Sunday, 25 November 2012


RADICAL INDEPENDENCE -  AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME


I was looking forward to the Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow yesterday and I was not disappointed. Conference organisers billed the event as ‘a one day conference to discuss Independence and the way forward for Scotland’ and they are to be congratulated on presenting a stimulating event, in comfortable surroundings with modern facilities, conducive to thinking, discussing and learning from others. Moreover with delegate passes priced at just £4 [unwaged] they also succeeded in keeping the event within everyone’s reach.

Inevitably with several important and attractive sessions and 800 people attending throughout the course of the day the conference was tightly timetabled and often too unwieldy to decide very much, some ‘workshops’ had 300 people in them. But rightly the events emphasis was on beginning the process of deliberation over the many important issues in front of the entire Independence movement in Scotland.

The thing that struck me most was that just as the Independence movement which covers a multitude of philosophies we too had a wide range with socialists, greens, trades unionists, social democrats, nationalists, internationalists, feminists and single issue campaigners all content to describe themselves as ‘radicals’. Equally we learned to accept, as more than one person said in the 10 workshops, there are presumably radicals who support the union out there too! The word ‘radical’ in itself means almost nothing if we are honest, its like the phrase ‘the people’.

Nonetheless the 800 people who gathered yesterday will have been greatly encouraged by what we have in common, and no one put this better than my ‘Yes Scotland’ Advisory Board colleague Patrick Harvie who said, inter alia, that ‘people who like the status quo will vote no, what we need to win a majority for Independence is a transformational agenda with more democracy, more redistribution of wealth, more public ownership and more co-operation’. And this unanimity was echoed in the packed workshops. I attended one on the case for a Scottish republic. Here each of the arguments for monarchy were abjectly dismantled and ridiculed. Conference accepted there was nothing democratic, progressive or modern about the principle of a hereditary Head of State. And whilst we were all able to agree that republics are not, in and of themselves radical, there can be no doubt that achieving a modern democratic republic for Scotland would be both a huge blow for the British ruling class and a seismic advance for democracy.

I was able to mention how the burgeoning ‘Yes Scotland’ movement has advanced in recent weeks during the session on strategies for Independence. I tried to infuse it with the sense that we are part of a powerful mass movement which compares with the anti-poll tax campaign of 25years ago. And there was a widespread acceptance that the place for the Radical Independence Campaign is inside the ‘Yes Scotland’ coalition helping to ensure our transformational agenda has maximum impact and influence. This is certainly the role myself, Patrick Harvie, Pat Kane, Elaine C Smith and others advance on its Advisory Board. Clearly the addition of thousands of others would be pivotal in shaping the future strategies of the Independence coalition.

In drawing the day long conference to a close Robin McAlpine of the Jimmy Reid Foundation stressed how powerful and persuasive ideas themselves are in the world today saying ‘we [the RIC] are above all an idea and we need to turn that into a story the Scottish people can understand and support’. How true. For here were echoes of Karl Marx’s wise words. ‘Philosophers’ he reminded us 150 years ago, ‘philosophers have merely interpreted the world, the point however is to change it’. For me the most refreshing aspect of yesterdays conference was that these powerful and persuasive ideas, so powerful and challenging, now have greater semblance to gain traction among the Scottish people in 2014. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

EUROPEAN WIDE AUSTERITY PROTEST



‘From Scotland to Spain, the struggle is the same’ chanted the crowd over and over as it weaved its way through Edinburgh city centre in the early evening darkness. ‘From Scotland to Greece, no justice no peace’ they added.
Around 600 of us marched in support of workers in 23 other European countries who had themselves been protesting against Governments austerity cuts.

The Edinburgh city centre traffic snarled up behind us as we snaked slowly along Princes Street.

And for SSP activists carrying our party colours it was remarkable to be on a demonstration where English was not the main language spoken. These young people mainly from Spain chanted mainly in Spanish. They work here in Edinburgh albeit in low paid, casual, temporary and largely part time work because they had to leave Spain to get work and they consider themselves to be the lucky ones because compared to their compatriots back home, they reasoned, they were far better off.

So delighted were these young workers to see Scottish Socialist Party members standing shoulder to shoulder amongst them that several asked to have their pictures taken next to our banner to send, via email, to their folks back home.
‘The workers united will never be defeated’ translates beautifully into Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, Italian, French……. 


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

PRESS RELEASE


FOX: PROSECUTE POWER COMPANIES

GUILTY OF PRICE FIXING


Scottish Socialist Party leader Colin Fox has called on the Government to prosecute any of the big six energy companies found guilty of manipulating gas prices by the ongoing OFGEM/Financial Services Authority enquiry.

