Wednesday, 31 December 2014

An Honour Your Majesty

Dear Queen, Before you post my New Year’s Honour I must tell you I don’t want it. It’s not that I’m against honours you understand, far from it. Recognising someone’s unique contribution and dedication, their sacrifice and lifetime commitment to a cause is fine by me. Indeed a friend of mine who follows these things as closely as you do recently pointed out that as National Convenor and joint spokesman of the SSP for the past 10 years I’m now Scotland’s longest serving party leader. Modesty prevents me from ‘carrying my own banner’ as it were but as you know I have served ‘my socialist community’ loyally now for 35 years. I am sure observers, regardless of their own political views, will admire such an record and accept the socialist movement has faced many stiff challenges since 1980. And no one interested in Scottish politics as you are will have failed to notice the considerable demands I have faced in the past decade as SSP national spokesman. But before you send me my well-deserved ‘gong’ I want you to know I will not accept it. For it is not your recognition I have sought throughout the past three decades or that of the British establishment you lead. I favour, as you know, a modern, democratic republic for Britain. As far as I’m concerned the British monarchy has no honour to it. The recognition of an un-elected, unrepresentative and unaccountable monarch would affront and negate all I believe in. I seek the recognition of the majority, the working class. I have nothing but contempt for ‘Commanders of the British Empire’, feudal Knights and Dames. I realise there are many who began as socialist supporters of a modern, democratic republic who subsequently accepted your ‘bauble’. My former comrade Lord Reid of Celtic Park is one who springs readily to mind. But his is not the example I respect. Rather I favour the approach dear old Hamish Henderson took when offered your OBE for his services to folk music. You will recall how he convened a press conference to publicly turn it down as an anti-imperialist supporter of a modern, democratic republic. So please Your Majesty put the ‘gong’ you were going to give me back in its cupboard ready for the next establishment lackey on your list who so yearns for it. I remain your reluctant ‘subject’ Colin Fox

Thursday, 11 December 2014


The US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence report into the interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] was published this week and makes grim reading for anyone who believes the US [and Britain] are the ‘good guys’ upholding the law and bringing felons to justice. It is so bad that the normally bi-partisan Barack Obama and US Democrats have condemned the CIA and former Republican President George Bush for sanctioning the use of inhumane and illegal practices to extract confessions from prisoners in their custody across the world. ‘Water boarding’, where suspects are repeatedly held under water until they are all but drowned and pass out is just one of many macabre portfolio of tortures widely used. Sexual humiliation, rape, ‘rectal hydration’, stress positioning, applying electric shocks to the genitals, extracting fingernails and toenails, sleep deprivation, all these punishments and more too blood curdling to describe here are outlined in the Senate report and all are completely illegal under international law. When you might ask then is George Bush to be brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to stand trial? And where do the tortured find justice after such criminal violations? UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson has demanded US officials responsible for using such torture should be handed over for prosecution. That of course will never happen. Even Obama is not calling for that because he too believes the US is above international law. Laws they nonetheless expect everyone else in the world to live under. The Senate report chronicles the CIA’s activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and dozens of other locations. Notwithstanding such double standards this Senate report will be widely circulated around the world. The CIA will of course get off scot-free and continue to use such methods of torture claiming they secure information vital to the ‘War on Terror’. The truth is they are the best recruiting sergeants the so called ‘terrorists’ could wish for. And the United States’ enemies will use this report to radicalise another generation of suicide bombers and ‘jihadists’. Such terror techniques do not end the ‘war on terror’ they perpetuate it.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Article I sent to The Glasgow Herald for their 'Agenda' slot - as yet unpublished

