THE SCOTTISH Socialist Party's 'Socialism 2000' conference took place in Glasgow last weekend against the background of growing dissatisfaction with the Scottish Parliament's failure to deliver change. That desire for change translated into a huge vote for the left at the parliament's first elections last May. Some 100,000 people across Scotland voted for socialist candidates in the elections. Scottish Socialist Party member Tommy Sheridan was elected to the Scottish Parliament.
The highlight of last weekend's conference weekend was the opening rally, attended by 240 people. Alongside Tommy Sheridan on the platform was Jimmy Reid, a leader of the 1970s UCS shipyard occupation. 'With the gap between the rich and poor getting greater, the ideas of socialism are more and more necessary,' argued Jimmy.
Also on the platform were Aamer Anwar, speaking in support of the Singh Chhokar family's fight for justice, and Margo MacDonald, a Scottish National Party MSP. Over the weekend debates included a discussion on Northern Ireland in both a main forum session and in workshops.
The most fierce debate was between Daithi Doolan of Sinn Fein and Billy Hutchinson of the Loyalist Progressive Unionist Party. Hutchinson was eager to claim socialist credentials, talking about how the situation in Ireland caused suffering for Catholic and Protestant workers. However, Hutchinson declared , 'I am a Loyalist. My identity is British,' and he blamed Republicans for the troubles in Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately many Scottish Socialist Party speakers in the workshops saw Sinn Fein's Doolan as a more important target to attack than Hutchinson. Pat Stack of the Socialist Workers Party won applause when he argued against Billy Hutchinson in the workshop. 'Do you not see any contradiction between calling yourself a socialist and wrapping yourself in the Union Jack?' questioned Pat.
Another lively discussion took place on Sunday around the issue of drugs and whether cannabis should be legalised. Three out of the four speakers on the panel emphasised the need to end the hysteria over drugs. The fourth platform speaker, Detective Superintendent Barry Dougal of Strathclyde police, defended his force's 'robust' policy over drugs. From the floor Ian Mitchell of the SWP attacked the role of the police.