By Lisa Young
GLASGOW — If I had to pick one word to describe the first conference of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) on February 22, it would be "inspirational". More than 200 people from all over Scotland — some long-time activists and others new to politics — attended to create a socialist program relevant to lives of working-class people.
The resulting 16-point "Manifesto for a Socialist Scotland" covered a wide range of issues, including social inequality, independence, women's rights, health, education, housing, the environment and internationalism. There were debates around some policies, such as the party's attitude to the European single currency, defence policy and the call for a referendum on the monarchy.
The SSP set itself apart from all other parties with the passage of a motion calling for radical new drug laws, including the legalisation of cannabis and the licensing of heroin. Such measures would break the power of organised drug gangs and stabilise the lives of addicts before they attempt to break their habit. The SSP's realistic attitude to drugs stems from the fact that its members and supporters live and work in communities hardest hit by drugs and discriminatory drug laws.
The motion on Europe called for a workers' socialist Europe, not a bosses' Europe. The conference also received international greetings from a Chilean trade unionist, and a report from an SSP member who had recently returned from Turkey and a Kurdish member on the recent events in Kurdistan and the protests in London.
A group of striking Glasgow Library workers who are fighting cuts imposed by the Labour Party-controlled city council attended the conference. The SSP members showed their support by joining in loudly when the workers performed a set of satirical songs aimed at the council.
The conference voted on the SSP's strategy for the May 6 Scottish Assembly election. It will be the first time in almost 300 years that the Scottish people have been able to vote for their own parliament.
The SSP will be standing in all eight regional seats, where a proportional representation voting system will be tried, and will contest 20 first-past-the-post seats. The party will stand more than 100 candidates in the local council elections on the same day. The SSP is also standing in the European Parliament election in June.
The Socialist Workers Party, which is also standing in the assembly election, has agreed not to stand against SSP candidates.
The SSP launched a £100,000 fund to be able to offer a socialist alternative to every person in Scotland. A staggering £14,000 was pledged at the conference, all the more inspiring given that many of those who pledged were students, pensioners, unemployed or in low-paying jobs.
The SSP is a broad party, uniting left and socialist organisations and individuals. The conference debates allowed people to have their say, and the discussion was politically sharp and to the point.
SSP members left with a feeling of unity and determination to build the party and more confidence to take a step towards socialism.
Meanwhile, a committee dominated by Labour MPs has moved to ban the SSP from participation in the May 6 election by refusing to register it as a political party. The SSP responded by declaring the move an outrageous attack on democracy and on the right of voters to support a socialist alternative. The SSP will fight the attack, legally and politically.
If any readers would like to contribute to the SSP's election fund, please send cheques to the Scottish Socialist Voice, 73 Robertson Street, Glasgow, G2 8QD, Scotland. Visit <http://www.scotsocialistparty.org>.