SSP Welcomes Football Act Repeal

The Scottish Socialist Party both welcomes and commends todays vote in Parliament to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football & Threatening Communications Act (2012). Commenting, party executive committee member and long standing Fans Against Criminalisation supporter Liam McLaughlan said:

“Today was the culmination of a 7-year, working class fan led movement which showed us all the power of sustained and committed community organising in affecting statute change.

“In the face of outright hostility in parts and ridicule in others, campaigners have continued to shine a light on this unworkable, illiberal legislation too the point where not even the SNP could muster an attempt to defend its effectiveness or use. Perhaps now we can have the sensible and reasoned debate on how to tackle the root causes of sectarianism and anti-Irish racism that still sadly scars Scotland, that we should have had in 2011.

“A debate which we believe will arrive at community and classroom based initiatives, not poorly drafted illiberal legislation which cast ordinary football fans as criminals.”

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The Battle Hardens as UCU Members throw out latest ‘Deal’

by Richie Venton, SSP national trade union organiser

Main photo: Max McKay – Richie Venton, USDAW NEC member addresses 200-strong trade union solidarity rally at Strathclyde University.

“No capitulation!” “Reject the deal and sustain the strike!”
That was the angry message from the ranks of striking university staff to their own UCU union leadership after a “deal” was declared in the first real day of talks with university bosses, sponsored by ACAS, on the night of Monday 12th.

Strikers – comprising lecturers, research staff, librarians, IT and other student support staff – were a mixture of flabbergasted, bitterly disappointed and absolutely furious on hearing (on Monday night) that the UCU negotiators wished to accept an offer that still meant savage cuts to pensions, despite increased pension contributions by staff, a lowered cap on Defined Benefits for the next 3 years… and then a renewed ‘review’ three years hence. Pickets told me of numerous examples where staff originally facing a 48% cut to their pension now would lose “only” 38%, or 42% instead of 52%. No wonder they were furious at the suggestion they should accept this as a done deal.

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Profiteering pilfers paltry Minimum Wage

A Government report has exposed poor wage rates and employment practices at Wagamama, TGI Friday’s, Marriott Hotels, Birmingham City Football Club, Stoke City and St Helens Rugby club. In total 179 employers were fined £1.3m by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for ripping off their workers.

In Scotland, over 200 staff were underpaid by 15 firms, ripped off over £75,000 in wages.

SSP Spokesman Colin Fox said: “Spare a thought for the staff who serve you this weekend when you are out to dinner with your mates or attending the football match for some of the biggest names in the hospitality sector were found guilty this week of not paying their staff even the National Minimum Wage.”

The HMRC say ‘The penalties for non payment of the statutory National Minimum Wage mean employers can be fined up to twice the total wages shortfall, subject to a maximum of £20,000 per worker’. However, as the Financial Times pointed out last month, there are so few HMRC inspectors enforcing the Minimum Wage that the average company can expect an audit once every 500 years!

Those 43 companies in the hospitality sector for example, prosecuted in the latest list, clearly felt it was a risk worth taking.

It beggars belief these big firms do not have a Human Resources department that knows this law inside out. These companies in the slave labour business are clearly at it.

The Scottish Socialist Party will continue to expose them as part of our ongoing campaign for a £10/hour Living Wage and an end to zero hour contracts. Keep an eye out for our campaign stalls on Edinburgh’s Princes Street every week and elsewhere across the country.”

The National Minimum Wage goes up to £7.83 for workers over 25 on April 1st.

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Free school meals: penny keeps dropping after 17 years

by Roz Paterson

Seventy-five years ago, Finland decided to start feeding its children, irrespective of background, family situation or socio-economic status.

In other words, this beleaguered nation, at the time being hammered by Stalin, chose to invest in its upcoming generation, through providing free, nutritious meals for all, to support their learning, well-being and development.

Nothing fancy, you understand. Porridge, bread, milk. But every day, to everyone.

Here in Scotland, the penny has nearly dropped. North Lanarkshire Council, surveying the ruins of a failing neoliberal economy and its austere flip-side, has come to the conclusion that leaving children to go hungry for days on end, to the detriment of their health and education, is actually not good enough.

Starting this Easter, they have committed, if the pilot programme goes well, to providing free lunches to all those children currently in receipt of free school meals, throughout the holidays, amounting to an extra 175 days a year.

Thanks to the slashing of benefits, the drive down of wages, and the general incineration of lifeline services and safety nets, more and more children are experiencing “Holiday Hunger”—that is, going without food during the school holidays, because their parents or guardians don’t have the means to provide them.

Undernourished pupils

Thus, increasing numbers of pupils return to school tired, under-nourished, and about as far from being ready to learn as it’s possible to get.

