Save Scottish free speech

This video is called Public Sector Workers Mass Strike Protest, Glasgow, Scotland 30/11/11.

By Malcolm Burns in Scotland:

George Square is ours

Monday 20 August 2012

Everyone who reads this should know by now that the TUC has permission to organise a march through central London on October 20.

Calling for A Future That Works, the march should see hundreds of thousands of people on the streets protesting at the government’s austerity economics.

But here in Scotland the STUC is scaling up its fight with Glasgow City Council – a Labour council, we might emphasise – for the basic right to take the Scottish anti-austerity demo on the same day into George Square.

Former (Labour) lord provost Michael Kelly, who writes a kite-flying column for the Scotsman newspaper, argued in support of the council last week that protests were a thing of the past and the main square should be permanently clear of citizens exercising their democratic rights – so that commercial and private visitors can enjoy spending their time and money in the centre of town.

It’s par for the course for the old provocateur, whose main claim to fame is the creation of Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign, along with the licensing of the Mister Happy character, in the days when he made his dough in the public relations business.

And it exactly reflects the thinking in the city chambers, where officials and the city fathers in their bunker overlooking George Square are making plans to eliminate unsightly popular rallies on their doorstep.

Glasgow Council is using the problem of Orange marches as an excuse to end all legitimate civic protest in the city centre.

Orange walks are a problem for lots of reasons but especially because they are so frequent – accounting for over three-quarters of all parades – and because they take up large police resources.

They often feature return marches back to their starting places and they frequently trigger disorder, offensive behaviour and violence.

But trade union and peace campaigns are well organised and stewarded.

And despite the grumbling of Mr Unhappy the ex-provost and his shiny-suited successors our protests are both popular and effective.

Kelly gloats that the anti-war protests didn’t stop his beloved Tony Blair unleashing war on Iraq.

True, but we mobilised the majority on these demos – February 15 2003 saw millions march in London and the biggest Scottish demo on record.

We won the argument. We wiped out any legitimacy Blair’s warmongers may have imagined they had, and I would argue we may even have stopped further disastrous attacks on other targets – at least for a time.

We don’t need reminding of the historic status of George Square and Glasgow city centre in popular protest over the centuries, right up to the present day.

STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham points out that citizens of Glasgow – the people the council supposedly represents – actually lined the streets on November 30 last year to applaud the public-service workers on the huge pensions demo.

Glasgow should be worried about the threat to its reputation its council is now posing.

Edinburgh allowed the STUC to march around 25,000 people through Princes Street in the first big demo against Con-Dem austerity on October 23 2010.

Clearly demos in the Scottish capital haven’t stopped its festival being the biggest and most lucrative arts fair in the world.

London can cope with an Olympic Games and a TUC demo for A Future That Works.

Paris, Madrid and Athens manage to have huge public marches without losing their credibility as world cities – indeed, such protests enhance civic reputations.

And we should be defending our own hard-won democratic rights even as we salute movements for democracy in public places around the world.

Glasgow’s visitors, whether they come for business or holidays – or the Commonwealth Games in a couple of years’ time – deserve to see the real city, not one sanitised for their presumed convenience.

The ongoing crash of capitalism and the austerity measures promoted by its apologists is the biggest public issue of the day.

It forms the crucible in which the new world will be forged.

It will either be a dismal future with poverty, inequality and robbery rife in every land or we will win democratic control of our collective destiny and see off the toffs who are stealing our very lives.

To do that we have to assert the collective right to protest. We have to get out on the streets on October 20.

I hope you are mobilising your own community and workplace wherever you are.

And if you’re in Scotland, get in early and lobby Glasgow City Council to let us have our democratic say in our main public forum – George Square.

You can find out more about the Glasgow demo on October 20 at the STUC’s website – – including updates on the fight to march in George Square.

And you can send your views to the council “consultation” on marches and demos at

The STUC suggests the wording: “George Square, Glasgow, is a very important civic space and the right to peaceful protest is a basic civil right.

“I want to be in George Square on October 20 and I oppose any attempt to end the use of George Square for such purposes.”
But you can always roll your own.

12 thoughts on “Save Scottish free speech

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  2. George Sq plan challenged

    Sunday 28 April 2013

    Glasgow Council’s ruling Labour group leader Gordon Matheson faces a police investigation over his handling of the plans to renovate the city’s George Square.

    Police will investigate a complaint from a member of the public relating to the council’s decision in January to drop the plans.

    Mr Matheson said he was “happy” for the complaint to be fully investigated.

    Mr Matheson chaired a panel judging six entries to renovate the square. The competition was won by John McAslan and Partners.

    The council then decided not to go ahead with the £15 million contract and instead plans a more modest £500,000 redevelopment before the Commonwealth Games in 2014.


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