Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Republican Socialist Convention - London

I have been invited to speak at the Socialist Republican Convention in London this weekend. The event which takes place at the South Bank University will feature Tony Benn, Peter Tatchell and John McDonnell MP among others and promote the case for a republic in Britain as well as bring together socialists from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.
The Scottish Socialist Party supports a modern democratic republic for Scotland and has done so since our formation in 1999. We remain Scotland's staunchest advocates for extending democracy and establishing a republic.
In 2003 all 6 SSP MSP's famously refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Queen after being elected to represent the people of Scotland. It seems a long time ago now but I was ejected from the Parliament for singing Robert Burns famous republican anthem 'A man's a man for a' that' in defiance of the oath. My colleague Rosie Kane famously wrote 'My Oath is to the people' on the palm of her raised hand as she was sworn in.
That same year I undertook a speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand as a newly elected Member of the Scottish Parliament. In seven Australian cities I teased the largely republican audiences over the fact that the population had just voted in a referendum to keep the Queen as their Head of State saying 'Well if you want her you can have her. We in Scotland would even pay her fare as long as you keep her here'.
Scotland remains the only part of Britain where polls suggest a majority in favour of a modern democratic republic.
The SSP's 'Declaration of Calton Hill' delivered on the 9th October 2004 the day the Queen formally opened the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood remains a rallying point for supporters of a modern democratic republic.
I look forward this weekend to ridiculing the positions New Labour and the SNP have now gotten themselves into on the issue of a republic. Take Labour for example, the first ever resolution passed at the first Labour conference called for the abolition of the House of Lords and yet in this years General Election they will argue for the maintenance of an appointed second chamber. The Tories, once the party of hereditary privilege now support an elected upper house. Can you believe it? Keir Hardie must be spinning in his grave.
But before you run off and vote SNP in disgust you might wish to reflect on Alex Salmond's view of hereditary privilege. He wants to retain the monarch as head of State in Scotland. In his modern Scotland the outdated Act of Union of 1707 would be scrapped but the 1603 Union of the Crowns would remain! So Alex Salmond and the SNP would deny Scotland its chance to have a modern democratic republic!
The challenge facing us is to mobilise the majority who wish to establish a modern democratic republic. And for my money it can't come quick enough.

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