Scottish Socialist Youth
A charter for young people in Scotland
In the 21st century…
One in three Scottish children live in poverty.
750,000 Scottish households cannot afford to heat their homes properly.
Half of the world’s population live on less than £1 a day.
There is still an estimated 20 million slaves world-wide.
250 million children aged under 14 work for poverty pay in factories and fields.
Banks in Edinburgh control £300billion worth of funds.
Britain’s 1000 wealthiest profiteers have assets of £158billion.
That is nearly ten times as much as Scotland’s annual expenditure on services like health and education.
Each day £750billion is gambled away on stock exchanges.
The gap between the richest and poorest countries has risen by 2400%, from 3-1 to 74-1.
57% of the world’s wealth is owned by just 6% of the world’s population.
That’s the world we live in today.
A world ruled by capitalism’s addiction to profit.
A world where the poor get poorer while the rich get richer.
A world where the ‘have-nots’ outnumber the ‘haves’ by hundreds of millions.
A world where the richest 350 people own more than the poorest 2 billion people
Young people suffer more than most from this inequality. Heavy-duty advertising schemes pressurise us into buying the right mobile and wearing the right brand of clothes. At the same time the only jobs we can get are unskilled and low paid.
This forces us into a grim cycle of debt and exploitation. Evidence shows that young people in poverty are more likely to suffer from bad health and depression, struggle at school, use hard drugs, turn to crime, and face imprisonment.
We are often accused of being apathetic about politics. People say we don’t care about the news, and just can’t be bothered to vote. It is true that more and more young people are becoming pissed off with politics. But the problem doesn’t lie with the youth; it lies with the politics itself.
In 1997 New Labour won the general election, after 18 years of Tory rule. In 1999 Scotland voted for devolution, and our own parliament came into existence. We were told that there would be radical changes, and life in Scotland would improve for everyone.
But the Scottish Parliament is only as good as those sitting in it. The Labour/Liberal coalition has continued to cut back jobs and privatise public services with more enthusiasm than the Tories.
They continue to ignore what people in Scotland need.
This is because multi-millionaire businesses fund all of the main political parties, and together it is their job to keep the capitalist system running. To do that they need to disguise the problems that it causes.
New Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the Tories all avoid real debate about how capitalism causes poverty, inequality, and suffering. Instead they stick to scapegoat subjects like ‘law and order’, ‘asylum seekers’, and ‘anti-social behaviour’.
So is it surprising that young people show no interest in politicians when they refuse to talk about the real problems we face??
SSY is a network where young people organise against capitalism and fight for our rights. We fight to build a society controlled by the people, in the interests of the people. We argue that socialism is the answer to the social and environmental destruction that capitalism creates.
We also work with the Scottish Socialist Party for an Independent Socialist Scotland. As part of that battle we take our arguments to the streets in Scotland, and build links with other radical youth organisations abroad.
This is our charter. It is our vision of how our lives can be radically improved today.
The Right to Work
Unemployment and poverty wages are symptoms of a sick society. Any society which cannot put to use the talents and abilities of its people and support them accordingly, needs to be changed.
We’re fighting for:
A minimum wage for all, of at least £7 an hour and tied to inflation.
A 35 hour maximum working week.
Rises in benefits matching the rise in minimum wage and the scrapping of age discrimination in benefits.
Unemployment benefits restored to 16 and 17 year-olds.
The Right to Education and Training
Education has a crucial influence on what society will be like in the future. However, schools, colleges and universities all suffer from cuts in government spending. These shortfalls are being filled with private cash, in “Public Private Partnerships” (PPP).
PPP schemes are economic “red herrings”, which end up costing more than a publicly funded alternative! All they really do is allow business to rake in profits from our public services.
So PPP schemes are a direct threat to education. They also mean cost-cutting in building and maintenance work, meaning we are taught in unsafe conditions; schools are plastered with advertising, with students becoming ‘consumers in training’; and most seriously, big businesses are now closely involved in the running of some schools.
Education is more and more being controlled by multinational corporations like Shell, Cadbury’s and McDonald’s. It is run, not in our interests, but in the interests of their profits…
A ‘teaching pack’ provided by Cadbury’s says:
“chocolate is a wholesome food that tastes really good. It is fun to eat at any time of day and gives you energy and important nutrients.”
And one made by McDonald’s, has the slogan “Good students make great workers.”
