Over 25,000 trade unionists, campaigners, pensioners, students and disabled and unemployed people took to the streets in Edinburgh today against the cuts.
The Scotland wide protest was called by the Scottish TUC. There are huge contingents from the EIS, PCS and Unison unions.
This is the biggest demonstration we have had in Scotland since the Make Poverty History protest in 2005. There were solid trade union contingents from all the major unions on the protest alongside large numbers of students, disability rights activists, pensioners and other campaigners. People were incredibly buoyed by the size of the protest.
But there was also a debate taking place throughout the demo about where we go from here—what we need to do to actually stop the cuts.
The idea of a one-day general strike went down well. It fitted with the mood of anger people feel at being made to pay for the crisis.
Carol Ashe, a trainee teacher who travelled to Edinburgh on one of nine EIS teachers’ union buses from Glasgow said that the cuts were very personal for her.
“Both my mum and I are in the EIS,” Carol told Socialist Worker.
“The Tory cuts are just too much for the country to bear. I’ve been very ill and am still in recovery. I was training to be a teacher but had to defer my place when I got sick. The welfare state caught me at a really important time—I relied on it and I can see how important it was for me. I believe it should be there for other people too.
“I don’t think a lot of people cheat on benefits—it is exaggerated by the media. People are just trying and get by in this life.”
Gordon Martin, an branch secretary in the RMT rail workers’ union from Lanarkshire told Socialist Worker that he came on the demonstration to show solidarity with working class people under the cosh of Tory cuts.
“We are facing the most pernicious government since Thatcher,” Gordon said. “The sooner that Scotland can take French lessons the better!”
“Hopefully today has given us the chance to launch a bigger campaign—it cannot just be a one off protest.
Iain Ferguson, UCU activist
Students in Edinburgh
Students marched shoulder to shoulder with public sector workers— both are under the same attack from the Con-Dem coalition of cutters.
The most militant sections of the demonstration let off flares and called for a general strike. They chanted, “Tous ensembles, tous ensembles, Greve Generale!” in solidarity with French workers.
Marchers came from various campaigns and political groups, but the message was the same from all—we need resistance now!
Callum Morrison a history student from Glasgow university told Socialist Worker, “Cuts are already being implemented at our university, with the Browne review and cuts to the education budget. I feel that without protest or resistance education in this country will be destroyed.”
David Jameson, a student at Caledonian university said, “The Tories are a party of rich people who don't use any of the services they want to cut. Rich people like them are to blame for the crisis but they want workers and students to pay for it.”
Tommy Gore president of the Students Representative Council at Glasgow university told Socialist Worker, “Students are going to be really hard hit by the cuts. Funding for teaching has been slashed. The Tories talk about cuts being fair but the disparity between cuts in defence and those in education is anything but. What we're seeing is privatisation of the sector and we have to fight to defend free education.”
Anti-cuts action network groups from across Scotland brought coaches to the capital.
In a powerful message to the government, 15,000 people marched through Belfast against the cuts.
Some 3,000 joined the protest in Bristol. Speakers from the RMT, Unite and NUT unions addressed the rally.
More than 600 people joined the protest in Cambridge.
“Getting this many is a real breakthrough”, Tom Woodcock, teacher and anti-cuts campaigner, told Socialist Worker. “We’ve had delegations of health workers, council workers, fire fighters and others. People are incredibly angry about the cuts. One speaker today talked about having just found out that she has lost her job.”
Representatives from the Turkish and Kurdish community and Cambridgeshire Migrant Solidarity Group also attended. Speakers from the platform included Dot Gibson from the National Pensioners Convention and Keith Sonnett, deputy general secretary of Unison as well as speakers from the CWU, the NUT and PCS unions.
Around 300 people marched in the rain in Cardiff. A 15 strong delegation from Newport Passport Office, which is faced with closure, led the march carrying their PCS union banner.
Owen Herbert, of the RMT transport union's executive committee, told Socialist Worker, 'The attacks we are facing are ones on the welfare state, education and communities.
'We need to fight back together as trade unions and communities to defend jobs, services and young people's futures.
'The cuts are coming from a government that didn't have electoral support for them in the first place.'
At a rally at the end of the protest, demonstrators boxed the deputy leader of Cardiff council for saying that it would have to make cuts or face surcharges from the government.
Marianne Owens, PCS Wales vice-chair
Around 2,000 people marched in London today against the spending review cuts.
