Dozens of platforms in UKCS set to be brought to a ‘standstill’ with BP, Shell and Total hit
Unite the union announced today (Monday 20 March) that major oil and gas operators in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) face a‘tsunami’of industrial unrest within weeks as around 1400 offshore workers across five companies demand a better deal on jobs, pay and conditions.
Unite, whose members will take action at companies enjoying record-busting profits, predicts that platforms and offshore installations will be brought to a‘standstill’due to the specialised roles its members undertake.
The action will hit major oil and gas operators including BP, CNRI, EnQuest, Harbour, Ithaca, Shell and Total.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:“Oil and gas companies have been given free rein to enjoy massive windfall profits in the North Sea; drilling concessions are effectively licences to print money.
“1400 offshore workers are now set to take strike action against these employers who are raking it but refusing to givethem a fair share of the pie. This will create a tsunami of industrial unrest in the offshore sector.
“Unite will support these members every step of the way in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”
The prospective action includes electrical, production and mechanical technicians in addition to deck crew, scaffolders crane operators, pipefitters, platers, and riggers working for Bilfinger UK Limited, Stork construction, Petrofac Facilities Management, the Wood Group UK Limited and Sparrows Offshore Services.
John Boland, Unite industrial officer, added:“Unite has received unprecedented support in favour of industrial action in the UK Continental Shelf. It is the biggest mandate we have received in a generation in the offshore sector. There is no doubt that this is directly linked to oil and gas companies reaping record profits while the workforce gets scraps from the table.
“Unite’s members are angry at the corporate greed being shown by offshore operators and contractors. Now these major global companies are set to face the consequences as dozens of offshore platforms will be brought to a standstill in a matter of weeks.”
Details of the disputes
Around 700 offshore workers atBilfinger UK Limitedare set to down tools after Unite members voted in favour of taking industrial action as part of a pay dispute. Bilfinger workers are demanding an increase above the base rate of pay set in the Energy Services Agreement (ESA) for 2022.
Meanwhile, 350Stork constructionworkers are set to take strike action after Unite members also supported industrial action in a dispute over working rotas and rates of pay.
Unite members employed byPetrofac Facilities Management Limitedon the FPF1 platform also voted in favour of strike action. Around 50 workers are involved in the dispute over holiday entitlements. Offshore workers can be asked to work at any time for no additional payment. The operator, Ithaca Energy, has a ‘clawback’ policy of 14 days, double the industry norm of 7 days.
Unite members employed by theWood Group UK Limitedon TAQA platforms similarly voted to take strike action. Around 80 members are involved in the dispute which is focused on a 10 per cent cut made to salaries in 2015 worth around £7,000 a year.
The mandates for industrial action follow the recent announcement by Unite that around 200Sparrows Offshore Servicesworkers will take strike action across more than 20 oil and gas platforms in disputes over pay. Strike action is set to hit various platforms from 29 March and until 7 June in a series of 24, 48 and 72-hour stoppages. This action will hit a number of major operators including BP, Shell, Apache and Harbour Energy.
A further two industrial action ballots are due this week at Petrofac BP involving around 80 workers (21 March), and at Worley Services UK Limited on Harbour Energy platforms involving around 50 workers (24 March) in disputes over pay. The pending ballot results could bring the final total to around 1500 offshore workers taking industrial action.
Unite recently blasted the UK Government’s inaction on taxing oil firms as BP posted the biggest profits in its history as it doubled to £23 billion in 2022. BP’s bonanza profits come after Shell reports earnings of £32 billion, bringing the combined total profits of the top two energy companies in Britain to a record £55 billion.
Over the past two years, we’ve come together with offshore workers to build demands for a just energy transition. These workers developed 10 demands covering training and skills, pay, job creation, investment and public ownership.
We surveyed over 1000 additional offshore workers and over 90% agreed with these demands. This plan is comprehensive in scope, transformative in scale and deliverable now.
Below you will find a series of resources setting out the demands and the paths we can take to turn them into reality.
We need a rapid transition away from oil and gas that protects workers, communities and the climate. But the government has no plan to phase out oil and gas production in the North Sea.
Oil and gas workers are ready to lead a just transition away from oil and gas, but they are caught in a trap of exploitation and fear created by oil and gas companies. Working conditions are plummeting, just as profits, prices and temperatures are soaring.
The UK and Scottish Governments must listen to workers to make this transition work for all of us. These demands lay out a comprehensive plan, which includes:
Removing barriers that make it harder for oil and gas workers to move into the renewable industry.
Ensuring safety, job security and fair pay across the energy industry.
Sharing the benefits of our energy system fairly, with public investment in energy companies and communities.
Workers have told us what they need for a just transition, now we need to work with them to make it happen.
Hear from workers
Our Power: Offshore workers’ demands for a just energy transition
That means responding to it will be one of the first big tasks for the new leader of the SNP and Scotland’s new First Minister.
The deeply disappointing consultation document was published on 10 January after a year or more’s delay. It fails to build on the recent positive steps taken by Nicola Sturgeon towards opposing any more oil and gas extraction from the North Sea – after she came out against Shell’s proposed Cambo oilfield following the mass protests in Glasgow at COP26 in November 2021.
The consultation document reiterates, at great length, the SNP Government’s obsession with false ‘techno-fixes’ to the climate crisis, in particular hydrogen and carbon capture and storage. It ignores the pressure from environmental organisations and some offshore oil workers and their unions, for a just transition to renewable energy that is led by the communities and workers most affected. And it is partly at odds with the positive steps taken by Sturgeon herself and the outgoing SNP administration, through their initiatives on ‘Loss and Damage’, to recognise that a just transition must be just for the global south too.
In the coming weeks we need to build maximum pressure on the government to change the most negative aspects of this draft strategy.
However, it is also important, for the climate justice movement in Scotland and for the radical forces in the independence movement, to understand and challenge the deeper contradiction that underpins this energy strategy, as it does almost all the Scottish government’s economic policy. This is its attempt to combine progressive, humane and necessary steps on a number of environmental and social issues, with an inability or refusal to question the underlying systemic factors which hinder such action, and makes it necessary in the first place – in other words its unwillingness to challenge the priorities of the free market.
Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as First Minister of the Scottish Government and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) has dominated the news across Britain and even internationally, writes Mike Picken.
In one sense, the standing down of a political leader in what can be regarded as a small ‘regional’/devolved government should hardly create many ripples. The fact that it was regarded as so significant speaks volumes about the current state of British politics. It overshadowed completely the fact that on the same day as Sturgeon resigned the main Scottish teachers’ union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) representing over 80% of school teachers, voted unanimously to reject a 6% pay offer and reaffirmed two days of strike action on 28 February/1 March that will close every Scottish state school and have a huge effect across the country.
The mainstream British press and media, almost entirely unionist and conservative, greeted the resignation statement with uncontained glee – ‘Huge boost to unionism’ shouted the Times; ‘Sturgeon brought down by trans row’ and ‘without her the SNP is nothing’ screamed the Daily Telegraph, ‘house journal’ of Britain’s Conservative Party membership, in what must rank as one of the most inaccurate front pages in its history. ‘Independence dream fades’ trumpeted the ‘i’ newspaper. The tabloid press charge was led by the Daily Mail with ‘Sturgeon … dreams in tatters’ while Andrew Neil exclaimed ‘Her Legacy of Failure’, all in block capitals of course. This is the paper that supported the fascist blackshirts. Even the supposedly liberal Guardian displayed its unionist credentials in talking about the SNP being ‘thrown … into turmoil’.
Across the globe, Donald Trump led the global reactionary charge describing Sturgeon as a ‘crazed leftist’ and ‘failed woke extremist’. Though in an indication of his grip on reality he also seemed more exercised at the £15M loss made by his Scottish golf courses, blaming Sturgeon personally for their failure.
Compared to the chaos of the recent resignations of UK Prime Ministers Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and the 49-day catastrophic reign of Liz Truss, Nicola Sturgeon’s press conference in Edinburgh was a calm and controlled affair. She explained that after over eight years at the helm of the devolved Scottish government and nearly 30 years in front line politics in Scotland, she had simply had enough and wanted a bit of a rest on the backbenches of the Scottish Parliament. But she also clearly stated she was not giving up on politics and ‘would be around’ for some time to come. Unlike the Conservative shambolic Prime Ministerial resignations last year, she took questions from the media and answered them confidently, even receiving plaudits from seasoned political journalists like the Independent’s Paul Waugh, taking a brief step back from the overwhelmingly hostile environment of the British press.
Sturgeon’s resignation received a rather more respectful response in Europe’s capitals, with the Irish Taoiseach and the leader of Sinn Fein applauding her stance against the UK’s Tory Brexit.
Tory Prime Minister Rishi Sunak struck a more restrained mood, perhaps befitting his constitutional role and attempt to steady the Tory ‘ship of state’, than the more gleeful Scottish Tory opposition leader, Douglas Ross. Both Labour leader Keir Starmer and his Scottish subordinate, Anas Sarwar, praised Sturgeon’s public service.
But behind the scenes they will all be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of moving British politics firmly to the right, now that what is seen as the progressive and left wing Sturgeon is ‘out of the way’.
The press and political commentators immediately started a frenzy at the prospects for a Starmer landslide at the next UK general elections. The irony that it came on the twentieth anniversary of the largest demonstration in British history against his mentor Tony Blair’s support for the US war in Iraq, appeared lost on Keir Starmer. He began the day pronouncing that like Blair he too would ignore the wishes of Labour members in refusing to allow former leader Jeremy Corbyn to stand as a Labour candidate in the north London constituency he has represented for forty years.
For Labour’s increasingly right wing leadership it was seen as a successful day – ‘Corbyn Out, Sturgeon Out’ – in what they now see as Starmer’s passage to becoming next British Prime Minister.
But what is the reality of both Sturgeon’s period in office and the prospects for what will follow her resignation?
Nicola Sturgeon is undoubtedly a consummate political performer, perhaps the most talented mainstream politician in the British Isles, compared to the buffoons that have headed Tory UK governments at Westminster. In only eight years as Scottish First Minister, Sturgeon saw five of them go through the doors of 10 Downing Street. She also saw out three UK Labour leaders and five leaders of the Liberal Democrats (a one time governing party at both Westminster and Holyrood).
Her calm and measured response to the Covid pandemic through her daily broadcasts on TV had a major reassuring effect on Scottish people, particularly compared to the chaotic disarray of the UK Westminster government, as she became the most popular political leader across the UK state … by a long way.
But Sturgeon is also highly socially progressive. An outspoken supporter of feminism, she had defended abortion rights absolutely unequivocally since entering politics and in the words of left wing writer Owen Jones “she’ll go down as a hero to LGBTQ people” for her defence of LGBTQ rights.
The Tory and unionist press overwhelmingly claim that public opinion is against her stance in the recent ‘row’ on trans rights and even claim that this has caused her demise. Sturgeon is depicted in the Tory press as the ‘architect’ of the recent Gender Reform Recognition (Scotland) Bill that passed the Scottish Parliament last December and was struck down by the Tory Government at Westminster last month in their right wing ‘culture war’ against trans people. But the GRR Bill was passed by an overwhelming two thirds majority in the Scottish Parliament and as well as most in Sturgeon’s SNP, three other Parties voted strongly for it – Scottish Labour, Scottish Greens and the Liberal Democrats. The latter also joined the SNP and other opposition parties at Westminster, but not UK Labour, in opposing the unprecedented striking down of the progressive legislation.
As with previous progressive social legislation in the UK – ending capital punishment, decriminalising homosexuality, gay marriage – lawmakers can lead public opinion, and reforms that elicited reactionary vocal opposition at the time become mainstream soon after, even if they do have to be constantly defended. The support for de-medicalisation and self-ID in the GRR Bill is overwhelmingly supported by medical and health professionals across Scotland and the British state. It is also backed by those campaigning for women’s rights and supporting victims of sexual abuse, by the LGBTQ community, and, significantly, by the vast majority of young people in Scotland. It even has support from the United Nations, World Health Organisation and an increasing numbers of states – most recently the Spanish state and Finland have legislated for similar processes.
The recent conviction of rapist Isla Bryson and her imprisonment briefly in an isolation wing of a Scottish women’s prison has become a ‘cause célèbre’ amongst reactionary opponents of trans rights, keen to put the labels ‘trans’ and ‘rapists’ in the same sentence. We’ve seen this before when it was almost impossible to read a newspaper article without the word ‘paedophile’ being included with the word ‘gay’. But in fact Sturgeon intervened immediately in the Bryson case, an independent action by the Scottish Prison Service, to say that she agreed 100% with the Scottish Rape Crisis organisation, a supporter of the GRR Bill, that a rapist should not be accommodated in a women’s prison.
