Friday, 13 December 2013

Scottish Socialist Party's Overview of Independence White Paper

You can watch me outline the SSP's view of the Scottish Governments Independence White Paper here filmed at last weekends excellent Scottish Socialist Voice Forum

And the contributions of Jim Sillars
Isobel Lindsay
John McAllion
Maggie Chapman
and Professor Mike Danson

are also now available too

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Scottish Socialist Party's Response to SNP Governments White Paper 'Scotland's Future'

The Scottish Socialist Party welcomes the publication of the Scottish Governments Independence White Paper ‘Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’. We believe it is a comprehensive and timely addition to the most important debate the people of Scotland have faced in decades.

As partners in the ‘Yes Scotland’ coalition the Scottish Socialist Party shares the Government’s commitment to Independence and belief in the immense benefits it can bring the people of Scotland.

We commend the White Paper’s commitment to social and political democracy, prosperity and fairness. We believe it reflects the social democratic aspirations of the people of Scotland and we particularly welcome those sections; providing universal free childcare for pre-school children, scrapping the hated ‘bedroom tax’, removing Trident nuclear weapons, growing Scotland’s economy and population by welcoming those who wish to come and live here, returning Royal Mail to public ownership, introducing a written constitution, providing seats for worker directors on company boards, supporting greater environmental protection, promoting greater energy efficiency and extending much needed social protection to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

The White Paper sets out a clear vision of Independence that unquestionably represents very significant advance for the people of Scotland.

We also welcome the commitment to reduce gas and electricity bills by 10% per annum after Independence but would like to have seen the Scottish Government go further given the publics very real concern over these bills and re-iterate the pledge it made in its 2007 manifesto to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland completely.

We would also liked to have seen a commitment to take the renewable energy industry into public ownership – just as the Scottish Government did recently with Prestwick Airport - and to return our gas and electricity supply industry into public hands as we believe both measures are concomitant with pledges to achieve greater economic prosperity, social democracy and fairness. The SSP also prefers the approach Norway took to its oil and gas resources in taking them into public ownership rather than privatising them.

The Scottish Socialist Party advocates an Independent socialist Scotland. And like many Scots we favour a modern democratic republic. There are inevitably therefore some proposals in the White Paper we do not support such as reducing Corporation Tax, entering a ‘Sterling Zone’ for our own currency, NATO membership and retaining an un-elected, unrepresentative monarch as our Head of State in our new, modern, democratic Scotland.

Nonetheless, we wholeheartedly agree with the view expressed in the White Paper that ‘Decisions about Scotland will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland – those who live and work here’. And in that spirit we fully acknowledge that all the issues in the White Paper should and indeed will be decided by the people of Scotland themselves in the first elections to our newly Independent Parliament in 2016.

For our part the Scottish Socialist Party will continue to highlight the significant advantages Independence brings to Scotland; no more Tory Governments, no more Trident missiles, no more ‘bedroom tax’, returning the Royal Mail to public ownership and above all self-determination for the people of Scotland at last – all in all a much more attractive prospect than the one we currently face.

The Scottish Socialist Party remains focused above all on winning a resounding ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 Referendum and we continue to work alongside all our partners in the ‘Yes Scotland’ coalition to secure that pre-eminent objective.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

My speech at todays Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow

Many people have asked me for copies of my speech to todays Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow so here it is....

Britain isn’t working           
Can I begin by saying how proud the Scottish Socialist Party is to be part of this wonderful celebration of ideas and this progressive Independence movement.
This session, examining the failure of British capitalism & its state, is a gentle start to a day we all hope I’m sure is productive above all in helping to identify the solutions to that failure and delivering a programme & strategy for transformational change that can find mass support in Scotland today.

‘Scotland benefits from a strong, successful UK and has done for 300 years, so why change?’
That is the NO message. It is a message I am familiar with both as a Board Member of ‘Yes Scotland’ and having spent the last month debating with Labour MP’s/MSP’s in a series of meetings organised by the Communications Workers Union as part of its membership consultation on the Independence Referendum.

And the inevitable question I put to those MP’s was ‘What successful UK are you referring to?’
Because the Scottish working class, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population of this country, do not benefit, we are held back by the UK. Our standard of living today is in steep decline as our bills rise and our incomes plunge despite being repeatedly told the worst economic recession in 80 years is over!

Scotland is one of the richest country’s in the world and yet we continue to endure searing poverty, a health epidemic caused by that poverty, a chronic housing shortage and a life expectancy level in parts of this city lower than the third world.

Our lives are blighted by casualisation and super-exploitation at work, our pensions are under assault, we face widening inequalities and our children face a future worse than their parents.

And our political rights are denied us as Scotland’s ‘social democratic’ aspirations to avoid the hateful & exploitative politics of the UK is repeatedly thwarted by a neo-liberal financial elite at Westminster & the City of London.

This is a systemic failure rather than the mistaken policies of this or that individual Govt.
This ‘systemic’ economic and political failure is down to a system based on the exploitation of the many by the few. The rich, via their ownership of capital, exploit those who must sell their labour hourly simply to survive. The constancy of that relationship means the poor achieve relief from brutal exploitation only by organising and fighting back.

And British neo-liberalism is amongst the most exploitative in the world.
Others on this platform have mentioned the child poverty that sees 1 in 3 children in Glasgow for example suffer deprivation, the food banks - the modern day soup kitchens, the ‘Zero hour’ contracts, casualisation of labour & vicious exploitation of youth, immigrants and claimants.
But I wish in the short time available to me to attest that Britain’s inability to provide gas & electricity to 1/4 of its households indicates an equally profound sign of failure.
The particular misery of fuel poverty has a developed into ‘the perfect storm of our time’ illustrating the ‘systemic’ failure at the heart of UK PLC.
Gas & electric bills have doubled in last 6 years, but our wages, pensions & benefits haven’t!
The huge rise in heating bills has occurred as wages in the poorest families have fallen 11% in real terms. Consequently Scotland now has one million households [1/3 of the total] living in ‘fuel poverty’ [spending 10% of their income on heating bills], and unable to keep warm, up from 220,000 in 2004.

