THE Scottish Socialist Party has put a demand for an immediate rise in the minimum wage to £10 an hour at the heart of its General Election manifesto.

The party, which is standing four candidates next month, is also advocating free public transport, the forced closure of private schools and the introduction of an income-based replacement to the council tax.

Under the proposals for a Scottish Service Tax to fund local government, the first £12,000 of income would be tax-free, with a rate of 4.5 per cent applied to earnings between £12,000 and £30,000. Increased rates would apply to higher bands of income, rising to a maximum of 23 per cent for earnings over £90,000.

The party also wants to build 100,000 new social housing sector homes during the next parliament in Scotland, calls for a national debate over scrapping the monarchy and the payment of a living wage to carers.

While the Greens have called for a minimum wage of £10 to be phased in by 2020, the SSP would like to implement it immediately. The banks, oil industry, rail network and energy sector also would be nationalised under the party's plan.

While the SSP accepts that it will not win a Westminster seat, it hopes that the General Election campaign will serve as a springboard for next year's Scottish Parliament elections where a section of seats are allocated under proportional representation. In 2003, it won six seats through Holyrood's list system.

The manifesto states: "The other parties contesting these elections may cry crocodile tears about this widening divergence in earnings between working people and their bosses but they stand full square behind the neoliberal economic system that manufactures such inequalities. A competitive, modern Scottish economy cannot be constructed on slave wages.

"For working people one thing is clear - this election will change very little. The corporate elite who hold Britain to ransom will continue to call the shots through the politicians they keep in their pockets."

SSP candidates are Liam McLaughlan in Glasgow East, Sandra Webster in Paisley & Renfrewshire South, Colin Fox in Edinburgh South and Bill Bonnar in Glasgow South West.