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Saturday, May 1, 1999 Published at 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK

Left believe they're right

Socialists hope to have a presence in the parliament

Labour may have reinvented itself but BBC Scotland's John Morrison discovers that traditional socialist parties are alive and kicking on the election trail to Holyrood.

Denis Canavan is the man New Labour didn't want.

After a series of high-profile disputes with the leadership, he was thrown out of the party.

But Denis Canavan is back on the streets of Falkirk standing as an Independent against the official Labour candidate - and appealing directly to the people he has represented for the past 25 years.

John Morrison on the streets of Falkirk and beyond
Through a loudhailer, he declares: "I never thought I would live to see a new Labour government undermining the National Health Service by back door privatisation called the Private Finance Initiative."

With less volume, he tells me: "I don't simply want to be an embarrassment of a thorn in anybody's flesh.

[ image: Denis Canavan:
Denis Canavan: "I don't want to embarrass anyone"
"My first job is to represent the people in this constituency. That is the way I have always done my job in the House of Commons.

"I have always tried to fight first and foremost for the people who elected me and if I get to the Scottish Parliament I'll be continuing that job."

Denis Canavan is not the only left of centre candidate taking on the Labour Party. There are three socialist parties, all claiming to take on the mantle of the Red Clydesiders, to be the true heirs of Keir Hardie and John McLean.

They're pinning their hopes of success on the crucial second vote. They have candidates across Scotland but their main focus is the Central Belt, the former heart of socialist Scotland.

Unions' last stand

The 1984-85 miners strike was the last stand of militant trade unionism. Margaret Thatcher won, the rest is history.

But Arthur Scargill is back, still leading the miners and also heading the Socialist Labour Party.

[ image: Arthur Scargill: Passion remains]
Arthur Scargill: Passion remains
"There is now no difference between the Tories, new Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party," he says.

"All are committed to capitalism and the free market. What Scotland needs is a socialist Scottish Parliament."

There are only 50 people in Bellshill miners club to hear Arthur Scargill explain his vision. But the passion is still there. So are the skills of oratory.

His address is tub-thumping: "We would take back into public ownership every single industry and service, including rail, coal and steel, that has been privatised during the past 20 years."

Social workers' dispute

On a wet afternoon in Glasgow, Roddy Slorach is out canvassing. He is the man blamed for escalating a dispute which brought Glasgow's social workers out on strike last summer.

[ image: Roddy Slorach spreads his word]
Roddy Slorach spreads his word
He's now a candidate for the Socialist Workers' Party. "Red Roddy" argues the rhetoric of class war does not belong to another age.

He agrees: "Red Roddy is a dinosaur if he stands for genuine socialist policies as opposed to new Labour's new war, new poverty and all the rest of it.

"But secondly, I actually do believe that the situation is such that there is an enormous chasm opening up between this government and many of the people that voted it into office expecting to see some serious change."

Protest movement

The party political broadcast for the Scottish Socialist Party suggests a broadening appeal for a party which began life as a protest movement.

[ image: Tommy Sheridan: Been in prison for poll tax refusal]
Tommy Sheridan: Been in prison for poll tax refusal
Working class hero Tommy Sheridan has been to prison for refusing to pay the poll tax.

He's already on Glasgow City Council. He now wants to be in the Scottish Parliament: "Poverty is the single biggest crime in Scotland because it's unnecessary.

"We live in a very, very rich and wealthy country. What we have to argue for is the redistribution of that wealth."

But the redistribution of votes comes first. In the last few crucial days of canvassing Tommy Sheridan, along with the other left of centre parties, will be hoping to reap the benefits from Scotland's new voting system ... and that their brand of Socialism will be represented in Holyrood.

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