And I want to say to the million families shivering away on this cold day in Scotland that your ‘fuel poverty’ is not your fault!

How can it be? Not when the poorest face the highest tariffs, not when 6 power companies declared combined profits of £8bn last year, not when Govt reports suggest 27,000 people are expected to die of ‘cold related diseases’ this winter.
That’s not your fault, that’s their fault!

We have the perfect example of a systemic failure with harrowing consequences; bills rise as private power companies extort greater profits, incomes fall and Government cuts eat away at the ‘Winter fuel allowance’ and those other meagre programmes designed to help the most vulnerable. Eight million people in Britain [Dept of Energy and Climate Change] can no longer afford this basic human necessity. And the UK’s response? Like Queen Marie Antoinette from the French Revolution who said to those hungry for bread - ‘Let them eat cake!
And to chill the blood even further the National Audit Office predicted this week that gas & electricity bills will rise above the rate of inflation for the next 17 years as customers must pay for essential infrastructure improvements.

Friends, an Independent Scotland must deliver on the promise many before us failed to deliver to eradicate fuel poverty in this energy rich country once and for all!

And that means returning the gas and electricity supply industry to public ownership to ensure no one is left out in the cold in 21st century Scotland. That’s the kind of society we will build as opposed to the one we leave behind in 2014!

Margo Macdonald said this week ‘Independence is not a policy it is a mechanism for delivering policy.’ And I think that is right. Independence offers a route around British failure.
But of course, as Dennis, Patrick and I will point out in welcoming the SNP Govts White Paper on Tuesday ‘other visions of Independence are available’.

For the vision that merely offers a Saltire flying above corporate HQs instead of a Union Jack; that lets financial corporate crooks do their worst with impunity and their lackeys remain in charge - telling us no doubt how little can be changed and how long it will take. That is not the vision for me because it addresses none of the fundamental failures in our society.

No, Independence is the progressive option above all because it offers change, a chance to replace the neo-liberal elite with the honest, social democratic aspirations of the majority.
Independence is a profound opportunity, it is as Margo suggests, the key that allows us to break free from the handcuffs of the British ruling class and their political prison.

They are steadfastly opposed to Independence of course because it shakes the very foundations of their power structure, their influence and control.
Me? I’m for an Independent socialist Scotland, a modern democratic republic where we, the working class majority, are in charge of our own country & our own destiny at last.

So, be prepared for the fight of your lives these next 10months as they defend their power and privilege from attack and we mobilise the people of Scotland behind change.
Thank you!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

One million signatures wanted for Independence declaration

SSP members Paolo Caserta and Colin Fox get shoppers on Edinburgh's Princes Street to sign the 'Yes Scotland' Declaration for Independence.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Fuel Poverty is Britains gathering storm warns NAO report

The National Audit Office today published a report predicting the cost of upgrading Britain’s energy industry infrastructure - £176bn  – would be passed on to hard pressed households and mean customers facing inflation busting rises in the cost of gas and electricity for the next 17 years.

The news will send another unwelcome shiver down the collective spine of every household in Britain as the soaring price of gas and electricity is already people’s number one concern right now.

The NAO report shows that 8% of the average household’s spending goes on energy and water bills.
Spending 10% of your income on energy is the official definition of being in ‘fuel poverty’. Therefore this report shows just how close the average UK household now is to being 'fuel poor'. And of course since all averages hide a multitude of variations those households on the lowest incomes already pay 15% of their money on energy and water as it is. Many already find themselves in ‘extreme fuel poverty’ as it is - paying 20% of total income on energy.

The prospect of another 17 years of this will understandably terrify them all as hypothermia already takes its toll. Professor John Hills of the London School of Economics found in his Report commissioned by the UK Government that 27,000 people died prematurely from ‘cold related diseases' last winter brought on by prolonged exposure to ‘fuel poverty’. That's more than were killed on Britain's road and more than the entire population of Wishaw dying needlessly each winter!
And this in an energy rich country like ours!

Since Thatcher privatised the energy industry in the 1980’s the burden of funding infrastructure improvements has been shifted from the Government to the customer. In keeping with her neo-liberal philosophy the financial burden has been shifted from the rich to the poor, from the taxpayer to the customer. And this has meant a move away from progressive taxation to regressive indirect taxation where energy bills heavily disadvantage the working class and the poor.

The solution is to return the energy industry to public hands, just as the Scottish Socialist Party advocates, and fund the cost of infrastructure programmes from general taxation where the rich are asked to pay more and we move away from regressive customer charges, which bear no relation to a household’s ability to pay them.

Gas and electricity bills have doubled over the past decade, yet average incomes have not increased at all. And the poorest households have actually seen an 11% fall in their real incomes.

The blame for soaring energy bills has been variously ascribed to infrastructure costs, the increased wholesale price of gas and the cost of ‘green’ subsidies. Either way, most households now face a very difficult time indeed in trying to pay for gas and electricity they can ill afford. That prospect has just been drawn out by another 17 years by this reports findings!

It is surely only a matter of time before we see the same mass unrest over energy bills here that we have seen in Bolivia, Bulgaria, Egypt and elsewhere during this past year. And perhaps we should also take a leaf out of the German protests where mass unrest has been directed towards referenda on returning the industry to public ownership and a reform agenda which demands no one suffers the indignity of fuel poverty whilst rich multi-national energy companies make obscene profits.




