Colin Fox address to the Oxford Union


SSP national co-spokesperson Colin Fox was invited to the Oxford Union last week to debate the motion ‘This House Believes Scotland Should Be An Independent Country’. Opposing him were Labour MP Anne McGuire, Lord Jim Wallace and the businessman John Dunsmore. This was his speech.

Mr President I rise to support the motion and would like to thank the Oxford Union for inviting me. I understand the debate this evening will ‘follow the British Parliamentary style.

I have done my best to heed those instructions. I have fiddled my expenses and have received payment for the questions in my speech. And in time honoured tradition, I shall speak in a manner completely out of touch with the day to day reality of the people who elected us, an approach practised with such aplomb by so many MPs at Westminster!!

Mr President, supporting Scotland’s democratic right to self-determination does not make you a Scottish nationalist it makes you a democrat. The Scottish Socialist Party are not nationalists, we stand in the traditions of the Red Clydeside leader John Maclean and Edinburgh’s James Connolly, executed by the British for his part in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.

No one familiar with the work of these men would ever describe them as nationalists. They weren’t. They were internationalists, socialists who supported Scottish independence because they recognised the progress it offered democrats and anti-imperialists like them.

According to the OECD’s most recent report, an independent Scotland would be the 14th richest country in the world, ahead of the RUK at 18th. We contributed 9.8 per cent of all UK taxes last year despite having just 8.4 per cent of the population. Our GDP was £150billion.

I only mention these facts because the No side would have you believe, Mr President, that Scotland is some economic ‘basket case’, entirely dependent on subsidy from England the claim is nonsense because like all wealthy countries Scotland’s riches come from an array of industries.

We have huge oil reserves. We have a world class financial services sector, a renewable energy industry that produces one third of our electricity, a highly profitable food and drink industry, construction, manufacturing, fishing, agriculture and forestry, life sciences and IT, tourism, world class Universities… and our most valuable asset?

Our people – skilled, talented and resourceful. It stands to reason that if all that wealth remained in Scotland instead of being siphoned off by the UK Treasury we would be better off.

And we could tackle the scandalous social problems Scotland suffers under the Union. The child poverty that sees one in three youngsters in Glasgow live in deprivation. The fuel poverty that sees one million households denied the gas and electricity they need. The 157,000 people on housing waiting lists.

The food banks catering for those unable to feed themselves. And the chronic low wages that sees 680,000 people endure poverty pay – these will never be solved under the Union.

Britain is the 4th most unequal society on earth. Such grotesque inequalities do not happen by accident. They are the result of policies designed to make the rich richer and poor poorer. Britain is a failed state, a political Union no longer fit for purpose. It is a democracy denier.

A Yes vote on 18 September is not just a vote for independence it is a vote against the neoliberal, warmongering policies that dominate Westminster. Scotland will be better off free from that regime. Scotland is a nation with a social democratic centre of gravity.

The majority of Scots support the redistribution of wealth, higher taxes on the rich, public ownership over privatisation, trades union rights and state intervention when needed, universal benefits, social solidarity, equality, fairness, justice and enterprise.

And we are much more inclined towards building a modern, democratic republic than maintaining an unelected, unrepresentative feudal monarch as our Head of State. We are, in short Mr President, a left of centre country trapped inside a right wing body.

The speakers from the other side have shown us again tonight that their case is based on scaremongering. They bleat like Private Fraser in Dad’s Army ‘We’re doomed, Captain Mainwaring, doomed’ – our oil is worthless, our currency is useless, our pensions will never be paid, we are too small, too poor and too stupid to run our own country – the sun will never shine again with independence!

They argue ‘Scotland has the best of both world’s, we have a strong Scottish Parliament and vital influence at Westminster.’

It’s a double dip delusion Mr President! I was an MSP at Holyrood for four years. My daily experience was to be told what I could not talk about. So, we don’t have a strong Parliament that’s what this debate is all about.

And neither do we have vital influence at Westminster because if we did we would not have had the Poll Tax, Bedroom Tax, the privatisation of the Royal Mail, Trident II or the war in Iraq all foisted on us against our wishes.

Scotland is continuously denied the policies and political philosophy we want. That’s why Scotland will vote Yes on 18 September Mr President. We have a unique opportunity to live our lives based on our own values, to change Britain forever and again change the world.

I am confident we will do so. I urge this house to stand on the right side of history and to support the motion. Thank you.

Courtesy of The Scottish Socialist Voice