History of the Scottish Socialist Party

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In Scotland, the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is a left-wing political party. The party was formed in 1998 from an alliance of left-wing organisations in Scotland. In 1999, it saw its first MSP returned to Holyrood, with five more MSPs elected in 2003. It lost all MSPs in the 2007 elections and has lacked representation in the Scottish Parliament since.

Early years (1996-1998)[edit]

The forerunner of the SSP was the Scottish Socialist Alliance (SSA), which was a coalition of left-wing bodies in Scotland formed in 1996.[1][2] The largest group involved was Scottish Militant Labour.

The first election it fought was the Toryglen by-election for Glasgow City Council in August 1996, with Rosie Kane as the candidate, where it won a respectable 18% of the vote.

United Kingdom general election, 1997[edit]

The SSA contested 16 seats in Scotland at the United Kingdom general election, 1997, including all ten Glasgow seats, Edinburgh North and Leith, and both Dundee seats. Tommy Sheridan saved his deposit in Glasgow Pollok, and Jim McVicar and Alan McCombes picked up a significant vote in Glasgow Baillieston and Glasgow Govan respectively.

The SSA's electoral stance was that there needed to be a left alternative to New Labour and the SNP, and the SSA felt that the experience had been enough of a success to go on to form the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) in 1998, with Tommy Sheridan as its convenor, in advance of the Scottish Parliament general election, 1999.

Formation and growth of the SSP[edit]

Scottish Parliament general election, 1999[edit]

The SSP contested the first elections to the devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999 and succeeded in getting its National Convenor, Tommy Sheridan, elected to represent the Glasgow region.

The period following the election of Scotland's only socialist MSP saw sustained growth for the SSP, including a boost to membership when 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, it recruited extensively from former members of the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party, in addition to trade unionists, environmentalists, and community campaigners. It also achieved what was, for a minor party, a respectable vote at the United Kingdom general election, 2001 and a series of by-elections for the UK and Scottish parliaments (Hamilton South, Ayr, Glasgow Anniesland, and Falkirk West).

Scottish Parliament general election, 2003[edit]

The 2003 elections to the Scottish Parliament took place shortly after the decision of the UK parliament to invade Iraq and the UK firefighter dispute 2002–2003. The SSP was active in the anti-war movement and the firefighters' dispute, and gained five additional regional list MSPs across Scotland: Frances Curran; Rosie Kane; Carolyn Leckie; Colin Fox; and Rosemary Byrne.

Campbell Martin, a former SNP MSP who had become an independent, came fairly close to joining the SSP. The party did, however, recruit John McAllion, a former Labour MSP who lost his seat at the 2003 election. He stood for the SSP in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, 2006, but gained only 537 votes (1.6%).

Crisis and split[edit]

On 11 November 2004, Tommy Sheridan resigned as convener of the Scottish Socialist Party, citing personal reasons. It later emerged that he had been pressured into resignation by the party's National Executive because he intended to sue a national tabloid newspaper over stories he knew to be true. Colin Fox was elected to replace him at the party's 2005 leadership election.

By early August 2006, Sheridan was looking to become leader of the Scottish Socialist Party again—[3]but on 29 August 2006, before the election had taken place, Sheridan announced his intention to leave and found a new political party which he called Solidarity.[4] His move was supported by Rosemary Byrne MSP.[5] Sheridan hoped his splinter group would attract as many as 700 SSP members.[6]

The SSP met immediately before the split at a national rally on 2 September 2006, at which Fox said "the vast majority of SSP members" had not been persuaded of the need for a new party.[6] As a result of the split, the party's national conference was brought forward from the following Spring to that October, and all of the party positions went up for election.[7] All of the incumbents were re-elected, including Colin Fox as National Convener.

At the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, neither the SSP or Solidarity won a seat. At the local elections that year, SSP councillor Jim Bollan was re-elected in West Dunbartonshire. He remains the only elected socialist councillor in Scotland.

Party re-development[edit]

Despite setbacks, the Scottish Socialist Party has re-emerged as the leading force on the left in Scottish politics. Colin Fox has been appointed to the Advisory Board of Yes Scotland, the organisation campaigning for a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence.

In September 2013, the party published The Case for an Independent Socialist Scotland in advance of the March and Rally for Scottish Independence, which became the party's fastest-selling pamphlet ever. A launch event was held in the Scottish Parliament hosted by Independent MSP John Finnie. Subsequent launch events also took place in Paisley and Aberdeen.

As a consequence of its work in Yes Scotland, it has established new branches in Ayrshire, Inverclyde, Dundee, and Aberdeen.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scotland’s brave new world
  2. ^ Profile: Scottish Socialist Party
  3. ^ "Fight on for future of Socialists". 5 August 2006. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "New socialist party for Sheridan", BBC News, 29 August 2006, (retrieved 10 September 2006)
  5. ^ "SSP executive says Sheridan is on the road to oblivion". 21 August 2006. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Sheridan unveils Solidarity party". 3 September 2006. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "Split on the cards for Socialists". 4 August 2006. Retrieved 10 March 2014.