So, big corporations control the funding of education. And naturally, they try to use this power to make sure we don’t find out what they really get up to… But shouldn’t we be learning about how these businesses exploit their workers and destroy the environment, or why there is an increasing gap between rich and poor?
The only option for many school leavers is a New Deal training scheme. These are supposed to be part of the government’s commitment to education and employment. All they really do is supply cheap labour and bring down official unemployment figures. People are forced into new deal with the threat of losing benefits, and once in they are no better off than before.
We need an education system that teaches us to question and challenge, not accept and serve.
We need public-owned schools, colleges and universities, fit for the 21st century, open to every single young person in Scotland, teaching us useful skills for life, and reflecting our diverse culture.
An end to the corporate sponsorship of education through PPP, to be replaced with full government funding
An end to the division between public and private schooling. Young people should have access to the highest standards of education, whatever their circumstances.
An end to religious interference with our education.
The immediate abolition of student loans and fees, cancellation of debts, and the re-introduction of a universal student grant.
Housing benefit and income support be made available to young people and students again.
Failed New Deal training schemes to be replaced with non-compulsory well-paid apprenticeships, equipping young people with the skills desperately needed in society.
Education about Radical History, trade unions, and emotional issues like mental health and depression
The Right to Shelter
“Thousands of young people desperately want to get a place of their own.”
But… Low wages, lack of benefits, unaffordable private rents and dwindling public housing mean that for the majority this is impossible.
As direct result of this situation, in 21st century Scotland, around 4,500 teenagers are homeless.
To reverse this situation, SSY demands that Scotland’s resources are used to provide safe, affordable homes for everyone. To achieve this, we need:
Council housing back in public control, with enough public investment to make these homes acceptable places to live. No to the stock transfers!
A massive program of publicly funded house-building, using regenerated urban areas to minimise environmental damage.
Action taken against exploitative slum landlords, with
confiscation of property if improvements are not made.
Housing benefits to be restored to 16 and 17 year-olds.
Free hostels to be provided for the homeless, while they wait for permanent accommodation.
The right to squat in disused buildings.
Support given to young people when looking for a home for the first time.
The Right to Vote at 16
At the age of 16 we can get married, legally have sex, join the armed forces, ride a motorbike, and pay taxes. We can be forced into a New Deal training scheme and work for a pitiful wage.
Yet we must wait another two years before we can become involved in the political process. 16 and 17 year olds are
affected by politicians decisions, the same as everyone else… but they are unable to take part in choosing who makes these decisions.
We demand the lowering of the voting age to 16 and the right of everyone who can vote to stand for public office.
The Right to Resist!
Our country is often described as a democracy. But we never get a say in whether our troops go to war. We never get a say about nuclear weapons. This “democracy” is getting the chance to put a cross in a box once every 4 or 5 years.
And if those elected to power refuse to tackle the real problems in society, or if they pay more attention to big businesses than ordinary people, then it is a democracy in name only. So it is up to us to organise in mass numbers to get our voices heard. Corporations and the government control the mainstream media, which is so powerful that we can only be heard by taking mass collective action. However, successive governments have taken steps to restrict our rights to organise and protest.
The Criminal Justice Act 1994 gave the police powers to put a stop to ‘unauthorised public activity’. So if you go on a demonstration without telling the police, you can get arrested and fined! And if you are the organiser of the demo, you will be facing a stretch in prison. And the ‘anti-terrorist’ laws define terrorism loosely enough to include anyone that the authorities don’t like.
ID cards, which the government is talking about will be another attack on civil liberties.
Trade unions are potentially the driving force to change society. All capitalist wealth is created by ordinary people, whether you work in a call-centre, behind a bar, at a computer or in a factory. If working people decided that they wanted a different world, together they could bring the system to a halt. Yet the importance of trade unions is often not fully explained to young workers, and whenever industrial action does take place, the authorities do everything they can to defeat it. We condemn the fact that many big businesses (eg McDonalds) have a “No-Union” policy.
We have a democratic right to organise, demonstrate and strike. But the authorities do everything they can to attack this right. Ideological offensives, attacks on civil liberties, and police brutality have all been used in the past, and will be used again while we live in a society based on exploitation, and while people continue to fight it
A Society Free from Sexism
More women are now in full time work, but sexism hasn’t gone away, and women are still affected by low pay and poor conditions more than any other section of society.
Roughly 70% of those working on the minimum wage are women, earning just 56% of men’s incomes. Women take on the burden of caring for children, elderly and disabled relatives. Women still do 90% of household chores, even where there are two partners working full time. 90% of single parents are women, with the majority of them living on poverty wages.
