Friday, 5 October 2007

Trevor Griffiths at the Edinburgh Peoples Festival



The other parts of the evening can be seen on the Edinburgh People's Festival website:
http://www.edinburghpeoplesfestival.org.uk/

Monday, 16 April 2007

Manifesto Launch

Last Tuesday was an especially hectic, and productive, day for the Scottish Socialist Party. I started the day at 7.30am by appearing on Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland. I then travelled through to Hampden stadium for the launch of our manifesto. We highlighted our flagship policy of Free public Transport as well as unveiling over 400 policies covering all aspects of life here in Scotland. We also launched a special manifesto/elections website - http://www.ssp-election-2007.org.uk/
Later on that evening our first election broadcast was aired and was described by Proclaimer Charlie Reid as a "Brilliant broadcast, modern day Marxism meets Trumpton", the first of two Scottish Socialist Party election broadcasts for the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections 2007. This one is on the SSP's free public transport policy

SSP stand in 31 council seats

Predictions of the demise of the SSP have once again been proven to be the wishful thinking of those who would like to see the end of Scotland's biggest and best socialist party.
As well as standing on the regional list, the SSP is standing candidates in 31 of the 32 council seats across the Lothians (17 in Edinburgh, 6 in Midlothian and 8 of 9 in West Lothian).
In West Lothian we've decided to stand aside in the Broxburn, Uphall & Winchburgh ward in favour of, former nurse, Ellen Glass of the "stop the downgrade of St John's campaign".

I've also pasted below an article I wrote for the South Edinburgh Echo.

Local Council Elections –SSP [100 words]
The Scottish Socialist Party will be standing candidates in every Council seat in Edinburgh. Our candidates are all local activists.
In Liberton / Gilmerton our candidate will be none other than our sitting MSP and party national convenor Colin Fox. Colin lives in the Inch and has two children at the local primary school. His partner Zillah is a midwife at the new Royal Infirmary. His candidacy shows our commitment to South Edinburgh one area which Colin has served these past four years at Holyrood.
The SSP candidate in Southside /Newington is Scott Simpson who works as a community worker in Craigmillar.
And in Meadows /Morningside we present Helga Janzen a payroll manager from Marchmont involved in a variety of local issues including campaigns for better public transport and protecting local shops.

Scottish Parliament Elections
Colin Fox MSP will once again head the Scottish Socialist Party challenge in the Lothians.
Colin is seeking re-election to Holyrood and is proud to put his record in fighting for the interests of working families this past four years in front of the electorate.
He will be joined by a list of candidates, men and women from across the Lothians bringing a wide variety of skills and experiences together.
The most important issues for the SSP are
;the abolition of the hated Council tax – to be replaced by a local tax based on income/ability to pay
;building 20,000 new council houses across the Lothians to address the appalling difficulties people now have in getting a decent home to live in
;the introduction of free school meals for all pupils to help address the scandalous child poverty which continues to shame Scotland
;free public transport for everyone which we believe is the most innovative and radical measure thus far presented to tackle the issue of climate change,pollution and congestion- offer people a better alternative to the car and they will take it
;and of course our defining policy is our support for an independent socialist Scotland.

The Scottish Socialist Party rewrote the history books when they got 6 MSP’s elected in 2003. We believe we can again do so again.
Over the past 4 years no one has worked harder for working people and the things they value the most than the SSP. We have opposed the hideous and barbarous war in Iraq, we have argued for public ownership and public services against the incessant drive towards privatization of this executive.
We have opposed the package of cuts in services at Scottish Parliament and Council level. Colin was for example at the forefront of the successful campaign to keep local schools in Edinburgh open and to keep a full array of health service in place across the region.
The SSP MSP’s have been the socialist conscience of the Parliament. In championing the rights of the most vulnerable and needy in our society Colin was elected as ‘a workers representative living on a workers wage’. He donates half his £55,000 salary to campaigns committed to improving the lives of ordinary people. He follows the wise advice of those founders of the socialist movement who advised those seeking to represent working people - ‘rise with your class not out of it’.

The Scottish Socialist party list for Holyrood includes people from all over the region each with a wealth of experience and commitment to making the region much more equal and just and fair for ordinary people. Edinburgh is a very rich city and we want to see much more of the great wealth accumulated here going to those who need it the most; to children living below the poverty line, to pensioners struggling to get by on a daily basis on a meager pension, to the needy in a rich city. Yes we want to redistribute the wealth of the city from the rich to the poor.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Scots 'Economically, socially, culturally and politically better off Independent

Scottish Socialist Party leader Colin Fox will tell a public meeting in Edinburgh tomorrow night that Scots would be ‘economically, socially, culturally and politically better off’ under Independence.
Responding to polls which suggest a majority of voters want more powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament rather than outright independence, Mr Fox told us.
‘Ironically it is the powers that devolution denies people that they want the most.
-the power to raise all our own revenues, including oil revenues and Corporation Tax,
-the power to keep Scottish soldiers from being sent to fight in a illegal war in Iraq,
-the power to get rid of Trident nuclear weapons based on the Clyde
-the power to reverse the privatisation of our public services.
-the power to lift the low paid out of poverty and raise the minimum wage to £8/ hour,
-the power to pay seniors a decent pension not the pittance they currently receive,
-the power to redistribute the huge wealth of Scotland from the rich to the poor.
These are the powers voters want but we of course we will simply not get them unless we are independent, that’s the rub!
‘I have no doubt that working people would be economically, socially, culturally and politically better off under Independence.
‘There can also be no doubt nowadays that the political centre of gravity of most Scots is to the left of New Labour – and the New SNP for that matter! I therefore urge voters to ensure there is a full socialist presence at Holyrood after May 3rd to insist on the changes they want most.’

Public meeting details ;
THE CASE FOR AN INDEPENDENT SOCIALIST SCOTLAND
Speakers Colin Fox MSP and Lloyd Quinan [Former SNP MSP]
Thursday 5th April 7.30pm
St Augustines Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh

Sunday, 1 April 2007

SNP No More

Today's Sunday Mail

EXCLUSIVE Proclaimer dumps Alex over business cash
By Brian Lironi, Political Editor
PROCLAIMERS star Charlie Reid has dumped the SNP in protest at their links to big business.
Charlie and twin Craig - at No 1 with Comic Relief single I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - were Alex Salmond's biggest celebrity backers after Sir Sean Connery.
The defection to the SSP is a crushing blow for the Nats just a month before the Holyrood election on May 3.
It will stun supporters and spark a new debate about the SNP's controversial funding from anti-gay campaigner and Stagecoach founder Brian Souter.
Charlie, 45, said he had already given the SSP a donation but brother Craig will continue to support Alex Salmond's party.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mail, Charlie, who first shot to fame with Letter From America, said: "I'm changing my allegiance from the SNP to the SSP.
"I still have a lot of respect for people like Alex Salmond, Kenny McAskill and Nicola Sturgeon and I think they will form the government after the election.
"But I think they are placing too much emphasis on courting big business.
"For that reason, I'll be voting for the SSP at the election.
"I think it's important to have a party in the parliament with left wing principles prepared to stand up to big business."
Charlie has already met SSP leader Colin Fox and sent a cheque to boost party coffers. The pair first met in February at a demo to campaign for better sports facilities for kids.
Charlie and Craig are hugely popular figures in SNP circles but Salmond has spent a lot of time and effort wooing big business.
He has received the backing of influential figures including former Royal Bank of Scotland chief Sir George Mathewson - and donations of £100,000 from Sir Tom Farmer and £500,000 from tycoon Souter.
But he has been criticized for taking the money from from Souter, who led the campaign against the repeal of anti-gay law Clause 28.
SSP leader Fox said: "I'm delighted Charlie has now chosen to give his public backing to us."
An SNP spokesman pointed out that they had just enlisted the support of singer Sandi Thom.
He added: "The SNP have growing support among Scotland's arts community, as we do across Scottish society."

http://www.sundaymail.co.uk/news/tm_headline=snp-no-more%26method=full%26objectid=18840090%26siteid=64736-name_page.html

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Campaigning in Midlothian

On Saturday morning I met our council candidates for Midlothian at Newtongrange Mining Museum for a photo then we were off to Penicuik to campaign against Trident.
The candidates in the photo above are (l-r): Neil Bennet (Bonnyrigg), Lynn Leitch (Midlothian West), Norman Gilfillan (Penicuik), John Carroll (Midlothian South).
Our other candidates are Murray Court (Midlothian East) & Bob Goupillot (Dalkeith)

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Save Meadowbank

I was invited to Meadowbank stadium last Saturday to address a public meeting organised by campaigners opposed to Council plans to demolish the stadium and build private housing on the site.

