Monday, 29 September 2008

Sustainability - some thoughts

Ann Kaniuk with Campsie branch member, Ron Mackay.

Ann Kaniuk, Campsie Branch member, shares her thoughts on sustainability.

As if the credit crunch and collapse of banking wasn’t enough, climate change is hitting us before we’re ready, and the oil is running out; it really is finite, and we’re using it up as fast as we can. North Sea oil has peaked, along with all other sources.

It’s a mug’s game to be dependent on other countries for our energy (new French nuclear power stations built in Britain, imported Russian gas, German electricity…). We need to create our own energy. Wave power good, wind power problematic. Huge wind farms are erratic and destructive, and they’re usually owned by profit-hungry foreign powers anyway. Putting small windmills in communities makes more sense – not attached to houses, where they can shake the walls to bits, but standing free in strategic places. What CAN be attached to houses – and SHOULD be attached to every south-facing roof in Scotland – are solar panels. Photovoltaic cells would be ideal – creating electricity that could be used by each household, with the surplus fed into the national grid. The technology for these is still a way off, but people should be working on it. Economy of scale should bring the price down. What we could do right now, though, is put solar heating
panels on all our roofs, providing hot water. We need the hot water for heating, and washing dishes and clothes. By hand (remember that?). No more dishwashers, washing machines, and tumble driers. Too profligate, when we have the sun shining for free.

Ann with SSP Campsie member Thomas Swann campaigning recently in Glasgow East.

Flying and trucking food from all over the globe is becoming increasingly expensive. Oranges, pineapples and bananas may become unaffordable luxuries again. We need to grow our own food. That means not using our land for biofuels, but using all our land for food. Look your last on vast lawns with stripes made by power-mowers. Dig them up. Grow food.

We need to stick together to overcome the challenges ahead. Sticking together sounds good to me.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Branch meeting - in Holland...

Thomas Swann on his recent move of branches from Campsie... to Nijmegen in Holland.

As the film began, I was reminded of the cold and wet Saturday mornings spent in Kirkintilloch leisure centre with other members of Campsie Branch probably watching a John Pilger documentary or something else as part of our educational activities. The five minutes into the film it stopped and someone had to monkey around with the laptop before it would start up. Again, I was reminded of the regular Campsie Branch film mornings. This was my first real experience of the Dutch Socialist Party.

The film was 'Turtles Can Fly', the first film to come out of Iraq since the US/UK invasion. I'd been meaning to get in touch with the local branch of the Socialist Party before I moved to the Netherlands and was encouraged by the warm welcome I received from the local organiser and the other members who were present at the screening. The Socialist Party began as a small left-wing grouping but through a process of community engagement and activism has grown from having one member of parliament in the early 90s to twenty-five today, plus a large number of elected local government officials. It's been held up as the success story of the Left in Europe, and it is largely thanks to its work in communities, on the ground, as it were, that this level of support has been achieved.

Focusing on a few areas, including Nijmegen, where I am now living (you might recognise the name from 'A Bridge to Far'), the party organised projects as ambitious as offering free medical care to members of the community, and now claims a number of 'strongholds' where it has a base of local support. In a number of areas, again including Nijmegen, the Socialist Party participates in the local government along with other Left parties such as the Green-Left.

In this blog, which will appear most likely irregularly on the website, I will attempt to relate my experience of Left-wing politics and activism in the Netherlands, and specifically in Nijmegen, to similar situations in Scotland, as well as comparing the general social, political and economic contexts in which these are taking place. But my research and reporting will not be confined to the Socialist Party, though as an organised political party which stands in national and local elections this will obviously have a large relevance to a member of the SSP as I am. Nijmegen is also one of the centres of Anarchist activism in the Netherlands and has a number of collectively owned bars and cafés which have developed from squated buildings to legitimate enterprises supported through low rent conditions by the Left-wing council of the town.

So, hopefully my next entry in this blog will have something more concrete than a simple introduction and will perhaps provide information which will prove useful to Socialist and Anarchist activists in Scotland, and particularly in the Campsie/East Dunbartonshire area.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Global Economic Crisis

Many of the articles in this section were written by Raphie De Santos. In these articles, Raphie predicts the fall of HBOS - and warns about other banks.

Raphie was head of Equity Derivatives Research and Strategy at Goldman Sachs International. He was an advisor on derivatives and financial markets to the Bank of England, London Stock Exchange, London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange and the Italian Ministry of Finance.

Raphie has been a guest lecturer on derivatives and financial markets at Harvard and New York universities and the London School of Economics and has spoken at the annual Nobel Foundation conference in Stockholm.

Click on image below to go to the SSP analysis of the current crisis.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Stop Power Company Profiteering

Since 2000 gas bills have doubled & electricity bills are up 75%.
The energy companies claim these increases are unavoidable as the cost of oil and gas rises on the world market.

But wait.

These same energy companies have seen their profits increase 600%. Eon, Centrica, NPower and the others made £3,000m this year compared to £557m in 2003.

We do.

The average combined gas and electricity bill in Britain is now £1,500 per household per annum and rising. The consumer group ‘Energywatch’ estimates there are now 5.5million households suffering from ‘fuel poverty’. [* When 10% of all household income goes on energy = fuel poverty].

