Christmas shoppers stopped to watch as trade unions and community groups, led by the rhythmic uplifting beat of the Guarana Drummers, marched along Union Street for equality, justice and respect.
The St Andrew’s Day March and Rally was organised by the Aberdeen Trades Union Council along with community groups including Aberdeen Anti Fascist Alliance and Aberdeen Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. It made a colourful scene as the banners, UNISON’s amongst them, snaked down Union Street to the Rally at Marischall College.
The Rally began with a minute’s silence for those affected by the tragic helicopter crash in Glasgow the previous evening. Paying tribute to the emergency services and also to the citizens of Glasgow, who had rushed to the scene to help and support those affected, UNISON’s Kate Ramsden, chairing the Rally, said that the thoughts of all present were with those affected and their families.
She told the Rally that in this time of austerity, it has never been more important to stand together, as we face the challenge of a government who has presided over the biggest transfer of wealth from ordinary people and the poorest, to the richest in our society, “using the despicable tactics of divide and rule, demonising and spreading myths and lies about benefit claimants, about the disabled, about migrant workers and refugees, and now coming after the trade unions.”
This theme was picked up by speaker after speaker. Ross Cassie, of the PCS Union, speaking on behalf of the Aberdeen Trades Union Council said that Aberdeen has a proud tradition of facing up to and opposing the scourge of the fear posed by those who are filled with hatred towards anyone different.
“There is no place in society for this bigoted hatred and by being here you are showing that,” said Ross. He slammed the Tory LibDem Government which “is tearing apart the very fabric of society” with the welfare state under unprecedented assault.
Ann Joss, Chair of the STUC Women’s Committee, said that in Aberdeen diversity was a way of life, as the city has transformed itself into the oil capital of Europe. However, she warned that there has been a human cost. “Companies driven by greed to make even bigger profits have driven down health and safety in conjunction with a government determined to further erode the rights of trade unions.
“We will continue to fight to have our rights reinstated,” promised Ann.
Dave Daniels of the CWU and Chair of their Scottish LGBT Committee, said that LGBT rights, which had advanced under the Labour Government, are again being undermined as homophobic bullying is on the rise in Scotland and across the UK, people are still attacked and even killed for their sexuality.
“And around the world people are silenced, imprisoned, attacked, defined as mentally ill or murdered just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered,” said Dave, calling on us all to campaign to end this persecution, “because it is the right thing to do.”
In an inspiring speech, Mike Arnott, of Dundee TUC , reminded us of the men and women who fought, drove or nursed in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, to fight the evil of fascism.
“We keep alive the memory because their fight, the fight against fascism continues. Just as it reared its ugly head in the depression and misery of the 1930s, it persists in the austerity and despair of today. In Greece, in Italy, and even in our own streets it feeds on people’s suffering and aims to set our communities against each other,” warned Mike
Bill Anderson from Inverness TUC talked of our common struggles for equality in the economic, social, gender and other spheres, which under this UK government has seen “slow progress converted into accelerating reverse.”
And Aberdeen anti-bedroom tax campaigner Renee Slater, gave a comprehensive picture of the impact of the bedroom tax. “This is the most insidious piece of legislation since the poll tax, but unlike the poll tax, which affected everyone, this legislation preys on the most vulnerable in our society,” said Renee, calling for support from the trade union movement for action locally against this legislation.
Sean McVey, of the Aberdeen Anti Fascist Alliance warned about the “creeping growth of “acceptable xenophobia”” peddled by UKIP and its ilk.
He too condemned “the Tory government and its shameful policy of widespread cutbacks that are hurting families and ruining the opportunities of our children,” and warned that this is the true enemy, “not the individuals who have arrived in Scotland seeking a better life for their families.”
Aberdeen MSP, Lewis Macdonald brought the rally to a close, calling for unity amongst all of us who stand up for equality, diversity, justice and respect for all our citizens, and who challenge the policies of this UK government.