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/

Thousands set for RAF Lossiemouth rally.

By Andy Mackie

A facebook campaign against the closure of RAF Lossiemouth is expected to rally thousands of protesters in the town this Sunday.

The social networking site has already mobilised over 11, 000 followers across social and political divides. They include  MoD employees who were warned not to protest against the proposed closures.

Sundays rally in support of the under threat RAF bases in Lossiemouth and Kinloss has been organised by locals in conjunction with trade unions. The rally will be addressed by Alex Salmond, Iain Gray, Annabel Goldie and Tavish Scott in addition to John Divers, head of the local trades council.

Feelings have been running high in Lossiemouth since the bases commander Group Captain Andy Hine issued guidance blocking all staff from attending the rally. Hine has now backed down and stated: “Last week I issued guidance to all personnel at RAF Lossiemouth on engaging publicly or with the media about the future of the base. Unfortunately, some of the guidance regarding staff attending protests and rallies was not clear. Service personnel are not permitted to take part in political activities but MoD civil servants are free to take part in this type of event.”

There is still, however, disquiet at the way in which Hines’ original statement was handled. Dougie Brownlie of the Public and Commercial Service Union (PCS) who represent the 800 plus civilian members of staff said: “While the PCS welcomes Captain Hines’ latest statement the anger of members is such that I would expect they will attend in large numbers.”

The campaign now enjoys cross party support in Scotland and all four major parties will be represented. Scottish Conservatie leader Annabel Goldie said: “Sadly, given the scale of the deficit, the defence review could not be pain free. I fully understand the fears and worries of the people of Moray and I urge our governments to work with the local community and local council to chart a way forward and to identify opportunities.Moray is an area of resilience with skilled and talented people and we must all do everything we can to help them through this challenging period. I have personally contacted both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence, and the Scottish Conservatives will continue to make the case for Scotland. It will be an honour to meet with and march with the people of Moray on Sunday.”

The SNP welcomed cross party support and local Moray MSP Richard Lochead said: “It is great news that Scotland’s party leaders are throwing their weight behind Moray’s cause. On 7th November local residents and supporters of the campaign from around Scotland will have their opportunity to show their support as well. I congratulate the rally’s organisers in Lossiemouth for the helping make the campaign to save Moray’s RAF jobs a national priority.”

The Scottish Labour and Liberal Democrats parties were unavailable for comment.