Scottish Socialist Party

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Scottish Socialist Party
Pàrtaidh Sòisealach na h-Alba
Scots Socialist Pairtie
National co-convenors Colin Fox and
Sandra Webster
Founded 1998 (1998)
Headquarters Suite 370, 93 Hope Street
G2 6LD
Newspaper Scottish Socialist Voice
Ideology Democratic socialism
Scottish republicanism
Political position Left-wing
Colours Red, Yellow
Local government in Scotland[1]
1 / 1,222
Politics of Scotland
Political parties

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) (Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Sòisealach na h-Alba; Scots: Scots Socialist Pairtie) is a left-wing Scottish political party. Positioning itself significantly to the left of Scotland's centre-left parties, the SSP campaigns on a socialist economic platform and for an independent socialist Scotland. It operates through a branch-based structure and publishes fortnightly Scotland's only socialist newspaper, called the Scottish Socialist Voice.

The party campaigns for the establishment of an independent Scottish socialist republic, and is the most successful socialist party in modern Scottish politics; following the 2003 elections to the Scottish Parliament, the party had six Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and two local councillors.

The party is also involved in the campaign against cuts to public services and welfare being introduced by the UK government, in particular for the abolition of the bedroom tax[2][3] and for the government to mitigate fuel poverty caused by soaring fuel prices,[4] as well as for the provision of free school meals.

The party's co-convenor, Colin Fox, holds a position on the Advisory Board of Yes Scotland, the cross-party campaign for Scottish independence in the upcoming referendum.


Formation and initial electoral success

The Scottish Socialist Party was formed from the Scottish Socialist Alliance (SSA), an alliance of left-wing organisations in Scotland. Following reasonable results by the Alliance in the 1997 General Election, the decision was taken to transform the SSA into a single party to contest the first elections of the new Scottish Parliament. The SSP polled well in this election and saw Tommy Sheridan, then the convenor of the party, elected to represent Glasgow.

The period following that election saw sustained growth for the SSP, including a boost to membership when the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers affiliated to the party. During this period of sustained and rapid growth, the party recruited extensively from former members of the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party, in addition to trade unionists, environmentalists, and community campaigners.

The 2003 elections to the Scottish Parliament saw the SSP become the largest left-wing party in Scottish politics, gaining five additional MSPs across Scotland: Frances Curran; Rosie Kane; Carolyn Leckie; Colin Fox; and Rosemary Byrne.

Sheridan's resignation

On 11 November 2004, Tommy Sheridan resigned as convener of the party, citing personal reasons. He was replaced by Colin Fox, a Lothians MSP, in the 2005 leadership election. Following Sheridan's resignation, the News of the World alleged that he had had an extramarital affair. In response, Tommy Sheridan sued the paper for defamation—and was later found guilty of committing perjury during those proceedings. Through this series of events, Sheridan split from the SSP and formed his own party, Solidarity.

Electoral performance after 2007

The SSP first met following the split at a national rally in early September 2006, and again at a national conference in mid-October 2006, where all of the positions of the party were re-elected, including Colin Fox as National Convenor—a position that was eventually replaced in favour of two national co-spokespersons.

Neither the SSP or Sheridan's breakaway party won seats in the 2007 elections to the Scottish Parliament, ahead of which the SSP published a manifesto it described as "an unashamed socialist programme that would make a massive difference to the millions of Scots".[5] In council elections across the country, the SSP won a single seat for Jim Bollan in West Dumbartonshire.

The SSP did experience a recovery in 2008–09, increasing its vote—compared to the 2007 national result—at the 2008 UK by-elections in Glasgow East and Glenrothes. The party contested the 2009 European elections around the slogan of "Make Greed History", campaigning for a Europe-wide tax on millionaires,[6] and also achieved a higher vote share than in the Scottish Parliament election.

The party ran ten candidates in the United Kingdom general election, 2010, and said the blame for the eventual Conservative victory "[lay] with New Labour and the failure of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown these last 13 years, who have quite frankly exploited working people, with the poorest and most vulnerable being hit hardest".[7] Fox said his party's manifesto would tackle the "worst economic crisis in 80 years" without punishing ordinary people.[8]

The SSP launched its manifesto for the Scottish Parliament election, 2011 with promises to oppose cuts and tax the rich.[9] The party contested all eight Scottish Parliament regions with gender-balanced lists of candidates. The no. 1 candidates in each region were:

  • Jim Bollan for West
  • Frances Curran for Glasgow
  • Kevin McVey for Central
  • Colin Fox for Lothians
  • Colin Turbett for South
  • Morag Balfour for Mid Scotland and Fife
  • Angela Gorrie for North East
  • Pam Currie for Highlands and Islands

