which was subject to an employee buyout. Today we see in the newspapers that the John Lewis Partnership is sharing its profits with its partners—that is to say, all of its employees. Arup, the engineering company, is going from strength to strength because the employees own and run the company.

We may well look back on the management attitude that was taken in 1981 as something from the dark ages that is behind us and from which we can move forward. The key issue is how we align more and more businesses with their employees, so that they get a much more collegiate approach. The penny is dropping with the corporations, which are understanding that shareholder value is never enough. The Royal Bank of Scotland delivered shareholder value, but companies must endure and grow. For working communities to endure and grow, they must adapt, innovate and forever execute better. To do that, they must listen to the people who work in the place, have made a commitment to it and are putting their working lives and efforts in line with it. Communities of that kind such as Tullis Russell, John Lewis and Arup are allowing people to be more in control of their destiny and to be all that they can be. The big priority now is to adopt what works well.

Johann Lamont made a potent comment about the power of coming together. There is also the power of women. I have been telling my daughter for ever that the future is female. That is coming true in her—she believes it and is moving forward.

There is a debt that most of us owe. I often debate how the wholesome values that we have and that are evident in this debate—our sense of national identity, of birthright and of self—were passed on to us. Did they come from the schools, the universities, the churches, the professions or the trade unions? In part, they came from all of those. However, they really came from sitting on granny’s knees and being told who we were and what we stood for. When the ladies in the public gallery, all of whom are considerably younger than me, come to the stage of being grannies, they will have a great story to pass on for Scotland.

13:13 Meeting suspended until 14:00.

14:00 On resuming—