Speaking after Energy Minister Ed Davey announced an enquiry into allegations of manipulation of wholesale gas prices in a market worth £300bn Mr Fox told us
‘With one in three families in Scotland shivering in fuel poverty and unable to afford their gas and electricity bills – bills which have doubled in the past 5 years - these allegations [of price fixing] will be met with widespread outrage.
‘Clearly we have to await the outcome of the OFGEM/FSA investigations but if these allegations prove to be true there will be uproar, and not least from those whose voice this debate has so far lacked, millions of working class families suffering the daily indignity of fuel poverty.
‘I call on David Cameron and Alex Salmond to make the abolition of fuel poverty their number one priority this winter. The Warm Home and Energy Conservation Act of 2000 promised every household the legal right to affordable fuel and yet that promise is further away than ever.
‘Millions of people already believe these bills are too high and that the energy companies are profiteering. Moreover the winter fuel allowance is utterly inadequate and so is Government investment in insulation and energy saving schemes. But above all the provision of this vital utility needs to be returned to the public sector to end multinational energy companies making billions in profits whilst driving millions and millions of families in Britain into fuel poverty and an early grave.’
ENDS

Note; The SSP pamphlet ‘END FUEL POVERTY AND POWER COMPANY PROFITEERING’ is available from SSP, 93 Hope Street, Glasgow G2. Priced £3.00

Sunday, 28 October 2012

This Article Will Appear In The MORNING STAR Newspaper Shortly


‘An Act of Unpardonable Folly’ *

SSP national spokesman Colin Fox attended the SNP Conference last week in Perth and reflects on the vote to join NATO and the contrasting philosophies within the Independence movement


The resignation of two MSP’s in the wake of its vote to enlist an Independent Scotland in NATO last week has shaken the SNP. The decision to overturn existing party policy has been described as its ‘Clause Four’ moment. That may be overstating it since the Labour u-turn saw it ditch its defining commitment altogether. A truly equivalent action therefore would mean the SNP abandoning Independence itself. Nonetheless the SNP has taken another significant step to the right and it is clear that Jean Urquhart MSP and John Finnie MSP will not be the only ones to leave the party.

The SNP apparently believes Scotland can be a member of NATO and force it to abandon its weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde. Good luck with that, you might say!

The SNP now wants an Independent Scotland to keep NATO, keep the Queen, keep the Pound Sterling, keep the EU, keep neo-liberal economic policies and keep close links with Rupert Murdoch. The French have a phrase for it ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. Indeed it can appear the only thing the SNP wants to change in an Independent Scotland is the level of Corporation tax for big business, which incidentally they intend to cut in half!

And yet if you took away the ‘payroll vote’ of its MP’s, MSP’s, MEP’s, Councillors and their staff the leadership would certainly have lost the vote last week. Their decision to overturn existing policy and keep an Independent Scotland in NATO was carried by just 29 votes [394 to 365]. Defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP, in moving the motion, argued somewhat spuriously given the lack of evidence, that without the change the 2014 Referendum on Independence could not be won.

Yet as many commentators have pointed out over the past week the SNP is not the only party to support Independence. The Scottish Socialist Party and The Greens are also in favour and yet neither of us intends to change our anti-NATO stance in the face of the SNP’s decision. 

Whilst the SNP believe the way to win the 2014 Referendum is to present a conservative narrative that ‘nothing much will change with Independence’ the SSP by contrast believes working people in Scotland are desperate for changes; an end to Tory rule, no more obscene inequalities, no more fuel poverty, an end to neo-liberal economic policies of privatisation, austerity, cuts, casualisation, no more billions spent on nuclear weapons and no more young Scots ‘economic conscripts’ sent to die in Imperial wars abroad.

And as a poll published in The Sunday Times this week has tantalisingly shown there is everything to play for in this debate. Asked how they would vote if the Tories appeared likely to win the UK election of 2015 some 55% of Scots said Yes to Independence. All of which presents an enormous problem for Scottish Labour. Not only are they part of the ‘three in a bed’ ‘No’ campaign with the treacherous Lib Dems and hated Tories but in a ludicrous desire to placate corporate interests they have launched a full scale assault on the welfare state in Scotland. Lets be clear all the most important and popular achievements of devolution, free prescriptions, free care for the elderly, free travel for the over 60’s and the abolition of student tuition fees, cherished by voters here, have been targeted by Labour and branded unaffordable "Freebies" by its Scottish leader Johann Lamont.
 
The ‘No to Independence’ camp are now predominately, but not exclusively, on the right with
Scottish Labour now outdoing the Daily Mail in its anti welfare rhetoric. Like Churchill they appear to have ‘nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears’ to save the bankers. Not to be outdone the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has branded the vast majority of voters as ‘unproductive and lazy’. This seems unlikely to hasten their revival. The Tories lets recall have only one of Scotland’s 56 MP’s.

So as the worst recession in 100 years bites further and further and takes an appalling toll on the living standards of working people the ‘No’ parties each insist there is no alternative to brutal cuts and austerity, these the supposed benefits of being ‘Better Together’.
 
The key economic and social arguments on cuts, benefits, pensions and jobs see the ‘Yes’ campaign on the high ground in tune with public opinion and this is increasingly the crucial battleground for the Independence debate.

