SSP Manifesto - General Election 2001

SSP press conference 17th May 2001, Edinburgh

 

The SSP is the only political party in Scotland that opposes the free-market agenda of all the establishment parties. Only a vote for the SSP will abolish poverty by getting rid of its source - capitalism.

INTRODUCING THE SSP

The Scottish Socialist Party is Scotland's newest and fastest growing political party. Launched in November 1998, the SSP now has over 2000 members organised in a network of over 50 branches stretching from the Northern Isles to the Solway Firth, from the Hebrides to Hadrian's Wall.
Already, the SSP commands the support of around one in 20 voters across Scotland, as measured in a series of opinion polls conducted monthly by the System Three polling organisation
The SSP is represented in the Scottish Parliament by Tommy Sheridan, one of Scotland s highest profile MSPs. It is also represented in several local councils, and includes within its membership some of Scotland's most respected trade union, environmental and community activists.
The SSP is the only political party in Scotland which produces its weekly own newspaper, the Scottish Socialist Voice.

Politically, the SSP is:

ELECTION AIMS

The SSP will contest every seat in Scotland in this general election. For a brand new political party, this is a monumental achievement; the SNP, for example, was unable to achieve such a goal for the first four decades of its existence.
Our purpose in mounting an all-Scotland challenge in the coming general election can be summarised in five points:

PART TWO

 

AIMS AND PRINCIPLES

The SSP bases itself upon the triple pillars of independence, socialism and internationalism. Here we briefly summarise the importance of these three component parts of our political philosophy.

INDEPENDENCE

Repeated opinion polls have shown a majority of Scots in favour of redistribution of wealth; greater spending on public services; higher pensions and benefits; an improved national minimum wage; the scrapping of anti-trade union legislation; and the removal of nuclear weapons from the Clyde.
Yet under the UK political system, all of these powers are in the hands of the Westminster government. Although devolution marked a modest democratic advance, the powers of Holyrood are strictly limited. Even the overall budget of the Scottish Parliament is determined in London.
The Scottish Socialist Party believes that Scotland is a nation and has the right to control its own economy, its own welfare system and its own defence policy.
We stand for a fully independent government in Scotland which has powers over the economy; the welfare state; taxation; employment and company law; overseas trade; interest rates; exchange rates; and defence.

SOCIALISM

As well as political freedom from Westminster rule, we want to build a Scotland which is free from poverty, free from inequality, free from exploitation, free from social injustice, free from homeles ness, free from discrimination, free from insecurity.
We believe the only to achieve genuine freedom for the Scottish people is by building a socialist Scotland which harnesses our wealth and natural resources for the benefit of the people of Scotland.
We repudiate the idea that nothing can be done in the teeth of global capitalism: that we are too small, too weak, too poor or too powerless to make a stand.
Scotland has an abundance of resources including thousands of miles of coastline; vast expanses of uninhabited land; an endless supply of clean water; colossal reserves of oil; a highly skilled and well-educated workforce; a rich cultural heritage; and a talented artistic community which includes some of Europe s top writers, musicians and film-makers.
The raw material exists to build a radical new Scotland which will stand up to the forces of globalisation, capitalism and become an international symbol of resistance to free market exploitatation

INTERNATIONALISM

The Scottish Socialist Party strives to forge close links with socialists, trade unionists and environmentalists across the world.
We recognise that especially in this age of global communications and transnational capitalism, the battle for socialism cannot be confined within the borders of a single country.
Our long term goal is to replace global capitalism with global socialism via the establishment of a world-wide confederation of socialist states, co-operating harmoniously to end poverty, starvation, disease, war and the threat of environmental catastrophe.
We believe the most important contribution we can make to the movement for socialism internationally is to build the beginnings of a socialist society here in Scotland.

PART THREE

POLICIES AND PRIORITIES

The SSP does not pretend that we are on the verge of forming a government. We do believe that our day will eventually come, when the majority of the people of Scotland decide that socialism is the best road forward. In the meantime, the SSP will fight for the following immediate changes:

WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION

Over the past 20 years, the gap between rich and poor in Scotland and across the UK has widened into a gaping chasm. In Britain 32 per cent of children live in poverty. This is the highest figure in the European Union, and compares with just 5 per cent in Denmark, which has the lowest figure.
The UK government spends just 13 per cent of its GDP (total wealth produced) on social welfare benefits. Along with Ireland (which also spends 13 per cent of its GDP on welfare) this is by far the lowest figure in Europe. Eight countries spend over 20 per cent of GDP on benefits; while Belgium and the Netherlands spend 25 per cent.
At the same UK has become a tax haven for the rich. As a recent article in the Spectator magazine pointed, there are an estimated 200,000 wealthy tax exiles from France now living in the UK, attracted by the low rates of taxation of the rich.
Meanwhile, the wealthiest 1000 people in the UK own assets worth 158 billion - ten times as much as the total annual spending in Scotland on the NHS, education, social services, housing, transport and emergency services combined.
New Labour has aggravated the economic and social divisions in society by emphasising indirect taxation rather than direct taxation - a policy which punishes the poor and rewards the rich. In the last year alone, the number of millionaires in Britain rose by an unprecedented 17 per cent to 74,000.
Meanwhile, the proportion of the population who are so poverty-stricken that they are unable to afford at least three essential items is steadily rising - from 20 per cent in 1990, to 24 per cent at the start of 1999, to 26 per cent at the end of 1999.

