Saturday, 23 December 2006

Xmas comes early for Jack


Last week Frances, Barbara, Felicity and myself went to Bute House to deliver this Christmas card, signed by hundreds of Edinburgh residents at the local farmers market, supporting free school meals to Jack McConnell. He wasn't in bah humbug!

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Trident debate in Parliament

there was a debate in the parliament today on Trident, here are the notes of the speech I made in the debate you can also find some coverage on the BBC by following this link http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6198607.stm

Trident 21/12/06
1 I welcome this debate because it is important and the chances of Labour bringing it up in their time, with the huge divisions in its ranks, are zero.

2 This debate should be raging across Britain, the full implications of developing yet more nuclear weapons of mass destruction engaging all civic and democratic institutions because it affects us all.

3 It’s a huge issue for our age; one which puts all humanity at risk,
one where the legality of theses weapons under international law is put under close scrutiny,
one which casts doubt on Britain’s commitment to the nuclear non proliferation treaties it has signed , and
one where enormous sums of money which could be spent on health, education and social services are to go on nuclear bombs.

5 But of course it is precisely these issues, those of international legality and concern for humanity where Tony Blair doesn’t shine.
His legacy, the catastrophic failure of policy in IRAQ stands for evermore round his neck.

6 And neither should we be surprised at him steamrollering this debate. Blair is not comfortable with democracy. He lied to us on Iraq and he lies to us again on this debate.
His cabinet has already decided and his chancellor has already allocated the funds, and his First Minister has jumped into line, so his appeal for a full and open debate is another sham.

7 Don’t believe me? Where were members on June 12th this year?
On June 12th I visited Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment part of Scottish CND deputation.
We were taken round the perimeter fence of the base by veteran CND activists- AWE management would not meet us.
Shown where the manufacture of nuclear warheads took place.
Shown where the development of replacement Trident system is already far advanced.

8 In the afternoon we travelled up to Westminster where we met Dr Hans Blix the UN weapons Inspector. He was in London to present his latest report on the nuclear non proliferation treaty and how the countries who had signed up to it were not honouring their commitments.

9 That evening Gordon Brown in his Mansion House speech announced that he had already allocated the £25bn plus needed for replacing Trident.

10 Yesterday Tony Blair had the effrontery to tell us we are, in this epoch, locked into a battle between democracy and extremism.
If that is right then he is certainly not on the side of Democracy? He doesn’t know the meaning of the word.

11 The majority of Scots have expressed their opinion about Trident.
They are opposed to it and believe they make Scotland less safe.

12 An independent Scotland would scrap Trident of that I have no doubt.
Just as, an independent Scotland would not have sent Scottish soldiers to fight an illegal war in Iraq.

13 Britain is one of just 9 countries in the world with nuclear weapons.
Weapons designed to annihilate entire countries, making no distinction between enemy combatants and innocent civilians. That’s what makes them both illegal and immoral.

14 Tony Blair is the extremist who holds the threat of nuclear annihilation over the world. He is a threat to his neighbours, with nuclear missiles he is a threat to every nation. So where are the UN weapons inspectors now?

15 Who protects the world from Kim Jung Blair? He has weapons of mass destruction and has also ‘got form’ attacking and invading other countries! Iraq! Who protects the world from Kim Blair Il!

16 Reminds me of Anarchisis – the Greek philosopher who once said that ‘laws are like cobwebs – strong enough to hold the weak but not able to hold back the strong’!
In other words the NNPT is there to hold back those small nations- North Korea’s defiance not withstanding - but the big nations, as Hans Blix concludes, the powerful nuclear nations, they don’t take a blind bit of notice.

17 ‘THE ULTIMATE INSURANCE’ he calls it. Trident nuclear weapons provide us with– the ‘ultimate insurance’ claims Tony Blair ‘a safeguard against attack.’ The US has 32,000 and it didn’t stop 9/11.
The nature of the threat has rendered these illegal and immoral missile systems obsolete in the so called ‘war on terror’.

18 How dare Tony Blair warn Kim Jongil of North Korea not to develop nuclear missiles and then turn round and spend £25bn - £75bn of our money on more Trident weapons of mass destruction.
Who insures the world from Blairism?

18 The £25bn - £75bn could be better spent on health, education and social services, not on weapons designed to blow entire nations to smithereens.
*No Labour members who support Trident Two can in future in all conscience stand up in this Chamber without attracting ridicule and dare claim there is no money for free school meals, no money to abolish NHS prescription charges or for free personal care for the elderly
– not when they are prepared to spend billions on Trident 2.

19 There are 9 countries in the world with nuclear weapons – 9!
USA 32,500. Russia 16,000 France 400, UK 240, China 200, India 110 Pakistan 100, Israel 100 and North Korea 4.
Only US has ever used them in war and yet they have more than everyone else put together. Who protects the world from George Bush?

20 Trust in politics has never been in shorter supply.
And you just can’t trust Labour on Trident. Gordon Brown in 1984 said Trident was ‘….unacceptably expensive, economically wasteful and military unsound’ June 19th 1984 and now he’s all for them?
Blair shows the same inconsistency - a maverick warmongering leader to compare with any turnaround of Kim Jung Il!

21 SUPPORT FASLANE 365 – Protest on Jan 8th
Scottish CND have begun a year long protest outside the Faslane Naval base and as part of that exercise they have invited Parliamentarians to join them on Jan 8th. I will be there. I hope all MSP’s here today will join me. ENDS

Trident motion in Parliament

S2M-5355.1 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Trident— As an amendment to motion S2M-5355 in the name of Nicola Sturgeon (Trident), leave out from “notes” to end and insert “believes Trident nuclear weapons to be both illegal under international law, as they cannot distinguish between enemy combatants on the one hand and innocent civilians on the other, and immoral; calls on the Westminster Parliament to oppose the White Paper on the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system and to recognise Britain’s obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaties; believes that the £25 billion needed to replace Trident would be better spent on health, education and social services, and calls on all parliamentarians to support the Faslane 365 day of protest on 8 January 2007 for MSPs, MPs and MEPs outside the naval base on the Clyde”.

Lodged on 20 December 2006

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Former SNP candidate leaves to join SSP

Chris Sagan , who was SNP candidate in East Dumbartonshire at last year’s Westminster general election has joined the Scottish Socialist Party.
Chris, who is a teacher in Bishopriggs, said that he was increasingly unhappy at the rightward drift of the SNP and attracted to the SSP by its keynote policies on poverty and independence.
Chris said:
“My main reason for joining the SSP is a positive endorsement of the party as being on the side of the poor. Policies such as Free School Meals and free Public Transport are both just and deliverable and would I believe make major inroads into combating inequality in Scotland.”
“As a life long supporter of independence I fully support the SSP demand for a democratic, Scottish republic with the real powers to change peoples’ lives for the better.”
“I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the SNP other than to say that it seems to be watering down its concern for ordinary people in a bid to cosy up to the business community.”
“That was clearly shown last Monday by the absence of any SNP MSPs from the Farepak protest in Edinburgh—presumably to avoid offending the HBOS ‘fat cats’.”
“Like many Scots, I don’t want to just swap New Labour for New SNP. I have joined the SSP because it calls for an independent, nuclear free, socialist Scotland.”
Welcoming Chris’s decision to join the socialists SSP leader Colin Fox said:
“Chris Sagan is a very important gain for us. He is the latest in a steady stream of people joining the SSP who recognise a party of integrity which is passionate about winning a different kind of Scotland not dominated by big business.”
“I am proud to welcome Chris and indeed all the other new members across Scotland to our party and to the fight for an independent, nuclear fee, socialist Scotland which is going from strength to strength, gaining support each week in the polls. I am sure Chris Sagan will be at the heart of our work between now and next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.”

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Fox scraps Trident call

This is a press release I sent into the Edinburgh Evening News yesterday afternoon. Shortly after sending I saw a poll run by BBC Scotland which shows that a majority of Scottish MPs are opposed to nuclear weapons on the Clyde. Many of these MPs were Labour MPs and much pressure will be put on them in the coming weeks to back Tony Blair's plans to maintain weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde. The will of the Scottish people is clear - MPs are opposed to Trident and the feedback from the streets show that the public are opposed to Trident.
however the democratic deficit that arises from the Westminster system means that we will have these heinous machines of destruction foisted upon us by an unholy alliance of Labour and Tory MPs.
Surely the time has come for the people of Scotland to take control of their own affairs. Son of Trident highlights the fight, not only, for Scottish Independence but also for the kind of Scotland we are fighting for! A low waged haven for business where the privateers are in control using the Celtic tiger model favoured by the SNP or an independent republic based on principles of public ownership, equality and democracy?


