Free Public Transport Broadcast

Thursday, November 30, 2006

More Farepak questions

S2W-30205 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 28 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions it has had with Halifax Bank of Scotland regarding the Farepack collapse.


Answered by Allan Wilson (11 December 2006): My officials have been in contact with Halifax Bank of Scotland on a few occasions regarding the Farepak collapse.

S2W-30204 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 28 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive when it first learned of the Farepack collapse.


Answered by Allan Wilson (11 December 2006): The Executive learned of the Farepak collapse when the administration was made public. My officials then made contact with the Department of Trade and Industry to try and get formal details.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Colin meets Santa

Colin Fox MSP joined a Santa hit squad from retail union Usdaw to back a bill banning big stores from opening their doors on Christmas day and New Year’s day.
Thousands of Usdaw members wrote to Colin urging him to back the bill which aims to make sure retail staff have a proper work/life balance in the busy festive period.
“I was delighted to support the bill through its first stage at Holyrood because there was clearly very strong support in Edinburgh from shopworkers and shoppers alike,” said Colin. “The Santas came to Holyrood to make Usdaw’s case which was well researched and made the point that closing big stores on those days wouldn’t harm the Scottish economy or our tourist industry.
“I will continue to support this bill as I believe it allows us to keep Hogmanay as a special day in the Scottish calendar and allows shopworkers time to be with their families on New Year’s Day which is where they should be.
“It was particularly pleasing to get so many letters from my constituents asking for my support for this bill because it proves we do listen to well argued cases.”
Usdaw members will continue to lobby MSPs to support the bill but are encouraged by the continued support of Colin.
“Usdaw members in Lothians have lobbied hard for this bill and are delighted to shave secure the support of Colin, says Usdaw general secretary John Hannett. “It proves the simple democratic act of writing their MSP does work especially when we can prove that this bill will shop staff and make sure Hogmanay remains a time for families.
“Colin has listened carefully to the arguments and our member are delighted he/she has decided to support a bill that allows shopworkers some respite during the festive season.”

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Colin inspects the Scottish Executive's Public Transport Policy

S2W-29895 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 15 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to extend the national concessionary travel scheme to individuals who are not senior citizens.

Answered by Tavish Scott:

The Scotland-wide Free Bus Scheme for Older and Disabled People already fully meets the Partnership Agreement commitment. As the First Minister and I announced on 9 November 2006, a separate concessionary travel scheme for all young people between the ages of 16 and 18 will start in January 2007. We have no current pIans to extend the concessions available under either scheme to any other groups.

Solectron closure questions

S2O-11167 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether the closure of the Solectron factory in Dunfermline could be avoided by learning any lessons from Motorola¿s closure of its Bathgate facility.

Answered by Allan Wilson (23 November 2006): We recognised the need to move up the value chain in electronics - away from high volume manufacturing and into high-value, knowledge-based areas several years ago and we have been working with the electronics industry to offer companies, including Solectron, assistance in doing this.
However, Solectron made the decision to enter into a period of consultation with a view to closing its facility in Dunfermline as the result of a worldwide consolidation of its manufacturing business.

S2W-29672 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 7 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive when it first learned of Solectron’s plans to close its factory in Dunfermline.

Answered by Nicol Stephen (21 November 2006): We were first made aware of possible job losses at the facility on 13 October 2006. We were made formally aware of the company’s intention to close the facility on 27 October 2006.

Independance Convention Pt1

Last Year I had the pleasure of addressing the launch of the Scottish Independance convention

Independance convention Pt2

Monday, November 27, 2006

Air-brushed into History!

Article from the Herald Diary 24/11/06

The Scottish Parliaments annual report has just been published and the front cover makes for interesting reading at least. It shows all 128 MSP’s posing together in a group photograph on the steps leading up from the Garden lobby at Holyrood to the debating chamber.

But look closely and you notice that all is not as it seems. Because the picture was taken earlier this summer when all of the SSP MSP’s were, dare I mention it, tied up elsewhere! Suffice it to say that they had their mug shots taken separately and then airbrushed into the photo later on.

Not quite the experience Trotsky had,eh?

New Labour Fear Trident Debate

Below is a letter I sent to the Sunday Herald last weekend


Dear Sir
New Labour Fear Trident Debate
Whilst reading Iain McWhirter’s piece on ‘Why a new Trident can only make the world a more dangerous place’ in last week Sunday Herald, I was interrupted by Northern Ireland Minister Peter Hain speaking to Andrew Marr on TV on the same subject.
Hain amply confirmed for me Iain McWhirter’s opening salvo – no pun intended - that Labour had already decided to replace Trident ahead of any debate. When Hain said ‘Cabinet has not yet had a discussion on the detail of all this’ few could be left in any doubt nonetheless that the principle of replacing these Intercontinental weapons has already been discussed and agreed.

I must confess McWhirters conclusion has been obvious for me from ‘New’, or should that be ‘Nuclear’, Labour since I visited the Aldermaston Weapons Establishment as part of a Scottish CND delegation in June. It was obvious then that preparations were far advanced for the manufacture of the second generation of Trident missiles. Gordon Brown, whom Iain McWhirter unconvincingly suggests is ‘no nuclear enthusiast’, announced that same day, in his Mansion House speech that he would make available the £75bn needed for the next generation of British WMD’s.

Given all that, Labour’s promise of a full and open public debate on this issue is rather lame. There will be no debate on the matter, open or otherwise because New Labour is frightened of the debate. The party which put the ‘con’ in consultation has already agreed to buy these weapons from the US. Clearly their emphasis now is in making the vote itself a formality. Peter Hain warned his Labour colleagues they were ‘all elected on a manifesto committed to defend an independent nuclear deterrent.’

And look at in whose nuclear company New Labour now stands. Only nine nations have developed nuclear weapons; Bush’s America, which has some 16,500 nuclear warheads, Putin’s Russia, who even use them as a deterrent against dissidents, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, France and now Kim Jung Ill’s North Korea. What a rogue’s gallery that is! And in the crazy world of ‘deterrence’ these countries all argue, just like Peter Hain, that they must have them because we already have them.

