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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 March 2007

Scotland

Solidarity builds party profile ahead of elections

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 3 May 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 union 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. 400 workers turned up for their work only to find the gates locked with a note saying their jobs were gone.

MSP Tommy Sheridan also spoke in the morning session outlining Solidarity's commitment to fighting low pay, privatisation and opposing New Labour's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He explained that Solidarity was standing across Scotland on 3 May to offer a principled socialist opposition to the rigged free-market agenda promoted by all the 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 fellow MSP Rosemary Byrne.

International Socialists (the Socialist Party's counterpart in Scotland) member Philip Stott introduced the section of the draft manifesto that deals with the issues that go beyond the current powers of the Scottish parliament.

He pointed out that in a week that saw the five big banks announce record profits of almost £40 billion, a report into low pay and poverty in Scotland found one million people living below the poverty threshold, including 250,000 children.

Solidarity can build support by exposing the scandals of low pay, inequality and capitalist exploitation while standing clearly for socialist policies to solve these problems based on democratic public ownership of the economy.

Over 20 proposals relating to the Scottish parliament 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 on public-sector workers moved by Alan Manley, an NHS UNISON member, and a member of 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 3 May 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.

International Socialists, CWI, Scotland

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