Can I first of all say that I have my own very special reasons for keeping this place open.
This is the place where I made my hurdling debut in May 2003 on the night I was elected as an MSP for the Lothians for the SSP.
It was a night /morning I will never forget and this stadium will always have a warm place in my heart. And you know I suspect it has a warm place in all 600 of you too and that’s why you are here and feel so passionate about this issue.

But you know I am no dinosaur, I don’t want to see this place stay as it is, I want to see it improved, I want to see investment in this and indeed all this cities sports and leisure facilities.

I notice that ‘Save Meadowbank Campaign’ has put a leaflet on your seat asking you to get politicians to answer three specific questions. Well let me answer these three questions here and now.
No, I don’t support the demolition of Meadowbank and it used for private housing development.
Yes I do want to see the facilities here refurbished
Yes I do support the widest possible public consultation on the Councils proposals.
And let me go further. I am sick to the back teeth of Councils, Health Boards and others engaging in apparent ‘public consultations’ only to watch them disregard our views completely and do at the end exactly what they intended to do at the beginning. That is a sham, that is not genuine democracy.

The Council, and leader Donald Anderson [who had spoken earlier in the meeting and said that ‘The money just does not exist to refurbish Meadowbank] is forever putting out glossy brochures telling us how successful this city is and how rich it is. But he cannot have it both ways, now telling us today that the money is not there. This is a rich city. Some are having boom times with record profits, labour shortages and soaring house prices. As a socialist I want to see that wealth shared out more evenly, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. And you do not achieve that by closing vital public facilities like this one and building luxury private properties for the few.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the first Council house in Scotland for 30 years out at Woodburn in Dalkeith. I grew up in a Council house in Motherwell. Council houses are a great idea, but you would have to be over 30 to remember what they were.

It would be one thing if the Council were coming along here today saying they intended to redevelop Meadowbank and provide 21st century facilities on one part of the site and new Council properties for the people of East Edinburgh on the rest but they are not. Their plan means the loss of precious open space in the East of the city and 90% loss of leisure facilities.
I will not support that and you will not support that.

I understand that the Council has extended the deadline for consultations on their plan until 31st March and that no decision will now be taken before the election. I hope everyone here realizes that this represents a climbdown from their original timetable and that must be see as a victory for your campaigning.
This makes this a huge election issue in the elections and you must decide who you trust to protect this centre when they are on the Council.

I want to see money being spent here on this vital local facility. I want Meadowbank stadium to stay open and I want the new facility at Sighthill too.

But let me just finish by saying this, last week the Westminster Parliament debated whether or not to spend £100billion on Trident nuclear weapons. So let’s not insult each others intelligence by claiming
‘There is no money available for improving Meadowbank!’
I simply will not accept that. There is money for Meadowbank, there is money for Council housing, there is money for free school meals and free public transport, for our pensioners, for our youngsters……there is £100billion pounds available by not building more nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
I support the refurbishment of Meadowbank stadium 100% - Thank You

Save Meadowbank

I was invited to Meadowbank stadium last Saturday to address a public meeting organised by campaigners opposed to Council plans to demolish the stadium and build private housing on the site.

Can I first of all say that I have my own very special reasons for keeping this place open.
This is the place where I made my hurdling debut in May 2003 on the night I was elected as an MSP for the Lothians for the SSP.
It was a night /morning I will never forget and this stadium will always have a warm place in my heart. And you know I suspect it has a warm place in all 600 of you too and that’s why you are here and feel so passionate about this issue.

But you know I am no dinosaur, I don’t want to see this place stay as it is, I want to see it improved, I want to see investment in this and indeed all this cities sports and leisure facilities.

I notice that ‘Save Meadowbank Campaign’ has put a leaflet on your seat asking you to get politicians to answer three specific questions. Well let me answer these three questions here and now.
No, I don’t support the demolition of Meadowbank and it used for private housing development.
Yes I do want to see the facilities here refurbished
Yes I do support the widest possible public consultation on the Councils proposals.
And let me go further. I am sick to the back teeth of Councils, Health Boards and others engaging in apparent ‘public consultations’ only to watch them disregard our views completely and do at the end exactly what they intended to do at the beginning. That is a sham, that is not genuine democracy.

The Council, and leader Donald Anderson [who had spoken earlier in the meeting and said that ‘The money just does not exist to refurbish Meadowbank] is forever putting out glossy brochures telling us how successful this city is and how rich it is. But he cannot have it both ways, now telling us today that the money is not there. This is a rich city. Some are having boom times with record profits, labour shortages and soaring house prices. As a socialist I want to see that wealth shared out more evenly, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. And you do not achieve that by closing vital public facilities like this one and building luxury private properties for the few.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the first Council house in Scotland for 30 years out at Woodburn in Dalkeith. I grew up in a Council house in Motherwell. Council houses are a great idea, but you would have to be over 30 to remember what they were.

It would be one thing if the Council were coming along here today saying they intended to redevelop Meadowbank and provide 21st century facilities on one part of the site and new Council properties for the people of East Edinburgh on the rest but they are not. Their plan means the loss of precious open space in the East of the city and 90% loss of leisure facilities.
I will not support that and you will not support that.

I understand that the Council has extended the deadline for consultations on their plan until 31st March and that no decision will now be taken before the election. I hope everyone here realizes that this represents a climbdown from their original timetable and that must be see as a victory for your campaigning.
This makes this a huge election issue in the elections and you must decide who you trust to protect this centre when they are on the Council.

I want to see money being spent here on this vital local facility. I want Meadowbank stadium to stay open and I want the new facility at Sighthill too.

But let me just finish by saying this, last week the Westminster Parliament debated whether or not to spend £100billion on Trident nuclear weapons. So let’s not insult each others intelligence by claiming
‘There is no money available for improving Meadowbank!’
I simply will not accept that. There is money for Meadowbank, there is money for Council housing, there is money for free school meals and free public transport, for our pensioners, for our youngsters……there is £100billion pounds available by not building more nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
I support the refurbishment of Meadowbank stadium 100% - Thank You

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Monday, 12 March 2007

1st Council house in quarter of century

I'm pictured here with Midlothian Councillor Derek Milligan the Housing Convenor, outside the first Council house built in Scotland in 25 years at 1 Bill Russell Grove, Woodburn, Dalkeith today. The house is the first of 1,000 new Council houses to built in Midlothian. This terrific initiative is one which I have welcomed from the start and the Council were grateful to acknowledge my support. I was taken round the house by the new tenants and it is a lovely big four bedrooms property which the council built at a cost of £80,000 but which local estate agents have said would sell at £180,000. I have warmly welcomed Midlothian Councils £105m investment. I don’t see why Edinburgh City Council for example which is far richer cannot do something similar for tenants in the city.

Independence on the never never?