The brutal murder of trans teenager Brianna Ghey in a Cheshire park and the announcement by the police in the last few days that they are now investigating it as a potential ‘hate crime’ has sent shock waves through the LGBTQ and young community as the anti-trans rhetoric has been dialled up by Westminster Tory politicians presenting an ‘anti-woke’ agenda to the declining Tory party faithful. The turnout by young people at massive vigils across the British state
presents a counter trend and to most of the young people in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon is identified, in Owen Jones’ words, as a heroine rather than a villain.
While the recent abuse that Nicola Sturgeon has received over her support for trans rights has created a vile political atmosphere, it is wide of the mark to suggest that it is the main reason for her resignation.
Independence at crossroads
While the trans rights issue has dominated recent media attacks on Sturgeon, the underlying concern of the British ruling class remains the prospect of Scottish independence and the potential break up of the UK state.
Sturgeon was first elected to what was then the new Scottish Parliament in 1999. The SNP has defined itself as ‘within the mainstream of European social democracy’ for decades and narrowly became the ruling party at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood in 2007 holding government leadership throughout the 16 years since, with Nicola Sturgeon being a permanent feature: firstly as Deputy First Minister and Health Secretary, then taking over as First Minster from Alex Salmond in 2014.
In 2011, the SNP won a freak majority at Holyrood under an electoral system that was deliberately designed by the Labour Party to prevent such a thing occurring. The SNP manifesto contained a commitment to a referendum on independence and sensing an easy victory then Tory UK Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to the Scottish Parliament legislating for such a referendum. Support for independence began at just 25% in opinion polls, but by the time of the referendum in 2014, shocked Westminster politicians saw polls indicating a majority. A huge rearguard last minute right wing action and a promise of ‘jam tomorrow’ in the form of a ‘Vow’ by the Westminster parties led to a 45/55 defeat of independence in the referendum, but with the highest turnout in any Scottish or UK election and the enfranchisement of both 16/17 year olds and all EU citizens living in Scotland. A key part of the argument for staying in the UK was that an independent Scotland would be outside the European Union and unable to join due to a veto by states opposed to secessionist movements, particularly the Spanish state.
But a major part of the shift to independence was among Scottish working class communities who turned out in large numbers to vote, alarmed at the austerity policies being pursued by the Tory/LibDem coalition at Westminster that Scotland hadn’t voted for (Scotland voted overwhelming Labour for most of the twentieth century). The Labour Party’s alliance with the Tories in a joint ‘Better Together’ campaign against independence created a huge swing away from the party among its traditional working class base.
The joy of the right wing parties at the defeat of independence was short-lived, however, as the SNP under the new leadership of Sturgeon surged at the 2015 UK general election winning nearly 50% of the vote and 56 out of the 59 Scottish seats – with the Labour Party losing 40 of its 41 seats, a cataclysmic result for Labour after generations of domination of Scottish politics.
In 2016, the Westminster Tories again gambled on a referendum, this time over UK membership of the EU. But while the shock result at a UK level was 52/48 in favour of leaving the EU, Scotland voted overwhelmingly 62/38 to remain in the EU (the north of Ireland also voted 56/44 to remain). The Tory party rapidly became taken over by the extreme right wing politics of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Although Nicola Sturgeon proposed a compromise of the UK state leaving the EU but remaining in the single market (the so-called ‘Norway’ option), this was rejected by the rightward moving Tories, intoxicated with the ‘Brexit’ process and encouraged by the elevation of Donald Trump to US president.
Sturgeon, the SNP and the wider independence movement began agitating against Brexit and for a further referendum on independence on the grounds that if the UK state left the EU the circumstances in 2014 had changed significantly. Sensing the possibility that a second Scottish independence referendum (‘indyref2’) could result in victory for independence, the Westminster parties, including the Labour Party then led by Jeremy Corbyn, closed ranks to deny that such a referendum would take place.
There are many reasons why the UK state fears the disruption that would be caused by Scottish independence to its continuity as one of the leading imperialist powers. But central to the debate is the issue of nuclear weapons. The UK state holds a seat on the UN Security Council by virtue of its ownership of a nuclear arsenal. These weapons are now exclusively located in Scotland, in the Trident missile system within submarines stationed just along the Clyde river at Faslane, just 40 miles from the centre of Scotland’s biggest city of Glasgow. There is nowhere else in the rest of the UK state where such weapons could be located, at least in the short term. The SNP has always been a pro-independence party and moderately social democratic, but has also opposed nuclear weapons and is committed to an independent Scotland removing nuclear weapons. Even though the SNP reversed its position to one of supporting membership of NATO in 2013 under previous leader Alex Salmond, and there are some in the party who would be willing to compromise over a ‘Guantanamo-style’ leasing of the Faslane base to the rump UK state, the majority of the party including Nicola Sturgeon remain committed to removing nuclear weapons.
Sturgeon has repeatedly said that as well as joining the SNP as a 16 year old teenager opposed to the Tory attacks on the working class community she was brought up in, equally she also joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) to oppose nuclear weapons at the same time.
For this prime reason, acceptance of Scottish independence is totally unacceptable to the British ruling class – and therefore it is unremittingly hostile to both the SNP and to Sturgeon.
Since the 2016 EU referendum, the British ruling class has therefore used everything at its disposal to prevent Scottish independence by blocking a referendum. Despite this and in the face of the increasing economic calamity for Scottish workers represented by the Brexit process, the SNP together with Scottish Green Party put forward in their manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections the demand for a second independence referendum in the early part of the five year parliamentary session. The SNP and the more left wing Scottish Green Party won a clear parliamentary majority and following a governmental agreement between the two parties that saw two Green ministers enter government for the first time anywhere in Britain, Sturgeon and the SNP/SGP proceeded to prepare a Bill for an independence referendum regardless of whether the increasingly dysfunctional Westminster government approved.
But the legal basis for a referendum was not established and there was much caution in SNP circles including from Nicola Sturgeon that a constitutional referendum was the only option. The Scottish government legal officer therefore asked the UK Supreme Court for a ruling, that took place last autumn. The legal basis for referendums is actually quite well established in the UK state even though it is a relatively recent phenomenon (since 1973) and there were some legal hopes of a positive ruling. However the conservative judges in the UK Supreme Court took a particularly narrow legal view of the statute establishing the Scottish Parliament and the wider framework for referendums, and ruled unanimously (and unsurprisingly) against any unilateral action by the Scottish Parliament.
Given the stubborn and anti-democratic refusal of the UK Tories to approve a referendum, Nicola Sturgeon set out the case for ‘Plan B’ – using the next UK general election in Scotland as a ‘proxy’ referendum.
This is filled with problems and has created a huge debate within both the normally disciplined SNP and in the wider independence movement. A special conference of the SNP was due to take place on 19th March – reportedly it is being thrown into uncertainty by Sturgeon’s resignation, though Sturgeon herself actually gave the ability to take a decision on tactics unfettered by the impact on leadership as one of the reasons for the timing of her resignation.
While Sturgeon is seen in the UK media as unremitting in her opposition to Brexit and support for independence, the effect of her constitutionalist tactics has been to stall the independence movement within Scotland, which as recently as 2018 had been able to mobilise 100,000 on the streets and polls in 2021 showed a significant move towards a sustained if small majority. The lack of a sustained substantial majority for independence and the lack of a tactic to achieve independence from the SNP has had an effect on the movement. While still strong and while creating a clear electoral divide that has given the SNP between 40 and 50% of the vote in elections, it is not yet strong enough to achieve success. The dangers of a Quebec-style second lost referendum are significant.
Some in the independence movement have become frustrated and this led to a split in the SNP in 2021 when former SNP leader Alex Salmond set up a rival party, Alba, ostensibly to ‘game’ the Holyrood electoral system and win an overwhelming pro-independence majority. But since the unsuccessful prosecution of Salmond on sexual assault charges alleged to have been committed while he was First Minister, he has become a highly divisive figure. Even though found not guilty, his behaviour towards women was judged, even by himself, to be ‘inappropriate’ and this has had a significant effect on his popularity. The Alba party also became a repository for those engaging in conspiracy theorists who believed that Sturgeon conducted a vendetta against Salmond, while those who defend Sturgeon point out that she simply stood up for women’s rights in the workplace and had no part in the legal case. The Alba Party flopped electorally and has increasingly become a repository for reactionary politics – it strongly opposed the GRR Bill for example, and has joined the chorus of those accusing Sturgeon of being a ‘destroyer of women’s rights’.
So, the independence movement now faces a watershed. Despite the hopes of the Westminster Tories, Labour and the media, the movement is not going away even despite Sturgeon’s departure from centre stage. Young people including many of those who voted at 16 in the 2014 referendum are overwhelmingly supportive of independence, with polls showing 75%+ support and that reflects in electoral support for the SNP and Scottish Green Party. In fact among those of working age and those who have been through tertiary education, there is a clear majority in Scotland for independence. Polls show that those in the lowest paid jobs (working class) are more strongly in favour of independence than those in highly paid work (middle class) and again this maintains a strong SNP electoral support. But there is a large section of retired older and generally less educated people who are strongly against independence and these factors lead to the current 50/50 balance impasse.
The demographic changes however are in favour of a substantial majority for independence as a long term goal, despite all the short term routes being largely closed by Westminster.
The key question for the independence movement is how to ‘reboot’ the movement as a long term struggle and avoid the short termism of being side-tracked by the machinations of constitutional politics at Westminster and Holyrood. In order to build a permanent majority in Scottish society, the movement needs to focus on an alternative vision of life in an independent Scotland. This means ditching the ‘business-as-usual’ approach to Scottish independence that simply sees it as a continuation of the current SNP regime with more levers and recognition on the international stage.
Independence poses a paradigm shift, with the opportunity to develop working class interests and a different form of society that is more socially progressive and supports those affected by the ravages of capitalism. While there are aspirations for a single united movement, an ‘Independence Convention’ is put forward by Alex Salmond, there is a real problem with the toxic nature of those in the movement who have a socially conservative or reactionary position on issues such as trans rights that probably makes coexistence difficult if not impossible . This has been shown by the demise and disappearance of the ‘NOW Scotland’ movement and the decline in attendance for marches by ‘All Under One Banner’.
A key issue is the climate and ecological crisis. Most activists recognise that independence would give the opportunity to tackle Scotland’s economic over-dependence on fossil fuel extraction and give a more rapid transition to renewables. Friends of the Earth Scotland supports Scottish independence. The hosting of COP26 in 2021 in Glasgow gave the climate crisis a major focus. While most of the issues are controlled by the UK government at Westminster, the Scottish government and parliament does have an important role to play. In general the SNP, which championed oil extraction in the 1970s, has been slow to respond to the climate emergency seeing the jobs tied up in fossil industries as a priority. The Scottish government does lacks the legal and fiscal resources to effect a really significant ‘just transition’, even if it wanted to, but it can be a much more effective vehicle for making the case. Instead its initiatives tend to be marginal. But that doesn’t mean the battle should not be continued and there are active groups in Scotland protesting the UK government’s massive expansion of oil and gas fields, such as the Cambo and Rosebank fields, and continued dependence on fossil fuel industries. Groups include Climate Camp Scotland direct action group and Extinction Rebellion Scotland. Such campaigns cannot wait for Scottish independence or the SNP to get their policies right and must be taken up vigorously now. So far the involvement of the Scottish Greens in the government has been disappointing in its outcomes, free bus travel for young people up to 21 is a step forward but we are still a long way from a full free public transport system to tackle poverty and the climate crisis. The need is for the climate justice movement to head up mass protest at the UK government, while the need for independence and a strategy for ecological change needs developing and fighting for.
The opportunity is therefore presented to those groups such as the Radical Independence Campaign, Socialists for Independence and the Scottish Socialist Party to put aside tactical differences and seek to build a wing of the movement that supports strikes, defends abortion and trans rights, fights government cuts, challenges climate change and looks instead to putting the case for a better Scotland for the many. In doing so they could win support from those who might see Labour as the solution to 13 years of Tory rule at Westminster. In the longer term there needs to be a left wing party able to challenge both the SNP and Labour on the electoral terrain.