Monday, 4 November 2013

New SSP pamphlet 'End Fuel Poverty and Power Company Profiteering' out now

Order your copy via PayPal a/c or send a cheque for £4.00 [including p&p] payable  to 'Scottish Socialist Party' to SSP, Suite 370, 4th Floor, Central Chambers, 93 Hope Street, Glasgow G2 6LD

Friday, 25 October 2013

New SSP Pamphlet on Fuel Poverty

The Scottish Socialist Party will this week publish our latest pamphlet to 'End fuel poverty and power company profiteering'.
As well as exposing the shocking extent of fuel poverty in Scotland today and the greed of the profiteering energy companies it also includes full details of the Scottish Socialist Party's 8 point progamme to solve the problem, to:
-Cap gas and electricity bills immediately with no further rises permitted until fuel poverty is eliminated
-Investigate the big 6 energy companies on charges of profiteering and acting as an industrial cartel
-Double the Winter Fuel Allowance paid to the elderly and extend it to all other vulnerable groups
-Introduce a windfall tax on the big 6 energy companies profits to ensure all their existing 'powercard' customers are moved on to the cheapest tariffs instead of the dearest
-Diversify away from expensive and dirty fossil fuels used in the generation of electricity towards renewables
-Treble the sums spent on Government domestic energy saving schemes such as insulation, double glazing and efficient water boilers
-Build 100,000 new energy efficient new homes for the socially rented sector in Scotland annually to replace the worst of our current 'drafty, leaky and inefficient' stock, and
-Return the energy industry to public ownership to ensure every home has the heating they need and any profits go to the public purse.

The pamphlet will be available for £3.99 incl. post and packaging via this blog or from the Scottish Socialist Party website

Monday, 14 October 2013




FOR AN INDEPENDENT SOCIALIST SCOTLAND Metal badges - 2 inch square £2 each
[or 6 for £10]

Booklet - 'The case for an Independent socialist Scotland' - £3.99


[All prices include postage and packaging]

Payments can be made via PayPal using the email entry

Saturday, 12 October 2013

For an Independent socialist Scotland

This article appears in todays Morning Star newspaper
 Data from the 2011 UK census revealed last week that 67% of Scots describe themselves as ‘Scottish, not British’. And whilst 19% felt ‘Scottish and British’ only 8% saw themselves as ‘British’ alone. These divisions are most pronounced among the working class.
Those who see the British working class as a monolith whose practical unity is somehow jeopardised by Scottish Independence might wish to reflect on these sentiments for they inevitably pose the question where lies the unity of the British working class when so few of us, North of the Border, consider ourselves to be ‘British’ at all?
This ‘Scottish not British’ working class faces its most important political decision in decades. The Independence referendum next year poses a stark choice between continuing to be governed from London by parties who have no democratic mandate here with a programme detrimental to our interests or opting for self-determination and the chance to construct the left of centre social democratic country the vast majority of people here currently desire.
The Scottish Socialist Party advocates the latter choice and we have just published ‘The case for an Independent socialist Scotland’ which I would thoroughly recommend to all Morning Star readers with an interest in the political situation North of the Border. *
For the SSP Independence represents a step towards socialism in Scotland. And our new pamphlet reminds readers that supporting the rights of nations, like ours, to self-determination does not make you a nationalist it makes you a democrat. After all John Maclean wasn’t a nationalist was he? Nor were James Connolly or Lenin and yet each advocated this basic democratic right.
The biggest concern facing most working class Scots today however is not the constitution per se but the fall in their living standards caused by the worst recession in 80 years. As bills rise and rise and their incomes fall they increasingly see Independence as the best opportunity they have to avoid the recessions devastating consequences.
And the ‘Yes’ message is that it stands to reason that if all the oil money, taxes, levies and duties raised in Scotland remained here instead of being siphoned by the UK Treasury we would be better off and better able to address the deep rooted social problems we face. The latest figures published by HMRC for example show that Scotland raised 9.8% of total UK taxes last year with just 8.4% of the population.
If we accept Scotland would be better off with Independence attention then focuses on how that extra wealth will be distributed and what difference self-determination will make to the lives of working class people?
Last week I spoke on behalf of ‘Yes Scotland’ at a Communications Workers Union seminar for Scottish branches where these issues were ‘front and centre’ so to speak. With Labours Ian Murray MP representing the ‘No’ campaign we debated whether Independence is the progressive option for Scotland’s trade union members and their families? I pointed out that the privatisation of The Royal Mail would not have happened with Independence as the overwhelming majority of Scots are opposed to it. The same can be said about the hated bedroom tax. When one branch delegate then asked me what particular advantages I thought Independence would bring activists like him I pointed out that as most Scots are pro-trade union this majority might then be mobilised to rescind the UK’s appalling anti-union laws. Ian Murray was forced to concede that Labour has absolutely no intention of scrapping these draconian laws if elected in 2015. Nor will they take The Royal Mail back into public hands. Nor will they scrap Trident. Nor will they restore public services slashed by this Con-Dem Government.
Like many other unions the CWU in Scotland is now embarking on a series of consultation meetings with their members over the Independence referendum. And it is not difficult to see why more and more Scottish trade union members are opting for Independence as the progressive option in this debate.
Whilst the SNP and New Labour are both economic neo-liberal, capitalist parties the nationalists are to the left of Lamont and Miliband on social policy.
To pretend as some do that New Labour offers a progressive alternative in Scotland today is just not supported by the facts. Labour opposed the abolition of NHS prescription charges here [which the SSP did so much to pioneer] and now their leader Johan Lamont condemns universal benefits, that ‘non-means tested’ touchstone of the progressive movement in Britain, as representing ‘the something for nothing culture’!
Scottish Labour also support 90% of the CON-DEM public spending cuts here. And they advocate spending up to £100bn on a second generation of Trident nuclear weapons based at Faslane on the Clyde. Therefore to suggest that electing Ed Miliband as Prime Minster, enthralled as he is to the City of London, offers the route to a social democratic Scotland lacks credibility. And this growing realisation is playing a larger and larger part in the Independence debate.
* ‘The case for an Independent socialist Scotland’ is available from the Scottish Socialist Party, Suite 370, 4th Floor, Central Chambers, 93 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 6LD. Priced £5.00 [including P&P]

Sunday, 22 September 2013

My speech to yesterdays Independence March and Rally

Friends, I bring you greetings from the Scottish Socialist Party.

