People flocked from all over Scotland to join the first conference of the All Scotland Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation in Glasgow last Saturday.
Some 250 campaigners from Aberdeen and Dundee in the north, Edinburgh and Fife in the east, Glasgow, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire in the west all joined together.
The conference was the organisational expression of dozens of tenants’ and activists’ meetings held in communities across Scotland.
Over 50 new groups have been built and the momentum keeps on growing.
Jim Caddis from Kilmarnock explained how he built a local group. “Kilmarnock has been devastated by Thatcherism,” he said.
“But the spirit for a fight is now everywhere in the town.
“Our first meeting was attended by 60 angry tenants. We have five delegates to this conference.
“This is only the start. This campaign has breathed new life into the town and now we have another three groups planned. Cameron and his posh boy pals better look out—the fightback is here.”
The conference came four weeks after the impressive demonstration in Glasgow of 8,000 angry victims of the Tories’ austerity attacks.
Community groups, trade unions, disability action organisations were all represented.
From Cumnock in Ayrshire, Jim Monaghan delivered a message from Auchinleck NUM—one of the six pits closed by Scottish Coal this month with the loss of 600 jobs.
The branch formally affiliated to the Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, and declared they would work with the federation to fight attacks on jobs and welfare.
Mary Lockhart who came to the conference said, “It was incredibly powerful and moving, not just to hear people speaking from the platform, but the people who had come along to be part of a people’s movement.”
Dave Sherry is the branch secretary from the Unite union’s Scottish Housing Association Branch—the first union to affiliate to the campaign.
Dave said that the massive demonstration showed how the fight could be won.
He called for a link up with the Campaign for Benefits Justice summit in London on 11 May.
Speaker after speaker relayed the real impact of the bedroom tax.
Louise from Fife, who is blind, explained that having to give up her home would mean the destruction of her links to the community where she lives.
“We simply can’t pay this tax and I don’t intend to stand by and let this happen without a fight,” she said.
Mick from Dundee explained how he came to Dundee after losing his job in Oban.
“They allocated me a flat in a high rise block,” he said.
“It was a one bedroom and I thought the attacks wouldn’t affect me.
“But then I found out that the service charge for the block, which was covered in my housing benefit, was not covered. Now they want an extra tenner for something that used to be met by my housing benefit!”
The conference ended with a speech by Tommy Sheridan from the West of Scotland Federation.
He called on people to build groups in every housing scheme and trade union branch, and work with any political party that agrees with the founding statement and of the conference.
“Every delegate should leave this conference and build for the next all-Scotland demonstration on 1 June,” he said.