Independence deferred say 2,500 who join Scottish Socialist Party Now that the dust has settled on the referendum I thought I might reflect on the new Scotland that has emerged and the reasons 2,500 people have given for joining the Scottish Socialist Party. Scotland is a country like no other today. The level of political engagement here has been extraordinary. It is surely worth reminding ourselves that 97% are now registered to vote and in some areas 90% participated in the referendum. I suspect such levels of political engagement will not be seen again for a long time. History may well record that ‘Yes Scotland’s’ greatest legacy was not winning 45% of the vote [10% higher than Independence has ever enjoyed before] but building the biggest grassroots political movement Scotland has ever seen. ‘Better Together’ were simply not at the races when it came to the numbers of activists, their energy, enthusiasm and organisation on the ground. Scotland’s progress towards self-determination is not halted, as far as ‘Yes’ voters are concerned, merely delayed. Tens of thousands of people are not despondent, far from it, they refuse to be demobilised. Their resolve is extraordinary and seen in the fact that 50,000 people have applied to join the three independence parties in the referendum’s immediate aftermath. Many are former Labour voters angry at the role that party played as the linchpin of the No coalition. Standing alongside the Tories, Liberals and UKIP the Labour Party abandoned even the social democratic values they once advocated [having of course long since abandoned their founding socialist principles]. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls’ promise for example to cut child benefit if they triumph in next years General Election and Johan Lamont’s infamous evaluation of those who advocate universal benefits as representing ‘the something for nothing culture’ show us precisely why so many former Labour voters stood alongside the three Yes parties last month. The Scottish Socialist Party’s 2,500 new applications reflect an unprecedented level of interest in our ideas. That figure is greater than any ever recorded by any socialist party in these isles before. Those applications have come from former Labour voters and from many Yes activists who, as one woman in Dunfermline put it to me this week, she ‘refuses to go back in the box after this’. So, who are these people joining Scotland’s socialist party? They are young like 15-year-old Lewis from Dunfermline and the ‘young at heart’ like Nan, 88, from Glasgow. They are people often at the brunt of the worst exploitation but who refuse to give up on the belief that a better world is possible, one where working class people can maximise their full potential free from exploitation, injustice and poverty. They also understand that socialists in Scotland should join a socialist party not build illusions in other ones. They applied to join the SSP because they admire our party’s fortitude in supporting an Independent socialist Scotland, a modern democratic republic, for the past 16 years. Others admire the way we carry the socialist standard for a radical, left wing vision of Scotland. We have also won many new admirers for the tireless work we did in the schemes and workplaces of Scotland advocating a Yes vote. We proved it is possible to work with others who had another vision of Scotland. All these new recruits are keen to help build an independent socialist Scotland. So where does the independence movement and the left go from here? That is the question on the lips of all these new members keen to know what tactics the movement must now employ in pursuit of Independence and socialism. In my view, we must first accept the result on September 18th. As democrats we respect the will of the Scottish people. We can also concede there will not be another Referendum for the foreseeable future. However, that does not mean Independence cannot be raised again in other ways. Jim Sillars, for example, argues that we should declare the 2016 Holyrood contest ‘the Independence elections’ and insist that if the SNP, the SSP and the Greens win an overall majority then that result is seen as a legitimate mandate for Independence. And those elections may well take place against a completely new backdrop with three dramatic changes to the most recent debate; the complete absence of any meaningful extra powers for Holyrood, another Tory Government elected at Westminster [despite again being overwhelmingly rejected here in Scotland] and that Government then embarking on an ‘IN/OUT’ referendum on Europe. Such circumstances would ignite the Independence debate anew. By Colin Fox,

Sunday, 5 October 2014

SSP protests our exclusion from Lord Smith's Devolution Commission

Dear Lord Smith, As you know the Scottish Socialist Party was one of three political parties to establish and lead the ‘Yes’ campaign. Six parties in total were formally engaged in the Independence Referendum over the past two years, three on the Yes side – the SNP, Greens and the SSP - and three on the No side – Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. I am therefore disappointed that your Commission has decided to uniquely exclude one party, ours, from the process now under way to consider what further powers might be devolved to Holyrood following the referendum. This approach does not in my opinion reflect well on your Commission’s integrity nor suggest the process is as democratic and inclusive as it ought to be. In the instructions laid down for your Commission by Prime Minister David Cameron asks you ‘To convene cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process across Scotland to produce, by 30th November 2014, Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. This process will be informed by a Command paper, to be published by 31 October and will result in the publication of draft clauses by 25 January. The recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and tax raising powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.’ The Prime Minister’s explicit instructions are therefore not reflected in your decision to exclude our party from this process. It is surely self-evident that excluding the Scottish Socialist Party from ‘cross-party talks’ is not exercising ‘an inclusive engagement’. The argument some use to justify our exclusion on the grounds that we currently have no ‘Parliamentary representation’ fails to appreciate that the referendum was not a Parliamentary process but an unprecedented public debate that resulted in an extraordinary level of engagement from all sections of society. To exclude the SSP is to exclude an important constituency of opinion in Scottish society. I therefore ask you to reconsider your decision to exclude the Scottish Socialist Party and extend to us the same rights offered to the 5 other parties formally engaged in this debate. I look forward to your earliest reply. Yours sincerely Colin Fox, Joint national spokesperson, Scottish Socialist Party

Friday, 19 September 2014

The struggle for independence continues

The Scottish Socialist Party is naturally disappointed by last nights result. It is a setback for the forces of social democracy and socialism in this country. But our disappointment today is tempered by an immense pride in the 1.6m Scots who voted Yes and the thousands of new political campaigners who energise this country, stimulated it politically in a way never seen before and withstood the hysterical propaganda of a panicked UK establishment over the last 10 days. Scottish Independence is not defeated today it is deferred. Support for Independence reached 45% yesterday and that is unprecedented. I do not see that receding. As democratic socialists the SSP fully respects the decision reached by the people of Scotland but, as they say in Italy ‘La lotta continua’, the struggle for an independent socialist Scotland continues. The Independence tide is not halted today, rather it has shifted irrevocably. No prevailed because a slim majority of elderly Scots, vested interests and the well to do were not prepared to change. The NO campaign won with an unrelenting battery of negativity and pessimism. Yet Scotland is not remotely the same place as it was yesterday. It is changed utterly by this referendum campaign. Many Scots opted for the Yes message of prosperity, fairness and democracy and rejected the status quo. They have demonstrated their keenness to take our own decisions and our rightful place as a full and equal member of the family of nations. I am sure they will continue to champion social democratic and socialist values in seeking prosperity for all, greater democracy and an end to exploitation and warmongering. The British ruling class threw everything at us and 1.6million stood tall. I am proud of that defiance and bravery. And I pay tribute too to all the SSP’s partners in Yes Scotland for what we have achieved together. The NO side won because they promised a more prosperous, fairer and more democratic nation. They must now deliver and show how that inclusive, progressive and more democratic new country can be built via their preferred route.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Momentum now with YES side with three weeks to go