Compared to the Labour Party’s dishonesty and fear of debate, the Scottish Socialist Party would welcome an open and honest examination of the issue. We are keen for the public to see the chasm that exists between ‘Nuclear Labour’s’ position on all this and ours. Our policy is clear and unequivocal, nuclear weapons are immoral and a colossal waste of money. We would instead spend the £75bn on improving our health record, on greater educational access and opportunity, on our creaking social services, on lifting our youngsters and our seniors out of poverty, and by no means the least, on exporting peace throughout the world not militarism and illegal invasions of sovereign nations.

Colin Fox MSP
National Convenor
Scottish Socialist Party

Coming Soon - Is there a Scottish road to socialism?

Socialists in Scotland have previously been presented with
parliamentary and British roads to socialism in the past.
Since the devolution referendum of 1997 and the arrival of
the Scottish Parliament in 1999 with its rainbow politics, it
is apt to now ask Is there a Scottish road to socialism?
Notwithstanding recent developments, like the split in the
Scottish Socialist Party and the rise in opinion poll support for
independence, there are longstanding debates about whether
a Scottish road to socialism is possible or desirable. The
various contributors were asked to consider the issues of what
they mean by socialism; how and where can their socialism
be achieved; and what role can Scottish developments play in
the international movement for social justice and socialism.
The contributors were drawn from across the national-unionist
divide and include John McAllion, Robin McAlpine, Vince Mills,
David Purdy, Joe Middleton, Pam Currie, Campbell Martin,
Bill Wilson, Stuart Fairweather, John Foster, Richard Leonard,
Peter McColl, Eric Canning and Neil Davidson.

Is there a Scottish Road to Socialism? is edited by
Colin Fox and Gregor Gall.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Farepak Questions in the Parliament

S2W-30006 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 20 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has considered making representations to the Department of Trade and Industry to examine whether a bond scheme similar to the ABTA scheme for the holiday industry would better protect customers in future, in light of the Farepak collapse.

Answered by Allan Wilson (4 December 2006): I wrote to Ian McCartney, Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) at the beginning of November about Farepak. In his response he indicated that the Office of Fair Trading and the Financial Services Authority are currently working with the DTI to advise him on the regulatory framework surrounding the collapse of Farepak and consider options to address any issues raised. This is to see what might be done to protect customers of such businesses and prevent a similar situation arising in the future. This work will be completed as soon as possible and I have asked to be kept informed.
As I understand matters Farepak was a member of the Hamper Industry Trade Association (HITA). A condition of membership was that each member deposited with HITA a bond to the value of £100,000. This bond was simply a commitment of good intent by each member and was never intended to compensate agents and customers in the event of a situation such as Farepak arising.

S2W-30007 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 20 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive what support it intends to give the Farepak customers’ protest outside the Halifax Bank of Scotland headquarters on 11 December 2006.

Answered by Allan Wilson (4 December 2006): The Scottish Executive will not be taking any part in the Farepak customers’ protest outside the Halifax Bank of Scotland headquarters on 11 December. It is for individuals to decide if they wish to protest for or against a particular issue or event.

S2M-5169.1 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Bill

As an amendment to motion S2M-5169 in the name of Karen Whitefield (Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Bill), insert at end “and, in so doing, recognises that both days are special and are defined public holidays and should be treated in exactly the same way.”

Lodged on 21 November 2006; 22 November 2006

Scrap Prescription Charges for all Patients

Below is a letter I sent to the Scotsman on Friday 24th November

As the person who introduced the Bill to scrap NHS prescription charges in Scotland, I welcome the Disability Working Group’s conclusion that all chronic sufferers should be exempted from payment reported in today’s Scotsman[ ‘Free Medicines for chronic patients urged’].

The fact that some chronic conditions currently qualify for free treatment and others equally deserving do not is just one of the many injustices in the present system.
The present list of exempt medical conditions was introduced in 1968 and there was absolutely no logic to it then. In the subsequent 40 years no medical professional has come forward to defend that initial list against demands for other chronic conditions to be added on clinical grounds.
There is plainly no sense behind a system which says people with diabetes or a thyroid condition can get free prescriptions but cancer patients or those with chronic skin conditions, hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, cystic fybrosis, Parkinsons disease or any mental health problem should not.

Of course my Bill, went further than the Scotsman’s rather limited campaign. It argued for the end to charges for all patients and an end to all anomalies.
Why for example should people on Disability Living Allowance or Incapacity Benefit have to pay for their medicines? Surely a question the Disability Working Group should have asked?
The Citizens Advice Bureau estimate there are 50,000 people a year in Scotland who go without the prescriptions they need - and that their GP has written out for them- because they cannot afford the £6.75 per item on the script. Ask any pharmacist about the unclaimed prescriptions or the customers who agonise about which drug they can skip on their multiple prescription. They are usually chronic sufferers often on multiple prescriptions, students and those on benefits and low paid.

In the meantime whilst the Executive has accepted my case for abolishing the charges for [some ] students and for the chronically sick – albeit they have yet to outline the extent of their exemptions there – but it intends to leave other patents behind. It is injust and makes no sense.
Neither does the fact that if chronic sufferers are all to be exempt from payment, and I hope they are, it will mean that about 95% of prescriptions will be free. So it begs the question, why not follow the example of the Welsh Assembly and finish the job, abolish the charges for everyone. If it is good enough for the Welsh Assembly to introduce universal free prescriptions why isn’t it right here?

The Scottish Socialist Party believes in universal free health care, the principle upon which the NHS was founded. Scrapping the charges for the chronically sick is of course welcome but still leaves many poor people behind.

