The biggest protest rally Glasgow has seen in years had more than 3000 people marching from Glasgow Green to George Square, united in their opposition to the bedroom tax.
Seasoned campaigners, families with their children and baby buggies, trade unionists, people in a wide variety of mobility carts and folk walking their dogs, took more than an hour to wend their way to the city centre. Many of them shouting: ‘Axe the tax.’
Facing the City Chambers, a series of speakers explained why their campaign was part of a wide strategy to protect the most vulnerable in the community.
Labour MP Ann McKechin, MSP Frank McAveety and Glasgow City Councillor George Redmond were among the group who marched. Arriving in George Square, Westminster MP Ann McKechin said to this website’s reporter: ‘I’m not surprised at this turnout. People are shocked by the scale of this unfair and unjust tax. The Westminster government doesn’t understand the full impact it will have.’
But Labour politicians were castigated by different speakers. Said one: ‘They might have marched near the front but it is inconsistent with what they are doing to the families they are victimising in the learning disability community in Glasgow. Glasgow City Council has these families on its hit list by closing three of the seven day centres they use.’
Another speaker put it more bluntly: ‘Glasgow City Council should be ashamed of themselves. They have influence and power. They should tell all Housing Associations in Glasgow and Glasgow Housing Association that there must be NO EVICTIONS in the city. We need to know who’s side they are on.’
The same speaker highlighted the £100 billion cost of the Trident refit and warheads for Faslane nuclear base. She urged people to support a March on Easter Monday from Glasgow to Faslane which they intended to shut down for the day. ‘All these things are connected. They say there is no money, so attack the poor. But they can spend billions on weapons which can wipe out half of humanity. If we stand together we have the power, strength and determination to stop evictions and end this bedroom tax policy.’
Alan Wyllie of the West of Scotland Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation summed it up for most of the speakers: ‘I’m an ordinary guy and don’t see this as a political fight. I ask what is right and what is wrong? I believe it is wrong that the most vulnerable people are the hardest hit. It is wrong that fuel and food costs are rising while wages and benefits are going down. It is wrong to have this tax on bedrooms when millionaires are having their taxes cut. We are all in this together and must stop evictions. I urge Labour and SNP to protect all Scots. It is your duty!’
He said he’d read all the 2010 election manifestos. ‘There was no mention of the bedroom tax. The Westminster government has no mandate for this,’ he claimed to loud applause from the crowd. ‘We didn’t ask for this. We don’t want it. But the Government is attacking the most vulnerable in our communities. Mark my words: We will unite and we will win.’
He led the way for many different groups to work together against the bedroom tax, by launching a Facebook campaign several months ago.
Speaker John McFarlane said the first round of the battle had been won by Dundee City Council declaring there would be no evictions in their city as a result of the tax. ‘Every council should do the same. MPs and MSPs are supposed to represent us but we have to ask – do they stand for us or do they stand for the Tory bankers? If they do we must remove them!’
Black Triangle speaker David Churchley said: ‘This bedroom tax is unworkable and unmanageable. It’s better for us to get off our knees and fight than not to fight at all.’ Calling for a 24 hour strike he added: ‘It is up to us to keep what has been ours for 100 years. We didn’t cause this crisis but we’re being made to pay for it.’
Daniel McGarrall from the Glasgow against ATOS campaign said that 73 people die each week after being found fit to work by ATOS. He invited listeners to join the demonstrations on the last Friday of each month outside ATOS offices and the Commonwealth Games offices because ATOS is a sponsor of the Glasgow 2014 Games.
He outlined how he and another campaigner face a court trial for campaigning. ‘We are defending the right to protest. And we will not be beaten.’
A spokesman from Govan Law Centre said that the bedroom tax was bringing misery to 100,000 people in Scotland. ‘Around 80% of those affected are disabled. It is wrong that the Government is targetting the most vulnerable people,’ he said, voicing his support to axe the tax and for no evictions.
Mary Lockhart reminded people of the Govan women who fought against the rent increases in 1919 when their menfolk were fighting in the war. ‘They fought the landlords so that their children wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor. They took a stand, got the shipyard workers on their side and said: ‘I will stand by you, if you will stand by me.’ Everyone today needs to be ready to protest and take action and stand by each other.’
