Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Interview: Colin Fox

Today is the launch of the Scottish Socialist Party's Euro campaign Make Greed History. I thought this would be a good moment to interview their lead candidate, Colin Fox.

1. What do you think are the main problems facing Scotland today?

Like everyone else Scotland faces a very severe economic collapse given the dominance of the financial sector up here. Edinburgh for example is Europe's fifth biggest financial centre after London, Paris, Frankfurt and Milan when measured by equity under management. The collapse of RBS and HBOS is obviously a hammer blow to the Scottish economy and there is a sense that when the full impact is finally felt tens of thousands of jobs will go.

So the main issues are economic and social - unemployment, severe cuts in public expenditure, industrial turbulence poverty and inequality. Labour's proposed privatisation of Royal Mail is hugely here. Public ownership is still popular and fiercely defended.
2. Could you explain a little more about the SSP's current slogan Make Greed History?
In contesting the European Parliament elections we looked at the worst recession in 80 years and its causes. We recognised a remarkably widespread mood of anger at the bankers and the bankers parties seeking to make working families pay for their crisis via job losses, public spending cuts and higher taxes.

There is widespread belief that the economic collapse has been precipitated by a greedy banking elite with its huge profits, obscene bonus culture and outlandish pensions who passed on 'toxic debts'.

We wanted a slogan and campaign which encapsulated the attitude and the assurance this could not happen again. Mindful of the huge Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh in 2005 which galvanised that developing political mood we have put this demand at the centre of our Euro campaign and established a website and plan of attack on the essence of neo liberalism.
3. The SSP is for Scottish Independence. Why do you feel this is an important issue?
The SSP has been in favour of an independent socialist Scotland since our inception ten years ago. We believe that working people in Scotland will be economically, socially, politically and culturally better off if able to control all our revenues and all our own decision making. It is clear to us that if this were the case then Scotland would be a radically different country from the one we live in today. There is no doubt whatsoever that an Independent Scotland would not have sent troops to Iraq or Afghanistan, would not have nuclear weapons stationed on the Clyde, would not have entertained the privatisation of our hospitals and schools and, since a majority here are in favour of a modern democratic republic, we would not have the Queen as our head of state either.

The desire for independence will take on added impetus if, as seems likely, the Tories win the next Westminster election. It was a similar 'democratic deficit' in the 1980's with Scotland ruled by a Tory party all but wiped out up here that led to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

The Parliament is now universally seen to have insufficient powers - even the Tories here agreed with that - and the mood here will react badly to a Cameron victory.
At the same time the neo liberal SNP are set to drop their promise of a referendum on the issue next year fearing it would be defeated. They are probably right but the truth is they have done nothing to promote independence and persuade a majority of working people they would be better off. In fact the SNP's problem goes deeper still as they have been rather undermined by the banking crisis and their years of cheerleading for the greedy reckless Scottish bankers who have near wrecked the economy.
4. Specifically what role can members of the European Parliament play on these issues?
Members of the European Parliament can use the platform the elected position affords them to speak up for working people on many, many issues. Scotland has had no one to do so at this level for an awful long time, if ever.

There has been an interesting debate here in the past few weeks on the European Working Time Directive. One of our two Scots Labour MEP's broke ranks with his party's dreadful line that upholds the British opt out 'protecting workers rights to work more than a maximum 48 hours a week'. David Martin MEP said he agrees with the Directive and workers in Britain should be afforded its protection.

Even die hard political activists would be hard pushed to name Scotland's current 7 MEP's. On June 4th that reduces to six 'invisibles'. If the SSP won an MEP on June 4th the whole world would know about it and we'd ensure they'd not forget it for 5 years!
5. From your experience as a Member of the Scottish Parliament what is the main lesson you've learned about representative democracy?
The SSP has learned the hard way that it is extremely difficult to get your political opinion heard effectively when you do not have elected representatives.

In 2003 we got 6 MSP's elected and we used the positions to establish the party as a household name. Since 2007 we have had to work very hard to assure people we still exist such has been the lack of coverage we get in the mainstream media.

I learned as an MSP that you have to judge very carefully how much time is spent in Parliament, in Committee and in the 'belly of the beast' as it were. You are just as effective outside building up political strength and influence in the streets, communities and workplaces. That is after all where your vote comes from at election time.

I also learned the importance of the body of work you leave behind. The SSP received many reluctant complements from the new SNP administration at Holyrood. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The SNP picked up all our Bills in 2007; the abolition of the Council tax, abolition of NHS prescription charges and the introduction of free school meals.

Finally, in the current febrile atmosphere over Westminster MP's expense abuses, it is especially important the SSP can point to an honourable and unique record - Members of Parliament who gave money back! The SSP's 'Workers MSP's lived on Workers Wages' for ten years. I gave back £1,300 every month from of my wages for 4 years.
6. If you could achieve one thing through your current campaign (other than getting elected!) what would it be?
One thing I hope to see emerge from our campaign is an emboldened spirit of resistance to neo liberalism.

It has been heart warming to see factory occupations in Belfast, Waterford and Dundee. It has been equally inspiring to hear parents in Glasgow tell how they occupied their children's schools to prevent the Labour local authority from closing them. And I was engrossed by the speech Mark Lyon, the Unite convener at Grangemouth oil refinery, gave at this years Edinburgh May day rally about the Lindsey dispute and the wildcat action which spread throughout out Britain's engineering construction industry earlier this year in defence of jobs and conditions. We saw power stations, oil refineries and several other powerful, industrial sites come to a standstill through trades union militancy.

And lets not forget the resistance to privatisation. I am working closely with the postal workers in Edinburgh combating Labours sell off of Royal Mail and I look forward to its defeat.

So I hope the SSP campaign emboldens that developing spirit of resistance still further after all it has been a long time coming.
Thanks very much for for that Colin!

Readers might also be interested in reading an earlier interview with the Green candidate Elaine Morrison, and I should also point out that there is a new Euro election 09 tag.

1 comment:

Gary Dunion said...

Not to do down the significance of SSP MSPs' commitment to living on a worker's wage, but for completeness we should probably point out that they didn't "give back" money to the taxpayer, but rather donated it to the Scottish Socialist Party.

I don't mean to suggest there's anything at all wrong with this, it's just that Colin's representation of it here is at best a little unclear.