And yet the SNP’s vote on NATO is emblematic of a difference of the approach within the Independence movement. In common with other progressive forces in the ‘Yes’ camp the Scottish Socialist Party takes the view that Independence means transforming Scotland. Why for example should fuel poverty exist in an energy rich Scotland when public ownership of our resources could end it at a stroke?
 
The demand for independence goes hand in hand with a break with the pro market, pro war consensus embraced by all the unionist parties. Do we really want to be governed by an un-elected, unaccountable monarch who considers us her ‘subjects’ rather than equal citizens of a modern democratic republic?
 
The SNP NATO vote does not determine what an independent Scotland will do anymore than Salmond's policy of bribing the rich with tax cuts. These issues will be decided by the voters in the first Scottish General Election after independence, an election which will be fought on territory in which left policies in tune with Scottish mainstream opinion will have a major influence. The prospect of transforming Scotland into a modern democratic republic putting people before profit is part of this Independence struggle.


 
* SNP leader Alex Salmond famously used an SNP Party Political Broadcast to attack Tony Blair’s 1999 military attack on Serbia as ‘an act of dubious legality and unpardonably folly.’

Monday, 22 October 2012

SSP Fringe Meeting At SNP Conference In Perth


AN ACT OF UNPARDONABLE FOLLY? SNP Now A Pro NATO Party




I was invited to attend the SNP conference on Friday in Perth as SSP national spokesman and member of the Yes Scotland Advisory Board to watch the party debate its attitude to NATO membership for an Independent Scotland. And I would like to thank the SNP for the welcome and the courtesy they extended to me throughout.

For anyone interested in politics it was an outstanding debate, which I feel sure, will be talked about for years to come. The atmosphere inside the Perth conference centre was heady and the debate produced a cocktail of fine speeches and high drama displaying principles, tactical arguments and even the odd insult all delivered with passion and guile. The audience played its part with partisan cheering, standing ovations and even booing at times. Although I obviously do not share the conclusion reached the debate was a credit both to the SNP itself and to politics as a whole. It was a master class in rational discourse showing once again why politics is so invigorating and important to the civic life of our nation.  

Moving the motion to abandon the existing SNP policy of withdrawing Scotland from NATO Defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP was keen to re-iterate the SNP's anti-nuclear commitment. But, he argued, the existing policy was in need of review and that after speaking to 'Scotland’s neighbours' in Iceland, Denmark and Norway he felt the existing policy let them down. His main argument centred on a poll commissioned by the party which apparently showed 75% of Scots wanted to remain in Nato fearing Scotland’s security was otherwise threatened. He claimed this was 'powerful evidence’ the SNP needed to change policy otherwise it would lose the 2014 Independence Referendum. He insisted that an Independent Scotland would make removal of Trident nuclear weapons on the Clyde a precondition for joining NATO.
Seconding the motion Angus McNeil MP insisted that 'Scotland in NATO is good defence'. He also cited the 75% poll mentioned by Angus Robertson and felt 'our neighbours in Iceland, Norway and Denmark' wanted this change and he concluded that demanding the removal of Trident was no impediment to NATO membership.

Opposing the motion Bill Ramsay from Glasgow moved an amendment which argued NATO membership put an Independent Scotland under pressure to accept Trident and to cheers he proclaimed 'Lets consider NATO membership only when the last Trident submarine sails away down the Clyde'. His seconder John Finnie asked who Scotland was at risk from? He argued that the leaderships motion means 'you will never get rid of Trident'.

Brian Stewart from Aberdeen moved an amendment supportive of the motion and asked conference to 'Give NATO a chance to accept our nuclear free policy between 2014 [and a successful referendum outcome] and 2016 [the first Scottish General Election thereafter]'

Jamie Hepburn MSP moved another amendment rejecting the motion and insisted joining NATO made getting rid of Trident 'impossible' and cited the experience of the German people who were compelled to accept US nuclear missiles stationed on their soil by its NATO membership. He insisted there was no morality in the motion, that NATO was not a force for peace in the world, and asked why the movers did not mention the views of other neighbours such as Ireland or Sweden who were not members of NATO.

In asking for the motion to be remitted Rob Gibson MSP asked for proof that being in NATO gives Scotland greater leverage in getting rid of Trident. It’s the reverse he insisted and he called for the motion to be remitted to allow further debate over the issues involved.

In the open debate Keith Brown MSP, a former marine, argued that the best way to get rid of nuclear weapons on the Clyde was to stay within NATO. He suggested that there was 'No chance of getting rid of Trident without Independence and there was no chance of securing Independence without staying within NATO’. This motion he insisted helps secure Independence.

John Swinney MSP said 'we have a responsibility under Independence to be good and responsible citizens and a responsibility to fully defend our country and its citizens and to work with our neighbours in Iceland, Norway and Denmark [again] in a common alliance. He concluded that 'we can only get rid of nuclear weapons by passing this motion.'

Delegate Duncan Ross pointed out how the Labour Party had been castigated for abandoning its principles and now SNP was ditching 'our principles'. 'It is dishonest' he insisted to warm applause 'to say we can join NATO and get rid of nuclear weapons.' 

