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Article I sent to The Glasgow Herald for their 'Agenda' slot - as yet unpublished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