SCOTTISH SOCIALIST PARTY
Media Release
FOX ACCUSES SALMOND OF FURTHER 'WATERING DOWN' INDEPENDENCE COMMITMENT

SSP National Convenor Colin Fox MSP has written to SNP leader Alex Salmond following comments attributed to SNP financier Sir Tom Farmer, that the nationalists intend to water down their commitment to a referendum on independence in order to placate possible Holyrood coalition partners the Lib Dems.
Colin was responding to Sunday newspapers reports that Salmond intends to put the independence referendum on hold for many years if he becomes First Minister after May's elections. 'If these reports are true and Alex Salmond intends to concede arguments to the Lib Dems and big business then independence supporters across the country will be having a 'Kwik-Fit'! the SNP leadership has postponed again and again its plans for an independence referendum and now it is relegated still further.
'Colin said: "In dancing to the tune of the business community like this, always the most lukewarm supporters of independence - just as they were with devolution - Alex Salmond risks losing the support of the most passionate advocates of self determination."
"The SSP are clear that an independence referendum is an early priority after May and our MSP s will introduce just such a Bill to bring it about."
"Whilst the SNP are wavering, looking for coalition partners and relegating independence to the third division, voters will certainly recognise that it is the Scottish Socialist Party who are this country's firmest supporters of independence and I urge them to use their list votes accordingly."
"A strong group of SSP members in the next parliament can play a critical role in making sure that independence isn't kicked into the long grass."

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Edinburgh Nursery Scandal

Moves are afoot inside Edinburgh city Council to axe 200 full time nursery places across the city.

Last Thursday I asked, current Council leader, Ewan Aitken – who was previously the Education convenor and head of the Children & Families department – to assure me he has no plans to cut these essential services. He responded 2 days ago by saying he would reply with urgency!

The council, in the January ‘07 edition of Working Capital, highlight a recent study by Women onto Work which shows that 65% of women in Edinburgh see childcare as the number one barrier to getting into work. Losing 200 nursery places will have a devastating effect on women and their families in the city.

Nursery nurses in Edinburgh fought a long, hard strike a few years back for decent pay and conditions, and this is how they are repaid, by making their jobs redundant, moving them on to posts they don’t want and losing their skills in the process.

I've recently lodged the following questions in the Scottish Parliament

S2W-32239 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 6 March 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether there are any plans to reduce the number of full-time nursery places available for three and four-year-olds in south and south-east Edinburgh.

Due for Answer 20 March 2007

S2W-32238 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 6 March 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive what the public sector provision is of full-time and part-time nursery places for three and four-year-olds in south Edinburgh.

Due for Answer 20 March 2007

Edinburgh nursery scandal

Moves are afoot inside Edinburgh city Council to axe 200 full time nursery places across the city.

Last Thursday I asked, current Council leader, Ewan Aitken – who was previously the Education convenor and head of the Children & Families department – to assure me he has no plans to cut these essential services. He responded 2 days ago by saying he would reply with urgency!

The council, in the January ‘07 edition of Working Capital, highlight a recent study by Women onto Work which shows that 65% of women in Edinburgh see childcare as the number one barrier to getting into work. Losing 200 nursery places will have a devastating effect on women and their families in the city.

Nursery nurses in Edinburgh fought a long, hard strike a few years back for decent pay and conditions, and this is how they are repaid, by making their jobs redundant, moving them on to posts they don’t want and losing their skills in the process.

I've recently lodged the following questions in the Scottish Parliament

S2W-32239 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 6 March 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether there are any plans to reduce the number of full-time nursery places available for three and four-year-olds in south and south-east Edinburgh.

Due for Answer 20 March 2007

S2W-32238 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 6 March 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive what the public sector provision is of full-time and part-time nursery places for three and four-year-olds in south Edinburgh.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Paul Laverty conference greetings

There is something half tragic half comic about celebrities, either the fat fish or "mini me" half knowns with delusions of grandeur, being asked to support one party or another as if their opinion was any more important thanany other citizen. But since daily life is full of nonsense and contradictions here goes why I hope with all my heart New Labour gets stuffed, and the SSP, (despite infuriating breach on the left once again) gets healthy support in the forthcoming elections. Just two short reasons amongst hundreds; 1) a little girl in a lilac dress. She was pulled from the rubble by her Grandfather on one of the first days of coalition bombing of Baghdad. Her left leg dangled by a single sinew, one of the hundreds of thousands victims without a name. Not one apology; more lies upon lies, and now this morally bankrupt labour party can only muster 12 members who were prepared to support an open debate in Parliament on how this tragedy unfolded. Shame on them. Reason 2. At same time as UNICEF report our children have worst quality of life in western world, new labour now plan to spend billions on new range of nuclear weapons. Both of the above are symptomatic of a political culture where ordinary people are expendable. Frederick Douglass, one time black slave who escaped to found a campaigning newspaper the Northern Star wrote "Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will." More than ever we still need a strong party on the left prepared to challenge the political elite who try to spin tragedy into success. Good luck to the SSP and keep plugging away like Frederick Douglass. Amen.
Paul Laverty.

Ken Loach conference greetings

After recent troubles it is good to see that the Scottish Socialist Party is back and in good heart."The need for a party of the left is as great now as when the SSP was formed."The demands of big business and the giant corporations dominate our politics; whether it is the war for oil and economic and political control, or the remorseless privatising of our public services."As I write it is the probation service which is being opened to the private profiteers."Good luck to the conference. I am sure it will value thoughtful analysis and comradely discussion above windy rhetoric!"And I’m sure it will provide the leadership that the left so desperately needs.”
Yours in solidarity,
Ken Loach

SSP Conference

Our Conference on Saturday was great, here's my speech and some pictures of me with SSP List and Council candidates. SSP Conference Speech – Feb 2007 Introduction