Here's my initial thoughts on last nights TV debate on Independence, published in todays Evening News. I missed the last live TV debate where Alex Salmond was said to have ‘under-performed’, I was on holiday. But there can surely be no doubt he won this “return leg” hands down. His naturally combatative style had returned, walking out from behind the lectern, his script was dotted with upbeat references to “this extraordinary time . . . this golden opportunity for the people of Scotland . . . best placed to make the right decisions . . . and a hugely exciting and energising campaign”. In contrast Alistair Darling’s remarks were noted above all for their timidity, their caution and risk averse emphasis. He mentioned “threats”, “costs”, “gambles”, “volatility” and “insecurities” but failed to offer a positive vision. More alarmingly perhaps for Better Together strategists the former Chancellor was also rather gaffe-prone. He conceded ‘Of course Scotland can use the pound’. And he made the mistake of returning once too often to the currency issue leading Salmond to accuse him of being a ‘one- trick pony’. The audience at Kelvingrove Museum and viewers around the country seemed to groan in unison. But in conceding ‘This [referendum] is not about him [Alex Salmond]’ he has blunted the instrument which No activists have been using above all others to tell Labour voters in particular that this referendum is in fact ‘all about Alex Salmond’. The polls will reveal in due course whether this second live TV debate has changed people’s minds, but it has certainly put a spring in the step of Yes campaigners with three weeks to go.

Friday, 13 June 2014


This is an article I have submitted to the Morning Star for publication as part of their on going 'Voices of Scotland' series. Yes vote will benefit working class throughout these isles ‘Scotland should stand shoulder to shoulder with working people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland’ said Gordon Brown last week [Daily Record 2/6/14] standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories, Lib-Dems and UKIP in opposing Scotland’s independence. The former Prime Minister pops up periodically in this debate to lead Labour’s own separatist group ‘United with Labour’ much to the chagrin of Alistair Darling his arch rival who represents the official ‘No’ campaign. But Gordon Brown’s standing is not high. And no wonder for this is the man who stood ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Tony Blair over the war in Iraq and privatised so much of Scotland’s public services using punitive PFI contracts. He also left millions of people facing the worst recession in 80 years and his support for reckless, greedy merchant bankers is surely the most enduring feature of his political career. Brown doesn’t have to travel far in these isles to see the scars his pioneering neo-liberal reaction has left on working class communities. Yet this ‘heavyweight thinker’ with ‘an immense intellect’ [the Daily Records’ terms] apparently believes Labour stands to the left of the SNP politically nowadays. The evidence suggests otherwise. Mind you he has form as a ‘heavyweight thinker’ who disregards the evidence. As Chancellor he claimed he had ‘ended the boom-bust cycle of British capitalism’ just before it all went bust! He has not changed much during his 4 year ‘gardening leave’ in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. For Labour now believes, as their Scottish leader Johan Lamont infamously put it, that ‘universal benefits represent the something for nothing culture.’ They also vote voted against the SNP’s abolition of NHS prescription charges here in Scotland and they support further cuts in public services and welfare payments to the poor. Brown’s hero Jimmy Maxton must be birling in his grave! Of course no one, whether they have ‘an immense intellect’ or not, would claim the SNP are socialists, but then neither is the Labour Party. Unlike Gordon Brown however the nationalists did not vote for the Coalition Government’s welfare cap. But again ignoring all the evidence our ‘soothsayer’ predicts Scotland will be more right wing [than Labour] with Independence, more unequal and we would spend ‘all our resources on cutting corporation tax’. ‘Scotland gets the best of both worlds within the Union’ insists Gordon Brown. ‘We have a strong Scottish Parliament at Holyrood and vital influence in the UK Government’. But it’s a ‘double dip’ delusion! I was an MSP at Holyrood for 4 years. My daily experience was to be reminded by the Presiding Officer about what we couldn’t talk about there. We couldn’t talk about unemployment, we couldn’t talk about the national minimum wage and the low pay epidemic affecting 680,000 Scots, we couldn’t talk about social security or pensions, or the worst anti-union laws in the whole of Europe, we couldn’t talk about Europe or Foreign Affairs, we couldn’t talk about the Scottish soldiers dying in illegal wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, we couldn’t talk about the obscenity of Trident nuclear weapons stationed on our soil – we couldn’t talk about any of these issues they were all ‘reserved’ for Westminster. So we patently don’t have a strong Scottish Parliament nor do we have ‘vital influence at Westminster’ because the overwhelming majority of Scots wanted the bankers who caused the economic crisis held to account but they weren’t. We rejected the privatisation of the Royal Mail and yet we were lumbered with it. We rejected the bedroom tax and the attacks on the rights of immigrants and claimants but we suffer that too. Nonetheless Gordon Brown insists we should still vote No in September and wait for a Labour Government to come along and challenge the warmongering neo-liberalism that destroys our lives. But we just had three of them and they didn’t challenge neo-liberalism in any shape or form, they advocated it. The truth is Independence offers working people the left of centre, social democratic Scotland the majority want. And we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with working class people throughout these isles when we get it. Those like Gordon Brown and George Galloway who say Independence means we are ‘Abandoning the English working class to permanent Tory rule’ are wrong. They are arithmetically wrong because very few Westminster elections are ever decided by Scottish votes. Labours three most recent victories for example would still have been won without its Scottish MP’s. And they are politically wrong too because we are not ‘abandoning’ anyone. We are leading the fight for social democracy and socialism in these isles, as has often been the case in the past. The shop stewards movement for example came out of the Red Clydeside struggles of the 1900’s. The UCS work-in inspired the industrial fight back in the 1970s and the anti-poll tax rebellion began in Scotland in 1998. We are however abandoning the delusion that a Labour Government at Westminster will ever implement a social democratic or socialist programme. Independence will therefore be to the advantage of working class people across these isles. It represents a defeat for the forces of neo-liberalism and imperial warmongering. And it stands to reason that working class people in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, London and elsewhere will also benefit from that. Moreover our solidarity does not stop at the English Channel. Scotland has a proud record of standing ‘shoulder to shoulder with working people’ in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the rest of the world. A ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th will not change that but it will rearrange the political balance of forces across the UK and beyond. It will embolden working people in the rest of these isles and internationally. Such a defeat for the UK ruling classes – at the forefront of neo-liberalism and warmongering the world over – will assist the struggle for socialism worldwide. In the last analysis Gordon Brown is not defending the interests of the working class and he never has. He is again ‘standing shoulder to shoulder’ with the neo-liberal British state and its political elite.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

