Scottish Socialist Party
|Scottish Socialist Party
Pàrtaidh Sòisealach na h-Alba
Scots Socialist Pairtie
Sandra Webster[Note 1]
|Headquarters||Suite 370, 93 Hope Street
|Newspaper||Scottish Socialist Voice|
|Youth wing||Scottish Socialist Youth|
|Women's wing||Socialist Women's Network|
|European affiliation||European Anticapitalist Left|
|European Parliament group||N/A|
|UK Parliament affiliation||N/A|
|Local government in Scotland|
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 Scottish independence. It operates through a branch-based structure with additional networks for identity or campaigning groups, as well as accepting open platforms which are allowed to organise within the party.
Following the 2003 elections to the Scottish Parliament, the party had six Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and two local councillors. In the 2007 elections, the SSP lost all of its seats in the Scottish Parliament and retained only one local councillor. In the 2011 elections, the SSP stood in all regional lists, however failed to gain any MSPs.
At the moment, the party campaigns for the establishment of an independent Scottish socialist republic, for the withdrawal of Scottish troops from Afghanistan, and for the provision of free school meals. The party also campaigns against cuts to public services and welfare being introduced by the UK government, in particular for the abolition of the bedroom tax and for the government to mitigate fuel poverty caused by soaring fuel prices. The party's co-spokesperson, 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 unexpectedly 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 Socialist Workers Party in Scotland joined the SSP, and the Scottish section of 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 gain five additional seats across Scotland, becoming the largest left-wing party in Scottish politics.
Sheridan crisis and 2006 Solidarity split 
|Wikinews has related news: Scottish Socialist Party to split as Sheridan launches new party|
On 11 November 2004, Tommy Sheridan announced his resignation as convener of the party, citing personal reasons. He was replaced by Colin Fox, SSP MSP for the Lothians, after a contest with Alan McCombes, the SSP's policy co-ordinator. 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. As a result of his lawsuit, the minutes of the SSP executive meeting held on 9 November 2004 were subpoenaed by the newspaper. The party initially declined to hand them over. A raid was conducted on the SSP's offices in May 2006 and Alan McCombes, the SSP's national policy co-ordinator (who had possession of them) was jailed for 12 days. In response to a call from Sheridan to release the minutes, the party eventually handed them in to the court. It transpired that in that meeting, the party executive had decided unanimously to ask for his resignation because he intended to take the News of the World to court for defamation over allegations that were in fact true. Sheridan claimed in the press that a cabal within the party's Executive Committee were out to destroy him, and expanded on this statement in an open letter to party members on 28 May 2006, claiming there had been a long-standing slander campaign conducted against him by senior party figures and MSPs.
On 29 August 2006, Tommy Sheridan announced his intention to leave the Scottish Socialist Party and found a new socialist political party called Solidarity. The split was formalised in September 2006.
At Sheridan's court case, eleven SSP members testified that Sheridan admitted during the 9 November meeting to having attended a swingers' club, an admission which is noted in the disputed minutes, repeated to Charlie McCarthy and five other leading members in the SSP, as well as recorded on a videotape which surfaced in October 2006. However, the authenticity of the video tape was disputed by Sheridan, who claimed that it was faked using excerpts of his voice to piece it together.
Sheridan eventually won his court case, though an appeal was lodged on behalf of the News of the World. A police investigation into allegations of perjury, conspiracy to commit perjury, and witness intimidation followed the trial. Computers from both the SSP and Sheridan's offices were seized for forensic examination. On 1 April 2007, The Sunday Herald reported that Lothian and Borders Police had reached a conclusion about the disputed minute. On 16 December 2007, Sheridan was charged with perjury related to the case. The trial of Tommy and Gail Sheridan started at Glasgow High Court on 4 October 2010 and some SSP members were called as witnesses. In December 2010, Tommy Sheridan was found guilty of perjury. His wife Gail was acquitted.
Post-Sheridan electoral performance 
The SSP first met at a national rally following the split 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 the re-election of Colin Fox as National Convenor and Alison Kane as National Treasurer, and the election of Pam Currie as National Secretary. A decision was taken to review all of the party's structures including the role of the national convenor, the staffing arrangements of the party and the role of elected representatives with a view to adapting the structures to further strengthen members' participation and the party's internal democracy.
At the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, neither the SSP or Solidarity won a seat, although Solidarity did better At the local elections on the same day, Solidarity and the SSP each saw one councillor elected, in Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire respectively. Solidarity's councillor later defected to Scottish Labour.