Next Dillon Johnston from Aberdeenshire argued that if the motion helped secure Independence then conference must support it.

Speaking next Sandra White MSP received the widest applause of the day so far when she asked 'why are we having this debate now?'  Scotland was on the verge of Independence she insisted and suggested that the Scottish people should decide themselves whether they wanted to be in NATO after 2014. She accused the movers of 'hypocrisy' and argued that NATO is a nuclear alliance with a first strike policy and Scotland would not be able to change that. She ridiculed the 75% support poll saying it was bogus and asked for the evidence; the question asked and the breakdown of its result, suggesting since this was not forthcoming the polls should be disregarded as unreliable evidence. To loud applause she finished by claiming the 'grassroots of the SNP don’t want to be in NATO'.

Then in the contribution of the day without question Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill MSP rose with a bravura performance. Beginning with the acclamation that 'I aint no US poster boy!' to cheers and stamping of the feet adding 'Nobody in this hall today is pro-Trident. The question is how do we get rid of it?'. The answer, insisted the former anti-poll tax rebel, was 'via NATO membership!' [to widespread, if partisan, cheering]. 'Winning in 2014 is our be all and end all' he insisted,’ this policy helps us win.' He then argued that 'Nato has changed and moved on'. And finished by proclaiming 'We are a party of power and not protest. The people of Scotland seek security and we need to allay their fears. NATO membership does that. We will not be standing shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours in the Rest of the UK, Poland, and Spain etc if we do not join NATO. I'm tired of marching. I want a seat at the table of power for an Independent Scotland!' His speech was roared to the rafters and received by far the biggest ovation [albeit very partisan] of the entire debate.

Christine McKelvey had the unenviable job of following McAskill but feared this motion would make Scotland a paler version of the UK.

Natalie McGarry then spoke to oppose the motion and argued that NATO were warmongers the SNP should not touch with a bargepole attacking the motion as 'dishonest and wrong' and asked 'where is the evidence we can force NATO to do anything?'

Bruce Crawford MSP said we have 2 years to the Referendum and a huge responsibility to win it insisting that the motion was needed otherwise the Referendum would be lost.

Lachie McNeill from Argyll said there was no need to change existing policy arguing that the motion undermined SNP's commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament.

Replying to the debate Bill Ramsay quipped that NATO's charm offensive had worked wonders on the SNP leadership and insisted that a nuclear 1st strike capability was 'hard wired in to NATO'. Scotland, he said, would be compelled to accept Trident and to suggest otherwise was nonsense. The movers might as well ask the Labour Party to support Independence'

Brian Stewart from Aberdeen insisted that motion said 'we will only join NATO if they agree to get rid of Trident.' And insisted that Scotland, with others, can reform NATO.

Jamie Hepburn ridiculed the idea of Scotland reforming NATO, as it was in effect a US organisation.

Summing up Angus Robertson MP accused conference itself of hypocrisy [to some booing] and re-iterated his claim that an Independent Scotland will not join NATO unless they agree to get rid of Trident. He ended by starkly warning that 'As Campaign Director of the SNP he had led the party to 2 election victories in 2007 and 2011 and I tell you we cannot win a Yes vote in 2014 without this policy change!' [This met with loud booing] 'This vote, he added, is about carrying the country and we need to carry the country to get a Yes vote in 2014. 75% of people believe Scotland should be part of NATO and the diplomatic community and our neighbours want it too....' and ran out of time.

My immediate impression was that this was an utterly engrossing debate, a fabulous piece of political theatre. It was clear the vote was on a knife-edge with no one sure which way it would go.

The Chairman’s call for a show of hands was visually inconclusive and after 45 minutes of tense waiting and counting later the crucial vote was revealed - 394 for the leadership’s position and 365 against. The leadership had prevailed by just 29 votes out of 800 delegates!

In the immediate aftermath some people tore up their party cards in disgust claiming they no longer wanted to be part of a pro-NATO party.  

Their despair was of course understandable. In another move to the right the SNP had just abandoned a principled opposition to NATO and opted to join the warmongers. SNP leaders have been courted by NATO diplomacy and have in turn been too amenable to ludicrous arguments that they can persuade the US to give up its nuclear weapons. It is just not credible. And for me this change in SNP policy will not protect their commitment to shelving Trident but undermine it. Moreover the move does not improve the chances of winning the 2014 Referendum it jeopardises it.

The Scottish Socialist Party is to say the least not convinced that the SNP's 'steady as she goes' approach to Independence will be successful. Victory in the 2014 Referendum will as far as we are concerned be secured instead by stressing the transformative attractions of Independence - no more Trident missiles, no more imperialist wars where Scottish soldiers die for oil or other imperialist interests, no more cuts to lifeline public services to pay for wars abroad, no more of the worse economic recession in 80 years, no more fuel poverty in Scotland, no more neo-liberal economic policies of privatisation and financialisation of our society. We can persuade Scotland’s working class majority their best interests will be served by supporting Independence but that means inspiring them with a vision of change and improvement.