Colin Fox MSP
National Convenor
Scottish Socialist Party

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

S2M-5197 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Attack on Sikh Youth

That the Parliament notes the unprovoked attack on a Sikh youth in Pilrig Park last week; expresses its solidarity with those who took part in a prayer vigil to express the community’s support for the victim and to condemn the thuggery involved in the attack; condemns the racist thugs who carried out the attack, and, given the attacks on the cars of members of the Leith Sikh community earlier this year, calls on Lothian and Borders Police to thoroughly investigate whether organised racists are active in the Leith area.

Supported by: Brian Adam, Jackie Baillie, Mark Ballard, Sarah Boyack, Bill Butler, Ms Rosemary Byrne, Trish Godman, Fiona Hyslop, Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, Mr Kenneth Macintosh, Campbell Martin, Mr Brian Monteith, Tommy Sheridan, Mr Jamie Stone

Lodged on 20 November 2006; current


Here is a copy of the letter I sent to Suzy Hall - co-ordinator of the campaign for those whose money has been stolen by Farepak.

I was speaking to Bristow Muldoon in Parliament and decided after speaking to him I should get in touch with you.

First of all I want to extend to you and the Farepak campaigners the full support of the Scottish Socialist Party.
I want you to know that we will do all we can to ensure the 150,000 people swindled out of their savings get it back and get the justice to which you are all entitled.
I know of hundreds of people –friends and family alike- who have lost money and I am keen to help in whatever way I can.
I feel that Farepak customers across Scotland are the very people who sent me and my SSP colleagues to Parliament to fight for them and their families.
My mobile number and Parliamentary number are below.

As Bristow may have told you I intended to ask a question after him of Jack McConnell in Parliament on Thursday at First Ministers Questions. The question was not taken then – I was diddled out of the reckoning- but I submitted it nonetheless.
It reads
‘Does the First Minister agree with me that it is sickening that the owners of Farepak , worth some £45mcan walk away from this collapse scot- free and Chairman Sir Clive Thomson jets off to South America for his winter holidays whilst 150,000 families have lost all their savings and face a much less cheery Christmas.
And considering how a similar sudden collapse in the holiday industry led to the ABTA Bond scheme being introduced, where customers are fully compensated, will he press the Dept of Trade and Industry to introduce a similar scheme to protect customers in this sector from losses too.
And finally will the First Minister encourage all Farepak customers to join me at the protest outside the Bank of Scotland’s headquarters , which are here in Edinburgh, on December 11th to press the company, which has made ‘extreme ‘ profits this year of £8.5bn, to do the right thing and fully compensate the low paid customers of Farepak for the £40m it has taken out of their pockets.’

I will of course let you know his replies.

Best wishes for a successful outcome
Colin Fox MSP
National Convenor
Scotttish Socialist Party

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is that hound part of the union, Ron?

WHAT a tonic it was to see my good friend and comrade Ron Brown in the Evening News (Big Mac gets tasty role in shipyards strike play, November 14) with his socialist greyhound. He looked to be in fine form.
Ron is undoubtedly one of this city's great characters and it was good to see him in such rude health again. And rude is the right word as he somehow manages to promote the socialist cause and workers' rights, even when this time it's his retired greyhound Big Mac who is centre stage.
I hope that dog is an Equity member, Ron? And I hope you and Big Mac make it back safely from Morningside in time for next week's SSP Free School Meals For All public meeting in Bonnington Primary School down in the people's republic of Leith.
Colin Fox, Scottish Socialist Party MSP - Lothians

published in Edinburgh Evening News 16/11/06

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Thursday 16th Nov- 7pm
St John Vianney Primary School

S2W-29671 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 7 November 2006) :

To ask the Scottish Executive what representations it is making to the Department of Trade and Industry in respect of the losses suffered by Farepak’s customers.


Answered by Allan Wilson (17 November 2006): My officials are in regular contact with DTI counterparts on issues arising from Farepak collapse which impact or impinge upon devolved responsibilities. I wrote to Ian McCartney, Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs at the Department of Trade and Industry, on 1 November 2006 and determine what steps are being taken to support customers and agents. I have also asked to be kept in touch with how matters progress with the Office of Fair Trading on the issue of reassessing the regulatory framework which applies to Christmas club companies such as Farepak and whether changes are needed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

S2M-5140 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Congratulations to RMT Divers and Support Staff in the North Sea on their Successful Strike

That the Parliament congratulates the 900 Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union divers working in the North Sea on winning their strike; believes that the deep sea divers and support crew have achieved, via their industrial action, a remarkable victory, securing a 44.7% pay rise; admires the way the workers stood together throughout their 10 days on strike; believes that their decision to take industrial action has been completely vindicated having earlier rejected an employers’ “final offer” of a 25% increase, and continues to recognise both the extremely dangerous conditions in which these men work and their importance to the highly lucrative North Sea oil industry.
Lodged on 13 November 2006; current

S2M-5121 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Welcome to First Socialist Ever Elected to US Senate

That the Parliament sends its warmest congratulations to Senator Bernie Sanders, the newly elected socialist member of the US Senate; notes his remarkable victory in Vermont where he won 66% of the popular vote; notes that he is the only elected member of the Senate never to have belonged to either the Republican or Democratic parties and believes that his overwhelming success in part reflects the tidal wave of opposition rushing through America over the continued occupation of Iraq by US troops and equally shows the strength of support that there is there for his pioneering and progressive social policies and political record in representing working families in Vermont over the last two decades.
Supported by: Frances Curran, Carolyn Leckie, Campbell Martin, Ms Rosemary Byrne, Dennis Canavan, Rosie Kane
Lodged on 08 November 2006; current

Iraq comment

Alex Miller emailed this to me for publication on the blog.............................

