Scottish Socialist Party

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This article deals with the Scottish Socialist Party that was formed in 1998. For the party that was formed in 1987 see Scottish Socialist Party (1987-1990).


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The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is far left wing party which campaigns for a Marxist economic platform and Scottish independence.

Contents

History

The SSP was formed out of the Scottish Socialist Alliance (SSA) in 1998. The SSA had itself formed in 1996 from an alliance of various leftist groups operating in Scotland. Scottish Militant Labour (which had itself formed out of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency in the early 1990s) drove the formation of the SSA. Other participating groups included the Scottish Republican Socialist Party (SRSP) and the Communist Party of Scotland. The principal founders were Tommy Sheridan and Alan McCombes.

The SSA performed fairly well in the sixteen seats they contested in the 1997 General Election and this prompted moves to formalise the alliance into a new political party. Again, Militant Labour served as the driving force, and in 1998 it was agreed to form the SSP.

In 1999 the SSP (in their first ever nation-wide electoral contest) polled fairly well in that year's Scottish Parliament election. They did however get fewer votes than Socialist Labour (a UK-wide party of the left led by Arthur Scargill which has consistently refused to countenance the idea of joining forces with the SSP because the SSP stand for an independent Scotland). Nonetheless the elections to the Scottish Parliament went better than many expected, with Sheridan gaining election as a representive of Glasgow.

The period since 1999 has seen sustained growth for the SSP, including a significant boost to membership when the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Scotland agreed to become part of the SSP, although the decision to absorb the SWP remains controversial. They have also picked up many former members of the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party (SNP) who have become disaffected with the way in which those parties now operate. The decision of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) at its 2003 Annual Conference to allow its branches in Scotland to affiliate to the SSP if they wished led to the RMT's unprecedented expulsion from the Labour Party when a special conference in January 2004 declined to reverse the decision.

This period of growth has featured some internal disagreements, largely due to the diverse origins of the party. Major disagreement has surrounded the party policy of independence for Scotland, a central policy of the SRSP when it was active, largely accepted by Scottish Miltiant Labour, but opposed by the SWP on internationalist grounds.

Internal party organisation almost positively encourages this high level of disagreement, since the party (unlike most others) allows for the organisation of internal factions (which it describes as platforms). The SRSP has therefore become the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement and the SWP, the Socialist Workers Platform. Other platforms include the RCN, the CWI and the Workers' Unity Platform. This amount of factionalism has created some degree of tension within the SSP.

The party has become the foremost far-left force in Scottish Politics polling significantly better than the Socialist Labour Party in the 2003 Scottish Parliamentary election. Indeed, many would argue that not only are they the most significant far-left force in Scotland, but across the whole of the United Kingdom as well. Their success since formation certainly played a major part in the formation of the Socialist Alliance in England. The Socialist Alliance had links with the SSP, but failed to make a similar significant electoral breakthrough south of the border.

Whilst most SSP members expected to challenge the Labour Party, the SSP's electoral performance has indicated that the SNP vote has been most affected by the emergence of the SSP.

The SSP distributes a weekly newspaper, the Scottish Socialist Voice.

The SSP managed to return six members to the Scottish Parliament in 2003, all of them 'regional list' MSPs rather than constituency MSPs. Not long after the election Lloyd Quinan, a former SNP MSP defected to the SSP.

On November 11, 2004 Tommy Sheridan announced his resignation as convener of the party, citing personal reasons as being behind his decision. There were two candidates to replace him: Colin Fox, widely regarded as a favourite, and Alan McCombes. At one point it was expected that Carolyn Leckie would stand, but she supported Alan McCombes. Delegates to the SSP conference voted on February 13, 2005 and Fox was elected with 252 votes to McCombes' 154; 9 delegates abstained and 1 ballot paper was spoilt.

SSP MSPs

Youth Wing

The SSP has an active youth wing, Scottish Socialist Youth.

External links

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