The Tories don’t like Scotland, this much was evident when they experimented and introduced the hated Poll Tax a year before introducing it into the UK, and has been more evident since.
They understand they can be no more than an opposition party in Scotland and it truly galls them that people don’t rally round images like former Scottish leader Ruth Davidson adorned with a union jack on top of a tank (nouveau William of Orange on a white charger?), where they have to crawl to base sectarian anti-nationalism to retain a political foothold in Scotland.
The vast majority of Scottish people reject that right-wing agenda and have shown that by corralling Nigel Farage in a pub to be extracted by the police, to demonstrations for every Tory Minister who have dared to cross the border for some by-election photo opportunity in some remote undisclosed location on the fly – to be met with the cry of “Tories Out” or more harsher rebukes.
Perth nailed that track record, perhaps not with numbers (around 800), but with a fervour and political enthusiasm that included a diverse variation of Scottish working class people.
At the Protest, called by Perth Against Racism, there were speakers from Trade Unions, Human Rights Groups, Anti-Racist Groups, Independence platforms all calling for unity against the Tory Party’s anti-working class racist agenda. The word most used was probably “inhumane” in relation to the Pushback policy and Rwanda flights, but also for the many people starving now, who the foodbanks can’t support or will die this winter because of energy prices and the cost of living crisis.
In truth the Tory leadership contest, where they have hijacked a willing media into the longest party political right-wing freakshow ever… has only consolidated activists’ momentum towards removing the Tories, building unifying bridges where historical political divides (on the left) have sometimes been elusive.
The event was a triumph and Catriona Mackay (Perth Against Racism), compered the event brilliantly adding to the listed speakers and opening-up for speakers from other organisations present who felt compelled to direct their rage at the Tory’s inhumane policies. All in unity, often quoting points made by previous speakers.
Scotland’s newspaper blunt instrument equivalent to the Sun, the Daily Record, carries the headline “Tories pelted with eggs ahead of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss debate in Perth”, the hyperbole somewhat undermined by the accompanying picture of smiling protestors, some families, holding placards welcoming refugees and migrants, supporting railworkers, Black Lives Matter and calling for Pay Rises. Yes, eggs were thrown, but there was a bit more going on than omelettes. Yes, some demonstrators got agitated by the spectacle of some powerful, some wannabees and privileged people full of self-importance arrogantly parading into the Perth Concert Hall – outcome minor tussling. After-all you can’t have a Protest without a bit of tussling, you have gotta have a tussle or two. No-one was arrested, enough said. By far the hardest punch thrown was the thorough blasting of the chants “Refugees are Welcome Here”, “Tories Out” and “F#ck the Tory’s” from protestors, and the robust political points from speakers.
That list of speakers included Perth Against Racism, PCS, GMB, STUC Black Workers Committee, Unite, SUTR, Afghan Human Rights Foundation and an NHS Activist Plus many more! In addition to the speakers there was outstanding music from Alan Carberry and Sophie Stanisforth who rocked the protest between speakers making political points and protestors jeering the Tories, both of whom threw a bit of well-aimed abuse the Tories way.
Every speaker was welcomed enthusiastically, every speaker called for working class unity (obviously some did not use the phrase “working class”, but you get the gist), every speaker made hard hitting points on the Cost of Living Crisis and deaths which will come leaving blood on the hands of the Tories, Inhumane Tory Policies and of course flights to Rwanda and other breaches of human rights perpetrated by the Tories. As a Left Unity NEC member, I was overcome by the protests response to PCS role in the legal challenge to Rwanda flights, warmly supported by those attendant, with appreciative remarks coming from other speakers.
Despite there being transport difficulties (weather related), my train to Perth was cancelled and I had to get a replacement bus to Perth, there were up to 800 at the Protest – no mean feat for a rather out of the way Scottish destination of a working day! Special shout out to the RMT workers at Glasgow Queen Street, who when they found out I was travelling to the Perth Protest as a union speaker quickly ushered me on to the first replacement bus they could and also a shout out to Glasgow Against Racism who let me on their bus back to Glasgow near the end of the event.
The icing on the cake is the fact that the Protest has left in its wake many f#cked off Tories, where the event could be characterised as a Political Protest of real significance, with a small Tory hustings tagged on.
Hope this has given you a bit of a flavour of the Perth Protest.
Fittingly I will end on the call for every PCS activist and member to work hard on getting ballot ready and turning out that YES, YES vote in the ballot – Enough is Enough, Tories Out!
John Jamieson (NEC personal capacity)