"There was a big conference in London in 2004 called the "Iraq Procurement Conference". It was basically a 3-day conference for big business to find out about "business opportunities" in Iraq - in other words, about shamelessly ripping off the natural and human resources of the recently invaded country. Any guesses who gave the opening address to the business moguls on behalf of the UK government? None other than Brian Wilson MP. I rest my case."
Alex Miller

SSP lead debate on Housing Stock Transfer

The SSP used it's limited debating time in the Parliament to initiate a debate on housing stock transfer. Frances Curran opened the debate whilst I closed it for the SSP - the full debate can be seen at whilst my notes for my speech are copied below:

Housing Stock Transfer
1. S S Party is proud to initiate this debate and hold the SE to account.
Housing stock transfer is this Executives flagship housing policy
- a flagship which is holed below the waterline.
It is Labour’s Poll tax in as much as they are absolutely wedded to it and are losing huge respect in not recognising the need now to abandon it.

SSP utterly opposed to stock transfer. We believe that only a programme of publicly owned social housing can ensure everyone gets to live in house fit for the 21st century.

2. Average cost of a new home at £130,000 leaves huge numbers of population behind and unable to buy. Chronic shortage of quality, affordable homes; for rent, publicly owned and democratically controlled and managed.

3. Stock Transfer Policy of Executive
Like Mrs Thatcher before them SE say there is no alternative to stock being transferred out of public sector.
SFHA Briefing claims ‘opposition to stock transfer is ideologically driven’ An astonishing point to make, blind as they are, to the clear ideological reasons behind stock transfer itself the Treasury rules.

Quote Malcolm Chisholm
‘It is a fantasy to think the Treasury will step in and write off Council housing debt without new landlords taking over the stock.’
Whom did he have in mind with this rebuke I wonder?
Could it have been his own LP Conference, which this year which voted by more than two to one for just such an option/ ‘fantasy’?
I am old enough, as is Malcolm Chisholm, to remember when decisions at LP conference meant something. It is sad to see a once great democratic organisation reduced to this where decisions are completely ignored by party leaders.

But lets be clear this is an utterly remarkable quote – divulges an ideological pigheadedness – not dispute that the money is available for housing, but it is only available if you do as we want and accept privatisation.

It is remarkable then that tenants in Edinburgh, Stirling and Renfrewshire, not to mention Tower Hamlets, Cannock, Mid Devon, Birmingham, Sefton and countless other places across UK have soundly rejected the blackmail and stood up to it and said ‘you are not on’.

And what notice does MR Chisholm take of their decisions?
Does he feel bound to accept the wishes of the people? Not a bit of it.

‘Community ownership’
Malcolm Chisholm insults our intelligence again in this debate, dressing up stock transfer as a step up from public ownership, rather than the quite transparent abandonment of public ownership from a party who don’t support it anyway– baloney.

Currently our houses are publicly owned and yet he counterposes this with the Saatchi and Saatchi management speak phrase ‘community ownership’ as if it was a step forward. It is cynical and deceitful.

4. The Glasgow experience – where it all went wrong
In 2002 80,600 houses were transferred from Glasgow City Council to GHA for £1 and £1bn of debt was written off.
Amid promises of much needed repairs being done and 3,000 new homes built.
The famous Blairtummock semi detached house featured in much of the glossy promotional material promised to all tenants.
Well its Nov 2006 and not one single house has been built by GHA. Not one single brick laid.
10,000 houses demolished andfurther 40,000 ‘considered for demolition’.

GHA got £1bn debt write off and 80,600 houses for £1 and still couldn’t make a go of it.
They got £300m more when their business plan fell short and another £400m for demolition plans and now are after another £507m for Second stage transfer [SST].

Promises of ‘Tenants control’
What an insult and at variance with the facts. The original tenants representatives on the GHA -Billy McAllister and Colin Deans- were sacked from the board for trying to represent tenants interests.
Salary of chief executive Michael Lennon paid £204,000 an insult to tenants who pay and pay rent for little reward to see £4,000 per week going to him. That’s twice what the ‘poor’ minister gets!
Perhaps SFHA like to reflect on this when they claim that ‘every penny made by housing associations gets ploughed back into serving tenants’.

GHA is widely considered to be a highly centralised corporate organisation.
- complaints about salary to Michael Lennon,
-complaints at amounts paid out to consultants,
-complaints at amounts paid to advertise benefits of being a GHA tenant,
-complaints at the complete lack of accountability of GHA , a body paid again and again out of public funds.

Consider what Glasgow Council could have invested in housing if debt had been written off for them. Comparison done by Director of Housing and Finance against the £160m GHA invested in the same period of time.
GHA £160m per year vs Glasgow Council
£93.9m available from debt w/off
£45.4m repairs spend as is
£78.1m from capital spend
£19m additional spend from central heating grants etc
Total £236m to invest in repairs and new stock .
In other words 50% higher than GHA!

GHA should be overhauled and restructured with an inbuilt tenant majority and over time the stock handed back to the Council to resume strategic responsibility for public sector housing in the city.

5 Why the repeated NO votes?
a. Glasgow experience a poorer deal for tenants and widely seen.
Not the fault of local managers and local tenants organisations but GHA itself and failure to deliver on promises made to people.
b. Privatisation is what it is and people know it.
c. Effective local campaigns which incidentally to their immense credit overcame the huge inequity of resources to achieve victories each time.
-Something deeply invidious and thoroughly undemocratic about Councils spending millions of pounds of tenants money trying to sell them something they didn’t want and yet denying them funds to put the alternative opinion.

6 ‘Tenants Led’ claims of Scottish Executive
As John Carrocher of the STO highlighted in the Herald recently
Local Housing Association tenants simply do not have the same say as they had with Council.
Before stock transfer tenants had the right and opportunity to negotiate with their landlords/the Council on whatever issue came up –city wide or more local
Now tenants reps on the GHA for example cannot even take many issues to tenants because they are ‘commercially and financially sensitive’
Housing Associations not tenant led organisations at all.
Management teams take all the decisions according to the business plan and need to pay back money to banks etc.

7 ‘Never mind the Ballots’ – says the SE!
Lost the Edinburgh debate, the Stirling debate, lost the Renfrewshire debate. What does Minister expect of Inverclyde and Highland transfers?
Would he bet on YES if his seat depended on it?