We are proud to be part of this great ‘YES SCOTLAND’ movement on target to deliver an almighty vote for Independence next year.
As I stand here today advocating the case for an Independent socialist Scotland I feel the hand of history on my shoulder.
Maybe that’s because across the road there in Calton cemetery stands an obelisk, overshadowing us. Do you see it, that huge needle?
It was erected in memory of Thomas Muir and the ‘United Scotsmen’, political martyrs from the time of Robert Burns, who like us, also advocated democracy and demanded the people had the right to elect their own representatives and their own Govt. 
And adjacent to that statue, in what used to be Calton Jail, the great Red Clydeside leader John Maclean was imprisoned 100 years ago for opposing the exploitation of British capitalism and its warmongering bloodlust.
No one is surely going to deny that John Maclean is with us in spirit here today. He too called for an Independent Scotland where we the people were sovereign, free from the oppression of the City of London, free from the political control of Westminster and free from the feudalism of the British Monarchy.
Here it was too, on this very spot, on 9th October 2004 that the Scottish Socialist Party and others organised the famous ‘Declaration of Calton Hill’ calling for a modern democratic republic for Scotland on the day the Queen was beneath us opening the new Parliament building at Holyrood.
But it is not history that drives my passion for Independence most of all, it is the knowledge that Scotland’s huge working class majority will today be better off.
And my friends let me tell you I can see the future from up here on Calton Hill. It is a future sharp and clear. I can see an Independent Scotland from here.
It is a Scotland where no one is left behind.
It is a Scotland whose riches are shared out equally.
It is a Scotland without the hated bedroom tax
It is a Scotland without the worst anti-trade union laws in Europe
It is a Scotland with full employment and a living wage for everyone not zero hours contracts and poverty pay.
It is a Scotland where our public services like the Royal Mail and our gas and electricity industry are publicly owned
It is a Scotland where we the people are sovereign and elect our Head of State
It is a Scotland without nuclear weapons, at peace with itself and at peace with the world.
It is a Scotland admired the world over for the way it treats the vulnerable & offers shelter to those fleeing persecution & want.
So to all Scotland let our question ring out, isn’t that a vision worth voting for next September?                                                                                             

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Out now a new SSP pamphlet on 'The Case for an Independent socialist Scotland'

With one year to go until the referendum and to mark this weekends historic march and rally for Independence the Scottish Socialist Party has published 'The case for an Independent socialist Scotland'. This new 44 page colour booklet is available from the Scottish Socialist Party, Suite 370, 4th Floor, Central Chambers, 93 Hope Street, Glasgow G2 6LD priced £5.00 [incl p&p].
Please make cheques payable to 'Scottish Socialist Party'.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Blair and Brown must share in Cameron's Syria humiliation

Last night’s vote in the House of Commons against military action in Syria will be remembered for some time and not just because of the humiliation suffered by David Cameron’s Government. I watched and listened to the live debate at various stages throughout the day and noticed how all the commentators expected the Government to get its motion passed easily. The vote came as a complete surprise to them and the implications for David Cameron’s leadership are profound.

His decision to recall Parliament backfired spectacularly. MP's roundly refused to support his call for military action against the Syrian regime primarily because his case was one of the weakest ever presented by a Prime Minster. His overblown claim that this latest atrocity in Damascus on 21st August was unprecedented was his fundamental undoing.

His case for UK military action was predicated on the view that in unleashing these chemical weapons Asad had ‘crossed a red line’ as US President Obama had put it and had gone too far. Cameron insisted the use of chemical weapons was ‘unprecedented’ and the international community had to act. This callous disregard for human life could not go unpunished Cameron insisted. And yet this claim, central to Cameron’s entire case, was exposed time and again. Throughout the eight hour Parliamentary debate it was made clear that chemical weapons had in fact been used on 14 previous occasions in this civil war and yet none had elicited the UK military attack now being proposed. Moreover several MP’s made clear that many other regimes around the world had unleashed chemical weapons without triggering the military response Cameron was now suggesting. Saddam Hussein, for example, infamously used chemical weapons to gas 3,000 Kurdish civilians in Helabja during the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980’s and 1990’s. He used them again on a further 70 occasions against the Iranians. This was all covered up of course because he was acting as the West’s proxy at the time. The Israeli Government also used white phosphorous bombs against the Palestinians in Gaza more recently but there was no Cameron outrage shown then. And the Shinto fundamentalist sect used Sarin nerve gas to murder commuters on the Tokyo underground. So Cameron’s claim that the use of such horrific weapons was ‘unprecedented’ was completely undermined again and again.

So too was his ‘proof’ that the August 21st bombing of a Damascus suburb was ordered by Asad. The Syrians had perhaps predictably denied it as had the Russians, but more importantly the UN weapons inspectors had so far not reached Cameron’s conclusion either. And the ‘evidence’ he provided from his ‘Joint Intelligence Committee’ was considered so weak that even he was forced to admit it was no ‘smoking gun’. No guarantees could be given he confessed to show that the Syrian Government had ordered this attack. And yet here he was demanding MP’s sanction a military attack based on such assurances.  

It was a poor case that unravelled still further as the debate ensued. Not only was he not able to assure MP’s Asad had used chemical weapons or persuade them the intelligence evidence was trustworthy,  in truth the entire debate was overshadowed by the spectre of Iraq and Libya. Cameron was to pay a heavy price for the conduct of British Prime Ministers in previous similar circumstances. Tony Blair had lied to Parliament over previous and manufactured a ‘dodgy dossier’ of so called ‘intelligence evidence’ to make his case for a military invasion of Iraq. And Cameron himself had clearly understood that the bombing of Benghasi was to be a prelude to ‘regime change’ in Libya, something he knew Parliament and the ‘International Community’ would never sanction. MP’s were clearly now in no mood for more lies and further ‘mission creep’.

Since it was plain the Russians would veto any UN efforts to endorse military action against Syria this made UN support unlikely. And with the on going civil war in Syria involving 26 different factions including Al Qaeda and Hezbollah it made a nonsense of Cameron’s suggestion that Britain could launch missiles and conduct a clean, clear and limited military strike without the risk of becoming embroiled in an even greater conflict.   

