Open Letter to Labour’s new Scottish leader Richard Leonard MSP

Dear Richard,

Congratulations on your election as Scottish Labour leader. We hope your victory heralds a new age in Scottish politics. Whilst we disagree with Labour on many things – Independence, failure to repeal anti union laws , sending in Sheriff officers to humiliate working people during the poll tax struggle, the war in Iraq, the use of PFI contracts in privatising our NHS and education services, attacking the benefits of single parents – in recognition of the fact that your election represents a break with past policies we would like to suggest we work together to tackle the poverty pay, insecure work, soaring housing costs and falling living standards working class people suffer every day.

We look forward to working together to fight the Tories and press the SNP to back a ten point programme which we believe could transform the lives of working class people and include:

  • A £10/hour living wage
  • Replacing the Council tax with an income based alternative shifting the burden onto the shoulders of those most able to pay
  • Supporting ‘no cuts budgets’ at national and local government level
  • Introducing free public transport to combat climate change and give people a more attractive alternative to their cars
  • Returning our railways and our energy industries to public hands
  • Provide free access to the internet for under 25’s
  • Provide free residential elderly care to add to Scotland’s free personal care
  • Implement a massive programme of council house building
  • Build Scotland’s trade union membership up to one million
  • Campaign for a modern, democratic republic with an elected head of state.

Such a programme could transform the lives of working class people in keeping with their expectations of the Scottish Parliament’s ‘brave new dawn’ promised them in 1999.

We look forward to your reply.

Comradely regards,

Colin Fox and Natalie Reid

National spokespeople, Scottish Socialist Party

Main Photo: Craig Maclean

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Clarity Needed to Reverse Indy Retreat

by Hugh Cullen

Opinion polls taken since the 2014 Referendum paint a picture of support for a second referendum on independence slowly trickling away. Polls don’t tell the whole story but they correlate with what we are seeing on the ground; formerly active and vibrant Yes groups have either folded, become social gatherings or are dominated by nationalism detached from reality.

Comparing the SNP of late 2014/15, buoyed by 100,000 new members and electoral domination, to today seems like day and night. The Nationalists have paid a huge price for not making the case for Independence at any election since the referendum – and allowing themselves to be chased away from the issue by the Unionists.

The 2014 Yes campaign found strength in its diversity. A majority of Yes supporters weren’t SNP and the non-tribal Yes coalition helped reach a diverse audience.

Today, the movement is closely tied to the SNP’s electoral fortunes – failure there is seen to represent a setback for independence. In reality, there are many independence supporters who find it difficult to vote for the SNP when they duck independence and there are more left-wing manifestos on offer. It took the 2017 General Election, where the SNP barely held on to a majority in Scotland, to sound alarm bells. I was an independence activist before I joined the SSP and I’m infuriated to see the movement that we built from 2012 so dominated by a single party. It makes us weaker.

Nicola Sturgeon’s public profile has been usurped by Jeremy Corbyn. He’s in all the selfies now. He appears to many to offer a different route to similar social democratic goals that independence offered in 2014. His popularity in some quarters is based on backing Keynesian policies that may make working people’s lives better. That’s a natural attraction to people on poverty wages, waiting for a house or living at the sharp end of austerity. His personal honesty and integrity has cut through the spin of modern politics and inspired many to imagine an alternative to cut-throat capitalism.

But he can’t achieve much within a party wedded to the British establishment. This is still the same Labour party of privatisation and the Iraq War. Corbyn struggles to put together a shadow cabinet because the majority of MPs fundamentally disagree with his politics and a significant number are organising to remove him. The Parliamentary Labour Party is a revolving door to the lobby of big business. Never mind Scotland, the only country of the UK where Corbyn lost to leadership challenger Owen Smith. The Scotland where Labour built 6 council houses in 8 years of Government and privatised hospitals and schools aplenty through PFI.

The Labour Party is an obstacle, not a vehicle, for the socialist change that Corbyn and the SSP want.

In 2017, Corbyn outflanked a fiscally conservative SNP, who, acting as the independence standard-bearers have defended much of the status quo. They have latched onto the idea the EU is a progressive organisation to be supported at all costs. We know that the EU is not, because we live in it already! It’s an anti-democratic bosses club that works to preserve the dominance of corporate power and unfettered capitalism. Explicitly linking EU membership and the independence struggle, raises barriers to us making independence about transformative change – a necessary step to build a majority.

By seeking clarity on key social and economic issues and setting ambitions high, we can align independence with the everyday struggles of working people. There are hundreds of thousands of workers in Scotland – in hospitality, retail and the public sector – who currently only dream of a £10 an hour Living Wage and secure employment through guaranteed hours. People forced to pay rip off transport fares and energy bills would support these services being taken into democratic public ownership. People who are getting mugged off by a landlord’s rip off rents would support a sharply progressive full tax and spend programme to build council houses. These people, in our communities, can be persuaded that the best way to achieve these demands is through independence. But we have to agree that’s what independence is for.

