Wednesday, 30 January 2013


The Jimmy Reid Foundation’s inaugural lecture was delivered by Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond last night in Govan Old Parish Church. Delivered in the shadows of the Upper Clyde Shipyard the lecture was the first in what organisers hope will be an annual event aiming to ‘promote fresh thinking from a left perspective’. The First Minister took as his theme ‘the opportunities Independence will bring’.

After paying generous tribute to Jimmy Reid the SNP leader spent most of his 40 minutes defending the record of his Government insisting that whatever failings it might have made these last 6 years were down to a shortage of powers at Holyrood. The speech to be honest was not one of his best. Always guarded, it sounded like an SNP Party Election Broadcast. The loudest applause of the night came when he mentioned the abolition of NHS prescription charges and re-iterated his commitment to the principle of care free at the point of need. A bigger man would have acknowledged, particularly on an evening such as this, the role the Scottish Socialist Party played in bringing forwarded that Bill in the first place. Unfortunately it was an uninspiring speech that not only lacked vision it was a master class in how to speak for 40 minutes and say nothing.

The short question and answer session that followed barely improved things with Salmond offering often incoherent and evasive answers to queries about how women might benefit from Independence, the kind of tax regime he would have and how scientific progress might be advanced.
The evening did remind us however what a consummate politician Salmond is as he danced around questions on privatisation, anti-union laws and the monarchy. ‘Rocks will melt under the sun’ he insisted ‘before I allow Scottish Water to be privatised’ to rare applause. But he noticeably gave no such assurances about returning the energy supply industry to public hands despite its control of our other natural resources and forcing 40% of households into fuel poverty. His Governments record on fuel poverty is poor and yet this issue is the populations number one concern.

And the novice listener might have fallen into another ‘Salmondesque’ trap when he referred to the renewable energy sector. ‘We gave away the wind power industry this country invented!’ he told us. Could he be inferring that he will take it back and advocate return the gas and electricity industry privatised by Thatcher to public hands I thought? No, not Salmond. He remains steadfastly right of centre on industrial and economic policies. It’s just the way he makes you think he is saying one thing when in fact he supports its opposite.
And he used the ‘lets fool the gullible’ trick a second time when answering a question on anti-trade union laws. ‘There is no mood for anti-union laws’ in Scotland he stated. But listening carefully you realised he did not propose to repeal the worst anti-union laws in Europe under Independence he was only ruling out plans to introduce any more! Given that even the Tories see no need to enhance these punitive restrictions, Salmonds position is no different from there’s.

And the ‘Tartan Tory’ was in evidence again with the answer he gave the final question of the night on why we need the Queen as Head of State in an Independent Scotland. His less than democratic reply was to say, rather unpersuasively, that ‘we need to carry people with us on this’. In other words the divine right of Kings, their hereditary privileges, medieval class relations and un-elected Heads of State will remain in an Independent Scotland under Alex Salmond. Not much sign of fresh thinking there, or indeed all night, from a rather tired sounding First Minister. After a good nights sleep he might like to reflect on whether such answers might help explain why the polls continue to show the ‘Yes’ side lagging behind.

Jimmy Reid, I’m sure, would have spotted the dialectical contradiction in the First Ministers strategy on Independence. On the one hand he talks about the ‘fundamental change’ Independence represents and the new powers it must bring and yet on the other this ‘fundamental change’ means keeping the Queen, staying within NATO, keeping the pound, maintaining the same corporate stranglehold over our economy and retaining the same anti-union laws which so damages Scottish society. Independence under Alex Salmond suggests ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ and its not persuasive.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