Neither the SSP or Tommy Sheridan's breakaway party, Solidarity, won seats in the 2007 elections to the Scottish Parliament. The party saw its vote collapse (12,450 votes; 0.6%) and it failed to gain as many votes as Solidarity. In council elections across the country, the SSP won a single seat for Jim Bollan in West Dumbartonshire. Solidarity won a councillor in Glasgow who later defected to Scottish Labour.
The SSP did experience a modest recovery in 2008-09, increasing its vote compared to 2007 at by-elections in 2008 in Glasgow East and Glenrothes. The party contested the 2009 European elections, largely around the slogan of "Make Greed History", campaigning for a Europe-wide "greed tax" on the continent's rich, and marginally increased its vote compared to 2007. It failed to have any candidates elected. The party ran ten candidates in the United Kingdom general election, 2010; all lost their deposits.
The SSP contested all eight regions in the Scottish Parliament election, 2011, with gender-balanced lists of candidates. The no. 1 candidates were: West Jim Bollan, Glasgow Frances Curran, Central Kevin McVey, Lothian Colin Fox, South Colin Turbett, Mid Scotland and Fife Morag Balfour, North East Angela Gorrie, Highlands and Islands Pam Currie. No candidates were elected, all losing their deposits.
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 organsiation called Yes Scotland was established to campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum. The SSP's co-convenor, Colin Fox, sits on Yes Scotland's Advisory Board.
Though the SSP is campaigning for a vote for independence in the coming referendum, they have stated a preference that Scotland should become a republic and that it should form an independent currency. This is at odds with the SNP's opinion that the Union of the Crowns should continue and that the pound sterling should continue to be used in Scotland.
Scottish independence 
The SSP strongly supports autonomy for Scotland and for 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".
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. The campaign is also supported by the Scottish Green Party.
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 people who are tenants in valuable buildings, or pensioners.
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.
A bill proposing a progressive system of taxation based on a household's income was presented in 2005, but was overwhelmingly defeated. Although the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party supported the concept of income-based taxation, both 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, while targeting revenue generation to those with household incomes in excess of £100,000.
Free 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. Despite widespread support and success at committee stage, it failed to become law.
In response to the bill 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 1st April, 2011, through legislation put forward by the Scottish National Party.
Free school meals 
Frances Curran, then an MSP, led a broad campaign with many children's and anti-poverty organisations to provide free and nutritious meals for all Scottish schoolchildren to tackle the problems of poor diet and rising obesity amongst children. 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. 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. The capital costs involved in the project would, they say, be raised by reducing planned roadbuilding programmes, in particular the M74 motorway extension, which the SSP has been active in opposing, 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, 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.
Fuck Abstinence 
Fuck Abstinence is a Scottish Socialist Youth Women's Group campaign that seeks to educate young women denied adequate sex education through the distribution of packs containing "a leaflet explaining reproductive rights and a condom", and to campaign for guarantees of such education in schools.
Anti-war campaigns 
The SSP has campaigned against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The SSP was one of the founding members of the Scottish Coalition for Justice not War 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. In 2004, STV and Grampian threatened to pull a party political broadcast by the SSP which accused Tony Blair over the pretext for the war.
It works 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. It has also campaigned against rendition flights, including introducing a debate in the Scottish Parliament over the issue, and against the lack of response from the UK government in Israel's war on Lebanon.
It has supported the 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, later released without charge, while in June 2007, five members of the SSP's youth wing were also arrested and held overnight, after blockading the base as part of the Faslane365 campaign.
Make capitalism history 
The party (unlike most others) allows for the organisation of internal factions (which it describes as platforms), the intention is to ensure that socialists can work together on the issues on which they agree, however to respect the opinions of other socialists on the issues on which there is dispute.
Current platforms 
- The Republican Communist Network (born 1999) was a founding member of the SSP. It prints an internal journal, Emancipation and Liberation.
- The Workers Unity Platform (born 1999) is an amalgam of members from small left groups who came together to form a platform within the SSP.
- The Solidarity Tendency (born 2006) consists of supporters of the Alliance for Workers Liberty.
Former platforms 
Two of the former platforms in the SSP both emerged from British Section of the Committee for a Workers' International, following the "Open Turn" debate of the early 1990s, which was largely led by Scottish members. In 1998, the "Scottish Debate" led to the establishment of the SSP, however within the UK movement this was not widely welcomed. Tensions between many leading Scottish members, including Alan McCombes and Catriona Grant, and the UK leadership led to a split within the CWI into two separate platforms. The SWP joined in 2003 following extensive negotiations between the leaderships of the two parties, leaving in 2006 to join Solidarity. The United Left platform was formed in early 2006 in the midst of the internal problems which eventually led to the split in the party, after which the platform formally dissolved.
