Socialist Worker

Council paralysed as 7,000 walk out against Edinburgh cuts

by Duncan Smith, Edinburgh City Unison branch chair (pc)
Issue No. 2066

Council workers and school students joined forces to protest against Edinburgh council’s cuts (Pic: Luke Henderson)

Council workers and school students joined forces to protest against Edinburgh council’s cuts (Pic: Luke Henderson)

Up to 7,000 council workers in Edinburgh struck for 24 hours on Thursday of last week against the Lib Dem/SNP coalition council’s plans to make up to £10 million of cuts to jobs and vital services.

The strike brought many council services to a standstill. Around 60 schools, nurseries and community centres were closed for the day and over 50 more were partially closed.

The local paper reported that the Edinburgh Military Tattoo had been forced to cancel a showcase in Princes Street Gardens because of the action.

Hundreds of strikers gathered from 8.30am outside the city chambers. In a great show of unity, hundreds of others joined the protest. Many joined the rally in protest at plans to shut 22 schools.

There was a mood of defiance and anger as strikers, parents and school students denounced councillors who had vowed to improve local services during the recent elections but now seemed prepared to savage them.

Other campaigners highlighted the threat to the Old Town from private developers and the fight to halt the demolition of Meadowbank sports stadium.

The protest was timed to coincide with a full council meeting that discussed the cuts and closures. Anger mounted when protesters heard that Liberal and SNP councillors refused to hear a deputation from schools campaigners.

Later we found out that the school closure programme had been narrowly agreed and would go out for public consultation. A meeting is now being organised to form a city-wide coalition to oppose the school closures.

While the full extent of the cuts remains unclear it looks like we’re in for a hard fight. We will meet this week to plan further action.

School students join the lobby

Amna Ashraf, a sixth year pupil at Drummond Community High School – one of the schools faced with closure – joined the protest outside Edinburgh council.

She told Socialist Worker, “About 30 of us have come to the lobby today. We’re here to try and stop the cuts – especially for places such as Drummond and the primaries.

“They say we’re empty but our school is near capacity. The council has its figures wrong.

“Our rector [headmaster] didn’t want us to come. He thought it would give the school a bad image – but we’re the ones here fighting to save our school!”

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Tue 28 Aug 2007, 18:17 BST
Issue No. 2066
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