SNP elects a new leader
The SNP leadership election is the first contested election for nearly 20 years. However in 2004, the last time the party had to ballot its members, its membership was only 6,000 and it had won just 27 seats at Holyrood and 5 seats at Westminster, a very narrow pool. Now it has around 100,000 members, and has won 64 seats at Holyrood and 48 at Westminster.
Sturgeon has dominated the party in recent years such that there is no obvious successor so it seems likely there will be quite a few candidates coming forward.
A real and genuine fear is that the party could lurch to the right on social policy. The Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is seen as a challenger – despite being articulate, educated and a Gaellic speaker from the Highlands, she is fiscally conservative and an active member of the ‘Wee Frees’, the tiny conservative Free Church of Scotland that bans gay marriage among its congregation. She is on maternity leave currently and so was not required to vote on the GRR Bill, which she had voiced opposition to. It would be a real problem for Scottish LGBTQ politics if she were to get elected, as would a proxy candidacy for her from Ash Regan, the only SNP minister who resigned over the GRR Bill.
Much more likely is a duller male candidate. John Swinney, the current Deputy, has been leader in the past but would not be a particularly impressive candidate. More likely is the equally dull but considered ‘safe pair of hands’ or even ‘continuity Sturgeon’ figure of Angus Robertson, former leader of the party at Westminster and current Constitution and Culture Secretary. However other candidates could emerge and there will be significant jockeying for position in the days ahead, though the candidate will have to be an MSP due to the role of First Minister, so that rules out any of the Westminster figures.
The SNP constitution states the election takes 133 days but that is almost certainly likely to be shortened.
In the recent period of impasse over independence, attention across Scotland has focussed more on the cost-of-living crisis afflicting working people across the UK state. Soaring energy bills are causing massive instability and wages are not keeping pace with rapidly rising inflation on basic foodstuffs leading to the current wave of strikes – of which the most prominent current examples in Scotland are school teachers, civil servants, postal and rail workers and university staff. The SNP administration at Holyrood has attempted to buy off some sections of the public sector workforce from striking, for example in the National Health Service (NHS) and on the ScotRail train franchise it now runs, by offering slightly higher pay offers than those employed through the Westminster government. A temporary rent freeze has given some respite on costs, but this has recently been rolled back. The Scottish Government has a cash-limited budget allocated by Westminster, no borrowing powers and only limited tax raising powers of its own. That cash is running on empty and seems to have reached an impasse with the current claim for 10% pay rises by Scottish teachers. The school strikes on 28 February/1 March are now hugely important as a test of the union resistance and the administration in Holyrood.
The Scottish government budget from 1 April faces many significant demands, with the priority for health services in the wake of the covid pandemic being unavoidable. This has led to huge pressures on other aspects of the budget particularly those for local councils. The SNP minority administration at the largest council in Glasgow faces a staggering £100 million pounds of cuts to jobs and services. The council budget crisis is also causing tensions between the SNP and their Scottish Green Party allies with councillors expressing worries about the impact of the cuts.
For the Scottish Labour Party the current strike wave and the likelihood of council cuts has seemed like a lifeline to rebuild support among working class voters. In a totally opposite way to Starmer’s UK Labour Party at Westminster, the Scottish Labour Party has urged its elected members to support strike pickets and protests called by unions.
However across Scotland, 30 out of the 32 councils have no single party in a majority. The UK Labour Party instruction is that there should be no coalition with the SNP as this would be seen to endanger the chances of Labour winning support among English voters at the next UK general election. In fact polls indicate that most voters in England, including Labour voters, are actually pretty relaxed about the question of Scottish independence seeing it as a question largely for Scottish people. The Labour Party in Wales has a governmental agreement with the pro-independence Plaid Cymru and has permitted a governmental commission on the constitution to consider independence, with no apparent adverse effect on electoral support for Labour.
The refusal to make any agreement with the SNP, despite them holding nearly twice as many council seats as Labour, means that in council areas where Labour is stronger, typically in second place, they have made agreements to take control with the Tories and other unionists, including in one council a fringe ultra right wing party. This tactic seems certain to backfire as some Labour councillors are forced into making cuts, while screaming that it’s all the ‘bad SNP’s fault’.
A fundamental change has taken place since 2014 in Labour support in Scotland. While the press is hyping up the prospects for Labour in the aftermath of Sturgeon’s resignation, the reality on the ground is somewhat different. Even with a much duller leader like Angus Robertson, the SNP will still be a formidable electoral force. A small decline in support for both the SNP and independence is likely, but the SNP is miles ahead of Labour and Tory support, particularly among young people and workers. Labour’s desperate support for the union, with Starmer routinely appearing with not one but two union flags behind him, does not endear them to Scottish voters any longer.
Many of Labour’s proposals in their General Election manifesto will seem a pale imitation of already existing SNP policies at Holyrood – Starmer is even prepared to drop Corbyn’s opposition to student tuition fees, a policy that was long swept away by the SNP. Every time Starmer goes on TV promising to end a few Tory policies in England, Scots voters will think little of it. Starmer’s tepid policies on energy and support for continuing domination by profiteering oil and gas corporations will impress no-one. The tactics of Scottish Labour depend entirely on a collapsing Tory vote that has nowhere else to go but into Labour. But there seems little chance of them eating into the mammoth SNP vote that they need to restore their fortunes. Labour has sunk to the low watermark of one seat and could well win a half dozen more (though every seat they gain from the SNP, the SNP are likely to gain one from Tories). The return of right wing Labour has-beens like Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy, the architects of ‘Better Together’ and the loss of 40 seats in 2015, is unsurprising as they sniff the prospect of seats in a Labour government at Westminster.
The resignation of Sturgeon represents a sea change in Scottish politics. She is an adept politician in every way – highly principled in some respects, but deeply tied to constitutionalism, fiscal conservatism and constrained in other respects. But the predictions that her departure means the end of the battle for independence or for socially progressive politics is wide of the mark. There is a small danger of a lurch to the right, but more likely is a continuation of SNP dominance but failure to break the impasse. Labour’s electoral prospects will probably rise at the margins, they could scarcely get lower. But the radical wing of the independence movement needs to grasp the mettle – focus on working class economic interests, progressive politics, and an alternative vision of Scotland to neo-liberal capitalism.
EVENT – ECUADOR: Behind the indigenous mass uprisings and ecosocialist struggles
ecosocialist.scot is holding an educational and discussion meeting in Glasgow and online on Wednesday 22 February 2023 7pm-9pm (19.00-21.00 GMT). The leaflet for the meeting is available in PDF form here and reproduced below. You don’t need to book to attend the meeting in person, just turn up! But if you wish to join us online please use the Eventbrite link below to get the Zoom link. As this is an educational discussion you may find it useful to consult the reading list on the link below.
ECUADOR: Behind the indigenous mass uprisings and ecosocialist struggles
Come and discuss with a feminist and ecosocialist activist from Ecuador (In-person Glasgow, online via Zoom)
Wednesday 22 February 2023. 7pm-9pm (19.00-21.00 GMT)
icafe (upstairs meeting room), Ingram Street, Glasgow G1 1EX
(5 minutes walk from Glasgow Queen Street/Central stations Google Maps Link)
The Indigenous-led uprising in Ecuador in October 2019, and the similar national strike mobilisation in June 2022, have been two of the most dramatic, and successful, in a wave of big struggles and protest movements that swept the world in recent years – from Hong Kong, Iraq and Lebanon, to Chile, Colombia and now Peru and Iran. Thousands of indigenous people went onto the streets of Ecuador to demand reforms in agricultural payment, to tackle the cost-of-living and poverty, to defend indigenous communities and to protect the natural environment from destruction, exploitation and profit-driven extractivism. The indigenous movement marched on the national capital, winning support from workers’ organisations, from students and from the womens’ movement.
They forced concessions from a neo-liberal government and vowed to continue the struggle.
In some parts of Latin America the semi-insurrections have gone alongside, and partly encouraged, the return of progressive governments in much of the region including recently in Colombia and even Brazil. But the struggles have often gone far beyond the limits of reform-minded governments and posed even bigger questions about the global order. In Ecuador, especially, they have shown something that is also vitally important now to activists in Scotland and other parts of Europe: how an immediate struggle to defend communities against rising prices and an attack on their basic living standards, can both develop a dynamic that is clearly anti-capitalist, and connect with the national and international environmental struggles to defend our planet, our Pachamama.
Maria Isabel Altamirano is a sociologist, community organiser and ecosocialist who has been active for a number of years in Ecuador in the feminist movement and working in Indigenous communities in both the Highlands and the Amazon region. She was in the midst of the uprisings, both in 2019 and last June. She is now in Glasgow and will give a short introduction on what happened and its context, and then open up a discussion on what we can learn from the struggle.
This meeting will be held in Glasgow in person but also available can be joined online, with full participation and discussion including questions. (Please note the meeting will be in English but the speaker will speak in Spanish with translation – we are unable to provide simultaneous translation during the discussion).
The earthquake that hit parts of the Turkish and Syrian states on Monday is a tragic disaster for millions of people in the region, writes Mike Picken. Tens of thousands are already known to have died and the scale of human disaster is unfolding every hour.
Many of the worst affected populations are in towns, cities and villages with large Kurdish populations. Aid is being mobilised by states and governments around the world, but there is a big issue about the Turkish state government and the officially recognised Syrian state governments being used to coordinate emergency support.
The Turkish government of President Erdogan has sought to repress its Kurdish population for decades and with an election originally scheduled for May has increasingly been attempting political attacks and bans on Kurdish-supporting parties and taking military action in Kurdish areas, including invading and attacking Kurdish communities within the neighbouring states of Iraq and Syria prior to the earthquake. The declaration of a state of emergency gives the Turkish state massive military powers in the affected regions (the Turkish state has the second largest army in NATO after the USA).
The Syrian dictatorship of Assad, backed by the Russian state, has waged a brutal war for a decade with the help of Russian forces against all opposition to the despotic regime, including the Kurdish liberated zone of Rojava that stands as a beacon of hope.
The Turkish state also has an appalling record of mismanagement of funds for emergencies and is now apparently blocking independent aid entering Turkey. The progressive Turkish party, the pro-Kurdish HDP under threat of being banned, has issued a briefing to Members of the European Parliament that we are publishing below that warns of the role of the Turkish government and the steps European powers need to take to ensure aid goes to those who need it.
Kurdish fighters were the key element of the resistance to Daesh/ISIS in the region in recent years, but the progressive Kurdish movement is under attack by governments around the world who accept the Turkish and Syrian states’ repressive behaviours.
Aid must be independent of the Turkish and Syrian states
The Kurdish community in the region cannot rely on the Turkish or Syrian states to come to their aid in this disaster. It is therefore urging that solidarity and aid pass through appropriate NGO bodies, particularly Heyva Sor (the Kurdish ‘Red Crescent/Moon’ humanitarian group). Getting funds to Heyva Sor, which is repressed by the Turkish state, is difficult. We don’t yet know whether the Disasters Emergency Committee of 14 UK charities is prepared to work with independent Kurdish organisations or whether it will accept the veto of the Turkish state.
So, we are therefore calling for fundraising efforts in Scotland and the rest of Britain to support the efforts of the London-based registered charity the Refugee and Workers Cultural Association which has launched an appeal for fundraising via gofundme as the quickest way of getting monies to support Kurdish and other communities on the ground. It is also possible to donate from the UK directly to Heyva Sor via its German account. Links for both these appeals are below.
FERHAT AKGUL is organising this fundraiser on behalf of REFUGEE WORKERS’ CULTURAL ASSOCIATION.
At Gik-Der we are dismayed and heartbroken to hear of the terrible earthquakes that have affected various cities in Turkey, in which thousands of people have tragically lost their lives. Many of our members and wider community in the UK are from areas where the devastation has been worst, and we note with a solemn heart that relatives and those dear to us are among those who have been killed. As we come to terms with this grief and loss, we are equally outraged at the government’s failure to act with any degree of care and decisiveness in preparation for such events, despite continued warnings from the community. Natural disasters like this are not simply acts of God – the devastation and destruction, the loss of life and limb, are unforgivable failures of a state which places no value on lives.
The first and most important foundation for any such struggle is solidarity, and for this reason, we are immediately starting a campaign to fundraise for relief for those effected by this tragedy.
Funds will be sent directly to organisations working on the ground to support the victims.
Update by FERHAT AKGUL, Organiser
Donations are reaching out to those effected. Teams we work with our working tirelessly day and night supporting the victims of the earthquake, even clearing snowy roads to reach the aid to those in need.
