Occupy Edinburgh March To Parliament, Pitch Tent

Visit http://occupiededinburgh.org/ for Occupy Edinburgh news, videos, interviews, features, events, campaigns and more.

Members of the Occupy Movement marched to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in solidarity with the May 12th Occupy protests around the world. Occupiers adopted their signature giant banner outside the parliament building and held an open forum where occupiers and others took turns to address the ethos of the Occupy Movement.

Following the general assembly, the movement pitched a tent on the parliament green as police asked about their plans. Occupiers said that the tent was raised in solidarity with dozens of other cities around the world and was symbolic as it represented the protest camp which they maintained in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Sq for many months.

Eric Nelson, a member of Occupy Edinburgh said:

"We’re gathering in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of others across Europe and the Americas, against the common enemy of austerity measures and the profits of corporations taking precedent over the general wellbeing of humankind".

Several Greek and Spanish activists joined the crowd where youth unemployment has risen to over q150% in each country, youth unemployment (18-24 year-olds) has also suffered the global economic crisis in recent years. Figures released last month revealed that unemployment in Scotland has risen by over 1250% in the previous four years.

The Guardian reported that “London activists been talking with the parallel Take the Square movement and other groups in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, to draw a manifesto for the Global Spring.”

Today, Occupy London pitched at least 10 tents outside the Bank of England.

Though, the future of the Occupy Movement is uncertain beyond today with protests being held in cities across the UK, Europe, the United States and beyond. Many branches of the movement are expected to attempt to re-occupy sites of which they were evicted. The summer could go either way for the global Occupy Movement where it could fizzle out, or gain serious momentum.

Occupy Edinburgh pitch up at tent outside the Scottish Parliament!

Occupy Edinburgh pitch up at tent outside the Scottish Parliament!

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RBS – From Regal Backbone of Scotland to Reckless Banking Service

By Jamie Mann and Chris Sharp 

The Royal Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh’s favourite international bank, went from being one of the largest banking groups in the world to a near-collapse in less than a decade. Bailed-out by the government and currently 83% taxpayer owned, one would hope that RBS is a responsible and customer-orientated bank; but is RBS “Here For You” or is it simply another corporate entity addicted to profit?

For many Scots RBS signified a strong national institution, one with them in mind and working in the best interests of Scotland. This is evident by the vast number of Scots who still hold their money, investments and pensions through RBS. But the rapid expansion that led this Scottish national treasure to become one of the biggest banks in the world also lead to its sudden collapse and increasing nationalisation.

The downward spiral for RBS happened on the watch of then-Chief Executive Fred Goodwin. While bad investments and unjustified spending can land the common man in hot water risking unmanageable debt, bankruptcy and even homelessness; Goodwin’s reckless actions earned him an early retirement on just £342,500 a year (reduced from £700k), not to mention a generous £2.6m bonus and £2.8m lump sum.[1]

This week Goodwin was stripped of his honours, a step not yet taken even for convicted perjurer Jeffery Archer, yet was still defended by some as being ‘not a criminal’ and ‘not intentionally malicious’. [2]
However, in recent months it has emerged that it was his management that had established a specialist tax-avoidance department allowing deals to slip through the cracks of tax laws in several countries. Utilising these loop holes allowed RBS to entangle £25bn in tax-avoidance schemes while the US and UK treasuries saw losses of £500m in tax revenue according to the Guardian.[3]

More recently, RBS drained £5bn from the European Central Bank, a quarter of the £20bn wholesale funding RBS aims to recoup this year. (Source: The Telegraph) RBS are the only known British bank to tap into the ECB long-term refinancing operation (LTFO) and gained this right to borrow from the central bank due to their disastrous acquisition of the Dutch financial group ABN Amro in 2007.[3] Radio Netherlands reported in 2009 that RBS made historic losses of £28bn – the largest in British corporate history from “writing off bad loans and investments related to the purchase of ABN Amro”.[5]

Then-Prime minister Gordon Brown said of the loss:

“Yes, I am angry at the Royal Bank of Scotland and what happened. Almost all their losses are in the subprime markets in America and related to the acquisition of the bank ABN Amro. And these are irresponsible risks which were taken by a bank with people’s money in the United Kingdom.”[6]

But the government rewarded RBS’s negligence with even greater investment, rendering it 83% public-owned.