Scottish independence referendum, 2014

Following the 2011 elections to the Scottish Parliament and the resulting SNP majority, the Scottish Government announced its intent to hold an independence referendum in 2014. In May 2012, a cross-party organisation called Yes Scotland was established to campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum. The SSP's national co-spokesperson, Colin Fox, was invited to sit on the Yes Scotland Advisory Board, reflecting the party's crucial support for independence over the past fifteen years. During the referendum campaign, the party has continued to campaign on other issues including the bedroom tax and equal marriage.[10]

The party has argued the case for a Scottish socialist republic without a monarchy or nuclear weapons, with a greatly reduced level of military spending and a relationship with the European Union that safeguards Scotland's independence.[11] Its support for a republic[12] and an independent currency[13] is at odds with the SNP's opinion that the Union of the Crowns and use of the pound sterling should continue.

In May 2013, Fox described a vote for independence as a "significant defeat for the British state and its stranglehold over our economy, society, culture and politics", as well as an opportunity to "[repudiate] neo-liberalism, corporatism, the financialisation of our economy and existing class relations". He added that he believes the referendum can be won "by persuading our fellow Scots of independence's transformational potential". SSP member and former Labour MP and MSP John McAllion agreed that socialists "cannot be fellow travellers on [the SNP's] road to independence", and urged Yes Scotland to offer a vision distinct from that of the SNP.[14]

As part of the party's campaign for independence, it has held public meetings across Scotland with a range of speakers.[15] On 11 September 2013, it launched a pamphlet called The Case for an Independent Socialist Scotland,[16] the publication of which has been welcomed by MSPs.[17] It has become the party's fastest-selling pamphlet ever.

In November 2013, the party issued a statement in response to the publication of Scotland's Future, which said the Scottish Government's document had set out a vision "that unquestionably represents very significant advance for the people of Scotland", but reaffirmed the SSP's commitment to an independent socialist Scotland and a modern democratic republic. To that end, it said some policies in the document would be issues for the next general election.[18]


Scottish independence

Fly poster for the Scottish Socialist Party

The SSP strongly supports autonomy for Scotland and Scotland's independence from the United Kingdom. It co-ordinated the rally for independence at Calton Hill in October 2004 and wrote the Declaration of Calton Hill, which sets out a vision of an inclusive and outward looking Scottish republic, based on the key principles of liberty, equality, diversity, and solidarity. A follow up event to mark the initial declaration was held in October 2005. It also supports the Independence First campaign which demands an immediate referendum on independence for Scotland. In 2006, it participated in the "Rally for Independence" together with other political parties as part of a broad-based campaign to demand the right of self-determination for Scotland.

The national self-determination sought by the SSP is driven by internationalist rather than nationalist concerns. It seeks to build an inclusive republican state which is run by and for the benefit of all who live in Scotland. As such, it supports the rights of asylum seekers to settle there, without fear of detention or deportation; opposes the expansion of the UK state, for example through ID cards; and seeks the abolition of the monarchy. Through prioritising independence as a key component in its political philosophy, it stands in the tradition of John Maclean, who set up the Scottish Workers Republican Party in the early part of the 20th century, combining socialist economics with a goal of Scottish independence.

Regarding independence, the SSP's Alan McCombes wrote that "the tearing of the blue out of the Union Jack and the dismantling of the 300-year-old British state would [be] a traumatic psychological blow for the forces of capitalism and conservatism in Britain, Europe and the USA", and that it would be "almost as potent in its symbolism as the unravelling of the Soviet Union at the start of the 1990s". He also claimed that while the break-up of the United Kingdom would not result in "instant socialism", it would cause "a decisive shift in the balance of ideological and class forces".[19]

A referendum on Scottish independence was announced by the Scottish Government shortly after the Scottish National Party won an overall majority in the 2011 elections to the Scottish Parliament. The SSP is now campaigning for a Yes vote in that referendum, with its co-convenor Colin Fox sitting on the Advisory Board of Yes Scotland.

Reform of local government taxation

The Scottish Socialist Party proposes a Scottish Service Tax as a form of local income tax to replace the current council tax. The council tax, which was brought in after the Poll Tax became non-viable, is based on the value of the household in which the taxpayer lives; this can lead to unfavourably high taxation for tenants and pensioners.[20]

Prior to the establishment of the SSP, a number of SSP members were subject to warrant sales after refusing to pay the Poll Tax. One of the first bills that the SSP put forward once elected to Holyrood became the Abolition of Poindings and Warrant Sales Act 2001, a popular action which transformed debt recovery systems in Scotland.

