Growth of radicalism

The radicalisation of politics in Scotland greatly affected the main political parties. Many voters began to support the ILP or the Labour Party, as a way of challenging the old ways.

Red Clydeside

The events of ‘Red Clydeside’ gave hope to people who wanted change in Scottish society. It was a major cause of the radicalisation of Scottish politics.

'Red Clydeside’ is the name given to a series of disputes beginning in 1915, between the government and the workers in factories and engineering works in the Glasgow area.

CWC leader John Maclean
CWC leader John Maclean

The government was increasingly concerned about attempts by workers to disrupt wartime production:

  • Leaders of the new Clyde Workers' Committee (CWC), Willie Gallagher, David Kirkwood and socialist John Maclean, soon became the focus of government suspicion.
  • The CWC was organised around elected shop stewards who represented the wishes of the workers themselves.
  • The CWC organised small scale strikes to oppose the removal of workers’ rights under DORA.
  • From the government's point of view the CWC was a nest of revolutionaries ready to upset the war effort and even lead revolution in Britain.

In January 1916, there were strikes over government plans to enforce dilution where work previously done only by skilled workers, was carried out by semi and unskilled workers in the engineering factories.

Response to Red Clydeside

In March 1916, the government ordered that the CWC leaders be arrested and relocated to Edinburgh, breaking the strength and organisation of the CWC. Newspapers described the strikers as greedy and selfish, and most public opinion supported the government.

Many people believed the strikes were damaging Britain's chances of winning the war and endangering the lives of soldiers at the front, by threatening the supply of munitions.