Last week, an onslaught of political and media pressure has led to Chief Executive Stephen Hester rejecting a £963,000 bonus on top of his £1.2m salary this year. What is all the more ridiculous than the extent of the bonus itself is the reason for such a hefty reward. RBS Chairman Sir Phillip Hampton said of Hester’s bonus: “His pay is strongly geared to the recovery of RBS, which he was recruited to turn around” and added “safer and more valuable RBS is in the interests of our customers, shareholders and the UK economy”.[7]

The belief that Hester’s bonus of almost a million will help the British taxpayer and restore lost credibility to RBS seems entirely nonsensical. With reported losses of over £500m in the last year it seems Hester has done little to help either the taxpayers or his own shareholders. Indeed, with the loss of over 5500 jobs in the last year it is unlikely that he has done much in his esteemed role as a ‘job creator’.[8]

We spoke to Ian Fraser, an award-winning journalist, commentator and broadcaster who was also lead consultant on the BBC Documentary RBS: Inside The Bank that Ran Out of Money:

“[the] massive increase and the widening wealth gap between the so-called ’1%’ and the ’99%’ is having a corrosive effect on society, and is definitely becoming unsustainable, to the extent that if it continues to widen, there will almost certainly be further outbreaks of civil unrest in the UK.”

Yet the furore over Hester’s bonus, or even the de-knighting of Fred the Shred, only plays out as a convenient side-show to the real problem that the collapse of RBS represents. Politicians appear willing to condemn excessive pay and even launch reform commissions, yet when it comes to the reckless practices of banks, the unsustainable practice of public borrowing or the shady position of money in politics, they keep remarkably quiet.

Excessive pay is, of course, an important issue – especially when the money is coming from jobs and the public purse. However, bonuses are only the symptom of a much more dangerous culture within the banking sector. This is a culture that politicians not only buy into as ‘the only option’ but are actively a part of through lucrative consultancy positions following office.

As Ian Fraser concluded:

“To conclude I would say that the row over Hester’s bonus is a diversion from the need for broader reform of the banking and financial sectors. Excessive banker pay is only a symptom of the disease not the disease itself. […] The trouble is, however, that it is much easier for politicians to pander to the British people’s fury over bankers’ bonuses than to seek to reinvent finance.”

Who will stand up to this culture if not our elected representatives? Who will not oversee these ‘too big to fail’ institutions when the regulatory body feels powerless to intervene? It seems it is up to us, the people, to stand up and say ‘No more of this insanity!’

Sources:

[1] (Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jun/18/rbs-sir-fred-goodwin-pension)

[2] (Source: http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/business-opinion/bill-jamieson/terry_murden_dubious_morality_behind_burning_goodwin_at_the_stake_1_2070672)

[3] (Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/mar/13/rbs-tax-avoidance)

[4] (Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9026162/RBS-took-5bn-of-loans-from-ECB-emergency-facility.html)

[5] (Source: http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/rbs-losses-blamed-abn-amro-takeover-second-bank-consortium-sees-its-value-crash)

[6] (Source: http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/rbs-losses-blamed-abn-amro-takeover-second-bank-consortium-sees-its-value-crash)

[7] (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16517432)

[8] (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16517432)

Additional Sources:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2011/dec/12/what-rbs-board-thinking-abn-amro

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-crony-capitalism-and-craven-folly-6296284.htmlhttp://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-crony-capitalism-and-craven-folly-6296284.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-16787368

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/2882151/Revealed-Royal-Banks-secret-jet.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16752358

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thestudentpaper:

Occupy Edinburgh has moved from St Andrew  Square to The Meadows, The Student’s Zoe Blah and Kaite Cunningham report:
“Peter Nicholson, a member of the Occupy Edinburgh movement, stated that ‘after learning from some of the mistakes made at St Andrew Square, we will enforce a strict no-alcohol policy on site.’ Black also insisted that the campaign was not over yet, ‘We will continue the protest. It is a worldwide movement against corruption and corporate greed.’”
To read more, click here.

thestudentpaper:

Occupy Edinburgh has moved from St Andrew  Square to The Meadows, The Student’s Zoe Blah and Kaite Cunningham report:

“Peter Nicholson, a member of the Occupy Edinburgh movement, stated that ‘after learning from some of the mistakes made at St Andrew Square, we will enforce a strict no-alcohol policy on site.’ Black also insisted that the campaign was not over yet, ‘We will continue the protest. It is a worldwide movement against corruption and corporate greed.’”

To read more, click here.

2 notes

Occupy Edinburgh asks whether city centre management company has its priorities right. (As Published Last Week on STV Local)

After Occupy Edinburgh campers announce their intention to leave St Andrew Square, Chris Sharp and Jamie Mann from the protest ask how essential the organisation responsible for managing the park, Essential Edinburgh, really is?

The Essential Edinburgh Business Improvement District (BID) is the first of its kind in Edinburgh - a scheme started in 2008 when businesses voted ‘overwhelmingly’ in favour, according to one of the first Essential Edinburgh newsletters.

If it is deemed successful, we will likely see further districts being created in the Grassmarket, the West End and South Queensferry.

But is Essential Edinburgh as ‘essential’ as it claims?

The idea behind BIDs comes from the United States and were, in the words of one academic, set up to deal with, the “use of the space by impoverished casualties of the post-industrial economy,” who were scaring away the gentrified shoppers.

In fact, the push to cut down on these undesirable ‘casualties’ has led the city of Los Angeles to respond through “securitisation of the city centre through the building of heavily guarded private spaces and the elimination or privatisation of public spaces.”