‘Tragedy’ claimed Malcolm Chisholm after Edinburgh, Stirling and Renfrewshire results. ‘Tragedy’ if he tries to carry on like King Canute pretending this policy has a future.
Minister is an honourable man – single parents benefits resignation, his honourable statements against ‘dawn raids’.
Will he respect the democratic views of tenants? And invest in their option, housing fit for the 21st century and available to everyone and managed and controlled by the public?

I ask him today to answer a straight question
- If he is ‘five and o’ at the end of the month, with Inverclyde and Highland results will he resign or accept the inevitable?

8 SSP believes top quality housing is a right everyone has - high standard, affordable to all, publicly owned and democratically controlled.

The SSP proudly fights for everyone’s right to live in homes fit for the 21st century which are affordable to all – yes subsidized if necessary – publicly owned and democratically owned and managed. That’s what sets us apart from New Labour. I move support for the motion in my name.
Notes for debate
LHO’s and LHA’s - 50 or 60 LHO’s get designation status - 5 local housing associations in Glasgow ‘simply do not trust the GHA anymore’. Complaints at how few homes transferred to local HA’s

Promises of 3,000 new builds- not a single brick laid by a single LHO.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Richie Venton's response to RMT disaffiliation

SSP Trade Union Organiser, Richie Venton, wrote this response to the decision by the RMT to disaffiliate from the SSP in last weeks Scottish Socialist Voice.

The national executive of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union last week voted to disaffiliate from the Scottish Socialist Party. This decision is deeply regrettable to all those who fight for genuine political representation of the working class against low pay, privatisation, anti-union laws and wars for oil. It is an undeniable setback - not just for the SSP, but also for the RMT’s membership, who need a genuine, organised political voice in the face of ruthless railway and shipping bosses, and New Labour’s anti-union government. It is all the more regrettable given that the policies of the SSP remain unchanged and totally in tune with those of the RMT. The RMT affiliated to the SSP in the first place because they had the courage to break from New Labour and recognised that the SSP’s policies on privatisation, workplace rights, public ownership and the bloody war in Iraq matched the union’s own aims and aspirations. They also took that historic decision in acknowledgement of the outstanding solidarity the SSP had shown to RMT members and other trade unionists in struggle over the years. None of that has changed. Close voteThe decision at the RMT’s national executive arose from a vote to disaffiliate at the union’s Scottish Regional Council. That vote was about as close as it gets; just two delegates voting the other way would have meant continued affiliation to the SSP. And as SSP national convener Colin Fox commented after the RMT vote: “I also regret the union never offered the party any opportunity to put our case.” In fact, the case for staying with the SSP is overwhelming, and where individual RMT members have presented it, other members and RMT branches have wanted to stay affiliated. Where else are they supposed to go? Back to New Labour? That, of course, would be the preferred option of some of those who voted to disaffiliate from the SSP - but certainly not of the vast majority, including a number of principled trade unionists who still vote Labour but argued for the union to remain with the SSP on the grounds that its policies remain the same, and match those of the union. When Tommy Sheridan, the SWP and some others decided to split off from the SSP, I warned in a letter to trade unionists: “This is an act of utter disloyalty and irresponsibility to the hundreds of thousands of working class people whose hopes have been raised by the Scottish left uniting into the one party - the SSP. It would be a particularly cruel deceit of those courageous trade unionists who fought for and won affiliation of the RMT to the SSP. “These workers did not affiliate to Tommy Sheridan - they affiliated to the PARTY whose working class socialist policies and fighting record matches their aims and aspirations. Why should they be dragged off into the wilderness by a split-off from the SSP?”Their split-off had no political justification, but one of its consequences is the RMT’s decision. The RMT’s national executive quite explicitly and unanimously voted NOT to affiliate to Solidarity. That reflects the widespread distrust felt by RMT members. But by splitting from the SSP, Solidarity disheartened and confused enough RMT activists to allow the narrow majority on the RMT Regional Council to vote for disaffiliation. The only victors in this are the enemies of socialism and trade unionism. This is not the end of the story, however. The reasons the RMT broke with Labour and affiliated to the SSP in 2004 remain with added force. RMT members face the same attacks from the employers and the war-mongering, privatising, anti-union New Labour. Picket linesThey will be forced into industrial action in the months and years ahead - and the SSP will continue to stand on their picket lines, organise solidarity with them, and act as the voice of RMT members in the streets, workplaces, councils and parliament. Disaffiliation does not suddenly mean we will sever all links with the RMT or its members. As Colin Fox said last week: “All the reasons the RMT gave for affiliating remain entirely valid. We share a mutual loathing of New Labour and all it represents.”This setback changes nothing in our determination to join with others in breaking the insidious link between New Labour and the unions. Pouring millions of members’ subs down New Labour’s throat does even less for the affiliated unions now than when the RMT dared to defy New Labour’s diktats two years ago and were subsequently expelled. And union members are increasingly reaching breaking point in their link with Labour. The fact that the TGWU leadership has taken the unprecedented step of putting a case for continued affiliation to Labour on their website this month is proof of the clamour of discontent from TGWU members. The working class needs an organised political voice and vehicle for socialism more than ever.The SSP remains that party, and we will continue to campaign shoulder-to-shoulder with the RMT and other unions on the daily struggles and bigger socialist aims that unite us.

By Richie Venton
SSP Trade Union Organiser

Scotland's Prison Shame Worse

They say you can tell a great deal about a nation by the way it treats its prisoners. Last week I attended the launch of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons annual report and the 2005-06 version makes grim reading. In that same week my SSP colleague, Rosie Kane MSP, spent a week in Cornton Vale for protesting against nuclear weapons - her first hand report of life inside Scotland's only women's prison - again grim reading can be found here

The frustrations of Dr Andrew McLellan, the current Inspector, are plain for all to see. He told me he is ‘completely scunnered’ by the numbers we send to jail and that the average daily prison population in Scotland continues year on year to pass record levels.

