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I am the Scottish Socialist Party spokesperson, former MSP for the Lothians. A founder member of the SSP I have been a political activist for 30 years.

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

STANDING SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH WORKING PEOPLE

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.