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
Glasgow
G2 6LD
Newspaper Scottish Socialist Voice
Membership Increase 2,100+[1]
Ideology Democratic socialism,
Scottish independence,
Republicanism
Political position Left-wing
Colours Red, Yellow
Local government in Scotland[2]
1 / 1,222
Website
www.scottishsocialistparty.org
Politics of Scotland
Political parties
Elections

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP; Scottish Gaelic: Pàrtaidh Sòisealach na h-Alba; Scots: Scots Socialist Pairtie) is a left-wing political party campaigning for the establishment of an independent socialist Scotland. It operates through a local branch structure and publishes Scotland's longest-running socialist newspaper, the Scottish Socialist Voice. It is the largest and most successful socialist party in modern Scotland; at the height of its electoral success, the party had six Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and two councillors.

The party was founded in 1998 and has been heavily involved in campaigns for Scottish independence, against cuts to public services and welfare, and for democratic public ownership of the economy. In recent years, it has fought the austerity programme of the UK government (in particular calling for the abolition of the bedroom tax[3][4]), and called for immediate action to mitigate fuel poverty caused by soaring fuel prices.[5]

The Scottish Socialist Party was one of three parties in Yes Scotland,[6] the cross-party campaign for Scottish independence in the 2014 referendum, and the party's national co-spokesperson Colin Fox sat on the campaign's Advisory Board.

Democratic structures[edit]

At present, the Scottish Socialist Party is a members-led organisation with no formal leadership. The party has two national co-spokespersons, Colin Fox and Sandra Webster, who are elected by party members at the annual national conference, which also determines party policy. The day-to-day business of the party is handled by a small Executive Committee, which is also elected by the membership. The primary decision-making bodies are the:

  • National Conference, convening yearly
  • National Council, convening four times a year
  • Executive Committee, convening regularly

History[edit]

Formation and initial electoral success[edit]

The Scottish Socialist Party emerged from the Scottish Socialist Alliance (SSA), a broad-based group of left-wing organisations in Scotland. Following the 1997 General Election, where it contested 10 seats, the decision was taken to transform the SSA into a party to contest the first elections to the new Scottish Parliament. The party polled well and saw Tommy Sheridan, then the convenor of the party, elected to represent Glasgow region.

The period following that election saw sustained and remarkable growth for the SSP, where it doubled in size in twelve months, and 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: Colin Fox; Frances Curran; Rosie Kane; Carolyn Leckie; and Rosemary Byrne.

The party changed the character of Scottish politics by winning widespread electoral support and demonstrating how socialist ideas could be popularly presented. One of the first bills that the SSP put forward once elected to Holyrood was the Abolition of Poindings and Warrant Sales Act 2001, a popular action which transformed debt recovery systems in Scotland. It also presented bills to replace the council tax with an income-based alternative,[7] for the abolition of prescription charges,[8] and the introduction of free school meals.[9]

Sheridan's resignation[edit]

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 and visited a swingers' club in Manchester.[10] Sheridan denied the stories and sued the newspaper, throwing the SSP into turmoil. He split the party, branding those who refused to support him as "scabs".[11][12] Sheridan eventually went to jail for perjury in 2010,[13] which the party said vindicated their position.[14]

Rosie Kane later said of the ordeal: "Sheridan vilified the women in the party who refused to bow to him. Our lives have been devastated by his actions."[15]

Electoral performance after 2007[edit]

Neither the SSP or Sheridan's breakaway party won seats in the 2007 elections to the Scottish Parliament.[16]

The SSP experienced a recovery in by-elections from 2008–09, increasing its vote compared to the 2007 national result. The party contested the 2009 European elections around the slogan of "Make Greed History", campaigning for a Europe-wide tax on millionaires,[17] 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".[18] Fox said his party's manifesto would tackle the "worst economic crisis in 80 years" without punishing ordinary people.[19]

The SSP launched its manifesto for the Scottish Parliament election, 2011 with promises to oppose cuts and tax the rich.[20] The party contested all eight Scottish Parliament regions with gender-balanced lists of candidates.

Scottish independence referendum, 2014[edit]

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. The SSP's national co-spokesperson, Colin Fox, was invited to sit on its Advisory Board, reflecting the party's crucial support for independence over the past fifteen years. This was done at the insistence of Yes Scotland's non-partisan chief executive, Blair Jenkins, in the face of SNP opposition.[21] During the referendum campaign, the party continued to campaign on other issues including the bedroom tax, fuel poverty, equal marriage,[22] and the latest Israel-Gaza conflict.[23][24]

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.[25] Its support for a republic[26] and an independent currency[27] is at odds with the SNP's opinion that the Union of the Crowns and use of the pound sterling should continue. SSP member and former Labour MP and MSP John McAllion has said socialists "cannot be fellow travellers on [the SNP's] road to independence", and urged Yes Scotland to offer a distinct vision.[28]

As part of the party's campaign for independence, it held dozens of public meetings across Scotland with a range of speakers.[29] On 11 September 2013, it launched a pamphlet called The Case for an Independent Socialist Scotland,[30] the publication of which has been welcomed by MSPs.[31] It has become the party's fastest-selling pamphlet ever. In June 2014, the party published another pamphlet outlining its case for "a modern democratic republic".[32]