For 30 Tory rebels and 9 Lib Dems in particular the prospect of Britain being dragged into a Syrian civil war was unthinkable and the likelihood of a larger regional conflict even less appealing.

Looking at Cameron’s position today we find a Prime Minister in severe difficulty. He is accused of recalling Parliament unnecessarily and with a case for military action so weak and unpersuasive it begs the question did he really think he could get it through Parliament at all? If so, and the evidence suggests that he did, it raises profound questions about his political judgement.

But above all this episode reveals the profound scars the Iraq war has left behind in British political life and how little faith the public has in the sincerity of Prime Ministers and the trustworthiness of ‘military intelligence’ in matters of war.


Saturday, 24 August 2013


[This article was originally published in the Scottish Socialist Voice.]   
Those who look at the opinion polls and conclude little has changed in the Independence debate over the past year overlook a great deal. They forget ‘Yes Scotland’ set itself two initial objectives; to get everyone talking about Independence and to build ‘the biggest grassroots campaign Scotland has ever seen’. It would be foolish to deny substantial progress has been made on both fronts. The entire country is now talking about Independence in a way it wasn’t this time last year and the grassroots campaign made up of thousands of SNP, SSP, Green Party and activists of no particular affiliation deserve a great deal of the credit for that.

Whilst it is true the ‘No’ side has maintained its lead detailed research evidence shows a sizeable number of voters have still not made up their minds, and we will return to them in a moment. But it is significant that 46% of voters feel they are well enough informed about the issues and 47% of these intend to vote ‘Yes’ with 48% for ‘No’. Moreover momentum counts for a great deal in these type of campaigns and as Blair Jenkins of ‘Yes Scotland’ succinctly puts it this research also shows that ‘The direction of travel is unquestionably towards Yes’.

Notwithstanding the complacency of the ‘No’ side who apparently think the result is already in the bag, ‘Yes Scotland’ retains every chance of winning. Indeed there are several sub-strata of the population already showing a majority for Independence, parents with young families, the social media community and under 25’s to name but three.

As well as the statistics from the headline poll, which are scrutinised intensely by both sides, there is also the regularly asked question ‘How will you vote if the Tories look like winning the 2015 Westminster general election?’ In January this debut poll revealed a 60:40 ‘Yes’ lead over ‘No’. In other words it revealed a complete turnaround from the headline figures. So we know the prospect of another Tory Government not only disgusts a large majority of Scots the prospect could have a significant bearing on the Referendum. Most researchers agree that if the Tories look like staying in office at Westminster that will help the ‘Yes’ campaign. Equally if Ed Miliband’s dismal streak ended voters might be more inclined to vote ‘No’. It is ironic that the future of this particular ‘Union movement’ now rests not with the Tories or Lib Dems but with Miliband’s ‘anti-union’ New Labour. The latest Westminster polls predict a dead heat with Labour and the Tories both on 36% of the vote. Another poll gave Labour a narrow lead but one insufficient to win an outright majority.

Clearly the Scottish Independence Referendum does not take place in a vacuum and will be heavily influenced by such ‘outside events’. And the standard of living of the Scottish working class is another important factor likely to have a large bearing on the result. Many people in Scotland are experiencing a drastic decline in their standard of living as incomes are held back just as their bills continue to increase. We in the Yes campaign clearly must convince people that Independence can provide relief from the worst recession in 80 years. Persuading ‘undecided’ voters clearly remains crucial to a successful ‘Yes’ vote next year.

Having emphasised the democratic right to determine our own future the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign moved on this last year to highlight how Scotland’s prevalent social democratic values of fairness and justice are repeatedly thwarted by Westminster Governments we did not elect who introduced the poll tax and the ‘bedroom taxes’ against our wishes. More recently the campaign emphasised the economic prosperity Scotland could enjoy and ‘Yes Scotland’ intends next to stress the ‘passion’ we have for our cause and our determination to win what is expected to be a very tight contest indeed.

This then is the backdrop to the Independence debate that supporters across Scotland will sense as we all converge on Edinburgh on 21st September for the ‘one year to go’ march and rally. I am delighted to again speak on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party. Calton Hill has proud memories for us because it was there where SSP members and many others gathered in 2005 – as the Queen officially opened the new Holyrood Parliament building down the road - to declare for a modern democratic republic for Scotland. We will all do so again on September 21st as part of our vision of an Independent socialist Scotland.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


   Back at the BMC Club for an incredible 8th straight year the
Edinburgh People’s Festival comedy night








[Westfield Street, next to Sainsbury’s]

Friday 9th August at 7.30pm

Tickets £2.50   Available on the door on the night]



Sunday, 4 August 2013

The 2013 Edinburgh Peoples Festival Hamish Henderson Memorial Lecture

This years Hamish Henderson Memorial lecture marks his lifelong friendship with Nelson Mandela.
Delivered jointly by Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary and Eberhardt 'Paddy' Bort of 'The Carrying Steam'- with music from Stuart McHardy - the event takes place on Wednesday 7th August at 7pm in Word Power bookshop in West Nicholson Street, Edinburgh. FREE

