Neil Findlay has lived through one of the most turbulent periods in the entire history of the Scottish Labour Party. Since being elected as a councillor in 2003, his party has lost control of governance at Westminster and Holyrood as well as becoming the third party in Scotland. Describing their affiliation with Better Together in 2014 as “a fundamental error” that resulted in the loss of 40 out of 41 MPs a year later, he says: “2015 was brutal. It rocked the Labour Party to its core and we have never recovered from that.”
From the point of nomination to his election, Neil humbly describes the whole process as “a complete fluke” outlining the very moment when, campaigning in his community, it dawned on him he was in with a chance and a friend told him he should buy a suit. He has since served as a spokesperson under Johann Lamont, Jim Murphy and Richard Leonard and says: “When I was elected, I only expected to be at Holyrood for one session and my pledge was to give it a go. ”
He has been a rigorous campaigner around women’s mesh implants, the blacklisting of construction workers, justice for miners and the reopening of the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital. Findlay also spoke at over 65 public meetings ahead of the 2014 referendum and led Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign in Scotland in 2015. On the latter, he says: “Being involved in Jeremy’s campaign was one of the most fulfilling and compelling of my time in the Labour Party.”
The recent suspension of Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party over his handling of anti-Semitism during his leadership tenure has been met with concern by allies. Findlay says the Labour Party’s handling of the issue “was not good enough by far.” He adds: “However that does not make Jeremy an anti-Semite or a racist.” He believes Jeremy Corbyn should be reinstated and says: “Keir Starmer was elected on a platform of uniting the party and I would suggest this is not the way to do that.”
When asked why he is standing down, Findlay says: “Life is too short. A few years ago, my wife had breast cancer and it really genuinely did cause me to reassess my life.” He is also scathing in his assessment of the current state of politics, saying: “Scottish politics is scarred to a poisonous extent with many torn between and an unattractive independence position and an unsustainable status quo. Every issue from dog shit to international crime is viewed through the lens of the constitution.”
In conclusion, I ask if he has any regrets. He said: “Yes, I regret the decision to support the centralisation of Police Scotland.” He adds: “That was a bad decision which, if I had the chance, I would vote the other way. ”
Holyrood will, in my view, be much poorer without the presence of Neil Findlay.