The SSP's position on NATO has not changed. Nothing in Perth these last few days has persuaded us our policy needs 'reviewing'. We opposed sending Scottish troops to invade Iraq and occupy Afghanistan to die under NATO's banner. We did not support NATO's illegal 'regime change' campaign in Libya nor do we support its threatened intervention in Syria. But most of all we do not accept that Scotland inside NATO will ever persuade the warmongers to remove Trident from our shores.

The Scottish Socialist Party remains committed to an Independent socialist Scotland that is not in NATO, not beholden to the Bank of England or the IMF, not a tax haven for corporations or billionaires and not governed by an unelected and unaccountable monarchy. And I suggest our vision is less and less likely to be mistaken for that offered by the ever-rightward moving SNP.   


Saturday, 22 September 2012

MY SPEECH TO TODAY'S RALLY FOR INDEPENDENCE IN EDINBURGH


Friends, I bring you greetings from the Scottish Socialist Party and I am proud to be part of this wonderful occasion and this vibrant movement as Scotland again asserts our inalienable right to self-determination and Independence.

Look around you. It might be September but this, this is the beginning of the Scottish Spring. Let the world take heed from Edinburgh today that we Scots are marching for our freedom and we are equally determined to secure our full democratic rights.

And we re-assert today that supporting a country’s right to self-determination does not make you a nationalist per se, it makes you a democrat. And as a democrat, a democratic socialist, one question interests me more than most today – will working class people in Scotland, who make up the vast majority here, be better off with Independence or not?

To that question, which millions of people rightly demand a straight answer, we can stoutly reply YES SCOTLAND – For if all the revenues, taxes, duties, profits and wealth generated here in Scotland stayed here, rather than be transferred to the UK Treasury or boardrooms abroad, it stands to reason we would be better off. That is what Independence means. 
But working class people understand we have to stand up for ourselves and so I urge you to join with us in this great cause.

There are of course many shades of opinion gathered here today and I respect that, but I want an Independent Scotland that is a modern democratic republic, where we the people decide our own future, freely, democratically and without interference or constraint. 

This great movement gathered here today seeks the same goals as billions of other people throughout the world, the chance to secure our Independence and realise the economic emancipation and social progress we are capable of. 

Jimmy Reid famously distinguished ‘Scotland is a nation. Britain is a state’. And the British state today is in decline. It is at the epicentre of a worldwide financial ‘racket’ that exploits the world and goes to war regularly to protect its ‘operations’. That connection brings shame on Scotland.

An Independent Scotland by contrast could be a beacon to the world. We would never send our sons off to die in wars motivated by imperial plunder. An Independent Scotland would declare peace with the world not war, nor threaten our fellow human beings with nuclear annihilation or environmental destruction.

So let us today resolve that we are building a new Scotland, where no one gets left behind, 
where wealth is not the measure of greatness or nobility,
where helping others wins more gold medals than helping yourself,
where prejudice and ignorance are eradicated like the Tuberculosis my grandmother and so many others like her died of in the 1930’s,
where Independence brings economic emancipation and freedom to everyone not just a select few and where all these are inalienable rights belonging to all those who chose to live here.

That then is our message today ringing out loud and clear to our fellow Scots and to the world.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

MY ARTICLE IN THE MORNING STAR ON INDEPENDENCE



WHY SOCIALISTS SHOULD SUPPORT INDEPENDENCE?

Tommy Docherty the legendary wit and manager of Manchester United once quipped after his team had suffered a humiliating defeat ‘We lost 4-0 and frankly we were lucky to get the nil.’
The Tories in Scotland know just how he felt for they are so hated that out of 56 MP’s they have just one, and they were lucky to get that! And yet, as incredible as it may seem, their Coalition partners are despised even more. The Liberal Democrats now have no constituency MSP’s in mainland Scotland and were ‘mauled’ in last year’s local elections for ‘joining’ the hated Tories at Westminster.

All of which presents Labour with a real dilemma. As cheerleaders for the ‘No to Independence’ campaign they are in coalition with the Tories and Lib Dems. Former MSP Charlie Gordon, who lost his seat to the SNP expressed the widespread unease in Ed Miliband’s army when he tweeted recently ‘Tory millions and Labour activists ‘Better Together’!!*??’

This is the political opposition facing the exuberant Independence movement as it rallies in Edinburgh this Saturday. It will be the first time supporters have had the opportunity to meet since the launch of the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign in June. And it promises to be quite a day. First Minister Alex Salmond will speak for the SNP as will Patrick Harvie of the Greens and myself for the Scottish Socialist Party. Our three parties – founders of the Scottish Independence Convention in 2005 - will be joined by thousands of people from across Scotland including many from civic and cultural communities.