Scottish Socialist Party MSP Colin Fox will press Christmas shoppers on Princes Street to write to Tony Blair and protest against Trident nuclear missiles. In particular the MSP is angry at the Prime Ministers decision to deny the country a meaningful say in the Trident debate. Fox believes the Cabinet has already made up its mind on the issue and that instructions have already been given to Ministry of Defence chiefs to spend upwards of £25bn on a second generation of Trident nuclear submarines.
The Lothians MSP told us
"When I visited the Atomic Weapons factory at Aldermaston in Berkshire in June I saw for myself the silo's where these nuclear weapons are manufactured. It was clear to me back then that plans were well advanced to build the new missiles.Contracts with American companies like Lockheed Martin and MacDonnell Douglas were already in place. As it happened, on the same day I visited Aldermaston, Gordon Brown announced that he had allocated the £25bn needed to replace these weapons of mass destruction in his budget settlement.
So I expect shoppers in Edinburgh today to take with a pinch of salt claims by Tony Blair that a full democratic debate will take place on whether or not we replace Trident before the Commons votes on it in late January. Just as he lied to us on Iraq he is lying to us again over our rights to a democratic debate. The decision has already been taken and his so called debate is a sham. This is the man who put the con into consultation".

The Lothians MSP believes public opinion in Scotland is heavily opposed to Trident nuclear weapons which are based at Faslane Naval headquarters on the Clyde.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Free public transport for all

This is a copy of an article I sent to the South Edinburgh Echo

31, 7, 37, 47, 3, 8, 29 no it’s not my lottery numbers, it’s the buses I get into the city from my end of the Inch.
I hate taking my car into town, its just a nasty, irritating, frustrating experience -driving up Minto Street, along South Clerk Street [past my constituency office] and then onto the Bridges – and just don’t get me started on ‘the joys of parking’!
Of course when you add up all our journeys and the cumulative effect of traffic pollution and congestion, the cost to the Scottish economy of all these hours of gridlock morning and evening is horrendous. Across Scotland the environmental damage from these poisonous gas emissions is enormous. All the experts warn we simply can’t go on like this.

It is time for a radical solution. And the Scottish Socialist Party believe we have found one - free public transport for everyone. Free bus travel, free train travel and free ferry travel.
Think of the likely impact in tackling traffic congestion for a start. There would be a very real incentive to leave your car at home. It would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions.
It would also assist those excluded from participation in everyday travel activities which the better off can afford and it would benefit the wider economy by freeing everyone from the daily grind of traffic gridlock and mindless commuting. Added to that it would significantly reduce road accidents as the number of cars on our roads would be halved.

Many will rightly argue that it is the direction we are moving in anyway. The Scottish Executive’s free public transport scheme for senior citizens has been such a success it is soon to be rolled out further. More and more people are using public transport as the decline of the past twenty five years has been halted and passenger numbers soar.
In Hasselt in Belgium, a city the same size as Edinburgh, the authorities faced much the same problems as here with traffic congestion and pollution. They adopted a free fares policy and the result was that the region saw a dramatic fall in traffic volumes and pollution levels.

There is no doubt in my mind that if we make public transport the most attractive option people will take it. In the early 1980’s Ken Livingstone’s GLC implemented a far reaching public transport policy in London which slashed fares and opened up thousands of new bus routes. The initiative saw the numbers using public transport increase 870%.

Think how much easier journeys in Edinburgh South would become. Consider how do you get to work at the Western General hospital or at BAe on Ferry Road or the Gyle at the moment in your car?

Certainly making public transport free would mean we would need more buses, trains and trams to cope with the demand. That for me is a given and must obviously be added to the cost.
So what about the cost? Most transport experts and academics suggest it would cost about £1bn if you add the current income which would be lost and the cost of extra investment in new buses, trains etc. But against that must be offset the cost of doing nothing, the benefits to the wider economy and of course the quality of life for travelers and also the cost to the NHS of road traffic accidents and deaths.
In the week Tony Blair announces there is anywhere between £25bn and £75bn available for a hugely unpopular second generation of Trident weapons then surely no one is going to argue there I no money around!

I believe the months leading up to the Holyrood elections afford us the opportunity to debate the issues of congestion and pollution in full and debate the likeliest solutions. To me offering free public transport to everyone is the most imaginative and attractive solution and the one most likely to succeed.

Death of Pinochet

I shed no tears at news of the death of General Augusto Pinochet this week.
The former President of Chile came to power in 1973 after he overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Dr Salvador Allende in a brutal repression of democracy. With the backing of the US, Pinochet launched a bloody coup d’etat against the popularly elected government and was responsible for the torture and death of tens of thousands of trades unionists and political activists. To this day many of the bodies have never been found or identified.
Pinochet has never faced justice for his actions. He was hailed as a hero by Thatcher and Reagan, protected by the right internationally and despised by human rights groups and the left to his dying day.

The director Costa Garvas captured the events powerfully in ‘Missing’ a film starring Jack Lemmon and Cissy Spazek. I remember seeing it and being shocked at how the world could stand back and see the ‘Britain of Latin America’ as Chile was then considered – because of its long history of stable parliamentary democracy in a continent well known for coups and military uprising – suffer such interference from US state and economic forces.
Salvador Allende
The events of Chile in 1973 remain a potent warning to democrats the world over.
Today in Latin America left leaders have been elected to power in Venezuala, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and of course Chile itself – not to mention Cuba, where we may be approaching Fidel Castro’s last days.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

SSP fortunes looking up

In the past few weeks things have certainly been looking up for the SSP - I've spoken at a series of public meetings across Scotland about our Free School Meals bill. A host of people have joined the party as a result of these meetings, in particular the meeting we held in Lochgelly was very good. 30 people came along to hear what Lorna Bett, the SSP top of the list candidate for Mid Scotland & Fife region, had to say.

As well as these meetings we launched plans for a radical, free public transport policy at the start of December. this was quickly followed by the most recent poll published in the Sunday Herald putting the SSP on 4%.

As I've said before - the best days of the SSP are ahead of us!

Scottish Executive hypocrisy on hate crimes

S2W-30449 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 7 December 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive how it reconciles the position taken by the Minister for Justice and the Lord Advocate on the benefit of applying racist and sectarian aggravations in respect of hate crime with its decision not to provide such protection to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and disabled people.

Answered by Johann Lamont (19 December 2006): The Scottish Executive deplores all crime, particularly that motivated by prejudice of any kind. The common law in Scotland allows the courts to take forms of prejudice into account as aggravating factors. We consider that the creation of further statutory aggravations would work against our wider objective of improving consistency in sentencing. We are at present considering carefully how that objective can be achieved, against the background of the recommendations contained in the Sentencing Commission’s recent report on the matter.

S2W-30370 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 5 December 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will reconsider its decision not to implement the recommendation in the report of the Working Group on Hate Crime that there should be a statutory aggravation for crimes motivated by malice or ill-will towards people based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability, similar to that of sectarianism and racism.

Answered by Johann Lamont (19 December 2006): I refer the member to the answer to question S2O-11201 on 23 November 2006. All answers to written parliamentary questions are available on the Parliament’s website the search facility for which can be found at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/webapp/wa.search.

S2W-30369 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 5 December 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive what the ministerial decision-making process was that resulted in the Executive deciding not to implement the recommendation in the report of the Working Group on Hate Crime that there should be a statutory aggravation for crimes motivated by malice or ill-will towards people based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability, similar to that of sectarianism and racism.

Answered by Johann Lamont (19 December 2006): This decision was taken following normal procedure in the context of collective Cabinet responsibility, namely, after full and careful consideration by all those ministers with an interest in the matter. The member will also wish to take account of my answer to question S2O-11201 on 23 November 2006. All answers to written parliamentary questions are available on the Parliament’s website the search facility for which can be found at:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/webapp/wa.search.

The people you meet in Princes Street


My friend Gemma came over to the stall against son of Trident last Saturday - perhaps her boyfriend, Hearts star Roman Bednar, (pictured) could arrange a meeting for me with his boss Vladimir Romanov to discuss nuclear submarines! That self same afternoon I spent a miserable afternoon at Tynecastle watching my beloved Motherwell fall to a 4-1 defeat.

Latest parliamentary motions

S2M-5295 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Nuclear Submarine Workers' Health and Safety at HM Naval Base Faslane— That the Parliament shares the concern of the former Faslane and Rosyth radiation controller, Mr John Connor, that no mandatory secondary monitoring (MSM) takes place on radiation workers leaving nuclear submarines at the naval base; notes that Mr Connor has approached the Health and Safety Executive, the Ministry of Defence and the Westminster Parliamentary Ombudsman regarding his concerns that MSM is implemented in all other nuclear establishments in Britain, but not those at Faslane and Rosyth, and the need to protect all those working on nuclear submarines from radiation sicknesses, and calls on the Defence Select Committee at Westminster to investigate the substance of Mr Connor’s concerns at the earliest possible opportunity and allay the fears of many former employees and their families as well as those currently working at Faslane regarding nuclear safety.

