Thursday, 28 November 2013

Scottish Socialist Party's Response to SNP Governments White Paper 'Scotland's Future'

The Scottish Socialist Party welcomes the publication of the Scottish Governments Independence White Paper ‘Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’. We believe it is a comprehensive and timely addition to the most important debate the people of Scotland have faced in decades.

As partners in the ‘Yes Scotland’ coalition the Scottish Socialist Party shares the Government’s commitment to Independence and belief in the immense benefits it can bring the people of Scotland.

We commend the White Paper’s commitment to social and political democracy, prosperity and fairness. We believe it reflects the social democratic aspirations of the people of Scotland and we particularly welcome those sections; providing universal free childcare for pre-school children, scrapping the hated ‘bedroom tax’, removing Trident nuclear weapons, growing Scotland’s economy and population by welcoming those who wish to come and live here, returning Royal Mail to public ownership, introducing a written constitution, providing seats for worker directors on company boards, supporting greater environmental protection, promoting greater energy efficiency and extending much needed social protection to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

The White Paper sets out a clear vision of Independence that unquestionably represents very significant advance for the people of Scotland.

We also welcome the commitment to reduce gas and electricity bills by 10% per annum after Independence but would like to have seen the Scottish Government go further given the publics very real concern over these bills and re-iterate the pledge it made in its 2007 manifesto to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland completely.

We would also liked to have seen a commitment to take the renewable energy industry into public ownership – just as the Scottish Government did recently with Prestwick Airport - and to return our gas and electricity supply industry into public hands as we believe both measures are concomitant with pledges to achieve greater economic prosperity, social democracy and fairness. The SSP also prefers the approach Norway took to its oil and gas resources in taking them into public ownership rather than privatising them.

The Scottish Socialist Party advocates an Independent socialist Scotland. And like many Scots we favour a modern democratic republic. There are inevitably therefore some proposals in the White Paper we do not support such as reducing Corporation Tax, entering a ‘Sterling Zone’ for our own currency, NATO membership and retaining an un-elected, unrepresentative monarch as our Head of State in our new, modern, democratic Scotland.

Nonetheless, we wholeheartedly agree with the view expressed in the White Paper that ‘Decisions about Scotland will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland – those who live and work here’. And in that spirit we fully acknowledge that all the issues in the White Paper should and indeed will be decided by the people of Scotland themselves in the first elections to our newly Independent Parliament in 2016.

For our part the Scottish Socialist Party will continue to highlight the significant advantages Independence brings to Scotland; no more Tory Governments, no more Trident missiles, no more ‘bedroom tax’, returning the Royal Mail to public ownership and above all self-determination for the people of Scotland at last – all in all a much more attractive prospect than the one we currently face.

The Scottish Socialist Party remains focused above all on winning a resounding ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 Referendum and we continue to work alongside all our partners in the ‘Yes Scotland’ coalition to secure that pre-eminent objective.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

My speech at todays Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow

Many people have asked me for copies of my speech to todays Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow so here it is....

Britain isn’t working           
Can I begin by saying how proud the Scottish Socialist Party is to be part of this wonderful celebration of ideas and this progressive Independence movement.
This session, examining the failure of British capitalism & its state, is a gentle start to a day we all hope I’m sure is productive above all in helping to identify the solutions to that failure and delivering a programme & strategy for transformational change that can find mass support in Scotland today.

‘Scotland benefits from a strong, successful UK and has done for 300 years, so why change?’
That is the NO message. It is a message I am familiar with both as a Board Member of ‘Yes Scotland’ and having spent the last month debating with Labour MP’s/MSP’s in a series of meetings organised by the Communications Workers Union as part of its membership consultation on the Independence Referendum.

And the inevitable question I put to those MP’s was ‘What successful UK are you referring to?’
Because the Scottish working class, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population of this country, do not benefit, we are held back by the UK. Our standard of living today is in steep decline as our bills rise and our incomes plunge despite being repeatedly told the worst economic recession in 80 years is over!

Scotland is one of the richest country’s in the world and yet we continue to endure searing poverty, a health epidemic caused by that poverty, a chronic housing shortage and a life expectancy level in parts of this city lower than the third world.

Our lives are blighted by casualisation and super-exploitation at work, our pensions are under assault, we face widening inequalities and our children face a future worse than their parents.

And our political rights are denied us as Scotland’s ‘social democratic’ aspirations to avoid the hateful & exploitative politics of the UK is repeatedly thwarted by a neo-liberal financial elite at Westminster & the City of London.

This is a systemic failure rather than the mistaken policies of this or that individual Govt.
This ‘systemic’ economic and political failure is down to a system based on the exploitation of the many by the few. The rich, via their ownership of capital, exploit those who must sell their labour hourly simply to survive. The constancy of that relationship means the poor achieve relief from brutal exploitation only by organising and fighting back.

And British neo-liberalism is amongst the most exploitative in the world.
Others on this platform have mentioned the child poverty that sees 1 in 3 children in Glasgow for example suffer deprivation, the food banks - the modern day soup kitchens, the ‘Zero hour’ contracts, casualisation of labour & vicious exploitation of youth, immigrants and claimants.
But I wish in the short time available to me to attest that Britain’s inability to provide gas & electricity to 1/4 of its households indicates an equally profound sign of failure.
The particular misery of fuel poverty has a developed into ‘the perfect storm of our time’ illustrating the ‘systemic’ failure at the heart of UK PLC.
Gas & electric bills have doubled in last 6 years, but our wages, pensions & benefits haven’t!
The huge rise in heating bills has occurred as wages in the poorest families have fallen 11% in real terms. Consequently Scotland now has one million households [1/3 of the total] living in ‘fuel poverty’ [spending 10% of their income on heating bills], and unable to keep warm, up from 220,000 in 2004.

