Scotland’s socialist party enjoys year like no other

LEFT VOICES: Colin Fox speaking at RIC 2014 PHOTO: Craig Maclean

LEFT VOICES: Colin Fox speaking at RIC 2014
PHOTO: Craig Maclean

by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson 2014 was a year the Scottish Socialist Party will not forget. It went so fast it is easy to forget all that happened in twelve hectic months. Like everyone on the Yes side, we began ‘referendum year’ full of excitement and hope. Although the polls were against us and we faced an uphill struggle against daunting odds, the entire Yes movement remained upbeat and positive. We firmly believed we could win. It wasn’t to be, of course. But, as we have said many times in this newspaper since September, the independence referendum changed Scotland and Scottish politics forever. Although a minority of people voted for independence, the 45 per cent figure was greater than ever before.

And the fact that 1.6 million Scots faced down unrelenting threats and scares has led to a widespread belief that independence has been deferred not defeated. We need to reach out to the 55 per cent who voted No and persuade them of our case if we are to win next time.

How do we do that? First by persuading them they will be better off. And by explaining that supporting Scotland’s democratic right to self-determination does not make you a Scottish nationalist. It makes you a democrat. For this is a democratic question and the independence movement is not just one party.

It can feel like Scotland is moving from a one party state (Labour) to a one party state (SNP) as the nationalists enjoy poll ratings and membership figures unheard of in Scottish politics. But like ‘weather bombs’, such phenomenon pass. The SNP cannot secure independence on their own; they need the rest of the movement.

The last 12 months were a hectic round of public meetings, campaign stalls, door-to-door canvassing, media interviews and conferences. My stand out memories include the monthly Advisory Board meetings of Yes Scotland—sitting alongside Dennis Canavan, Nicola Sturgeon [Scotland’s new First Minister], Patrick Harvie, Blair Jenkins and others—developing campaign strategies and taking reports from the hundreds of Yes groups around the country.

I remember spending my birthday in a scheme in Fort William (Caol) canvassing for Yes with the beautiful blue waters of Loch Linnhe at one end of the street and the stunningly clear peaks of Ben Nevis at the other.

I miss the intensity of the campaign with its ‘Super Saturdays’ canvassing in Edinburgh’s housing schemes, the many packed public meetings, the Scottish Socialist Voice Forums, the Radical Independence Conferences, the independence rallies and above all the many new, talented, politically active and engaged people I met.

Above all, however, I will remember the astonishing post-referendum surge in interest the SSP experienced. We have never had so many applications to join. It was a vindication of those SSP members who stuck with the party through all the ‘travails’ of the past seven years. Our refusal to walk away in disgust was rewarded at last.

Here was the evidence we needed that working class people in Scotland needed a voice like ours. And we carry our socialist colours today with more of a spring in our step knowing we are on the road to building the mass socialist party Scotland needs.

So where do we go from here? Consolidating the many new SSP members and branches across Scotland is certainly high on our ‘tasks’ list. We have branches in the Highlands and in Dumfries and Galloway again and that is so satisfying as it helps reiterate our conviction that socialist ideas are every bit as relevant in rural Scotland as they are in urban centres.

And the 2015 General Election is just around the corner. The Scottish Socialist Party suggested the best way to keep the independence ‘pot boiling’ as it were was to field Yes candidates we could all rally behind.

This approach was most likely to succeed in our view in replacing those Labour MPs in constituencies that voted Yes. Unfortunately we have been unable to persuade the SNP of our case. They insist on standing their own candidates in every seat. We believe this is a mistake.

Not only does such a tactic undermine the unity of our movement and reduce that movement in effect to a single party, it is likely to reap more meagre rewards from a political situation ripe with possibilities. The SNP appears to have forgotten that two million people voted No and just as it is not capable of winning independence on its own, it is not capable of defeating Labour on its own.

We will therefore be standing SSP candidates across urban Scotland in selected seats in May—full details to be announced in this newspaper in January—and we intend to run a robust socialist campaign where we put independence centre stage alongside our support for a £10/hour living wage and the abolition of zero hour contracts.

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