As the marchers assembled at Glasgow Green, David Churchley was proudly holding the leading banner with his one good hand – the other being unusable because of a stroke. He said: ‘ I’m on the march because of this appalling, vicious vindictive bedroom tax. If you thought Thatcher’s poll tax was bad; Cameron’s is worse.’ A former IT worker, he has been unable to work since his stroke. He added: ‘My benefit will be reduced by £12 a week. I use my spare room for equipment like my treadmill so that I can do the exercises that keep me reasonably fit.’
Said worker Michael Collins with son Finn (8): ‘We work and pay our taxes so that people can get help when they need it. We don’t want our money to be given to bankers.’
Said student Jennifer Dornan: ‘We must fight to oppose the injustice of the bedroom tax and convince people to do something about it. This attack is on the most vulnerable. We should be gunning for the people in government who can afford it.’
Paul McLaughlin of Glasgow West GAP which has been providing welfare support and advice for 13 years, said: ‘We have to show our real anger and opposition to these charges. People of good conscience can’t let this happen. Everyone must stand up and be counted because individuals are being isolated and made scapegoats. We’ve got to waken people up to the need to organise.’ The advice centre is now located at Kinning Park Complex, 43 Cornwall Street, near Kinning Park underground.
Frank Doyle of Glasgow Against Atos said: ‘This is an unjust society. The bankers get off but there is an assault on the most vulnerable.’
A 23-year-old banner last used in protest against the poll tax, was dusted down and on display by Dundee Fintry fighters.
Said Albert Mitchell: ‘I’ve got a two bedroom house. My benefit of £141 will be reduced by £41 a fortnight. By the time I pay things like my gas and electricity I’m left with £10 a week to live on.’ Colleague Michael MacGregor, who brought the banner out of his cupboard, said: ‘We have the same threat of evictions and bailiffs now as we had in the days of the poll tax.’
Another marcher, called Sarah, of the West of Scotland Anti-bedroom Tax Federation said: ‘There are an awful lot of people worried about the consequences of this terrible tax. A separated couple with joint custody and where the woman receives the child benefit, will find that the man will be penalised for having a bedroom for his own child.’
Fighter Margaret Jaconelli, who was evicted from her East End property because it was in the way of Commonwealth Games development and who wouldn’t accept £30,000 compensation for her home of more than 20 years, was also on the march. ‘This bedroom tax will mean that people will be evicted – just like me. I’m still fighting for justice two years on and haven’t received one penny of compensation.’
Mum Sharon with her two-year-old, was protesting on behalf of a friend who also has a two-year-old. ‘My friend has the wee one and a 14 year old. The two children will have to share one bedroom. Their dad, who is in a new relationship, will have to move into a one bedroom place from his present two bedroom house. He’ll need to sleep on the sofa when his kids come to stay. But where is his new partner expected to sleep? Families aren’t static today and there is no thought given to that.’
Another woman in the crowd told this website’s reporter: ‘I’m not paying the bedroom tax. I’ll put the money by and hope that stops them evicting me. But I’m not paying it.’
Supporters were urged to turn out ‘in your hundreds’ at every local council chambers and Housing Association headquarters on Wednesday 10 April. ‘Give them holy hell,’ said the speaker. ‘Tell them in no uncertain terms we say ‘Axe the bedroom Tax’ and ‘NO’ to evictions.’
Simply folding paper to make a pretty bird shape, is a gentle therapy that has been enjoyed in the Mitchell Library every weekday lunchtime during August. But the Japanese art form, called origami, is the perfect introduction to the story of Hiroshima and the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped there on August 1945.
A clear poster board exhibition tells the story of Sadako, a girl who was two when the bomb was dropped on her city. She was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 11 and died a year later another victim of the atrocity.
Sadako folded paper cranes in her final days and knew the ancient Japanese legend that a wish will come true if a person folds 1000 paper cranes. First, her classmates, and then the wider world raised a monument to peace in her honour and to recognise all the children who died in Hiroshima. Today, the Children’s Peace monument in Hiroshima attracts 10 million paper cranes made by people around the world as they remember the horror of that holocaust and plead for peace. Some of them will come from the Glasgow Origami sessions in the Mitchell Library.
The Gareloch Horticulturalists – a women’s Peace Group – were some of the many people who learned on the wing and folded some origami cranes. Their instructor was Yushin Toda, who patiently showed what to do.
Recently honoured by his country for the work he and his wife Fumi Nakabachi have done in Scotland to promote the culture of Japan, he was visited by Mr Masataka Tarahara the Consul General of Japan in Edinburgh who viewed the exhibition.