The Scottish Socialist Party stands for an all-out war against economic and social inequality. As a start, we will fight for a shift from indirect to direct taxation, increased taxes on the rich, and increased resources to end poverty.

Our immediate priorities are to fight for:

PUBLIC SERVICES

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, there has been a long-term downward trend in the proportion of the GDP spent on public services. In the mid-1970s, the UK government ploughed over 50 per cent of all wealth produced into public services. Today that figure is stuck below 40 per cent.
During each of its four years in power, the New Labour has invested even less in public infrastructure such as transport, hospitals and schools than the last Tory government spent in its final year in office.
Although health, education and local government services are administered by the Scottish Parliament, they are dependent upon the block grant allocated by Westminster. The SSP will campaign for an end to the block grant system and for the Scottish Parliament to take control of all taxation raised in Scotland, including income tax, VAT and corporation tax. This would allow a Scottish government to determine its own budget in line with the needs of the people of Scotland.
We condemn wholeheartedly the Chancellor's decision to use 34 billion of his 40 billion surplus to pay the national debyt to international bankers while the UK has the largest number of children in Europe living in poverty, the largest proportion of its pensioners living in poverty, and the highest number of low paid workers.
We will fight to reverse that decision and for the 40.7 billion to be invested in fighting poverty and improving health, housing, transport and education.

In specific areas of the public sector, we will campaign for:

Health

Education

Transport

Every year in the UK, 5 billion is spent on cars, representing 15 per cent of household expenditure, compared to 10 per cent in the 1960s. Road traffic is due to double by 2025, further increasing congestion and pollution. In contrast, the number of bus passengers has fallen by 36 per cent since 1989.
We will campaign for the creation of a top quality integrated transport network capable of carrying passengers to any destination in Scotland in less than one hour. Although the initial capital cost of such a project will be high, it will mean faster journeys, fewer cars on the road and reduced pollution.

Housing

Local government

THE ECONOMY

The SSP stands against the phoney consensus that asserts that the free market and private ownership of the economy equals competence and efficiency.
There is widespread public contempt towards the private fatcats who measure success by the size of their profit margins and the value of their shares. There is also growing realization that the privatization programme implemented by Thatcher - and now accepted by New Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP - has been a gigantic rip off.
British Telecom was sold off for a bargain basement 4 billion; yet in the past five years alone the company has raked in four times that amount in profit. Railtrack was sold off for 1.8 billion in 1996; three years later, shares had soared by 350 per cent and the company was valued at 5 billion.
Last year, Scotland s biggest privatized company, ScottishPower made almost 1 billion profit, enough to give every pensioner in Scotland over 20 a week towards their fuel bills.
For most of the past decade, the Scottish economy has grown, as part of a more general economic upswing across Europe and America. This has meant falling unemployment and rising revenues for the government.
But when the present growth spurt comes to an end and boom turns to bust, it will be manual and low grade clerical workers, public service workers, pensioners and lone parents who will pay the heaviest price.
Even now, with the economy surging forward, the trend is towards an unskilled, sweatshop economy with low wages, long hours and oppressive working conditions.
The hype surrounding the New Economy glosses over the real world of Silicon Glen, the call centres and the dot.com companies, where low pay, intolerably long hours and prison camp conditions are rampant.
Even these jobs are precarious; and many economists expect the wholesale of millions of jobs in banking, insurance, packaging, retail and assembly-line work as a consequence of technological progress.
The SSP believes that the case for a socially-planned economy is more clear than ever before. Technological progress under capitalism might mean more millionaires - but it also means more misery for the millions.
Under socialism, technology will be used to slash the length of the working week and pave the way for a spectacular explosion of culture, sport, leisure and education.
The SSP is comitted to building a new, democratic socialist Scotland which will stand up the forces of globalisation, privatization and capitalism.