Supported by: Bruce Crawford, Frances Curran, Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, John Swinburne

Lodged on 07 December 2006

S2M-5269.3 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Civic Participation - Trade Union Engagement with Scotland's Civic Society— As an amendment to motion S2M-5269 in the name of Ms Margaret Curran (Civic Participation - Trade Union Engagement with Scotland's Civic Society), leave out from "strength" to end and insert "important part that free independent trade unions play in civic Scotland today; welcomes the Scottish Trades Union Congress’s (STUC) role over many years in promoting trade union values and the interests of working people in Scotland on a wide variety of matters such as job protection, pay and conditions, health and safety and equal opportunities; welcomes the STUC's information week at the Parliament, and recognises the just cause of the workers at McKinnon Mills in Coatbridge and public sector workers across Scotland seeking to secure their right to equal pay for work of equal value.”

Lodged on 05 December 2006; 07 December 2006

See S2M-5269

Hugo Chavez drives on with Bolivarian revolution


At the beginning of this month the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, won the presidential elections with an increased share of the vote. His support went up from 56% in 1998 to 63%.
This is despite the attempts by the right to paint him as some kind of a rogue leader and his Bolivarian revolution being unpopular and leading to economic destruction.
Chavez’s programme of public ownership and wealth redistribution has been proven to be increasing in popularity not decreasing. There is still a long way to go for the Bolivarian revolution but I’m sure we can take heart that the ideas of socialism can work when given the chance to be put into practice.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Farepak demo tonight

I'll be attending the demo outside the HBoS headquarters on the mound tonight at 5.30. I hope that the coverage of this demo will help persuade HBoS to do the right thing by the Farepak customers.

please follow this link for an article in yesterdays Sunday Herald
http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.1066459.0.politicians_snub_hbos_party_over_farepak.php

Fox launches nuclear fight

SOCIALIST leader Colin Fox was expected to lead a campaign on Princes Street today against plans to replace Britain's ageing nuclear deterrent.
The Lothians MSP condemned Prime Minister Tony Blair's £25 billion proposal to build new Trident nuclear missiles, unveiled on Monday.
Mr Fox said: "These Trident nuclear missiles are indiscriminate and capable of wiping out whole cities and consequently killing civilians and combatants alike and as such are illegal under international law."

Article from Edinburgh Evening News Sat 9th Dec.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Letter to trade unionists about HBOS protest

5th December 2006
Support ‘Un–Fairpak’ protest outside HBOS HQ December 11th at 5.30pm
As you will be aware, 150,000 customers of Farepak budgeting for Christmas via the company’s savings scheme have lost £45m as a result of the firm’s collapse.It is now clear that Farepak had been accepting deposits long after it became clear they were insolvent. And it has also emerged that the Halifax Bank of Scotland may have been aware a year ago the company was in difficulty. It is believed the bank foreclosed on a loan in October, precipitating Farepak’s collapse and has now taken the £45m for itself.Farepak customers have formed themselves into a protest group called ‘Unfairpak’ and are seeking to recover the £45m and fully compensate the savers, 90% of whom are low paid women workers.‘ Unfairpak’ has pressed the moral and economic case with the Halifax Bank of Scotland that they should release the money but to no avail. The bank has offered just £2m. We do not consider this to be acceptable, frankly it is adding insult to injury.We understand HBOS plans to hold a ‘Christmas Champagne Reception’ for top executives and VIP customers at its headquarters on December 11th. ‘Unfairpak’ intends to mount a peaceful protest at it and we would like you to join us. As the bank spends some of its £4.5bn profits from last year entertaining its guests we intend to focus public attention on what we feel are their social responsibilities. Fat cats sipping expensive champagne or low paid women workers seeking justice at Christmas, where do you stand?We are calling on people across the Lothians to join Farepak customers incensed by HBOS’s actions on the protest at HBOS headquarters at the Mound in Edinburgh at 6pm on Monday 11th December. We believe we can make our point effectively.Please bring your banners and send messages of support to - suzy@unfairpak.co.uk

Yours sincerely
Suzy Hall and Colin Fox MSP

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

World AIDS Day

On Friday I was very pleased to show my support for Oxfam's World Aids day - you can read the Oxfam press release below. Of course the points made so well by students about poverty and inability in the third world to pay for medicines chimes with the campaign to abolish prescription charges here.
Students, Oxfam & Annie Lennox back World AIDS Day
Developing World needs 4.2 million health workers
Scottish students will join Oxfam in Scotland to mark World AIDS Day, [Today, 1st December]. Students and Oxfam campaigners will back Oxfam’s campaign to ensure everyone living with HIV and AIDS has access to the medicines they need.
Oxfam is calling on pharmaceutical companies to supply affordable medicines to all who need them and want governments to pay over £12.7 billion per year for 4.2 million extra health workers.
In order to highlight the plight of HIV and AIDS sufferers students will pose as ‘patients’ in a hospital bed with a text board on the front of the bed with Diagnosis: “Too Poor to Pay". Next to the bed will be a sales rep from "Big Pharma", holding a giant pillbox out of reach of the patient. The pillbox will be labelled “ Profit Pills put profit before People”.
Eurythmics star Annie Lennox, who is backing Oxfam’s campaign, said,
“ Last year, 8,000 people died every single day from AIDS, and there were 14,000 new infections each day. Poor countries are being forced to deal with an unprecedented health crisis without the means to tackle it.
“ Governments can only show how seriously they are taking this crisis by taking immediate action to provide four million extra health workers and to grant those in need access to affordable medicines.”
Adam Ramsay, Co -convenor of Edinburgh University’s People and Planet said,
“ Forty million people in the world are suffering from HIV and AIDS. What is needed is for people in developing countries to be able to get affordable medicines easily.
“ People everywhere who have HIV and AIDS should have the same rights to life enhancing medicines regardless of their social class, nationality or gender. World AIDS Day gives a chance to ram home the message around the HIV and AIDS epidemic.”
John McAllion, campaigner for Oxfam in Scotland added,
“ The record of the pharmaceutical industry in putting profits before patients has been abysmal. They have continually lobbied rich country governments to provide stricter patent protection for their products in trade negotiations, and have put legal pressure on poor countries that dared to use international safeguards to guarantee public access to cheaper generic drugs.
“ Big Pharma companies must accept that people’s lives should always come before their commercial interests. Lives must not be put at risk for the sake of company profits.”
Contact: Eileen Clarkson on 0141 285 8859/07770 281419
EDITORS NOTES
1) The event will take place on Fri 1st December 1-2pm outside the main library at Edinburgh University on George Square.
2) Students from Edinburgh University’s People and Planet Group, Oxfam Volunteers and Stop Aids societies are taking part in the ‘Big Pharma’ stunt
3) Also attending are Mark Lazarowicz MP, Gavin Strang MP, John Barratt MP, Colin Fox MSP, Sarah Boyack MSP, Mike Pringle MSP, Margaret Smith MSP and Mark Ballard MSP.
4) 39.6 million men, women and children now live with HIV, 14,000 people are newly infected every day, and 2.9 million people died this year from AID –related illnesses. Two-thirds of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa. There are now more women than men infected by HIV.
5) Annie Lennox has recorded a 15 and 35 second audio piece for radio/web broadcast which can be downloaded from:
http://www.oxfam.org.uk/press/downloads/annielennox.htm

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

SSP backs free public transport plan

On Sunday our executive committee backed a radical plan to make all Scottish public transport free. in a major attempt to tackle pollution, cut chronic traffic congestion and tackle traffic related ill health. The plan will be put to the party’s national council this weekend and is likely to form a flagship policy of our campaign for next year’s Scottish elections.

Free public transport would be the biggest pro- environment and anti pollution measure ever enacted by any national government.”“It would also boost real incomes and be a major anti poverty and pro social inclusion measure. It would also benefit Scotland's tourism industry.

SSP Policy coordinator Alan McCombes said:
“With just ten years to halt global warming we need radical solutions for the gravest crisis facing humanity.“By moving towards a free fare public transport system Scotland can lead the world as it did during the enlightenment.”

