Hardest Hit protesters gather in capital

Close to 1000 people attended a protest against the UK government’s proposed Welfare Reform Bill in Edinburgh today.

The rally in Princes Street Gardens was one of several organised throughout the country by the Hardest Hit group.  The Edinburgh event was addressed by a number of speakers including the SNP’s Margaret Burgess, Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, and Lord Colin Low.

Pam Duncan from Inclusion Scotland is among those who fear that the proposed cuts will hit people with disabilities hardest of all. Not only does she believe that it will  hit people in their pockets, but it will also make them prisoners in their own home. Duncan said:- “Disabled people are facing a double whammy of cuts – we are facing it in our pockets and in our services. It is not fair and we are not going to take it.”

Margaret Burgess MSP pledged her support to the campaign and read out a message from First Minister, Alex Salmond. In the message Mr Salmond said:- “I understand the real anxiety and uncertainty by the Westminster government’s welfare reform proposals.

“ The Scottish Government will do all it can to ensure the UK government listens to our concerns and takes proper account of Scotland’s people. We believe that the benefits system should maximise the ability for all people to work and live free from poverty. However this must not be achieved through cuts to the support required by people living with ill health or disability.”

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray enountered some hostility from the crowd with a few shouting comments such as:- “You started it!” in reference to reforms made by the last Labour Westminster government. However Gray stressed his and his party’s support of the campaign. Gray said:- “What is important is what is happening today and I am here standing shoulder to shoulder with you, fighting these changes that are being proposed now and that will undermine your standard of living.”

One major area of concern among the campaigners is the way in which assessments for disability allowances will be carried out, and they say that those who suffer from disabilities with variable conditions are likely to suffer most from these new guidelines. Craig Wilkie from Multiple Sclerosis Scotland represents one such group. Wilkie said: – “One of the biggest concerns we have is the way in which assessments are conducted.

“MS is a fluctuating condition. People can be feeling fantastic one day, then be really poorly the next. Just depending on when you get your assessment can affect the level of support you will get. We have to make sure that these sorts of things are taken into account.”

Similar events took place today in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Belfast and Cardiff.

Originally published here – http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2011/10/hardest-hit-protesters-gather-in-capital-today/

Sketch – The leaders



The first televised leaders’ debate took place last week to a blaze of apathy. Judging from the number of people claiming to have watched the broadcast it is not going to be threatening Eastenders for viewing figures – in fact it wouldn’t have threatened Eldorado in that respect. Nevertheless it was a fascinating first opportunity to see the four main protagonists away from Holyrood in some verbal jousting.

And what did it tell us? Nothing particularly new or surprising is the somewhat disappointing answer. As we know Iain Gray has been developing a tough new image in recent weeks and his hard man act was to the fore early on here. Constantly interrupting and hectoring Alex Salmond may have seemed like a good idea but not only does it make Gray appear rude and childish it has very little chance of putting as accomplished a media performer as Slick Eck off his stride.

As for Slick Eck himself he gave a typically forceful performance. He seemed under pressure only occasionally, noticeably over the release of al-Megrahi when the majority of the audience and the rest of the panel appeared at odds with him.  However, he was helped by being given a relatively easy ride from his adversaries. As mentioned Gray started aggressively but floundered throughout and often found himself under attack from the others. Many of his arguments appeared unconvincing and moments that stick in the memory include his claim that the Labour party didn’t vote for the Scottish budget and it’s 25,000 apprenticeships because “it was not enough” which seemed weak. Annabel Goldie was the second best performer on the night. Sure she occasionally overdid the scolding school mistress act but she used the freedom of not being a serious contender for First Minister to put across her arguments. Tavish Scott was also there. His main achievement on the night was to make Gray, who must have welcomed Scott’s presence, seem a little less innocuous. As with Gray his choice of arguments against the SNP seemed flawed. While inward business investment is desirable and vital most would see his attack on the government backing Amazon and their 900 new jobs in Fife as a little odd.

So at the end of part one Salmond and Goldie put in solid performances while Gray and Scott must do better. In particular the opposition parties must pick their fight more wisely in future. There are areas where the SNP can be got at such as class sizes and al-Megrahi – the others must formulate a plan to best utilise these matters. So all aboard for round two of Slick Eck, Headmistress Goldie and the two invisible men.