This is the time of the year when all of Scotland looks to Robert Burns for inspiration and warmth. January 25th is Burns night.
I always look forward to the Edinburgh People’s Festival Burns supper. As a Burns aficionado I like to think the man himself would have loved it as it combines politics, humour and music, all of which he adored, in a warm convivial setting amongst friends. What could be better?
The Edinburgh People’s Festival Burns supper is a very informal and relaxed event. You wont get chastised for what you wear or for not remembering all 200 verses of ‘Tam of Shanter’. There is no ‘Address to the Lassies’ or anything formal like that. Instead it aims to replenish the soul of those who know Burns well and acquaint those who barely knew him with his inspiring life and wonderful work in equal measure. We do however have the traditional haggis fare and lashings of fine ales and wines.
In the past such notable public figures such as John McAllion, Campbell Martin and Patrick Scott Hogg have shed light on the life and legacy of Scotland’s poetic genius. And in 2012 the Scottish Parliament’s Deputy Presiding Officer Elaine Smith MSP led the tributes and she was superb.
This year the People’s Festival Burns supper takes place on Friday 25th January at The Canon’s Gait on the High Street/Royal Mile and presents the award winning young playwright, author and performer Allan Bissett. The anticipation is palpable and the show starts at 7.30pm.
After the politics and the food patrons will all relax still further in the hilarious company of stand-up comedian Keir McAllister [courtesy of The Stand Comedy Club] before winding down to the sounds of Spanish/Scots musicians Macpolvo. It’s another not to be missed occasion.
Tickets are available via the Edinburgh People’s Festival website
or via this blog. Prices £10 waged and £6 unwaged - including meat or vegetarian haggis option.
See you there!

Thursday, 10 January 2013


For the tens of millions of people in Britain who live just one pay cheque away from the dole ourselves, Tuesday’s vote in the House of Commons to attack the living standards of welfare recipients is a timely reminder of just why we despise the Tories.

Their brutal attack on those who find themselves on state benefits through no fault of their own, shows why they are rightly known as ‘the nasty party’. Although this label barely does justice to the vile contempt tens of millions of us feel for this shower of public schoolboy millionaires who talk about shift work when they have no comprehension as to what it is. Cameron, Osborne, Duncan Smith and the rest of their ilk have the gall to talk about ‘fairness’ when they are mugging the poor, sick and vulnerable.

They are political extremists who suggest those who endure the humiliation and affront of living on just £71 per week are somehow to blame for the economic state of Britain. It is stupid and contemptible but true to form. The Tories are engaged in a class based conspiracy to mask the real culprits behind the worst recession in 80 years by employing the age-old tactic of blaming its victims.

It was not the unemployed who caused the financial crash in 2008. It wasn’t Jobseekers who plunged the UK into economic collapse. It wasn’t those on welfare who were bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions of pounds of public money. And it wasn’t those who lost their jobs with Woolworth’s, or Comet, or JJB Sports or Jessops who have lumbered the UK with record indebtedness. Despite these indisputable facts the Tories intend to keep blaming them for it.

The fact remains the 2008 crash was a systemic failure. In other words it was the anarchic, vicious, inept so called ‘free market’ which went belly up and is responsible for the recession and national indebtedness. But the Tories will never admit that [nor New Labour]. They are determined to ensure their class suffer no pain despite being the culprits.

Whilst the Tories go on and on about ‘the scroungers who fiddle the benefits system year after year’ the DWP’s official figures show fraudulent claims amount to only 0.7% of the entire budget. But there is 20 times as much that goes unclaimed by people too proud to accept what they are entitled to. Not that those facts will stop the Tories from pedalling their vile lies.

But let them and their Lib Dem accomplices take heed. People will not keep taking this crap. And don’t take my word for it. The Secretary General of the International Red Cross speaking on Radio Scotland this week – not a man nor an organisation known for its militancy – warned that with some 26million people without work across Europe now his organisation is focused on directing aid to those in crisis in this continent above all. Moreover he made a point I am sure Governments across the EU are anticipating, that widespread rioting, like that which engulfed so much of England in the summer of 2011, is now increasingly likely, by people ‘whom governments effectively exclude with these cuts. They see no stake for them in this society and will act accordingly.’

‘Social exclusion’ might well be the milky white and opaque term coined by the yuppie speaking chattering classes, we know it to be poverty and exploitation. With the working class being hammered in Britain and across Europe to pay for a crisis of the ruling classes it is likely that revolt, rebellion and revolutionary circumstances will ensue. If Governments keep attacking the poor they will find it will cost them far, far more than they save from attacking the poor.

Moreover, the Independence debate in Scotland has to recognise the living reality for millions of people and make it clear that continuing with UK membership means worse to come for the rest of this decade.