HDP Briefing to Members of the European Parliament
Instead of monopolising aid, which given the Erdoğan government’s track record of financial mismanagement will simply generate more chaos and bureaucracy, we recommend the following seven-point plan to Brussels:
The European Parliament and the EEAS should, through resolutions, delegations and diplomatic notes, call on the Turkish government to allow all civil society and political actors to participate in humanitarian relief efforts without facing politically-motivated obstruction;
The member states of the European Council should establish and facilitate a joint crisis and recovery group to coordinate relief and rescue operations. The group should include Turkish state and civil society actors such as HD, TTB, KESK, DISK and Egitim-Sen, as well as international institutions.
Grants made to the Turkish state in the context of the crisis should be subject to constant scrutiny to prevent nepotism, embezzlement, and misuse of aid funds.
It should be made easier for aid organised by European charitable initiatives or smaller aid organisations to cross Turkey’s borders.
On 8 February, President Erdoğan declared a three-month state of emergency in ten provinces affected by the earthquake. The government is seeking parliamentary approval for this unprecedented measure. This is unnecessary and will most likely serve to further weaken the opposition in the country, which already faces liquidation in the form of ongoing legal efforts to ban the HDP. The EU and international organisations, should strongly emphasise that it is not necessary to declare a state of emergency and concomitant rule of law, while pointing out that this difficult transition can be managed through alternative legislative mechanisms.
In addition to the political and humanitarian crisis resulting from ten years of war, Syria has suffered major damage in the recent earthquake. Due to Damascus’ obstruction of aid to opposition-held areas, the main routes for aid to enter Syria are via neighboring states. Therefore, it is recommended that all border crossings to Syria be opened so that humanitarian aid can also reach Syria via neighboring states, reaching all regions of Syria including those out of Syrian Government control.
The consequences of this earthquake are long-reaching in nature. Millions of people are affected, not only because of the earthquake, but more generally because Turkish society is in a severe economic crisis. Therefore, longer-term support is needed to help people rebuild their communities and homes. Planning longer-term reconstruction assistance for Turkey should be an crucial issue for the EU and international institutions not only in the present crisis, but also in the months and years ahead.
If you have any further questions about the situation after the earthquake in Turkey or Syria, please do not hesitate to contact the crisis coordination office of the HDP
Earthquake Appeal – Kurdistan Solidarity Network (England/Wales)
Thousands in Turkey and Syria are still trapped from the earthquake and are sending messages to loved ones from under the rubble. The region affected is largely Kurdish. Please donate to Heyva Sor (the Kurdish Red Crescent). They are the main Kurdish charity on the ground carrying out rescue operations right now.
“Today, 6 February, an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 occurred in the Pazarcik district of Maraş city in Northern Kurdistan. After that, there was a second earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 in Nurdagi district of Dilok and a third earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 in Islahiye district of Dilok.
These strong earthquakes mainly affected the cities of Amed, Malatya, Urfa, Semsur, Dilok and many other areas in northern Kurdistan, the cities of Adana, Hatay, Kilis, Osmaniye and Kayseri in Turkey, and the areas of Cizre, Euphrates and Shehba in northern and eastern Syria. The earthquake also affected the surrounding countries. As a result of the earthquake, hundreds of citizens have lost their lives and thousands are injured. Thousands of people are still under the rubble. Many houses and buildings have been destroyed, with winter conditions making rescue operations difficult.” – Heyva Sor
More from Heyva Sor and a link to a Direct Paypal donation, or the bank transfer details to their European branch in Germany:
As of today, Monday 7th, the day after the earthquakes the death toll has reached 6,000 with the search for survivors ongoing. With at least 8,000 people rescued from debris in Turkey with 380,000 taking refuge in shelters.
Please donate what you can to the ongoing rescue efforts, and share this appeal as wide as you can.
“Our country does not deserve this cruelty – we stand in solidarity with our people with all our strength”
Statement by the Workers Party of Turkey
Upon receiving the news of the earthquake that shook our country this morning, we in the Workers’ Party of Turkey took immediate action, and rapidly established a Disaster Coordination Center. Since then, we reached out to many compatriots in the earthquake zone and coordinated humanitarian aid coming from citizens in other provinces.
So far, the TİP Disaster Coordination Center has received more than 1500 calls for help. The number of calls reveal the severity of the situation we are facing.
– > In many neighborhoods of the Hatay province, especially in Defne and Samandağ, as well as in provinces Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep and Adıyaman, people have been left to their fate in the harsh winter conditions.
– > In these areas, many buildings, old and new, subcontracted via state tenders under the AKP government -public institutions such as hospitals, dormitories, hotels, AFAD and municipality buildings- collapsed. The pro-government construction companies, and the ministries and directorates which awarded these tenders to them are responsible for the death of the young, the children, and the patients. We demand the prosecution of those who caused the death and suffering of thousands of citizens.
– > Against all the protests of Hatay residents, experts, and environmental activists, Hatay Airport was built on the Amik Plain, and is now unusable. With the cities’ highways and viaducts damaged, it is now impossible to reach Hatay, and tens of thousands of people cannot receive aid.
– > Institutions such as the Turkish Armed Forces and AFAD are tasked with search and rescue and providing food during emergencies. However, under the AKP rule, they have been systematically disempowered, their staff and personnel reduced, and thus they have been rendered useless in search and rescue operations. Besides, many specialized, volunteer search and rescue groups were not allowed to get involved because they couldn’t get the necessary certification issued by the pro-AKP bureaucracy.
– > In the aftermath of the massive earthquake of 17 August 1999 in northwestern Turkey almost 25 years ago, the “earthquake taxes” collected nationwide were not spent on preparing for earthquakes and ensuring the safety of the citizens, but on roads and bridges that the AKP has built in order to generate political gains and enrich pro-government contractors.
– > Our country was hit by two very severe earthquakes during the coldest days of winter. Effective search and rescue in the earthquake region, especially in Hatay, Kahramanmaraş and Adıyaman, is virtually impossible. Besides, there is a lack of food and water supply. Our citizens are trying to rescue their relatives from the rubble by digging with their hands, while those who survived struggle in the freezing cold.
– > Our country has been facing a great challenge for hours since the two devastating earthquakes. But the state, the government institutions, specialized experts, means for transportation and sustenance are nowhere to be seen.
The people of our country do not deserve to be abandoned to such despair, nor do they deserve the remorselessness of the government.
We will never forget and never forgive those who abandoned our people to this fate.
We have mobilized with all our power to stand with our fellow citizens who have been left to fend for themselves in these harsh winter conditions.
Our people will heal their wounds through solidarity.
Our fellow citizens will never be alone and helpless.
What do you do when you are thousands of miles from your family, writes Sarah Glynn on Bella Caledonia, and their phone stops ringing and you don’t know if they are lacking a signal or buried under rubble? This is the situation facing very many diaspora families with roots in the extensive region devastated by Monday morning’s earthquake. Ugur Cagritekin, from Edinburgh’s Kurdish community, told me that around a dozen of his close friends had already flown back to Turkey to try and find their relatives. Many members of his sister in law’s family are beneath the ruins.
Those remaining in Scotland, and in other parts of the Kurdish and Turkish diaspora, are working frantically to try and organise aid deliveries to the worst affected regions. Besides damaged roads and severe winter weather, this task is made much more difficult by the Turkish authorities who insist that all aid must be delivered through AFAD, the government’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority. AFAD has been shown to be woefully inadequate for the task it faces, and there are also well-founded concerns over its priorities. Government bodies are known to favour government supporters, and there is no confidence that AFAD will distribute aid where it is most needed. Rather than allow the evolution of local support networks, this top-down approach is designed to make people dependent on, and grateful to, President Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). A record of government corruption makes many wary that aid distribution will be co-opted to boost the image of the government.
Hatice (not her real name), another Edinburgh resident, told me that she has been working with contacts in Turkey to try and organise the delivery of essential equipment that can help some of the hundreds of thousands of people who have had to leave their homes and are struggling to survive in the bitter cold. They are looking for vehicles that can travel through the snow, and for routes where they can avoid having their supplies confiscated by AFAD. Hatice, in common with a very high proportion of Edinburgh’s Kurds, hales from Elbistan. Their hometown, which was very close to the epicentre of the second earthquake that followed eight hours after the first one, has suffered severe damage. Buildings that had cracked with the first quake were brought down completely by the second. Hatice’s mother-in-law is lost in her collapsed home, as are many of her cousins and friends.
Monday’s earthquakes have devasted ten Turkish provinces that are home to around thirteen million people: well over twice the population of Scotland. They have also caused massive destruction in Syria, especially in government-controlled areas and areas controlled by Turkey (including occupied Afrîn). Autonomous North and East Syria is less badly affected, and their Syrian Democratic forces have offered to provide help to all other parts of Syria – however I only have space to look at Turkey here. The scale of the disaster is terrifying. Thousands are already confirmed dead, but with so many more trapped in the destroyed buildings, and the vast majority of these buildings yet to see any rescue equipment, the number is expected to rise into the tens of thousands. Some fear the final figure may be over 100,000.
Three days after the initial earthquake, which caught people asleep in their beds, many places, and especially smaller towns and villages, have yet to see any sign of official help. Local people are trying to remove the rubble that is burying their families and neighbours with their bare hands, but without the equipment to cut and lift concrete this is often impossible. Chances of survival in the sub-zero temperatures are eking away with every passing minute.
Even for those who have escaped the initial destruction, conditions are extremely difficult. The risks from the many aftershocks, as well as dangerous structural damage, makes it unsafe for people to stay in their homes, but AFAD has done very little to supply them with the basic shelter, warmth, and sustenance that they need to survive. Many places are without water and electricity. Checking that surviving buildings are safe for people to return to will be a massive task in itself.
Social media is full of desperate pleas for help, and anger at the absence of the authorities that should be providing it. The response from the government has been to clamp down on people sharing news of what is happening. In an angry television message on Tuesday, President Erdoğan announced a State of Emergency in the affected provinces. The main effect of this, like the national emergency following the 2016 coup attempt, will be to allow much greater government control and suppression of criticism. Erdoğan told viewers that he is keeping a note of all the ‘lies and distortions’ and will open his notebook ‘when the time comes’. Already, twitter has been restricted – although it was being used to provide vital information for search and rescue. Journalists have been detained while reporting from the rubble in Diyarbakir, and investigations are being opened against TV commentators and social media users.
The one organisation that has the equipment, skills, and competence to make a serious impact on the rescue efforts, the Turkish army, remains in readiness to invade Syria, but only a relatively small force has been deputed to help the rescue operation.
Prospects are grim and hopes are fading for the tens of thousands still buried.
A natural disaster in a political context
Before looking at the huge mobilisation by local people in Turkey, and at what people in Scotland can do to help, I want to examine the political context that has massively amplified the horror of this natural disaster. Of course, the focus must be on humanity, but we do need to understand the politics that makes humanity so difficult to achieve, and the political forces that are seeking to exploit the situation for their own, very inhumane, ends.
This natural disaster has taken place in the context of a lethal cocktail of ruthless neoliberal crony capitalism, political corruption, anti-Kurdish racism (which has left infrastructure underdeveloped and attacked political and civic organisation), and an increasingly dictatorial authoritarian regime that will not work with others and will not broach criticism.
Across the affected region, blocks of flats have collapsed like houses of cards. Much of Turkey’s recent economic development was based on a building boom, with contracts awarded to government supporters. Turkey is crossed by major geological fault lines, but in the rush for profits, there was no room for such niceties as observing earthquake design regulations. As a friend who works in disaster planning put it to me, you can have a lot of good regulations and codes, but ‘the snag is in the governance’ and politicians feel that enforcing regulations is not a vote-winning priority and that nothing will happen on their watch.
The neglect of earthquake preparedness has come from the top. After the 1999 Istanbul earthquake, the government of the time brought in what was commonly known as the ‘Earthquake Tax’, which was supposed to pay for disaster preparation. This is estimated to have brought in £3.8 billion pounds, but there is no evidence that this has been spent on making anything safer.
It was not as if the government had lacked warnings. The Chairman of the Chamber of Geological Engineers has stated that they had not only expected an earthquake of this kind but had also submitted a report to the president and government on what should be done in preparation, which had received no response. He described the policies of uncontrolled development as ‘rent and plunder’.
