Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Open letter to the SSP EC and membership on my "expulsion."


I rejoined the SSP in November (after leaving in September after a prolonged period of bullying  from inside the Party, and defamation directed at me from both inside and outside the party), because I saw cause for hope in what was going on in places like West Dunbartonshire and Ayrshire regardless of what, in my opinion and many other comrades who helped to detoxify the SSP brand during the independence referendum, was the huge mistake last year of dissolving into something that was hostile and indeed smaller than what the SSP had become  (across social media/ the net/ amongst the Yes Scotland voters etc).

I learned a couple of weeks back that my "application" had been rejected, following a motion to EC submitted by EC member, SLP/Rise proponent and PCS representative John Davidson.  It took from my online "joining" through to being informed, a total of four months to be informed of my rejection - a historic one in many respects as I don't recall an "application" being discussed at EC ever before.  I attach two excerpts from my bank statements - I would hope a cheque can be sent to me and i can assure you the money will go to a cause that is willing to have my activism). NB - attached to original email.

I was very disappointed - not only about not being able to help rebuild the shattered SSP, but also not being able to help rebuild what we had done through Campsie Branch.  And also shocked that I was not given a chance to reply to whatever charges that were laid against me.

I don't feel the SSP will now be ready for the local elections next year as it should have been preparing from last year.  Instead we have been led towards total embarrassment in this May's elections through our association with the dreadfully managed and highly premature alliance, Rise.

I feel what has let the SSP down in the past year, is a very odd analysis from an out of touch self titled "leadership."

The SSP used to be a truly pluralist party open to public discussion and debate (the Voice, for example, used to carry debate and discussion  that went out to the public in the old fashioned way).  I think the closing down of debate and discussion will mean the death of the SSP - a death that was put off a few years by those of us who had historical memory of what we had joined and helped to create during the superb period of 2002-2005 and who had hope during the independence referendum of rescuing the party and pulling it back to those roots.

The party has chosen to take a line very different from the one I joined.  I am extremely saddened by that.

I feel that what happens post May will shape the left for the future in Scotland.  I hope discussion and debate will not be curtailed by those in a hurry to have power and their view imposed on others as "the left," and the rejection of socialists as "enemies of the party."

On a positive note, I feel that some of what Rise has tried to achieve has been noble and good.  And I can only hope those with a real Democratic socialism for the 21st century mindset prevail in the SSP, rather than the one that curtails dissent and discussion.

Neil Scott
ex -Campsie Branch Organiser
ex- EC
ex-SSP Online Organiser

Sunday, 20 March 2016

What happened to the "Third Party of Yes?"

This week, the fifth member of the SSP EC stood down amongst allegations of bullying, arrogance and ego since July. The woman Co- Spokesperson (Colin Fox's "equal"); Woman Co-Chair; Allan Grogan, former leader of Labour for Independence; another woman EC member; and me, the Website and Social Media organiser, have all either resigned from EC or from the party completely.

The SSP detoxed during its involvement with the many thousands of Yes campaigners and supporters between 2011 and 2014, much to the chagrin of (or at the very least- not understood by-) those who had been plotting and drawing up plans (steeped in the Sheridan fiasco of 2005-2011) for the left outside what was going on during that time.

The extraordinary importance given to the tiny "Team RIC" by those who had no interactions outside their tiny left cadre, during the Independence Campaign, has been extraordinary.

The SSP consistently polled 3% until October last year. Yet the SSP "leadership" clamped down on the innovation that saw 3000 people registering interest in joining post indyref and saw 50000 online interactions a week.

Rise are polling 0%. Ten or so activists are constantly photographed behind a banner looking  enthusiastic. And they will do all the way up until May, when they poll less than the SSP did at the last Scottish Election.

Why? Because they are targeting voters who don't trust them (Colin Fox made the extraordinary speech during the launch of Rise that had the tag line, "Taking the fight to the SNP," - the very electorate they want to attract!)

Team Rise/RIC (Shafi, Boyd etc) were always seen as microphone grabbers trying to personally profit (unwarranted in some instance), much in the way many of the other "tacked on" groups were. I would argue, though, that until about six months before the referendum, they were truly independent. However, that is for another time.

The odd thing was the decision of the SSP leadership, who twisted and turned in order to be seen as the leadership within their own party (Colin Fox, one Sunday, when we were on the phone, resorted to repeatedly shouting down the phone at me, "DO YOU TRUST YOUR LEADERSHIP? DO YOU TRUST YOUR LEADERSHIP?" ...I was under the impression that 1 the ssp was a "ground up" party and 2 Those on the EC had equality around that table.) This was a party that was innovative in its democracy, and was, I would argue, the most democratic organisation in Europe between 2002 and 2004. A proud history.

