I STAND for an independent socialist Scotland, a republic, run for public need, not private greed and independent from the multinationals which own so much of the economy and control so much of society.
The SSP has a hill to climb to achieve this. But it’s a hill we’ve started to ascend. Our 130,000 votes in 2003 is the biggest left vote in Scotland since 1931. There are 127,000 possible recruits out there!
We can do this by refocusing on what we do best — taking socialist ideas to a mass audience in ways that engage and inspire, whether this be the general election, hospital cuts, school closures, supporting strikers, the G8 Gleneagles summit or the occupation of Iraq.
My conviction is that creating socialism will be driven from outside parliament. But parliament is extremely useful in helping build these extra-parliamentary forces. Parliament provides us with a good platform; it allows us to speak to many more people than ever before.
There can be no artificial divisions created between the SSP in parliament and our grassroots. A good example of fusing party and parliament is my bill to abolish prescription charges. I launched the broad-based Scottish Campaign to Remove All Prescription Charges (SCRAP) and have spoken at 20 public meetings for it already. We only need recall last year’s nursery nurses’ strike to see another example of our effective campaigning inside and outside parliament.
This election offers the chance to reflect on how we build a mass socialist party operating on a number of fronts. The SSP is fortunate to have abundant talent. Membership training and support are necessary to extend their involvement in the party. If elected, I will open up the party. More participation in debate and decision making is needed.
This vision and platform has found the support of 40 branches, the RMT Scottish region, nearly all the regional organisers, and Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Bryne MSPs.
From 1995, I organised the SSP and its forerunner in east Scotland until elected. I provided leadership and dynamism. Twenty-five years’ building socialist organisations has shaped the way I am. I fully understand being an MSP means building the party and promoting our socialist vision.
I have learned to use parliament and the media to do this effectively. I believe I have the skills, credibility and judgement necessary to provide leadership, and the ability to unite the party in a common purpose of vigorous campaigning for socialism. There are no walls between any parts of the work we do. The convenor’s role is crucial in sewing these all together.
This is no beauty contest. If it was, both Colin and I would have been disqualified from entering. This is about what kind of structure we need to fuse our work inside the parliament with the battles outside.
I entered the contest late — just five days before nominations closed. I did so under pressure from many grassroots party members. They asked me to stand as an antidote to the gravitational pull of the Scottish Parliament upon our party.
Every SSP member respects the work of our six MSPs in Holyrood. We have three bills in progress, calling for free school meals, free prescription charges and the scrapping of the council tax. Bread and butter politics are vitally important if we are to dig deep roots in working class communities.
But what is even more important is that we fire the imagination and idealism of young people.
That means spearheading opposition to the barbaric war of conquest in Iraq.
It means helping to mobilise the youth of Scotland onto the streets to confront George Bush and the godfathers of global capitalism when they descend on rural Perthshire for the G8 summit.
It means standing shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim communities against the twin scourges of racism and state repression.
It means organising the slave labour generation who work long hours for a pittance in the bars, shops, hotels, cafes and fast food restaurants.
It means fighting back against nuclear weapons. It means leading civil disobedience against ID cards. It means stepping up the fight to close down the Dungavel detention centre.
Holyrood has no say over war and peace, civil liberties, nuclear weapons, low pay or asylum rights. We should continue to fight for improvements and reforms within the parliament. But we cannot allow our vision to be stunted and confined within the parameters laid down by the British state.
We are not a devolutionist party. We are a party of socialism, of independence and of internationalism.
We should now redress the balance of our work and turn the SSP more decisively towards the world outside Holyrood.
As an important step in that direction, we should move towards what would in effect be a dual convenorship.
Yes, we need a media figurehead in the parliament. We have six talented MSPs, including Colin, capable of playing that role. But all of them are swamped with committee work, casework, bills and other parliamentary detail.
That’s why we need a separate political convenor outside the parliament to unite and galvanise the entire party to face up to the battles that lie ahead.
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