Despite the palpable and massive failure of the government’s disaster response, Erdoğan shows no sense of responsibility, let alone contrition. On Wednesday, when he finally visited Maraş, at the centre of the first earthquake, he told a survivor, ‘The damage is done. These things are part of destiny’s plan.’
We have seen plenty of evidence of this disregard of safety planning before – notably in the lack of vital planes to fight 2021’s forest fires, when, too, Erdoğan seemed more concerned to stamp out negative publicity than extinguish the flames; and also in the mining disasters at Soma in 2014 and Bartın last October, when warnings of dangerous conditions were not heeded, and Erdoğan also provoked anger by putting the blame on ‘destiny’.
The abject inadequacy of both preparedness and response has not spared any of the cities hit, whatever their ethnic makeup or political leanings, but it is also significant that the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey, where much of the damage occurred, has been purposefully left behind in infrastructural development by successive governments. And, in the places where the population voted for the pro-Kurdish leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), they have had their elected mayors removed – and often imprisoned – and civic structures that the mayors supported closed down.
When people most need to work together and combine resources, Erdoğan is terrified of allowing any involvement from other political parties in case it earns them support. Again, this is not a new phenomenon. The central government confiscated aid for Covid victims collected by the Peoples’ Republican Party (CHP) mayors of Istanbul and Ankara. An openly HDP delivery of aid to the earthquake areas was seized by the government.
Faced with a disaster of this scale and a response organisation that is clearly unable to cope, most people would have expected the government to turn to the military – the second biggest army in NATO: all the more so as Erdoğan is looking for a popular victory, and what could be more universally popular than an effective response to a major disaster? That he has opted for only a very limited deployment may also be a consequence of his fear of being upstaged. Despite major purges, many in the army do not endorse his turn against Turkish secularism.
The dreadful failures in the government response can also be seen as a product of the arrogance of dictatorship, where one man cannot oversee everything, but others are afraid to criticise: the emperor’s new clothes syndrome.
Erdoğan’s desperation to hold onto power at all costs makes him prioritise perception over reality. The Turkish government has increasingly resorted to stifling freedom of speech, and last year’s Disinformation Law has been widely condemned as a vehicle for censorship and the criminalisation of journalism. Although making political predictions for Turkey has become even more difficult, many must be worrying that if he sees his support falling, Erdoğan might use the emergency situation to postpone the forthcoming election.
The scale of the Turkish Governments failures and of their impacts is staggering, but in trying to understand what could have gone so wrong, I found myself thinking of the Grenfell fire. Turkey’s disaster may be a thousand times bigger, but there are many similarities in the underlying forces and in the attempt to manage perceptions rather than face responsibility.
Inevitably, the lack of effective response – and in many places any response at all – has produced a swell of anger, especially among those who have waited in vain for help to rescue family members trapped beneath the debris. On Wednesday in Adiyaman, where no help had arrived more than two days after the earthquake, the Minister of Transport, and the local governor fled in their cars rather than face the angry crowd. The AKP mayor of Kirikhan has damned his party’s government in front of the collapsed building that buried his children. There is a new axiom being shared round Turkey: It is not earthquakes that kill people, it is states that kill people.
Solidarity from the grassroots
In contrast to the state’s failures, organisations across Turkey have sprung into action, from political parties to community groups. Cars and trucks are bringing aid supplies from all over the country, organised by local groups or even private individuals.
The big municipalities run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party have been coordinating large collections and deliveries of basic aid, with the CHP leader announcing that they will not accept bureaucratic obstacles even if they ‘have to be arrested for finding bread and blankets’. And the HDP, which has fewer financial resources and has been deprived of municipal power, is also managing to get deliveries through despite government obstruction. (The scale of the relief effort is going to make government control increasingly difficult to implement.) 93 trucks of supplies organised by the HDP had reached the earthquake area by Wednesday morning, and Ugur Cagritekin told me that they had received news that five trucks had reached Elbistan where supplies were being delivered to people in need through the coordination of the HDP and the local Alevi centre. They want to take aid to villages as well as the town centre. Some people in the villages have moved from their homes into the relative safety of their more lightly constructed stables, where they can also benefit from the warmth of the animals, but there has been no help from outside.
The HDP’s strength lies in in its ability to mobilise and organise its large network of supporters and sympathisers and like-minded community organisations. As soon as they heard about the earthquake, the party dropped all other plans, set up a central coordination centre, and dispatched leading members to the affected area. Local election centres were transformed into coordination centres, while the youth organisation concentrated on rescue work. They put out calls for solidarity and for people with shelter and food to share with those without, and they helped create a framework to allow people’s natural solidarity to find direction.
I spoke with a volunteer at Rosa Women’s Association in Diyarbakir as she took a break from preparing soup and tea for 200 people taking shelter from the dangers of damaged buildings. She told me that their city (the unofficial capital of Turkish Kurdistan) benefitted from being left wing and thus easy to organise. Even in relatively accessible Diyarbakir, where the devastation is patchy, official relief efforts are seriously inadequate; however, although the HDP mayor and council have been removed (and the mayor imprisoned), HDP organisation remains extremely strong.
Their earthquake relief coordination is the HDP’s philosophy of grassroots organisation and control put into action. When Ertuğrul Kürkçü, the HDP’s honorary president, writes about ‘transforming earthquake solidarity into a social movement’, he is not talking about an abstract idea but a political practice.
Kurdish communities outside Turkey have wanted to send essential supplies too, but there are reports of deliveries being turned back for lack of documentation, or being taken over by AFAD at the border. The consensus, across the Kurdish diaspora, is to call for financial donations to the Kurdish Red Crescent, Hevya Sor, which operates throughout the affected areas – and of course helps everyone regardless of background. Hevya Sor have the contacts on the ground that enable them to get the aid through to where it is needed, independent of government meddling. So far, this fundraising has been focused on Kurdish communities, but the many other people who want to help and are uncertain who to trust, should be reassured that this is an organisation supported by those with most reason to be concerned.
To donate in from the UK please send to Hevya Sor’s German bank account or donate via Paypal:
Scottish and Irish solidarity against the UK state
Republican Socialist Platform (RSP) members from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee this year joined the annual Bloody Sunday march in Derry. Below we reproduce the text of a leaflet they distributed from the RSP website.
The anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Derry reminds us of the depths to which the British ruling class will sink to preserve their UK state. One major difference between 1972 and 2023, though, is that they now face a far wider challenge.
By 1998, in the face of various national democratic challenges with Irish republicans at the fore, the British ruling class had to fall-back on ‘devolution all round’ in their attempt to hold the UK together.
Today, the unionist/loyalist bloc created by the Good Friday Agreement has lost its majority in the bi-sectarian Stormont Assembly; Scottish unionists are a minority at Holyrood and Westminster; and in Wales, support for independence is growing rapidly.
What has not changed is the British ruling class’s contempt for democratic change, including the right of national self-determination. To get around their shrinking support, they turn to the most reactionary political forces and the anti-democratic Crown Powers of the UK state.
Brexit has paved the way for Westminster’s assault on trade union, consumer and environmental rights and draconian new laws attacking migrants and asylum seekers. To appease reactionary unionists, the Tories are undermining their own NI Protocol.
In December 2022, the UK Supreme Court overruled plans for a new Scottish independence referendum, despite this receiving majority support in the 2021 Holyrood election. The very next month, the Tories blocked Scotland’s progressive Gender Recognition Reform Bill, passed by a cross-party super-majority of MSPs.
It is clear is that British ruling class not only have no intention of conceding greater self-determination, they are now attempting to roll-back even the limited democratic concessions of 1998. The British Labour Party will do nothing to stop them.
The British monarchy plays a crucial role in fronting the UK state’s Crown Powers. We are witnessing a media offensive, led by the BBC, to reinforce the UK state around Charlie and his dysfunctional family. The planned coronation in May is the centrepiece of this anti-democratic offensive.
The Republican Socialist Platform, as part of the Radical Independence Campaign in Scotland, is working with Our Republic and others to hold a major republican demonstration on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill on May 6th, the same day as the coronation.
There is already a formidable campaign in Wales against the humiliating investiture of a new Prince of Wales. We encourage and want to support more protests across these islands against the coronation in May.
RSP members are here in Derry and Belfast to seek support in developing an alliance, based on internationalism from below, to break up the deeply reactionary UK state.
Outrage as UK Tories attack Trans Rights and Scottish Devolution
Across the British state, writes Mike Picken, there is a growing opposition to the Conservative UK government’s unprecedented blocking of a Scottish Parliament legislative Bill on transgender rights passed last month – the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
After weeks of misleading propaganda about what the Bill says and its implications for UK wide legislation, on 17 January the Tory government at Westminster announced they were going for the so-called ‘nuclear’ option of blocking the Bill using a ‘section 35 order’.
The ‘section 35’ mechanism is part of the 1998 legislation that created the Scottish Parliament and was only ever intended to be used as a last resort, if there was a grave threat of the Scottish Parliament trampling over other rights across the UK. During the passage of the 1998 legislation it was dubbed the ‘Governor-General’ clause, a reference to the British Empire’s colonial controllers, as it gives total discretion to a government minister to overrule democratic decisions. It has never been used before now and the legal basis presented by the UK government has been widely described as completely flimsy.
‘Section 35’ is being used to overturn the Scottish Bill as a political move by a reactionary government against progressive legislation, not because of an infringement of rights.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) government, based in the devolved Scottish Parliament have vigorously opposed the Tories’ move to overturn law, rightly describing it as an ‘outrage’ and a flagrant abuse of the rights of trans people in order to promote the Tory ‘culture wars’ as well as to attack the current devolution arrangements.
The SNP are strongly supported in this by the Scottish Green Party, who have been championing trans rights and who made a cooperation agreement in 2021 with the SNP explicitly to support the Scottish government moves to introduce this new legislation. Between them these parties have won around half the Scottish electorate in elections in recent years, while the Tories have slumped with polls showing them currently at around 15%.
Labour leadership equivocates while Labour members protest
The official Labour Party opposition in the UK Westminster parliament, led by Keir Starmer, has been appalling and tacitly gives succour to the Tories’ move to block the legislation. This is despite Labour party members in Scotland and across the UK also supporting and championing the legislation and despite Labour’s historic support for devolution to Scotland. Starmer made reactionary statements in a BBC TV interview on 15 January against the Bill’s extension of support for trans self-ID to 16 and 17 year olds that have been condemned by leading figures within the Scottish Party.
Labour Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) who voted for the legislation and, so far, a Labour party constituency organisation in Edinburgh have challenged Starmer’s equivocal position and defended both trans rights and the democratic rights of the Scottish Parliament.
In the UK Westminster Parliament, Labour are the ‘Official Opposition’, but their solitary Scottish Labour MP there and the rest of Labour’s Front Bench leadership abstained in the parliamentary vote on the section 35 Order.
But in the devolved Welsh government the Labour Party’s First Minister, Mark Drakeford, the only elected leader of a Labour government in any part the UK union state, had welcomed the Scottish legislation and said he wanted the Welsh parliament, Senedd Cymru, to have similar powers to Scotland and to enact the same legislation. Drakeford went further in opposing the overturning of the Scottish Parliament Bill saying that the Welsh Government might back the Scottish Government in court.
Other Labour members across the UK have condemned the Tory attack on the LGBTQ+ community in Britain, with prominent journalist and writer Owen Jones calling Labour ‘absolutely pathetic’.
Several Labour Members of the Westminster Parliament (MPs) also protested in the chamber at the Tories’ attack on trans rights and Scottish democracy. But only 11 Labour MPs had enough principles to defy the leadership and vote against the section 35 Order, while the vast majority including the entire UK leadership abstained. However, Westminster MPs of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Alliance Party and SDLP in Ireland indicated their strong support for the Scottish Parliament’s legislation and voted against the attempt to overturn it.
In wider society, particularly in Scotland, there has been strong opposition. Fifteen prominent and significant organisations supporting women’s rights in Scotland issued a joint statement opposing the blocking of the Bill by the Tories.
Part of a global development in trans rights – rejected by UK Tories
Across Europe and the rest of the world, other parliaments have introduced similar processes of ‘self-ID’ for trans people to that legislated in Scotland, including the 26-county Irish state and more recently the Spanish state. The World Health Organisation and the United Nations have welcomed moves in states to remove medical processes and support self-ID. These processes of gender self-ID by other states were previously recognised by the UK government, but as part of their rapid shift to the right the Tories have not only vetoed the Bill in Scotland but are also threatening to withdraw recognition of international systems of trans self-ID.
