Henry McCubbin: A Tribute

Bob Thomson pays tribute to Henry McCubbin (15 July 1942 – 13 November 2023), socialist, MEP, and founding editorial member of the Scottish Left Review.

In early 1999 a group of Scottish Lefties met in the Glasgow Southside tenement flat of Jimmy Reid. It was an eclectic gathering – Aamer Anwar, radical lawyer; Bill Bonar ex-Communist, Scottish Socialist Party; Moira Craig, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Constitutional Convention; Campbell Christie, STUC; Roseanna Cunningham, SNP MSP and later Minister; John Kay, former  Scottish Industrial Organiser, Communist Party; Isobel Lindsay, Labour Party/SCND and Scottish Constitutional Convention; Henry McCubbin, ex Labour MEP; Tom Nairn, writer and philosopher; Jimmy Reid, Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in leader, ex- Communist strategist and Labour parliamentary candidate; and Bob Thomson, trade union official and former Chairman/Treasurer, Scottish Labour Party.

They had been brought together by mutual concern at New Labour’s lack of radical policies and at Blairs disregarding of the Scottish Constitutional Convention’s agreed proposals for devolution and the setting up a Scottish Parliament. Blair’s forcing of a second question in the referendum on whether the Parliament should have tax raising powers was a move to downgrade it before it was even established. Thankfully, Scots voted Yes and Yes for a real Parliament!

It was agreed that the Left needed a non-party forum to promote a vision for a radical Scotland, and Scottish Left Review was formed. Henry McCubbin played a central role on the editorial committee for fifteen years till he stood down in 2015 with the onset of Parkinsons Disease. He wrote detailed, well-researched articles, and represented us at meetings and conferences.

Born in Glasgow and educated at Allan Glen’s School, Henry joined the BBC as a film cameraman, moving to Grampian TV in 1977, where he was active at local and national level in his trade union, now BECTU. He obtained an honours degree at the Open University. In 1989, he was elected as MEP for North East Scotland. He concentrated on the fishing industry, which employed many constituents and was profoundly affected by the Common Fishery Policy. He highlighted the poor deal that Britain received under the fish allocations regime, and also introduced legislation to improve safety on offshore installations. In December 1993, he wrote a pamphlet together with fellow MEP and veteran pamphleteer Ken Coates which argued that deregulation had harmed the economy and called for a shorter working week. An analysis of European Parliament attendance records showed him as one of the most diligent British MEPs. He lost to the SNP in 1994, was seen as too left wing for New Labour, and was effectively blocked from standing for European or Scottish Parliament elections. He subsequently supported the Scottish Socialist Party, then joined the Scottish Green Party.

Henry was the epitome of a working-class self-educated radical who stayed true to his socialist beliefs all his life. He played an important role in the establishment and development of Scottish Left Review and the Jimmy Reid Foundation. Thank you, Comrade Henry.

An extract from Henry McCubbin’s article from our September 2009 issue is a sharp reminder of the character of the last Labour government.


There is little doubt that the anger among the electorate at the blatant profligacy of MPs with regards to their misuse of public funds for their private comforts was justified. They saw the fearsome sight of their hard earned savings crumbling under the collapse of a banking system that was supposed to be monitored, legislated and regulated by these same elected representatives. The whole episode was beyond satire. Duck houses, flat screen TVs, champagne flutes and a list of consumer wishes even beyond a John Lewis catalogue. From the manner in which it has all died down in the media, one could be lead to believe that the Augean stables had now been cleansed. But was the fiddling of expenses the worst of the wheeling and dealing going on in the Palace of Westminster?

Hardly a week passes by but I hear that our erstwhile business secretary has had a holiday encounter with some business magnate as a matter of pure coincidence. Take Mr Oleg Deripaska for instance, multi billionaire oligarch who first cropped up when Mandelson was an EU commissioner in charge of trade. Next Mandelson is onboard the wealthy Russian’s yacht moored off the Rothschild family’s property on Corfu. He has cropped up again on the fringes of the General Motors negotiations. In fact so prone is Mandelson to bump into the rich and powerful that it would be in the interests of the health and safety of Brown’s government to fit him with a black box.

Perhaps the most blatant example of peddling influence is that of Brown’s predecessor Tony Blair. In a report for Middle East online, Christopher King writes “On his resignation as premier, Anthony Blair, who marketed the war for George Bush, was immediately rewarded by the Americans with a job at the investment bank JP Morgan at a salary of GBP 2.5 million per year. This is reported to be the first of a series of posts that could gain him GBP 40 million. JP Morgan is now involved in Iraqi oil and stands to make huge profits by mortgaging future Iraqi oil production. One must ask, “Would Mr Blair have gained these rewards if he had refused to place the UK armed forces at America’s disposal and market the Iraq war to the rest of the world?” All the evidence is that the objective of the war was the seizure of Iraq’s oil resources and Anthony Blair’s objective was money.” Not only has Blair trousered this amount, the costs are still being borne by the people of Iraq and the British taxpayer as Christopher King lists,

  • Over one million Iraqis killed, many more wounded
  • Four to five million Iraqis made refugees, most still displaced
  • Destruction of much of the country’s infrastructure, still unrepaired
  • Widespread destruction of housing and buildings
  • 179 British soldiers killed, probably about 1500 wounded, 222 seriously
  • Waste of approximately GBP 9 billion in direct costs
  • Reprisal attacks and deaths in London and elsewhere, decreased UK security together with huge costs and inconvenience of security precautions
  • Destruction of the United Nation’s authority, loss of UK credibility, a precedent for aggressive warfare, breach of international law, thus decreased world security.

Bob Thomson is a member of the Scottish Left Review editorial board. Henry McCubbin was a founding editorial member of the Scottish Left Review.