One of the founders of the Edinburgh Peoples Festival Hamish Henderson was also a very important figure in the post war arts scene in Scotland. He died in 2002.
Our memorial lecture has been delivered in past years by his biographer Timothy Neat, his colleague at the School of Scottish Studies Dr Fred Freeman, the poet Tessa Ransford and the former Independent MSP Campbell Martin. This year we are delighted to welcome EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan and Eberhardt ‘Paddy’ Bort to tell us about the special relationship Hamish Henderson enjoyed with Nelson Mandela over many years. Stuart McHardy has kindly agreed to add the music. 
Born in Blairgowrie in 1919 in the aftermath of WW1 to a single parent mother Hamish Henderson was orphaned in early childhood and brought up by relatives in England. A bright boy he won a scholarship  to Dulwich College, London and then to Oxford University. After graduating in English and Modern Languages he enlisted in the British Army. He saw active service during WW2 at El Alamein in North Africa – of which he wrote the beautiful poems ‘Ellegy’s for the Dead in Cyrenaica’ - and in Italy. There he met up with Italian Partisans and was hugely impressed both by their anti-Nazi resistance and their Gramscian socialism. He later translated Gramsci’s work into English for the first time.
Returning to Scotland after the war he was instrumental in establishing the folk music revival. His work in the Edinburgh People’s Festival saw him collaborate with figures such as Ewan McColl, Joan Littlewood, Norman and Janey Buchan and Joe Corrie. A great advocate of traditional music and Scots culture he wrote many songs and poems including the ‘Ballad of John Maclean’ about the Red Clydeside leader and the anthem ‘Freedom Come all Ye’. He also helped establish the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University and famously advised an up and coming young folk singer named Billy Connolly to concentrate on his comedy. Hamish was also a socialist activist who refused an OBE ‘for his services to folk music’ because he was a devout republican. He was an internationalist who championed the civil & human rights of the black majority in South Africa long before it was popular to do so and wrote the song ‘The Men of Rivonia’ which he dedicated to ANC leader Nelson Mandela jailed for confronting Apartheid. The song became an official ANC anthem. Mandela & Hamish began corresponding in the 1960’s and Hamish was prominent in the anti-apartheid struggle here in Scotland. He was famously arrested, in his 70’s, for running on to the pitch at Murrayfield to disrupt a Scotland vs Springboks rugby match but received little sympathy from the ‘rugger-buggers’ in the crowd who boo’ed him and he spent the night in jail.
When Mandela, finally released from prison after 27 years, visited Glasgow in the 1990’s to accept the freedom of the city he specifically asked that Hamish lead the official delegation in welcome. Tonight’s lecture allows us to remember Hamish, to reflect on his relationship with Mandela and celebrate their fervent internationalism. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


Here's what every self-respecting socialist scunnered by the unrelenting and banal coverage of yet another Royal birth is wearing today.
Get yours for £10 including P&P from stating whether you want M,L or XL.

Friday, 5 July 2013


Check out the latest t-shirts from the Scottish Socialist Party.

They can be ordered in sizes M,L and XL priced £10 including P&P. Order from

Monday, 24 June 2013


I am proud to be part of this wonderful video celebrating today's launch of the 'It's Time for Equal marriage' campaign

Sunday, 23 June 2013


[This article was commissioned for and published in today's Scotland on Sunday newspaper] 

I don’t know how anyone familiar with Robert Burns’ life and work can argue he would vote NO in the Referendum so I suppose it is a tribute to his continuing potency that they even try.

There can be no doubt Burns was a man exercised by injustice and oppression as well as a love of his country. As an internationalist he engaged fully in the world around him. So Scotland’s current dilemma, where our social democratic values are repeatedly thwarted by Governments we did not elected would undoubtedly have compelled him to put pen to paper.

He reminds us in his poem ‘A parcel of rogues in a nation’ why the 1707 Act of Union was signed – to bail out a financial elite who had squandered the nations assets on reckless and greedy misadventure – and why it was so unpopular with the masses who suffered such appalling economic, social and political ills as a consequence. Enraged at the ‘treachery’ of the Act and furious, not with ‘the English’, but with the emergent mercantile classes in Scotland who drew up its provisions he condemned them as ‘…a coward few….hireling traitors….bought and sold for English gold’.

And as a supporter of the United Scotsmen as well as the French and American revolutions Burns’ democratic sensibilities – dangerous to openly advocate and inspired by Thomas Muir and Thomas Paine - ooze out of every poem he wrote. Every audacious word decries those complacent, reactionary, Scots who took privileges for granted and treated their fellow countrymen and women with complete contempt and meted out severe punishment to any who challenged their authority, as Muir found to his cost.

There can be no doubt Robert Burns supported the Scottish Independence cause and as an activist in his own time no doubt he would also be a prominent participant in the Yes campaign today. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Edinburgh People's Festival Benefit Night - Tuesday 11th June

Starring Susan Calman, Vladimir Mctavish, Ben Verth, Gus Lymburn and Chris Conroy
Tuesday 11th June, The Stand Comedy Club, 5 York Place, Edinburgh
Tickets - £8 waged  £5 unwaged
Doors open at 7.30pm. Show starts at 8.30pm

Monday, 3 June 2013


The cross party alliance for Independence ’Yes Scotland’ was launched one year ago. And if the debate over this past year is any guide Independence is clearly the progressive option for Scotland on September 18th 2014. That message was delivered by ‘Yes Scotland’ Chief Executive Blair Jenkins this week as he announced 372,000 people have now signed the ‘Declaration for Independence’. The target, of one million signatures by this time next year, is well on schedule.

Whilst the Yes campaign has sought to highlight the possibilities to advance Scotland’s social democratic values and aspirations the No side has offered a diet of unremitting negativity and doom-mongering.

Be that as it may. The lefts case for Independence is that the opportunity to break with the British state, its Westminster Parliament, its Whitehall mandarins, its City of London capitalists, its Bank of England financiers and its South East England political exclusivity would undoubtedly benefit the Scottish working class.

Socialists here make a clear case for Scottish Independence based on extending the unmistakeable social democratic values held by the majority of people who live here. These values are constantly subverted by a political, economic and social elite we can neither influence nor change.

Let me example that value system for those who may not fully appreciate the differences North and South of the Border.

Scotland voted for free NHS prescriptions, having already voted for free elderly care and free education. Scots by majority overwhelmingly support public ownership of essential public services as oppose to privatisation. Consequently Scotland does not suffer the same levels of privatisation of our NHS or other public services as England. Scotland views the ‘bedroom tax’ with same disgust we had for the Poll tax and the same sense it was being foisted on us against our will. Scotland by a sizeable majority opposes Trident nuclear weapons, based as they are on the Clyde. Scotland has been almost a ‘Tory free zone’ for the past 20 years with just one Tory MP here out of 52.

Moreover the political battleground is fought out between Labour and a party to their left, the SNP. This has been the case for decades. Scots oppose the monarchy in far greater proportions than anywhere else in the UK.   Scots by majority oppose the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan as they opposed the invasion of Iraq. Scots do not support the unregulated, laissez-faire, free market neo-liberal economic system to anywhere near the same degree as South East England.