And I want to say to the million families shivering away on this cold day in Scotland that your ‘fuel poverty’ is not your fault!

How can it be? Not when the poorest face the highest tariffs, not when 6 power companies declared combined profits of £8bn last year, not when Govt reports suggest 27,000 people are expected to die of ‘cold related diseases’ this winter.
That’s not your fault, that’s their fault!

We have the perfect example of a systemic failure with harrowing consequences; bills rise as private power companies extort greater profits, incomes fall and Government cuts eat away at the ‘Winter fuel allowance’ and those other meagre programmes designed to help the most vulnerable. Eight million people in Britain [Dept of Energy and Climate Change] can no longer afford this basic human necessity. And the UK’s response? Like Queen Marie Antoinette from the French Revolution who said to those hungry for bread - ‘Let them eat cake!
And to chill the blood even further the National Audit Office predicted this week that gas & electricity bills will rise above the rate of inflation for the next 17 years as customers must pay for essential infrastructure improvements.

Friends, an Independent Scotland must deliver on the promise many before us failed to deliver to eradicate fuel poverty in this energy rich country once and for all!

And that means returning the gas and electricity supply industry to public ownership to ensure no one is left out in the cold in 21st century Scotland. That’s the kind of society we will build as opposed to the one we leave behind in 2014!

Margo Macdonald said this week ‘Independence is not a policy it is a mechanism for delivering policy.’ And I think that is right. Independence offers a route around British failure.
But of course, as Dennis, Patrick and I will point out in welcoming the SNP Govts White Paper on Tuesday ‘other visions of Independence are available’.

For the vision that merely offers a Saltire flying above corporate HQs instead of a Union Jack; that lets financial corporate crooks do their worst with impunity and their lackeys remain in charge - telling us no doubt how little can be changed and how long it will take. That is not the vision for me because it addresses none of the fundamental failures in our society.

No, Independence is the progressive option above all because it offers change, a chance to replace the neo-liberal elite with the honest, social democratic aspirations of the majority.
Independence is a profound opportunity, it is as Margo suggests, the key that allows us to break free from the handcuffs of the British ruling class and their political prison.

They are steadfastly opposed to Independence of course because it shakes the very foundations of their power structure, their influence and control.
Me? I’m for an Independent socialist Scotland, a modern democratic republic where we, the working class majority, are in charge of our own country & our own destiny at last.

So, be prepared for the fight of your lives these next 10months as they defend their power and privilege from attack and we mobilise the people of Scotland behind change.
Thank you!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

One million signatures wanted for Independence declaration

SSP members Paolo Caserta and Colin Fox get shoppers on Edinburgh's Princes Street to sign the 'Yes Scotland' Declaration for Independence.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Fuel Poverty is Britains gathering storm warns NAO report

The National Audit Office today published a report predicting the cost of upgrading Britain’s energy industry infrastructure - £176bn  – would be passed on to hard pressed households and mean customers facing inflation busting rises in the cost of gas and electricity for the next 17 years.

The news will send another unwelcome shiver down the collective spine of every household in Britain as the soaring price of gas and electricity is already people’s number one concern right now.

The NAO report shows that 8% of the average household’s spending goes on energy and water bills.
Spending 10% of your income on energy is the official definition of being in ‘fuel poverty’. Therefore this report shows just how close the average UK household now is to being 'fuel poor'. And of course since all averages hide a multitude of variations those households on the lowest incomes already pay 15% of their money on energy and water as it is. Many already find themselves in ‘extreme fuel poverty’ as it is - paying 20% of total income on energy.

The prospect of another 17 years of this will understandably terrify them all as hypothermia already takes its toll. Professor John Hills of the London School of Economics found in his Report commissioned by the UK Government that 27,000 people died prematurely from ‘cold related diseases' last winter brought on by prolonged exposure to ‘fuel poverty’. That's more than were killed on Britain's road and more than the entire population of Wishaw dying needlessly each winter!
And this in an energy rich country like ours!

Since Thatcher privatised the energy industry in the 1980’s the burden of funding infrastructure improvements has been shifted from the Government to the customer. In keeping with her neo-liberal philosophy the financial burden has been shifted from the rich to the poor, from the taxpayer to the customer. And this has meant a move away from progressive taxation to regressive indirect taxation where energy bills heavily disadvantage the working class and the poor.

The solution is to return the energy industry to public hands, just as the Scottish Socialist Party advocates, and fund the cost of infrastructure programmes from general taxation where the rich are asked to pay more and we move away from regressive customer charges, which bear no relation to a household’s ability to pay them.

Gas and electricity bills have doubled over the past decade, yet average incomes have not increased at all. And the poorest households have actually seen an 11% fall in their real incomes.

The blame for soaring energy bills has been variously ascribed to infrastructure costs, the increased wholesale price of gas and the cost of ‘green’ subsidies. Either way, most households now face a very difficult time indeed in trying to pay for gas and electricity they can ill afford. That prospect has just been drawn out by another 17 years by this reports findings!

It is surely only a matter of time before we see the same mass unrest over energy bills here that we have seen in Bolivia, Bulgaria, Egypt and elsewhere during this past year. And perhaps we should also take a leaf out of the German protests where mass unrest has been directed towards referenda on returning the industry to public ownership and a reform agenda which demands no one suffers the indignity of fuel poverty whilst rich multi-national energy companies make obscene profits.




Monday, 4 November 2013

New SSP pamphlet 'End Fuel Poverty and Power Company Profiteering' out now

Order your copy via PayPal a/c or send a cheque for £4.00 [including p&p] payable  to 'Scottish Socialist Party' to SSP, Suite 370, 4th Floor, Central Chambers, 93 Hope Street, Glasgow G2 6LD