WELL OVER 400 delegates attended the annual conference of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) in Perth last weekend. Following the resignation of Tommy Sheridan as SSP convenor three months ago, it was widely felt that the event had successfully drawn a line under what had been a difficult period for the party.
The overwhelming mood of delegates was positive, outward going and forward looking.
This was reflected in conference proceedings. Conference opened with a passionate debate on Iraq, followed by an emergency motion on the Asian tsunami disaster. This included an address from former Scottish MP John McAllion, who told us that he had just left Labour.
Other guest speakers included Rose Gentle of Military Families Against the War and Angolan asylum seeker Pastor Daly—both welcomed with standing ovations.
Motions passed covered a wide range of topics, including support for the European Social Forum and for the campaign against the G8 summit, the crisis in Latin America, poverty and prostitution, and opposition to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.
Delegates were urged to build the biggest possible support for the TUC day of action on pensions on 18 February and the historic public sector strike set for 23 March.
There was a recognition of the scale of the assault on pensions and of the planned action to stop it. SSP members will be throwing themselves into the agitation over pensions. Both of the main fringe conference meetings discussed the need to build the anti-capitalist movement in the run up to the forthcoming G8 summit.
The theme of unity and looking outwards to the future was emphasised by Colin Fox MSP, the SSP’s new convenor, in his acceptance speech.
He was elected by conference delegates with 252 votes compared to 154 for the alternative candidate, Alan McCombes. The 62 percent to 38 percent margin of his victory was higher than expected.
Fox stressed the need for the party to mobilise for the general election campaign. But he also emphasised the “mouth-watering opportunities” offered by the anti-G8 protests. A quarter of a million are now expected in Edinburgh for the opening demonstration on 2 July.
Many seasoned delegates agreed this was the best SSP conference ever. There were sophisticated and fraternal debates over issues ranging from our attitude to the resistance in Iraq through to how to deal with anti-social behaviour in working class areas. And there was a real unity of purpose in seizing the opportunities of the next few months.