Said Yushin: ‘ It is not the number of people who have visited that is important. It is the fact that people have met together to see the exhibition and make the paper cranes and think about the issues, that matters. People from all over the world have visited the exhibition. One man from Australia, whose mother is an Origami artist, was able to fold cranes without hesitation.’
A business development manager, Yushin was particularly appreciative that someone left a facsimile edition of the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch newspaper dated 8 August 1945 describing Hiroshima as ‘a disastrous ruin’ and how ‘all living things have been seared to death.’
More than 300,000 people were literally burned to a cinder in the seconds of the atomic blast. And over the years, as with little Sadako, many thousands of others suffered from the after effects.
In a book left for visitors at the exhibition to record their reactions, one person wrote:
‘How shaming it is that now we know all the horrific effects of nuclear weapons use, we still have Trident, the British nuclear weapon at Faslane Naval base near Glasgow. It is illegal under international law, as well as being unethical. The majority of Scottish people do not want it on our soil or anywhere else.’
Some people placed candle lanterns on the water at Faslane on 6 August this year to mark Hiroshima Day.
The exhibition, organised by Japan Desk Scotland, ran at the North Door exhibition hall of the Mitchell Library till the end of August. It was supported financially by Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.
Japan Desk Scotland will set up a ‘Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Photo Exhibition’ at Glasgow University Chapel from Tuesday 1 November 2011 till 31 January 2012.
In an extraordinary night which changed the political landscape of Scotland, Glasgow voters rejected long established Labour Party names: Charlie Gordon, Pauline McNeil, Patricia Ferguson and Frank McAveety.
Instead the Scottish National Party (SNP) was able to declare: ‘It’s a stunning night.’
Nicola Sturgeon was returned to the Scottish Parliament for the newly configured Glasgow Southside with 12,306 votes to Labour Stephen Curran’s 7957 votes.
SNP gained Anniesland constituency by seven votes for Bill Kidd who polled 10,329 votes to Labour Bill Butler’s 10,322.
In Cathcart Constituency James Dornan took the seat for SNP with 11,918 compared to Labour Charlie Gordon’s 10,326
Kelvin Constituency was won by Sandra White with 10,640 compared to incumbent Labour’s Pauline McNeill who polled 9,758.
Glasgow Shettleston went to SNP’s John Mason with 10,128 compared to Labour Frank McAveety’s 9,542.
The only seats to stay in Labour Party hands were:
Newly aligned Maryhill and Springburn constituency with Patricia Ferguson polling 9884 compared to SNP’s Bob Doris on 8592.
Glasgow Pollok seat stayed with Labour’s Johann Lamont with 10,875 compared to SNP Chris Stephens’s 10,252.
Paul Martin kept Glasgow Provan with 10,037 in contrast to SNP Anne McLaughlin’s vote of 7,958.
As other wins for SNP were being announced during the Glasgow count, Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘The SNP is now a force to be reckoned with across Scotland. This is a triumph for our Positive campaign. Our job now is to unite Scotland and to lead.’
In a bitter response at the podium her opponent, Labour’s Stephen Curran said: ‘The SNP will never get away with this in Glasgow.’
Sandra White commented later: ‘The SNP has broken the back of Labour in Glasgow with our Positive campaign.’
Labour’s Pat Ferguson said: ‘I’m proud and privileged to have served this constituency. I was the first Labour MSP for the former Maryhill/Springburn constituency and do not take one single vote for granted for one second. I am there to fight for every sector of the community in this new constituency and to make sure they are dealt with fairly.’ Her SNP opponent, Bob Doris, announced his wedding in his speech. ‘Four years ago I didn’t mention Janet my girlfriend in my thank you speech. Today I’m mentioning my fiancee Janet and soon she’ll be Mrs Doris!’ He also said the overall results in Glasgow and Scotland were ‘staggering’ for the SNP. And in an impassioned plea he asked for ‘even more positive results next time.’
John Mason who won and later lost the Westminster seat in the city’s East End, and secured the Shettleston constituency for SNP at Holyrood, first praised the outgoing Frank McAveety who had been the Labour MSP for the area. ‘We must thank him for all the work he’s done in Glasgow’s East End.’ But he went on: ‘The SNP ran a positive campaign – securing the M74 completion work, the Commonwealth Games and the rail link to Edinburgh as well as the council tax freeze. But Labour ran a negative campaign, running down the SNP and running down Scotland. The Labour Party must take a long, hard look at themselves.’ In promising to have a visible presence with a shop in Shettleston and being easily contactable by his constituents he added: ‘It is an incredible privilege to be trusted by the voters to serve this constituency.’