Marchers set off from outside the RMT's headquarters, led by a contingent of firefighters who are on strike across London.
Nigel Green, a PCS member, marching with the Croydon Trades Council banner, told Socialist Worker, “Today is a good start. We need more demos like this. I think there will be a big industrial punch up with government ahead. France is a good example—we need to build towards that.”
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), told marchers, “They want to dismantle the welfare state. We need to organise strike action across the public sector supported by our communities.”
Many marchers went on at the end to join the rally at the TUC's Congress House, organised by South East and Eastern Region TUC, where Bob Crow make a powerful speech calling for the TUC to move quickly to organise mass action against the cuts.
The demonstration was called by the London regions of the RMT, FBU and UCU unions and backed by the National Shop Stewards Network.
A thousand people marched in Manchester today against the cuts. Unions from across Manchester joined with campaign groups, students, pensioners and others to show their opposition to the cuts.
The protest started outside the BBC, where workers are fighting management attacks on their pensions.
Sharon Green, president of Manchester Trades Council and a member of the PCS union, said, “There is not a person in Manchester who will not be affected by the cuts in jobs and services. Today is the start of a fight.”
Kathy Gallagher from the Law Centres Federation spoke about the attacks on community law centres saying, “Both South Manchester and Wythenshawe face cuts. If they close these law centres we will be the only big city without one. There will be no advice for asylum seekers, no advice for the homeless. People will be denied access to justice.”
Karen Reissman, a health campaigner and member of the Socialist Workers Party, also spoke at the rally.
She said, “The government could have taxed the rich—they choose instead to attack the poor. With 23 millionaires in the cabinet, what do they know about the real world? They have never faced the choice of eating or heating.
“I do not want to fight the cuts corner by corner. We all need to be out together. We must launch a fight on a scale never seen before. We will have to push for a general strike.”
Over 200 people joined the anti-cuts protest with speakers from major unions and Right to Work. 'The mood is angry and determined and the call for a general strike got a big cheer,' said Julie Bremner.
More than 40 activists from at least six unions turned out at 9am on Saturday morning to protest outside a surgery of the newly elected Lib Dem MP for Redcar Ian Swales in Marske-by-the-Sea Library. Swales faces a backlash against his support for potentially devastating cuts.
Joint union activist Tony Todisco said, “With one in three workers in the Redcar area employed in the public sector the consequences of the spending review will devastate our local economy, community and future prospects.”
Eve Cole, Unison rep and branch secretary of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council said, “How dare the government once again attack vulnerable members of society, the bankers caused the downturn, public sector workers—many of whom work on the frontline of social services—should not be punished”.
Spirits weren’t dampened by the heavy rain during the hour-long protest.
Tristan Learoyd, UCU rep
Sheffield showed its anger at the cuts in a Yorkshire region TUC rally against the Tories' assault on the welfare state. Organisers said that 2,000 attended.
“The government wants to divide public and private sector workers,” said Frances O’Grady, deputy general secretary of the TUC. “We are not going to stand by and let that happen.” She announced that the TUC will hold a national protest on 26 March 2011.
Other speakers were more radical. Marion Lloyd from the PCS union said, “We welcome the TUC demo. But March is too late. We need a demo now and a one day general strike.” She won the loudest applause of the day.
Some 250 students and workers joined a lively feeder march to the rally organised by Right to Work.
Banners on the feeder march included Sheffield Green Party, Barnsley and Rotherham PCS, Kirklees Unison, South Yorkshire FBU, Sheffield Hallam University Unison and Yorkshire and Humberside UCU.
Joe Hibbert, a civil service worker in the PCS, told Socialist Worker, “I was taken on last year on a fixed term contract in the Department of Work and Pensions. I was recruited due to an increase in ‘customers’—as they call them. But they’re not extending my contract and my job ends next month. There will be a real void. The workload is already massive and I can’t see who will do it when I’m gone.
“There needs to be a mass movement against the Tories. We need a bit of France here.”
The march echoed his feeling chanting, “Tous ensembles! Fight now!”
Between 250 and 300 people marched through York city centre including local firefighters, lecturers, rail workers, civil service workers, students and others.
The demonstration, organised by York Stop the Cuts and Right to Work, was lively and attracted support as it went through the town. Protesters heard from York branches of the Unite, FBU, Unison and UCU unions as well as the local Labour MP and two Green councillors.
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