Yet the fact is, and has been for a considerable time now, these values are constantly subverted by a political system and constitutional arrangement we no longer support.

The 2011 Scottish Parliament elections saw a further move away from Labour, this move was not to the right as in England, but to the left.

And here we encounter some confusion from opponents of Independence unable to distinguish this move towards greater social democratic values in a party, the SNP, which is clearly neo-liberal on economic matters. Ironically it seems to have taken the Tory commentator and author David Torrance to point out the SNP’s essential character. Highlighting the deepening crisis in the Tory Party in Scotland he makes the telling point that the SNP’s right of centre economic policy –favouring a ‘business friendly Scotland with low Corporation Tax levels’ etc – leaves the Tories with no room to establish this as their own, unique terrain. But whilst the SNP are certainly right of centre on economic policy [although no more so than New Labour] they are to the left on social policy.

The ‘Yes Scotland’ coalition is an alliance between social democrats and socialists, between ‘business friendly’ figures and the Greens, between left, right and centre. It sees its job not to develop policy but rather to maximise support for Independence. Clearly this is often easier said than done but it concludes that the type of Independence Scotland opts for will be determined by the outcome of the 2016 Scottish General Elections [following the Yes vote in 2014 and a period of negotiations between Holyrood and Westminster on the transitional arrangements for the hand over of power].

‘Yes Scotland’ is influenced heavily by the SNP, its biggest and most powerful constituent part, but the SSP and the Greens continue to play an important part both in influencing strategy and in posing the type of Independent Scotland we each prefer.

The Scottish Socialist Party is clear that Independence represents both a step away from neo-liberal economics, corporate control and British state warmongering and a step towards a more social democratic Scotland where we can more effectively raise socialist ideas.

We have many differences of course with Alex Salmond. Not the least a view that victory in the 2014 Referendum will best be achieved by stressing the transformational character of Independence rather than maintaining so many of the present arrangements such as keeping the Queen, keeping the pound, maintaining corporate dominance of our economy and remaining within NATO.

Nonetheless we are convinced that Scotland’s social democratic values are more likely to be advanced within an Independent settlement where the people of Scotland can more readily shape our country. Remaining part of the UK means the Scottish working class will suffer worsening economic conditions – the worst recession in 80 years - worsening social conditions – amid the 4th most unequal society in the industrialised world – worsening political conditions as we continue to endure more Tory Governments we did not elect and cannot abide – and further diminution of our distinct cultural identity, institutions and values.

Independence offers the Scottish working class a different choice, of a new social order and a far more progressive future. That’s why the Scottish Socialist Party supports it and advocates an Independent socialist Scotland that is in due course a modern democratic republic.      

This article was originally written for ad published by The Morning Star [31/5/13]

Sunday, 26 May 2013


When I heard that the UK Parliamentary Standards Authority was about to award MP’s another £200 a week and take their salaries to £76,400 [or £1,500 a week] it was James Connolly I thought of first. I always do in these circumstances.
For it was the legendary Edinburgh socialist, executed by the British for his part in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916, who advised those seeking to represent working people to ‘rise with your class not out of it.’
It always struck me as the essence of ‘representative democracy’ that those ‘representatives’ should live on the same pay and in the same conditions as those they were elected to serve. So, when the wages of their constituents rise to £76,000 then MP’s will be entitled to the same. Meantime since the average wage in Scotland today is £25,600 that’s what our MP’s/MSP’s should receive.
I suspect that all the crooks and corrupt timeservers who inhabit the Parliamentary benches today and throughout the ages would have a heart attack at the thought of living on the same salary as their constituents. So I suppose that’s another good reason for supporting this policy!
And before anyone pessimist says ‘workers representatives on workers wages are a fine idea, but no one would do it in practice.’ I'd point out that the Scottish Socialist Party MSP's did.
Proving again that the SSP is different from all the other parties our MSP’s were elected on a promise to be ‘workers MSP’s on workers wages’. And we kept that promise throughout all the years we sat at Holyrood.
As the duly elected MSP for the Lothians for example my Parliamentary salary was £55,000. Each month I took half of it – since the average wage of the people I represented was £23,000 – and for 4 years I gave the other half back. No other MSP’s followed our example.
Mindful of Connolly’s counsel our conduct showed how different we were, that we were motivated goals far greater than financial gain.
The SSP believes that in a truly representative democracy all MP’s are duty bound to live as their constituents do. It would certainly make them far more impatient for progress and improvement.
Today, MP’s are held in very low public regard. They are all seen as self-serving, corrupt and greedy. With the average wage £25,600 MP’s now want three times as much!
And as working people are being hammered by the worst recession in 80 years it ill behoves MP's to seek this rise. I am sure I am not the only one disgusted at the sight of those same MP’s who voted to slash £35/week off the housing benefit of those affected by the bedroom tax granting themselves another £10,000 per year.
The Scottish Socialist Party advocates real democracy, where ‘workers representatives are on workers wages’. This sets us apart from all the others. And there is no doubt this policy enjoys widespread popular support. Perhaps it was the reason for the headline in last weeks Metro, which loudly proclaimed ‘It's time to bring back the SSP’.Too right it is.

Sunday, 28 April 2013


I recently received an email at my SSP account asking me to explain my views on the currency Scotland should adopt after Independence. I replied to say that this is one of those occasions where the question asked was admirably short but the answer could not be. Here’s the gist of my reply.

First I should point out that all four options raised so far assume the maintenance of a wholly capitalist model of economics and finance for Scotland. I’m in favour of an Independent socialist Scotland with complete democratic control and accountability of all our own economic decisions. Nonetheless, and since I would not want to appear to be ducking the question, I will outline my own view of the options presented so far in this debate.

There are, as you know, four currency options an Independent Scotland might consider after the 2014 Referendum and they are; either to keep the present arrangement with the pound remaining Scotland's currency, to move to what is termed a 'Sterling zone' where we share the pound with the rest of the UK but have control over our own fiscal policy, adopt the Euro or introduce our own new currency.

