Socialist wins seat in first Scottish parliament

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Socialist wins seat in first Scottish parliament

By Lisa Macdonald

A socialist was elected to the first Scottish parliament on May 6. Tommy Sheridan headed the Scottish Socialist Party's (SSP) Glasgow regional list for the second vote, which is based on a form of proportional representation. The list won 7.25% of the vote, putting Sheridan in parliament. In the first vote (based on a first-past-the-post system) Sheridan polled 21% in his electorate of Pollok.

SSP members in Glasgow told Green Left Weekly that when Sheridan's election was announced in the official counting room in Glasgow, the ecstatic SSP members present disrupted the sombre formality by breaking into a boisterous rendition of the "Internationale".

The second vote also gave a seat to the Scottish Greens' Robin Harper, Britain's first Green parliamentarian to win outside a by-election. The final results are: Labour 56 seats (not the majority that the party and media pundits expected), Scottish National Party 35, Conservative Party 18, Scottish Liberal Democrats 17, Scottish Socialist Party and Greens one each, and former Labour leftist Dennis Canavan, who was expelled from the party when he announced his candidacy as an independent.

The turnout for the national election (local council elections were held at the same time), was 58.7%, but in some traditionally strong Labour areas it was as low as 33%.

The SSP, formed out of the Scottish Socialist Alliance last October, averaged 5.5% in the first vote and 2.1% in the second vote. The combined socialist vote — for the SSP and two Socialist Workers Party candidacies — was just under 4% nationally.

Sheridan, a working-class hero to many Scots, spearheaded the campaign in Scotland against Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's poll tax in the early 1990s. He was elected to Glasgow City Council in 1992 in a show of solidarity from the city's working people while he was serving a six-month prison sentence following a poll tax protest.

During his time behind bars, Sheridan stood under the Scottish Militant Labour banner and came second in Glasgow Pollok in the 1992 general election.

In line with SSP policy, Sheridan will receive no more than an average skilled worker's wage, with the rest of his parliamentary salary going to campaigning for socialism in Scotland.

The SSP is actively involved in many campaigns for justice and contested the election on a platform calling for "a radical redistribution of wealth from the rich to the working class and the poor; an economy which is democratically planned in the interests of society as a whole — via social ownership, democratic management and control (involving work forces, communities and a wider socialist government) of Scotland's major industrial, commercial and financial corporations; an independent socialist Scotland free from poverty, privilege, corruption, homelessness, unemployment and greed".

The SSP platform also "opposes all forms of racism, sectarianism and national chauvinism. We stand for full citizenship and equality for all, regardless of national origin. We oppose discrimination and prejudice on the grounds of gender, disability, age or sexual orientation."

In the election in Wales held on the same day, Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party, won 17 seats to Labour's 28, a swing of 35% to the nationalists.