Why did Colin and other experienced political activists think it was a good idea to bury the "third party of Yes" in something unknown?

Some in the SSP leadership have said that those around the ISG (the core of "Team RIC" and now "Team Rise") were going to launch something anyway and they had to be part of it. What analysis led them to think that a group OUTSIDE a mass campaign- the biggest campaign Scotland has ever witnessed- would make more ground than a "brand" that was seen as firmly within the huge Yes Movement? A brand that for many, represented the "new left" since it's fantastic work during the Independence Referendum- a brand, for example,  Labour for Independence folk saw as the place for their list vote (so much so, Labour for Independence founder, Allan Grogan joined the SSP!).

What led the SSP leadership to believe that a small group of activists who, to give them credit, could fill a hall now and again had a better profile and expertise than the many talented people within its own party? (The odd thing is, what didn't seem to be part of their analysis was that Yes Scotland, of which the SSP was a corner in the triangle of Yes founders, was almost weekly, filling halls to a greater extent across the country!)

When this election is done, the decimated SSP and the failure (though enthusiastic) that is Rise, will have to rethink. Those activists who deserted or who were bullied out of the SSP and those who didn't come on board Rise, if they haven't already thrown their hats into the SNP or Greens -or walked away completely, will have to be consulted rather than ignored or condemned. And the SSP "leadership" need to be brought to account by those who truly want to build a party that represents the working class.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A tale of two "socialists."

Back in 2007, when the superb project, of its time, the SSP, began its deep depression, one member I knew found the whole "which way to jump" thing very difficult.

He had lapped up all of the propaganda created around Sheridan, created by a small group of people.

Sheridan was the leader who had brought the left to the Scottish Parliament, he thought. A lot of those who were persuaded to come on board- those who twisted and turned "analysis," so painstakingly worded and labyrinthine in reaching conclusions, were calling for the Great Tommy to re-take the party whose leadership he had "given over to Colin Fox."

But it didn't look like Tommy would get his majority. For a reason unknown to socialist number one, a majority of the party seemed to want to stand by truth (because he knew the truth), rather than stand by the Scottish Left personified.

Sheridan, to him, was a flawed hero  who, during the court proceedings had been hoisted upon a cross, been flailed and basted in vinegar, but had risen from the dead and celebrated by the Daily Record, the voice of the working class. And other great leaders shouted that message at "socialist number 1" from platforms and "analysis" documents written by old, shoogly peg like pens.

The rhetoric surrounding Sheridan was that of condemnation of "scabs," "witch hunts" by "ultra feminists," "class traitors" and everything socialist number 1 knew he wasn't. The language was the macho language of the left he had grown up with, mediated by the lyrics of John Lennon. Sheridan was surely from the same gene pool as Maclean, Maxton, Jimmy Reid and the industrial union leaders of the post war twentieth century.

He jumped ship with Sheridan and helped build the odd Clydeside leaky puffer called "Solidarity."

The SSP, left with the history of conferences and the legacy of democratically debated and instituted structures, plodded on. The party members who stayed, kept branches working and while some on the more and more isolated EC kept their eye on regaining the seats some of them had lost in the Scottish Parliament, the branches that kept functioning outside the wrangling of those whose raison d'etre became elections, built and maintained local, community politics- working with others in campaigns and helping rebuild a sullied name where it mattered- at grass roots. In the schemes and villages.

Sheridan's only reason to be was election into the Scottish Parliament. Socialist number 1 soon realised that Solidarity was far from the Democratic Party he had debated, discussed and voted into existence a few years back. After a couple of years of watching the SSP plod along, but Solidarity wither on the vine of ambition and ego, he left the "radical left," unable to rejoin the SSP because, well, he'd condemned those people as scabs, witches and worse. He'd echoed the great leader he'd followed. He had been led by the nose along one of the binary paths the radical left leaders had created.

He realised his mistake. He realised how he'd been used. But as a West of Scotland man, he could never admit that. He stuck by his narrative that "youse had it in for Tommy."

He left Solidarity (branches stopped operating and it only existed on the lead up to elections to promote Tommy's campaign to get Tommy elected or in the media). He joined the Labour Party and became a lefty poet, making his difference in pubs and online. Totally divorced from the community politics he had started out in.