This is a significant component of the increasingly toxic direction of the Tory Party advocacy of ‘culture wars’ against progressive social policies that has followed in the aftermath of the Brexit process. It is a direction that is also being followed by the leadership of the UK Labour Party.
Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill would advance trans rights
The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed by the devolved Scottish Parliament, following six long years of debate, on 22 December 2022 by a two thirds majority of 86 to 39 votes. The Bill simplifies the process whereby a trans person living or born in Scotland could obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) to change their gender on official documentation. It would change the process to a system of self-identification for living in their new identity for three months, rather than the current complex process of medical diagnosis of mental ill health and the need to live in a new gender for two years. The legislation would also apply to 16 and 17 year olds enabling them to obtain a GRC for the first time, with some slightly different procedures and safeguards to those of adults. Under Scottish devolved law 16 and 17 year olds already have the right to vote in local and Scottish elections and have long had the right to marry or enter civil partnership without parental approval (none of which apply in Tory-run England). This enabling of rights of young people in Scotland is also part of the divergence between mainstream Scottish opinion and the Tory ‘culture wars’ against.
Gender recognition processes have been designated in Scotland as part of a devolved system of civil registration. Part of the Tory argument is that Scotland should not have separate systems. But as the SNP rightly point out Scotland has always had a different legal system and different laws over, for example, marriage/civil partnership and divorce.
In the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, the manifestos of the SNP and in fact all the parties elected, including Scottish Labour, committed to introducing new legislation for gender self-ID and for the SNP this has been an issue first promised over six years . The SNP did not quite win a majority in Parliament under the system of Proportional Representation used in Scotland, but together with the Greens they have formed a stable majority government that introduced the Bill. The Bill went through extensive discussion and the largest public consultation process ever held by the Scottish Parliament and was supported by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.
Right wing groups opposed to the Bill, fictitiously claimed that it would weaken women’s rights and particularly alleged that it would be used by violent men to attack women. The Scottish government led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon vigorously rejected these arguments, arguing that the Bill would assist trans people in Scotland to live more easily under their new gender, removing the delays and stigma associated with a medical diagnosis of mental illness (‘gender dysphoria’). The consultation indicated strong and informed support for the Bill across civil society, including the medical professions, though there was a vocal minority of traditionalists opposed.
A tiny minority of SNP MSPs (and MPs) opposed the legislation, with one minister resigning and several others voting against. But the vast majority of the SNP supported the legislation. Unfortunately, the Alba Party, a pro-independence minor split from the SNP led by former SNP leader Alex Salmond and a party outside the Scottish Parliament, also spoke and campaigned against the Bill destroying any credibility it had as a progressive organisation and becoming a repository for transphobic elements.
Scottish Greens in trans solidarity
The passage of the legislative Bill received fulsome support from the SNP’s government partner the left wing Scottish Green Party, whose spokesperson on Equalities, ecosocialist Maggie Chapman MSP, put forward an exemplary and passionate solidarity with the trans and wider LGBTQ+ community. (The Scottish Green Party should not be confused with the Green Party in England and Wales, a totally separate party with whom the Scottish Greens have broken off links due to their failure to tackle transphobia). They have also built strong links with the trans community campaigning for their rights – leading prominent trans women in Scotland include Ellie Gomersall, the President of National Union of Students Scotland, the leader of Rainbow Greens – the Green LGBTQI movement – Beth Douglas, and Glasgow’s first trans councillor Elaine Gallagher, all of whom are Scottish Green Party members and have been highly visible in the public defence of trans rights.
The only party in the Scottish Parliament opposed to the principle of the legislation was the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (the Tories in Scotland), but even then two MSPs from that party still voted for the legislation, one of whom is the Health spokesperson and a medical doctor whose own professional body and trade union, the British Medical Association, also support self-ID and the legislation.
All four Liberal Democrat MSPs supported the Bill, as did 18 of the 22 Labour MSPs. Liberal Democrat UK MPs at Westminster also indicated their strong unanimous support for the Bill and opposition to the Tory veto – the complete opposite of UK Labour.
The Bill was carefully worded during its passage through the Scottish Parliament to ensure it complies with UK law and in particular the Equality Act 2010. An amendment from a Labour MSP was supported by the SNP, Greens and Liberal Democrats to make explicit that the legislation did not affect the UK wide remit of the Equality Act. But the Tories repeatedly attempted to put forward wrecking amendments that would clearly violate UK law, such as dealing with matters ‘reserved’ for the Westminster parliament such as prisoners and refugees.
The Bill was eventually passed overwhelmingly by two thirds of MSPs and there were celebrations outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh by trans people and their supporters.
Tory ‘culture wars’ and attack on unions
The Tories are developing a right wing agenda from the Donald Trump playbook over economic and social issues. In the vacuum that has opened up in the Party following the governmental collapse of Boris Johnson’s premiership and then the short lived and disastrous Liz Truss period, Rishi Sunak claims to be attempting to ‘steady the ship’. But the Tories are facing disastrous poll ratings and a massive strike wave of over a million workers fighting against deteriorating wages in a cost-of-living crisis. School and university teachers, health workers and the biggest nurses’ union, civil servants, and other groups of workers are all following in the aftermath of rail worker strikes – a strike movement beginning to focus on the 1st February as a coordinated day of action. So the Tories have decided to launch a full scale onslaught on workers’ rights in bringing in even more draconian anti trade union laws.
And now the Tories have chosen to also launch an attack on trans rights and devolution, taking on the Scottish Parliament and the SNP government by overturning devolved legislation.
The Tories could not choose the timing of their attack on the Scottish Parliament Gender Recognition Reform Bill and may have underestimated the degree of opposition they will face.
Although the Tories expectedly won their recent case at the UK Supreme Court against the Scottish Parliament’s right to call a new Scottish independence referendum, the legal grounds on which they are overturning the Scottish Parliament Bill are a different matter and subject to a ‘reasonableness’ yardstick. The Scottish government have already announced they will launch a legal challenge starting with a judicial review in the Scottish courts, but then expected to be resolved in the UK Supreme Court. There is a general view that one of the reasons that the Tories have chosen the Section 35 route is because it drags the issue out in the courts for many months longer than other routes available to them (and will cost the Scottish government more). The Scottish government may well succeed in the courts, though this is unlikely to be achieved until at least the autumn of 2023. Opinions among leading lawyers differ on the likelihood of the Tory section 35 order being overturned in the courts – but one of Labour’s leading law experts and a former Lord Chancellor and Justice minister, Charlie Falconer, has argued that the Tory move is fatally flawed legally and wrong; while the LGBT+ Labour group have welcomed this opinion, the Labour party’s leadership has not supported this view.
However, the legal challenge will be decided by conservative judges. Movement in support of trans rights and to defend devolution cannot rely on a rigged legal system, so there is a need for a massive mobilisations.
The SNP will attempt, justifiably, to use the attack on the Bill as a reason for advocating the end of the union and for Scottish independence. But the SNP are a thoroughly constitutional party, when what is increasingly needed to confront the Tory UK state is mass action. Furthermore, the Labour Party as an institution under the Starmer UK leadership is showing its ineffectiveness as a mobilising force, even bending to the Tory agenda in many respects. UK Labour doesn’t support the current strikes and it has refused to oppose the blocking of the Scottish Parliament Bill. Instead Keir Starmer plays to the Tory ‘culture wars’ agenda by opposing trans rights for under 18s. However, this is bringing the Party leadership increasingly into conflict with the base of the Party, including much of the Scottish Labour Party and its MSPs, and even some of its Westminster MPs who want to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights and devolution. Local organisations of Labour (CLPs/Branches) need to unite with the SNP and Scottish Greens government to defend devolution and trans rights. Labour should be mobilising public opinion to try to build a mass movement to bring down the Tories, but that will be difficult in an environment that has been dominated by members’ tribalist loyalties.
The death agony of the UK state?
Polls indicate a majority of Scottish voters and a significant section of Welsh voters are now questioning their country’s membership of a dramatically lopsided and reactionary UK ‘union’ of nations. The Tories’ actions on the Scottish Parliament Bill indicate that only independence can guarantee the democratic rights of Scottish and Welsh people. Labour give little encouragement that they will be much better at UK level, and have faced near collapse in Scotland with their lowest vote share in a century in 2021 due to their opposition to an independence referendum. However in Wales the Party has fared better electorally, by being pluralistic over the issue of independence and forging a governmental alliance with Plaid Cymru.
The Tories botched Brexit has also led to the collapse of devolution to the six counties of Ireland that are part of the UK state. The Tory UK government’s concessions to the far right religious ‘creationists’ of the Democratic Unionist Party over Brexit and other issues is increasingly challenged there and as the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is approached, the question of Irish reunification is increasingly posed.
The toxic Tories face electoral oblivion but will attempt to hold on as long as possible. A full scale mobilisation of the working class and progressive movements is needed to finish them off.
A statement from Scottish civil society organisations on the UK Government’s intervention on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill
This week, the UK government announced their intention to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which was recently passed overwhelmingly in the Scottish Parliament, from becoming law. We, the undersigned, wish to make clear our strong opposition to this intervention and to any suggestion that these reforms would have an adverse effect on the Equality Act or women’s rights.
Too much of the debate around the Bill has been shaped by misinformation on what the bill will actually mean in practice. The majority of human rights, women’s and equalities organisations in Scotland have shown clear, consistent and unified support for this legislation throughout its seven years in development.
Years of detailed analysis by expert organisations in Scotland has considered the impact of the Bill in detail. This work has shown that the legislation will significantly improve the experiences of trans people, protecting them from the harms of a stigmatising and unnecessarily difficult process to access legal paperwork, while having no impact on women’s services, the operation of the Equality Act, or single sex spaces. These findings have been echoed by the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee’s own indepth considerations of the Bill.
Specifically, the Equality Act has allowed for protection from discrimination of trans people on the basis of self-identification since its passage into law in 2010. This was the case before the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and will be the case after. Contrary to arguments made during the passage of the Scottish Bill, this legislation makes no changes to whether and when trans women can access women’s spaces. If it is legitimate and proportionate, trans women can already be excluded from single sex services irrespective of whether they have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) or not.
The legislation will have no impact on the experience or requirements of rape victims in court.
Violence Against Women (VAW) services in Scotland already operate on the basis of self-ID. Individuals are not required to provide their birth certificates to access services, something that would be hugely harmful. Instead, services have robust safeguarding processes that allow for individuals to be excluded where there are legitimate concerns. Rape crisis services in Scotland have been providing trans inclusive services for 15 years without incident.
It is demoralising to see how trusted and highly experienced experts on equality and providers of services to women — many of whom have provided world-leading services in Scotland for decades — have been drowned out in this debate and denigrated for standing against misinformation.
There are currently a number of very real threats to women’s rights in Scotland and the UK including but not limited to poverty, the cost of living crisis, cuts to services, rape conviction rates and the experiences of immigrant and refugee women. We find it particularly concerning that so much political and media attention has been devoted to the debate around this Bill in place of tackling these genuine barriers to women’s equality.
Trans people across Scotland have endured seven years of being dangerously misrepresented in public discourse. We are deeply concerned about the impact of misinformation around what this Bill actually does, and the perception that it creates that women’s rights and the rights of trans people are in conflict. They are not.
Our organisations see the paths to equality for women and trans people as being deeply interconnected and dependent on our shared efforts to dismantle patriarchal systems that impose barriers to full equality for us all.
Scottish nurses to strike for fair pay and the future of the NHS
Nursing workers across the whole of Scotland, writes Connor Beaton at Heckle, are set to join postal workers, teachers, railway workers, university and college workers and others next year  in striking for increased pay — a historic move which reveals the extent of popular discontent over wage cuts and austerity imposed from above. With thousands of unfilled vacancies for nursing roles, the looming strike also forms a front in the struggle to defend the free, universal provision of quality healthcare in Scotland in the long-term.
Against the backdrop of consumer price inflation in the UK reaching 11% in November and being set to remain at historically high levels for at least months to come, the Scottish government has offered NHS workers a one-year deal providing for pay increases ranging from 11.32% for the lowest-paid workers to 2% for the highest-paid workers. The average pay increase on offer is 7.5%, translating to a real-terms pay cut of 3.5% for the average NHS worker in Scotland.