- The International Socialist Movement (1999–2006) was a founder member of the SSP and was affiliated to the CWI. It broke from the CWI in 2001, when some CWI loyalists left it. It published the journal "Frontline" until its dissolution in 2006, whereupon Frontline became an independent Marxist journal.
- The International Socialists (2001–2006) consisted of a small number of individuals who remained affiliated to the CWI when the ISM broke away from the international in 2001. In 2006 the platform left the party .
- The Scottish Republican Socialist Movement (1999–2006) emerged from the Scottish Republican Socialist Party to become one of the founding platforms of the SSP. Its major focus is independence for a Scottish Republic. The SRSM officially disaffilated from the SSP in November 2006, although some individual members remain SSP members.
- The Scottish supporters of the Socialist Workers Party (2003–2006) joined the SSP in 2002 becoming the Socialist Workers Platform despite strong reservations from then members. In 2006 they left the SSP to join Solidarity.
- The United Left (2006–2007) was not officially incorporated as a platform within the SSP, however it operated in a similar manner and was largely regarded as such. It was formed in June 2006 and dissolved in January 2007. Its formation was largely in response to the Sheridan crisis however it drove a move towards a more collaborative and autonomous vision for the SSP in the post-split period.
The Socialist Workers Party have criticised the SSP for no longer being a broad and open mass party of the left, and cited this as one of their reasons for splitting from the SSP to form Solidarity. The SWP and others on the left have also argued that the SSP has not responded adequately to wide public anger at recent wars. However, SSP defenders have contested that these opinions are based around the Socialist Workers Party's pre-2007 support for Sheridan's ally: the maverick left-wing Respect party politician, George Galloway, who has been at odds with the SSP leadership over issues like independence, amongst others.
Other information 
The SSP distributes a weekly newspaper called the Scottish Socialist Voice.
The SSP is a founding member of the European Anticapitalist Left.
Members of the SSP helped to establish Second Life Left Unity.
Local Government representation 
2003 Local Government Elections 
2007 Local Government Elections 
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. Thanks to the party's heightened profile and popularity resulting from Sheridan's election in 1999, as well as his charismatic and often maverick performances in the parliament, an electoral surge occurred. This was part of a broader surge for smaller parties, as the Scottish electorate grasped the potential of their second vote. 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. It failed to gain any seats.
- The SSP does not have a party leader in the traditional sense, but two national spokespersons.
- Keith Edkins (30 November 2009). "Local Council Political Compositions". Retrieved 2 December 2009.
- "SSP Councillor Jim Bollan leads Bedroom tax revolt". 2013-03-30. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
- "Petition - Scottish Socialist Party". Retrieved 2013-04-01.
- "SSP votes to hand over documents", BBC News, 29 May 2006 . Retrieved 10 September 2006.
- New socialist party for Sheridan "New socialist party for Sheridan". 2006-08-29. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
- SSP crisis archive containing all the relevant materials from all sides.
- "text of letter from Charlie McCarthy, SSP Health Spokesperson"
- "Guardian article about open letter from Glasgow activists"
- Sheridan's Confession Tape
- Sheridan 'sex club' tape defended
- Jersey Visit for Sheridan Police Probe
- "Examining Scotland's currency options". 28 April 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
- "Why the left should back independence". 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
- Call to scrap prescription charge
- MSPs retain prescription charges
- Campaign for Free School Meals
- "Tallinn, Estonia's Capital, Introduces Free Public Transportation For Residents". 2013-04-04. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- "Socialists want cafes for cannabis". 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
- "A tale of two rallies". 2006-09-07. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- "Socialist MSPs given a warning after protest". 2003-11-21. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
- "Protest over 'prisoner flights'". BBC News. 18 December 2005.
- Trident protest politicians held
- SSY Members arrested at Faslane
- Socialist Worker Platform statement on Scottish Socialist Party, Socialist Worker Online, 21 August 2006 . Retrieved 5 October 2006.
- The Scottish Socialist Party's Home Page
- The SSP's weekly newspaper
- The SSP's first broadcast for the 2007 Scottish Parliament Election
- The SSP's second broadcast for the 2007 Scottish Parliament Election
- International Socialist Movement The International Socialist Movement was a platform within the SSP descended from Scottish Militant Labour
- Republican Communist Network The RCN is a platform within the SSP
- SSP United Left a former platform within the SSP, dissolved in January 2007