by Steven Dinnie
Two sets of protesters targeted Alistair Darling during his appearance at Edinburgh International Book Festival on Friday 24 August.
Citizens United Against Cuts made their stand within earshot of ex-Chancellor Darling while he was in public conversation with journalist James Naughtie about his latest book. The other protest, by pro-Scottish national campaigners was staged outside the venue in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.
Police and site security were jumpy, but did not intervene in either case. Alistair Darling’s new book describes his time as Labour Chancellor during the financial meltdown. He is also the face of the Better Together pro-union campaign.
In a politically-charged evening, Citizens United Against Cuts, who have previously occupied various banks, including RBS and Band of England’s offices in Glasgow, disrupted the second half of Alistair Darling’s question and answer session. While the group’s leader, Sean Clerkin, loudly stated their case in the festival’s main courtyard, other members of the group held banners with slogans saying: “Close tax avoidance loopholes” and “Banksters must be prosecuted”.
Citizens United were thwarted in their original plan to gain entry to the session to challenge Alistair Darling directly. However, people exiting the event said the noise could be heard by Mr Darling inside. Despite repeated invitations to talk with the protestors, Mr. Darling did not do so. Bemused members of the public watched the protest, some cheering encouragement. others shouting retorts.
The other protest group had an ‘Abominable NO man’, as well as a very long banner. Mr. Darling declined to comment on either protest.
Members of Citizens United Against the Cuts said they were fighting for justice for ordinary people, who have been wronged by the bankers. They commented that “a casino banking culture is being propagated with a loss of benefits for working class people and bonuses only to rich bankers and politicians.” Members claimed they wanted to bring banks to justice by being charged with fraud.
Alistair Darling was at Festival to promote his book ‘Back From the Brink – 1,000 days at Number 11.’ The discussion with James Naughtie was in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) sponsored tent. Several high-profile political guests were in attendance, including ministers of the Scottish Parliament. Sean Clerkin criticised the event for being sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland. He pointed out that RBS is likely to be taken to court in the US in a continuation of the Libor interest fixing scandal. He also lambasted Alistair Darling’s book in which the former Chancellor describes saving Britain from economic collapse. The protesters wanted to alert Mr. Darling to the suffering of citizens because of cuts implemented on his watch in government and continued by the current Coalition administration.
Citizens United has struck again. The group has protested, consistently for several years, about bad banking practices. Today they marched into the Glasgow offices of the Bank of England, and stood and delivered their message to the stunned staff for fully half an hour till police arrived and invited the protesters to leave. Which they did.
The peaceful demonstration was the 15th the group has engineered since October 2010. They called for bankers to be called to account and, with the current ’libor’ scandal, insist the top bankers should be prosecuted.
‘We call them banksters, not bankers’ said spokesman Sean Clerkin. ‘They should be prosecuted. The libor rates fixing cartel is a disgrace. This has affected everyone in this country. Small businesses are paying more to borrow, householders are paying more for mortgages. Ordinary workers are having to take cuts in rates or be paid off. All senior bankers should be subjected to the law as we are. They should be charged with fraud. If found guilty, they should be sent to prison.’
A comment was requested from the Bank of England but at the time of putting this story on line, no one had responded. On following up the request, a recorded message at the Bank’s number said all operators were busy and invited the caller to try again later.
Inspector Derek Forsyth of Strathclyde Police was the lead officer of eight who attended the demonstration. After the event he requested that Citizens United inform the police in advance of any future protests so that the appropriate number of officers could be deployed, saving police resources and time.
The group is the same one which confronted former Scottish Labour Party leader Ian Gray in Central Station to ask what he was going to do about bankers then, in the run up to the Scottish Parliament elections. In trying to avoid them he ran out of the station but was cornered by them in a sandwich shop.