Colin Fox (political activist)
13 February 2005
|Member of the Scottish Parliament
1 May 2003 – 3 May 2007
17 June 1959 |
|Political party||Scottish Socialist Party|
Described in The Herald as "one of Scotland's most prominent socialists", he is a founding member of the SSP and Scotland's longest-serving party leader or spokesperson, having been originally elected as the SSP's convener in February 2005. He was a member of the Yes Scotland Advisory Board.
Fox was born in Motherwell. Both of his grandfathers were steelworkers, his mother was a nurse and his father an insurance salesman with the Co-operative Insurance Society. He attended Our Lady's High School before studying mathematics at Strathclyde University and accountancy at Bell's College, Hamilton (now part of the University of the West of Scotland). He graduated with a BSc (Hons) in social sciences from the Open University in 2013.
Colin currently lives in the Inch, Edinburgh, with his partner Zillah and their two children.
Fox joined the Labour Party in Motherwell and Wishaw as a teenager, and established Labour Party Young Socialists (LPYS) branches throughout Lanarkshire.
He has described Tony Benn as "one of my heroes", and says that it was after attending a talk given by Benn at the University of Glasgow, while Benn was running for deputy leader of the Labour Party, that he was inspired to get involved in politics full-time. As a prominent LPYS activist, he attracted the attention of the Militant tendency, and joined in 1981. He was elected its Lanarkshire organiser in 1983 and has been heavily involved in socialist politics ever since.
He was active in the 1984-85 miners' strike in Ayrshire and at the Ravenscraig picket line. The 103-day Caterpillar occupation of 1987-88 saw him involved in the key industrial battle of the time. In 1988, he went to London to work for Militant at its headquarters in Hackney Wick. He held a variety of posts in its industrial department, finance department, and as circulation manager of the Militant newspaper. Here, he was heavily involved in the leadership of the anti-poll tax struggle which brought down Margaret Thatcher.
In 1995, he moved to Edinburgh to take up the role of Scottish Militant Labour's East of Scotland organiser. This was the time when Militant was discarding its entryist tactics and turning towards open mass work. As a member of SML's executive committee, he was heavily involved in the discussions with several other (much smaller) groups on the left that led to the formation of the Scottish Socialist Alliance (SSA) in 1995.
The SSA aimed to build a left alternative to New Labour and the SNP. It was built around the slogan "for an independent socialist Scotland". Fox was the SSA's East of Scotland organiser, a role he continued to play when the Alliance morphed into the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) in 1998.
An MSP in Holyrood
He led the Scottish Socialist Party in the Lothians into the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999. This was the election where Tommy Sheridan, then an SML councillor, was elected as the SSP MSP for Glasgow region. Over the course of the next four years, Colin helped build the SSP as it trebled in size.
The party in parliament succeeded in passing legislation to abolish poindings and warrant sales in 2002. Using Sheridan's popularity, the SSP made several astute interventions including supporting the Fire Brigades Union dispute of 2002. But above all, it was the role the party played in the huge movement against the Iraq War that cemented the SSP's place in Scottish politics. Against pundits' predictions, the SSP won six seats at Holyrood in 2003, including Colin Fox MSP in the Lothians region. Winning by just 68 votes out of 300,000, Fox was famously captured on TV hurtling across the floor of Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh when his result was finally declared.
The SSP changed the face of Scottish politics. Like his SSP colleagues, Fox refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen and was ejected from the swearing-in ceremony for singing Robert Burns' anthem Is There for Honest Poverty (or A Man's a Man for A' That) in protest.
He sat on the Scottish Parliament's justice committee for four years and visited many of Scotland's prisons, arguing for reform. He presented a Member's Bill, one of only six to get to the debating floor that session, to abolish NHS prescription charges in Scotland. The bill won the backing of the parliament's health committee, but was eventually voted down by Labour, Tory, and Lib Dem MSPs. Fox had the last laugh, however, as the Scottish Government of 2007-11 picked up the bill and introduced it themselves.