“When you take a decade of real-terms pay cuts and then you add such a significant one at a time when there’s a cost of living crisis in the country — people are really worried about their energy bills, especially with Scottish weather and the recent cold snap that we’ve had, it’s really prominent in people’s minds — and I think there’s been a perfect storm really, between that and the pandemic,” Siobhan Aston, a rehabilitation nurse and grassroots activist with NHS Workers Say NO, tells Heckle. “I think that’s why Scottish workers have decided no, enough is enough.”
Aston, who qualified as a nurse in 2014, is a rank-and-file member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the largest nursing union which represents over 40,000 nurses, midwives and support workers in Scotland and has taken centre stage in this dispute. Members of unions Unite and Unison, who between them represent most NHS workers in Scotland including a minority of nursing workers, have already accepted the Scottish government’s latest pay offer. GMB and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which represent smaller numbers of NHS workers, have joined the RCN in rejecting it.
This month’s decision by RCN Scotland members to strike for a better pay deal, with a massive 82% in support, is historic for a number of reasons. An important one is that the planned strikes will mark the first time nursing workers have taken industrial action across all of Scotland’s 14 regional health boards, rather than taking part in localised action. It is also, however, a dramatic move for the RCN, which for decades rejected the prospect of strike action.
For most of its 106-year history, the RCN was not a trade union but a professional association aimed primarily at improving standards in nursing. In the 1970s — a tumultuous decade in which the NHS was rocked by a wave of strikes — the RCN registered as a trade union, but maintained in its constitution an outright ban on its members taking part in strike action and refused to affiliate to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) alongside the other unions representing NHS workers.
When the biggest strike in NHS history took place in 1982, with workers across the UK walking out for a 12% pay increase, RCN members joined mass demonstrations but stopped short of striking; a critical account from Dale Evans recalls how the “split between TUC-affiliated bodies and non-affiliated unions such as the RCN was to prove crucial in the conduct of the dispute, and its final resolution”. Though unions NUPE and COHSE (both now part of Unison) wanted to continue the dispute, it came to an end when the RCN accepted a government offer including pay rises and the establishment of a pay review board for nurses. Thatcher’s policy was that pay review boards were on offer only to workers who did not strike; the RCN’s stance was rewarded.
Since the professionalisation of nursing in the 19th century, generally credited to aristocratic social reformer Florence Nightingale, nursing work has been identified as “women’s work”, best suited to women because of their supposed natural inclination towards care and empathy. This diminishing label has been leveraged by patriarchal capitalism to undervalue and undercompensate nursing workers, who continue to be overwhelmingly women. Tory minister Nadine Dorries, herself a former nurse, last year invoked that vision of nursing as an extension of women’s natural instincts when she insisted that nurses did not require a significant post-pandemic pay increase because they “do their job because they love their job”.
This perception of nursing has also found expression in the trade union and socialist movements. Evans’ article argues that the 1982 dispute, the largest pay dispute during Thatcher’s premiership, has been written out of trade union history because most of the workers involved were women, who fit less comfortably into narrow, masculine visions of working class struggle. Socialist newspapers of the day derisively attributed the RCN’s no-strike policy to the “Florence Nightingale mentality” of its members. This was challenged by the likes of the feminist-influenced Radical Nurses Group (RNG) of the 1980s, whose members criticised their union branches as dominated by men and/or managers and reproducing the oppressive hierarchies of their workplaces.
Forty years later, the picture has changed dramatically. For starters, it is now the RCN — having abolished its no-strike rule in 1995 — whose members have refused to buckle under pressure and have diverged from the TUC-affiliated Unison and Unite unions in voting to strike. This has cut short a period of triumphalism from Scottish ministers after nurses walked out in England, Wales and the north of Ireland. Humza Yousaf, the Scottish health secretary, said in November that his “constructive engagement with [trade unions] is one of reasons why Scotland is only part of the UK where we are not seeing nurses go on strike today”. Only weeks later, he faced condemnation from the RCN for planning to impose a pay deal rejected by its members.
Siobhan Aston, despite having voted to strike, is still sympathetic to the position in which the Scottish government finds itself. “I do believe that they are more left-leaning [than the UK government] and are trying to accommodate us,” she tells us. “Their response to this has been that the money’s not there through the Barnett consequentials, and I do understand that argument. But realistically, we’re at an impasse. We can’t afford not to settle this and not to find a compromise.” The UK government “does need to allocate more funding to the devolved nations”, she concedes, while at the same time rejecting some of the more passionate defences of Scottish ministers from SNP supporters. Aston points out: “I’m pro-indy, but it’s very possible to be pro-independence but not agree with the government on absolutely everything. I think that’s widely misunderstood.”
“We’re at an impasse. We can’t afford not to settle this and not to find a compromise.”
That Unite and Unison members voted to accept the pay offer is particularly disappointing to Aston. “There’s division, frankly,” she admits. Though acknowledging that the other unions represent a higher proportion of workers on lower bands, for many of whom the pay offer was “close to inflation”, she notes the narrowness of the margin in some of the ballots. Just 57% of voters in Unison’s last ballot accepted the pay deal, with many of the union’s own members incensed at the outcome. “The word that I’m hearing is that a lot of people are leaving, registered staff are leaving, and moving to a trade union that they feel represents them better,” Aston says. “That’s not my personal opinion, that’s out there for people to see — it’s all over Facebook groups.”
Heckle spoke with Stevie, an NHS mental health worker in Clydebank who resigned from Unison after 18 years’ membership and joined the RCN. “I’ve been speaking to a lot of nursing colleagues over the last few weeks as pay negotiations continue with the Scottish government and I have to say that I’ve never known such unity of opinion and determination among them with regard to rejecting real-terms pay cuts and standing up for the NHS,” he says. “I know several long-term members of Unison who resigned in disgust at the union’s cheerleading for a real-terms pay cut. People support the RCN position of demanding fair pay and support for our NHS.”
Aston is confident that public opinion is firmly behind the nurses, paying tribute to the work of other unions, including the RMT and the CWU, in forcefully making the case for inflation-busting pay rises in recent months, including among NHS workers. The other driving factor, she believes, is the strength of public feeling around the NHS. “Staff feel — and I’ve been a patient too in the last year — that standards are declining,” she explains. “There’s not enough of us to do the job. That’s the reality.” There were over 6,300 nursing and midwifery vacancies in Scotland at the end of September, according to NHS Scotland figures, and the number is growing. “We need more people in order to do the work well, but the problem is people are leaving,” Aston says. “Realistically, if we don’t look at the wages, we’re never going to solve those staffing issues, those retention issues and those recruitment issues.”
Her work with NHS Workers Say NO, a grassroots organisation established at the height of the pandemic in summer 2020, has helped Aston to build a formidable online following which she has used to further the campaign for better pay and conditions for NHS workers. She has nearly 47,000 followers on Twitter and her TikTok videos about the pay dispute have collectively racked up tens of thousands of views.
Although new to the RCN, Aston is looking forward to getting more involved and joining her colleagues on the picket line. She has already visited striking nurses in Belfast as well as picket lines with other striking workers, and is effusive about the work of StrikeMap, a worker-led project helping people find out where and when pickets are taking place locally so they can show their support. “It’s really, really important because it’s tough going,” she says. “It’s tough going, campaigning, and it’s hard work. I’ve seen it from my colleagues across the UK setting up strike committees. When people go to their picket line, it really provides an important psychological boost to the people that are standing there.”
RCN Scotland has said it will announce its strike dates early in the new year. The RCM and GMB unions have indicated that they could follow suit if the Scottish government refuses to return to negotiations. In the spirit of working class solidarity and in defence of the NHS, the full strength of the trade union and socialist movements should be prepared to come out in their support.
Yet another UN COP Summit last minute deal, but was it worth it … XR Gairloch
Extinction Rebellion (XR) Gairloch latest Climate Crisis Newsletter had a review of the COP 15 Biodiversity summit held in Montreal in December 2022, which we are republishing below. It is available on the XR Scotland website. We hope to publish more material on the COP15 Biodiversity event on the ecosocialist.scot website in the near future, and welcome comments and debate.
XR Gairloch Climate Crisis Newsletter No 126 – Editorial
Yet another UN COP Summit last minute deal, but was it worth it……
As is usual with UN COP summits it goes down to the wire and the COP15 Biodiversity summit was no different. A deal was eventually done at 3.30 am on Monday morning, but was it? The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who are one of the biodiverse countries in the world, said it didn’t agree with the document but the COP president just overruled them and declared the deal was done anyway. The DRC were later persuaded by Brazil and Indonesia ( another two major biodiverse countries) to back down and sign the agreement.
So did that mean the deal done at COP15 was a major success? No unfortunately not.
Since the Biodiversity COP summit was first established some 30 years ago, they have failed to accomplish any meaningful gains in its mission. In fact a recent U.N. report showed that not a single target from the summit’s previous 2010 agreement has been met.
This year nearly 5,000 delegates from 196 countries around the world gathered during the December 7-19 summit aiming to secure a new deal: a 10-year framework aimed at saving Earth’s forests, oceans and species before it’s too late.
A last minute deal was agreed which featured 23 action-oriented targets to be delivered by 2030 of which the most important was probably the target of protecting 30% of land and sea, but unfortunately the agreement was thought by many environmentalists to be weak and flawed, some of these being:
The targets and actions are not legally binding
Weak on how it is implemented and monitored. The agreement is doomed without clear mechanisms for implementing targets, Similar factors were widely blamed for the failure of the last 10-year biodiversity deal, adopted in 2010 in Aichi, Japan, which was unable to achieve nearly any of its objectives.
It is said to be the biodiversity equivalent to the Paris 2015 agreement for Climate Change and that has been a failure.
The use of weak wording like -“eliminate, phase out or reform incentives, including subsidies harmful for biodiversity” and “progressively reducing” these subsidies
Weakened language regarding corporate and non-state disclosure. During COP15, almost 500 companies voiced support for mandatory disclosure of nature-related impacts through the Business for Nature group’s “Make it Mandatory” campaign. However, the final text does not require mandatory disclosure, meaning many corporates will need to involve themselves with voluntary disclosure initiatives.
Vague, unambitious language on halting species extinctions at some point before 2050, instead of 2030.
‘Flawed but a turning point for humanity’: Green groups react to COP15’s global biodiversity agreement. Read article.
The fact is human civilisation depends on a healthy and diverse natural environment to survive and flourish. It’s a tragedy that we’re living in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world—and a travesty that the impetus to turn this around just isn’t there. Those with the power to make change are moving too slowly and are pushing the disaster down a road that’s rapidly running out.
UK accused of hypocrisy over environment protection targets. Read Article.
Scotland’s rarest animals face being wiped out warns expert. Read article. Is “Nature Positive” the new “Carbon Neutral” of biodiversity greenwash, and why were fossil fuel delegates at COP15?……… What does ‘nature positive’ mean – and can it rally support to stop biodiversity loss? Read article.
Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction……….
The UN biodiversity talks, held every two years, have never garnered the same attention as the world’s main environmental focus – the annual UN talks on climate change.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has slammed multinational corporations for turning the world’s ecosystems into “playthings of profit” and warned failure to correct course would lead to catastrophic results. “We are treating nature like a toilet,” Guterres said. “And ultimately, we are committing suicide by proxy,” with the effects felt on jobs, hunger, disease and death.
As the human population tops 8 billion, the rest of life is being decimated. We’ve destroyed two-thirds of the rainforests, half the coral reefs, and a million species are now facing oblivion, one-third of all land is severely degraded and fertile soil is being lost, while pollution and climate change are accelerating the degradation of the oceans.
Species are vanishing at a rate not seen in 10 million years. As much as 40 percent of Earth’s land surfaces are considered degraded, according to a 2022 UN Global Land Outlook assessment.
196 governments signed the agreement to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 — but scientists say it isn’t enough. For nature to regenerate, and to save our planet’s life-support systems, we have to protect half the Earth, inspired by EO Wilson’s Half-Earth project – and we need a global treaty to enforce action. Currently, 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas are protected so 30% will be a significant increase if it is achieved.
Ultimately, this is about our survival. Even as the planet withers, the chainsaws, diggers, and polluters are charging ahead, pulverising the planet into a barren, lifeless tundra. All in the name of economic growth .
Scientists have warned that with forests and grasslands being lost at unprecedented rates and oceans under pressure from pollution and over-fishing, humans are pushing the Earth beyond safe limits. This includes increasing the risk of diseases, like SARs CoV-2, Ebola and HIV, spilling over from wild animals into human populations.