UKIP's success will mean further reaction from Labour and the Tories

As the polls predicted UKIP has again dominated the European Elections in Britain winning more votes and more seats than any other party.
And whilst Farage’s party trailed in behind the SNP, Labour and the Tories in Scotland some 140,000 Scots still voted for their ‘dog-whistle’ racist politics.
Why did they win? And what are the likely consequences for the Independence referendum?
Incredible as it may seem UKIP with its Home Counties base and right wing views are regarded by many voters not just as anti-EU and anti-immigrant, but also as anti-establishment. The more Farage is attacked by the chattering classes and the metropolitan political elite the more popular he becomes.
This is a remarkable phenomena given he is himself part of that elite. Here is a public schoolboy, millionaire merchant banker and former Tory backwoodsman now masquerading as a ‘rebel’ who sticks two fingers up to EU bureaucrats and corrupt Westminster politicians.
Whatever else may be said about his odious, reactionary message it is clear, simple and oft repeated. UKIP dominated these elections with a message that is not difficult to comprehend. Those looking for simple answers, easy scapegoats and an ‘ordinary guy’ hero rushed to him in their droves. His face was never off TV and his message was co-sponsored by several tabloid newspapers.
Millions of Britons in the middle of the worst recession in 80 years have seen their wages fall 17% in real terms since 2010 instead of turning to the left for answers have thus far turned to the right.  The right has persuaded many people that the collapse in their living standard has been caused by immigrants and claimants [who either work too cheaply or not at all] rather than the bankers and corporate capitalism.
We are asked by UKIP to ignore the fact that immigrants make this country wealthier by coming here, that they pay far more taxes into the UK Treasury than they take out, that our NHS and other key services benefit enormously from their labour, that immigrants come here for work not for paltry benefits, that young workers from Poland and Spain have halted Scotland’s population decline, that our quality of life is greatly improved by multiculturalism and that Scots themselves have emigrated for centuries in search of a better life.
This is why the right has done so well in these elections and the left, such as it is, has done so badly. The left must clarify our message afresh, deliver it with aplomb and passion and then purposefully confront the racism of UKIP and its Tory, Labour and Lib Dem ‘bedfellows’ in this debate.

The results of these elections will be fiercely contested in so far as they tell us anything about the Independence debate. We on the YES side argued UKIP was a xenophobic, English party by and large rejected by voters here. That view is somewhat undermined by the fact 140,000 Scots voted for them. Yet it retains some potency since UKIP topped the poll in England whereas they came fourth here in Scotland. However it would have been much better for Yes if UKIP had not secured a Euro seat here.
The Scottish Greens will again be disappointed by the results. I was one of those who felt they were the best electoral vehicle for halting UKIP’s drive into Scotland. But they secured only one more MEP across Britain as a whole and in Scotland their 8.5% of the vote was only marginally better than the 7.5% they got in 2009. This suggests they lack wider appeal as ‘the torchbearer of radical and progressive politics in Scotland’ despite the claims of their election press releases to the contrary. Writing in ‘Bella Caledonia’ Mike Small of the Scottish Independence Convention went even further and concluded ‘the harsh truth is the Greens lack charisma, popularism and bite. They are rootless and unable to reach beyond the Guardianista’.
In due course we might all reflect on what might have been. Perhaps if the Greens had joined the Red/Green alliance proposed by some of us in the Greens and the SSP this time last year it could have made the difference. And it might also have been the test bed for a similar initiative in the more fruitful Holyrood elections of 2016?

