Tuesday, 31 August 2010

There is a Better Way demonstration - Edinburgh 23rd October

A big sigh of relief that our There is A Better Way Demonstration  is planned for Edinburgh on 23rd October and not Glasgow.  But that does not mitigate our concern for the future for freedom of political expression in Glasgow.

In the launching a four week consultation on march plans, Glasgow City Council Deputy Leader Jim Coleman  has left us in doubt that the aim is to dissuade organisations from organising marches at all and failing that to undermine the right to protest by making marches less visible.

The pressure to limit the extent and scope of marches has already begun.  We have been aware for some time of a growing to eradicate the use of George Square for marches and last February 10,000 teachers, parents and children marching in support of education were limited to a march route which barely allowed their presence to be noticed by the people of Glasgow at all.  In December 2009, The Wave demonstration organised to coincide with world-wide protest over the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit was limited to a park-to-park marching route which avoided any major population centres.

Having marched shoulder to shoulder with Glasgow City Councillors – including Council Leader Gordon Matheson - on the anti-war march of 2003, and on May Day marches for the past 20 years, I cannot believe that they believe any democratic purpose can be served by such limitations on public protest. The anti-war march, May Day marches, annual St Andrews Day March Against Racism and Facism and Scotland United march against the far right Scottish Defence League would be significantly affected – or be impossible to organise - under the proposed new regulations.

Doubtless, it will be protested that the real target of the new rules are the hundreds of marches organised by the Orange Order and those organised by Irish republican groups.  That Glasgow hosts more Loyalist and Republican parades than the Belfast and City of Derry council areas combined is indeed a compelling fact and very serious consideration should be given to curtailing return parades which account for a very significant proportion of the overall budget for policing marches and parades.

But curtailing the number or effectiveness of the very few political demonstrations which occur every year in the name of ‘consistency’ cannot be tolerated.  We may well find ourselves demonstrating for the right to demonstrate in the near future.  I wonder if the Council will give us permission to march …

Dave Moxham - STUC