Students hold further protests over fees

Edinburgh University was the scene of student protests yesterday. Those involved are demanding that the university reverse its decision to implement £9000 fees for non-Scottish students.

 The march was organised by the EUSA and the Edinburgh University Anti-Cuts Coalition, and took place yesterday at 12.30pm. Students marched from Holyrood along the Royal Mile to the Scotland Office on Melville Street, with police closing Lothian Road in order to allow the protestors through.

Around 150 people are believed to have attended. The Anti-Cuts Coalition told Napier News that students were also “coming in on buses from Aberdeen, St Andrews and Glasgow” in order to take part.

Following the demonstration, a number of students took to the George Square Lecture Theatre at around 9pm, and proceeded to occupy part of the building, with reports emerging that there were around 27 people present.

The Anti-Cuts Coalition announced on Twitter that they would be leaving the building before lectures were due to start today, meaning that there would be no need for the University to alter classrooms or timetables.

A number of similar demonstrations and occupations took place all over the UK yesterday. Occupations took place at York, Birmingham, Goldsmiths and Warwick universities.

Several speeches were made at the end of the Edinburgh march, from Robin Parker, the president of NUS Scotland, and Matt McPherson, the president of the EUSA.

Mr Parker said, “Ultimately these fees are the responsibility of the regressive educational policies of the Westminster Government, and the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP’s who went back on their promises have to take ultimate responsibility.”

“Students from the rest of the UK will potentially be paying more than £36,000 for a degree in Scotland from next year. This is more than the maximum allowed in England, if you take the huge numbers from down south who attend Edinburgh and St Andrews into account.”

“And unlike in other parts of the UK, there are no requirements in Scotland for institutions to have a minimum bursary level for poorer students, and no independent regulation to ensure transparency for students about what additional support is on offer.”
However, Edinburgh University have claimed that they are introducing the most generous bursary package available to English, Welsh and Northern Irish students who come to study in Scotland.
Professor Mary Bownes has previously announced that, “From the total resources available to the University, we intend to create a bursary scheme of £6.7 million for RUK students. We are also planning to use investment income to fund a significant number of new access and accommodation bursaries a year for Scottish-domiciled students.”
The Anti-Cuts Coalition announced to Napier News that they are “planning a feeder march from Edinburgh University to the Scottish Trades Union Council (STUC)” on November 30, in order to show solidarity with public sector workers. The STUC protest is due to begin at the Usher Hall.

Cuts? There is a better way!

By Giulia Mattei

Saturday 23 October, more than 20.000 demonstrators marched on the streets of Edinburgh to show their disapproval towards the cuts announced last week in the government’s spending review.

After Chancellor George Osburne announced, on 20 October 2010, the most wide ranging cuts in the public spending for decades, Union Group STUC arranged a protest against the government’s latest decisions.

Grahame Smith, leader of Union Group STUC.

Before the demonstration started, STUC general secretary Grahame Smith released a press declaration and spoke during an interview for the BBC affirming “ We launched this campaign to dispel the myth that there is no economic alternative to these cuts.” He then added,  “there is an alternative. Get people back to work, get the economy growing again, and the public finances will largely take care of themselves.” His inspiring speech continued with him saying “we also launched this campaign to expose the lie that it is those with the broadest shoulders that will bear the brunt of the cuts.”

The Scottish Trades Union Congress has organized a series of other demonstrations that will take place in several Scottish cities during the next months. The campaign “There Is A Better Way” has events programmed at Airdrie Worksmens Social Club on 26 October, in Coatbridge on 28 October , in Blantyre on 6 November, and in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, on 10 November.

Edinburgh protesters: “No ifs, not buts, no public sector cuts!”

By David Walsh

Teachers, parents and pupils angrily demonstrated in Edinburgh today, joining public sector workers from across Scotland to protest against proposed cuts in public services.

A demonstrator on East Market Street protesting against budget cuts to education funding.

The demonstration, organised by the Scottish Trade Union Council and the Educational Insitute of Scotland, attracted over 20,000 protesters from as far away as Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

Alison Thornton, Local Association secretary of the EIS for Edinburgh: “The STUC, and obviously the trade unions that form the STUC, want to raise the public’s awareness that you can’t just keep cutting, cutting and cutting. It will get to the stage where key services such as health, education and so on cannot be delivered.”

It is well proven that, for example in education, for every pound you invest in the early stages of education, you reap ten fold the savings when you are beyond the normal educational establishment.”