Sheridan's libel action
The forward march of the Scottish Socialist Party, the most successful left-wing party in Scottish history, was halted in November 2004 by a disastrous decision taken by the party's then national convenor, Tommy Sheridan MSP, to sue a tabloid newspaper over stories that ran about his private life which he knew were substantially true. Sheridan's decision to sue the News of the World, against the advice of his fellow MSPs, led to the demanding of his resignation by the SSP. Sheridan lied throughout two high-profile trials and was eventually sentenced to eighteen months in jail, convicted on five counts of perjury.
On one occasion, Sheridan asked Fox to lie on his behalf by writing to his solicitor saying minutes of a party meeting where Sheridan admitted going to a swingers' club were false. Fox refused and told Sheridan his strategy was a "train wreck". Colin Fox later summarised Sheridan's conduct by saying he had "done more damage to the socialist cause than any good he ever did it".
In response to Tony Blair's plans to bring in variable top-up fees at English universities, Fox commented that previous student politicians, such as Jack Straw and Charles Clarke, "were only able to be active in student politics because they didn't have £10,000 of debt hanging round their neck and they didn't have to rush off to work in McDonald's". He added: "Now they are kicking the ladder away from the people below them."
In June 2005, Fox took part in a peaceful protest, interrupting Question Time in the Scottish Parliament, along with three other SSP MSPs, to highlight their claim that parliament had failed to secure the right to demonstrate outside the Gleneagles Hotel where the G8 were meeting. As a consequence, he was suspended from the Scottish Parliament for the whole of September and the salaries of the party's four MSPs and their staff were stopped—the severest penalty meted out to any peaceful protest in British parliamentary history.
Exit from parliament
Fox lost his seat in the Scottish Parliament in the 2007 election, but continued to lead the party, campaigning on issues including Scottish independence, fuel poverty, bankers' bonuses, the occupation of Afghanistan, climate change, equal marriage, AIDs, and education cuts. He has contested a number of elections since 2007, standing as his party's top candidate in the 2009 European elections, in the Lothians region for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2007 and 2011, and against Alistair Darling in Edinburgh South West at the United Kingdom general election, 2010.
In 2007 he supported Greenpeace on board their ship Arctic Sunrise in their campaign against the replacement of the UK's nuclear weapons. He had previously visited a nuclear power station on the grounds that "I am a convinced opponent of nuclear power but an opponent who wants to conduct the debate about new nuclear capacity and our energy needs on the basis of facts. My visit to Torness is at my own request." In the same year he championed the cause of affordable access to housing with his support of Midlothian Council's investment in providing housing.
In 2008 he wrote to the First Minister Alex Salmond seeking an assurance that any future meetings with members of the Northern Ireland Assembly would raise the issue of attitudes towards LGBT rights by its ministers. More recently he has also been involved in opposing community education cuts, and has marched against cuts to public services.
In 2012, Fox was invited to join the Yes Scotland Advisory Board as a representative of the SSP when the campaign was launched.
As a Yes Scotland Advisory Board member, Colin Fox was in great demand to speak at public meetings on the details of independence all across Scotland. He has shared platforms with Jim Sillars, John McAllion, John Finnie MSP, Jean Urquhart MSP, and Patrick Harvie MSP of the Scottish Green Party. He wrote the SSP's pamphlets The Case for an Independent Socialist Scotland and For a Modern Democratic Republic.
Fox addressed independence rallies in Edinburgh in 2012 and 2013, and spoke at the Oxford Union in May 2014 debating the motion: "This House believes Scotland should be an independent country". His opponents in the debate included Lord Jim Wallace and the Labour MP for Stirling, Anne McGuire.
In June 2014, Fox wrote in the Scotsman: "No country in the world is more engaged in the democratic debate over self-determination than Scotland today. September’s referendum has energised people to a remarkable extent with debates on the 'democratic deficit' at the heart of Scottish politics now taking place in households, schools, workplaces, village halls and urban community centres from one end of the country to the other."
After the referendum
When the make-up of the Smith Commission was announced after the rejection of independence, Colin Fox protested the decision to "uniquely exclude" the SSP from proceedings. He wrote to the Smith Commission: "The argument some use to justify our exclusion on the grounds that we currently have no 'parliamentary representation' fails to appreciate that the referendum was not a parliamentary process but an unprecedented public debate that resulted in an extraordinary level of engagement from all sections of society. To exclude the SSP is to exclude an important constituency of opinion in Scottish society."