Fast forward to 2014.

Socialist two, who had in the past been an SSP member, rejoined the party as it detoxified itself during the independence referendum. He joined a new branch, and was guided by one of those original members who had built the SSP through promoting Sheridan as a socialist in the pantheon of Scottish socialists that included Gallacher and the ILP.

He was back in "men's territory" here, but he didn't want to make the same mistake he had made before- that is, he didn't want to be part of something that could well fall apart at any time. So, watching what was going on around him in the post independence landscape, he saw that the Radical Independence campaign had brought to it many more socialists and "radicals" than his new, growing SSP branch.  And those who pulled strings and held microphones for that "organisation" began to whisper about creating something from the radical independence campaign and taking the Labour Parties place as an opposition to the SNP. He wasn't totally convinced this could happen, but neither were the string pullers and microphone holders, so rather than diving headlong into something that would cause friction in the SSP leadership, a plan was hatched to create a conversation- something that would drive the SSP and the Greens into a bigger organisation. Soon it was realised that the Greens, who had been better prepared for the post independence landscape and were in no way influenced by whispers of Sheridan's nonsense, would not touch this amorphous thing with a barge pole. The only way to go forward, socialist number 2 was told, was to dissolve the SSP into it, and they would win seats in the Scottish Parliament in 2016- a new thing, with a name not sullied by the past, would be just what people would want. He signed an online statement.

It soon became obvious that the SLP statement was unpopular with those who worked solidly in their communities with their Yes partners, and continued to do their community work. So he said things like, "it's only a conversation." Others said that it was the will of the younger comrades and that the old, stale comrades were keeping them back. These narratives mixed with those from many who hadn't involved themselves in the huge Yes campaign, but couldn't seem to see past the limited success of the minuscule RIC (comparatively speaking- RIC was about the size of two- three SNP branches) and its "personalities," signed up and began a campaign that by May 2015 had people in the SSP sceptically voting for talks, which then, under the old leadership that had created Sheridan, and old organisers from other left "sects," became something that is a hybrid of personality politics with a small, almost swamped element of community politics that has been reduced to selling papers (the community aspect with any mass, that is- that being the SSP) and leafletting.

The elements within the SSP who had created something different- real community links and campaigns, saw through the old ways and have melted away into other parties, other campaigning organisations etc. Those who tried to hang on and hopefully help rebuild, have been condemned, insulted, threatened and banished in order to ensure the old guard can say, "we knew this was temporary all along," and "it was a way to pull members in to the SSP." The reality is, as socialist number two sweats and promotes and leaflets and sells papers, is that the SSP collapsed.

The rhetoric in the rushed and thrown together alliance was of "scabs," "abusers," "pale male and stale," "mysoginists," and like the time of the Sheridan split, threats were made and hearts were hardened. Many more have moved away into working for socialism in other ways. A new alliance is beginning to take shape away from the sects and others have joined the Greens or SNP.

What the mixture of those people who came back on board after the independence campaign and those people who really don't see the error in hero creation did, as did those egotists on the SSP EC who would not listen to REAL analysis rather than the fantasy that RIC microphone grabbers etc were in, was kill the community aspect of the SSP that had survived and helped detoxify the brand within the huge Yes campaign consisting of other parties and none. What drove other new members like  Allan Grogan and others away, (one of the leaders of Labour for Independence), was the sticking to the same techniques that had many new members in 2005, leave (the Great Leader style of politics). They couldn't resist it. And it again, has kicked the left into the wilderness.

The EC of the SSP got warning after warning from the likes of me, Allan Grogan, and others who have more silently stood aside or down, that this creation of something less significant than what we had built,  was signing the warrant for the splintering of the left.

The process they are in is too far past tipping point to save the SSP, in my opinion. Rise is seen by many who lived their political lives through the staged cult of personality of Sheridan as a repeat with a woman at the top. The dreadful condemnatory language used by supporters during the "negotiations," and towards the wider political left online has isolated Rise from the electorate it was supposedly designed to attract. The left as run by the cults of the Cold War left was killed completely by their never really supporting independence and their using old Trotskyist tactics to use it as a lever for yet another great leader.

They were damaged by the generation before them and anyone who wants to help change that narrative must be proclaimed "enemies of the party," (and many of us now outside the SSP, outside Rise -and critically within Rise are given those labels by the Cold War warriors).

And what they have done with their "education" of the bag carriers around them is create further barriers for yet another generation.

