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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Campaigning in Midlothian

On saturday morning I met our council candidates for Midlothian at Newtongrange Mining Museum for a photo then we were off to Penicuik to campaign against Trident.

The candidates in the photo above are (l-r): Neil Bennet (Bonnyrigg), Lynn Leitch (Midlothian West), Norman Gilfillan (Penicuik), John Carroll (Midlothian South).

Our other candidates are Murray Court (Midlothian East) & Bob Goupillot (Dalkeith)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Save Meadowbank

I was invited to Meadowbank stadium last Saturday to address a public meeting organised by campaigners opposed to Council plans to demolish the stadium and build private housing on the site.

Can I first of all say that I have my own very special reasons for keeping this place open.
This is the place where I made my hurdling debut in May 2003 on the night I was elected as an MSP for the Lothians for the SSP.
It was a night /morning I will never forget and this stadium will always have a warm place in my heart. And you know I suspect it has a warm place in all 600 of you too and that’s why you are here and feel so passionate about this issue.

But you know I am no dinosaur, I don’t want to see this place stay as it is, I want to see it improved, I want to see investment in this and indeed all this cities sports and leisure facilities.

I notice that ‘Save Meadowbank Campaign’ has put a leaflet on your seat asking you to get politicians to answer three specific questions. Well let me answer these three questions here and now.
No, I don’t support the demolition of Meadowbank and it used for private housing development.
Yes I do want to see the facilities here refurbished
Yes I do support the widest possible public consultation on the Councils proposals.
And let me go further. I am sick to the back teeth of Councils, Health Boards and others engaging in apparent ‘public consultations’ only to watch them disregard our views completely and do at the end exactly what they intended to do at the beginning. That is a sham, that is not genuine democracy.

The Council, and leader Donald Anderson [who had spoken earlier in the meeting and said that ‘The money just does not exist to refurbish Meadowbank] is forever putting out glossy brochures telling us how successful this city is and how rich it is. But he cannot have it both ways, now telling us today that the money is not there. This is a rich city. Some are having boom times with record profits, labour shortages and soaring house prices. As a socialist I want to see that wealth shared out more evenly, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. And you do not achieve that by closing vital public facilities like this one and building luxury private properties for the few.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the first Council house in Scotland for 30 years out at Woodburn in Dalkeith. I grew up in a Council house in Motherwell. Council houses are a great idea, but you would have to be over 30 to remember what they were.

It would be one thing if the Council were coming along here today saying they intended to redevelop Meadowbank and provide 21st century facilities on one part of the site and new Council properties for the people of East Edinburgh on the rest but they are not. Their plan means the loss of precious open space in the East of the city and 90% loss of leisure facilities.
I will not support that and you will not support that.

I understand that the Council has extended the deadline for consultations on their plan until 31st March and that no decision will now be taken before the election. I hope everyone here realizes that this represents a climbdown from their original timetable and that must be see as a victory for your campaigning.
This makes this a huge election issue in the elections and you must decide who you trust to protect this centre when they are on the Council.

I want to see money being spent here on this vital local facility. I want Meadowbank stadium to stay open and I want the new facility at Sighthill too.

But let me just finish by saying this, last week the Westminster Parliament debated whether or not to spend £100billion on Trident nuclear weapons. So let’s not insult each others intelligence by claiming
‘There is no money available for improving Meadowbank!’
I simply will not accept that. There is money for Meadowbank, there is money for Council housing, there is money for free school meals and free public transport, for our pensioners, for our youngsters……there is £100billion pounds available by not building more nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
I support the refurbishment of Meadowbank stadium 100% - Thank You

Monday, March 12, 2007

Independance on the never never?

