Scottish banks make billions while 1 million live in poverty

Two hundred members of Solidarity – Scotland’s Socialist Movement, attended the party’s policy conference at the beginning of March. An upbeat conference discussed Solidarity’s draft manifesto for the May 3rd Scottish parliament elections. Conference began however, with a minutes silence for the two opencast miners killed a few days earlier in an industrial accident.

PCS national president Janice Godrich gave a report of the civil service workers battle against job cuts and privatisation. Nan Wilson, one of hundreds of workers sacked by Simclar boss Sam Russell expressed her anger at their brutal treatment by Scotland’s eighth richest man. Four hundred workers turned up for their work only to find the gates locked with a note saying their jobs were gone.

Tommy Sheridan also spoke in the morning session outlining Solidarity’s commitment to fighting low pay and privatisation and opposing New Labour’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also explained that Solidarity was standing across Scotland on May 3rd to offer a principled socialist opposition to the rigged free-market agenda promoted by all the other main parties. Polls have indicated that support for Solidarity is growing the more it is understood that it is the party led by Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne.

Expose low pay

International Socialists member, Philip Stott, introduced the section of the draft manifesto that dealt with the issues that go beyond the current powers of the Scottish parliament. He pointed out that in a week that saw the 5 big banks announce record profits of almost £40 billion, a report into low pay and poverty in Scotland found 1 million people living below the poverty threshold, including 250,000 children. Incredibly, half of all children in poverty, live in a household with a working parent. Solidarity can build support by exposing the scandals of low pay, inequality and capitalist exploitation. Philip explained that only socialist policies, based on democratic public ownership of the economy, could solve these problems.

The afternoon session discussed the specific policies that Solidarity would put forward that fall within the remit of the Scottish parliament. Over 20 proposals were agreed, including free school meals, scrapping of the council tax, nationalisation of the railways and the abolition of the local government housing debt.

Conference ended with an emergency motion on Gordon Brown’s proposed pay cut for public sector workers moved by Alan Manley, an NHS Unison member, and a member of the International Socialists. He condemned this blatant attack on low paid workers and called for national action to halt the dismantling of the NHS.

With just eight weeks to go until the May 3rd Scottish and local government elections, Solidarity members face an urgent task in raising the profile of the new party. However, Solidarity’s successful intervention in the recent PCS strike, Simclar workers’ fight and the anti-war movement have all underlined the fact that Solidarity is increasingly seen as the only viable socialist organisation in Scotland.

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