It is noticeable that the terms of this debate have shifted significantly since the 1990’s. ‘Unionists’ now accept Scotland is a nation with an inalienable right to self-determination. They also accept Scotland is perfectly capable of running our own affairs and even concede we would be one of the world’s richer nations. It was not always so. But they insist ‘we will be even wealthier as part of the UK’. I will come back to that claim but first it is important that socialists also recognise supporting self-determination does not make you a nationalist. Lenin for example supported the rights of nations to self-determination, so did Rosa Luxemburg, John Maclean and James Connolly. No one familiar with their work would call them ‘nationalists’.

Independence is not divorced from the class struggle it is part and parcel of it. And for the Scottish Socialist Party Independence means Scots will be free from the neo-liberal stranglehold of financial speculators who dominate the world economy today. The SSP sees Independence as a stepping-stone to a better society not an end in itself. We strive for an independent socialist Scotland, a modern democratic republic. And that vision is enjoying greater and greater support as this debate unfolds.

The Scottish Socialist Party contends that if all the income, revenues, taxes, levies and duties raised in Scotland, and currently transferred to the UK Treasury, were to stay here it stands to reason Scotland would be a wealthier place. But we also accept that working people will only be better off if we fight for our share of that wealth. There will be no automatic gains from Independence. Only the working class will improve their collective living standards. And improve them they must because Scotland endures some of the worst social conditions in the UK. With 225,000 people officially unemployed and a further 800,000 in part time, casual or insecure temporary employment earning the national minimum wage [£6.08] or less there is much help needed. One in three households now shiver in fuel poverty as standards of living and the quality of life plummets like the temperature gauge. Scotland’s obscene inequalities are widening not narrowing as we stare down the barrel of the worst economic recession in 80 years. The 1,700 jobs lost at meatpackers Halls of Broxburn this week were merely the latest in a long line of setbacks for communities like West Lothian.

The debate so far has been widely criticised for being too focused on procedural issues; whether there will be one question on the ballot paper or two? Which Parliament has the legal power to call the Referendum? Which bodies will oversee the electoral operation? These matters look likely to be settled soon allowing the debate to focus on the most substantive issue, whether working class people will be better off with Independence or not?

‘Better Together’ argues that Scotland reaps rewards from the Union. The truth is British capitalism holds working class people in Scotland back. It denies them opportunities and is now carrying out swingeing cuts in their living standards vital public services. Equally warmongering Britain, with the 5th biggest military budget in the world brings shame on us all as it is used to occupy Afghanistan having invaded Iraq and bombed Libya.

All of which poses an increasingly straightforward question for progressive Scotland. Do we pin our hopes on another useless Labour Government or set sail for Independence? Ed Miliband promises more cuts, more warmongering, more tax breaks for the rich, more tax hikes for the working class, more privatisation and more assaults on civil liberties. We’ve have had plenty of that. Scotland’s social democratic character manifests itself in other decisions – the abolition of NHS prescription charges, free elderly care, free university education, free travel for our senior citizens. These provisions signify Scotland’s commitment to collectivism and rejection of austerity, cuts and most of all the Tories.

The Independence movement has a striking opportunity to transform Scotland and provide the country with the political settlement it needs. The way to win the Referendum is to embrace this ‘transformational agenda’ and promote an alternative vision for Scotland one which rejects the neo-liberal, warmongering capitalist model currently on offer.

Colin Fox sits on the 'Yes Scotland' Advisory Board.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

FUEL POVERTY SET TO GO THROUGH THE ROOF

Last week the Scottish Government reported the latest fuel poverty figures were up 7% in Scotland to 800,000 households. So the news that Scottish and Southern Electric are to increase gas and electricity bills by a further 9% will send a shiver up the spine of many a struggling family.

It beggars belief that SSE hasn't noticed its customers are going through the worst recession in 80 years as it proposes to increase bills by four times the rate of inflation!

On assuming office in 2007 First Minister Alex Salmond promised to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland by 2015. That pledge now lies abandoned. And before he points out energy policy is a reserved matter it didn't stop him making the pledge and there is still much he can do. He could join with me in pressing for gas and electricity bills to be capped. This latest 9% hike will inevitably lead to many more people in this country dying of 'cold related illnesses'. He could insist power companies suspected of profiteering are prosecuted. He could argue for the winter fuel allowance to be doubled for pensioners and other vulnerable groups instead of being cut in half as George Osborne has done. He could increase investment in renewable energy to diversify away from the exorbitant cost of oil and gas. And he could join with the Scottish Socialist Party in calling for the power companies to be returned to public ownership to ensure no citizen is denied the heating they need in a country as rich as ours in the 21st century.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Hamish Henderson Memorial Lecture


The Edinburgh People's Festival presents the 5th Hamish Henderson memorial lecture. From Word Power Books.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A Nation Decides: On Independence For Scotland - A Debate


The Edinburgh People's Festival proudly presents a debate on Independence for Scotland.
Out Of The Blue. Leith.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Letter to The Scotsman


Dear Sir
I enjoyed reading Michael Kelly's lighthearted column in yesterdays paper
['Pomp, circumstance and endless security checks' 4/7/12].
I particularly chuckled when he wrote 'The monarchy has brought stability to
the United Kingdom. It keeps politics away from the function of the head of
state.' For here he unwittingly highlights the fundamental contradiction in
the monarchist case namely that The Queen plays a role above and beyond
politics and yet is somehow responsible for '60 years of stability'.

