Campaigners and trade unionists from across Scotland are meeting on Sunday for a crucial meeting to discuss the future for the left.
The meeting, called by Tommy Sheridan and fellow member of the Scottish Parliament Rosemary Byrne, will discuss launching a new socialist party in Scotland.
Some people have attempted to represent the new party as being based only on personality, but many of those who spoke to Socialist Worker said that it was an opportunity to involve much wider forces in Scotland.
Arthur Nicoll, service and conditions officer for Dundee City Unison, told Socialist Worker, “This is a chance to build with the labour movement and with wider campaigns on the ground.
“In Unison there are branches that have been involved in fighting alongside Muslim groups and anti-capitalist groups.
“Hopefully these are the people who will come on board with the new party. I think there will be a lot of interest.”
A number of key trade unionists who have played leading roles in the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), have already said that they welcome and support calls for a new socialist party.
Alan Brown, Department for Work and Pensions group vice president for the PCS civil service workers’ union, said, “I believe this is an exciting time for trade unionists and socialists.
“We are at the beginning of a new dawn, a new movement that offers hope to all who suffered and continue to suffer from low pay, bullying employers and an anti-worker government.”
Janice Godrich, president of the PCS, is also supporting the call for a new party.
She said that faced with New Labour’s savage attacks on public services and jobs, she was urging “all trade unionists, workers and those who want to resist attacks on our communities to join with us”.
Speaking in the run up to Sunday’s meeting, Tommy Sheridan said that it was time to move forwards.
He said, “It is gratifying to know that while others seem occupied with the politics of name calling, so many active trade unionists are committing themselves to a new socialist party in Scotland that will campaign on the real issues facing ordinary working class people.”
Osama Saeed from the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) told Socialist Worker that that the launch of a new organisation is a chance to re-evaluate the relationship between the left and Muslims in Scotland.
“Many people are looking for new representation in Scotland,” he said. “MAB values the relationship that it has with the wider left in England - with Respect and Stop the War. These are links that were not made in Scotland. There was a failure of the left to attract Muslim members. This new party has an opportunity to tap into the anti-war and wider movements.”
Some activists are still unsure of how best to take the left forward. Many of these people are planning to attend Sunday’s meeting in order to find out more about the plans for a new party.
Caroline Hoskins from Edinburgh said, “My SSP branch did pass a motion backing Tommy for convenor - but things have since moved on.
“People are at different places with this situation. A lot of people are desperately upset about the break-up of the SSP. Some think that there is more hope if the party stays together - but that is not going to happen.”
Jonathon Shafi, a student at Strathclyde university, told Socialist Worker that he will be going along to the meeting on Sunday to find out more about the new organisation.
He said, “For me, the crucial question that I want addressed is not about Tommy Sheridan, but about politics - about what sort of tactics the new party will use.
“I am going to the meeting to find out if a new party will be willing and able to work with people in wider movements, such as Stop the War - people who are not already socialists. Those are the sort of tactics that I think we need.”
Opencast miners ready to support a new party
There is already a feeling among many activists in Scotland that a new party will be able to reach wider forces than the left has previously been able to involve. It is already tapping into a debate among trade unionists about who can best represent their interests.
Jim Walls is the T&G union convenor for opencast miners in Scotland. He told Socialist Worker that a lot of the workers he represents had only recently broken from Labour.
He said that there had been a feeling among the miners that the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) may be the party to represent them, but that they are now supporting the launch of a new party.
“The shop stewards and members of the coal branch are not willing to comment on the current state of the SSP,” he said.
“However, we will be supporting Rosemary Byrne and Tommy Sheridan, and if they start a new party our support will be unconditional. At the end of the day, the Labour Party has always had a romantic link with the miners. But it’s time now that miners wake up and smell the coffee.
“We would not join a war-torn party. That’s why we put pressure on Tommy and Rosemary for the meeting on Sunday. We need a more open and appealing party that can represent people across Scotland.”
He believes that the launch of a new socialist party is a chance to create a voice for working people and trade unionists across Scotland.
“The T&G has around 5,000 members in Scotland,” he said. “Their interests are not being represented. At the meeting on Sunday there will hopefully be a call for a new party that can represent the labour movement.
“And I have 294 miners and members of their families who are ready to join.”