A new coalition is being formed this weekend in Scotland to fight Westminster cuts. The launch conference of Unite the Resistance in Scotland (URS) will be held on Saturday 9 March in Renfield St Stephen’s Church at 260 Bath Street, Glasgow G2 4JP from 12noon till 5pm. Registration is free but donations requested from those who can afford it. The event starts at 11.30am and runs till 5pm. See www. facebook.com/events/429398707130759/?fref=ts).
Trade union leaders, trade union activists, leading disability rights groups and anti-poverty campaigners will set out their strategy.
Said a spokesperson: ‘The ConDem government’s austerity spending cuts continue and from April the Tories plan to make it even easier to sack workers. Also, millions of people, both in and out of work, face savage welfare and housing benefit cuts. As a result of the so-called bedroom tax, 600,000 people with “too many” rooms in their home will lose money. Unite the Resistance believes an urgent co-ordinated response from our trade unions is required. In particular we need to debate and discuss how we can defeat the bedroom tax and turn words of a general strike into action.’
An intrepid band of about 200 students continued their protest at Glasgow University cuts as the University’s Court met to decide on proposals on Wednesday 22 June 2011.
With drums and megaphone, the crowd made their concerns loud and clear outside the Senate room where the Court was meeting.
A range of speakers outlined the issues. Dr Jan Culik, Senior Lecturer in Czech Studies, who has been on the University staff since 1995, said: ’This University will become the laughing stock of the world if the broad based cultural education we provide is not continued. ‘ He said later: The School of Slovak Studies has been here 60 years and is unique in Scotland.’
Liam Kane, a lecturer in the Adult and Continuing Education department (DACE) said: ‘There is a contradiction between the consultation process commending the good work being done and the taking away of all teaching grants to make the department self sufficient within the next three years. We don’t know the details yet, but if we are really to become self-sufficient, this would appear to be privatisation by the backdoor’
Louisa McMinn, a mature student in the crowd commented: ”I’ve already experienced the cuts. We were limited to fortnightly oral classes – in large groups – in first year French. It is very hard to build oral language skills on that basis. She added: ‘ How can you expect people to accept austerity that’s dished out by people earning six figure salaries? There needs to be reform in university structures with academically elected bodies rather than overpaid management groups, making the decisions.’ At the aged of 55, Louisa has just graduated with an M.A. in French and Music following part-time studies. She said: ‘My children won’t be able to do what I’ve done, if the cuts go ahead.’
On day 121 of protests at University Cuts, students at the University of Glasgow held a ‘NO CUTS’ demo on Wednesday 1 June.
They were joined by students from their Crichton Campus in Dumfries which is also under threat.
The University Court is due to make a final decision on Wednesday 22 June. And in a series of ‘Wednesday Warm-ups’ for a major rally planned for that date, around 50 gathered with banners outside the Senate to make their voices heard.
Said spokeswoman Suzanne: ‘This is the start of a month long campaign. Many students have now gone home after the exams but an impressive number has stayed behind to fight to save courses in Glasgow and at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries.’
Originally around £20 million worth of cuts were flagged up by the University. But a four month campaign by students and staff, a contentious 3000 strong demonstration and the longest running student occupation in UK history has brought much success to the campaigners.
Courses which have been saved from the axe include: Archaeology, Classical Studies, most languages and Anthropology. Nursing has been given a one year stay of execution. The department of Adult and Continuing Education (DACE) which generates £1.8 million in profit annually, has been privatised.
Students first occupied the Hetherington Club building off University Avenue on 1 February this year. A heavy-handed eviction by Strathclyde Police and campus security was severely criticised by students, staff, members of the public and local MSPs. Within hours, the student protesters had re-occupied the Club premises with the agreement of the University management, to continue their peaceful sit-in protest.
Continued the student spokesperson: ‘The campaign has been successful, so far, in saving a number of courses but many are still under threat. We will intensify pressure on Principal Anton Muscatelli with our series of protests culminating in a march on the University Court on Wednesday 22 June. Our message is clear – NO CUTS!’
Alternatives to the cuts, as proposed by the students, include scrapping the £13.2 million IT consultants’ proposed spend on a website.