Read more about this radical new policy:

The case for free public transport
http://www.scottishsocialistparty.org/transport/transport01.html

Funding free public transport
http://www.scottishsocialistparty.org/transport/funding.html

Why not public transport?
An idea whose time has come

Monday, 4 December 2006

SSP backs Farepak campaigners 100%

The Executive of the Scottish Socialist Party has given Suzy Hall and the Farepak campaigners our 100% backing for their cause after hearing the appalling details of how HBOS has acted in this affair.
Thousands of low paid workers and pensioners have had Christmas 2006 stolen from them.
The SSP is well aware of the rapacious nature of the UK’s banks but our Executive was shocked to be told the details of how the bank has acted in this affair.
The SSP Executive has given the campaigners our 100% backing and will be doing everything we can to mobilise for the lobby of HBOS’s champagne reception on the 11th of December, 5.30pm at the Mound in Edinburgh.
Check the unfairpak website at http://www.unfairpak.co.uk/

Watch the recent debate in the Scottish Parliament at http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?title=Members

The debate lasts 1hour 10 minutes (Colin speaks at 37 mins 40 secs)

Socialist Fox on 'power to the people' trip

SCOTTISH Socialist leader Colin Fox is to visit Torness nuclear power station on Monday.
The Lothians MSP is expected to meet senior managers and tour the plant.
He said: "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 particular I want to explore how, in a non-nuclear world, we can harness the experience and skills of the workers who are employed at Torness."
Mr Fox said he hoped to discuss the mechanics of decommissioning nuclear stations and how the skills of the current workforce could be used.
He added: "The Torness site must also have potential, as a coastal location, to play a part in the development of wind and wave power and one thing which I think is urgent is for British Energy to carry out a skills audit of its workforce to assist in slotting them into jobs or further training."
Mr Fox offered to hold a public meeting or debate after his visit.
He said: "Opponents of nuclear power have to set about the serious work of explaining their alternative to both the workers and the public. I for one would be happy, after my visit, to put my case to the people who work in and live near Torness."

Edinburgh Evening News
02/12/06

A victory for militant trade union strike action


A statement on the outcome of Glasgow city council dispute by Richie Venton, SSP national trade union organiser


The planned 3-day strike by UNISON members in Glasgow city council has today been cancelled, after the city council caved in on the very eve of the biggest conflict they faced from trade unionists in several years.The outcome is a substantial victory.The strike was provoked by several factors, but primary amongst these was the cliff-edge pay cuts facing nearly 5,000 workers in March 2009, when the temporary protection of current salaries would have ended. Up to £10,000 a year losses in salary loomed at that point.By balloting for strike action, and
refusing to be morally blackmailed by the council and their kept media over the issue of 'life and limb' emergency cover, the union has won a settlement that amounts to indefinite/lifetime protection of current salaries. Either people will be re-trained or their jobs re-designed to guarantee them their current pay by March 2009, or that deadline will be extended indefinitely until such time as these devices kick in. Many workers will be thousands of pounds better off each year as a result of this victory.The only area of some doubt applies to those staff in Culture and Leisure Services, who are threatened by a council plan to hive them off to a charitable Trust, which would only mean the one-year TUPE protection of their current wages - not indefinite protection.In addition to stopping cuts to wages from March 2009 onwards, the threatened strike has also dragged the panic-stricken Labour council back to the negotiating table on all other issues, and there will be trade union representation on a Steering Group to monitor implementation of the deal. No doubt workers will lodge appeals against the grades they have been allocated through the flawed Job Evaluation exercise, and battles will be required to fight off attempts to use new definitions of the working day as a means of dodging overtime rates of pay.But these and other issues - central amongst them in my opinion being resistance to plans to offload Culture and Leisure - can now be taken up by a vastly strengthened trade union, confident after a very substantial victory.Another key lesson in this battle is that the looming May 2007 elections will have concentrated the minds of Labour councillors wonderfully - like hanging does!! They were panic-stricken. Their opening line to union negotiators on Saturday was, "What do you need to avoid this strike?". A stark, simple truth that needs to be re-learnt: strike action works!The Scottish Socialist Party - both within the workforce and outwith it - has played a very positive, substantial part in this workers' struggle against Labour's wage-snatchers. As well as our council worker members helping to lead the UNISON resistance, thousands of SSP Council Workers Voice bulletins have been distributed around virtually every council workplace - first during the ballot, more recently to consolidate the decision to strike - calling for funding off the Scottish Executive to win equal pay without a single penny off the pay of a single worker.Our MSPs and councillors have also taken up the workers' cause, opposing pay cuts as a means of funding so-called equal pay.Some of the details have yet to emerge, but we will also need to be vigilant if the council tries to pay for these concessions through any other forms of cuts to jobs or services - as opposed to demanding extra funds off the Scottish Executive. But a victory is a victory and needs to be recognised, as part of the recovery of workers' confidence.The attention of council workers, the SSP and other trade unionists should now turn to building the UNISON demo in Falkirk on 16 December, against brutal pay cuts from the SNP council, to give a booster to these workers' confidence on the backs of the Glasgow victory.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Stop the War speech at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire

On Sat 2nd December I was invited to address a Stop the War protest outside RAF Brize Norton.
The base is the main supply station for the British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is the speech I delivered on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party.


Thank you for the invitation and warm welcome.
I am both proud to join you here today and to bring you greetings of peace and comradeship from the Scottish Socialist Party.

I congratulate you for drawing attention to Brize Norton, the place from which Britain in effect services its illegal occupation of Iraq.
As we marched round the base this afternoon I noticed, as I am sure you did, the huge transport aircraft taking off for Iraq or Afghanistan. I could not help think of the 120 young men who left this place in just such an aircraft and have not come back. I think of how a young fusilier called Gordon Gentle felt. I also think of the hundreds of other nameless young men who have come back severely injured and traumatised.

As a Member of Parliament I have had to console families in the city of Edinburgh that I represent who have lost sons.

Our appalling losses, because they are appalling, without need or reason, are of course dwarfed by the losses American families have suffered - 3,000 sons who flew out likewise never came back.
But it is above all the poor innocent Iraqi’s who have been butchered most of all – more than 660,000 of them have died who would still be alive were it not for the illegal invasion of their country by alien forces.

The Scottish Socialist Party has opposed this war from day one and every hour since. And we were right. All of us here were right to speak out and we reiterate the demand we have espoused throughout – we call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign military forces from IRAQ. And to those who say their WILL be civil war I say the blood thirsty civil war in Iraq that claims more than 100 lives a day – a rate 36,500 a year which equals one 9/11 each month – where is the worlds condemnation this time? All this happens because the troops are there, they are plainly not stopping anything!

Much has of course changed in the last three months. MAKE NO MISTAKE. We are witnessing the endgame of the occupation of Iraq, the endgame of a catastrophic failure of policy by Britain and USA.
What are the signs?
- Labour politicians who supported the war are now recanting and asking for forgiveness. Michael Meacher is one of many who says supporting the war in Iraq was the biggest political blunder of his career – we could have told him that and did at the time.
- Generals and majors who just 6 months ago were demanding more troops must be sent in now risk courts martial by publicly condemning MOD military strategy and press for 50% of the troops to be home by May.
- Public opinion has grown inexorably against the government, against the incessant slaughter and pointless strategy. The extent of this was seen last month in the US elections where BUSH got hammered and the first socialist was elected to the Senate.

And let me ask you what is that smell in the air?
It’s the smell of Tony Blair’s legacy. He will soon be gone and good riddance. But how will he be remembered?
As the man whom brought twenty years of the hated Tories to an end? NO
As the first Labour Prime Minister elected with a working majority?
NO
As the first ever Labour Prime Minister elected three times?
NO

He will be remembered as a liar. One who’s every lie was found out.

Tony Blair is responsible for the deaths of those young men who flew out of here to their deaths and for the US deaths too and above all for the 660,000 Iraqis slaughter. Without him things would be oh so different. All those who perished in this catastrophic policy failure stand in stark contrast to outcome, about to retire on a huge pension into a £4m mansion in Belgravia. The millions scattered in his wake will enjoy no such luxury.
Shame on you Tony Blair you will be remembered by us as the worst Prime Minister this country has ever had.

And on Monday he leaves us his parting gift – Britain’s new and deadliest weapons of mass destruction, the second generation of Trident nuclear missiles based on the Clyde near Glasgow.

Only the weak minded among us – Labour MP’s mainly – would accept there is a democratic debate yet to be held.
Let us here today tell Tony Blair- the man who put the ‘con’ in consultation
- We know the decision has already been taken
- -We know Gordon Brown has already earmarked the £75bn
- We know you will have to rely on Tory votes to railroad it through.

Do not insult our intelligence, you are no democrat, you have no democratic credentials - you supported Regime Change Iraq we, true democrats believe regime change in Iraq is the sole and inviolate right of the Iraqi people and nobody else.
Tony Blair is no democrat; he is a warmonger, a war criminal and militarist.