In 2004, the SSP launched its "Scrap the Council Tax" campaign, which was boosted by a poll suggesting 77% of people in Scotland supported the abolition of the tax.[21] A bill proposing a progressive system of taxation based on a household's income was presented in 2005, but was defeated with 12 MSPs in favour, 94 against, and 6 abstaining.[22] Although the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party,[23] and the Scottish Green Party supported the concept of income-based taxation, all three parties disagreed with the SSP's specific proposals, which would have exempted anyone with an annual income of less than £10,000 and reduced liabilities for anyone with an annual income of less than £30,000,[24] while targeting revenue generation to those with household incomes in excess of £90,000.[25]

Abolition of prescription charges

In 2005, Colin Fox MSP proposed a bill to abolish prescription charges, similar to that which allows Welsh citizens free prescriptions on the NHS.[26] Despite widespread support and success at committee stage, it failed to become law.[27]

In response to the bill's introduction and the publicity that it generated, the Scottish Executive announced a review of the impact that the charges had on the chronically sick and full-time students—just three hours prior to the bill being debated. Prescription charges were eventually abolished on 1 April 2011, through legislation put forward by the Scottish National Party. Nicola Sturgeon later wrote to Colin Fox to acknowledge the SSP's contribution in the campaign for abolishing prescription charges.[28]

Free school meals

Frances Curran, then an MSP, led a broad campaign with many children's and anti-poverty organisations for the provision of free and nutritious meals for all Scottish schoolchildren to tackle the problems of poor diet and rising obesity amongst children.[29] This claimed to be able to eradicate the stigma associated with the current means-tested system and also ensure that meals provided in school conformed to minimal nutritional standards.

A bill to this effect was proposed in parliament in 2002, but was defeated. However, a subsequent Scottish Executive consultation found that 96% of respondents were in favour of free school meals. A redrafted bill was launched in October 2006 and was resubmitted to the parliament, but it was announced in November 2006 that this bill would not be taken in that session of parliament due to time pressures. Frances Curran had pledged that the SSP would resubmit its bill early in the next session of parliament and announced a text service for supporters to text Jack McConnell to demonstrate their support for the free school meals bill.[30] However, the SSP's exit from parliament at the 2007 election prevented this.

Under pressure from the SSP and the wider campaign, the Scottish National Party introduced free school meals as a pilot scheme for a small number of primary school pupils in selected local authorities and have announced that there will be free school meals for Primary 1-3 children from 2010, however have not backed the wholesale change that the SSP proposed.

Public transport

The SSP has proposed the scrapping of all fares on public transport within Scotland, which they claim will reduce carbon emissions, cut road deaths, reduce air pollution and boost the incomes of workers reliant on public transport.[31][32] The capital costs involved in the project would, they say, be raised by reducing planned roadbuilding programmes, for instance the M74 motorway extension, which the SSP had been active in opposing,[33][34] and by ring-fencing all money raised by government and local authorities from parking meters and car parks.

Such a scheme has a precedent in Hasselt, Belgium, where the city centre was revived by the provision of free public transport, and was a key plank of the Greater London Council's policy platform in the early 1980s. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, introduced free public transport for residents in April 2013[35] to considerable economic benefit,[36] adding more precedent for the SSP's policy of free public transport.

The SSP also wish to establish a Scottish National Bus Corporation, which would be publicly owned and democratically run by regional boards. Privately run bus corporations would also be re-regulated. Upon the expiration of the ScotRail franchise in November 2014, the SSP want it to be transferred to a publicly owned and democratically managed Scottish National Rail Corporation.

Reform of drug laws

The party has proposed the legalisation of cannabis and the licensing of premises to sell cannabis. It has also proposed the provision of free synthetic heroin on the National Health Service under medical supervision, to combat the problems of drugs in working class communities, as well as calling for a massive expansion in residential rehabilitation and detoxification facilities for addicts.[37]


Anti-war campaigns

The SSP campaigned against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The SSP was one of the founding members of the Scottish Coalition for Justice not War[38] at its establishment in September 2001. The February 2003 march against the war in Iraq in Glasgow was attended by some SSP members, and later that year SSP MSPs were threatened with disciplinary action after SSP's Kevin Williamson staged a protest in the Scottish Parliament.[39] In 2004, STV and Grampian threatened to pull a party election broadcast by the SSP which accused Tony Blair over the pretext for the war.[40]

It worked closely with Military Families Against the War, particularly in the Justice 4 Gordon Gentle campaign, standing down in the 2005 general election for Rose Gentle in the East Kilbride constituency.[41] It has also campaigned against rendition flights, including introducing a debate in the Scottish Parliament over the issue,[42] and against the lack of response from the UK government in Israel's war on Lebanon.

