The referendum campaign and the unprecedented rise of the Yes movement have changed Scotland forever. The SNP, the Scottish Greens and ourselves have all won praise and respect for way we worked together in the coalition. But not everyone was impressed by the SSP’s achievements. Lord Smith of Kelvin for example excluded us from his Commission to consider what new powers should be devolved to Holyrood—the only one of the six parties formally engaged in the referendum to be so ignored!
Using the feeble excuse that we did not have any MSPs, our views were not sought. But, as I pointed out in a letter I sent the noble Lord, the referendum was not a parliamentary event but an historic national plebiscite conducted in every city, town and village in Scotland. And the SSP was ever-present. The SSP has never, nor will we ever, let anyone tell us our view is not to be heard. So we sent in our submission on what powers should now be devolved to Holyrood all the same.
In it, we reiterated that all fiscal and economic powers should be devolved to Holyrood in order to eradicate the appalling levels of poverty and inequality that so blight our wealthy nation. We called for all taxes raised in Scotland to be spent here. And we insisted on the Scottish Government securing the right to intervene in industry to protect and sustain jobs and services.
We also challenged Lord Smith to bring forward recommendations that allow Scotland to harness and channel all the latent energy and enthusiasm for politics the referendum demonstrated and for example pick up the proposal made by Yes Scotland for a written constitution enshrining the social democratic and socialist values Scotland supports.
The SSP held around 100 public meetings on the socialist case for independence in the last year. Close to 3,000 people applied to join since 18 September and this unprecedented level of interest led one member to wonder ‘what would it have been like if there had been a Yes vote?’.
The Scottish Socialist Party has established several new branches across the country in recent months and recruited many talented people. Uppermost in the deliberations at this year’s conference therefore will be questions such as; what does the independence movement do now? How do we best advance the cause in next years general election?
And where stands the class struggle in Scotland today? These questions will be debated this weekend as we gather and greet hundreds of new members. We are also delighted to welcome Jonathon Shafi from the Radical Independence Campaign, Councillor Maggie Chapman from the Greens and Allan Grogan from Labour for Independence, who has joined the SSP, as they deliver fraternal greetings.
The SSP conference will decide our campaign priorities for the year ahead and these will certainly include furthering our goal of an independent socialist Scotland, campaigning for a living wage of £10/hour, counteracting the pernicious influence of UKIP, planning our 2015 General Election campaign and above all on how we can return SSP MSPs to Holyrood in 2016.
Those political analysts who talked of ‘the post-SSP political landscape in Scotland’ back in 2012 when last we met in conference look decidedly foolish today. Then again the SSP has grown used to such people writing our political obituaries many times over the past 16 years. These are usually the same ‘wise’ people who sneeringly insisted ‘public meetings were dead’ ahead of Yes Scotland’s myth-busting endeavours and deemed ‘political parties are dead too’ just as 60,000 Scots joined the three independence parties in one single weekend!
With wages for working people having fallen by £50 per week since 2008 in real terms (source: TUC) the need for the Scottish Socialist Party is more important than ever. That’s why the SSP were present both on the independence campaign trail and on the STUC march ‘For a just Scotland’.
The SSP marries the struggle for self-determination with the equally important struggle to emancipate working class people from the yoke of free market economics. That’s the unique dual role the SSP plays in this country. Let our enemies beware as we go from strength to strength.