OUR MESSAGE FROM RAF BRIZE NORTON ON THIS WINTERS DAY IS
NO WARS FORM US IMPERIALISM
NO TO TRIDENT

We stand for greater goals, for peace and social progress all mankind.
Thank you.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Fox targets RAF base

SCOTTISH Socialist leader Colin Fox will tomorrow address a mass protest outside RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
The protest has been arranged by the Stop the War coalition to take its message to the base used to fly troops to Iraq

Edinburgh Evening News 01/12/06

Thursday, 30 November 2006

More Farepak questions

S2W-30205 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 28 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions it has had with Halifax Bank of Scotland regarding the Farepak collapse.

ANSWER

Answered by Allan Wilson (11 December 2006): My officials have been in contact with Halifax Bank of Scotland on a few occasions regarding the Farepak collapse.


S2W-30204 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 28 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive when it first learned of the Farepak collapse.

ANSWER

Answered by Allan Wilson (11 December 2006): The Executive learned of the Farepak collapse when the administration was made public. My officials then made contact with the Department of Trade and Industry to try and get formal details.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Colin meets Santa

Colin Fox MSP joined a Santa hit squad from retail union Usdaw to back a bill banning big stores from opening their doors on Christmas day and New Year’s day.
Thousands of Usdaw members wrote to Colin urging him to back the bill which aims to make sure retail staff have a proper work/life balance in the busy festive period.
“I was delighted to support the bill through its first stage at Holyrood because there was clearly very strong support in Edinburgh from shopworkers and shoppers alike,” said Colin. “The Santas came to Holyrood to make Usdaw’s case which was well researched and made the point that closing big stores on those days wouldn’t harm the Scottish economy or our tourist industry.
“I will continue to support this bill as I believe it allows us to keep Hogmanay as a special day in the Scottish calendar and allows shopworkers time to be with their families on New Year’s Day which is where they should be.
“It was particularly pleasing to get so many letters from my constituents asking for my support for this bill because it proves we do listen to well argued cases.”
Usdaw members will continue to lobby MSPs to support the bill but are encouraged by the continued support of Colin.
“Usdaw members in Lothians have lobbied hard for this bill and are delighted to shave secure the support of Colin, says Usdaw general secretary John Hannett. “It proves the simple democratic act of writing their MSP does work especially when we can prove that this bill will shop staff and make sure Hogmanay remains a time for families.
“Colin has listened carefully to the arguments and our member are delighted he/she has decided to support a bill that allows shopworkers some respite during the festive season.”

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Solectron closure questions

S2O-11167 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether the closure of the Solectron factory in Dunfermline could be avoided by learning any lessons from Motorola¿s closure of its Bathgate facility.

Answered by Allan Wilson (23 November 2006): We recognised the need to move up the value chain in electronics - away from high volume manufacturing and into high-value, knowledge-based areas several years ago and we have been working with the electronics industry to offer companies, including Solectron, assistance in doing this.
However, Solectron made the decision to enter into a period of consultation with a view to closing its facility in Dunfermline as the result of a worldwide consolidation of its manufacturing business.


S2W-29672 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 7 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive when it first learned of Solectron’s plans to close its factory in Dunfermline.

Answered by Nicol Stephen (21 November 2006): We were first made aware of possible job losses at the facility on 13 October 2006. We were made formally aware of the company’s intention to close the facility on 27 October 2006.

Inspecting the Scottish Executive's public transport policy

S2W-29895 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 15 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to extend the national concessionary travel scheme to individuals who are not senior citizens. Answered by Tavish Scott: The Scotland-wide Free Bus Scheme for Older and Disabled People already fully meets the Partnership Agreement commitment. As the First Minister and I announced on 9 November 2006, a separate concessionary travel scheme for all young people between the ages of 16 and 18 will start in January 2007. We have no current plans to extend the concessions available under either scheme to any other groups.

Monday, 27 November 2006

Coming soon - Is there a Scottish road to socialism?

Socialists in Scotland have previously been presented with
parliamentary and British roads to socialism in the past.
Since the devolution referendum of 1997 and the arrival of
the Scottish Parliament in 1999 with its rainbow politics, it
is apt to now ask Is there a Scottish road to socialism?
Notwithstanding recent developments, like the split in the
Scottish Socialist Party and the rise in opinion poll support for
independence, there are longstanding debates about whether
a Scottish road to socialism is possible or desirable.
The various contributors were asked to consider the issues of what
they mean by socialism; how and where can their socialism
be achieved; and what role can Scottish developments play in
the international movement for social justice and socialism.
The contributors were drawn from across the national-unionist
divide and include John McAllion, Robin McAlpine, Vince Mills,
David Purdy, Joe Middleton, Pam Currie, Campbell Martin,
Bill Wilson, Stuart Fairweather, John Foster, Richard Leonard,
Peter McColl, Eric Canning and Neil Davidson.
Is there a Scottish Road to Socialism? is edited by
Colin Fox and Gregor Gall.

New Labour fear Trident debate

Below is a letter I sent to the Sunday Herald last weekend

26/11/06

Dear Sir
New Labour Fear Trident Debate
Whilst reading Iain McWhirter’s piece on ‘Why a new Trident can only make the world a more dangerous place’ in last week Sunday Herald, I was interrupted by Northern Ireland Minister Peter Hain speaking to Andrew Marr on TV on the same subject.
Hain amply confirmed for me Iain McWhirter’s opening salvo – no pun intended - that Labour had already decided to replace Trident ahead of any debate. When Hain said ‘Cabinet has not yet had a discussion on the detail of all this’ few could be left in any doubt nonetheless that the principle of replacing these Intercontinental weapons has already been discussed and agreed.

I must confess McWhirters conclusion has been obvious for me from ‘New’, or should that be ‘Nuclear’, Labour since I visited the Aldermaston Weapons Establishment as part of a Scottish CND delegation in June. It was obvious then that preparations were far advanced for the manufacture of the second generation of Trident missiles. Gordon Brown, whom Iain McWhirter unconvincingly suggests is ‘no nuclear enthusiast’, announced that same day, in his Mansion House speech that he would make available the £75bn needed for the next generation of British WMD’s.

Given all that, Labour’s promise of a full and open public debate on this issue is rather lame. There will be no debate on the matter, open or otherwise because New Labour is frightened of the debate. The party which put the ‘con’ in consultation has already agreed to buy these weapons from the US. Clearly their emphasis now is in making the vote itself a formality. Peter Hain warned his Labour colleagues they were ‘all elected on a manifesto committed to defend an independent nuclear deterrent.’

And look at in whose nuclear company New Labour now stands. Only nine nations have developed nuclear weapons; Bush’s America, which has some 16,500 nuclear warheads, Putin’s Russia, who even use them as a deterrent against dissidents, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, France and now Kim Jung Ill’s North Korea. What a rogue’s gallery that is! And in the crazy world of ‘deterrence’ these countries all argue, just like Peter Hain, that they must have them because we already have them.

Compared to the Labour Party’s dishonesty and fear of debate, the Scottish Socialist Party would welcome an open and honest examination of the issue. We are keen for the public to see the chasm that exists between ‘Nuclear Labour’s’ position on all this and ours. Our policy is clear and unequivocal, nuclear weapons are immoral and a colossal waste of money. We would instead spend the £75bn on improving our health record, on greater educational access and opportunity, on our creaking social services, on lifting our youngsters and our seniors out of poverty, and by no means the least, on exporting peace throughout the world not militarism and illegal invasions of sovereign nations.

Colin Fox MSP
National Convenor
Scottish Socialist Party
EDINBURGH

New Labour fear Trident debate

Below is a letter I sent to the Sunday Herald last weekend

26/11/06

Dear Sir
New Labour Fear Trident Debate
Whilst reading Iain McWhirter’s piece on ‘Why a new Trident can only make the world a more dangerous place’ in last week Sunday Herald, I was interrupted by Northern Ireland Minister Peter Hain speaking to Andrew Marr on TV on the same subject.
Hain amply confirmed for me Iain McWhirter’s opening salvo – no pun intended - that Labour had already decided to replace Trident ahead of any debate. When Hain said ‘Cabinet has not yet had a discussion on the detail of all this’ few could be left in any doubt nonetheless that the principle of replacing these Intercontinental weapons has already been discussed and agreed.

I must confess McWhirters conclusion has been obvious for me from ‘New’, or should that be ‘Nuclear’, Labour since I visited the Aldermaston Weapons Establishment as part of a Scottish CND delegation in June. It was obvious then that preparations were far advanced for the manufacture of the second generation of Trident missiles. Gordon Brown, whom Iain McWhirter unconvincingly suggests is ‘no nuclear enthusiast’, announced that same day, in his Mansion House speech that he would make available the £75bn needed for the next generation of British WMD’s.