In January 2015, Fox travelled to Athens as a guest of Syriza before its victory in the Greek legislative election, 2015. He met with Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias Turrión, and said the election result was "something for socialists in Scotland to ponder deeply".
In October 2008, Fox stood for Rector at the University of St Andrews. He came second, losing to Kevin Dunion. He was asked to run for the position by members of St Andrews-based student groups such as Stop The War, due to his previous experience with the pro-peace and social justice movements. After losing the rectorial election in 2008, he maintained his links with the University and visited a student sit-in protest in 2009. He stood again in the 2011 election, this time finishing third behind Alistair Moffat.
- "Scots Socialists claims Syriza victory can inspire 2016 revival". The Herald. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
- "Motherwell split on identity ahead of independence vote". BBC News. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
- "Our Lady's High School, Motherwell". 8 February 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- Published on Mon 19 Jan 00:00:00 GMT 2004. "Socialist MSP talks his way into Oxford - Politics". Scotsman.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Colin (8 October 2011). "Colin Fox: Me and Tony Benn in Glasgow Again". Sspcolinfox.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Thomson, Gordon (20 February 2014). "Memorial tribute to Caterpillar sit-in workers". Retrieved 13 May 2014.
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- "Socialist believes Scots want change beyond SNP's vision". 21 August 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
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- "Remember, remember the Scottish new members". BBC News. 5 June 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- "Tommy Sheridan found guilty of perjury". 23 December 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- "Tommy Sheridan ‘asked me to lie but I wouldn’t’ – former colleague Colin Fox". 7 October 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- "Tommy Sheridan asked party colleague to lie to lawyer - court told". 7 October 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- "Time to Unite and Campaign on Key Issues Facing Working People". Frontline. November 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- "MSPs suspended after G8 protest". BBC News. 30 June 2005. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "Glasgow students discuss the Afghan war". Socialist.net. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "Edinburgh Students Lobby MPs and MSPs to stop Climate Chaos | People & Planet". Peopleandplanet.org. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "Video: Scottish Socialist Party says Scotland needs equal marriage ‘to be a beacon to the world’". 18 July 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Colin (6 December 2006). "Colin Fox: World AIDS Day". Sspcolinfox.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Colin (11 March 2010). "Colin Fox: Campaigners step up opposition to community education cuts in Edinburgh". Sspcolinfox.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Colin (12 February 2007). "Colin Fox: Speaking from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise". Sspcolinfox.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Published on Sat 2 12 Dec:28:36 GMT 2006. "Socialist Fox on 'power to the people' trip - Around the Capital". Scotsman.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Colin Fox MSP (12 March 2007). "VOTE Scottish Socialist Party - Colin Fox: 1st Council house in quarter of a century". Colinfoxmsp.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "SSP - NI minister’s homophobic comments". Scottishsocialistparty.org. 23 February 2008. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "Sillars to return to Govan to put the case for socialist independence". 27 March 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- "My speech to yesterdays Independence March and Rally". 22 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- "Colin Fox to address the Oxford Union". 3 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- "Oxford Union: The Scotland Debate, and speakers". Retrieved 13 May 2014.
- "Colin Fox: The Queen in an independent Scotland". The Scotsman. 22 June 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
- "SSP protests our exclusion from Lord Smith's Devolution Commission". 5 October 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
- "'The most radical left-wing party in Europe is about to save Greece from austerity ... it can happen at home too'". Sunday Herald. 25 January 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- "Edinburgh Peoples Festival Home Page". Edinburghpeoplesfestival.org. 23 January 2010. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Colin (6 July 2011). "Colin Fox: Edinburgh People's Festival Programme Unveiled". Sspcolinfox.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "2008 | University of St Andrews". St-andrews.ac.uk. 24 October 2008. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "Blog Archive » Colin Fox second". Dundee SSP. 1 November 2008. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Published on Mon 10 Oct 01:53:35 BST 2005. "The link between Old Boney and Auld Reekie - News". Scotsman.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Colin (4 March 2009). "Colin Fox: Viva La Revolution St Andrews". Sspcolinfox.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-11-19.