Research reports parents going without food themselves in favour of their kids, and increased pressure on food banks. But these aren’t enough, and we need a systematic approach, to ensure that in this small, wealthy nation, we don’t forget about those who are literally starving.

Frustratingly, the SSP has been touting this simple, progressive idea for 17 years now, tabling a bill in parliament that was, thanks to Labour and the Tories, snuffed out, and tabling a second, that was timed out by parliamentary procedure.

But the ideas we promoted then — inspired by Finland, and by the mountains of research that underlined in big, inky marker that this was a good idea and would definitely work and also be cost-effective — take root.

Unfortunately, at first, this led to waste-of-time initiatives like healthy eating phone-lines, for all the world as if children were going hungry because their daft parents just didn’t realise they were supposed to feed them actual food.

But it also led to the introduction of free school meals for all children in primaries 13, and to this latest venture, Food 365. And about time too.

However, a very important part of the SSP’s campaign, which was supported by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Unison, the Poverty Alliance, the STUC Women’s Committee and the British Medical Association, was to tackle the stigma associated with any kind of free provision.

We said that free school meals should be provided to ALL children, as in Finland, to ensure that everyone is on a level, and no one is singled out.

In Finland, this led to over 90 per cent uptake, to children from a wide range of backgrounds sitting round a lunch table together, eating the same food, talking and sharing.

It teaches them social skills, table manners, breaks down societal prejudices, and, because the food is good, cooked at school, and made from local ingredients, provides a blueprint for good nutrition in the future. But no! Alas, in the interests of free market dogma perhaps, or just to avoid agreeing with the SSP, the Labour party in particular sticks to its ‘principles’ of means-testing.

We should not, they say, be supplementing middle-class families who can afford to pay.

Hmmm. Let’s take this apart. The principle of universalism, for instance with regards to the NHS, means that everyone benefits, including the people whose taxes pay for it! That’s how universalism works, and why people from across society support it.

When you ask people to pay for something from which they will not benefit, in other words, which will supplement the alien poor, you get resentment, a two-tier system, and that old rat, stigma.

End the stigma

John Dickie, of CPAG, warns: “Every effort should be made to avoid the risk of stigmatising holiday provision, for example, by making sure it is open to those who pay for school lunches too, and isn’t promoted purely as a feeding programme.”

Exactly! A soup kitchen for kids is not something we should aspire to; we can do way better than that, ensuring all children feel valued and part of society.

Good nutrition for all our children isn’t expensive, not compared to, say, renewing Trident, or baling out the banking system. Plus, despite all the hand-wringing, we are a rich country, not a poor one.

We have resources, from oil-fields to agriculture to industry. If Finland could afford it in 1943, we can afford it in 2018, that’s for sure.

This article was previously published in the Scottish Socialist Voice – issue #504. Paper and digital subscriptions are available here.

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Richie Venton: Resounding Victory in USDAW National Executive Contest

By Ken Ferguson

Union activist, shop steward and workplace convenor Richie Venton has won a resounding victory in a hard fought contest for two Scottish seats on the UK executive of the retail and distribution union USDAW.

Richie fought the contest on a platform of progressive left demands including an immediate wage of £10 an hour and guarantees of 16 hours work to replace zero hours contracts and greater autonomy on Scottish affairs.

His second place with 17.2% in an eight way contest for two places clearly indicates the growing support for change.

Commenting on the result Richie, who is also the SSP’s workplace organiser, said:

“I argued for hard hitting socialist measures to radically redistribute wealth away from the multinationals and multimillionaires to the working class millions who produce society’s wealth.”

“The foundation of my positive result is many years of organising and representing grass roots members at work which has taken the union’s membership in my workplace from 15 to 70% alongside growing support for a fighting stance on issues such as jobs and pay.”

“USDAW is the fourth biggest union in the UK and the retail and distribution sector organised by it includes shops, warehouses , transport and food production “

“This industry is is the second biggest employer after the NHS.”

“The union has been led by a right wing Labour leadership since Adam was a boy but this needs to change if the challenges faced by our members from automation and the internet in the hands of profit hungry bosses is to be met.”

So I will take this mandate from members to the NEC, to demand the fighting policies and union democracy required to take up the cudgels against attacks on workers by the Tories and profit-crazed employers.

This was a vote for change – within our union and throughout society. There’ll be no backsliding on these aims on my part!

“More generally this should help refute the defeatism of some–even on the left–that the tens of thousands of increasingly casualised workers cannot be organised into and protected by trade unions. Indeed this is now an urgent challenge which must be met.”

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Fox calls for the Immediate Scrapping of all PFI contracts

Speaking in Edinburgh today former SSP MSP and party national spokesman Colin Fox said:

“Professor Allyson Pollock put it best ‘PFI means paying for three hospitals but getting only one.’ And she might have added even then you do not actually own the hospital, school or prison you have paid way over the odds for.