Thursday, 3 January 2013


A leading survey of business confidence in Scotland today predicted a prolonged period of economic stagnation with a consequent deterioration in the living standards of many families.
Lloyds TSB Scotland Business Monitor reported that almost 40% of Scottish firms expect to see their turnover fall significantly in the year ahead. This finding ties in with several others suggesting the gloom enveloping the retail trade will spread to many other sectors.
Many analysts are predicting more well known High Street names will follow Comet into receivership as the recession continues to hit consumer spending. Since this is the time of year when retailers decide whether or not to sign the lease on their shops for another year many are reluctant to endure another 12 months like the last.
The outlook for employment and wages looks bleak and not just for the retail sector because many other sectors of the economy are similarly affected and there is likely to be a further fall in the living standards of hundreds of thousands of Scots families.
When you add in the impact of Government spending cuts you can see why few analysts expect an improvement in the economy in the foreseeable future.
Levels of indebtedness and insolvency are on a steep incline and they are hardly likely to fall in January with the arrival of unwelcome gas and electricity bills, traditionally the highest of the year. These will add further anxiety to millions of households.
There are already 40% of Scots living in fuel poverty as it is according to figures released by Energy Action Scotland and I fully expect the political crisis in this area to worsen markedly in the year ahead as millions suffer and Government indifference at Westminster and Holyrood is now manifestly clear.
So my message to people across Scotland is clear either you fight back or you will go under. That’s the choice now facing millions of working class people in Scotland.
The first thing I say to people who are fearful of what 2013 may bring is that you are not alone. The second that you must appreciate the situation you find yourself in is not your fault. It is a systemic failure and millions of people like you are victims of an economic collapse they had no part in causing.
If you are worried about your gas and electricity bill and want to fight back against fuel poverty, get in touch with the SSP.
If you cannot make ends meet because you are ‘under-employed’ – just like millions of others who want a full time permanent job and must settle for a part time casual post – get in touch with the SSP.
If you are worried about the latest Government attack on your benefits or pension, get in touch with the SSP.
The Scottish Socialist Party is on your side. If you get into difficulty, get in touch with us at ;

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Happy New Year, hope you had a good one and hope this year is a great deal fairer and more just than the one we have just waved goodbye and good riddance to. And since I expect the appalling levels of fuel poverty in Scotland to again dominate the headlines this year lets begin 2013 with some good news. The redoubtable Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, has again stood up to the global corporations by taking the electricity supply industry in his beleaguered South American country into public hands. It turns out that appalling levels of fuel poverty are not confined to Scotland as Scottish Power's parent company Iberdrola were also extorting money out of the poor people of Latin America. The Spanish owned energy giant had been charging poor people in Bolivia three times as much for their energy as its wealthier customers. The difference between here and Bolivia is that as soon as their Government learned of this scandal they didn't tell people to switch their supplier, or cut down on their all too meagre consumption or advise them to get their slums better insulated. No, Morales immediately seized Iberdrola's assets and announced they were now owned by the Bolivian people themselves saying 'We were forced to take this measure because the electricity charges were unfair and unequal. Public interest is above private interests when it comes to the supply of electricity.' Observers of Bolivian politics will of course be aware that attempts to privatise the public water supply in Bolivia more than a decade ago and sell it off to European corporations, led to a mass popular uprising from which Evo Morales was elected. Few people in Scotland will need reminding that those customers on Power Cards and prepayment meters [pensioners, the disabled, those in receipt of state benefits and the low paid] face the highest tariffs for gas and electricity in this country. Scottish Power, like all five of their competitors, has doubled the price of gas and electricity over the past 6 years just as wages, pensions and benefits have plummeted in real terms. Consequently Energy Action Scotland reported there are now one in three families in this country living, that should be shivering, in fuel poverty. And in recent weeks it announced the numbers experiencing 'extreme fuel poverty' i.e. spending more than 20% of their entire income on heating and lighting, was at record levels. Where then is the Scottish Evo Morales? Who here is going to indict the 'heads of the six families' as it were for profiteering on energy supplies? Certainly not the Con-Dems, Labour or the SNP! With one million households in this country now facing a miserable 2013 none of the miserable parties at Westminster or Holyrood is prepared to follow Evo Morales’s