GRANDEE of the SNP Jim Sillars has promised to vote for the pro-independence radical left group Rise in next year’s Holyrood elections – and is urging others to consider backing the socialist alliance.

The former SNP deputy leader, who was a key figure in the Yes campaign, said he wants there to be a “strong socialist” voice in the next Scottish Parliament to help drive up the political agenda the need to tackle poverty and inequality.

He said while voting for the SNP candidate in the constituency section of the ballot, he would be voting for the former Scottish Socialist MSP Colin Fox who is expected to stand as a Rise candidate on the Lothians’ regional list.

“I shall be voting and supporting Jimmy Eadie the SNP MSP in Edinburgh South in the constituency. If Colin Fox is on the list for Rise, I will be voting and supporting Colin Fox on the list system,” said Sillars, speaking ahead of the Rise annual conference in Glasgow tomorrow.

“The list system opens up the opportunity for bringing in what is known as minor parties, but these parties have a great deal to contribute in the intellectual and policy sphere, and I would hope other people will see that too, though that is up to them.”

He insisted that a vote for the SNP on the list system was “wasted” given that so many SNP MSPs were expected to be elected in the first-past-the-post constituency section of the ballot.

Sillars went on: “Last time when I attended the count vast numbers of list SNP votes were of no value as the SNP got the constituency seats. These were essentially totally wasted votes.

“I think a lot of constituencies will fall to the SNP. In my view the use of the second list vote is an opportunity to support the election of outright unambiguously declared socialists in Holyrood next time.”

In an article in today’s The National, he said no political party in Holyrood provided a “coherent, principled, ideologically clad organisation” capable of “advancing the interests of the working class” and that Scotland needed “a new Left”.

He was particularly critical of the Government’s record on education. “There is a lot of need in Scotland,” he wrote. “Thousands of homeless, one in five in poverty, the labour market noted for its low-paid jobs, an NHS that needs to stave off those who claim it cannot be left in the public sector.

“Then there is education. We are far from giving our children and young people the best education system in the world. Year by year, Scotland has slipped down the international league table. In some universities, first year students need remedial work to bring them up to standard in reading and writing. Among the best in the world...?”

Speaking to The National, Sillars was also concerned about a number of policy decisions by the SNP Government, including its decision to create a single police force and to ring-fence NHS funding.

He said the former decision ran counter to civil liberties, while the latter impacted on funding which he said should be spent on tackling poverty. Combating poverty would help fight health problems – reducing the pressure on health services, he argued.

Rise was launched following a surge in support for the Left in last year’s referendum. Sillars backed the formation of the alliance, which is not fielding constituency candidates but is hoping to get candidates elected on Parliament’s list system, which can see MSPs elected with as little as six per cent of the vote.

Founders of Rise include The National’s columnist Cat Boyd and it has cited Spain’s Podemos as an inspiration.

A spokesman for Rise welcomed Sillars’ announcement that he would vote for Colin Fox, who is likely to stand.

He said: “We will be the only realistic socialist pro-independence alternative standing next May and it is particularly welcome that Jim is urging people to seriously consider voting Rise on next year’s list ballot.

“Such a vote can ensure that not only is there a pro-independence parliament but that it has a serious socialist group of MSPs in it.”

An SNP spokesman said: “Creating a fairer, more equal Scotland is an absolute priority for the SNP – and that is a message which is striking a chord with more and more people across the country as we aim to win a third term in office .”

Jim Sillars: You cannot breathe life into a political corpse, so what Scotland now needs is a new left