What happens to the natural world, happens to us all. We are not separate from nature; we are part of it, connected to the very trees, rivers, and oceans that are being decimated.
The COP15 summit in Montreal was regarded as a “last chance” to put nature on a path to recovery. Let us hope that the human race stands by what it agreed at the summit and improves on it to ensure we are not putting a death sentence on nature and ourselves.
With Scotland’s teachers holding a one day strike on 10/11 January followed by a rolling series of one day strikes thereafter, and Scotland’s NHS workers discussing launching strike action following rejection of the inadequate Scottish government-backed pay offer, the strike wave in Scotland and across the UK state shows no signs of abating. Ongoing disputes and further strikes across the UK are still affecting the rail industry, Royal Mail, civil servants, the university sector and many other industries. The Tory UK government response to the cost-of-living crisis afflicting workers is to publish a Bill at Westminster this week to restrict trade union rights even further.ecosocialist.scot is republishing below an important analysis and call for action across Scotland from the Scottish Socialist Party‘s Workplace Organiser, Richie Venton, as a contribution to the sort of fightback we urgently need in Scotland.
Refuse to be slaves: defend the right to strike!
By Richie Venton, Scottish Socialist Party Workplace Organiser
The Tories are hellbent on turning workers into slaves. They are rushing through legislation on so-called Minimum Service Levels that would effectively ban the right to strike for countless workers, and drastically undermine the effectiveness of any attempts by any workers to stand up for themselves against pay cuts, job losses, slashed working conditions, dangerous safety levels, and decimation of public services.
Under their long-trumpeted new laws, the Tories would empower employers with the weapon of naming workers who must go to work during any strike action, even after their union has gone through the entire rigmarole of postal ballots, outrageous voting thresholds and 14 days’ notice of strike action to make the strike legal. Any named worker would face potential dismissal from their job if they declined to come into work on strike days, after being handpicked by the employer – with no legal protection from unfair dismissal, which workers currently enjoy for the first 12 weeks of a strike. And unions could be sued unless they obeyed the employer-imposed minimum staffing levels on strike days.
A Human Right
The right to strike is a fundamental human right, one that separates the wage-slaves of capitalism from the literal slaves of the ancient slave empires of Rome, Greece and others. It’s a right enshrined in the European Human Rights Commission, ILO and other international bodies. The human right to withdraw your labour, rather than being chained to the demands of profiteering employers.
It’s the difference between being able to take collective, agreed industrial action to stop the relentless assaults on jobs, pay, workplace health and safety, and indeed the quality of services provided to the public – or abject capitulation to the profit-crazed attacks by big business and austerity-driven governments.
The British government has been quick to condemn SOME regimes abroad as dictatorships when they outlaw the right to strike – unless they happen to be their allies in world exploitation! They are now poised to imitate the actions of the worst dictatorships.
Tories Threaten Minimum Safety – not Strikers!
When the smiling snake Grant Shapps – Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – appears on TV reassuring viewers this is all about protecting ‘Minimum Safety Levels’, he is indulging in his customary, deceitful, barefaced lies. The same creature cried crocodile tears and muttered faux outrage at the on-the-spot sacking and replacement of 800 ferry workers by the gangster capitalists of P&O Ferries last March – and then helped his Tory government rush through emergency legislation that now allows any employer to do fundamentally the same thing: replace strikers with agency workers.
Back in his days as Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson pioneered the call for a ban on strikes in transport – because workers on London Underground dared defend themselves and the vital service to the city’s economy they provide.
Last year, when railway workers were (and are) to the fore in fighting back against over a decade of pay cuts and vicious assaults on safety standards for the travelling public, the chorus of demands for de facto strike bans on transport grew louder in the Tory ranks and their hired assassins in the right-wing media. We repeatedly warned at the time that if they got away with this against railway workers – under the guise of Minimum Service Levels legislation – they would inevitably extend their assault on the right to strike to other sectors. It didn’t take long for that warning to be totally vindicated. As ambulance workers, NHS staff, border security civil service staff and teachers strike in defence of themselves and their services – and firefighters ballot to follow suit – the Tories’ legislation proposes to include all of the above, plus workers in nuclear decommissioning.
Unions Already Provide ‘Life-and-Limb’ Cover
The Tories’ claim that these laws are to protect Minimum Safety Levels is rampant hypocrisy and downright lies. Unions in key sectors have for years agreed and organised ‘life-and-limb cover’ when they plan strike action. Over recent decades, I’ve discussed with umpteen groups of workers in the likes of council services and the NHS who are taking or preparing strike action, who not only explain they are busy organising, through their unions, for ’emergency cover’ or ‘life-and-limb cover’, but add that in many instances the slaughter of staffing levels actually means they are putting more staff on duty during this exercise than would be there on a normal working day!
And that’s before the eruption of the current, life-threatening levels of understaffing in the NHS, social care, fire and rescue and other vital services. That’s before the Tories succeed in driving train companies into imposing Driver Only Operated trains across the board, or slash rail maintenance by at least 43%, as they want to do right now in return for below-inflation pay offers. It’s the Tories and their pals in the boardrooms who threaten ‘minimum safety levels’, not strikers. In fact, many of the strikes, such as on the railways and NHS, are precisely in defence of safety levels.
Tories’ NHS Cuts Threaten Lives
When Schapps et all trot out the lie that their new anti-strike laws are to prevent people having to wait for an ambulance, which planet does he think we all live on? Before any strikes by ambulance workers – or other NHS staff – people have been suffering life-threatening delays, due to decades of conscious refusal to invest in the NHS, with bed cuts, staffing level crises, exacerbated by drastic pay cuts and crucifying overwork and burnout. In fact, one of the main drivers behind strike action by ambulance workers is the daily crisis of understaffing and chaos caused by the impact of austerity on our hospitals – well before Covid added a further twist to the spiralling NHS crisis, of which the government themselves are the chief architects.
No doubt Grant Schapps has – like his boss, Rishi Sunak – a gold-plated private health scheme, so he won’t be worried about the delays in treatment of the sick, made daily worse by his regime.
Their new, even more vicious anti-strike laws will do nothing to avert that crisis, and by undermining workers’ ability to resist their austerity cuts will actually make things worse in the frontline services the Tories want to spearhead their de facto strike ban within.
Class War on Democracy
Britain already has the most repressive anti-union, anti-working-class legislation in the entire western world. Laws that were especially ushered in by the hated Maggie Thatcher Tories in the 1980s but retained absolutely by 13 years of New Labour governments; made even worse since by Tory and Tory-LibDem regimes; now being drastically added to by the current, unelected Tory government, presided over by the 222nd richest person in Britain, Rishi Sunak.
In their mission to crush workers’ pay and conditions to turbocharge profits, the Tories want to destroy the collective power of organised workers by breaking the unions. They must not succeed.
The Tories have embarked on their escalated war on the working class because they’ve had a fright, with currently a million workers either taking strike action or having already balloted to do so.
For decades, the employers and their political puppets got away with murder, with the help of defeatist union leaders who told us there was nothing we could do to resist. Now workers have begun to rise off their knees and fight back, the British ruling class are unleashing their customary class brutality. They must not succeed in their war on democracy, workers’ rights, pay, jobs and services.
Defeat Divide-and-Conquer Tactics
The employers and government are desperate to divide and conquer workers. They hope – in vain – to whip up ‘the public’ against strikers, to paint themselves as the saviours of public safety through these laws. But who are the public? It’s the railway workers, posties, teachers, university staff, civil service staff, coffin makers and a host of others who have had enough and are striking back.
That widespread solidarity across multiple sectors of the working class is the chief weapon of defence against the attempt to convert workers into slaves. The TUC has threatened legal action against the government’s plans. Fine, explore any avenues of self-defence. But it’s a dangerous myth to think legal action is the main, let alone only form of resistance. Legal challenges have sometimes been useful, but the most fundamental means of defence of the right to strike is… to strike back, together!
Bring Out a Million Strikers – Together!
One million workers are already either striking on (mostly) separate dates or have live ballots to do so. Alongside the appropriate tactics in each union or industry – with full input to decisions by shop stewards and conveners – the unions embracing these million members should urgently name the day for at least a partial general strike of one million workers, around their common demands on pay, jobs, conditions, services – and in opposition to this attempt to ban strikes. Better still, and simultaneously, the union leaderships – starting with those already engaged in action, putting relentless pressure on the timid TUC – should name the date for a full-scale 24-hour general strike of the entire seven million trade unionists in the UK, including over 600,000 in Scotland.
With proper preparation in workplaces and communities – mass meetings, public meetings, rallies, street activity, media, etc – this could win massive support, including amongst people currently not in a union, not in a job.
Defending basic democratic rights, opposing measures that amount to modern slavery, would find powerful resonance amongst millions of working-class and young people.
Call Mass Scottish Demo and 24-hour General Strike
That is perhaps even more so in Scotland. We never voted in this Tory government – and never have given the Tories a majority since 1955.
The STUC and individual union Scottish leaderships should urgently draw up plans, including a mass Demo at the Scottish parliament, welcoming the SNP government’s stated opposition to these new Tory laws, but calling on the Holyrood government to declare its outright refusal – in advance – of ever implementing these anti-strike laws in Scotland, in either the sectors they directly or indirectly employ workers, and outlawing them in contracts they hold with private employers.
Such a Demo – with such an aim – would also add pressure on the Scottish government to end its public sector pay cap and cough up the funds for decent pay for teachers, NHS staff and others currently in dispute. It could pound the Holyrood politicians with demands to defy Tory cuts and instead demand back some of the £5billion stolen off Scotland by Westminster since 2010, to avert the looming carnage in areas like local government.
Combining union demands on pay and conditions with defence of the basic democratic right to strike – through determined action – is the best and only guarantee of success.
Time is short. Prolonged legal wrangling in mostly hostile Courts is not the means to defend the working class. A mass Scottish Demo, and proper preparations for combined strike action – on the same day by all those currently striking and on an urgently named date for a complete 24-hour general strike – are the routes we need to travel.
Refuse to be slaves! Strike together, march together, win together!
Corrected 9 January 2023 to indicate ONE million workers across the UK with strike mandates, not two; and that EIS strikes are 10/11 January (10 primary, 11 secondary)
Towards a global week of action for solidarity with Ukraine
ecosocialist.scot members have endorsed the following statement calling for the week of 24 February to be made a global week of action against the Russian invasion and for solidarity with Ukraine and added our name to the appeal. The statement was prepared by the European Network for Solidarity with Ukraine which represents a wide range of socialist, labour movement and international solidarity organisations across Europe.
We urge the widest possible support for the statement in Scotland, across the rest of the UK state and internationally.
Stop the Russian war of aggression! Peace for Ukraine!
Friday February 24 will mark one year since the Russian army invaded Ukraine on the orders of Putin and his regime. A year of indescribable suffering and bloodshed for the Ukrainian people.
The completely unjustified invasion has already cost the lives of many tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and military personnel. Every day the Ukrainian people face brutality and violence. Millions of civilians have been forced to flee abroad, millions are internally displaced.
Entire towns and villages have been reduced to rubble by Russian bombing and airstrikes. Civilian infrastructure (electricity and heating networks, schools, hospitals, railroads, ports, etc.) is being systematically destroyed, making the country unlivable.
Putin wants to make an independent and livable Ukraine impossible:
The Russian army has committed mass murders of civilians and Ukrainian soldiers in many places. The fate of many thousands is still unknown. Mass rape campaigns and killings by rape, are established attack strategies. With every liberation of a Ukrainian village or town, new crimes come to light.
A great many Ukrainian citizens (including many hundreds of thousands of children/ over 700 thousand children) have been deported, without permission and often by force, to the territory of Russia.
The Ukrainian people rightly refuse to be passive victims of this war of aggression and actively and massively resists the invasion, with or without arms in hand. Very widespread mutual solidarity and self-organization of the population plays a crucial role in enabling this resistance to continue, as does international support in many different forms.
The killing of the Ukrainian people before the eyes of the world and the destruction of independent Ukraine must stop! The loudest possible international protest against the Russian invasion and the widest possible solidarity with the Ukrainian people is more necessary than ever
We, organizations and individuals from all over the world, launch a call to make the week of February 24 a global week of action against the Russian invasion and for solidarity with Ukraine.
Peace for Ukraine, no to the Russian war! Immediate cessation of bombing by the Russian military and withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine.
The widest possible support for and solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their justified resistance to the Russian invasion.
To add your organisation’s name to this appeal, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org