There are now 6.8m people deep in debt to energy suppliers and they are in no position to cope with further price increases.
Pensioners will not be able to keep warm this winter and will die in their tens of thousands. This simply cannot be tolerated.


The Scottish Socialist Party believes there should be a windfall tax on fuel company profits and bills should be held down.
But we also believe the energy companies should be taken back into public ownership. The rise in gas and electricity prices has been nowhere near as bad in the rest of Europe, the industry here has clearly been mis-managed.
The government must ensure everyone has the energy supplies they need as winter approaches. This is a right.
And if the government does not intervene, then people are entitled to say to say to energy company profiteering



Click on form below and then print:

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


The Scottish Socialist Party welcomes the decision by Education Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop for a consultation on the draft guidance for the use of biometrics in schools.

The Scottish Socialist Party have had concerns about this technology since being informed by concerned parents in East Dunbartonshire whose children will be attending the new build schools.

East Dunbartonshire Scottish Socialist Party spokesperson, Bill Newman commented, "The introduction of Biometric fingerprinting in schools has no educational or safety value. It is imperative that the use of these systems is frozen until this consultation takes place. Children are being conditioned to the 'surveillance society' without really knowing what it means.”

The Scottish Socialist Party echo the questions raised by the Leave Them Kids Alone campaign ( )

  1. Why did the school not give parents adequate notice of its intention to fingerprint children?
  2. Why was there no proper consultation, and why were parents not asked to give their explicit written opt-in consent before any children could be fingerprinted?
  3. What advice did the school receive from the manufacturer and others before deciding on this policy?
  4. Aside from manufacturers' anecdotal claims in advertising material, can the school give me details of any independent research proving benefits to my child of using this system?
  5. Has any independent research been carried out regarding the effect on children of repeatedly using biometrics on a daily basis in a familiar setting?
  6. What steps is the school undertaking to teach my child about the dangers of misusing their biometric data?
  7. The manufacturer claims that this system does not store my child's fingerprint, but surely if the biometric template it stores isn't the direct equivalent of a fingerprint, rather like the difference between a drawing and a photo, then the system simply wouldn't work?
  8. Given that there are international standards to ensure that biometric templates from different manufacturers are compatible (so what's stored on one system can be read by any other, including government systems) how does the school respond to the statement made by Microsoft's Identity Architect Kim Cameron that "It is absolutely premature to begin using 'conventional biometrics' in schools"?
  9. Given that neither the DfES, the Information Commissioner, nor BECTA have to date issued guidelines concerning the human rights implications of the use of biometrics in schools, who, prior to the introduction of the system, told the school that it was legal to implement the system without seeking explicit parental consent?
  10. Will my child be photographed as well as fingerprinted?
  11. Will all and any such photographic data be destroyed along with fingerprint templates when my child leaves school, or if I change my mind at any time?
  12. Who, under existing legislation, including the Children Act and the government's stated commitment to widespread data sharing, may access my child's biometric template and associated data as stored on the system? The police? Social services? Civil servants? Technicians from the manufacturer carrying out routine maintenance? The large private multinational PFI companies that now run some LEAs e.g. Amey, Nord Anglia? The private companies running City Academies that may have access to children's data?
  13. Would the school permit 'fishing expeditions' in the stored biometric data (e.g. if the local police were trying to find a match for a crime mark they suspected may have been left by a child from the school)? What would the school do if such a search revealed TWO probable matches?
  14. Bearing in mind that my child's biometric template remains valuable for their entire lifetime, since it can't ever be changed, where is the biometric data stored, where are backups stored, and what security procedures are in place to prevent unauthorised copying of, or any type of access to this data? How will the school know if the data has been copied? What procedures would be followed if the main computer or backup system storing the data were stolen?
  15. Is the computer holding the data connected to the school network and/or the internet? What active measures are taken to ensure the biometric data cannot be accessed by third parties via any such connection(s)?
  16. Can the school guarantee that the data, including any backup copies, will be promptly removed as soon as my child leaves school, or if I change my mind at any point, by an approved professional data cleansing company as required by the Data Protection Act? Will the data-cleansing company certify in writing that the biometric information has been satisfactorily removed? (This requirement was confirmed by the Information Commissioner on 9 Feb 2007.)
  17. Given that the encryption used by the system cannot possibly be guaranteed for the entire lifetime of my child, and that fingerprint templates from different manufacturers are compatible and interchangeable in accordance with INCITS 398 or NISTIR 6529, will the school accept full liability if my child's biometric template stored on the system is compromised at some future point?
  18. As new pupils join the school, will you regularly seek explicit informed written parental consent before fingerprinting them (as recommended by the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas on 30 January 2007)?
  19. Where fingerprinting is used for school registration, what backup strategy will the school implement to ensure that if any part of the system fails before registration is complete, a full and accurate record of those children at school will be available in the event of an emergency evacuation at the start of the day, e.g. in the event of a fire?

References: The statement made by Microsoft's Identity Architect Kim Cameron -

Tell Parents about fingerprinting -

InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards

Education Guardian, Tuesday January 30 2007, “Schools advised to seek consent before fingerprinting pupils” -

Paper by Andrew Clymer, senior identity management security expert, “Do Biometrics have a role for school registration?” -

Announcement of Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop of a consultation on draft guidance on the use of biometrics in schools. -

Tuesday, 2 September 2008