The liquidation of Carillion has again put into sharp relief the billions of pound of public money wasted in these discredited Private Finance Initiatives. PFIs or Public Private Partnerships were designed by the Tories to privatise our public utilities.

Labour took up the schemes with gusto and committed tens of billions of pounds of public money to them. And the SNP, not to be outdone, also employed them via their equally odious Scottish Futures Trusts.

PFI represents extremely poor value for money as well as privatisation of essential public services. The public will have no confidence in any of these parties cleaning up the mess they have made of public procurement programmes.

The Scottish Socialist Party by contrast has fought PFI/PPP programmes for 20 years.

“I remember back in 2001 lobbying Edinburgh Central MP Alastair Darling at his surgery in Buccleugh Street over Labour’s plan to privatise the city’s new Royal Infirmary out at Little France.

Darling told me and my colleagues Kirsten Hay and Tam Waterston from Unison that he did not care who owned the new hospital as long as it treated patients. Nor did he care who employed the staff as long as the doctors and nurses remained NHS employees.

It was with such a cavalier and reckless disregard for public service principles and efficiency Lord Darling signed away £1.5billion of taxpayers money to Consort Healthcare [owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland] for a £300million hospital.

The Carillion collapse again shows why all PFI schemes should be scrapped. I would call in the contracts and renegotiate each one on the grounds they represent extremely bad value for taxpayers.

Such proceedings are a daily occurrence in the business world. The Government should tell the present owners of our hospitals, schools and prisons that intend to stop sending patients and students to their facilities unless they agree to far more favourable terms for the rest of the contracts.

If they object the contracts should be rescinded and taken in house immediately. There is no doubt in my mind the public would rally behind such an approach overwhelmingly in the current climate.

The public purse is being ripped off. Tens of billions of pounds of much needed taxpayers money is being wasted annually and it must come to a stop immediately.”

Media Contact: Ken Ferguson – 07925 6131

Main Photo: Lisa Jarvis – (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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The Lessons Rosa Taught Me

by Sandra Webster

When you look back on old pictures – even family ones – you catch a glimpse of the past. It is how we live on – an instant of time and the circumstances captured briefly. A perception of the observer of who we are. I feel this about Rosa Luxemburg. Her piercing intelligence and lack of compromise which marked her political activity shine out brightly. Today, we remember her murder by members of the Freikorp, but her legacy lives on.

I was a young lefty Dundonian when I first learned about Rosa, a friend took me to see the movie about her life. I was fascinated a young talented woman with a disability. I had heard of Marx and Lenin but why not Rosa? I read all her books and pamphlets and I can say she changed my view of politics and why we do what we do. This still holds true today.


Why should the SSP remember her today? As one of our forebearers who agreed with our anti-war stance. As a member of the Spartacus League, she was critical of other parties who supported a war. This led to her death. She was political, truthful and used her intellectual arguments to be critical of war. She was also an Internationalist she wanted to create a mass movement and wake people up about their situation.

Those who do not move, do not notice their chains” she said. She recognised the need for a mass movement before people can arise they have to recognise their condition and see their chains as being real. That is what we do in the Scottish Socialist Party and is part of our political education.

The name The Spartacus League which in Rosa’s time was about the impending war was adopted by people with disabilities to show what was happening with the entitlement cuts. Rosa had a life long condition as a result of polio as a child but I believe she would be out talking to people letting them know what is happening. This is so crucial to rattle the chains of oppression. Another quote which is important to me and sums her outlook out is.

“The most revolutionary thing one can do is proclaim loudly what is happening”.

No compromise

I am proud to be a member of the SSP and writer for the Scottish Socialist Voice where we have been uncompromising about informing people what is happening. So in the face of propaganda we tell people what is happening be it on a street stall or in a meeting. I think Rosa would be proud of our position. We should always proclaim loudly about what is happening to individuals. In our communities and in our class.

I think too Rosa today would be working in our communities. She was critical of centralism and wanted to build a mass movement. She saw the political education of people as crucial to the revolution she wanted to wake people up which is surely the first step in revolutionary thinking. We proudly carry that legacy on today.

We remember her murder today at the hands of the Freikorp. Her body thrown into a canal. She came from an economically privileged background though seen oppression because of her Jewish background. Her family wealth could have made life easier some may say but she chose the path of speaking her mind. Spent much of her life in prison and was murdered. How many of us would do that for our beliefs? Some political parties use the word “Trot” as an insult well I’m a Luxemburgite and an Internationalist. The phrase is on many of our flags.