Media Release

SSP National Convenor Colin Fox MSP has written to SNP leader Alex Salmond following comments attributed to SNP financier Sir Tom Farmer, that the nationalists intend to water down their commitment to a referendum on independence in order to placate possible Holyrood coalition partners the Lib Dems.
Colin was responding to Sunday newspapers reports that Salmond intends to put the independence referendum on hold for many years if he becomes First Minister after May's elections. 'If these reports are true and Alex Salmond intends to concede arguments to the Lib Dems and big business then independence supporters across the country will be having a 'Kwik-Fit'! the SNP leadership has postponed again and again its plans for an independence referendum and now it is relegated still further.
'Colin said: "In dancing to the tune of the business community like this, always the most luke warm supporters of independence - just as they were with devolution - Alex Salmond risks losing the support of the most passionate advocates of self determination."
"The SSP are clear that an independence referendum is an early priority after May and our MSP s will introduce just such a Bill to bring it about."
"Whilst the SNP are wavering, looking for coalition partners and relegating independence to the third division, voters will certainly recognise that it is the Scottish Socialist Party who are this country's firmest supporters of independence and I urge them to use their list votes accordingly."
"A strong group of SSP members in the next parliament can play a critical role in making sure that independence isn't kicked into the long grass."

1st Council house in quarter of a century

I'm pictured here with Midlothian Councillor Derek Milligan the Housing Convenor, outside the first Council house built in Scotland in 25 years at 1 Bill Russell Grove, Woodburn, Dalkeith today.

The house is the first of 1,000 new Council houses to built in Midlothian. This terrific initiative is one which I have welcomed from the start and the Council were grateful to acknowledge my support.

I was taken round the house by the new tenants and it is a lovely big four bedroomed property which the council built at a cost of £80,000 but which local estate agents have said would sell at £180,000.

I have warmly welcomed Midlothian Councils £105m investment. I don’t see why Edinburgh City Council for example which is far richer cannot do something similar for tenants in the city.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Edinburgh Nursery scandal

Moves are afoot inside Edinburgh city Council to axe 200 full time nursery places across the city.

Last Thursday I asked, current Council leader, Ewan Aitken – who was previously the Education convenor and head of the Children & Families department – to assure me he has no plans to cut these essential services. He responded 2 days ago by saying he would reply with urgency!

The council, in the January ‘07 edition of Working Capital, highlight a recent study by Women onto Work which shows that 65% of women in Edinburgh see childcare as the number one barrier to getting into work. Losing 200 nursery places will have a devastating effect on women and their families in the city.

Nursery nurses in Edinburgh fought a long, hard strike a few years back for decent pay and conditions, and this is how they are repaid, by making their jobs redundant, moving them on to posts they don’t want and losing their skills in the process.

I've recently lodged the following questions in the Scottish Parliament

S2W-32239 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 6 March 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether there are any plans to reduce the number of full-time nursery places available for three and four-year-olds in south and south-east Edinburgh.

Due for Answer 20 March 2007

S2W-32238 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 6 March 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive what the public sector provision is of full-time and part-time nursery places for three and four-year-olds in south Edinburgh.

Due for Answer 20 March 2007

Monday, March 05, 2007

SSP Conference

Our Conference on saturday was great, here's my speech and some pictures of me with SSP List and Council candidates.

SSP Conference Speech – Feb 2007
Thank you.
I’m Colin Fox, the national convenor of the SSP. I thought I’d better introduce myself to you, because according to last nights BBC ‘Politics Scotland ‘show nobody knows me. So consider yourself party of an elite club if you do.
I don’t know if this is often said about the Langside Halls, but we are in a far better place than we were 6months ago, at last conference.

Welcome and thank SSP members across Scotland for continuing support and for responding in the best way possible to the terrible events of last year, by rolling up your sleeves, rebuilding SSP branches and preparing candidates for the forthcoming Holyrood and Council elections.

I especially want to welcome the dozens of new SSP members for whom this is their first conference, you are playing a very important part in replenishing this great party of ours.

And I want to congratulate you all for delivering 250,000 newspapers door to door around Scotland these past 6 weeks and proving that not only that the is SSP back in business but its in a street near you.
250,000 newspapers [John Knox anecdote.’Colin, got one of your newspapers through door last night, your people -Arapaho’ It was me.!’]

On another occasion in Gilmerton a guy comes out just as I’m pulling my hand out of his letterbox.
Says I to break the awkwardness realising he recognises me
‘Do you think Tony Blair delivers his own leaflets?’
‘Listen son if Tony Blair came into this scheme he wouldnae be able to deliver one leaflet – B***#**#!”

Proud to be here and to stand alongside each and everyone of you in, still, the biggest and best and most successful socialist party in Scotland.