Thank you. I’m Colin Fox, the national convenor of the SSP. I thought I’d better introduce myself to you, because according to last nights BBC ‘Politics Scotland ‘show nobody knows me. So consider yourself party of an elite club if you do. I don’t know if this is often said about the Langside Halls, but we are in a far better place than we were 6months ago, at last conference. Welcome and thank SSP members across Scotland for continuing support and for responding in the best way possible to the terrible events of last year, by rolling up your sleeves, rebuilding SSP branches and preparing candidates for the forthcoming Holyrood and Council elections. I especially want to welcome the dozens of new SSP members for whom this is their first conference, you are playing a very important part in replenishing this great party of ours. And I want to congratulate you all for delivering 250,000 newspapers door to door around Scotland these past 6 weeks and proving that not only that the is SSP back in business but its in a street near you. 250,000 newspapers [John Knox anecdote.’Colin, got one of your newspapers through door last night, your people -Arapaho’ It was me.!’] On another occasion in Gilmerton a guy comes out just as I’m pulling my hand out of his letterbox. Says I to break the awkwardness realising he recognises me ‘Do you think Tony Blair delivers his own leaflets?’ ‘Listen son if Tony Blair came into this scheme he wouldnae be able to deliver one leaflet – B***#**#!” Proud to be here and to stand alongside each and everyone of you in, still, the biggest and best and most successful socialist party in Scotland.
1 SCOTLAND NEEDS THE SSP Philosophers have remarked - If God didn’t exist then it would be necessary to invent one. So too the SSP. [SSP’s most successful recruitment poster shows ‘Thatcher becoming Blair’. We have ordered one final rerun from the printers before we get it amended to show Gordon Browns ugly mug] Tony Blair hovers over the Holyrood election campaign. Poor Jack McConnell is gutted. He would have given his eye teeth to be fighting this election after Blair had gone. Poor wee Jack. He knows Blair is a liability for Labour and he knows he’s in for ‘a doing’ because of that. Ironic that the man who led Labour to three historic election victories has become such a liability. Mind you in the ‘half finished’ Scottish Parliament Blair dominates the place all the time. He is its sugar daddy - the Daddy Warbucks to wee Jack’s orphan ‘Annie’! He hands out the pocket money. We aren’t allowed to hold all our own money that would be a full Parliament. Blairism pre-dominant these last 4 years. I’ve never been one for name calling in politics. Tony Benn insists politics should be about policies and not personalities. I agree. But you could say Jack McConnell is an ape. I am not saying he has a hairy back you understand!!!!! It’s just that he loyally apes everything Blair does. Blair supports Trident Two, so wee Jack McConnell says ‘I support Trident Too’! Blair supports 20 more nuclear power stations, Jack says ‘I support 20 more nuclear power stations too’. Blair supports the illegal and barbarous war in Iraq, Jack McConnell supports it too. Blair supports rendition flights, so does Jack. Blair supports dawn raids, so does Jack. Blair builds private hospitals, schools, prisons etc, so does Jack Blair says we cannot afford pensions, Jack McConnell says likewise. Blair widens the grotesque inequalities and so does Jack McConnell. If ever you needed reminding just why Scotland needs the SSP today take a look at Tony Blair - the greatest recruiting sergeant the SSP has. Scotland needs the SSP. Look at the stories in this weeks papers. -On Tuesday Halifax Bank of Scotland announced record profits £5.5bn. This is the bank remember who swindled 40,000 Farepak customers out of £40m before Christmas. Who else demands they reimburse the Farepak customers like Suzy Hall? -And on Thursday the Royal Bank of Scotland disclosed record profits of £9.7bn. They declared a 25% dividend to shareholders. And who do you think their shareholders are? The single parents who ran out and bought up the £5shares out of their benefits and who stand to collect a nice wee nest egg? Or the pensioners who used the winter fuel allowance last year instead of keeping warm rushed down to their nearest friendly stockbroker and said ‘buy, buy, buy’. Or maybe the disabled and chronically ill who were sick of living below the poverty line and skipped paying £6.75 for their prescription medicines and walked into the nearest Royal Bank branch and declared ‘gie’s ma share!’ Or perhaps the Scottish children who sit bottom of the 21 countries in the Unicef Report Card 7 ‘Child poverty in perspective’? Or even the 900,000 Scots according to yesterdays Child Poverty Action Group report living below the poverty line – 240,000 of how are children. Will any of these groups of needy people get the RBOS dividends? No, that’s just not going to happen, not one chance in 9.7billion! The dividends go where they always go, to those who already have the money. Our banks are owned by the wealthiest 1% of society. But on the same day the Banks declared record profits ‘the banks’ manager’ Gordon Brown told 1million NHS staff and their families to expect a pay cut next year. Pay rises of 1 or 2% when inflation and the RPI is more than double that - a cut in living standards for workers. And what will the unions do? Surely not just loyally pay millions to Labour in dues as usual? I appeal to trades union members everywhere but particularly in the public sector where the vast majority now are to be found, think seriously here. ‘Why vote Labour when attack your living standards? Why continue to pay the fist that slaps you?’ New Labour does not deserve the support of trade’s unionists. No wonder a growing number of unions are disaffiliating from Labour. If ever the people of Scotland needed reminding of the need to maximise the vote for the SSP on May 7th consider New Labours record and expect more of the same. BLAIRS Legacy –IRAQ. And his parting gift? –TRIDENT He is a warmonger who shows no sign of remorse and spends £100bn on nuclear weapons of mass destruction designed to terrorise the world. TONY BLAIR, THE WORST PRIME MINISTER LABOUR HAS EVER HAD. And whilst we are on Trident please don’t let anyone ever tell me ‘WE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY for free school meals, for free prescriptions, for free public transport, for a decent pension for our senior citizens, for hospitals and schools - Not when there is £100bn available for Trident! New Labour will continue their assault on working people! Hands up who remembers Gordon Brown opposing the strategy of Blair in Iraq, on Trident, on privatisation. Hands up who thinks that our public services are safe in the hands of Gordon Brown or Jack McConnell- built more private hospitals, schools, prisons, than Thatcher.
2 WHAT’s SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE SSP? There is a line in the film ‘The Colour of Money’ I like, where the John Travolta/Bill Clinton character is told ‘any idiot can burn down a barn’. In other words it’s easy to criticise New Labours record as they defend the class interests of the rich and powerful. What has the SSP to offer? First of all we fill the huge vacuum on the left of Scottish politics; Labour has abandoned any commitment to socialism, to public ownership and public services or redistribution of wealth. They have abandoned the peace movement to side with the world’s warmongers and militarists. SSP was founded because millions of people were disenfranchised, having nothing in common with New Labour, had no one to vote for, no one to whom they could turn and put their hopes in for the future. That constituency of people remains and is very very sizable indeed. Let’s remind ourselves of the SSP’s record Founded in 1998, we united the left. In 2003 we MSP’s were -elected to challenge New Labour and represent the anti war movement and we did. -elected to represent the interests of working people, trades unionists and the poor and we did No one has been on more picket lines and protest marches and union lobbies and supported union cause than us. -elected as workers representatives taking only workers wages – and we have done.
3 THE NATURE OF OUR CAMPAIGN IN 2007 Alan has outlined the Manifesto already and so let me say only this - an independent socialist Scotland remains our goal, but day to day improvements for working people is the measure of our short term achievements. And we can point to many many achievements already. Perhaps most noticeably yesterday when Jack McConnell announced 80,000 more children are to get free school meals. Let’s be absolutely clear this concession would not have been made without the pressure brought to bear by our Bill. So too the breakfast clubs, the water fountains and the free fruit, all concessions to the arguments we have championed. The same can be said about the prescription charges Bill. We won the arguments and forced concessions even though the Bill itself was voted down. Council tax. On Feb 1st 2006 when the SSP Bill to replace the Council tax with our income based alternative was finally put to the vote in the Parliament the SNP and the Lib Dems, despite both being in favour of replacing the tax , voted against it. Why? Because although it was possible to have their amendments discussed later they voted against. They did not want to see the SSP Bill succeed. The fact is neither party in 8 years have presented a Bill of their own. Remember February Fools Day 2006 – the day both the Libs and SNP made fools of themselves and voted to keep the Council tax when it was possible to defeat it. It shows when push comes to shove they cannot be relied upon to defend the interests of working people. We need to raise funds to fight the election fully; to raise deposits , pay for 3.5million leaflets, for 2 PPB’s, lamposters, hire open top buses, leaflets in Polish and Urdu for example. I know candidates will speak at hundreds of hustings arranged across the country as well as the hundreds of SSP public meetings. We will also fight like fury to get our fair share of media exposure and then watch as we are blanked as usual. What we fight for in these elections - An Independent Socialist Scotland. We are passionate about independence for Scotland and we see it as a democratic right to decide our own destiny. A right which will see the vast majority of Scots better off. It is not for us a dry academic lecture about the 300 year old act of union rather part of the national liberation struggle. The polls may tell us its level pegging for independence and the status quo but behind the figures lies a demographic time bomb because support for Independence is far far higher among the young and among the working class… It seems to me the SNP presents lukewarm support for independence, probably trying not to scare away disillusioned Labour voters. Well we are passionate about Independence and do not ever play it down. And I believe the Cameron effect will galvanise the debate. Ask yourself what change to the dynamic occurs if in two yeas time Cameron is elected PM at Westminster and Holyrood proves to be incapable of defending our interests from his onslaught… *Free Public Transport policy is ‘bold and imaginative’ addition to our key list of policies. It stands head and shoulders above any other suggested solution to climate change dangers. It would mean that people across Scotland would have a real alternative, a much more attractive alternative to using their car. It’s the same approach we had in Edinburgh with the congestion charges referendum, we said give people a better alternative to the car and they’ll take it. A collective solution to a collective problem. And to those who say £500m a year to provide free public transport for everyone across Scotland is too much, Sir Nicholas Stern has already answered you ‘The cost of doing nothing is the dearest of all’ TODAY I ISSUE A CHALLENGE TO ALL PARTIES IN THE ELECTIONS –COME AND DEBATE THE ISSUE OF CLIMATE CHANGE WITH THE SSP AND I CHALLENGE EACH OF THEM TO PRODUCE A MORE LIKELY AND PROGRESSIVE SOLUTION TO THIS MOST FUNDAMENTAL OF QUESTIONS. Our policy defines the SSP’s approach perfectly; we examine the problem we face with climate change and we recognise the need for both a collective and progressive solution.
4 WHAT SUPPORT DO WE HAVE? The polls, are they right or are they wrong? Both. On the one hand they register a solid base of support for the SSP. And the one on Monday in the Scotsman predicted we’d get 2 MSP’s returned. On the other hand they habitually underestimate the support for the SSP because we are active below their radar lines; their methods of polling do not register our base; telephone and conducted in street and not schemes. I get people coming up to me all the time to say what sense of relief they have that the SSP has survived the monstrous attack made on us last year and grateful that they will get the chance to vote SSP again and again. In particular I want to mention 4 people who have spoken to me recently and offered warm support for the SSP’s continued growth; * Award winning film director Ken Loach – [see his greetings separately] *And screenwriter Paul Laverty – [ditto] *Charlie Reid of the Proclaimers, happy to let you know he is SSP voter. *Suzy Hall Farepak campaigner now a regular attender at SSP branch meetings in Edinburgh South. *Alex Brownridge, CWU leader in Edinburgh victimised by Royal Mail happy to be known as SSP supporter. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the Political ‘centre of gravity’ of the Scottish people is far to the left of both New Labour and the SNP. Our job is to mobilise and marshal that opinion. What do the latest polls tell us? Latest polls have SSP on 2-4% each has a margin of error – 2%. Possible the SSP could have between 2-8 MSP’s
5 MAY 4th WILL FOLLOW MAY 3rd AS USUAL SSP has achieved miracles and survived nightmares….. I have no doubt that the SSP will continue to be instrumental in building a united left movement, a mass party for socialism, mass party of the left in Scotland. I will be part of that movement like many hundreds of SSP activists. BRING ON THE ELECTION, I LOOK FORWARD TO IT, TAKING OUR MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE WITH PRIDE AND CONFIDENCE - The ideas of socialism are more relevant today than they have ever been’.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Prescription charges swindle