Given all that, Labour’s promise of a full and open public debate on this issue is rather lame. There will be no debate on the matter, open or otherwise because New Labour is frightened of the debate. The party which put the ‘con’ in consultation has already agreed to buy these weapons from the US. Clearly their emphasis now is in making the vote itself a formality. Peter Hain warned his Labour colleagues they were ‘all elected on a manifesto committed to defend an independent nuclear deterrent.’

And look at in whose nuclear company New Labour now stands. Only nine nations have developed nuclear weapons; Bush’s America, which has some 16,500 nuclear warheads, Putin’s Russia, who even use them as a deterrent against dissidents, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, France and now Kim Jung Ill’s North Korea. What a rogue’s gallery that is! And in the crazy world of ‘deterrence’ these countries all argue, just like Peter Hain, that they must have them because we already have them.

Compared to the Labour Party’s dishonesty and fear of debate, the Scottish Socialist Party would welcome an open and honest examination of the issue. We are keen for the public to see the chasm that exists between ‘Nuclear Labour’s’ position on all this and ours. Our policy is clear and unequivocal, nuclear weapons are immoral and a colossal waste of money. We would instead spend the £75bn on improving our health record, on greater educational access and opportunity, on our creaking social services, on lifting our youngsters and our seniors out of poverty, and by no means the least, on exporting peace throughout the world not militarism and illegal invasions of sovereign nations.


Colin Fox MSP
National Convenor
Scottish Socialist Party
EDINBURGH

Air-brushed into History!

Article from the Herald Diary 24/11/06

JUST TO PUT YOU IN THE PICTURE
The Scottish Parliaments annual report has just been published and the front cover makes for interesting reading at least. It shows all 128 MSP’s posing together in a group photograph on the steps leading up from the Garden lobby at Holyrood to the debating chamber.

But look closely and you notice that all is not as it seems. Because the picture was taken earlier this summer when all of the SSP MSP’s were, dare I mention it, tied up elsewhere! Suffice it to say that they had their mug shots taken separately and then airbrushed into the photo later on.

Not quite the experience Trotsky had,eh?

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Scrap prescription charges for all patients

Below is a letter I sent to the Scotsman on Friday 24th November

As the person who introduced the Bill to scrap NHS prescription charges in Scotland, I welcome the Disability Working Group’s conclusion that all chronic sufferers should be exempted from payment reported in today’s Scotsman[ ‘Free Medicines for chronic patients urged’].

The fact that some chronic conditions currently qualify for free treatment and others equally deserving do not is just one of the many injustices in the present system.
The present list of exempt medical conditions was introduced in 1968 and there was absolutely no logic to it then. In the subsequent 40 years no medical professional has come forward to defend that initial list against demands for other chronic conditions to be added on clinical grounds.
There is plainly no sense behind a system which says people with diabetes or a thyroid condition can get free prescriptions but cancer patients or those with chronic skin conditions, hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, cystic fybrosis, Parkinsons disease or any mental health problem should not.

Of course my Bill, went further than the Scotsman’s rather limited campaign. It argued for the end to charges for all patients and an end to all anomalies.
Why for example should people on Disability Living Allowance or Incapacity Benefit have to pay for their medicines? Surely a question the Disability Working Group should have asked?
The Citizens Advice Bureau estimate there are 50,000 people a year in Scotland who go without the prescriptions they need - and that their GP has written out for them- because they cannot afford the £6.75 per item on the script. Ask any pharmacist about the unclaimed prescriptions or the customers who agonise about which drug they can skip on their multiple prescription. They are usually chronic sufferers often on multiple prescriptions, students and those on benefits and low paid.

In the meantime whilst the Executive has accepted my case for abolishing the charges for [some ] students and for the chronically sick – albeit they have yet to outline the extent of their exemptions there – but it intends to leave other patents behind. It is unjust and makes no sense.
Neither does the fact that if chronic sufferers are all to be exempt from payment, and I hope they are, it will mean that about 95% of prescriptions will be free. So it begs the question, why not follow the example of the Welsh Assembly and finish the job, abolish the charges for everyone. If it is good enough for the Welsh Assembly to introduce universal free prescriptions why isn’t it right here?

The Scottish Socialist Party believes in universal free health care, the principle upon which the NHS was founded. Scrapping the charges for the chronically sick is of course welcome but still leaves many poor people behind.

Farepak questions in the Parliament

S2W-30006 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 20 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has considered making representations to the Department of Trade and Industry to examine whether a bond scheme similar to the ABTA scheme for the holiday industry would better protect customers in future, in light of the Farepak collapse.

ANSWER
Answered by Allan Wilson (4 December 2006): I wrote to Ian McCartney, Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) at the beginning of November about Farepak. In his response he indicated that the Office of Fair Trading and the Financial Services Authority are currently working with the DTI to advise him on the regulatory framework surrounding the collapse of Farepak and consider options to address any issues raised. This is to see what might be done to protect customers of such businesses and prevent a similar situation arising in the future. This work will be completed as soon as possible and I have asked to be kept informed.
As I understand matters Farepak was a member of the Hamper Industry Trade Association (HITA). A condition of membership was that each member deposited with HITA a bond to the value of £100,000. This bond was simply a commitment of good intent by each member and was never intended to compensate agents and customers in the event of a situation such as Farepak arising.



S2W-30007 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 20 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive what support it intends to give the Farepak customers’ protest outside the Halifax Bank of Scotland headquarters on 11 December 2006.

ANSWER
Answered by Allan Wilson (4 December 2006): The Scottish Executive will not be taking any part in the Farepak customers’ protest outside the Halifax Bank of Scotland headquarters on 11 December. It is for individuals to decide if they wish to protest for or against a particular issue or event.

S2M-5169.1 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Christmas Day and New Year's Day trading (Scotland) Bill

As an amendment to motion S2M-5169 in the name of Karen Whitefield (Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Bill), insert at end “and, in so doing, recognises that both days are special and are defined public holidays and should be treated in exactly the same way.”

Lodged on 21 November 2006

Friday, 24 November 2006

S2M-4988 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : House price rises and lack of affordable housing

That the Parliament believes that the recent rises in average house prices in Scotland are unsustainable and that lack of new social housing is fuelling inflation in house prices, making both buying and renting increasingly unaffordable to those on low incomes, and therefore calls for an end to right-to-buy and for substantial investment by the Scottish Executive in the building of new local authority and housing association properties for affordable rents to meet the obvious need that rising house prices signify.
Lodged on 23 October 2006

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Un-Farepak

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to Suzy Hall - co-ordinator of the campaign for those whose money has been stolen by Farepak.

Suzy
I was speaking to Bristow Muldoon in Parliament and decided after speaking to him I should get in touch with you.

First of all I want to extend to you and the Farepak campaigners the full support of the Scottish Socialist Party.
I want you to know that we will do all we can to ensure the 150,000 people swindled out of their savings get it back and get the justice to which you are all entitled.
I know of hundreds of people –friends and family alike- who have lost money and I am keen to help in whatever way I can.
I feel that Farepak customers across Scotland are the very people who sent me and my SSP colleagues to Parliament to fight for them and their families.
My mobile number and Parliamentary number are below.

As Bristow may have told you I intended to ask a question after him of Jack McConnell in Parliament on Thursday at First Ministers Questions. The question was not taken then – I was diddled out of the reckoning- but I submitted it nonetheless.
It reads
‘Does the First Minister agree with me that it is sickening that the owners of Farepak , worth some £45m can walk away from this collapse scot- free and Chairman Sir Clive Thomson jets off to South America for his winter holidays whilst 150,000 families have lost all their savings and face a much less cheery Christmas.
And considering how a similar sudden collapse in the holiday industry led to the ABTA Bond scheme being introduced, where customers are fully compensated, will he press the Dept of Trade and Industry to introduce a similar scheme to protect customers in this sector from losses too.
And finally will the First Minister encourage all Farepak customers to join me at the protest outside the Bank of Scotland’s headquarters , which are here in Edinburgh, on December 11th to press the company, which has made ‘extreme ‘ profits this year of £8.5bn, to do the right thing and fully compensate the low paid customers of Farepak for the £40m it has taken out of their pockets.’

I will of course let you know his replies.

Best wishes for a successful outcome

S2M-5197 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Attack on Sikh Youth

That the Parliament notes the unprovoked attack on a Sikh youth in Pilrig Park last week; expresses its solidarity with those who took part in a prayer vigil to express the community’s support for the victim and to condemn the thuggery involved in the attack; condemns the racist thugs who carried out the attack, and, given the attacks on the cars of members of the Leith Sikh community earlier this year, calls on Lothian and Borders Police to thoroughly investigate whether organised racists are active in the Leith area.
Supported by: Brian Adam, Jackie Baillie, Mark Ballard, Sarah Boyack, Bill Butler, Ms Rosemary Byrne, Trish Godman, Fiona Hyslop, Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, Mr Kenneth Macintosh, Campbell Martin, Mr Brian Monteith, Tommy Sheridan, Mr Jamie Stone
Lodged on 20 November 2006

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

S2W-29671 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 7 November 2006)

To ask the Scottish Executive what representations it is making to the Department of Trade and Industry in respect of the losses suffered by Farepak’s customers.