On the anniversary of her death look at the images of Rosa and think of why we are members of the SSP. She had a huge influence on me – there are few women remembered, especially women with a health condition. Rosa would want us to get into our communities and show them their chains. She would want us to speak out that affect ordinary people. Now we need her spirit more than ever. Look at the pictures of her smiling with friends her warmth and comradeship shines out. She awakened my political education and for that I will always be grateful and humble. Let’s remember her and the activists who speak the truth.

Always missed and an inspiration Rosa.

Rosa Luxemburg: 05/03/1871 – 15/01/1919

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Has Labour changed its spots?

by Colin Fox

As 2018 dawns, those who believe Labour has buried its Blairite past argue the role New Labour played was a temporary aberration.

From sending in Sheriff Officers to humiliate working people during the anti-Poll Tax struggle, initiating the war in Iraq, occupying Afghanistan, privatising our NHS and schools using discredited PFI schemes, attacking the benefits of single parents, withdrawing the rights of migrant workers and standing shoulder to shoulder with the Tories during the independence referendum, it was all a temporary straying from the socialist path.

But the party’s 2017 Manifesto ‘For the Many, Not the Few’, described as ‘radical’, casts doubt on their change theory because like a ginger bottle, all the fizz escapes when you open it.

Labour’s civil war

“Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent” it reminds us.

Labour promises to maintain Britain’s huge military expenditure… “The UK defence industry is world-leading, and Labour will continue to support development and innovation in this sector.”

It will maintain NHS prescription charges in England [now abolished in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland]. It refuses to support ‘no cuts budgets’ in local government. It suggests increasing Corporation Tax to 26p from 19p (under Thatcher it was 52p) meaning it would still be the lowest in the industrialised world.

One of Corbyn’s economic advisors Ann Pettifor cheers the manifesto for its ‘pragmatism’ pointing out, “You only have to look at past Labour governments. The party is quite prepared to work with business and the City of London.”

And these are by no means the only ominous warnings that change will not happen. Labour are all over the place on Brexit, on public ownership, on the abolition of The House of Lords and the monarchy, on Syria.

The picture painted is of a party conflicted and irresolute.

One should not underestimate the deep divisions within ‘the people’s party’. I was a Labour Party member in my youth long enough to realise it is ultimately an electoral machine.

The Left and Right tolerate each other in order to share the spoils yet they conceal at least two different parties within. The Left wishes to challenge the British establishment, the Right wishes to join it.

My Labour MP Ian Murray hates Corbyn with a vengeance not demonstrated towards the Tories. No, he is rather fond of the Tories. Without their votes in Edinburgh South he would never have kept the Nationalists out.

And as the BBC documentary ‘The Summer that Changed Everything’ revealed, there is no sign of peace breaking out in Labour’s incipient civil war anytime soon.

The right wing are biding their time and regrouping. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is seen as the next challenger for Corbyn’s crown. It is not a matter of if but when they again try to oust him.

The Scottish leadership contest was also described by Richard Leonard’s campaign as ‘a bitter, uncomradely contest which exposed deep divisions in the party. Divisions that will not be resolved by mere calls for unity’. Labour then is a party confused and divided.

More important than Labour’s infighting is the economic and political crisis facing working people. 475,000 workers in Scotland (5.5 million across the UK) are trying to get by on poverty wages.

Another 177,000 families are waiting for a home. And 1 in 3 children endure chronic, serious disadvantage. Working class people are suffering the longest fall in their standard of living since records began.

And what remedy has ‘JC’ to offer? Corbyn tells them, as all previous leaders have done, to ‘wait for the next Labour government.’

All experience shows that is the last thing they should do. The Birmingham bin men did not wait. They went on strike against cuts proposed by the city’s Labour authority.

Nor did the ‘BiFab’ construction workers wait. Nor ‘Scrap the Cap’ campaigners in the public sector repeatedly denied a pay rise.


The ‘Corbynmania’ epitomised by Momentum and singing ‘Oh Jere-my Cor-byn’ at this year’s TUC Conference recalls warnings Antonio Gramsci offered the workers movement about ‘the cult of the personality’.

This ‘leave it to the celebrity leader’ attitude didn’t work with Bernie Sanders, Nicola Sturgeon, George Galloway or Tommy Sheridan. And it won’t work with Corbyn either.

This approach masks the lack of a serious programme or strategy to defeat the embedded ruling classes. It is a fad that passes and leaves nothing behind.

Where is Corbyn’s mobilisation of the anger against the Tory government? Labour remains a party devoid of ‘extra-parliamentary’ action.

Building a socialist future must be based on firmer foundations. Political education and ideological grounding are key. ‘Battle hardened troops’ are essential. As the SNP enter their own doldrums—having kicked independence into the long grass – Labour is a party grappling with its own existential crisis.

In these conditions the Scottish Socialist Party can build support by taking up the issues working class people care about most and ensuring progress is made through mass action.

This article was previously published in issue 502 of the Scottish Socialist Voice.

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