As if this was not enough, women face an increased threat of violence. Around 1 in 5 women experience violence from an intimate male partner, and around 1 in 6 women are victims of rape. However, only 2% of violent attacks on women are reported to the police.
The media continues to promote the idea that women should conform to a certain ideal of beauty. Historically women have been considered no more than sexual objects, while only men have any brains. It’s high time these sexist ideas were fully laid to waste.
Most young people today believe that men and women should be treated as equals, but traditional superstitions of male superiority are still ingrained in our culture.
SSY is working towards a society based on equality. As part of this struggle we will oppose sexism in all its forms.
A statutory 1-year’s paid maternity/paternity leave with the balance decided by the parents themselves.
Free nursery provision for all pre-school children and the establishment of after-school and holiday clubs in every locality for school-age children.
Full funding for refuges for women attempting to escape violent relationships and for services that support women who have experienced violence, rape and child sexual abuse.
An End to Disability Discrimination
Given the wealth of our society, and the advances made in technology and medicine, it should be possible to meet everyone’s needs, no matter how complex they are – so why do some people suffer inequality?
People with disabilities can face an impossible struggle to have even their most basic needs met, because the government doesn’t spend enough on health and social security
For young people this can mean an increased dependency on parents and family, and being stuck in the family home when people of similar ages are leading active lives. It can mean being kept away from other young people in school, and not getting into further education. Without the chance to socialise, it can lead to being bullied or stigmatised, where people end up being defined only by their disability. For many people, having a disability means falling through the cracks in society and either ending up in an institution, or living an alienated and solitary life.
But if we talk about disabled people more than the fact that society itself does not allow everyone to be able, we are blaming the victim and not the source of the problem. The only reason we don’t have a society capable of meeting everyone’s needs is the cost. We need a society that includes everyone, where people aren’t criticised for not being “normal”. To achieve this we must:
Demand fully accessible public transport, public buildings, workplaces and housing.
End segregation of those with special needs. In schools and further education, classes should be integrated to meet everyone’s needs, and classroom assistants provided where necessary.
Demand better community care.
Properly recognise those who care for disabled children or parents
A Society Free from Racism
The murder of Firsat Dag in August 2001 was a brutal example of the many racist attacks that occur in Scotland. Two months before, fuelled by the tabloid press, British politicians had run a general election campaign based on the issue of ‘illegal’ immigrants. Just days after Firsat’s death the Daily Record described him as a ‘conman’. So it’s hardly surprising that these racist attacks happen when the government and media create and encourage racial hatred.
Many asylum seekers arriving in Britain are fleeing extreme violence, oppression, war and poverty. Poverty that is created by First World governments like our own. The fact that whole families’ face a dangerous journey across thousands of miles is surely enough proof of the persecution they’re running from.
Our country has more than enough money and resources to support asylum seekers, and often we desperately need the skills they can offer.
But because our wealth is concentrated in just a few hands, not distributed fairly among the population, it appears as though asylum seekers put an insupportable strain on the community. It is in the interests of our country’s rich that arguments like this are made. We should celebrate the skills and cultural diversity that immigrants and asylum seekers bring to Scotland.
An effect of the media hysteria over asylum seekers is that the violence and racism it breeds spills over into the lives of ethnic minorities who have lived in Scotland for several generations. Members of families, both old and young, are made to feel like strangers in their own country. Fascist organisations such as the British National Party, the National Front and the Scottish Defence League take advantage of this hysteria to violently divide communities.
SSY opposes racism at all levels of our society and we challenge racist attitudes whenever they are raised.
We will fight for:
The scrapping of all racist immigration and asylum legislation.
The welcoming of asylum seekers into Scotland, the scrapping of the humiliating voucher system and an end to detention and deportation.
Action to counter discrimination against minorities in housing, employment and the legal system.
Full support and assistance to those forced to defend themselves against racist attacks.
Action at community level to oppose and prevent fascist organisation.
Increased funding to provide public information in ethnic languages.
An End to Sexuality Discrimination
The reactionary campaign around Section 28 (the law that stopped school teachers talking about gay relationships) showed that we are far from a society which celebrates its diversity. Diverse lifestyles can thrive in wealthy inner city areas. Yet prejudice and violence are still common against people who are not “straight” and government policy doesn’t help matters. Young people are especially vulnerable as there is often no support available when we are figuring out what is meant by sexuality.