ANSWER

Answered by Allan Wilson (17 November 2006): My officials are in regular contact with DTI counterparts on issues arising from Farepak collapse which impact or impinge upon devolved responsibilities. I wrote to Ian McCartney, Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs at the Department of Trade and Industry, on 1 November 2006 and determine what steps are being taken to support customers and agents. I have also asked to be kept in touch with how matters progress with the Office of Fair Trading on the issue of reassessing the regulatory framework which applies to Christmas club companies such as Farepak and whether changes are needed.

Free school meals public meeting


Thursday 16th Nov- 7pm
St John Vianney Primary School
Inch
Edinburgh

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Iraq comment

Alex Miller emailed this to me for publication on the blog.............................

"There was a big conference in London in 2004 called the "Iraq Procurement Conference". It was basically a 3-day conference for big business to find out about "business opportunities" in Iraq - in other words, about shamelessly ripping off the natural and human resources of the recently invaded country. Any guesses who gave the opening address to the business moguls on behalf of the UK government? None other than Brian Wilson MP. I rest my case."
Alex Miller

http://www.antiwar.com/ips/suri.php?articleid=2434

S2M-5140 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Congratulations to RMT divers and support staff in the North Sea on their successful strike

That the Parliament congratulates the 900 Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union divers working in the North Sea on winning their strike; believes that the deep sea divers and support crew have achieved, via their industrial action, a remarkable victory, securing a 44.7% pay rise; admires the way the workers stood together throughout their 10 days on strike; believes that their decision to take industrial action has been completely vindicated having earlier rejected an employers’ “final offer” of a 25% increase, and continues to recognise both the extremely dangerous conditions in which these men work and their importance to the highly lucrative North Sea oil industry.
Lodged on 13 November 2006

SSP lead debate on housing stock transfer

The SSP used it's limited debating time in the Parliament to initiate a debate on housing stock transfer. Frances Curran opened the debate whilst I closed it for the SSP - the full debate can be seen at http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?title=General%20Debates&section=31 whilst my notes for my speech are copied below:

Housing Stock Transfer
1. S S Party is proud to initiate this debate and hold the SE to account.
Housing stock transfer is this Executives flagship housing policy
- a flagship which is holed below the waterline.
It is Labour’s Poll tax in as much as they are absolutely wedded to it and are losing huge respect in not recognising the need now to abandon it.

SSP utterly opposed to stock transfer. We believe that only a programme of publicly owned social housing can ensure everyone gets to live in house fit for the 21st century.

2. Average cost of a new home at £130,000 leaves huge numbers of population behind and unable to buy. Chronic shortage of quality, affordable homes; for rent, publicly owned and democratically controlled and managed.

3. Stock Transfer Policy of Executive
Like Mrs Thatcher before them SE say there is no alternative to stock being transferred out of public sector.
SFHA Briefing claims ‘opposition to stock transfer is ideologically driven’ An astonishing point to make, blind as they are, to the clear ideological reasons behind stock transfer itself the Treasury rules.

Quote Malcolm Chisholm
‘It is a fantasy to think the Treasury will step in and write off Council housing debt without new landlords taking over the stock.’
Whom did he have in mind with this rebuke I wonder?
Could it have been his own LP Conference, which this year which voted by more than two to one for just such an option/ ‘fantasy’?
I am old enough, as is Malcolm Chisholm, to remember when decisions at LP conference meant something. It is sad to see a once great democratic organisation reduced to this where decisions are completely ignored by party leaders.

But lets be clear this is an utterly remarkable quote – divulges an ideological pigheadedness – not dispute that the money is available for housing, but it is only available if you do as we want and accept privatisation.

It is remarkable then that tenants in Edinburgh, Stirling and Renfrewshire, not to mention Tower Hamlets, Cannock, Mid Devon, Birmingham, Sefton and countless other places across UK have soundly rejected the blackmail and stood up to it and said ‘you are not on’.

And what notice does MR Chisholm take of their decisions?
Does he feel bound to accept the wishes of the people? Not a bit of it.

‘Community ownership’
Malcolm Chisholm insults our intelligence again in this debate, dressing up stock transfer as a step up from public ownership, rather than the quite transparent abandonment of public ownership from a party who don’t support it anyway– baloney.

Currently our houses are publicly owned and yet he counterposes this with the Saatchi and Saatchi management speak phrase ‘community ownership’ as if it was a step forward. It is cynical and deceitful.

4. The Glasgow experience – where it all went wrong
In 2002 80,600 houses were transferred from Glasgow City Council to GHA for £1 and £1bn of debt was written off.
Amid promises of much needed repairs being done and 3,000 new homes built.
The famous Blairtummock semi detached house featured in much of the glossy promotional material promised to all tenants.
Well its Nov 2006 and not one single house has been built by GHA. Not one single brick laid.
10,000 houses demolished and further 40,000 ‘considered for demolition’.

GHA got £1bn debt write off and 80,600 houses for £1 and still couldn’t make a go of it.
They got £300m more when their business plan fell short and another £400m for demolition plans and now are after another £507m for Second stage transfer [SST].

Promises of ‘Tenants control’
What an insult and at variance with the facts. The original tenants representatives on the GHA -Billy McAllister and Colin Deans- were sacked from the board for trying to represent tenants interests.
Salary of chief executive Michael Lennon paid £204,000 an insult to tenants who pay and pay rent for little reward to see £4,000 per week going to him. That’s twice what the ‘poor’ minister gets!
Perhaps SFHA like to reflect on this when they claim that ‘every penny made by housing associations gets ploughed back into serving tenants’.

GHA is widely considered to be a highly centralised corporate organisation.
- complaints about salary to Michael Lennon,
-complaints at amounts paid out to consultants,
-complaints at amounts paid to advertise benefits of being a GHA tenant,
-complaints at the complete lack of accountability of GHA , a body paid again and again out of public funds.

GHA INVESTMENT BOASTS
Consider what Glasgow Council could have invested in housing if debt had been written off for them. Comparison done by Director of Housing and Finance against the £160m GHA invested in the same period of time.
GHA £160m per year vs Glasgow Council
£93.9m available from debt w/off
£45.4m repairs spend as is
£78.1m from capital spend
£19m additional spend from central heating grants etc
Total £236m to invest in repairs and new stock .
In other words 50% higher than GHA!

GHA should be overhauled and restructured with an inbuilt tenant majority and over time the stock handed back to the Council to resume strategic responsibility for public sector housing in the city.

5 Why the repeated NO votes?
a. Glasgow experience a poorer deal for tenants and widely seen.
Not the fault of local managers and local tenants organisations but GHA itself and failure to deliver on promises made to people.
b. Privatisation is what it is and people know it.
c. Effective local campaigns which incidentally to their immense credit overcame the huge inequity of resources to achieve victories each time.
-Something deeply invidious and thoroughly undemocratic about Councils spending millions of pounds of tenants money trying to sell them something they didn’t want and yet denying them funds to put the alternative opinion.

6 ‘Tenants Led’ claims of Scottish Executive
As John Carrocher of the STO highlighted in the Herald recently
Local Housing Association tenants simply do not have the same say as they had with Council.
Before stock transfer tenants had the right and opportunity to negotiate with their landlords/the Council on whatever issue came up –city wide or more local
Now tenants reps on the GHA for example cannot even take many issues to tenants because they are ‘commercially and financially sensitive’
Housing Associations not tenant led organisations at all.
Management teams take all the decisions according to the business plan and need to pay back money to banks etc.

7 ‘Never mind the Ballots’ – says the SE!
Lost the Edinburgh debate, the Stirling debate, lost the Renfrewshire debate. What does Minister expect of Inverclyde and Highland transfers?
Would he bet on YES if his seat depended on it?

‘Tragedy’ claimed Malcolm Chisholm after Edinburgh, Stirling and Renfrewshire results. ‘Tragedy’ if he tries to carry on like King Canute pretending this policy has a future.
Minister is an honourable man – single parents benefits resignation, his honourable statements against ‘dawn raids’.
Will he respect the democratic views of tenants? And invest in their option, housing fit for the 21st century and available to everyone and managed and controlled by the public?

I ask him today to answer a straight question
- If he is ‘five and o’ at the end of the month, with Inverclyde and Highland results will he resign or accept the inevitable?

8 SSP believes top quality housing is a right everyone has - high standard, affordable to all, publicly owned and democratically controlled.