In response to the publication of Scotland's Future, the party issued a statement 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 become issues for the next Scottish general election.[33]

In an interview with the Sunday Herald in late August 2014, Colin Fox said: "The SSP has brought a proletarian sense to Yes Scotland and reminded people the decisive issue is whether people think they're going to be better off. It's not the currency, it's not the EU, it's not those highfalutin' chattering class issues." He said that the party brought "a sense of the schemes, the workplaces, the unions" to the campaign.[21]

After the announcement of the referendum result, the SSP was among political parties that reported significant increases in the size of their membership.[34][35] As of 23 September, more than 2,100 people had joined the party since the referendum result was declared.[36]

Policies[edit]

Scottish independence[edit]

Fly poster for the Scottish Socialist Party

The SSP strongly supports Scottish independence. 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. 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 country 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.

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 campaigned for a Yes vote in that referendum, with its co-spokesperson Colin Fox sitting on the Advisory Board of Yes Scotland. 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 believed the referendum could won "by persuading our fellow Scots of independence's transformational potential".

Reform of local government taxation[edit]

The Scottish Socialist Party proposes a form of local income tax to replace council tax. The council tax, which was brought in after Thatcher's poll tax became non-viable, is based on the value of the household in which the taxpayer lives; this can lead to unfairly high taxation for tenants and pensioners.[37]

In 2004, the SSP launched its "Scrap the Council Tax" campaign, boosted by a poll suggesting 77% of people in Scotland supported the abolition of the tax.[38] 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.[39] Although the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party,[7] 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,[40] while targeting revenue generation to those with household incomes in excess of £90,000.[41]

Abolition of prescription charges[edit]

In 2005, Colin Fox MSP proposed a bill to abolish NHS prescription charges.[8] Despite widespread support and receiving the backing of the parliament's health committee, the bill was voted down by Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat MSPs.[42]

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.[43]

Free school meals[edit]

Frances Curran MSP led a campaign which included children's and anti-poverty organisations for the provision of free and nutritious meals for all to tackle the problems of poor diet and rising obesity amongst children.[44] 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.[45] 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[edit]

The SSP has proposed free 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.[46][47] The capital costs involved in the project would, they say, be raised by reducing planned roadbuilding programmes,[48][49] and ring-fencing all money raised by government and local authorities from parking meters and car parks.

Such a scheme in Hasselt, Belgium, 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[50] to considerable economic benefit,[51] adding more precedent for the SSP's policy of free public transport.

The SSP also aim 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[edit]

The SSP has proposed the legalisation of cannabis and the licensing of premises to sell cannabis as a means of breaking the link between soft drugs and potentially lethal drugs such as heroin.[52] It has also proposed the provision of synthetic heroin on National Health Service under medical supervision in order to undermine the black market for drugs and combat the social and health problems caused by drug use in working class communities, as well as calling for the expansion of residential rehabilitation and detoxification facilities for addicts.[53]

Campaigns[edit]

Palestine solidarity campaign[edit]

The SSP, affiliated to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, is a strong proponent of an independent Palestine. Cllr Jim Bollan successfully moved a BDS motion on West Dunbartonshire Council in 2009.[54] Bollan has described BDS as "an ethical issue for local councils".[55]

In July 2014, the party published a statement condemning the recent escalation of violence in Palestine as "Israeli aggression against the people of Gaza". The statement called for international pressure to end Israel's attacks and backed "peace forces in Israel who are dismayed and sickened by the actions of their government". The party also declared its continuing support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for justice and statehood.[56]

Anti-war campaigns[edit]

The SSP campaigned against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was one of the founding members of the Scottish Coalition for Justice not War[57] in September 2001. The February 2003 march against the war in Iraq in Glasgow was largely organised by SSP members.

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.[58] In 2009, the grandmother of Dundee soldier Kevin Elliot, who died in Afghanistan, joined the party because of its firm anti-war stance.[59] The party has also campaigned against rendition flights, including introducing a debate in the Scottish Parliament over the issue,[60] 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 SSP MSPs were arrested,[61] later released without charge, while in June 2007, five members of the SSP's youth wing were also arrested[62] 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.[63]

Make capitalism history[edit]

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.

Publications[edit]

Scottish Socialist Party pamphlets.jpg

Alongside the Scottish Socialist Voice, the party has published a number of pamphlets setting various policy positions in greater detail than in the party's election manifestos. Its best-selling pamphlet so far is called The Case for an Independent Socialist Scotland, which was launched on 11 September 2013[30] and was welcomed by MSPs.[31]

The party's published pamphlets include:

Holyrood representation[edit]

Election Number of Regional Votes Share of Regional votes Regional seats Outcome of election
1999 46,635 2.0%
1 / 56
Labour/Liberal Democrat Coalition
2003 128,026 6.7%
6 / 56
Labour/Liberal Democrat Coalition
2007 12,731 0.6%
0 / 56
SNP minority government
2011 8,272 0.4%
0 / 56
SNP majority government