Sex should be about respect, love and enjoyment; about exploring ourselves and other people. But all too often we are made to think about sex in terms of religion and guilt, or peer-pressure and envy.
Why should we be pigeon-holed into categories like “straight” and “gay” anyway? Who’s business is it except our own? SSY supports the right for everyone to explore and express their sexuality, and we demand:
The equalisation of the age of consent at 16, for all sexual partners.
Inclusive and unbiased sex education at schools.
An end to all discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Specifically an end to discrimination in parenting, adoption, and in employment.
The recognition of same-sex, and non-married partners in pension and insurance schemes.
Full support and assistance to those resisting homophobic violence and intimidation.
A Woman’s right to control her own body
A Woman’s right to control her body is a fundamental human right. Every year thousands of women around the world die as a result of unsafe backyard abortions. Women should have total control over their reproductive system, being able to make free and informed decisions about how they live.
Why should women’s bodies be used as a battle ground for the religious Right-wing!? It should be for individual women to decide if and when to have children. The so-called ‘pro-life’ campaigners argue that women’s bodies should be controlled by the law.
Every undermining of a woman’s right to choose whether, when and how to have children is an attack on all women – lesbian, heterosexual and bisexual. We need a feminist, public and political campaign in support of the full availability of abortion – to make it public-funded, accessible and safe.
Free, safe and accessible abortion for all women regardless of geography, age, culture or family circumstances.
Full funding and promotion of family planning clinics, with free and easily accessible morning-after pill, contraception, and counselling.
A Culture of Our Own
Funding cuts to local councils has resulted in the disappearance of many community recreation areas. This leaves Scotland’s youth with little choice in how we spend our free time. For many the only option is hanging about in the street.
Scotland’s youth is potentially an endless source of creative and sporting talent, but for many generations this potential has slowly gone to waste. To stop this, we must all have the resources to develop ourselves, in whatever way we choose.
The freedom to choose how we spend our time depends on the material opportunities available. We need spaces in which to organise our own entertainment; and facilities to develop skills in music, arts, and sport. Only with significant public funding, organised at the level of local councils, and with the direct input of young people, can we have a real opportunity to develop a vibrant youth culture.
An End to Hypocritical Drugs Laws
Whether or not a drug is considered legal has nothing to do with how toxic or addictive it is. Neither is it based on the social harm the drug causes. In Scotland, alcohol and tobacco kill over a hundred times more people than heroin. Yet you’ll often see a screaming headline like “Let’s get tough on drugs scum” in the same tabloid that carries adverts and promos for both alcohol and tobacco products. This hysterical nonsense, spouted by newspapers and politicians involved in “anti-drugs” campaigns, has more to do with scandal and publicity than tackling the real problems of drug-abuse.
Most people who take illegal drugs are young people involved in occasional recreational use. The vast majority of these smoke cannabis; and it’s a fact that cannabis is far less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. In fact, because the law puts the sale and production of drugs into the hands of the black-market, the common practice of dealers cutting drugs with other lethal substances is made possible. So drugs are far less safe than they would be if they were legal.
However… if support and information are provided to young people, any risk can be minimised and we can make an informed choice. Campaigns using shock-tactics don’t work, in fact they tend to increase curiosity rather than scare people away.
Where serious problems with drugs occur, it’s those living in poverty who are most affected. Heroin addiction is most frequent in areas of high unemployment and a lack of facilities for young people. Prohibition can’t solve these problems. Only government investment into communities, and the treatment of addiction as a health issue, not a criminal issue, can provide a solution.
We’re fighting for:
Immediate legalisation and licensed sale of cannabis.
Decriminalisation of all other illegal drugs.
Freely available testing kits.
Funding for advice and education instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on huge scare campaigns.
A complete ban on tobacco and alcohol advertising.
Major resources to help heroin addicts break their addiction, including making heroin available free on prescription to registered addicts, and an expansion of rehabilitation, counselling and detox services.
A radical social program to tackle the roots of drug abuse including a huge expansion of cultural and sporting facilities at community level.
Drug workers, addicts, ex-addicts and users to work with communities and schools in providing effective drug education.
The Freedom to be Healthy
Scotland is often called the ‘sick man’ of Western Europe. It has the worst figures for heart disease, cancer and drug abuse. For many young people a healthy lifestyle isn’t possible, as the cost and availability of healthy options put them out of our reach. It is no surprise that where you find poverty you also find poor health and lower life expectancies.
We believe in:
Free nutritious school meals and milk to all primary and secondary school pupils.