Frank McAveety in his farewell speech said: ‘I’ve served the East End of Glasgow for 22 years – as a teacher, a city councillor and as MSP. I care passionately about my city and its problems.’ Amid shouts and boos from the assembled crowd at the Glasgow constituencies’ count in the city’s SECC, he went on: ‘This country is now polarised. The Commonwealth Games was a Labour led initiative as was the National Indoor Sports arena. We made the largest investment in schools and education and I will work tirelessly to win this seat back for Labour.’
At 4am when it was clear that SNP had made remarkable gains in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘I’m thrilled. There are quite stunning results across Scotland.’
In Cathcart were Labour’s sitting MSP Charlie Gordon lost the seat to SNP’s James Dornan, James Dornan said: ‘Charlie conducted his campaign in a gentlemanly fashion.’ In an emotional speech he went on to say: ‘I will represent everyone in this constituency. It is the area I was brought up in. I raised my kids here. We have worked hard day and night for the past three months and I thank all those who worked like Trojans to secure this positive result for the constituency.’
A sombre Charlie Gordon responded: ‘I’ve been a Labour Party activist for 42 years. I leave this stage tonight a wealthy man. Wealthy because I have my health and a wonderful family.’
Paul Martin who retained Glasgow Provan for Labour ranted about the SNP cuts. When his SNP opponent, Anne McLaughlin took the podium, a re-count was in process for the Anniesland Constituency where initially one vote appeared to be the difference between the lead candidates. She forecast: ‘These successes in Glasgow and across Scotland are not a one-off for the SNP. By electing SNP in force in Glasgow, the city has broken the link of people’s dependency on Labour for ever. If Labour continue their scurrulous attacks on Scotland, their lies will be found out and the people of Scotland will stop listening to them.’
In Glasgow Kelvin where SNP’s Sandra White took the seat from Labour’s Pauline McNeill, Sandra paid tribute to Pauline’s hard work in that community and said: ‘The SNP have aspirations for the people of Scotland. We believe every person deserves to have aspirations.’
In her turn, Pauline McNeill said: ‘I represented the area for 12 years. I did my best for everyone and I’ll miss them. I’m proud of what we achieved and hope that whatever happens with the government of Scotland that everyone will unite on the issues in the Scottish Parliament that will take the country forward. The UK coalition is wrecking our lives.’
As the night wore on a two party state emerged in Glasgow’s voting between SNP and Labour.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat’s highest vote was in Glasgow Kelvin where Natalie McKee got 1900 votes. In Anniesland, Lib Deb Paul McGarry got 1000 votes. In Cathcart, Eileen Baxendale got 1118 votes. In Maryhill and Springburh, the Lib Dem candidate, Sophie Bridger, got 833 votes. In Pollok, Isabel Nelson got 490 votes. In Provan, Michael O’Donnell got 413 votes and in the Southside constituency, Lib Dem’s Kenneth Elder got 612 votes.
Conservative Ruth Davidson became an MSP on the List vote. She said: ‘I’m pleased the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party will continue to have a presence in Glasgow. It’s needed with the SNP being rampant! ‘
The last vote to be announced around 6am in Glasgow was the Anniesland constituency where a recount had taken place because of the narrow margin. The final result was: Bill Kidd, SNP, took the seat with 10,329. Bill Butler, Labour was close behind on 10,322. Next was Matthew Smith of the Conservatives who polled 2,011 and Lib Dem’s Paul McGarry received 1000 votes with the Communist party of Britain’s candidate, Marc Livingstone taking 259 votes.
In a victory speech, Anniesland constituency winner by seven votes, Bill Kidd said: ‘My opponents behaved in an exemplary fashion and the outgoing Bill Butler has done fantastic work in the constituency. I and the SNP will work hard for the next four years to ensure carers are treated in the manner becoming to a civil society and that our country is not despoiled by Trident – British weapons of mass destruction.’
In his turn, Bill Butler thanked his team ‘We fought hard and I don’t think we let the party down. This is not my farewell to politics where I’ve been for ten and a half years. I will continue to campaign for social justice – socialism as I know it – I will renew my opposition to the new Trident and will be on any platform with those who do that too.’ He singled out his mother, Patricia Ferguson who retained the Maryhill and Sprinburn seat, for special thanks for her support.
The only other candidates in Glasgow’s eight constituencies were Tom Muirhead an independent in Kelvin where he polled 405 votes and John McKee, an Independent in Cathcart where he polled 450 votes.