Some 6,779 men and women are incarcerated here, meaning we jail a higher proportion of prisoners than almost anywhere else in Europe. Scotland jails 141people per 100,000 population, in Sweden it is 78 and Norway just 68. And that figure will worsen dramatically with the introduction of the Custodial Sentences and Weapons Bill which plans to scrap the automatic early release of prisoners, insisting that all offenders serve at least 75% of their sentence in jail. It is likely to add another 20% to that daily total.

And with 6396 prison places, some 400 less than the numbers jailed, the Inspector of Prisons has condemned the chronic overcrowding.
‘The nine evils of over-crowding’ as HMIP Dr McLellan calls them, mean; less time for staff to devote to prisoners offending behaviour, less time for screening for self harm or suicide risk assessments, increased availability of drugs as there’s less time for searches, cell sharing of facilities – facilities designed for one will have to accommodate two and those for two will have to contain three- and the deterioration of living conditions, increased tensions and noise, more time overall spent in cells, family contact visits will come round that bit less often.
It is hardly any wonder that re-offending is increasing and that people feel that offenders often come out of prison worse than they went in.

And as to who it is we are locking up?
Professor Roger Houchin, a criminologist at Glasgow Caledonian University, highlighted the link between poverty and imprisonment. He revealled that one quarter of our prisoners come from the 55 most deprived/poorest Council wards in Scotland. In parts of Glasgow, for example, the poorest parts, one 23 year old man in every nine is in prison.
Echoing the remarks of Lord Scarman in the aftermath of the 1980’s riots across the UK, Houchin rightly says ‘There can be no criminal justice without social justice.’
When I spoke with Andrew McLellan I asked him about the ‘social justice’ in two particular aspects of his report. One was the food we provide to prisoners and the other health care.

Food in prison.
I was shocked to find how much the Scottish Executive provides to feed people in prison. How much do you think we spend per day on feeding prisoners - breakfast, dinner, tea and supper –all in? Have a guess, ten pounds? Five pounds £5?
Unbelievably the answer is just £1.57! That’s right, not even the price of a happy meal! £1.57! The same as it was ten years ago. And I think we can all imagine how good it can only be. It is often not even warm.

Health Care
The other aspect of the report I found surprising was that the health of our prisoners is not the responsibility of the NHS. I was surprised to find that the Scottish Prisons Service has a separate health department. Given the exceptional demands placed on the SPS by a population which is 70% drug dependent and often with severe mental health problems there is now growing concern that the one organisation which is best placed and has more expertise than any other, the NHS, should be dealing with those issues.

Yes you can indeed tell a great deal about a country by how it treats its prisoners and Scotland has as Dr McLellan’s report repeatedly highlights much to be concerned about.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Iraq letter in Scotland on Sunday

Published Sun 5th November

Dear Sir
Brian Wilson fails in last weeks column [‘Troops out’ will not end Basra’s misery] to mention any of the reasons he and his New Labour colleagues gave for invading Iraq in the first place. And I am not surprised.
Let’s briefly remind ourselves what Brian said in 2003 to justify this illegal war; Saddam was a threat to this country, Saddam was a threat to his neighbours, Saddam was responsible for 9/11, he had links with Bin Laden and Al Queada, he had weapons of mass destruction [remember that one!]. All were proven to be spurious and the invasion of a sovereign country was declared illegal under international law and it has proved to be just as heinous in its conduct.

Now Brian Wilson and his New Labour colleagues, as at Westminster this week, argue that their purpose after all was to ‘bring peace, stability and democracy to Iraq.’! I kid you not, this mindless mantra was hummed repeatedly, on all networks all day Tuesday by the likes of David Cairns MP, Des Browne the Defence Secretary –before his gaffe on the enquiry- and Adam Ingram MP.
Peace? Where is the peace, I don’t see it. More than 650,000 Iraqis have died so far and the sectarian killing according to the UN runs at 100 per day. That 36,500 or the equivalent of ten 9/11’s per year.
Stability? The country has disintegrated into ethnic warfare and anarchy and surely must be the least stable country on the planet. The Kurds are completely detached in the north, Sunni and Shia militia are butchering each other with abandon, Al Quaida have control of entire Iraqi provinces, ceded to them by the US Army and the Iraqi police and army are implicated in all the blood letting. On top of that there is no electricity of clean waters for huge sections of the population in an oil rich country.
For British troops in Basra the stability is just as illusive. John Humphries reporting from Basra last week revealed that the British military high command have not been able to leave their Basra Palace HQ in four months.
And democracy? New Labour lectures us on democracy without a hint of shame. This is just too difficult to take. This is the party which justified ‘regime change’ in Iraq, not by the only people morally entitled to do it, that is the Iraqi’s themselves, but rather by two alien invading western armies.
And to my mind anyone who rejects the clear wishes of the Iraq people who by ten to one want the troops withdrawn is in no position to lecture us about democracy.

This debate needs an honest answer to one question. Is the continued presence of British and American troops in Iraq part of the solution or are they now part of the problem? I know where I stand and its not beside Brian Wilson who says ‘There is no ethical case to justify the imminent departure of British troops from Iraq’.
On the contrary the continued presence of invading armies hated by the population means more deaths of young British and American troops as well as one hundred times as many innocent Iraqis. The case for immediate withdrawal is to bring to an end a hideous and disastrous chapter in this nations history.