As a supporter of a modern democratic republic with an elected head of
state - and Michael grants me the honour of recognition in his final
paragraph - I am compelled to point out the political powers of The Queen
are not benign at all. I would remind readers that The Queen refused me my
seat in the Scottish Parliament in 2003, a seat to which the voters of the
Lothians elected me. Despite securing a democratic mandate from the people
our unelected and unaccountable monarch demanded I swore allegiance to her.
It remains the case that all elected representatives in Britain cannot take
their seats unless they do so.

And I would remind people that every Bill passed by the elected Scottish
Parliament and House of Commons must secure the Queen's signature before it
can become law. She also appoints every member of the House of Lords and the
even more powerful Privy Council. She is the legal head of our armed forces
and judiciary who must also swear allegiance to her on a daily basis. Party
leaders who win General Elections must seek her permission to form a
Government just as David Cameron was obliged to in 2010. And let's not
forget the notorious Crown Powers which bestow very considerable
extra-judicial authority to the monarch. All these examples illustrates the
very considerable powers our unelected and unaccountable sovereign wields
over her 'subjects'.

Looking across the world we see no King of Germany or France of the USA or
China or Brazil or India or Russia. Britain's constitutional position is an
outdated anachronism which belongs to those feudal times from whence it
came.

Nonetheless I am heartened support for a democratic alternative to unelected
and unaccountable 'divine rights of Kings [and Queens]' is waning in
Scotland. And to my mind that reflects a much more modern and egalitarian
spirit and culture.

At the same time I am disappointed our national media largely ignores the
important issues of principle at stake here preferring to trivialise the
arguments on both sides and this I believe ill serves the public.

Your sincerely
Colin Fox
Scottish Socialist Party

Friday, 29 June 2012

Too big to jail?

I attended the BBC Reith Lecture 2012 last night delivered by the provocative right wing historian Professor Niall Ferguson. More than 200 of us gathered in The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's self proclaimed 'National Academy.' The Ayrshire born and Glasgow educated Harvard Professor was delivering the fourth in a series of Reith lectures on the theme 'The rule of law and its enemies.' We listened politely as the show was taped for BBC Radio Four and our guest assailed us with a series of spurious claims long favoured by the far right that insist 'society is coming apart' . And Ferguson repeatedly quoted his hero the philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville arguing 'the state is the enemy of civil society.' Based in his Harvard ivory tower, Ferguson is nowadays happiest when evangelising for the madcap Tea Party. Like so many right wing immigrants to the US Ivy League he now despairs at the British Conservative Party, and not just its emaciated Scottish manifestation. They are just not right wing enough for him any more. Our Glasgow Academy allumni and Magdalen College Oxford graduate is an unashamed elitist snob. And his oft repeated Orwellian mantra revisited throughout the evening chimed repeatedly 'private good, public bad'. 'The best institutions in the British Isles today' insisted Ferguson are 'our private schools'. How he must love Edinburgh then the private school capital of Britain, with one quarter of all our pupils attending one of 'too few private schools'. But disappointingly for the ever attentive audience Professor Ferguson uttered not a single word on the astonishing news of the day, that our country's private banks - Barclays Bank in particular - in their roles as self appointed 'masters of the universe' had been found guilty of defying 'the rules of law' and manipulating the financial system's crucial inter-bank LIBOR rates. Our Professor of provocation gave this 'enemy of the rule of law' no mention whatsoever, far less condemnation. His hour long talk on the collapse of civil society had nothing to say about this latest manifestation of unregulated free market greed. And let's face it our disappointment was profound as it's not as if there is nothing to say. The £300m fine for example from the toothless Financial Services Agncy is chicken feed for Barclays. CEO Bob Diamond could pay that out of his own pocket. But he won't. No, his utterly predictable response was to offer to forego his bonus this year. This is, as he is about to learn, nowhere near good enough.The calls to set up an enquiry like the Levenson one into press ethics are similarly too little and too late. No, its time to send a far stronger message to these 'masters of the universe'. In order to clean out these 'stables' repeat offenders like Diamond and his counterpart at RBS Stephen Hestor must not be allowed to blame their subordinates and feign ignorance. They should be sent to jail. This industry is riddled with corruption and immorality. Honesty and integrity are clearly alien concepts for Britain's banking sector. The greed, nepotism and corruption at the heart of it all demands those at the top must be held to account and the strongest possible message is sent that the long delayed clean up begins now. Otherwise the financial elite will continue to believe, as Niall Ferguson already does, that the rules that apply to the rest of us somehow bypass the finacial sector and they believe they are 'too big to jail'.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

March for Independence

I have been asked to speak at this march in Edinburgh on Saturday September 22nd.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

