Anxieties and demands in connection to the financial crisis and the government’s so-called “recapitalisation” of the banks were voiced in Edinburgh on 24 October.
A small crowd gathered in the gloaming outside the headquarters of HBOS, formerly the home of the Bank of Scotland. The building features prominently on the Edinburgh skyline, topped with a golden female figure that appears to be juggling a pair of doughnuts.
The gathering included Scottish Socialist Youth, Praxis and the Anarchist Federation, carrying placards proclaiming “Where’s OUR bail-out?”
Participants battled with deteriorating weather conditions, which a few hours later forced organisers to cancel the People’s Budget For Peace gathering in Glasgow. A disproportionate police presence added further menace as the pale light of dusk descended into grey.
But the demonstration raised questions about how ordinary people might create an assertive response to the local consequences of global economics.
Job losses and pay cuts
The green light has been given for HBOS to be acquired by Lloyds TSB, resulting in the UK’s largest mortgage company. Despite an expected 43% shareholding by the government, redundancies are likely, allowing a £1.5 billion savings plan to be implemented.
Ex-HBOS CEO Andy Hornby is being offered £60k per month to act as a “consultant” in this exercise. Simultaneously, the Royal Bank of Scotland, where the bail-out package leaves the government with a 60% shareholding, is planning to cut 3,000 jobs.
The difficulties that we will all be facing during recession are already apparent. Aside from job losses, one consequence is lower pay. On 12 November, UNISON’s local government workers in Scotland voted to end a pay dispute that included two days of strikes held in September. The deal they accepted – 3% in 2008 and 2.5% in 2009 – represents a pay cut in real terms.
The confidence felt earlier in the dispute had dissipated, partly due to UNISON’s Scottish leadership undermining the momentum. But there was also a change in mindset where now workers feel lucky to have a job, regardless of pay.
Think global, act local
Members of the community group Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty disrupted the Finance and Resources Committee of Edinburgh City Council at the City Chambers on 11 November.
The committee had agreed to the second phase of the aggressive collection of council tax arrears, which the group argue is unjust. Angry protests from the public benches forced the councillors to temporarily abandon the meeting.
The group endeavours to support families who are facing repossession, through direct action solidarity. As recession deepens, the need for this type of solidarity will become more acute; this and other effective local responses to global capitalism may well gain prominence for activists in 2009.