The Coalition government’s spending review announced on Wednesday in Westminster has provoked outcry in the public sector as vital services such as education and the NHS face stark budget cuts. A projected £3bn is to be snipped from Scottish funding over the next four years.

The planned budget cuts are to be introduced by the Chancellor, George Osborne, as part of austerity measures unseen since the Second World War.

The SNP government has come under fire for failing to legislate some of its manifesto promises for education. Among its achievements since its election in 2007  have been the building and refurbishment of over 300 schools as well a record number of primary one to primary three pupils in classes of 18.

A recent article published in Edinburgh Evening News revealed that 40% of Edinburgh schools have primary one classes greater than the recommended government cap of 25 pupils.

The Scottish Executive at Holyrood was unwilling to comment on how budget cuts will impact on Scottish schools in the coming future. They wish to wait instead for the impending Scottish budget to be published next month.

Protesters gathered outside City of Edinburgh municipal buildings on East Market Street in Edinburgh’s city centre at 11am this morning. The march then progressed down the Mound and onto Prince’s Street, bringing public transport on the city’s busiest bus corridor to a standstill.

Marchers finally assembled for a rally at the Ross Bandstand in Prince’s Street gardens where STUC delegates, guest speakers and other unions addressed the crowd.

Addressing the crowd, Joy Dunn, president of the STUC, stressed the importance of the protest: “It is more important than ever before, after this week’s comprehensive spending review announcement, that we continue with the campaign.”

“[George] Osborne repeated over and over again, that the cuts and the brunt of the cuts would be carried by those with the broadest shoulders. You’ll often find that people with the broadest shoulders have the fattest wallets.”

Criticising the Cameron government, she said that his “cabinet of millionaires know the price of everything but the value of building.”

Dunn further warned of the dangers of “returning to the dark days of Thatcher.”

Union boss says strikes ‘still relevant’

Scotland’s top union group has defended striking as “very democratic” and “effective” as the next wave of industrial actions are expected.

As the Royal Mail disputes continue, the Unite union has proposed a legal challenge to British Airways today concerning cabin contracts.

The employment rights union want an injunction against the airline’s plan to administer new contract conditions without union consent.

The same union’s members in Scotland, today, voted to strike in response to closures at the Diageo plants in Kilmarnock and Port Dundas.

Ian Tasker, assistant secretary of policy and campaigns at the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) said: “Obviously, there is a number of issues relating to the effectiveness of strikes.

“The industry is changing in Scotland, take that together with attacks on the trade union legislation. However, we still think it is a justified and effective route to change. It’s a last resort, nobody takes it lightly.”

The STUC represents 640,000 members within 37 affiliated trade unions.

“You can easily get the impression from the media that the Royal Mail strikes are down to recent industrial problems, that’s wrong.

“The problems have been festering for years,” said Mr Tasker.

He said that although striking was becoming less common it was still the most valid form of protest.

“It’s a very democratic process. It’s the workers, through balloting, who decide when strike action is needed. Striking is the mechanism of change for the individuals.”

Royal Mail workers went on their first nation-wide strike last week after months of regional strikes.

Tensions between the unions and company bosses have risen following accusations that the Royal Mail has been employing temporary staff to deal with backlogs – the law on this practice is grey.

Mr Tasker said that it was “disappointing to see Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelson seemingly condoning it”.

“What really concerns us is that an employer like Royal Mail would go against what is principle and law, by employing temporary workers.”

The postal company defend their recruitment strategy calling it Christmas recruitment, however this is challenged by the unions who say that the number of temporary staff has doubled and been brought forward several weeks.

“We would argue that it’s wrong and unlawful,” added Mr Tasker.

Dr Simon J Clark, head of the school of economics at the University of Edinburgh, said striking had waned in recent years: “Strikes are much less common, certainly, than they used to be, partly due to changes in legislation – unions have to go through more loop holes.

“Labour markets have changed drastically,  private sectors firms are less unionised than public sector ones,” he said.

Dr Clark said that international market changes had altered the value of striking as businesses modernised and outsourced, the competition for work grew.

“Going on strike doesn’t have the same adverse effects that it used to.

“In the current climate within the recession, workers aren’t in a strong position to go on strike. The growth of unskilled labour markets across the world  are weakening the power of strikes.

“In the private sectors lots of people are taking wage cuts or negligible pay rises, whilst strikers are demanding more. So whether solidarity is stronger or weaker during a recession, is difficult to say.”

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