Philosophers have remarked - If God didn’t exist then it would be necessary to invent one. So too the SSP.
[SSP’s most successful recruitment poster shows ‘Thatcher becoming Blair’. We have ordered one final rerun from the printers before we get it amended to show Gordon Browns ugly mug]
Tony Blair hovers over the Holyrood election campaign. Poor Jack McConnell is gutted. He would have given his eye teeth to be fighting this election after Blair had gone.
Poor wee Jack. He knows Blair is a liability for Labour and he knows he’s in for ‘a doing’ because of that.
Ironic that the man who led Labour to three historic election victories has become such a liability.
Mind you in the ‘half finished’ Scottish Parliament Blair dominates the place all the time. He is its sugar daddy - the Daddy Warbucks to wee Jack’s orphan ‘Annie’!
He hands out the pocket money. We aren’t allowed to hold all our own money that would be a full Parliament.

Blairism pre-dominant these last 4 years. I’ve never been one for name calling in politics. Tony Benn insists politics should be about policies and not personalities. I agree. But you could say Jack McConnell is an ape.
I am not saying he has a hairy back you understand!!!!!
It’s just that he loyally apes everything Blair does.
Blair supports Trident Two, so wee Jack McConnell says ‘I support Trident Too’!
Blair supports 20 more nuclear power stations, Jack says ‘I support 20 more nuclear power stations too’.
Blair supports the illegal and barbarous war in Iraq, Jack McConnell supports it too.
Blair supports rendition flights, so does Jack. Blair supports dawn raids, so does Jack.
Blair builds private hospitals, schools, prisons etc, so does Jack
Blair says we cannot afford pensions, Jack McConnell says likewise.
Blair widens the grotesque inequalities and so does Jack McConnell.

If ever you needed reminding just why Scotland needs the SSP today take a look at Tony Blair - the greatest recruiting sergeant the SSP has.

Scotland needs the SSP. Look at the stories in this weeks papers.
-On Tuesday Halifax Bank of Scotland announced record profits £5.5bn.
This is the bank remember who swindled 40,000 Fairpak customers out of £40m before Christmas.
Who else demands they reimburse the Fairpak customers like Suzy Hall?
-And on Thursday the Royal Bank of Scotland disclosed record profits of £9.7bn. They declared a 25% dividend to shareholders. And who do you think their shareholders are?
The single parents who ran out and bought up the £5shares out of their benefits and who stand to collect a nice wee nest egg?
Or the pensioners who used the winter fuel allowance last year instead of keeping warm rushed down to their nearest friendly stockbroker and said ‘buy, buy, buy’.
Or maybe the disabled and chronically ill who were sick of living below the poverty line and skipped paying £6.75 for their prescription medicines and walked into the nearest Royal Bank branch and declared ‘gie’s ma share!’
Or perhaps the Scottish children who sit bottom of the 21 countries in the Unicef Report Card 7 ‘Child poverty in perspective’?
Or even the 900,000 Scots according to yesterdays Child PovertyAction Group report living below the poverty line – 240,000 of how are children.
Will any of these groups of needy people get the RBOS dividends?

No, that’s just not going to happen, not one chance in 9.7billion!
The dividends go where they always go, to those who already have the money. Our banks are owned by the wealthiest 1% of society.

But on the same day the Banks declared record profits ‘the banks’ manager’ Gordon Brown told 1million NHS staff and their families to expect a pay cut next year. Pay rises of 1 or 2% when inflation and the RPI is more than double that - a cut in living standards for workers.

And what will the unions do? Surely not just loyally pay millions to Labour in dues as usual?
I appeal to trades union members everywhere but particularly in the public sector where the vast majority now are to be found, think seriously here. ‘Why vote Labour when attack your living standards? Why continue to pay the fist that slaps you?’
New Labour does not deserve the support of trade’s unionists.

No wonder a growing number of unions are disaffiliating from Labour.

If ever the people of Scotland needed reminding of the need to maximise the vote for the SSP on May 7th consider New Labours record and expect more of the same.

BLAIRS Legacy –IRAQ. And his parting gift? –TRIDENT
He is a warmonger who shows no sign of remorse and spends £100bn on nuclear weapons of mass destruction designed to terrorise the world.
And whilst we are on Trident please don’t let anyone ever tell me
for free school meals,
for free prescriptions,
for free public transport,
for a decent pension for our senior citizens,
for hospitals and schools
- Not when there is £100bn available for Trident!