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The SSP". Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  2. ^ Keith Edkins (24 November 2013). "Local Council Political Compositions". Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "SSP Councillor Jim Bollan leads Bedroom tax revolt". 2013-03-30. Retrieved 2013-04-01. 
  4. ^ "Anas Sarwar targeted in Glasgow protest". 15 November 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "New SSP Pamphlet on Fuel Poverty". 25 October 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "About Yes Scotland". Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "SSP sets out 'service tax' plan". 27 May 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Call to scrap prescription charge
  9. ^ "Free school meals move fails". BBC News. 20 June 2002. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  10. ^ "Swinton sex club swings into spotlight". Manchester Evening News. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  11. ^ "Tommy Sheridan trial: 'Scabs' - the cheap insult that led to his downfall". The Scotsman. 24 December 2010. 
  12. ^ "Scabs and vengeance". Weekly Worker. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  13. ^ "Tommy Sheridan found guilty of perjury in News of the World trial". The Guardian. 23 December 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "Scottish election: Scottish Socialist Party profile". BBC News. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "The women who refused to lie for Tommy Sheridan". The Guardian. 28 January 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "Socialists bid for independence". 10 April 2007. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  17. ^ "Scottish Socialists in Euro push". 13 May 2009. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  18. ^ "Scottish Socialists launching UK election manifesto". 13 April 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  19. ^ "Left wingers hit election trail". 26 April 2010. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  20. ^ "Scottish election: Scottish Socialists launch manifesto". 13 April 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Gordon, Tom (17 August 2014). "Yes's Colin Fox: middle classes in Scotland are complacent...they pay lip service to poverty". Sunday Herald. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  22. ^ "Video: Scottish Socialist Party says Scotland needs equal marriage ‘to be a beacon to the world’". 18 July 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  23. ^ "Israel must stop". 18 July 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  24. ^ "Powerful speeches made at SSP Glasgow South’s Gaza crisis public meeting". 8 August 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  25. ^ "Scottish independence: Seven other visions of self-rule". BBC News. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  26. ^ "Monarch surveys". 14 August 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  27. ^ "Examining Scotland's currency options". 28 April 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  28. ^ "Scottish independence: Scotland's Road to Socialism". 29 May 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  29. ^ "Socialist campaign comes to Penicuik". 15 August 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  30. ^ a b "Out now ‘The Case for an Independent Socialist Scotland’ a new pamphlet from the SSP". 10 September 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  31. ^ a b "Motion S4M-07572: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 03/09/2013". Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  32. ^ "For a modern democratic republic". Scottish Socialist Voice. 30 May 2014. p. 8. 
  33. ^ "Colin Fox gives the SSP response to the Independence White Paper". 27 November 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  34. ^ "Scottish referendum: 'Yes' parties see surge in members". BBC News. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  35. ^ "Nicola Surgeon reveals 5000 new members have joined SNP since independence referendum". Daily Record. 21 September 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  36. ^ "SSP Membership Tweet". Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  37. ^ "Pensioners push for tax review". 23 February 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  38. ^ "Most Scots 'oppose' council tax". 15 February 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  39. ^ "Official Report Debate Contributions - Parliamentary Business". 1 February 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  40. ^ "Socialists targeting council tax". 5 October 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  41. ^ "Council tax: the alternatives". 8 February 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  42. ^ MSPs retain prescription charges
  43. ^ "A universal prescription". 16 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  44. ^ Campaign for Free School Meals
  45. ^ http://www.scottishsocialistvoice.net/lg%20back%20issues%2006/issue%20287_lg.htm
  46. ^ "SSP campaigns for free public transport". 26 January 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  47. ^ "Time is ripe to push for free public transport". 24 March 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  48. ^ "Parties unite to fight M74 plans". 11 May 2003. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  49. ^ "Minister orders M74 inquiry". 18 June 2003. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  50. ^ "Tallinn, Estonia's Capital, Introduces Free Public Transportation For Residents". 2013-04-04. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 
  51. ^ "Could free transport tackle our carbon problem?". 30 October 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  52. ^ "Scottish Socialist Party manifesto: A policy summary". BBC News. 17 May 2001. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  53. ^ "Socialists want cafes for cannabis". 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2013-04-01. 
  54. ^ "An email exchange with Cllr Jim Bollan of West Dunbartonshire Council". 7 June 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  55. ^ "Councillors and Mayors from UK, Spain and Sweden write to Marrickville Council in support of BDS policy". 17 April 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  56. ^ Bonnar, Bill (30 July 2014). "We stand with Palestine". Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  57. ^ "Scottish Coalition for Justice not War". Banthebomb.org. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  58. ^ [1][dead link]
  59. ^ "Grandmother of Dundee soldier killed in Afghanistan to join SSP". The Scotsman. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  60. ^ "Protest over 'prisoner flights'". BBC News. 18 December 2005. 
  61. ^ Trident protest politicians held
  62. ^ SSY Members arrested at Faslane
  63. ^ "Sandra Webster, Scottish Socialist Party – Why I Want To Scrap Trident". 25 February 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 

External links[edit]