Price caps on the cost of organic fruit and vegetables.
A huge expansion of low cost sporting facilities at community level.
An end to discrimination against those with HIV and AIDS.
The nationalisation of drugs companies who profit from our ill health. We also support the right of countries to produce their own cheaper generic drugs, rather than be held hostage by drugs corporations.
A reversal of underfunding in the NHS and an end to PPP, for a high quality publicly owned health service.
An end to charges for prescriptions, dental check-ups and eye tests.
The world watched the terrorist attack of September 11th with horror and disbelief. Then, four weeks later, most of us watched the American led retaliation with equal horror. While claiming to be a peaceful nation, and the defenders of freedom and democracy, America began the ‘War on Terrorism’ by massacring thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan.
Since then the UK government has stood shoulder to shoulder with America in their invasion and occupation of Iraq, killing a hundred thousand, Iraqis and sending young working class people to their deaths on the back of a lie. The ‘War on Terror’ is just an excuse for the US to strengthen its world domination, and for corporations to get hold of the world’s oil reserves on the cheap.
Acts of terrorism can never be justified or excused, whether committed by religious fundamentalists, people’s liberation movements, or by recognised governments. The bombing of Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be justified as retribution for September 11th… They are all acts of terror.
But it’s little wonder that there is always a war on somewhere in the world when the arms industry is so profitable. Our government spends more money on the military than it spends on education, health and housing. We sell weapons to oppressive regimes around the world, and then use the argument that because everyone else has a big army then we must have one too.
War is the most destructive consequence of capitalism. It destroys human life, the environment and threatens civilisation. It is an important tool for the survival of capitalism with governments and corporations using war to create and preserve ways in which to make profit. War is a blind weapon which does not differentiate between the innocent and guilty, or between uniforms and plain clothes.
Scottish Socialist Youth commits itself not only to opposing all war, but to fight for a society where young men and women are not forced to join the armed forces as a way out of poverty.
The Right to a Future
The future belongs to the young. Yet it looks increasingly bleak as industrial and domestic waste is pumped into the land, sea and air; 6 km2 of fertile land is reduced to desert every hour; 10 acres of rainforest is chopped down every second; fragile ecosystems are destroyed and one species goes extinct every six minutes. Long-term consequences of this are depletion of the ozone layer, and global warming. The future looks even bleaker when we find out that maniacs like George W Bush have the power to veto limits on pollution, and can release an arsenal of nuclear weapons at the touch of a button…
But none of this is new. For years we have been told about the damage we do to our own environment. We are no longer surprised when we are told that one-day, we could quite easily destroy our own planet, and make ourselves extinct. So why does this destruction continue? Are humans doomed to their own stupidity?
The answer to this lies in the nature of the society we live in. Capitalism works only in the interests of a wealthy minority, who, blinded by money, will stop at nothing to make a profit. For them it is better to worry about making a couple of billion in the short term than worry about the future of the human race. That is why toxic chemicals are dumped into our drinking water, and why more money is spent on weapons of mass destruction than on preserving our natural resources.
If we lived in a society that was democratically run in the interests of all people, then we wouldn’t be so incredibly stupid as to destroy the planet. Doing so is the global equivalent of burning down your own house, while you are still inside. Only socialism will ensure that young people everywhere have a future to look forward to.
This is the struggle SSY is committed to:
The removal of Trident and all nuclear weapons from Scotland, as part of an international campaign for unilateral disarmament.
The decommissioning of nuclear power plants and intensified research and development of alternative sources of energy.
An end to all nuclear dumping in Scotland, a ban on the dumping of chemicals and explosives at sea, and the closure and sealing off of all toxic waste sites.
Legislation forcing businesses to use renewable materials for packaging.
Tighter controls to restrict pollution caused by industry.
Food production to be concentrated on sustainable and humane methods for the home market, and a drive towards organic farming.
A five year ban on GM crops to enable further research to take place.
A halt to all new motorway construction.
Massive investment into an affordable and efficient public transport network, linking Scotland’s communities, and ending the congestion and pollution caused by private cars.
SSY fights for a world where there is no capitalism, no gaping chasm between rich and poor, no children starving because of sanctions, no people dying of curable diseases, and we take our fight to the streets because we demand the right to real pay for real jobs, for everyone, in a society without racism, sexism, homophobia or discrimination, and because we know that the fight for a new socialist world will be worth nothing unless it involves young people. The world is ours. Go out and fight for it.