Socialist Worker

Scottish tenants get organised against ‘stinking’ bedroom tax

Resistance to the hated bedroom tax is growing—and is reinvigorating struggle in areas where people have a long history of fighting back against the Tories, reports Dave Sewell

Issue No. 2350

The first meeting of Uddingston against the bedroom tax last week

The first meeting of Uddingston against the bedroom tax last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)


 

The people of Uddingston, Lanarkshire, suffered more than most from Margaret Thatcher’s policies. 

Jobs at the coal mines, shipyards and steelworks supported whole families.

When Thatcher systematically destroyed those industries in the 1980s it plunged the area into a long-lasting depression. Lanarkshire still has one of the lowest life expectancies in Britain.

When David Cameron promises a blitz on benefits, it’s people in Uddingston that he’s coming for. But they are fighting back.

On the night of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, more than 50 people crammed into a small community centre for the launch meeting of Uddingston Against the Bedroom Tax.

Joe and Ann-Marie McMullen have already downsized once. The bedroom tax means they could have to do so again. 

Joe’s grandfather was a miner, as was Ann-Marie’s father until he died aged just 44. “We used to see our grandchildren every day,” said Joe. “But the bedroom tax means we can’t have them round anymore.”

“They’re tearing families apart,” added Marie. “We have to fight this until our last breath.” Time and time again, people described how the bedroom tax was cutting them off from their children.

Children

“I have three children,” said John. “I don’t have full custody of the twins, but I still have them round for some nights every week. 

“Now I’ve had a woman from the council round telling me I need to ‘save money’ on their room. 

“The twins were round at the time so I said to her—how can three kids share one room?”

The meeting opened with speeches from two Labour councillors and two campaigners from the West of Scotland Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation.

Many residents had previously fought the poll tax, which Thatcher had brought to Scotland a year before the rest of Britain. They berated the Labour councillors who refused to pass a no evictions policy. 

“What are you actually going to do when people can't pay the rent?” shouted Vincent Supranis.

The councillors warned that some people were still paying off debts they built up refusing to pay the poll tax. 

But socialist former MSP Tommy Sheridan pointed out that if people hadn’t taken that stand they would still be paying the poll tax today.

But from the miners’ strike to the poll tax revolt, many people have kept a strong sense of solidarity.

“I’ll do anything for this community,” said Marie. “I won’t pay.”

Joe added, “People don't want to leave the place where their families are. 

“I was born and bred here and I can say that 99.9 percent of people are against this tax. It stinks. 

“And if it comes to evictions, I'll be the first to stand up for my neighbours.”


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