Socialist two is a symptom- flapping around trying to please his bosses. And that just shores up the crumbling old guard. He proudly shouts aloud that paper sales are up and his narrative is changing as the new one is rolled out into the SSP- the alliance was temporary.

To be honest, there is much in Rise that is admirable- especially aspects designed by the likes of Nick McKerrell and Liam Young; but yet again, those who want to use the "hero" method and the centrist, even hidden, leadership model are reigning supreme -hidden by the nods to democracy others think they are in. The bare bones of this kind of organising were seen during the Sheridan Fiasco.

Yet again, the left sects bump along the bottom, some of them still ringing a bell when newspaper sales are up, condemning those as having "less fervour," who sell none and three people join in a week. That bell is becoming less and less frequent. And the opportunity that the independence referendum brought to the SSP has been wasted by dreadful analysis by people still, privately, not that convinced by independence.

Their time is done. Hopefully something honest will begin to take shape once the recriminations etc stop  bouncing around post May.

But those following "wise leaders" need to take stock and rethink their activism. What will change lives is working in communities, building a narrative that is logical and costed and challenges power structures, not creates them.

Socialist One and Two will both be lost to real community, socialist politics as long as they echo the old leaderships. Both need to rid them selves of the past and reliance on gurus.

Rise, the SSP EC and Solidarity are hopefully the last follies these people control.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Social Media... Education.

Being a prolific social media user does not mean you understand it.

Social media and the science of it, is relatively new and it is evolving. How we teach in schools and how we interact throughout our lives had a year zero were communications are concerned, circa 1996/7, when forums began that put people in touch with others across the globe and also permanent-ised connections.

Of course, I am not saying I have some sort of guru like knowledge of social media - but it is something I have not only participated on for a very long time - it is something I have written about for various publications... this is one I did in 2009, which still stands - even though it is pre-Twitter and concentrates on the platform "Second Life..." www.redpepper.org.uk/by/neil-scott/

My grandfather may have had lifelong friends- because he lived in the same area all his life. Few of his generation (even in Ireland) in his affinity and peer groups moved away and were completely lost to communication, or some sort of contact.

That kind of mobility changed in the 20th Century, with people moving out of town, across the UK and across the world. Before social media, these people could almost have been thought of as "lost." Anyone who had family members emigrating went through a huge grieving experience- even with the advent of telephones becoming more available to working class people. The new media means people can, through Skype etc, have cameras across the world-,people can interact with their families across the world (ive  heard of grans, Grandad's etc reading bedtime stories to grandchildren they've never met-and fathers and mothers doing the same when working away. Ive even heard of people keeping an eye on their dogs when they are out of the house!)

Virtual families and friendships are not so sci-fi anymore.

Everyone now, is their own news agency. Everyone has a notice board for others to see. Views, news, thoughts and work can be shared instantly with thousands of people. Or less. And what you represent, whether it be your work, your religion, your politics, your lifestyle can instantly be judged by others by your statements and online behaviours. It is this that people should begin to understand. The devil in us that used to be hidden or is not apparent to the rest of the world, can be made apparent and can be judged by others.

I think, as well as online safety, online conduct and who, why and the effect of, your social media use should be taught. It isn't going away- in fact more and more, our online life is fully integrated into who we are.

The quietest, most gentle people can suddenly find a voice and look like the bully they have suffered from in their life; the facade of cheery, outgoing laugh a minute parties can reveal themselves as thoughtful, depressed or lonely.

Others should understand that social media use is different from individual to individual and not judge.

Online, I have met the most inspiring, vivacious people who in real life are disabled by society. I have met loud, opinionated folk who have no voice in a life blighted by abuse.  And I have met carers whose contact beyond the walls of the people they care for is through the virtual world.

I have also met damaged people, who damage and people who, judgementally damage these people further. Human behaviour is a strange thing- it has reason- it has environment- it has effect.

I think one of the questions people need to ask before they judge is "why?"

Why did this person post this? Why did they seemingly attack me? DID they attack me?

Conflict resolution has become more difficult with social media- but every interaction is traceable- every interaction is permanently in cyberspace.

Social media has got many, many times more pluses than negatives. It is a positive thing in the world that people can now not be without human contact.

But we do need to learn, together, how to ensure that all interactions are analyses beyond the binary. There is a psychology involved in this new interaction that needs to be understood and taught.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

It's Friday, it's 3 0'clock and it's joke time!