In the meantime we will fight for:

THE ENVIRONMENT

The SSP is an environmentalist party which fights for the right of people to live in a clean, safe and healthy environment.
We will link up with other socialists and environmentalists internationally to campaign for world-wide action to protect the planet and its natural resources.
Here in Scotland, we will back any appropriate direct action to resist pollution and environmental destruction.
As our contribution to the global fight for a clean, green planet we will fight for the following policies:

WATER

We will oppose to attempt to privatise Scottish water, and will resist the European Union Competition Act which will allow backdoor privatisation of our most vital natural resource.

We will campaign for:

 

AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND FISHING

Rural Scotland is in deep crisis. Even before the foot and mouth outbreak, thousands of small farmers were already teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.
Farmers today receive barely ten per cent of the retail price of their products, compared to 50 per cent 50 years ago.
Much of the balance is ripped off by supermarket giants such as Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury and Safeway. These retail giants are pile up record profits while their suppliers in rural areas plunge deeper into depression.
The farming crisis is also linked to the crazy globalisation merry-go-round, which means that the UK exports around 200,000 tonnes of pork, 100,000 tonnes of lamb and 300 million litres of milk while simultaneously importing similar quantities of pork, lamb and milk back into the country.
There is also plummeting public confidence in food safety and hygiene, fuelled by fears over BSE and growing public concern over the treatment of farm animals.
Under-investment and neglect by both absentee and local landowners has heightened the crisis of rural Scotland.
The SSP stands for a radical new approach to land and agriculture which shifts the balance of power away from agri-business, the supermarkets and the landowners into the hands of small farmers, rural communities and consumers. We stand for a major shift away from intensive farming, geared towards export markets, to sustainable agriculture - including small scale organic farming - geared towards local markets.
In the long term we stand for a publically owned, democratically controlled and totally transparent food industry which will produce and supply cheap,safe nutritious food while ending exploitation of labour and cruelty to aniomals.

In the short term, we will fight for the following:

Food and farming

Land

Fishing

JOBS AND WORKERS' RIGHTS

For the past twenty years, workers rights in Britain have been relentlessly eroded. Britain now has the most draconian anti-trade union laws in Europe.
The UK has become a mecca for anti-union employers from all over the world.
Disgracefully, most of the Tory anti-union laws remain intact under Labour, even though the Labour Party was set up by the trade union movement and is still largely financed by trade unionists through the political levy.
The SSP defends the rights and conditions of working people. We campaign in the unions, workplaces and communities for the restoration and extension of workers' rightsand will fight for:

HUMAN RIGHTS

Britain has some of the most repressive laws in the world, including anti-trade union laws, secrecy laws, and laws which restrict the right to protest.

The SSP will campaign for:

DEMOCRACY

In our society, most of the key deciions that affect our everyday lives - our work, our children, our environment, our health, our food, our education, our public transport, our housing - are taken behind closed doors by bureaucrats and business moguls.
The SSP stands for a root and branch reorganisation of society to transfer real power to the ordinary people of Scotland.
The type of socialism we are fighting for has nothing in common either with Eastern European-style Stalinism or with Old Labour-style bureaucratic corporatism.
Instead, we stand for the dismantling of the hierarchies and bureaucracies which run capitalism and the maximum decentralisation of decision-making right down to communities and workplaces.

In the meantime, we will campaign for the following policies:

EQUALITY AND DISCRIMINATION

The SSP is striving to build a tolerant socialist society in which racism, sectarianism, homophobia, ageism and discrimination against women disabled people have no place. We envisage a society in which diversity is a strength and where each individual s contribution is valued.
The SSP was among those organizations which campaigned for the repeal of Section 28/2a. We will participate in any genuine campaign to defend and improve the position of minorities and to ensure that women, who form a majority of the population, achieve full social, economic and political equality.

We will fight for the following changes:

Women

Racism

Sexuality

Disabled people

Older people

THE UK AND IRELAND

The SSP stands united with working people across the UK in the battle to defend jobs, public services and the environment.
We welcome the decision by the Socialist Alliances in England and Wales to stand almost 100 candidates in the coming general election.
We will co-operate closely with the Socialist Alliances in England and Wales and welcome their commitment to defend the right of the peoples of Scotland and Wales to self-determination.
We will also seek to assist those forces in Ireland, North and South, who are attempting to build an alternative to the assortment of free market capitalist parties.

Specifically we will campaign for:

EUROPE AND THE WORLD

The SSP rejects totally the frenzied British nationalism of the Tory Party and organisations such as the UK Independence Party.
In the age of the Internet, satellite TV and high speed air travel, there can be no room for Little Englander or Little Scotlander politics which pretend we can cut ourselves adrift from the rest of Europe.
The SSP stands for co-operation and solidarity among the peoples and nations of the European continent.
At the same time we recognise that many of the institutions of the European Union have been constructed to promote free market capitalism and to boost the profits of big business at the expense of the working class and the poor.
How we respond to any future refendum on the Euro will be determined first and foremost by the interests of the working class and the poor. We will oppose any attempt to dismantle public services or attack the conditions and living standards of working people.
Within the European Union, political power is concentrated into the hands of unelected commissioners and national government ministers who take decisions without being held accountable to their own national parliaments.
We promote an alternative vision of a united socialist Europe where all the key institutions are democratically elected and accountable to the people of Europe.

