Words and photograph by Stuart Maxwell
‘**** This, I’m off to Hogwarts’ read one of the many imaginative placards as hundreds of Glasgow students marched into the Christmas village in George Square to protest against cuts to Scotland’s education budget and proposals to increase tuition fees in England and Wales.
JK Rowling’s magical realm seemed to be an inspiration for many of the protesters. On another placard, the much maligned Nick Clegg was compared to Voldemort- the insatiable baddie from the Harry Potter stories.
The protesters gathered outside Strathclyde University’s Royal College Building on a day when student protests swept across the UK. For a short time, 30 protesters occupied the Royal College Building before rejoining the main demonstration.
Although the demonstration was met with a strong police presence, the day passed without incident- unlike London, where violence erupted leading to injuries and arrests. One policeman told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘ I think it’s been a total success. These students are making their point in a very respectful way and in all honesty they’ve been a pleasure to work with.’
By early evening the protesters were in George Square for a speech-laden rally, below the recently erected Christmas lights which were still to be turned on. Speakers included Greg Philo, Head of Glasgow Media Group and Vice President of the National Voice of Students, who told the crowd: ‘ Today has been a disaster for the Tory Coalition.’
Pete Murray, President of the National Union of Journalists told the protesters they were an inspiration to the older generations, who now find themselves needing to confront the career threatening polices that are seeping north from Westminister. Pete said: ‘I congratulate you for this fantastic day.’
Greg Philo told the crowd that the media are not doing enough to challenge the Government on their economic policies and said one venerable media institution was fast becoming ‘a factory of lies.’ He called on students to keep marching in protest.
School students from across Glasgow, including Hyndland Secondary, left their classes early to participate in the protest that reflected much anger toward Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. Listening to lyrics of the chants, it was clear than many felt betrayed by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Liberal Democrats.
Liberal Democrat MSP for Glasgow, Robert Brown, told the LOCAL NEWS that students should look closely at the deal on the table and said the problems today were created by the former Labour Government.
Said Robert: ‘The reality is that the horrendous financial situation that the Labour party left behind is the cause of the cuts and increased fees facing the country today.
‘None of the other parties could offer offer a better deal. It’s a very difficult issue but the best friend of the students is still the Liberal Democrats.’
Reading the placards and listening to the clourful chants at George Square, it would seem that the students don’t know who their best friends are. Nick Clegg sure has a lot of minds to convince that he’s Dumbledore rather than Voldemort.
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.’