We don’t believe
your lies – and we won’t accept your cuts
There is a Better Way: STUC March and Rally, Edinburgh
23 October 2010
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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
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
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
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!
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