Colin Fox, MSP
National Convenor Scottish Socialist Party

S2M-5078 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : North Sea Divers' Strike

That the Parliament notes the decision of 500 deep sea divers in the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) to reject by more than two-to-one the latest United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association pay offer; recognises the extremely dangerous conditions in which these men work, deep in the icy waters of the North Sea, putting their lives at risk to repair oil wells and pipelines in an industry vital to Scotland’s economy; believes that it is right that their wages should reflect the great danger of the job; recognises the fact that they must pay out £20,000 for their extensive training; further notes that they can spend half their working week in decompression chambers after working at depths of 600 feet, that they face compulsory retirement at 50 and cannot get life insurance, medical or sickness cover for the extremely hazardous job they do; believes that the £46,000 maximum salary is therefore not excessive, being much less than the salary earned by an MSP, for example, and notes that divers’ pay has slipped by 20% in recent years in comparison with similar occupations; believes that while the oil industry is making record breaking super-profits it is only right that the highly important and dangerous job these divers do is fully recognised, and calls on the United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association to meet RMT representatives at the earliest opportunity to try to settle this dispute to the satisfaction of both sides.
Supported by: Ms Rosemary Byrne, Campbell Martin
Lodged on 02 November 2006; current

Latest Poll Result

The latest poll, run by the Scotsman, sees the SSP sitting on 4 %
below is a letter I wrote to the Scotsman last week

Hamish Macdonnell appears unable to see the wood for the trees in reporting the Scottish Socialist Party's growing support in the Scotsman's poll today.

It is all very well comparing the SSP's figures today with 2003 but that would be to ignore the events of the last few months. Surely the wiser comparison would be to look at the last ICM Scotsman opinion poll. This time last year it showed support for the SSP on just 2%, now we are on 4%.

Indeed the last three opinion polls in Scotland, all taken in the past few weeks offer considerable encouragement for the SSP, showing as they do support recovering and now standing at between 4-6%. This level of support repeated next May will put us within touching distance of a seat in all 8 regions of Scotland. And given that John McAllion has been selected to fight the North East Scotland region for us, we are confident of increasing our numbers at Holyrood next year.

I am heartened that our core support has remained loyal to the SSP throughout the stormy events of the summer. I can promise all our supporters that we are redoubling our efforts to promote our unique political message and I am very encouraged by the response.

New Labour are on the slide as your poll shows and there are hundreds of thousands of Scots looking for a left alternative. They wont find that with the SNP. By campaigning on our three key policy priorities of Independence, withdrawal of the troops from Iraq and the introduction of free school meals for every pupil we will continue to grow. All these issues have very broad appeal, especially amongst those Scots who have not yet decided if they will vote at all next May.

The SSP has been able to put the damage of the past few months behind us and I fully anticipate that our fortunes will continue to rise as the comparison with the polls of a year ago reveal. I am confident we will see that reflected in the Scotsman's polls in the months to come.

Colin Fox MSP
Scottish Socialist Party National Convenor

Thursday, November 02, 2006

S2M-5074 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP): Closure of Solectron, Dunfermline

That the Parliament condemns the decision by Solectron to close its Dunfermline facility with the loss of 480 jobs; considers Solectron to be a company which, on the one hand commends the workforce for its excellent performance, efficiency and profitability but then on the other hand effectively delivers a slap in the face to that workforce just before Christmas; believes that this is another blow to Fife’s manufacturing base, and further believes that, rather than finding them alternative employment and retraining, the Scottish Executive should support the staff of Solectron by keeping this profitable factory open and retain this asset to the Scottish economy.


S2W-29672 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 7 November 2006) : To ask the Scottish Executive when it first learned of Solectron’s plans to close its factory in Dunfermline.Due for Answer 21 November 2006

Executive Prescription Charges Report Due Out

In February of this year, on the very day the Scottish Parliament was due to debate my Bill to abolish NHS Prescription charges to be exact, the Executive announced a package of reforms in order to offset the chances of a backbench rebellion.
They promised to review the impact the charges had on the chronically sick and on students in full time education and training.

That review is now complete. It is in the hands of the Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald and interest in its findings is intense. That he is reportedly reluctant to publish can perhaps be understood from his point of view because most health experts and commentators are keen to see how the Executive have solved a conundrum which has evaded them for nearly half a century.

The list of chronic conditions which are exempt has not been changed since 1964. In 40 years health professionals and politicians alike have not been able to find an appropriate and logical reason to exempt one chronic condition which allows for one group of patients to get their medicines free whilst not including another group.
Nonetheless this Executive has promised an answer and must now come forward with an answer, to explain why say a Parkinsons Disease sufferer will be is exempt when an asthmatic is not, why a patients with say a chronic skin complaint will be exempt but cancer patients must continue to pay. It is not something the Executive was able to do in the six months that my Bill went through the intensive Parlaimentary scrutiny of 2005.

The promised concessions in February will also look rather foolish unless they can also justify why students in full time education and training should be exempt but part time ones are not. Or since the student exemption is at least based on an acceptance that there are those who simply cannot afford the £6.60 charge per item of prescription, why only students? Why not the low paid who run the risk of going without their medicines? Or those on Incapacity benefit or Disability Living Allowance ? Why must these groups of poor people continue to have to pay?

The prescription charges system is a complete and utter dogs dinner which sees 30 MSP’s over 65 get medicines free but 300,000 on IC and DLA forced to pay?

Whatever the Scottish Executive’s review concludes the unfortunate truthis that tens of thousands of Scots will still be forced to go without the medicines they need because the simply cannot afford the £6.60 per item demanded of them. That undermines the core commitment the NHS promised us all – universal free healthcare.

Perhaps the Executive should just come clean and admit their policy amounts to ‘Keeping Medicines Out of Reach ….of the poor.’

Colin on picket line with Mackinnon Mills Workers

Free School Meals Campaign goes from strength to strength

Last Saturday SSP campaigners were out on Princes Street gathering support for our bill to introduce healthy nutritious free school meals for all Scotlands children.
- One in three youngsters in Scotland are growing up in poverty [these are the governments own figures] and as bad as that is in a wealthy little country like ours the fact is that less than half of them qualify for free school meals. And to make matters worse many of those who do qualify refuse to eat them because of the stigma of them being ‘only for poor kids’ as they see it. All of this means that many many children in Scotland go without the healthy start that they need and eat a much poorer diet.
- 16% of children admitted to Edinburgh’s Sick Kids hospital last year showed signs of malnutrition. Can you belive that in a city as rich as this one that our children do not get enough to eat or are eating all the wrong things.
- Consequentail to eating all the wrong , cheaper things is that childhood obesity rates are spiralling out of control.

