Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Campbell Christie (28/10/11)

Campbell Christie (74) - former leader of of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) - passed away earlier today at the Strathcarron Hospice in Denny - following a short illness.

Campbell became general secretary of the STUC in 1986 - he was invited back from London to take up the post - because the king makers at the STUC wanted a big personality to fill the shoes of James Milne - his immediate predecessor in the job.

At the time the STUC was still heavily influenced by the Communist Party - which made it possible for someone of independent mind to get the top job - instead of a lackey from the Labour party.

And so Campbell agreed to take up the reins - left London and his senior position in one of the civil service unions (SCPS) - and headed north.

Campbell had a his fondness for long, interminable speeches - and I recall during a particularly sleep-inducing soliloquy at one STUC congress - when a clumsy delegate dropped a heavy object on the floor - which made a loud crack.

Quick as a flash another delegate quipped - 'Somebody's shot themselves' - as a ripple of laughter rippled around the hall.

But Campbell was well thought of by everyone in the Scottish trade union movement - he was a Labour party man at the time - but never tribal or sectarian in his political outlook.

Campbell understood the importance of working with other political parties - and reached out to other community based organisations - including the churches - at every opportunity.

At one point Campbell invited the then leader of the SNP - Alex Salmond - to address the Scottish TUC which upset the Labour supporting union bosses - who controlled the STUC general council at the time.

Incredibly the Labour uber-loyalists on the STUC - forced Campbell to withdraw the invitation and tell Alex Salmond he was no longer welcome to address the annual conference.

Twenty years on it's the small minds in Scotland's trade union movement - that look insular and foolish - because with the STUC a mere shadow of its former self - it's clear that Campbell's non-tribal approach was the right one all along.

Scotland's First Minister - Alex Salmond - paid Campbell Christie a fulsome tribute earlier today and said he was a key figure in the campaign for a Scottish parliament and a strong voice for democracy in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Very true.

Alex Salmond went on to say:

"Campbell was loved by many for his principles, his humour and his courage. 

Campbell's life will not just be measured in the offices he held or the achievements he won, many as they were, but also in the generosity of spirit and dignified manner which distinguished all his actions.

I speak for the nation in sending condolences and sympathy to his beloved wife Betty and family."

How times change - rest in peace, comrade - you did your bit and then some.