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SSP, Second Session Scottish Parliament report

SSP Research, policy and media unit




As the second session of the Scottish Parliament draws to a close, the Scottish Socialist Party has put together a summary of the work of its MSP's over the course of the past year.

The Scottish Socialist Party recorded the biggest increase in
electoral support of any political party in Scotland at last May's
Scottish Parliament elections. From a Scotland wide percentage of 2% in May 1999 the SSP more than tripled its percentage share nationally to 7% last year, securing 128,026 second list votes.
The SSP also stood in all but 3 constituency seats and won 117,998
votes, establishing new branches and members across Scotland.
 


Inside Parliament


The SSP MSP's are pledged to "Live on no more than the
average wage of a skilled (professional / technical / craft) wage."
The Scottish Parliament Information and Research Centre defines
the "average wage of a skilled worker in Scotland" as 25,429.

All six Scottish Socialist MSP's receive the equivalent of 25,429
and the rest is donated to the SSP to support the fight for socialism in Scotland and internationally.

For members like Rosemary Byrne and Carolyn Leckie it has meant a
reduction in wages from their previous professions as a teacher and
midwife respectively.

 However the skilled workers wage in Scotland is higher than that
received by 75% of the working population and the SSP challenge to
all Scotland's Parliamentarians is to support a wage cut and stop
living on a 50,000 a year salary, among the top 4% of earners in our country.

Until we secure an across the board reduction in MSP pay the SSP
Group will continue to donate any surplus above the skilled workers
wage to the Scottish Socialist Party.

The SSP Group has been the most active of any in Parliament in
relation to the introduction of Bill proposals to change the lives of Scots for the better.

1) The Abolition of Council Tax Bill:
Proposed by Tommy Sheridan and now out to formal consultation this Bill would improve
the standard of living for millions of Scots, particularly
pensioners and low paid workers.

The SSP has led from the front on this issue but is glad to be joined now by the Lib Dems and the SNP who completely ignored
the unfair council tax in their first four years in Parliament.
The debate on the Bill could be heard before the end of 2004.

2) Free School Meals Bill:
This pro-health and anti-poverty proposal is now being steered through the Parliament by Frances
Curran with the public consultation about to go out.

This very popular measure would provide a healthy and nutritious
school meal for every child attending a state school in Scotland and would attack the obesity and dietary ill health problem alongside the child poverty that scars our nation.

3) Abolish Prescription Charges: This is another pro-health and anti-poverty measure which is also out to formal consultation and is being led by Colin Fox.

Many low paid workers can't afford can't afford prescription charges which is particularly difficult for those with illnesses that require regular medication.

The Welsh Assembly are to abolish prescription charges, so too should the Scottish Parliament.

4) Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Bill: This radical proposal
would legislate for local drug treatment and rehabilitation
facilities to be available for those needing and seeking assistance
with damaging drug addictions. It is being led by Rosemary Byrne and would provide vital support to individuals, families and communities affected by the consequences of drug misuse and abuse.

5) Single Vaccines Bill:
Carolyn Leckie has submitted a proposal to
allow parents the choice to opt for single vaccinations against
measles, mumps and rubella instead of having to accept the triple MMR vaccination which many suspect is not absolutely safe.

The complex details of this proposal are currently being examined
by health experts and others in this field before a formal consultation is launched.



Scotland's nursery nurses dispute

Every one of the six SSP MSP's poured enormous energy into building 
solidarity in support of Scotland's nursery nurses in their historic battle for a decent living wage, the longest running all out strike in Scotland since the miners strike.

From Ayr to Airdrie, Dunfermline to Dundee, Lothians to Lanarkshire
and Pollok to Paisley, the Socialist representatives travelled the
length and breadth of Scotland, speaking at public meetings,
addressing marches and rallies, joining the picket lines and doing
everything in their power to give voice to the overwhelming support
that the nursery nurses won through their determined fight for a
decent living wage.

In the Parliament the SSP used every available device to raise the
dispute and put pressure on the Scottish Executive and the employers to settle the nursery nurses claim.

One of the SSP's few debating slots was used to embarrass the First
Minister on a day that even our self declared enemies in the press
pronounced as an historic parliamentary occasion.

The nursery nurses repeatedly descended on Parliament to lobby MSP's and the Executive, their singing and chants ringing through the corridors of power.

While Tommy shredded Jack McConnell at First Ministers Questions,
Carolyn Leckie became the first MSP to be ejected from the chamber
when she refused to back down over a demand to ask questions on the
dispute.