Finally, however the last word on these elections goes to that ‘expert’ of Scottish politics the Bradford MP George Galloway who apparently insists UKIP and the SNP are ‘two cheeks of the same arse’. This nonsense surely secures for Galloway the title of the biggest ‘arse’ in Scottish politics today?

Monday, 19 May 2014

Widening inqualities a sure sign of a society in decay

Scotland's richest people saw their fortunes rise 19% last year according to the Sunday Times Rich List published this weekend. The wealthiest 100 Scots now own £25bn.
At the top of the rich list with £1,300million is the Grant family who own whisky distillers Glenfiddoch among other brands.

Whilst the majority of us continue to endure the consequences of the worst economic recession in 80 years and the impact of the Westminster austerity measures the wealthiest millionaires and billionaires rake it in.
Across the UK as a whole 1,000 people own the equivalent of 1/3rd of Britain's entire GDP.

Those who benefit from this state of affairs would have you believe this ever widening gap between the rich and poor is inevitable, or the result of market forces we cannot control or occurs by accident. The fact is it is the inevitable consequence of the neo-liberal economic policies pursued by successive Westminster regimes. They know exactly what they are doing and they condone the appalling consequences which follow for the poorest in our society.

To my mind these outrageous inequalities are completely unacceptable and will again disgust Scotland's working class majority who realise the huge gap between the rich and poor is not the result of some unhappy accident but is rather the consequence of greater and greater exploitation of the working class majority by a rich capitalist elite.

And all this certainly has a bearing on the Independence referendum in September because Scotland's social democratic and socialist majority demands action to narrow such grotesque inequalities. A Yes vote in September is therefore not only a vote for Independence in my view it is also a vote against the neo-liberal economics and political warmongering offered by Westminster. That is the reason why support for Independence continuous to grow in Scotland's poorest communities. Those who stand to gain most from narrowing the gap live in our most deprived communities. And all of us in the Yes movement must realise an independent Scotland must reverse the trend in wealth distribution or we will have failed its most passionate advocates.

Friday, 4 April 2014

MARGO MacDONALD: One of Scotlands finest daughters

Scotland has today lost one of her finest daughters.
Margo MacDonald left her mark on Scottish life and then some. Born in Hamilton seventy years ago she was an extraordinary woman in the way working class Scots women truly are.
Who else could campaign and be recognised the length and breadth of Scotland using her first name alone? Who else could get elected to Holyrood three times running an Independent? Who else took up such 'unpopular' causes? Who else could carry herself with such dignity and fortitude during her prolonged and very public illness? Who else could get away with half the things she said and did? No-one.
Like millions of Scots I could relate to her. She was a very formidable public figure and yet at the same time she was one of us.
I was very fortunate to get to know her first as a fellow Lothian's MSP and thereafter as a friend and colleague in the Independence movement.
She helped me enormously. As an MSP she helped me steer my Bill to abolish NHS prescription charges through Parliament. And when you got to know her you realised just how extraordinary she was. All the SSP MSP's and our staff loved her. We would regularly seek her out for her wisdom, her experience, her rebelliousness, her candour and above all for that great - and widely underestimated - gift she had of putting people at their ease around her. She was great company and generously provided wise counsel to everyone. Moreover it was usually taken after all here was someone who had broken the mould of Scottish politics again and again.
I admired her for her bravery and her integrity above all. She took up causes no one else would. And like most rebels she was fearless when she needed to be. Her remarkable staff Peter and Mary were always very generous to the SSP too.
The Scottish Socialist Party will be forever in her debt not least because she was the only MSP to stand up against the lynch mob who expelled us from Holyrood and fined us £30,000 for protesting against attempts to prevent the democratic right to protest against the G8 leaders summit in Gleneagles in 2005. [The severest penalty meted out to any 'Parliamentarians' in Britain since the English Civil war incidentally]. In the face of a baying mob she insisted on our right to due process. She failed. We got no such thing, but it showed the towering strength of the woman she was in standing up for what was right and just.
And I loved the fact you could disagree with her and yet she would make sure it never became an impediment to your ongoing relationship with her. Many's the time she gave me advice and then respected my mistakes with patience and generosity of spirit.
I was with her for a few minutes on Tuesday evening at the house as I waited to take Jim to speak at an SSP public meeting in Govan. We talked about the referendum campaign and she was full of confidence in the people of Scotland voting Yes in September. She gave me advice on what I should say at the meeting and we said goodbye.
She was an inspiration to millions. And millions of us will miss her. The best way to repay her generosity to to help Jim, Zoe, Petra and all her family and friends through the tough days ahead without her.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Tony Benn [1925-2014] our greatest tribune