Last Thursday I asked a question in the Scottish Parliament regarding the Executive review of Prescription Charges. Here's my questions, the answer I got and a subsequent article in the Evening News.

My initial question was
To ask the Scottish Executive what the latest position is on the review of NHS prescription charges for patients with long term conditions and on what date it expects to present the outcome of the review.


HIS REPLY – Soon!

Supplementary
Frankly Minister that answer is a disgrace
4 years ago the Executive promised to review prescription charges accepting the current exemption arrangements were not fit for purpose.

13months ago you asked Parliament to reject my Bill to abolish charges promising instead to bring forward proposals yourselves to exempt many long term conditions.

On Nov 10th in a Parliamentary answer to me the Minister promised to publish proposals ‘by the end of the year.’

And yet here we are barely a month away from the dissolution of Parliament and still you have produced nothing – not a word, not one exemption, nothing!

Isn’t it the case that all medical opinion over the last 40 years warned you, just as I did, against trying to ‘play god’ by choosing which debilitating conditions were more deserving than others.

And isn’t this Executive attempting to play fast and loose with this Parliament, run down the clock and renege on every single promise made to patients on the issue over the past 4 years.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Lothians Voice bulletins


We've now delivered 40,000 of our original 50,000 bulletins across the Lothians. Housholds across the Lothians have received our paper from Roslyn, Penicuik & Rosewell through, Inch, Burdiehouse, Stenhouse, Bingham, Musselburgh, Abbeyhill, Dumbiedykes and Oxgangs to Broxburn and Bathgate

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Craig murray - Rector of Dundee University

S2M-5605 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Congratulations to Craig Murray, New Rector of the University of Dundee— That the Parliament congratulates the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, on his election as the new rector of the University of Dundee; believes that Craig Murray’s election further shames Tony Blair, the British government and, in particular, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and that Craig was dismissed for refusing to cover up British complicity in horrific human rights abuses carried out by the Karimov regime in Tashkent; congratulates the students and staff at Dundee on having elected a man who has been at the forefront of exposing Britain’s double standards on the so-called “war on terror” and “war on drugs”, and wishes Craig Murray every success in his new post.

Supported by: Donald Gorrie

Lodged on 19 February 2007

Monday, 19 February 2007

Fox Challenges Lothian MPs to ‘come clean’ on Trident

Scottish Socialist Party National Convener Colin Fox today challenged all the Lothian’s MP’s to ‘come clean on Trident’ and explain whether they will vote to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system in the crucial Commons vote due next month.

The Lothian’s MSP pointed to newspaper adverts taken out by Greenpeace which identified 27 Scottish Labour MP’s at Westminster who have yet to reveal where they stand on the issue. Fox believes it is time the public knew which way these elected representatives intend to vote
‘I agree with Greenpeace, whose ship Arctic Sunrise I visited this week in Leith docks, who say it is time the 4 Lothian’s Labour MP’s – Nigel Griffiths, Alastair Darling, Davie Hamilton and Anne Moffat came clean and told us where they stand on this most important of issues.
Do they stand with those of us who believe these weapons to be immoral, illegal and a terrible waste of money - £100bn by the last estimate? Or do they stand with Tony Blair and his government of warmongers?
Seventy five per cent of Scots are against Trident and against replacing the current ‘nuclear weapons of mass destruction’ based on the Clyde with even more deadly versions.
I too challenge Lothian’s Labour members, many of whom I know used to carry CND membership cards, to join me on Princes Street today [Saturday] and to explain to the public where they stand on Trident. Are they going to vote with the Tories, defy the wishes of the Scottish electorate and spend billions on these evil weapons? Or are they going to defy the government and carry out the wishes of their electorate?’

Thursday, 15 February 2007

UK child poverty shame

S2M-5592 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Unicef Report on Child Poverty Shames UK— That the Parliament is ashamed to find that, according to UNICEF’s Report Card 7, Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries,the United Kingdom has come last in a comparative examination of children’s well-being in 21 countries; believes that this report on child poverty, deprivation, quality of life, safety, health and behaviour is a terrible indictment of the failure of government policy in Britain; notes that, while other countries have made real progress on many fronts, the British government has fared particularly badly; notes that the countries of Scandinavia have fared far better and generally occupy the top places in the study because of their policies to redistribute wealth and the higher political priority given by their governments to children’s needs, and concludes that, if Britain is to be rid of this particular badge of shame, then improving children’s well-being in Britain must now become an urgent priority.

Lodged on 14 February 2007

Arctic Sunrise


Last week I visited the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise when it was docked at Leith.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Unite the Clubs march

Today I had the pleasure of joining 2500 young footballers, their coaches and parents in a march through Edinburgh demanding new and improved facilities at football pitches across the city. The march was excellent, colourful, noisy, good humoured and even the weather was good. When we arrived at the Parliament I had the opportunity to speak to Craig and Charlie of the Proclaimers and they told me how important this issue is for them. It is an important issue for me as well, on the one hand we constantly talk of the need to promote exercise amongst youngsters yet we ask them to change in dank, horrible facilities when they play football. We should be doing everything in our power to ensure children get every opportunity to play sport – providing them with top class playing pitches, equipment and all weather training facilities.
As a nation, us Scots, dream of one day lifting the World Cup (I remember Argentina ‘78!) and it has to be said that if we don’t get it right at grassroots level then it will always remain a dream. The coaches and parents who give up their free time to run the thousands of clubs across Scotland do a great job and they should be applauded, but their job isn’t made easier with constantly waterlogged pitches leading to fixture congestion later in the season meaning players are expected to play two or even three games in a week.
Finally I have to say well done to Les Trotter and the others on the Unite The Clubs Forum who worked so hard to organise such a successful event today. Let’s hope the pressure has worked, and I’ll continue to support the campaign until every pitch has been upgraded.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Justice for Farepak customers

S2W-31625 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 2 February 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether the Accountant in Bankruptcy has the power to consider what remedies are available to Farepak customers in Scotland in receipt of benefits under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 with regard to recovering monies lost and, if so, what action the Accountant in Bankruptcy has taken in this respect.

Due for Answer 16 February 2007

The financial benefits of not replacing Trident?

S2W-31435 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 26 January 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive how devolved services may benefit from any monies which become available should a decision be taken not to replace Trident nuclear weapons.