It has supported non-violent direct action as a tactic to oppose the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Scotland and strongly opposes the replacement of Trident. It has participated in the blockades at Faslane nuclear base since its inception and a number of SSP members have been fined and/or jailed after blockading the naval base at the annual Big Blockade. In 2005, Rosie Kane locked herself on to a 25 foot Trident replica outside the Scottish Parliament, only releasing herself after the replica was dismantled fourteen hours later. Later that year she was fined £150 for her actions and in October 2006, she was jailed for 14 days after refusing to pay the fine. In January 2007, three of its MSPs were arrested,[43] later released without charge, while in June 2007, five members of the SSP's youth wing were also arrested[44] and held overnight, after blockading the base as part of the Faslane365 campaign. The party supported the Scrap Trident demonstration in Glasgow in April 2013.[45]

Make capitalism history

The party was highly active in the protests against the G8, joining the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh and participating in the G8 Alternatives Summit.

Local Government representation

2003 Local Government Elections

In 2003, two SSP councillors were elected. Keith Baldasarra was elected for the Pollok ward of Glasgow City Council, and Jim Bollan was elected to serve on West Dunbartonshire Council.

2007 Local Government Elections

In 2007, Jim Bollan was re-elected to his seat on West Dunbartonshire Council.

2012 Local Government Elections

In 2012, Jim Bollan was re-elected to his seat on West Dunbartonshire Council.

Holyrood representation

1999 elections

The SSP contested the 1999 Scottish elections in all of the eight regions. One member was elected in the Glasgow region.

2003 elections

The SSP contested the 2003 Scottish elections in all of the eight regions and most first-past-the-post seats. The SSP received 245,735 votes in total (6.5%). Six representatives were elected to the Scottish parliament from the regional lists including two in Glasgow, one in Central, one in Lothians and one in South of Scotland. In 2006, two of these representatives left the party, leaving the SSP with four MSPs.

2007 elections

The SSP contested the 2007 Scottish elections in all of the eight regions. During the campaign the party had to contend with a public image damaged following a protest in the Parliament which saw members of the party suspended from the chamber for a month, as well as the party's schism with the resultant departure of Sheridan. The SSP suffered a collapse in support, winning 12,731 votes across the eight regional lists. This was less than 10% of its results in 2003. It failed to gain any seats and lost all four of its MSPs. The decline in support marked a trend amongst smaller parties in the parliament, with the Greens and the SSCUP also losing seats.

2011 elections

The SSP contested the 2011 Scottish elections in all of the eight regions. It won 8,272 votes across the eight regional lists—0.4% of regional votes cast.


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  2. ^ "SSP Councillor Jim Bollan leads Bedroom tax revolt". 2013-03-30. Retrieved 2013-04-01. 
  3. ^ "Anas Sarwar targeted in Glasgow protest". 15 November 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
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  20. ^ "Pensioners push for tax review". 23 February 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
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  22. ^ "Official Report Debate Contributions - Parliamentary Business". 1 February 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
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  24. ^ "Socialists targeting council tax". 5 October 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  25. ^ "Council tax: the alternatives". 8 February 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  26. ^ Call to scrap prescription charge
  27. ^ MSPs retain prescription charges
  28. ^ "A universal prescription". 16 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  29. ^ Campaign for Free School Meals
  30. ^
  31. ^ "SSP campaigns for free public transport". 26 January 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  32. ^ "Time is ripe to push for free public transport". 24 March 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  33. ^ "Parties unite to fight M74 plans". 11 May 2003. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  34. ^ "Minister orders M74 inquiry". 18 June 2003. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  35. ^ "Tallinn, Estonia's Capital, Introduces Free Public Transportation For Residents". 2013-04-04. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 
  36. ^ "Could free transport tackle our carbon problem?". 30 October 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  37. ^ "Socialists want cafes for cannabis". 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2013-04-01. 
  38. ^ "Scottish Coalition for Justice not War". Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  39. ^ "Socialist MSPs given a warning after protest". 2003-11-21. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 
  40. ^ "SSP wants to call Blair a liar". 30 May 2004. Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  41. ^ [1][dead link]
  42. ^ "Protest over 'prisoner flights'". BBC News. 18 December 2005. 
  43. ^ Trident protest politicians held
  44. ^ SSY Members arrested at Faslane
  45. ^ "Sandra Webster, Scottish Socialist Party – Why I Want To Scrap Trident". 25 February 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 

External links