The Iraq War/ George Bush visit

In November George Bush visited London. The SSP group used its
debating time to bring the whole question of the Iraq war into focus and to accuse Tony Blair and George Bush of war crimes.

After the debate Kevin Williamson made national news headlines when
he appeared in a George Bush mask in the public gallery.

Saudi Arabian Ambassadors visit

In January 2004 the Saudi Arabian ambassador made an official visit
to the Parliament which the SSP Group decided to protest against
given the human rights record in Saudi and in particular the
treatment of women there. The MSP's held up a banner in the chamber
saying `despots not welcome' while heavy handed policing resulted in two SSP parliamentary workers being ejected from the public gallery, one of whom was arrested and charged.



Stockline Plastics Disaster

The SSP group had only weeks before all worn Workers Memorial Day
tshirts to commemorate all those killed in industrial accidents when the Stockline Plastics factory in Maryhill, Glasgow, exploded on 11th May.

Rosie Kane spoke for the SSP group in a specially convened meeting of the Parliament.



International Solidarity

The SSP Group has been active in building international solidarity
for the ideas of socialism. Carolyn Leckie was invited to Canada to
address the Canadian trades union congress on the question of
privatisation and has been asked to return this year.

Tommy Sheridan visited Venezuela to meet President Hugo Chavez and
while there made a documentary film which will be shown at this years Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Colin Fox made a speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand at the
invitation of the Australian Socialist Alliance and the Alliance
Party of New Zealand. Colin spoke at 14 meetings in 13 cities over
the course of 14 days.
 

In The Community

All Scottish Socialist Party MSP's have been active in their local
communities around a myriad of campaigns, a flavour of which are
listed:

Rosemary Byrne (South of Scotland): Rosemary has been involved in
many environmental campaigns across South Scotland, particularly over land fill and sewage dumping at Coalburn and Newcastleton. She has given solidarity to workers in dispute over the closure of Ayrshire Metals in Irvine and with parents fighting school closures in the Borders. Rosemary has been heavily involved with drugs
issues in the region, particularly around the lack of provision of
drug treatment and support.

Frances Curran (West of Scotland): Hospital closures have been a
massive issue in the region and Frances was heavily involved in the
successful campaign to save Johnston Hospital, along with ongoing
campaigns to defend maternity services in the region.

Frances has been involved in the setting up of the `Ban the Brands' campaign that has already won concessions from Edinburgh City
Council with a ban on fizzy drinks in the cities schools.

Colin Fox (Lothians) School closures are a big issue in the Lothians and Colin has been campaigning hard with the parents of a number of schools threatened with closure. As organiser of the
Edinburgh May Day, Colin spoke alongside Arthur Scargill to mark the 20th anniversary of the miners strike. As chair of the Edinburgh People's festival Colin was again instrumental in bringing "the world's greatest arts celebration" to city communities which would not normally be involved

Rosie Kane (Glasgow) Rosie has played a key part in turning the
question of asylum and immigration into a human rights issue in
Scotland in the past year. Her work around Dungavel and the Ay family and Mercy Ikolo took on European wide proportions with her visit to Berlin in August of last year. While Rosie had to take
a well publicised break from work at the beginning of 2004
she has come back with renewed vigour and enthusiasm, taking up issues around the stigmatisation of people with mental health problems.

Rosie is currently campaigning against the M74 motorway and is
promoting and supporting the Scottish Homeless World Cup team.

Carolyn Leckie (Central Scotland) Carolyn has been extremely active
in her constituency on a wide range of issues including protests
around the Greengares landfill near Airdrie, Dunbeth Park PPP scheme and the campaign for a skatepark for young people in
Wishaw.

Caroline continues to be a member of UNISON and continues to play an active role in trade union issues, particularly in relation to
health, many of which have become major news stories over the past
year.

Tommy Sheridan (Glasgow) The campaign to abolish the council tax has seen Tommy speaking at pensioners groups and community
organisations across Scotland. Rallies, conferences and demonstrations on poverty, the war in Iraq and dozens of other issues see Tommy travelling thousands of miles in the name of the SSP. Tommy has also attended key trade union conferences on the question of political affiliations including the Fire Brigades Union, the Communication Workers Union and the Rail Maritime and Transport union
 


Trade Union Affiliations

While not directly a part of the SSP Group in the Scottish
Parliament, the six MSP's have nonetheless played a crucial part in
developing practical solidarity work with Scotland's trade unionists and their organisations.

The SSP now has two trade union affiliations, one from the RMT and
one from the CWU Edinburgh number two branch, a total of 11,500
affiliated trade union members; 7,000 RMT members and 4,500 CWU members.
 
 

July 2004

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