By Lynda Williamson
A march planned by a group of anti-Bedroom Tax activists has been scrapped after Glasgow City Council refused to give the go-ahead.
Members of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, The Glasgow and West of Scotland Housing Associations, the Scottish Tenants’ Organisation, no2bedroom tax and the Beat the Bedroom Tax Collection of Musicians had been planning to demonstrate this Saturday.
The group collectively known as ‘Bin The Bedroom Tax’ had planned to target the Lib Dem conference at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. They had hoped to march from Glasgow Green to the SECC in a bid to highlight how unjust they feel the Bedroom tax is and put pressure on Liberal Democrats to withdraw their support for the measure.
Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary at the STUC said:
“We believe that Sarah Teather MP is far from alone in her outrage at the Liberal Democrat leadership’s support for Tory welfare policy and that members will take the opportunity to say so during this conference.”
The initial application for permission to hold the march was lodged in July and the organisation has negotiated with the authorities suggesting several different locations around the vicinity of the SECC to complete the route from Glasgow Green. They have, however been unable to agree arrangements and the march will no longer go ahead as planned but will be replaced by a programme of activities designed to draw attention to the campaign.
The group were successful in persuading the authorities to increase the space for protesters. Initially space had been set aside for just 20 people but the lobbying area will now be expanded.
Mr Moxham welcomed this small concession saying:
“It is astonishing that the authorities were quite unprepared for the possibility of a demonstration being held at the conference.
“They initially designated space for just 20 protesters. Thankfully we were at least successful in negotiating to expand the lobbying area and this will allow many hundreds of protesters to make their feelings known during the four day conference.
“Despite our disappointment at the position adopted by the authorities, we intend the focus of our activities to continue to be on convincing Liberal Democrats to withdraw their support for this measure.”
Ken Ferguson editor of the Scottish Socialist Voice said that the issue raised wider concerns around the right to peaceful process and pointed out that 100,000 protesters were accommodated at the SECC during the anti-Iraq war protests. He also highlighted the decision by Edinburgh City Council to allow a march by the far-right Scottish Defence League during the Edinburgh Festival.
Responding to questions from Newsnet Scotland, a Glasgow City Council official said access to road networks had to be considered and said: “With a march of this size, it is also necessary for the organiser to agree a suitable location for participants to assemble prior to the procession and to disperse from after it has finished. Parks are favoured by most organisers and, whenever possible, they are made available by the council.
“In this case, the organiser proposed a march starting at Glasgow Green and ending at the SECC. Glasgow City Council agreed the use of Glasgow Green, but the organiser did not agree the use of its proposed dispersal point. Alternative end points – including further locations within the SECC site and also the BBC and STV car parks – were proposed by the organiser but, again, they were not agreed with their owners.
“Glasgow City Council offered the use of its parks, including Kelvingrove, but this was declined.”
He added: “We continued to discuss alternatives with members of the coalition and were hopeful a solution could be found, but the notification was withdrawn by the named organiser.”
The ‘Bin The Bedroom Tax’ coalition will begin their weekend of protest with a short rally at Glasgow Green at 11.30 on Saturday morning followed by protests by lobbyists at the SECC and a leaflet campaign throughout Glasgow in the afternoon.