Answered by Tom McCabe:
The responsibilities of the Ministry of Defence are reserved to the UK Government and so no Barnett consequential come to the Scottish Executive as a result of allocating resources to defence.
Only if the UK government reallocated resources to another UK Department, to be spent on functions with a devolved comparator, would any additional resources come to Scotland. It would be misleading to suggest that there would be any automatic additional resources available to the Scottish Executive.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Fox addresses Scottish Stop the War Conference

Scottish Socialist Party National Convenor Colin Fox will be one of the keynote speakers at the Scottish Stop The War Conference in Glasgow this weekend.
The Lothians MSP will tell his audience in Glasgow University that it is now time for Britain to end it’s ‘catastrophic‘involvement in the Iraq war.

He will tell the conference
‘The carnage and civil war in Iraq shows no sign of ending. Indeed its brutality worsens every day. The misery which ordinary Iraqis face involves power cuts and shortage and a constant threat of violence and death. Figures from the United Nations show that 100 Iraqis are murdered every day. These numbers being killed are equivalent to the 9/11 outrage happening every three months.
It is time Tony Blair accepted the fact that he is, together with George Bush, responsible for this catastrophe. His decision to send British troops to fight in an illegal war represents a catastrophic failure of policy which is having unimaginably tragic consequences for everyone.
The presence of British and American troops is unquestionably exacerbating a brutal civil war. The Iraqi insurgency is driven by the fact that there are foreign armies occupying their country. And the Iraqi government which the Americans installed does not enjoy the support of the people.
It is my view that this situation can only be resolved in the long term by the immediate withdrawal of British and American troops. Their presence is resented by Iraqi’s and plays no valuable purpose.’

Scottish Stop the War Conference

Yesterday I spoke at the Scottish Stop the War Conference in Glasgow, this is a copy of the speech I delivered. I was also lucky enough to meet Craig Murray (picture below) the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who was dismissed by the government after he exposed the awful human rights abuses of the central Asian state which is US’s ally on the ‘war on terror.’

Introduction
Bring you the fraternal greetings of the Scottish Socialist Party.

I am grateful for the invitation to join you today and believe I can humbly say that no party has done more to oppose the illegal invasion, war and continuing occupation of Iraq by British and American forces than the SSP.
Ours has since day one been and remains a consistent and unrelenting anti imperialist position.

Our Opponents Pronouncements
It is always an interesting starting point to look at the point of view of your opponents in order to measure up our achievements.

Last November I was involved in a prolonged piece of correspondence in the letters pages of the Scottish Sunday newspapers with Scots Labour loyalists Brian Wilson, the Former Cabinet Minster, David Cairns MP, Des Browne then the newly installed defence secretary and his departmental colleague Adam Ingram MP.

They had pronounced in the wake of defiance of MOD policy by Military Chiefs of Staff, and escalating carnage in Iraq that
‘We [Britain and US] are bringing peace, stability and democracy to Iraq.’

You could have fooled me. Not much evidence of all three on ground in Iraq.
Peace? Where. Stability? Where. Democracy? Where.

Attacking those of us here who have called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, Wilson accused us of having
‘little regard for people in Iraq whose lives depend on the presence of British troops.’
Troops whom Wilson claimed without obvious blushing, had ‘arrived three years ago to liberate the people of Basra’!
I mean you could not make this up.
We are the ones who apparently have little regard for innocent Iraqis and they are the ones who invaded and murdered in order to liberate them.

And all this whilst even Wilson was forced to concede that
‘Today Basra is largely run by religious parties and their militias who have infiltrated the police and are backed by Iranian insurgents to run the proliferating political assassination squads and criminal gangs.’
He goes on
‘The evidence of improvements in the provision of daily necessities like foodstuffs, water supplies, adequate housing and electricity is not easily seen.’[ Nov 2006]
And remember this was supposed to be the ‘safe south’ around Basra.
What on earth would he be forced to say about Baghdad?

All of which hugely underplays the carnage and mayhem that is part and parcel of daily life in the greater Baghdad area where most Iraqi’s live.

It is worth reminding ourselves
What the Invasion of Iraq was For?
I] Because Saddam Hussein's regime was responsible for 9/11
Ii] Because S H regime was harbouring and backing Bin Laden
Iii] Because S H had WMDS
Iv] Because S H was a threat to his neighbours, UK , USA
V] Regime Change- yes but not job of Bush and Blair

All complete and calculated lies.

SSP took the view then and maintains that the illegal invasion, war and continuing occupation of a sovereign nation was for US imperial interests in the 21st century.
Those interests pursued to ensure US economic and political power underpinned by worlds only military superpower as a warning to the world.

Oil
And of course underpinning all their interests, their interest in oil and its continuous supply to the western world.

21st century US economic imperialism demands taking more out that puts in.
Seizure Of IRAQI OIL Riches
US Plans to privatise Iraqi oil fields and are well under way.
Iraqi Parliament will vote through Bills to that end in April. Paul Bremmer the US envoy has put US companies in place to receive that oil.

Oil Privatisation Opposed
But the plans are being opposed by the Iraqi unions.
The SSP is in contact with these Iraqi unions /political groups, indeed we have continued our links with the Iraqi Union Solidarity Campaign’ and have material here this weekend if people want to take that away with them.

All Events Overshadowed by the
Bloodthirsty Communal and Sectarian Civil War
Or as Labour loyalists like to refer to it as ‘Peace, stability and Democracy’.

EXTENT OF THE CARNAGE HERE
UN estimates the killing running at 100 per day. This the equivalent of 36,500 per year of ten times 9/11!
Yet To the demand we here have made for the immediate unconditional withdrawal of UK Troops it is claimed ‘there would be a bloody civil war’!
No wonder we are angry.

How much blame for this massacring blood lust is US/UK occupation responsible?
The current situation is out of control;
Iraqi government is a puppet of US, utterly ineffective and moreover only there because backed by the US military. Do not have the support of the Iraqi population.

So the insurgency –so called – feeds off the hostility of the wider population to the Iraqi government.
The insurgency of the former Ba’athists and Sunni militias on the one hand faces the Iranian backed Shia rebels of the Maghdi Army on the other.

Foreign military occupation is therefore a catalyst for the violence and not a force for unification or pacification or liberation.

Troop Withdrawal
The situation on the ground according to US military command is desperate.
Even in the safe south of Basra the British military command has not been able to venture out of its Basra Palace command HQ in 6 months other than on military protected sorties back and forth to the UK.
They are well aware that the so called battle for ‘hearts and minds’ has been lost.

It is in these dire circumstances, which led to the utterly unprecedented interviews in the Daily Mail last November by the General Command, effectively to go public and countermand MOD policy in Iraq and demand an immediate plan for a phased withdrawal must be seen.

So what has happened to the phased withdrawal?
Last November MOD forced to promise the number of UK troops in Iraq, then at 7200, would be reduced to 3500 by February.
However like their US allies have actually sent more. Bush announced that 30,000 more US troops be sent.
In other words they are headlong into a disastrous and ‘catastrophic failure of policy’ and cannot easily get out of it.
To withdraw would be to lose huge credibility and admit defeat and to stay is to make that defeat all the more certain and all the more humiliating.
CLASH – ‘’SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO NOW?
If I stay there could be trouble, if I stay it will be double.’’

Tony Blair’s Legacy
Has the hands of 130 UK troops on his hands and 3,000 US troops and 660,000 innocent Iraqis. Iraq will haunt him the rest of his life.
His political legacy Iraq: lies, death, and a catastrophic failure of policy.
The worst leader Labour has ever had…paradox as first to lead them to three election victories.

Trident TWO his parting gift.

The longer UK forces remain in Iraq the greater their defeat, the greater the bloodshed and the greater the ignominious retreat forced on American imperialism. In that sense another Vietnam on the way.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Lothians Voices


The Lothians Voice bulletins are flying out now, this is me in the Inch. The other picture is of the ever diminishing pile of leaflets.

End bridge tolls

A motion to abolish tolls on the Forth & Tay bridges was narrowly defeated in the Parliament yesterday. This is my contribution to the debate.