Tony Benn was the reason I got involved in politics.
Growing up in Motherwell in the early 80's he inspired me to join the Labour Party. The first political campaign I ever took part in was his candidacy for deputy leader. I threw myself into it with everything I had. And I can recall as if it were yesterday the excitement I felt getting up early one Sunday morning to go into Glasgow to hear him speak at the University. He was electrifying in that understated style he had. It was the first time I had seen him 'live' as it were and I was overjoyed when I met him that first time.
Meetings were organised throughout Britain to help get him elected. Those I attended were exhilarating with hundreds and hundreds of people crammed in to hear him outline the socialist case for transforming Labour. I remember travelling all the way down to Aston Park in Birmingham [on an overnight bus laid on by the Ceramic workers union] on my own to hear him speak at a rally against mass unemployment. I had to 'stowaway' on the Scottish Labour Party Executive coach to get back home and wasn't in the least surprised to find the other 'passengers' backing his opponent Dennis Healey. I was heart-broken when he it was announced live on BBC TV that he had lost the vote by the slenderest imaginable margin. And like many others I was furious with those five so called 'left-wing' Labour MP's who had abstained and effectively cost him victory. In a sign of what was to come for Labour Neil Kinnock was one of them!

Tony Benn was the anti-establishment figure in that contest and remained so throughout the rest of his life. Strange really as he was the son, and grandson, of established Labour MP's and inherited the title Viscount Stansgate as a young man. Yet as he learned more and more about the world around him he became more and more left wing. The reverse is true for most Labour MP's. His enemies, and there were many of them, inside and outside the Labour Party, reviled him. They referred to him sneeringly as 'Anthony Wedgewood Benn'.

I met Tony many times over the last 35 years and learned a great deal from him, always grateful for his advice. As I look back proudly at the many platforms I shared with him - speaking out against the poll tax or against the war- like millions of others I realise I could have listened to him all day. Personally warm, friendly and supportive, above all I remember his patience and courtesy. Many's the time I would call him for advice or asked him to come and speak at some event or meeting I was organising.
Yet ironically it is a meeting we had in his Edinburgh hotel in August 2006, following Tommy Sheridan's lunatic and disastrous court action, that sticks in my mind most of all. For he was on that occasion to contradict the legendary advice he used to give all Britain's competing socialist groups to 'tie your ropes together'. On that balmy summers evening drinking endless cups of tea he explained how he had followed the case and insisted the SSP needed to break with Sheridan after his shameful conduct in the Court of Session. As it happened Tommy Sheridan left the SSP days later and saved us the bother.

The world today is a poorer place without Tony Benn. He is mourned by millions of working class people throughout Britain because he inspired us all. He explained the nature of the world we live in and the need to change it. We have lost our greatest tribune. And we owe his family an immeasurable debt today in their hours of sorrow for having shared him with us. His intellect, his integrity, his courage, his boundless energy, his solidarity, his friendship and character are sadly missed. He put all of them at the service of our socialist movement for half a century. Farewell dear comrade and friend. Rest assured 'La lotta continua'.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Scottish Socialist Voice 2nd Forum on Independence - Sat 8th March

The Scottish Socalist Voice - Scotland's only socialist newspaper - is hosting another Forum for the Independence movement. Our second event will discuss how to win more working class Scots to Yes. 
Another terrific line up of speakers from across the pro-Independence left will provide their thoughts and answer questions on the issue on Saturday 8th March in Edinburgh.
Tickets for the Forum are again free and available from
There is already great demand for tickets however so anyone interested in attending is strongly advised to book one in advnace to avoid the disappointment of not getting in.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

YES Edinburgh South Public Meeting - Thurs Feb 27th

If you are in the neighbourhood why not come along and hear the case for Independence in South Edinburgh on Thursday evening?
Its in St John Vianney Church Hall, Fernieside Gardens at 7.30pm

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Stirling University says YES to Independence

Well done to the students at the University of Stirling for organising a superb meeting on Independence this week.
My thanks also to those who have emailed, tweeted and contacted me on my Facebook page to say how much they enjoyed my speech outlining the SSP's unique vision of an Independent socialist Scotland, a modern democratic republic.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Momentum with the Yes Campaign

This article from me was printed in todays Morning Star newspaper

THREE polls published in January have put a spring in the step of the campaign for Scottish independence. The first two, by ICM for Scotland on Sunday and TNS, show support for independence up 5 points since September. The third by Ipsos-Mori confirms that working-class voters are much more attracted to self-determination than their richer compatriots.

For those of us involved in the Yes Scotland campaign these polls provide further evidence that victory is within our grasp. The latest rise takes Yes support to 47 per cent against 53 per cent for No once the “don’t knows” are excluded.

These figures have been described by the country’s leading psephologist, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, as “the best polling news the Yes side has yet had in the referendum campaign.”

They highlight the wisdom of the “slow burn” strategy that has allowed voters time to come to terms with the full significance of independence.
The poll from Ipsos-Mori shows that class is increasingly the clearest guide to voting intentions.

