Expectations were high for the Edinburgh demo. All the signs were that people were building for it. But even then, the turnout exceeded expectations, such is the widespread anger against the unfairness and savagery of the cuts. The anger at a government that “blames the excesses of the privileged on the poor”. Colourful and lively, over 20,000 people marched along iconic Princes Street with one clear message. There is a better way. http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/
Winding its way from Waverley Station, down the Mound and along Princes Street, the first marchers were cramming into the Princes Street Gardens open air theatre while the last had yet to set off.
As the march snaked down the Mound, the riot of colour from almost every union, from students, from the public, from churches and from community groups brought the city alive under an autumn sun.
Over 100 buses from across Scotland had delivered marchers since early morning. One, the Aberdeenshire UNISON bus, got stuck under a low bridge en route. Luckily no-one was seriously injured. “Like every big celebration, we’re going home on an open-topped bus”, quipped UNISON’s Lynne Duncan.
STUC President Joy Dunn, the ICTU’s Jack O’Connor (a swap for Scotland’s Mike Kirby who was speaking in Ireland), Pensioners leader Eleanor McKenzie and the Rev Ian Galloway from the Church of Scotland addressed the rally along with STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith.
In his keynote speech, Grahame spoke of respect for some Liberal Democrats who were uncomfortable about the coalition. “In other days, you would have been here with us on this rally”, he said as he urged them to stand up now for what is right.
But he saved his wrath for Nick Clegg and his dislike of being called a Tory. “If you talk like a Tory and act like a Tory, you’re a Tory”, blasted Grahame. And he told Lib Dems, “Stop cowering behind the Tories – stand up and fight!”
And in a message to the government, he said, “We don’t believe your lies – and we won’t accept your cuts”.
This was not a fight about public versus private. The fact that USDAW and a range of other unions organising mainly in the private sector were there was a testimony to that. It was a fight for fairness against injustice. It was a fight against job cuts in all sectors.
“It’s not that we don’t have the money” to create a fairer society, said Grahame. “It’s just that the money’s in the wrong hands".
It was about the hideous unfairness of an ideology that says you need to reward the rich with even more riches to motivate them – whereas you motivate the poor by cutting wages and benefits.
And in a rallying call for a co-ordinated campaign, he laid down a challenge to local councillors. “I know many of you did not go into politics to make these cuts. I know it will be difficult. But you must stand up with us” in resisting these cuts.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions President Jack O’Connor brought the house down with his dire warnings about the effects in Ireland of policies being repeated by the coalition.
“I am a visitor from the future”, he said. “I don’t want that future visited on you. That future does not work”.
The Rev Ian Galloway slammed the ideology that “blames the excesses of the privileged on the poor” as he rounded on the unfairness of the cuts. “The Big Society cannot be a substitute for a strong public sector”, he said, outlining how cuts would undermine the voluntary sector.
In a reference to the ‘we’re all in this together’ cry from the coalition, Ian said, “We belong to one another – we need a way forward that is fair”.
Eleanor McKenzie developed the theme of fairness. Quoting from the Sunday Times ‘rich list’ she spoke of “the speed of recovery for the super-rich” which has made them £77bn while we are facing cuts.
With that, the stock markets going up, better stability for the banks, “Is it fair that they are asking pensioners on less than £100 to take a hit and lose services that many are so dependent on in Scotland? I think not.”
A fantastic turnout. A fantastic demonstration. A great coming together of all walks of Scottish life against the unfairness of the cuts. But as Grahame Smith warned, it was only the start. But what a start!
See press coverage at