‘The toughest times in 80 years’ - An overview of the Local election results

After losing the London Mayoral election to Boris Johnson, Labour’s Ken Livingstone reflected on the sense of foreboding he feels for working people in what he described as ‘…..these, the toughest times in 80 years.’ Some may feel his comparison understates the collapse in living standards suffered in the 1970s and 1980s, nonetheless for working people there are clear similarities with ‘the hungry 30s’. The character of this economic collapse has been sudden, severe and widespread. Food banks have been set up in some places providing emergency supplies to thousands of families struggling to feed themselves and referred by social services. Youth unemployment, already at record levels, is set to rise further as hundreds of thousands of school leavers search for work. Millions of people across Britain are facing prolonged hardship and inequalities as bad as those seen in the decade before World War Two. This issue was the ‘elephant in the room’ during last week’s local elections. The mainstream parties barely mentioned it. Neither did the increasingly inadequate mass media who superficially reported Labour gaining disaffected Lib Dem supporters and winning back part of the vote they lost to the SNP last year. The SNP still emerged as the biggest party in Scotland with 425 Councillors although they did not match last years stunning advances. It’s share of the vote fell from 45% 33%. Salmond ‘spun’ the results saying they made progress on 2007 but the performance of SNP candidates in Councils where they had implemented cuts undoubtedly cost them. Many people who voted Salmond last year apparently ‘returned home to Labour’ as Ed Milliband put it. Labour, in a sign of things to some, was anxious to ‘spin’ the results as a rejection of Independence. The truth is the electorate choose to punish the Coalition for its austerity programme and for driving down living standards. They did so by voting for both Labour and the SNP. And yet both parties support 80% of the Coalition cuts and will continue to implement them at local level. Neither party offers any real alternative to the hated Coalition far less an organised fight back and we will see that reflected oh so clearly across Scotland in the months to come. Support for the Left in the elections was poor when measured in terms of 1st preferences and it is right we acknowledge that as a motivation to do better in getting our case over to people. With the honourable exception of Jim Bollan’s re-election in West Dunbartonshire there was little to cheer in 1300 contests. But that situation will change. The mood of working people is angry, not at us, but at the situation in which they find themselves. People chose what appears to them as the easiest option, but this is not always the answer. The SSP will continue to patiently explain that the neo-liberal, free market, corporatist model is behind what is eating away at their living standards and Labour and the SNP both tied their colours to that particular mast some time ago. They are part of the problem not the solution and they will dutifully do what their corporate paymasters like Rupert Murdoch demand. That picture and its full implications will become clearer and clearer in the months to come. The Scottish Socialist Party’s programme lays out how things can be turned around, how working people’s increasing pauperisation can be reversed. Our commitment to a Scottish Service tax, and a ‘Tobin tax’ on financial transactions as well as many other proposals designed to redistribute Scotland’s enormous wealth. These are the foundation stones upon which we will build the forces necessary to encourage action and protest activity in working people. The acid test for the left is to articulate the anxieties of working class people and develop further our economic and social programme for getting out of this recession. We intend to be at the forefront of every protest, strike, march, rally of dissent to ensure working people to place their faith, not in neo-liberal charlatans who will betray them, but the in the socialist ideas of the Left, where we will remind them, only a steadfast commitment to addressing the route cause of the problem will do.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

First Hasselt, Now Leipzig and then Scotland

">Link
http://www.euronews.com/2012/04/10/leipzig-commuters-coaxed-out-of-cars-with-free-public-transport/
The German city of Leipzig today introduced a 4 day free public transport initiative in a bid to persuade motorists to leave their cars at home.The scheme entitled 'Down with petrol price insanity- Time to switch' has been introduced in response to record prices for fuel in Germany.A Leipzig Transport Services spokesman announced all buses, trains and trams in the city will be free for the rest of this week. Leipzig has a population the same size as Edinburgh and the scheme will be closely monitored throughout Europe to see what impact it has on passenger numbers. A new political party called 'The Pirates' advocates free public transport in all German cities.The Leipzig initiative follows one introduced by the city of Hasselt in Belgium where free public transport was established permanently in 2005. They have seen a 900% rise in passenger numbers and an equally substantial reduction in pollution levels and traffic congestion.The Scottish Socialist Party advocates free public transport for Scotland as a way of persuading people to leave their cars at home and combating the harmful emissions linked to global warming. We will be most interested in examining the evidence arising from the Leipzig experiment this week

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Galloway's Bradford Victory

George Galloway's election as the new MP for Bradford West will send shivers up and down the spines of all 4 'mainstream' political parties in Scotland. It represents a highly visible demonstration of the extent of opposition to Britain's ongoing occupation of Afghanistan, which they all support. It also shows the widespread revulsion at the corrupt political practices they all employ. Money grabbing career politicians are oblivious to the anger in working class communities throughout Britain at their own growing impoverishment on the one hand and the unbridled greed of MPs on the other. Make no mistake further results like this one will not be uncommon.