Working-class Scots are now twice as likely to vote Yes compared with those with a material interest in maintaining the status quo.

The Scottish Socialist Party’s central message has always been that working-class Scots stand to gain from independence. In our pamphlet The Case for an Independent Socialist Scotland we argue that working-class Scots will be economically, socially and politically better off and this is now permeating deeper into this debate.

So what are the perceived advantages of independence for working-class Scots?

The list is a long one. There would be no measures like the hated bedroom tax here after independence, no privatisation of Royal Mail, no more poll tax experimentation, no more blaming immigrants and claimants for an economic crisis caused by City bankers, no more Trident nuclear missiles stationed on the Clyde, no more Scottish soldiers sent to die in Iraq or Afghanistan and above all no more hated Tory governments. Scotland would, according to the latest OECD report, be the eighth-richest country in the world.

That’s an attractive list by anyone’s reckoning, let alone compared to the continuing deterioration in our living standards, the widening inequalities and the xenophobic, anti-claimant policies emanating from Westminster or the ongoing attacks on our political rights promised by the union.

And the polls are expected to narrow further if Ukip emerges as the biggest party down south in May’s European elections, as they are not likely to win a single seat in Scotland.

Moreover if the Tories look like winning the 2015 Westminster general election both factors will further expose the gulf between the political centre of gravity of politics in England and that in Scotland — a factor Labour insists on denying.

But perhaps the greatest potential game-changer in this referendum lies in the risk Labour must run with its “devo max” dilemma. Put simply, the No campaign in announcing “extra powers for Holyrood” must attract those voters who do not favour the status quo or independence.

These voters make up the bulk of the crucial “don’t know” category in the polls. To stop them voting Yes Labour needs to offer a substantial set of additional powers to Holyrood such as gathering in income-tax revenues and setting a separate welfare policy.

Yet ultimately it must be able to get its plans through a hostile Westminster Parliament. Many believe it is a circle Labour cannot square. The national question is plainly a live one in Scotland and the break-up of the British state is already well under way.

As I have reported in this newspaper before three-quarters of Scots no longer identify themselves as British according to the 2011 census. All of this has led to a profound political crisis for new Labour.

Whereas virtually the entire left in Scotland backs self-determination Labour finds itself acting as the “capo” of an unsavoury mob that involves the Tories, the Lib Dems and Nigel Farage.

And defending what? A union no longer fit for purpose, a political reality that forces Scots to accept governments and ideologies we have rejected time and time again.

It means Scotland’s left-of-centre majority is ignored by a neoliberal Labour Party whose focus is on winning a British parliamentary majority by pandering to an “M4 corridor” whose values are completely alien to us.

Labour in Scotland used to distance itself from the policies of its southern counterparts. Not any more. Now we have Scottish leader Johann Lamont decrying universal benefits and claiming Scotland cannot afford free school meals for five, six and seven-year-olds.

She tells us that the health and wellbeing of primary schoolchildren was “not [her] priority” when one in three of them in her Glasgow constituency live in desperate poverty. For the record, she believes spending £100 billion on a second generation of nuclear missiles and building two aircraft carriers at a cost 100 times the price of the school meals is a “priority.”

The Scottish Socialist Party has made a very positive and widely respected contribution to the broad Yes Scotland coalition. More than 500 people have applied to join this past 12 months via our website alone. We have enjoyed innumerable invitations to present our socialist case for independence to new audiences throughout Scotland. Our pamphlet putting the socialist case for independence enjoyed record sales and we hosted a very successful Scottish Socialist Voice forum in December to discuss the Scottish government’s white paper with a distinguished panel that included Jim Sillars, Professor Mike Danson, John Finnie MSP, Councillor Maggie Chapman of the Greens and Isobel Lindsay from Scottish CND. We have also organised dozens of SSP public meetings throughout Scotland on the socialist case for independence and we are actively involved in the Radical Independence Campaign.

And we believe the prospects for a game-changing result in September are better than ever. British politics will never be the same again.

Friday, 31 January 2014


The letter below was sent to The Scotsman on Wednesday in response to an article the previous day attacking Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell for being 'revolted' by UK immigration policy.
Dear Sir,

I am bound to say I agree - on this occassion at least - with Education Secretary Mike Russell for being 'revolted by UK immigration policy.' [Scotsman 29/1/14] He s right to be disgusted.

When BBC reporters are sent to Bucharest bus station on New Years Day to cover a mythical story about thousands of Roumanians heading for London's Victoria coach station to take advantage of Britain's 'generous benefits system' the influence of UKIP is self-evident. The fact the story revealed no 'hordes of Roumanain immigrants' or 'generous benefits' ought not to obscure the gullibility of BBC news editors who fell for this UKIP myth.

Meanwhile the Tories try to cauterise support ebbing away to their right continue to blame immigrants for Britains economic problems. Their latest proposal is to deny immigrants access to the NHS for two years. Of course I appreciate the Tories would like to deny everyone access to the NHS in favour of private medicine but this idea is surely their worst yet. They shoud be constantly reminded that immigrants make this country richer in coming here. They pay far more into the UK Treasury in taxes than they take out in benefits and services.