All four options are complicated including leaving things as they are since that would mean our Independent sovereign Government would be at the mercy of decisions taken beyond our control by the Bank of England and the City of London. And since, to a greater or lesser extent, all four options recognise all countries in today’s globalised and interdependent world, where enormous capital volumes are traded on a daily basis and moved in a millisecond, must have effective controls with which to defend their economy and currency from malicious speculators.

We must therefore approach this debate by asking what currency option gives Scotland most control of our economy and best protects us from the predatory instincts of financial speculators and hostile Governments. There have, after all, been many instances in recent years where speculators have attempted to undermine healthy economies and stable currencies for short term profit and that remains a very real feature of the modern world.

Of the 4 options mentioned each has its drawbacks. It goes without saying that keeping the Pound or establishing a 'Sterling Zone' means handing over a considerable amount of power and control over Scotland's economy and spending options to the Bank of England and the City of London. And many will inevitably ask what then is the point of Independence? On the other hand joining the Euro, as those who insist EU membership would compel us to do, means we would simply replace the Bank of England's control over our economy with the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Given the terrible state of the ‘Eurozone’ and the collapse of economies like Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Cyprus - which all borrowed way beyond their ability to pay it back - this option would be politically impossible to sell. And perhaps for that reason alone it is probably the easiest to disregard at this stage.  
So, on balance, after weighing up all the issues involved and recognising that many other small Independent countries such as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland prefer to use their own currency - because it gives them more control of economic and financial decisions – this option seems to make most sense.

And I notice the ‘Greens’ agree. The SSP’s other partners in the 'Yes Scotland' coalition however, the SNP, currently prefer the 'Sterling Zone' option. They have it’s fair to say changed their mind on this issue often but their latest view seems to me entirely in keeping with their softly, softly, and dare I say conservative approach to selling Independence as a whole to those they believe are frightened by the concept of change. The SNP argue, as I understand it, that the transition to Independence should involve as little disruption as possible to people's day to day experience. I suspect they may well advocate a new Scottish currency being established in Scotland in due course.

Friday, 26 April 2013


Last nights Scottish Socialist Party public meeting in Craigentinny, East Edinburgh on the socialist case for Independence was a great success. I thought I might give you a flavour of the issues that arose.

Both speakers John Finnie, MSP [Independent: Highlands and Islands] and John McAllion for the Scottish Socialist Party were in sparkling form.

Unfortunately Sandra Webster, the SSP’s joint national spokeswoman, was unable to join us - her bus from Glasgow broke down en route. John Finnie opened the proceedings by insisting that Scotland was held back by the UK and the different values prevalent in the South East of England. He mentioned for example how the NHS South of the Border is facing further privatisation of services in many areas which he envisages will only worsen in the months and years to come under the Con-Dem Government. And the clear inference was that both the Con-Dems and New Labour have the same intentions for Scotland’s health services should there be a No vote in September 2014!

A key feature of the No campaign’s strategy, suggested John, is to play down the Tories involvement in ‘Better Together’ and by contrast play up Labour’s. They recognise the Tories are a complete liability to the No camp and are urging Cameron, Osborne, Ian Duncan Smith and the others not to come to Scotland over the next 18 months. By the same token they are playing up Ed Milliband’s alleged appeal and his chances of winning the 2015 Westminster General Election. 

But even if Labour is elected in 2015, warned John Finnie, and it’s a big if, working people need to remember Labour supports 80% of the Con-Dem cuts, they will not repeal the bedroom tax, and they will keep the Trident nuclear missiles Scotland wants rid of. They too will attack the Scottish working class and people’s standard of living. That was after all the experience between 1997 and 2010 said John. Whilst the prospect of a Labour victory in 2015 may be the No campaigns favoured option, people recognise Labour are now staunch Unionists. They are as wedded to the City of London as the Tories and they will not hesitate to make whatever cuts they deem necessary to ensure working people pay for an economic crisis caused by the bankers and the rich.

John McAllion also took up this theme as he ridiculed the increasingly ‘doom laden’ propaganda coming out of the No campaign HQ. He ridiculed their increasingly gloomy predictions by highlighting how they present a relentless message of fear, panic and impending catastrophe should Scots opt for self-determination.
‘Scotland is too small they argue’ said John sardonically pillorying the No message
‘Scotland is too poor they tell us, we have too many old people, we couldn’t defend ourselves, none of our businesses could survive, we would be an economic basket case which couldn’t survive without the pound, we are vulnerable to financial speculators, cyber attacks and terrorists. And so it goes on. In other words its doom, doom, doom, doom from the No camp.’

But, said John, they need to make their minds up because Alistair Darling, their leader, rather insists on a different line. He says repeatedly ‘Of course Scotland could run its own affairs. Of course Scotland could be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Of course Scotland could make its own decisions free from UK interference. Its just that we are even better off as part of the UK.’

The truth, insisted John McAllion, is that the UK does not serve Scotland’s needs and hasn’t done for decades. They need us far more than we need them. North Sea oil and gas revenues pour £40bn a year into the UK Treasury, with £1.25 trillion more due in over the next ten years. The UK Treasury and political elite in Whitehall are terrified of losing Scotland. As well as our huge oil and gas reserves, we have vast quantities of renewable energy and we have the highly profitable whisky, engineering and financial services industries too. So, Scotland becoming Independent would be a defeat for the British state itself an enemy of socialism and a warmongering exploiter of peoples worldwide.

Both men agreed the 2014 Referendum result is wide open and that there is every reason to believe working class people will see the advantages Independence brings, not least in avoiding the worst recession in 80 years and the disastrous consequences facing working class people. The UK Government intends to ruthlessly penalise working class people for a crisis caused by the greed and recklessness of the bankers and the rich. An Independence vote in Sept 2014 offers a way to avoid that dreadful fate and to embark on a historic and much more progressive course. Independence, bring it on, both men said as they predicted a Yes majority next year.