Last October, almost 20,000 people from every corner of Scotland and its society– members of many different trades unions and political parties and those with no affiliation; veteran activists and people protesting for the first time; pensioners and students – converged on Edinburgh to call for a different approach to the UK’s recovery than the huge cuts in public spending and services that were being planned by the Westminster government at the time.
If a week is a long time in politics, then a year certainly is: since Scots called for a better way, there has been no let-up in the torrent of changes that threaten to stall the recovery we so badly need and which hit the most vulnerable the hardest: changes to the indexing of benefits that will make them fall in value – even as the cost of living soars; attacks on public sector pensions and the de-funding of higher education, just to name a few.
It is clear, then, that it is time for Scots to march again: to that end, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), in partnership with a whole range of groups from every part of civic Scotland is organizing another opportunity for us to gather together to march for a vision of a different, better country: on Saturday October 1st, thousands will take to the streets again – this time in Glasgow, marching from Glasgow Green to a rally in Kelvingrove Park. There will be speeches from a range of political figures, including Tony Benn, a series of Fringe events and workshops and as an expression of solidarity with those suffering from the current famine in Africa, there will be initiatives to raise funds for the Disasters Emergency Committee East Africa crisis appeal.
The march isn’t just against the cuts – important though it is to fight against them – but is an attempt to articulate an alternative vision of Scotland in the 21st century: a society that is built around the needs and aspirations of its people and one where the voice of its people is louder than the voice of the financial markets: in short, one where people are put first. The march has three distinct aims that are central to this:
- To challenge rising levels of poverty and inequality and to campaign for redistribution of wealth right across the world. More equal societies tend to have better outcomes in terms of a whole range of measures, including health, education and crime, yet inequality has been increasing inexorably for more than two decades and poverty still blights the lives of many. People should have not only the theoretical opportunity for a better life but access to the services and benefits that allow them to seize those chances, and so we will march for the more comprehensive redistribution of both opportunities and wealth from top to bottom.
- To campaign to protect those hardest hit by service and benefit cuts. The character of a society can be best judged from how it treats those who are most in need and so we are rallying around sick and disabled people, those needing social care, pensioners and children, whose services and benefits – and therefore the decent standard of living that everyone has a right to – are under threat.
- To help to build and reconnect Scotland’s communities. We believe that robust, caring and active local communities have to be the foundation for a better future for our country and everyone in it, and so we will be calling for the resources needed to make these strong communities a reality again.
While we hope to see as many people as possible on October 1st, there will also be a series of mobilising events to build for the march. This Saturday (September 3rd) , we will gather in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire and West Lothian to spread the message and every Thursday until October there will be workshops at 5pm in the Woodlands Road offices of the STUC. Please visit www.peoplefirstoctoberfirst.org and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details of how to take part.