Children in my p3/2 (year 1/2 - 6/7 year olds) class are always telling me "jokes." Most of them are made up on the spot and need loads of explanation and usually involve someone getting hurt. One of my bright sparks had been saying to me all day yesterday, "Mr Scott, I want to tell you a joke!" I put it off all day, until we were lined up to leave at 3pm (me at the front- on Fridays I sometimes trample we'ans underfoot to get out before them...). I could put it off no more.  "Ok, tell me the joke..."

Her face lit up. "OK. Two cows in a field... How do you know the one on holiday?"

I gave a few silly responses and then, "ok, I don't know."

"The one with the wee calf..!"

A brilliant end to a great week in work :)

Friday, 4 March 2016

Where now for the SSP?

If you had have asked me 'where does the left in Scotland have to go now,' just over a year ago, I would have given a very clear answer. It had to go where it had gone for the previous two years, with the left folk who had joined the SNP during the referendum and be their critical friend.

This tactic worked well for the SSP during the independence referendum- building it and as we were inside the Yes family (unlike any of the "pressure groups" and celeb lefties), our critical friendship had _legitimacy_ with those supporters of independence who wanted to place their second vote with a party who would ensure the SNP had some left pressure in Parliament (maybe). In my opinion, a newly invigorated party- one that at last had, in the eyes of a large chunk of the electorate  left the Sheridan debacle far behind, and one that had over the years again laid roots down in communities (especially outside the Glasgow bubble), there was definitely a place for left pro independence people to give a second, third or fourth vote in targeted Wards in next years Council Elections. Although the SSP had announced its place inside the Rise sinking ship pre-October, polls had them on 3% in Mays election -before  any campaign had started. That has of course, dissipated and gone to second vote to SNP or Greens.

Instead, Some lefties outside the Yes "family" - and in actual fact outside the Yes campaign for most of the preceding 2 1/2 years we had been campaigning- were given a credibility they had not earned. Those who pressurised Colin Fox to push the SSP into a damaging "alliance" with people who had little support outside the very strange dynamic of RIC (and other very tacit supporters of Yes who did not as I say, get very involved in the independence campaign). The new respect the SSP had gained in local Yes Scotland groups,  was dismissed for the support of the much smaller and loosely formed RIC. A case of "let's just talk to those like us."

There were huge errors in judgement in the past year across the "principled left." As I have said, the left, the SSP etc really have to give serious analysis of 1 what they have sacrificed in the past year and 2 what the relationships with certain "personalities" and "pundits" should be post May.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

March 13th, 1996

I can hardly believe it is nearly 20 years since my mum phoned me on 13 March 1996 and said, "what's happening there? It says they are shooting children!"

(I wrote on this same topic ten years ago here... )

I had had a late night the night before. Sharkey (Brian Harkness), Aileen, Onditz Calparsoro, Aitor, "maw," and all of the others in Ledcameroch House had been partying- calimotxo, beer and smoke and a visit to The Red Comyn Inn, singing to Pulp, Oasis, and other party songs until the wee small hours. I thought she'd meant over there, in Northern Ireland. I thought the latest peace deal had fallen and another senseless act of sectarian, political violence had blighted another small community in Ulster.

But no, it was the beautiful little village I was living and working and partying in. A wee place that had made me very welcome. A place with really lovely, welcoming, down to earth folk.

I still find it difficult to think about what happened in Dunblane Primary School that day.

The weeks following that day were really strange. We still partied as young people do, but in a strange atmosphere of the tragedy- friends were effected - and I knew some of those who lost children (eg one father had been a lecturer of mine). Dunblane was such a small, tight community that even new interlopers like me were part of the larger family of the bereaved. We were harassed in work and out of work by the world press and famous people came and went from the Stakis Hydro. And all of the time the conversation would come round to, "why?" And other impossible, emotive, questions that we will never be able to answer.

I look back to my days in Dunblane with a huge degree of happiness- I met some of the most beautiful people I have ever met. But this time of year is always sad thinking of those little children and their families I met in the weeks after.

What was done there by that man and then by some of those who exploited the event, has stayed with me and will never leave me.

That photo of the class and their teacher, screeching through the fax machine in the reception of the hotel, unthinkingly sent by a news agency to be given to a reporter via one of the local workers, will never leave me either. A happy photo I have since often posed for as a teacher, proudly with my little pupils so full of hope, life, love and vitality. A photo from which the unfulfilled dreams of a generation, and their brave teacher's smiles shocked and saddened all who saw it.