These are just some of the problems our Bill seeks to solve. The Free School Meals Bill would guarantee every child a hot nutritious free school meal every day. If it is available to everyone then no child will be left behind – that’s the great benefit of universal provision, long an important socialist principle.

As part of the SSP’s campaign a series of public meetings have been arranged throughout Scotland in the coming 3 months.
The Bill is now in front of the scrutinising committees in the Scottish Parlaiment and will be debated in full in early January. The important thing now is to rachet up the pressure on MSP’s from all parties to support the Bill.

Inch Meeting

Lothians Public meetings on Free School Meals

Thursday Nov 16th – SOUTH EDINBURGH
Frances Curran MSP – the Bill’s sponsor will speak at St John Vianney PS, Inch [off Gilmerton Road] at 7pm

Tuesday Nov 28th – LEITH
Colin Fox MSP speaker : Bonnington PS at 7.30pm

Thursday Nov 30th – BATHGATE
Colin Fox MSP speaker ; Bathgate Community Centre 7.30pm

Bathgate Meeting

Iraq success???????

I sent a letter off to the Evening News last week following a report that British military chiefs were so happy with the ‘success’ of their mission in Iraq that they plan to bring home half the troops by May – I kid you not!
This ‘success’ will come as a surprise to anyone who recalls that more than 120 soldiers have been killed there. It will also come as somewhat of a surprise to hear the illegal occupation of a foreign land described this way so soon after Sir Richard Dannatt the General in charge of the British troops decry the tactics and strategy and presence in Iraq just last week. Dannatt demanded a recognition that the British were hated, losing the battle for hearts and minds and desperately lacked an exit strategy. Well now they have one, namely dress up the campaign so far as a success and get the hell out as quickly as possible.

Letter published in Edinburgh Evening News
Bring the troops in Iraq back home
THE report in Evening News quoting military chiefs claiming British troop operations had been such a success that half the soldiers stationed there could be home early next year almost made me laugh. I say almost because this is Iraq and there is nothing funny about the deadly failure of British military and political policy there.
If there is talk in the Ministry of Defence about withdrawing the troops - and I expect they are discussing little else - then let us not insult the intelligence of the Scottish public by falling for government propaganda. The situation in Iraq is, as the head of the army General Sir Richard Dannatt admitted, a complete disaster.
Anyone who heard John Humphries reports from Basra this week on Radio Four will surely understand how hated and despised the US and UK troops now are in the eyes of the Iraqi people. Basra was supposed to be in the "safe south" of Iraq, well away from Baghdad and the treacherous "Sunni triangle". But now Humphries - himself hardly an arch-critic of government policy these last four years - reveals that British troops cannot be moved in and out of the city other than in the dead of night, that soldiers travel in daylight only in convoys of heavily armoured bullet proof personnel carriers and perhaps most tellingly of all he uncovers the fact that the military top brass have not ventured out of their Basra Palace HQ in many months.
All that doesn't sound like much of a success to me. More like an utterly disastrous and internationally isolated plan which has not only failed to make the world a safer place but has tarnished Britain's reputation worldwide.
The answer needed here is to bring all the troops home now and recognise that the military occupation of a sovereign country, one we knew far too little about, was a grievous error which only a fool could describe as a "success".
Colin Fox MSP, Scottish Socialist Party National Convener, Scottish Parliament

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Climate Change Concerns Us All!

Edinburgh University students in the People and Planet society invited me to speak at their meeting on the dangers of climate change Friday 27th in the David Hume tower. Here is the speech I delivered
I am grateful to the People and Planet group at Edinburgh University for the kind invitation to come along tonight and speak with you.
I have heard a great deal about the influential position your group has amongst student opinion here and I believe that was amply demonstrated by your success in stopping Boris Johnston becoming University Rector this year and in the victory of Mark Ballard.
I am glad to be here.

I picked up this leaflet recently advertsing the National Climate Change march in London next Saturday, which I expect many of you will be attending.
On it much of the blame for the CO2 emmisions is levelled rightly at what it describes as "George Bush's fossil-fuelled industry dominated administration!"
And you can't but agree that his government is dominated by and run for the benefit of big oil.
He went to war for oil. The biggest corporations in the world benefited from that war and they are oil companies. They have subsequently declared record profits and they wield fearsome political power over the world today.
So much so that when the world lines up the Kyoto protocol to reduce harmful emissions Bush effectively tells us all to blow it out your, well, nose!

It is therefore a measure of who we are up against here in this debate.

The second thing which grabbed my attention on the leaflet was the phrase
"Only a fair and effective international treaty can prevent tragic injustice."
I have to say fairness is in short supply in the global world today. And I am sceptical that these world leader will change their spots.
Remember the G8 in Scotland last year and how making world poverty history and climate change were to be the two big themes, well aren't you struck by how little changed? I was.
I remember as I took part in all the events of July 2005, the Make Poverty History march which was terrific and so established that we were speaking on behalf of all common humanity. The G8Alternatives summit, Faslane protest, Dungavel protest and of course Gleneagles protest itself which we did so much to ensure happened at all.
I remember at the time being fearful that no one in Washington, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, Ottowa, Rome or Moscow was marching and was this all just British domestic matter. Nothing changed. There are more people living in poverty in the world today that there was then. The climate is in worse shape.

This is a hugely unequal world. It is more unequal now than it has ever been before; poverty and degradation fpor the mass of workers and peasants but the no of billionaires rises and rises and rises.
Lets not be blind to the class nature of the world today, the world belongs to us all equally.

Colin invited to speak at Inch Community AGM

I joined other public representatives on the platform at the Inch Community Association in St John Vianney School last Thursday (26th October).
The meeting attracted 50 or so local people the dreadful weather hampered the numbers - and the main issues raised were anti social behaviour and plans for developing local sports pavilions.