New Labour will continue their assault on working people!
Hands up who remembers Gordon Brown opposing the strategy of Blair in Iraq, on Trident, on privatisation.
Hands up who thinks that our public services are safe in the hands of Gordon Brown or Jack McConnell- built more private hospitals, schools, prisons, than Thatcher.

There is a line in the film ‘The Colour of Money’ I like, where the John Travolta/Bill Clinton character is told ‘any idiot can burn down a barn’.
In other words it’s easy to criticise New Labours record as they defend the class interests of the rich and powerful. What has the SSP to offer?
First of all we fill the huge vacuum on the left of Scottish politics;
Labour has abandoned any commitment to socialism, to public ownership and public services or redistribution of wealth.
They have abandoned the peace movement to side with the world’s warmongers and militarists.

SSP was founded because millions of people were disenfranchised, having nothing in common with New Labour, had no one to vote for, no one to whom they could turn and put their hopes in for the future.
That constituency of people remains and is very very sizeable indeed.

Let’s remind ourselves of the SSP’s record
Founded in 1998, we united the left. In 2003 we MSP’s were
-elected to challenge New Labour and represent the anti war movement and we did.
-elected to represent the interests of working people, trades unionists and the poor and we did
No one has been on more picket lines and protest marches and union lobbies and supported union cause than us.
-elected as workers representatives taking only workers wages – and we have done.

Alan has outlined the Manifesto already and so let me say only this - an independent socialist Scotland remains our goal, but day to day improvements for working people is the measure of our short term achievements. And we can point to many many achievements already.
Perhaps most noticeably yesterday when Jack McConnell announced 80,000 more children are to get free school meals.
Let’s be absolutely clear this concession would not have been made without the pressure brought to bear by our Bill.
So too the breakfast clubs, the water fountains and the free fruit, all concessions to the arguments we have championed.

The same can be said about the prescription charges Bill.
We won the arguments and forced concessions even though the Bill itself was voted down.

Council tax. On Feb 1st 2006 when the SSP Bill to replace the Council tax with our income based alternative was finally put to the vote in the Parliament the SNP and the Lib Dems, despite both being in favour of replacing the tax , voted against it. Why?
Because although it was possible to have their amendments discussed later they voted against. They did not want to see the SSP Bill succeed. The fact is neither party in 8 years have presented a Bill of their own.
Remember February Fools Day 2006 – the day both the Libs and SNP made fools of themselves and voted to keep the Council tax when it was possible to defeat it. It shows when push comes to shove they cannot be relied upon to defend the interests of working people.

We need to raise funds to fight the election fully; to raise deposits , pay for 3.5million leaflets, for 2 PPB’s, lamposters, hire open top buses, leaflets in Polish and Urdu for example.
I know candidates will speak at hundreds of hustings arranged across the country as well as the hundreds of SSP public meetings.
We will also fight like fury to get our fair share of media exposure and then watch as we are blanked as usual.

What we fight for in these elections - An Independent Socialist Scotland.
We are passionate about independence for Scotland and we see it as a democratic right to decide our own destiny. A right which will see the vast majority of Scots better off. It is not for us a dry academic lecture about the 300 year old act of union rather part of the national liberation struggle.
The polls may tell us its level pegging for independence and the status quo but behind the figures lies a demographic time bomb because support for Independence is far far higher among the young and among the working class…
It seems to me the SNP presents lukewarm support for independence, probably trying not to scare away disillusioned Labour voters. Well we are passionate about Independence and do not ever play it down.

And I believe the Cameron effect will galvanise the debate. Ask yourself what change to the dynamic occurs if in two yeas time Cameron is elected PM at Westminster and Holyrood proves to be incapable of defending our interests from his onslaught…

*Free Public Transport policy is ‘bold and imaginative’ addition to our key list of policies. It stands head and shoulders above any other suggested solution to climate change dangers.
It would mean that people across Scotland would have a real alternative, a much more attractive alternative to using their car.
It’s the same approach we had in Edinburgh with the congestion charges referendum, we said give people a better alternative to the car and they’ll take it. A collective solution to a collective problem. And to those who say £500m a year to provide free public transport for everyone across Scotland is too much, Sir Nicholas Stern has already answered you
‘The cost of doing nothing is the dearest of all’
Our policy defines the SSP’s approach perfectly; we examine the problem we face with climate change and we recognise the need for both a collective and progressive solution.