In the meantime we will campaign for:

DRUGS

The SSP believes that drug prohibition and the criminalisation of drug users has failed to make any serious impact upon illicit drug use. The 'war against drugs' rhetoric is counter-productive.
The real war that has to be waged is a war against poverty and hypocrisy. Problem drug use is primarily a social and medical problem, rather than a criminal problem.
Since the 1970s, the number of drug convictions and the number of drug seizures have multiplied ten times over. Tens of thousands of young people have been harassed and criminalised for the use of relatively harmless drugs such as cannabis, while the grim toll of heroin deaths continues to grow ever longer.
Meanwhile, criminal drugs grow richer, more powerful and more violent creating an atmosphere of terror and mayhem in many working class communities.

We will campaign to:

CULTURE, SPORT AND ENTERTAINMENT

Over the past decade, a mini-cultural revolution has swept Scotland. The surge of new talent in literature, film, music and other branches of the arts has added colour and vitality to Scotland's once prison grey cultural landscape.
It is notable that much of that talent has emerged from the working class, and has exhibited a healthy contempt of elitism and traditionalism. At the same time, the growing ethnic diversity of Scotland has contributed significantly to the progressive evolution of Scottish national identity.
Nonetheless, in the unequal profit-crazed society in which we live, millions remain socially excluded from cultural life. The SSP is in favour of encouraging talent, while broadening participation in all aspects of the arts, sport and recreation.

The SSP will fight for:

ANIMAL RIGHTS

The SSP will is committed to ending the cruelties systematically inflicted on millions of animals in the name of cheap food and free trade.

The SSP will oppose:

PART FOUR

A NEW TYPE OF PARTY

We do not pretend that the manifesto could be implemented in full without a major political battle with the London and Edinburgh political and business establishment.
But make no mistake about it: the Scottish Socialist Party is prepared to engage in such a battle.
A group of Scottish Socialist Party MPs would wage a political guerilla war of defiance and extra-parliamentary action on behalf of the working class and the poor of Scotland to reclaim the rights and conditions that have been robbed by the rich over the past 20 years.
At the same time, they will use their public positions - as Tommy Sheridan MSP has done - to build popular support for the idea of overturning capitalism andm beginning building of a new democratic socialist society.

STANDARDS AND CONDUCT

The Scottish Socialist Party will insist on basic standards of conduct from its elected representatives. Specifically we pledge that all Scottish Socialist MPs will :

CONCLUSION

The Scottish Socialist Party is unique in Scottish politics. It is the only party that stands unequivocably on the side of the working class and the poor against big business and the rich.
If you are poor, if you are a lone parent, if you are a pensioner, if you are a student, if you are a low paid worker, if you are disabled, if you are a council tenant, if you are a trade unionist, if you are a slave labour trainee on a government scheme, if you are unemployed, if you are homeless, if you are an asylum seeker, the Scottish Socialist Party is your party.
The SSP also welcomes into its ranks professional workers, home owners, others who may not personally suffer poverty and insecurity but who are dismayed by a government and a society that can spend billions on nuclear weapons and Eurofighter aeroplanes, yet can scarcely find pennies to wage war against poverty at home.
In the first elections to the Scottish parliament the people of Glasgow defied the opinion pollsters and the media commentators elected a socialist MSP, Tommy Sheridan. Since then, the sole Scottish Socialist MSP has made a profound impact. A century ago, the newly formed Labour Party pledged to rid Scotland of warrant sales. One century and seven Labour governments later, poindings and warrant sales were still being carried out every day across Scotland.
But then a single Scottish Socialist Party member was elected to the Scottish Parliament - and legislation was swiftly introduced, in defiance of the ruling executive, to this humiliating ritual.
If that is the impact that one Scottish Socialist MSP can make, imagine the effect of a group of SSP MPs elected to Westminster. Even if the SSP does not win any seats in Westminster this time around, we are on course to achieve the biggest socialist vote ever in Scotland. If we succeed in winning 100,000 votes, that would send shock waves reverberating through the Scottish political establishment.
It would signal the end of the pro-big business consensus and would force onto the political agenda those subjects that are now taboo for the big parties, including wealth redistribution, public ownership and workplace and community democracy.

 

We would appeal to all socialists and all who want to see radical political change: Don't waste your vote by sending yet another grey politician to London. Instead, make your vote count - by voting for the party that will shake things up and make things happen.

 

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