Forth And Tay Road Bridge Tolls
[Debate Feb 2007 on Motion that the Parliament believes tolls on both Forth and Tay bridge shows be scrapped.]

The Scottish Socialist Party is opposed to tolls on our bridges and motorways and trunk roads etc and therefore support the motion in front of us today for 3 key reasons.

First – To my mind it is the governments responsibility to build, maintain, and operate our roads, motorways, bridges etc in the public sector. These are part of the infrastructure of our country of our economy and should therefore be owned and controlled by government on behalf of us all.
Tolls are a regressive form of taxation which hit poor people hardest.

Second – The situation where tolls have been abolished on all other bridges in Scotland –like recently the Skye and Erskine - or were never levied in the first place means there is an obvious unfairness applying to the Forth and Tay only.

The Executive told us that the tolls on both Skye and Erskine were abolished because they clearly had a poor effect on the local economies in those areas. Skye tourism and economy in general and Erskine particularly industry and commerce.
I supported their case.
But I think the same case applies to Fife and Tayside most especially obvious in the wake of the latest disgraceful decisions by Solectron in Dunfermline- the latest in a long line of Fife closures – and NCR in Dundee.
It seems to me what is good for the goose is good for the gander and the tolls are an economic disincentive to the Fife and Tayside economies .

The third issue to focus on is the need to address climate change , CO2 emissions, pollution and congestion

Toll collection causes traffic snarl ups and congestion on the bridge and adds to the deterioration of the bridge. I have seen as I’m sure we all have the tail backs up to Kirkliston and along the A8000 for miles and also the tailbacks into Dundee City centre which is caused by the tolls themselves.

I respect the work of Transform Scotland very much but I feel they have gone over the top in their briefing for this debate in suggesting that those opposed to tolls ‘undermine the nations attempts to reduce climate change emissions.’
Furthermore by their logic we would still have a £7 toll on the Skye bridge and tolls in Erskine.

I favour far more effective ways to tackle climate change.
SSP support free public transport provision as the way to address climate change, pollution , congestion etc.
The Scottish Executive have introduced free bus travel for seniors and free ferry travel for youngsters etc. I welcome those steps in the right direction.
As members may know the Belgian town of Hasselt has introduced a completely free public transport system and saw passenger numbers leap 870% and have dramatically reduced emissions, pollution and congestion as a result. That’s the way to do ii.

Transform Scotland and the Greens need to think more about persuading people to do the right thing not just punishment and penalty.

They say abolishing tolls would worsen congestion – b y acting as an incentive to use the car. Forth Estuary Transport Authority believe toll abolition could increase traffic volumes by 15% southbound and 20% northbound. This is an important issue to consider. They say
‘Action should be taken to remove traffic flows from the Forth Road Bridge’ yes, but not by increasing the tolls.
More charges with no alternatives provided represents the Luddite and backward approach.
This is precisely the approach so overwhelmingly rejected in Edinburgh’s congestion charging scheme.

Honesty needed in this debate
Remember the Dunfermline West by election last year and the Liberals voting two ways at once on the matter – calling for tolls to be scrapped in the by-election , voting via there rep on the Bridge management body for tolls to increase. And in this debate today they have still not made up their minds calling for ‘abolition to be considered’ in future months.

SSP will support the motion at 5pm.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

My first Podcast

I recently recorded my first ever podcast, for the Sunday Times. They asked me to discuss the 300th anniversary of the act of union and the case for an independent socialist Scotland.

You can read my "script" below and view the podcast via the Sunday Times website in the coming weeks.

Hi , I’m Colin Fox. I’m the National Convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party and I’ve been asked to speak to you on the 300th anniversary of the act of union, about the case for an Independent Socialist Scotland

ITS ‘AYE BEEN’
There is a saying in the Scottish Borders -‘its aye been’.
It’s a phrase signifying a certain resignation, a sense that things always stay the same and it’s quite useless trying to change them.
It seems ironic then sitting in the Scottish Parliament because there were those who said throughout the 80’s and 90’s we would never have our own Scottish Parliament and never be able to make our own decisions.

This anniversary of the union offers us a chance to look at the present day political arrangements and consider how we can improve them.

DEMOCRACY and SOCIAL PROGRESS
The case for independence it seems to me is based on two fundamental pillars –democracy and social progress.
I believe Scotland as a sovereign nation is entitled to exercise democratic control of our economy and I am confident we are quite capable of running our own affairs. Dozens of countries big and small have gained their independence in my lifetime.
This period of reflection on the union then for me is not an abstract historic or dry constitutional debate. I believe Scotland would be much better off economically, culturally and politically if we were making our own decisions.

And you know I sense a very different kind of debate today on Independence from that which first raged around me as a 15 year old schoolboy in Motherwell in the late 70’s when ‘Its oor oil’ was unveiled as the slogan of the time.
Defenders of the union argued then that Scotland was too poor to stand on our own two feet. Of course the discovery of North Sea oil changed all that. And nowadays the argument has shifted considerably. Even unionists now accept that Scotland is a rich country. They now concede that we could go it alone but we are better off under the union, allegedly subsidized by England and safe from instability and violent threats inherent in the modern world.

A DEMOCRATIC SCOTLAND - SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC
I scoffed at those who told me when I returned after 8 years in London that ‘Scotland is essentially a socialist country’, but I would concede that our political centre of gravity is certainly social democratic by instinct, left of centre politically. The evidence of this all around us. Today Scottish public opinion is well to the left of New Labour.
Opposition to Trident is stark, privatization is despised, there is much greater support for public ownership here, a stronger sense of community, greater support for redistribution of wealth, we are much less monarchist and more internationalist in outlook , than the dominant South East of England.
Furthermore I have no doubt whatsoever that an Independent Scotland would not have sent our troops to IRAQ.
Neither do I believe Scots would spend billions promoting British and American imperial aspirations. Not when the option to spend the money on our much needed social services was posed instead.
Nor would Scots spend up to £75billions on more nuclear weapons of mass destruction, labeling our small country amongst the ‘notorious nuclear nine’: the 9 countries of the world armed with nuclear weapons.
All this is important in defining modern Scotland.

For me Independence is a democratic question. Support for Independence is growing and growing. I see support amongst the young and amongst the working classes as a whole twice as strong as in other groups. And the hideous but very real prospect of a Cameron /Tory victory at the next Westminster elections will I believe accelerate the momentum towards Independence considerably.
Remember how the ‘democratic deficit’ which developed under Thatcher and Major led inexorably to the creation of a Scottish Parliament? Well multiply that force ten fold and see the irresistible force really push aside the immovable object. !!!!!!!

I fully acknowledge that the case for independence must arouse and uplift Scots, enough for them to appreciate fully that it must fought for. Our opponents are not merely the unionist Tories of New Labour but the British ruling classes who see in the United Kingdom a power which they do not want to lose.

I want an Independent Socialist Scotland because I want to see all our revenues used for the best egalitarian interests of the people of Scotland, a planning of production, distribution and exchange based on need not profit.
A Scotland independent of the Bank of England yes but independent of the Royal Bank of Scotland too.

INTERNATIONALIST
Since I started with a phrase from the Borders let me finish with another which I love for all the wrong messages it sends out.
They say ‘A day out of Hawick is a day wasted.’
My vision of an independent socialist Scotland has little truck with such narrow nationalism. I see a Scotland which is outward looking, forward looking, ambitious, welcoming and internationalist, one that is better known for its fun loving, friendly ‘tartan army’ than its warmongering armies decked in tartan.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Pair team up to blast Blair's nuclear policy

I recently sent this press release to the Evening News, which was carried today!

http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=195952007

Update - I just noticed that my good friend, Ron, had a letter published in the evening News tonight as well
http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/letters.cfm?id=195402007

Former MP and MSP Join Forces in ‘New Nuclear Labour’ Protest
Former MP Ron Brown will join forces with his Scottish Socialist Party colleague Colin Fox MSP in blasting government plans for more nuclear power stations and nuclear missiles at a public meeting in the city Thursday [8th Feb] night.