The polls, are they right or are they wrong? Both.
On the one hand they register a solid base of support for the SSP. And the one on Monday in the Scotsman predicted we’d get 2 MSP’s returned.
On the other hand they habitually underestimate the support for the SSP because we are active below their radar lines; their methods of polling do not register our base; telephone and conducted in street and not schemes.
I get people coming up to me all the time to say what sense of relief they have that the SSP has survived the monstrous attack made on us last year and grateful that they will get the chance to vote SSP again and again.

In particular I want to mention 4 people who have spoken to me recently and offered warm support for the SSP’s continued growth;
* Award winning film director Ken Loach – [see his greetings separately]
*And screenwriter Paul Laverty – [ditto]
*Charlie Reid of the Proclaimers, happy to let you know he is SSP voter.
*Suzy Hall Fairpak campaigner now a regular attender at SSP branch meetings in Edinburgh South.
*Alex Brownridge, CWU leader in Edinburgh victimised by Royal Mail happy to be known as SSP supporter.

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the Political ‘centre of gravity’ of the Scottish people is far to the left of both New Labour and the SNP. Our job is to mobilise and marshal that opinion.

What do the latest polls tell us? Latest polls have SSP on 2-4% each has a margin of error – 2%. Possible the SSP could have between 2-8 MSP’s

SSP has achieved miracles and survived nightmares…..
I have no doubt that the SSP will continue to be instrumental in building a united left movement, a mass party for socialism, mass party of the left in Scotland. I will be part of that movement like many hundreds of SSP activists.
BRING ON THE ELECTION, I LOOK FORWARD TO IT, TAKING OUR MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE WITH PRIDE AND CONFIDENCE - The ideas of socialism are more relevant today than they have ever been’. ENDS

Ken Loach Conference Greetings

After recent troubles it is good to see that the Scottish Socialist Party is back and in good heart."The need for a party of the left is as great now as when the SSP was formed."The demands of big business and the giant corporations dominate our politics; whether it is the war for oil and economic and political control, or the remorseless privatising of our public services."As I write it is the probation service which is being opened to the private profiteers."Good luck to the conference. I am sure it will value thoughtful analysis and comradely discussion above windy rhetoric!"And I’m sure it will provide the leadership that the left so desperately needs.”
Yours in solidarity,
Ken Loach

Paul Laverty, Conference greetings

There is something half tragic half comic about celebrities, either the fat fish or "mini me" half knowns with delusions of grandeur, being asked to support one party or another as if their opinion was any more important thanany other citizen. But since daily life is full of nonsense and contradictions here goes why I hope with all my heart New Labour gets stuffed, and the SSP, (despite infuriating breach on the left once again) gets healthy support in the forthcoming elections. Just two short reasons amongst hundreds; 1) a little girl in a lilac dress. She was pulled from the rubble by her Grandfather on one of the first days of coalition bombing of Baghdad. Her left leg dangled by a single sinew, one of the hundreds of thousands victims without a name. Not one apology; more lies upon lies, and now this morally bankrupt labour party can only muster 12 members who were prepared to support an open debate in Parliament on how this tragedy unfolded. Shame on them. Reason 2. At same time as UNICEF report our children have worst quality of life in western world, new labour now plan to spend billions on new range of nuclear weapons. Both of the above are symptomatic of a political culture where ordinary people are expendable. Frederick Douglass, one time black slave who escaped to found a campaigning newspaper the Northern Star wrote "Power concedes nothing without demand. Itnever did and it never will." More than ever we still need a strong party on the left prepared to challenge the political elite who try to spin tragedy into success. Good luck to the SSP and keep plugging away like Frederick Douglass. Amen.
Paul Laverty.
2nd March 07.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

SSP Manifesto launch

I've spent today in the Langside halls, in Glasgow, with delegates from across Scotland putting the finishing touches to our manifesto.

I'll post more details in the next few days, but we've had a very successful day.