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.”