The MP for Leith from 1979-1992 Ron Brown has long opposed government plans for nuclear power generation. He told us
‘The nuclear option being promoted by Tony Blair and his big business cronies is unacceptable for a number of reasons.
First it leaves behind dangerous waste, toxic contaminants lethal to human life for 1,000 years to come. It is therefore not only the most expensive way to generate electricity it is also far and away the most dangerous. Has Tony Blair forgotten about Three Mile Island and Chernobyl? I find it incredible that on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, where perhaps as many as 100,000 people may have perished, and Tony Blair proposes to build 20 new nuclear reactors. I would far rather the £50bn set aside for such schemes went into new renewable technologies and projects such as hydro electric, clean coal generation, wind, wave and solar power. Having worked on hydro electric schemes myself I believe Scotland can lead the world again in this technology. As an Amicus trades union member I share the SSP’s non nuclear vision and believe only this party stands up for socialism, trades union values and democracy.’

The government’s plans for nuclear weapons have also come under fire. Lothian’s MSP Colin Fox is appalled at plans to develop Trident Two.
‘Tony Blair is dead set on spending £25bn of our money on more nuclear ‘weapons of mass destruction’. This Prime Minister warns the rest of the world not to develop nuclear weapons and signs up to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, then he turns around and threatens the rest of the world with ‘mutually assured destruction’. He must be stopped. Does he ever stop to think what instability he causes around the world? The man with warmongering, belligerent form bar none, after his invasion of Iraq, now threatens the world with his own second generation of nuclear missiles.
The Scottish Socialist Party is steadfastly opposed to the development of Trident. I can think of a thousand better ways to spend £25billion pounds; on our health, education or social services. I am confident voters will reject New ‘Nuclear’ Labour.’

The public meeting will take place in the Communications Workers Union premises at 15 Brunswick Street, Leith on Thursday 8th Feb at 7.30pm.

Simclar fight back

No doubt you'll have heard about the Simclar workers, who occupied their factory over the weekend in opposition to closure of the plant.

On Saturday night, along with scores of other SSP members, I showed my support and solidarity with the workforce.

We'll be showing this support again on Thursday when they lobby the Scottish Parliament at 12 noon!

Friday, 2 February 2007

S2M-5472 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : prescription charges review

That the Parliament notes that it is now exactly one year since the Stage 1 debate on the Abolition of NHS Prescription Charges (Scotland) Bill and since when the Scottish Executive promised to come forward with proposals to increase the list of long-term conditions exempt from payment; further notes that Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care, Lewis Macdonald MSP, has stated that he acknowledged that “the current charge and exemption arrangements are no longer fit for purpose and that changes are necessary” and that “we will review the exemption arrangements for people with chronic conditions” but that no changes have been brought forward by the Executive in a year despite giving repeated assurances in parliamentary answers that a decision was imminent; believes that no promised proposal has emerged because all medical experts have warned the Executive not to try to list the many different chronic conditions in an order of those that are more “deserving” or “painful”; considers that this is precisely what would be needed in order to distinguish between those conditions which are to be exempt from charges and which are not; notes that in 40 years medical opinion has veered away from such an approach because it was simply not possible on medical grounds to make such a judgement; believes that the Executive has failed to keep a promise it made to the Parliament and has dashed the hopes of thousands of chronically ill patients, and reiterates its belief that the fairest and most sensible way forward is to follow the example of the Welsh Assembly and abolish the £6.75 prescription charge for every patient.

Lodged on 24 January 2007

Follow this link to read my letter in the Linlithgow Gazette

http://www.linlithgowtoday.co.uk/mk4custompages/custompage.aspx?SectionID=3433

S2M-5473 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Welsh Assembly abolishes prescription charges

That the Parliament congratulates the National Assembly for Wales for taking the decision this week to abolish completely NHS prescription charges for every patient in Wales from April 2007; agrees with the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services, Dr Brian Gibbons AM, that the measure will reduce patient inequality and particularly benefit those patients with chronic illnesses or on low incomes and “enable those people who need medication to get it to improve their health and ultimately their quality of life”, and believes that Scotland should follow the terrific example set in Wales and also abolish the charges.

Supported by: Ms Rosemary Byrne, Frances Curran, Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, Campbell Martin, Eleanor Scott, Tommy Sheridan, Chris Ballance, John Swinburne

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

SSP launches My Space site

Last week saw the birth of the SSP's new My Space website. In all honesty I don't know what a My Space is but it certainly looks great and we have 150 friends linked to it already! check it out for yourself at:

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Saying No to Trident

This is a copy of an article I recently sent to the South Edinburgh Echo

Look around South Edinburgh. Look at all the things that need improving here.
Think what we could do if we had the money to build new Council housing affordable to everyone, for all the necessary improvements to our local NHS, for our schools, our social services and leisure facilities, for free travel on the buses for everyone, for more community workers and community policemen, and all available today. It would be great wouldn’t it? It would dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone in South Edinburgh.

Once you’ve thought about that, think about this. Tens of billions of pounds, which we could spend on all these areas of our lives, across Britain, Tony Blair intends to spend instead on a second generation of nuclear missiles.

And across Britain people are pressing Westminster not to vote for a second generation of nuclear weapons of mass destruction. And I am on their side.
To me Britain’s Trident nuclear submarine fleet, part of our ‘WMD’s, as well as being lethal to humankind are also immoral and illegal. For all their sophistication theses missiles are incapable of distinguishing between enemy soldiers on the one hand and an innocent civilian population on the other. And that makes them illegal under International law [see International Court of Justice opinion 8 July 1996].

Further international obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty which Britain has signed demands the 8 nuclear weapons holding countries [USA, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the UK *] stop developing new weapons and all other countries in the world not to start to develop any.
Britain’s plans to build a second generation of missiles therefore make a mockery of our international non proliferation treaty obligations.

The sight of Labour politicians desperately trying to make the case for Trident in recent weeks is a remarkable spectacle. Almost to a man and woman they argued against nuclear weapons when they wanted to get elected. Jack McConnell, David Hamilton, Nigel Griffiths all nuclear disarmers once but now warmongers and militarists.
‘Trident provides a deterrent in an uncertain world’ they now repeat ad nauseam – when was the world anything other than uncertain- ‘so we need these weapons to protect our security and ‘Britain’s vital interests’.
But hold on, who is it that is threatening to invade us or breach our sovereignty? If it is Al Quaida then these weapons are useless against them because that enemy cannot be identified geographically and discriminately. And surely the more apt question in the world today is who protects the world from us?
It is hard to find a period in history which compares with this where Britain has such an appalling international reputation after the catastrophic failure of policy in Iraq.
Having gone along with George Bush in a madcap illegal invasion of a sovereign country we have earned pariah status in much of the world. Britain now has an appalling reputation as a warmonger and not a peace loving nation. Britain and US military families continue to pay an awful price for Bush and Blair’s reckless decision to invade and occupy another country, against the wishes of both the international community and the Iraqi people themselves.

Spending £25billion or more on British weapons of mass destruction to further threaten the world with nuclear annihilation will do nothing to calm international anxieties about Britain’s belligerence nor make the world a safer place for any of us.

I believe developing a second generation of nuclear weapons is a betrayal of future generations keen to live in peace with other nations and I urge Nigel Griffiths my Edinburgh South Westminster representative to vote against developing these evil weapons.
ENDS

[* Although North Korea test fired nuclear missiles late last year it is not considered a nuclear nation as far as the NNPT is concerned]

Unite the Clubs

The issue of facilities for young footballers across Edinburgh, and the Lothians, has recently been highlighted.

Parents and coaches in Edinburgh have formed "Unite the Clubs" to campaign for improved facilities at public pitches across the city. I've already asked questions in the Scottish Parliament about this issue and will be supporting their march in Edinburgh on 14th February.
I'd also encourage as many people as possible to visit their website http://www.unitetheclubs.co.uk/
And to sign their online petitions to the Scottish Parliament http://www.gopetition.com/online/10970.html
and Edinburgh Council