An independence that transforms little is uninspiring, and only nationalists will vote for it. An independence which puts working class people at the driving seat of their own destiny will lift the millions we need for victory.

We can thank Corbyn for popularising ideas that we agree on then disagree on his vision of a British route to socialism and his misplaced faith in the Labour Party. But to succeed we must above all make a coherent and persuasive case. We must answer, ‘what do we want Independence for?’ and ‘what has gone wrong since 2014?’.  Only then can we work out how we are going to get there.

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Social care must be a right for all

by Natalie Reid

It’s no secret that social care funding is in crisis, in Scotland and across the UK as a whole.

Inevitably, this has led to inequality in social care provision, meaning only those who can afford it can be guaranteed the high standards of care we all deserve; whether it’s later in life or throughout our lifetime.

And this gaping inequality is only going to get worse.

According to Professor June Andrews, former director of the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University, unless the current system of funding changes we will see “fabulous care for the rich, decent care that strips your family wealth for the affluent middle, and something unpleasant for those at the mercy of the future state”.

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Standing for top-quality housing

by Bill Bonnar

The Scottish Socialist Party believes that the only way to tackle Scotland’s housing crisis and to meet the long term housing needs of the people of Scotland is through a massive expansion of social housing.

Decades of government cuts in housing support to local authorities, combined with the fiscally ruinous right-to-buy policy, and a host of other capitalist measures have driven people into mortgage-based home ownership and the private rented sector. This has condemned hundreds of thousands of families to life sentences served out in dilapidated housing schemes.

Only by reversing these trends can we resolve the problems. The private sector has never been a solution; it is a large part of the problem. If we were to sum up the SSP’s approach to housing policy, it would be:

Housing is a social need and should not be a source of profit.

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A functioning democracy needs a Real Free Press

by Ken Ferguson

The media is in crisis, both globally and locally.

Around the world we have seen the collapse of numbers working as professional journalists. Politics, business and institutions are as a result at historically low levels of public oversight; corruption and plutocracy go unreported.

In Scotland, this is compounded by a clear disconnect between positions taken by media organisations and the views of a substantial portion of the population who feel that they are not represented, and that information the public is given is systematically biased on key issues in Scottish politics.

The roots of the worldwide crisis in journalism lie in two factors.

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Advancing Social Security Workshop

Last Saturday, Dundee SSP held a day school workshop – with Colin Turbett, an SSP social security expert with decades of experience in social work.

colin_turbett_augustineOn welcome to the branch, Mr Turbett said: “The limitations of the Scottish Government’s devolved social security reforms were shown earlier this month when the Tories benefit cap came into operation. This discriminates against large families claiming benefit by limiting the total they can claim (including housing benefit for rent) to £20,000 per year.

“In my own area, North Ayrshire, which has the second highest levels of child poverty in Scotland, this will hit 200 families and make life even harder for all the children involved. Consultation submissions on the devolved budgets and how they might be used, are currently being considered by the Scottish Government before firm proposals are drawn up; these however will only affect 15% of benefits spending (out of work benefits, tax credits and pensions remain with Westminster) and all these children in poverty will not be touched because they are not included.

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Close The Obscene Gap: for a £10 minimum and a maximum wage

richieby Richie Venton, SSP national trade union organizer

The gaping chasm between the incomes of millions of workers and handfuls of millionaire company chief executives is opening up ever wider, like the blades of a giant pair of scissors.

The case I expounded in my book, Break the Chains, for an immediate national minimum wage of £10-an-hour for all workers – regardless of age – and a maximum wage initially based on an overly generous 10:1 differential with the minimum (i.e. £100-an-hour maximum) screams out from every page of every recent report on workers’ wages and bosses’ incomes.

The top dogs of the FTSE 100 biggest companies have just had yet another 10% pay rise – and that’s before they rake in untold bonuses, shares portfolios, and bottomless pension pots. Since the 2010 recession, these capitalist overlords have had their salaries increase by a third! They now wallow like pigs in the proverbial, on average incomes of £5.5million!

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The case for free public transport

The Scottish Socialist Party is a proud advocate of a world-class, fare-free public transport system for Scotland.

Transport has undergone enormous changes in recent decades, both in Scotland and across the world. Some have been cyclical: in Scotland’s capital, trams were built, dismantled, and then reintroduced. In other areas, we have seen consistent trends like the steady deregulation and privatisation of services, which has left Edinburgh as the sole city in Scotland with a municipal bus operator.

Rail fares across the UK have soared in comparison to those of our European neighbours, and Scottish transport contracts go out to tender in a farcical franchise system whereby public sector companies in other countries can bid for control while those in Scotland are effectively barred.

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