Socialist Worker

'Everyone wants to join protests'

Issue No. 1788

'People are enraged. It's fantastic. They're not prepared to take it any longer.'

This is how Graham McIver describes the huge protests and angry meetings that are sweeping the Scottish Borders against the local council's cuts programmes.

'In Eyemouth, a town with a population of 3,500, 2,000 people marched on Monday of last week,' says Graham, who is a former shop steward at the Viasystems plant. 'They've also had an occupation of the swimming pool which was threatened with closure. People marched around the town dressed as ghosts, because if these cuts go through Eyemouth will become a ghost town.

In Jedburgh half the town's population protested two weeks ago. Some 800 people attended a protest meeting in Selkirk where there was a unanimous vote of no confidence in the council. The teachers' EIS union held a public meeting in Kelso and 450 people came. Hundreds of us disrupted the council meeting three times when the council voted through the cuts in Newtown St Boswell on Thursday of last week. This used to be seen as a sleepy area but now everyone wants to go on protest marches.

When we occupied the council chamber three weeks ago there were pensioners whose bingo hall was threatened by the cuts ringing up their friends to tell them what was happening. This issue dominates everything-the TV news, the radio, the local newspapers.'

The Scottish Borders have been devastated in recent years by the closure of textile factories and the huge Viasystems plant.

It is one of the poorest areas in Britain. Now the Scottish Borders council, controlled by the Liberal Democrats and 'independents', wants to push through cuts. The council announced last July that it had overspent its education budget by £4 million.

It proposed cuts in education-closing nurseries, cutting back on provisions for children with special needs and cutting free school transport. The revolt by ordinary people has forced the council to backtrack a little. Despite this the council still voted on Thursday of last week to increase council tax by 10 percent and cut £5.5 million off its budget.

Because of the protest, the meeting lasted for over five hours. The council leader was forced to leave surrounded by police. The cuts mean that social work departments, women's refuges and community centres will be scrapped.

Scottish councils are making cuts now because there are no local elections due this year. The protests will continue with a lobby of the Scottish Parliament planned for Thursday 28 February.


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Features
Sat 23 Feb 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1788
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