The SSP proudly fights for everyone’s right to live in homes fit for the 21st century which are affordable to all – yes subsidized if necessary – publicly owned and democratically owned and managed. That’s what sets us apart from New Labour. I move support for the motion in my name.
ENDS
Notes for debate
LHO’s and LHA’s - 50 or 60 LHO’s get designation status - 5 local housing associations in Glasgow ‘simply do not trust the GHA anymore’. Complaints at how few homes transferred to local HA’s

Promises of 3,000 new builds- not a single brick laid by a single LHO.

S2M-5121 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Welcome to first socialist ever elected to US Senate

That the Parliament sends its warmest congratulations to Senator Bernie Sanders, the newly elected socialist member of the US Senate; notes his remarkable victory in Vermont where he won 66% of the popular vote; notes that he is the only elected member of the Senate never to have belonged to either the Republican or Democratic parties and believes that his overwhelming success in part reflects the tidal wave of opposition rushing through America over the continued occupation of Iraq by US troops and equally shows the strength of support that there is there for his pioneering and progressive social policies and political record in representing working families in Vermont over the last two decades.
Supported by: Frances Curran, Carolyn Leckie, Campbell Martin, Ms Rosemary Byrne, Dennis Canavan, Rosie Kane
Lodged on 08 November 2006

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Scotland's prison shame worse

They say you can tell a great deal about a nation by the way it treats its prisoners. Last week I attended the launch of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons annual report and the 2005-06 version makes grim reading. In that same week my SSP colleague, Rosie Kane MSP, spent a week in Cornton Vale for protesting against nuclear weapons - her first hand report of life inside Scotland's only women's prison - again grim reading can be found here http://www.sundaymail.co.uk/opinion/columnists/rosiekane/

The frustrations of Dr Andrew McLellan, the current Inspector, are plain for all to see. He told me he is ‘completely scunnered’ by the numbers we send to jail and that the average daily prison population in Scotland continues year on year to pass record levels.

Some 6,779 men and women are incarcerated here, meaning we jail a higher proportion of prisoners than almost anywhere else in Europe. Scotland jails 141people per 100,000 population, in Sweden it is 78 and Norway just 68. And that figure will worsen dramatically with the introduction of the Custodial Sentences and Weapons Bill which plans to scrap the automatic early release of prisoners, insisting that all offenders serve at least 75% of their sentence in jail. It is likely to add another 20% to that daily total.

And with 6396 prison places, some 400 less than the numbers jailed, the Inspector of Prisons has condemned the chronic overcrowding.
‘The nine evils of over-crowding’ as HMIP Dr McLellan calls them, mean; less time for staff to devote to prisoners offending behaviour, less time for screening for self harm or suicide risk assessments, increased availability of drugs as there’s less time for searches, cell sharing of facilities – facilities designed for one will have to accommodate two and those for two will have to contain three- and the deterioration of living conditions, increased tensions and noise, more time overall spent in cells, family contact visits will come round that bit less often.
It is hardly any wonder that re-offending is increasing and that people feel that offenders often come out of prison worse than they went in.

And as to who it is we are locking up?
Professor Roger Houchin, a criminologist at Glasgow Caledonian University, highlighted the link between poverty and imprisonment. He revealed that one quarter of our prisoners come from the 55 most deprived/poorest Council wards in Scotland. In parts of Glasgow, for example, the poorest parts, one 23 year old man in every nine is in prison.
Echoing the remarks of Lord Scarman in the aftermath of the 1980’s riots across the UK, Houchin rightly says ‘There can be no criminal justice without social justice.’
When I spoke with Andrew McLellan I asked him about the ‘social justice’ in two particular aspects of his report. One was the food we provide to prisoners and the other health care.

Food in prison.
I was shocked to find how much the Scottish Executive provides to feed people in prison. How much do you think we spend per day on feeding prisoners - breakfast, dinner, tea and supper –all in? Have a guess, ten pounds? Five pounds £5?
Unbelievably the answer is just £1.57! That’s right, not even the price of a happy meal! £1.57! The same as it was ten years ago. And I think we can all imagine how good it can only be. It is often not even warm.

Health Care
The other aspect of the report I found surprising was that the health of our prisoners is not the responsibility of the NHS. I was surprised to find that the Scottish Prisons Service has a separate health department. Given the exceptional demands placed on the SPS by a population which is 70% drug dependent and often with severe mental health problems there is now growing concern that the one organisation which is best placed and has more expertise than any other, the NHS, should be dealing with those issues.

Yes you can indeed tell a great deal about a country by how it treats its prisoners and Scotland has as Dr McLellan’s report repeatedly highlights much to be concerned about.

Richie Venton's response to RMT disaffiliation

SSP Trade Union Organiser, Richie Venton, wrote this response to the decision by the RMT to disaffiliate from the SSP in last weeks Scottish Socialist Voice. http://www.scottishsocialistvoice.net/
The national executive of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union last week voted to disaffiliate from the Scottish Socialist Party. This decision is deeply regrettable to all those who fight for genuine political representation of the working class against low pay, privatisation, anti-union laws and wars for oil. It is an undeniable setback - not just for the SSP, but also for the RMT’s membership, who need a genuine, organised political voice in the face of ruthless railway and shipping bosses, and New Labour’s anti-union government. It is all the more regrettable given that the policies of the SSP remain unchanged and totally in tune with those of the RMT. The RMT affiliated to the SSP in the first place because they had the courage to break from New Labour and recognised that the SSP’s policies on privatisation, workplace rights, public ownership and the bloody war in Iraq matched the union’s own aims and aspirations. They also took that historic decision in acknowledgement of the outstanding solidarity the SSP had shown to RMT members and other trade unionists in struggle over the years. None of that has changed. Close vote. The decision at the RMT’s national executive arose from a vote to disaffiliate at the union’s Scottish Regional Council. That vote was about as close as it gets; just two delegates voting the other way would have meant continued affiliation to the SSP. And as SSP national convener Colin Fox commented after the RMT vote: “I also regret the union never offered the party any opportunity to put our case.” In fact, the case for staying with the SSP is overwhelming, and where individual RMT members have presented it, other members and RMT branches have wanted to stay affiliated. Where else are they supposed to go? Back to New Labour? That, of course, would be the preferred option of some of those who voted to disaffiliate from the SSP - but certainly not of the vast majority, including a number of principled trade unionists who still vote Labour but argued for the union to remain with the SSP on the grounds that its policies remain the same, and match those of the union. When Tommy Sheridan, the SWP and some others decided to split off from the SSP, I warned in a letter to trade unionists: “This is an act of utter disloyalty and irresponsibility to the hundreds of thousands of working class people whose hopes have been raised by the Scottish left uniting into the one party - the SSP. It would be a particularly cruel deceit of those courageous trade unionists who fought for and won affiliation of the RMT to the SSP. “These workers did not affiliate to Tommy Sheridan - they affiliated to the PARTY whose working class socialist policies and fighting record matches their aims and aspirations. Why should they be dragged off into the wilderness by a split-off from the SSP?”Their split-off had no political justification, but one of its consequences is the RMT’s decision. The RMT’s national executive quite explicitly and unanimously voted NOT to affiliate to Solidarity. That reflects the widespread distrust felt by RMT members. But by splitting from the SSP, Solidarity disheartened and confused enough RMT activists to allow the narrow majority on the RMT Regional Council to vote for disaffiliation. The only victors in this are the enemies of socialism and trade unionism. This is not the end of the story, however. The reasons the RMT broke with Labour and affiliated to the SSP in 2004 remain with added force. RMT members face the same attacks from the employers and the war-mongering, privatising, anti-union New Labour. Picket lines. They will be forced into industrial action in the months and years ahead - and the SSP will continue to stand on their picket lines, organise solidarity with them, and act as the voice of RMT members in the streets, workplaces, councils and parliament. Disaffiliation does not suddenly mean we will sever all links with the RMT or its members. As Colin Fox said last week: “All the reasons the RMT gave for affiliating remain entirely valid. We share a mutual loathing of New Labour and all it represents.”This setback changes nothing in our determination to join with others in breaking the insidious link between New Labour and the unions. Pouring millions of members’ subs down New Labour’s throat does even less for the affiliated unions now than when the RMT dared to defy New Labour’s diktats two years ago and were subsequently expelled. And union members are increasingly reaching breaking point in their link with Labour. The fact that the TGWU leadership has taken the unprecedented step of putting a case for continued affiliation to Labour on their website this month is proof of the clamour of discontent from TGWU members. The working class needs an organised political voice and vehicle for socialism more than ever.The SSP remains that party, and we will continue to campaign shoulder-to-shoulder with the RMT and other unions on the daily struggles and bigger socialist aims that unite us. By Richie Venton SSP Trade Union Organiser