Scottish Socialist Party to split as Sheridan launches new party

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The crisis in the Scottish left has intensified as former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan has announced his intention to launch a new left wing party.

Sheridan, currently an SSP Member of the Scottish Parliament, was forced to resign as leader after the News of the World accused him of frequenting sex clubs. Sheridan successfully sued the newspaper last month, and was awarded £200,000 in damages. Eleven leading members of the SSP, including 3 MSPs supported the newspaper's allegations against him and testified against Sheridan in court.

Sheridan had intended to attempt to reclaim the leadership of the SSP but has instead decided to found a "new party of the left" leaving what he described as the "colossal train wreck of the SSP" which is divided between two factions, the pro-Sheridan "SSP Majority" and the anti-Sheridan "United Left".

Colin Fox, the current SSP leader, has urged Sheridan to abandon his plans. "I disagree with Tommy that the SSP has 'reached its historical limits'. The SSP has huge potential still ahead of it. Hundreds of thousands of people wish to see it survive and thrive and take the socialist project which it uniquely promotes, still further forward...There is no basis for two socialist parties in Scotland with indistinguishable political programmes," said Fox in a statement.

Two major platforms within the SSP, the International Socialists (CWI) and the Socialist Worker Platform (IST) support Sheridan's call as does the SSP's South of Scotland regional committee.

Sheridan claims that several leading Scottish celebrities including actors and directors Peter Mullan, David McKay and Martin McCardie, support his call for a new party.

"I predict hundreds, maybe thousands, of ordinary, everyday workers will fight for equality and justice. The war is with inequality, not with fellow socialists. And Scotland is big enough for more than one socialist party, " said Sheridan.

"The atmosphere a faction in the SSP has created is poisonous and unacceptable. It's obvious that those who are involved with the faction, which has hijacked the SSP and all its apparatus, have hatred for me as their motivating factor. The SSP have been bastardised, they're now a grotesque caricature of what we had hoped. It's time for them to fight among themselves. It's time to make a clean break. The new party will share some of the political ideology of the old SSP and the internal regime will be one of tolerance, friendship and genuine solidarity," said Sheridan in an interview with a Scottish newspaper.

The SSP executive has issued a statement declaring that Sheridan is "on the road to oblivion" accusing him of engaging in an "act of political irresponsibility which can only delight the enemies of socialism in Scotland." The statement continues "Tommy Sheridan has decided to run away from the SSP and wreak as much damage as he can in the process."

Sheridan replied to the statement saying "I can't win either way. If I stay I am a problem according to my SSP colleagues who say they will not work with me again, but if I go I am splitting the socialist cause. Frankly, the SSP has been distorted by the faction which has hijacked its apparatus and the internal regime is now longer conducive to building a socialist party". He added there is an "unstoppable momentum building up" for the creation of a new party.

Sheridan and his supporters plan to hold a meeting on September 3, 2006 to plan the new party. The SSP, meanwhile, will hold an event the day before to rally its support.

The SSP currently has six MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, two of whom, Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne are supporting the new party.

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