Thursday 14th September 2011
Department for Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was met by angry protesters at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on Wednesday evening.
He was there to give a talk entitled “Welfare Reform, Social Justice and Innovative Opportunities” to the Robert Owen Institute. The event was sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
A small but boisterous crowd of protesters from Black Triangle and UK Uncut welcomed him with shouts of “Go Home!” and “Hands off Disabled People” and “Our Society is Bigger than Yours!”
There were also loud chants of “IDS….GTF!”
The reception was due to begin at 7 pm followed by the talk at 7.30 pm.
In the event Duncan Smith arrived by car at 7.45 and ran from the car straight into the building.
Describing IDS’s arrival, one protester said “He shot out of the car and up the steps into the building so fast that, if it wasn’t for the back of his shiny scalp, you might not have even known it was him. A real Jumping Jack Flash.”
Another protester said: “Iain Duncan Smith is not welcome here in Edinburgh or in Scotland. The scandal of the Work Capability Assessments being carried out by Atos for the DWP is causing unprecedented levels of hardship for Scotland’s sick and/or disabled people. In some areas of the west of Scotland up to 90% of people represented at Tribunal are winning their appeals. People have died waiting for them to be heard – for the third time. There have been suicides.”
Citizen’s Advice Scotland have reported that 40% of appellants who are unrepresented at Tribunal have their appeals upheld.
The figure is an average of 70% for those who are represented by a welfare rights worker.
The police were called to the scene by the organisers of Duncan Smith’s talk as speeches made on loudhailers could be heard by guests of the event.
Another protester said “It’s become apparent to me that they feel (the organisers ) are frustrated with our presence here because a man in a suit, who had just spoken to the police, came up to me and started going on about their rights and freedom to debate political ideas! I suppose he imagined the police were just here to do his bidding and to send us packing. We recognise that they have to uphold the law and will hopefully strike the right balance between our right to protest and their right to debate with a callous Tory vulture.”
“I gave the man very short shrift. I told him forcefully that while we respected and defended his right to debate political ideas with that most infamous oppressor of disabled people, may his name leave a stink for 10,000 years as they say in China; it was our fundamental human right in a free and democratic society to protest against the obscene injustices being perpetrated by IDS against sick and/or disabled people!”
Matthew Wheatley, a member of Black Triangle and who has MS said: “We will be calling upon the Scottish Government to withhold its assent to IDS’s Welfare Cuts Bill this Autumn.
“They (the government) have today tried to railroad the Bill and dealt disabled and vulnerable people dependent on support, a severe blow by forcing through a procedure to put the committee stage away from public scrutiny in the main chamber of the UK House of Lords” he said.
He elaborated: “They’ve shown their utter contempt for the pleas of disabled people and their organisations – as well as for disabled Peers themselves.”
“The ConDem Peers have disgracefully accepted a government proposal to hold the committee stage of the bill away from the main chamber of the House of Lords – in a room with only limited disabled access” he said.
John McArdle, also with Black Triangle said: “It is our view that this coalition is illegitimate anyway in that it lacks the democratic, constitutional, political mandate required to push through this extreme-right shock-doctrine of cuts and austerity and impose them on the British people.”
“The UK government has not received the assent of the majority of the electorate to govern, and now we see clearly with their latest, disgraceful tactics in railroading the Welfare Cuts Bill that it is now behaving like a tin-pot dictatorship in the UK Parliament. This exhibits perfectly the real contempt for democracy and the human rights of our people, and disabled people in particular.”
“Faced with this disgraceful state of affairs we are calling upon the Scottish Government to stand up for Scotland’s people and refuse to give its assent to the Bill when it comes up later in the year. It is time to give them a bloody nose in a just cause. This so-called coalition must be removed. Quickly, before there’s nothing left of our society for ordinary people to defend!”
Mike Williamson from UK Uncut who protested jointly said: “£860 billion is the cost to the taxpayer of the bank bailout. £86 billion is the combined worth of 10 of the 11 richest individuals in the UK and just £0.0005 billion is what they pay in fees for their ‘non-domiciled’ tax status. £120 billion is the existing tax gap between what is owed by big corporations to the public purse and what is paid.
“And people like Iain Duncan Smith have the bare-faced cheek to tell us that the bill for incapacity and disability social security is “unsustainable”! They use the figure of £1.3 billion in welfare fraud as justification! It’s a smokescreen. They’re pulling the wool over people’s eyes. The real fraud and theft is being perpetrated by the rich – who have gotten 1/3rd richer since the beginning of this crisis – whose interests Iain Duncan Smith and the rest of this phony government – I prefer to call it régime – really represent.”
He continued: “It is amazing that this man has the gall to talk about “social justice” and it’s even more amazing that apparently highly-educated individuals such as those attending this event tonight would dignify this insult to our collective intelligence by virtue of their being here. I think we all know what the innovative opportunities are! Opportunities for private, for-profit companies, to poverty pimp off the backs of the poor, the sick, and the disabled “
There were no arrests.