There was a time when Labour would have fought such a dual attack on migrant workers and the NHS but those days are sadly long gone. Now they tail end the Tories on immigration policy just as they did on privatisation, on public spending cuts, on anti-union laws, on warmongering, on Trident and ultimately of course on the UK itself.

UKIP want to pin the blame for the 2008 financial collape and the subsequent recession on immigrants. I am confident the people of Scotland will continue to reject their xenophobia and remind them it wasn't the Roumanians who caused the recession, it wasn't the Bulgarians who bankrupted the country it was bankers like Nigel Farage.

Friday, 17 January 2014

UKIP: Blaming Immigrants for Britains Failures

Have you noticed how editorialising journalists repeatedly tell us ‘UKIP will do well in this years European elections’? The BBC’s Sarah Montague on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme was the latest exponent of this art of talking up Nigel Farage's party. 

Not only is his relentless right wing bile not challenged by our populist media they in fact pander to it. Take the BBC for example. On New Years Day they broadcast live from Bucharest bus station where reporters disappointedly announced that the buses they had hoped to show full of Roumanian ‘benefit tourists’ bound for London to ‘sign on’, as UKIP had forecast, were nowhere to be seen! I watched dumfounded as one reporter after another, instead of hammering UKIP’s offensive, xenophobic nonsense, promised ‘We will come back tomorrow’.

Politicians at Westminster are similarly complicit. Having given up confronting UKIP's racist opinions they follow them. Guided by ill informed ‘focus groups’ fed on a diet of Daily Mail myths they attack the civic and human rights of immigrants. All three parties of big business at Westminster now vie with one another to present the most punitive anti-immigrant proposals such as prohibiting access to the NHS or welfare support.

The findings of the latest British Social Attitudes Survey released this month also made for some very unwelcome, if not altogether surprising, reading as far as people’s views on migrant workers are concerned. I do not question the surveys findings but I do reject the views held by respondents. They show the consequences that flow from a badly informed public debate fuelled by ignorance and prejudice. The Daily Mail is seldom outdone in publishing the most offensive portrayals of migrant workers and social security beneficiaries. Their thinly veiled racist 'inexactitudes' have done enormous damage and yet go largely unchallenged.

It is surely time to confront such prejudices with a rational examination of the issues. Lets start with some facts The Daily Mail and the BBC refuse to mention. Immigration is good for Britain. It benefits our economy and our society. By coming to work and live here immigrants make Britain richer as their skills and hard work improve the economy. Immigrants moreover tend to be young men and women with skills who pay far more into the UK Treasury than they take out. Moreover in Scotland the arrival of these young workers has reversed our prolonged population decline.

And UKIP’s most recent idiotic and offensive contention that immigrants are drawn to Britain by our ‘generous social security benefits’ shows just how little they know because there is no such thing as ‘generous benefits’ as anyone familiar with the £65/week you get on Income Support will testify. Second, no one comes here to ‘sign on’ they are attracted by the prospect of work only to find they are often grievously exploited by unscrupulous employers paying miserable wages when they do.

It's time to remind Nigel Farage that it wasn’t the Bulgarians who caused Britain’s financial crisis, it was the bankers. It wasn’t Romanian immigrants who caused the worst recession in 80 years, it was the rich. It wasn’t his mythical ‘benefits tourists’ who embezzled £100 billion avoiding tax. It wasn’t immigrants who introduced the bedroom tax or sold off the Royal Mail. It wasn’t immigrants who forced one million households in Scotland into fuel poverty. It wasn’t immigrants who stole ten million pounds from the public purse at Westminster with their fraudulent expenses claims and ‘second homes’ scam.
But we don’t hear UKIP or the Tories calling for the real culprits to be brought to justice, do we? 

Lets resolve to make 2014 the year we expose the real culprits and expose the lies, prejudice and racism of UKIP and their fellow travellers once and for all.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year Message

Happy New Year and what an exciting year 2014 promises to be.

If Scotland votes Yes in September 300 years of British domination will come to an end as will the democratic failure at the heart of UK politics. We are governed by those without a mandate to do so and are penalised by an economic model biased towards the South East of England that has failed us over decades. A Yes vote will change all that and signal our preparedness to build a new society that rejects the exploitative and iniquitous laissez-faire model in favour of harnessing the full potential of our nation and its resources for the benefit of every one.  

Self-determination is the progressive choice in this Referendum and the polls say we will win if we offer the people of Scotland hope against a background of prolonged Unionist pessimism and failure. Our message to the people of Scotland today must therefore be ‘come and change the world with us on September 18th’.

And my message to YES supporters is borrowed from Martin Luther King who said at a juncture similar to this one ‘Keep your eyes on the prize’. For what a remarkable ‘prize’ Independence will be for the people of Scotland!

The Scottish Socialist Party will continue to do all we can to deliver a Yes vote in Scotland’s working class districts and we are confident we can persuade those in most need that they will be economically, socially and politically better off with Independence. 

Yes 2014 promises to be both an exciting year and a turning point in Scottish history.