Said Ceris Aston a 3rd year Liberal Arts student from Glasgow University’s Crichton Campus: ‘Our website has not been updated since May of last year. But the proposal to withdraw Liberal Arts (Humanities) from Crichton is a slippery slope to closure of the campus.’ She said that 75 of the 200 students in Dumfries were Liberal Arts students. ‘We consider all the cuts are unjust and unnessary both in Glasgow and Dumfries. So we are in Glasgow in solidarity with students and staff here.’
Katy Ewing, a class colleague of Ceris’s added: ‘Our course is amazing and consistently achieves high quality passes but the marketing of Crichton Campus is shoddy.’
As well as the Crichton Campus courses, others in Glasgow still under threat are: Social Work, Slavonic Studies, Scottish Training on Drugs and Alcohol (STRADA) and several research projects.
By Stuart Maxwell
The axe has descended in Westminster and the UK is facing the most severe cuts to public spending since World War 2 and, with the blade falling firmly on welfare, Glasgow may suffer more than most.
George Osborne outlined the cuts in the Commons on Wenesday 20 Octber- the £900 million reduction to the Scottish budget was better than warnings offered by Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney, who predicted that Scottish cuts could reach £1.2 billion
Labour MP for Glasgow Central, Anas Sarwar released a statement in the aftermath, attacking the Tory Party:
‘Instead of coming forward with proposals for the banks to make greater contribution, the Tory chancellor has decided to force working people to shoulder government debt which was taken on as a direct result of the failings of the financial sector.
‘The Tory Chancellor has unveiled a programme of cuts that will penalise hardworking people and the poorest and most vulnerable in Glasgow and across the country. Scotland’s block grant will fall by 6.8% by 2014-5, which means Glasgow City Council will have less to spend.’
‘The Tory Chancellor would like you to believe that ‘we’re all in this together’ but it’s ordinary people in Glasgow that will pay the price: the elderly couple in Anderston; the public sector worker in Pollokshields; the school leaver looking for work in Toryglen; and the baby born to parents on modest incomes in Bridgeton.’
Robert Brown,Glasgow’s Liberal Democart MSP, believes the reaction to the cuts may be ‘exagerrated’ saying ‘The Labour Party will try and black out what happened during their regime. Glasgow, because more people are on benefits, may be affected more than other areas.
‘The possible gains of the cuts could be getting people who are able back working again. It is all about getting the balance right and we’ll have to wait to see if these cuts achieve this.’
Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP for Glasgow, believes Osborne’s blue print for a £7 billion cut on welfare could be disastrous for Glasgow’s future.
Said Patrick: ‘It was pretty nauseating listening to George Osborne today. He sounded like he was giving some present away. For Glasgow in particular, taking from the welfare state is stealing from the poor to fund the lifestyle of the wealthy. Glasgow, because of its higher levels of poverty and unemployment, is going to suffer more than most.
‘We are witnessing the Tory Party using this financial crisis to ruin a welfare state and impose a right wing ideology. This is more vicious than the Thatcher Government.’
Budget cuts will make communities bleed. For some it will be the death knell. For others it will be the call to action to stop the life flowing out of their neighbourhood. Most people know next to nothing of what goes on within the City Chambers. So only an alert few were aware of the budget meeting. It is to the credit of the 150 people who quickly assembled outside the building to protest on the day, that they managed to demonstrate at all.
But the dilemma of where the financial belt has to be tightened is not the Council’s alone. The Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) was faced with axing the 500 year old Renfrew Ferry route as it was subsidising each passenger journey by more than £3 a time compared to the £1.20 fare paid.
In that instance, it looks as if an amphibious vehicle which can sail like a boat and drive like a bus could be a 21st century substitute. But at £700,000 per ‘amfibus’ it will be interesting to see how much each passenger fare would need to be to cover the investment and commercial overheads and profit.
When funding for redeveloping wasted areas of the city is costed out over 20 years maybe some similar long-term strategy can be devised to keep community facilities afloat. A general election won’t solve any of the problems but could – perhaps – help local action groups to gather the strength to apply a tourniquet as well as ask piercing questions.