This may sound typically ‘American’ - the rounding-up and expulsion of undesirables using private security - but when we look at London we find private police patrolling the Docklands and the City while a BID set up in the West End is said to have supported serving such people with ASBOs, just to keep them out.

In fact the London West End BID is working to remove legal street traders and small businesses, whilst it supports an increase in the number of larger multiple stores.

You will probably cast these instances off as examples of well-to-do areas of the US and London but, in fact, the issue raised in the very first testimonial on the Essential Edinburgh website reads: “I had a beggar outside our business, making a nuisance of themselves and throwing nut shells all over George St pavement.”

Nobody likes to see begging or homelessness - it makes us feel guilty for neglecting some parts of society. But should our response really mirror that of the Indian government in the 1970’s? Out of sight, out of mind.

Perhaps we expect too much. Surely dealing with the homeless is a job for charities and the council, not an area set-up to ‘improve businesses?’ Even ordinary citizens can come into conflict with private ‘laws’ associated with local privately owned public spaces, such as the city’s Multrees Walk.

Certainly this ‘gentrification’ of the area is helping the high-end businesses in the area - the likes of Harvey Nichols, HBOS, John Lewis, RBS and the Balmoral Hotel all of whom have membership on the board of Essential Edinburgh - but what about the smaller, non-retail businesses?

Well, for charities such as Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International (yes, charities still have to pay the extra levy on local business rates which funds Essential Edinburgh) who have expressed support for the anti-plutocracy, pro-democracy and fairness aims of the Occupy protests it would seem Essential Edinburgh do not act to further their interests.

Small businesses also (especially those other than retail) feel that the focus of Essential Edinburgh is squarely set on the superficial attractiveness of the area over any depth of business intelligence.

This was certainly the view of John Cant, a business director in the district at the time Essential Edinburgh was established. He wrote to Essential Edinburgh in 2008 to express concern over the lack of social or environmental benefit to the area.

John cites policies of “parking promotion” and “increasing parking provision” as “oppos[ing] establishing a sensible policy of excluding cars entirely from the city centre, thereby improving the city centre for pedestrians - the clientèle of local business.” as well as calling the focus on increasing tourism “a misdirection of resources”

But, according to Essential Edinburgh, John stands opposed to the ‘overwhelming majority’ of businesses who voted in 2008. However, on observing voting figures, we begin to see how ‘overwhelming’ this ‘majority’ was.

In fact, of the 573 eligible businesses only 44.4% turned-out to vote, and of those 254 businesses only 148, or 58%, voted in favour. So with this ‘majority’ of 26% of the overall number of eligible businesses, Essential Edinburgh was neglected into existence.

It seems a shame, therefore, that this entity with powers of legal representation and strong ties to some of Edinburgh’s biggest businesses, focuses so much on gumcleaning, litterpicking and movement of ‘undesirables.’

They should instead engage with the real threats to local businesses, like the action of reckless banks, tax-avoiding companies and their supporting governments.

These are the main concerns of Occupy and should also be the concerns of an organisation purporting to represent local businesses.

Essential Edinburgh, instead, represents everything Occupy stands against in this country - everything Scotland has resisted adopting from their English and American cousins: superficial gentrification, public land being ‘owned’ by a private entity, the rule of the working majority by a wealthy minority, the pandering to the will of the rich rather than the creation of opportunities for smaller, individual businesses that really give Edinburgh its character.

It’s not surprising then that Essential Edinburgh and the wealthy businesses around St. Andrew Square want rid of the occupiers - the only surprise is that it has taken them three months for them to demonise the protesters and then move to evict them.

While very few of our aims or actions have been reported, some of the local media have seemed eager to report on our percieved shortcomings. One reporter has even admitted his employer had taken a ‘negative editorial stance’ on the protests.

As Winston Churchhill said “There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion.”

Written by By Chris Sharp and Jamie Mann, supporters of Occupy Edinburgh.

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A new dawn for Occupy Edinburgh began in the wee hours of the morning on the 30th of January.
Press Release:
Members of the Occupy Edinburgh Movement have begun a new occupation in the Meadows public park. Occupiers involved in the pro-democracy movement pitched tents in the park, just south of the city’s centre early this morning. A representative of Occupy Edinburgh said that the protesters intend to uphold the site as their new permanent occupation as the park is public land. Campers disassembled their previous occupation at St Andrew Square last week, to avoid the expenditure of taxpayer money involved in an eviction. The previous camp lasted over 100 days.
May this one last even longer.

A new dawn for Occupy Edinburgh began in the wee hours of the morning on the 30th of January.

Press Release:

Members of the Occupy Edinburgh Movement have begun a new occupation in the Meadows public park. Occupiers involved in the pro-democracy movement pitched tents in the park, just south of the city’s centre early this morning. A representative of Occupy Edinburgh said that the protesters intend to uphold the site as their new permanent occupation as the park is public land. Campers disassembled their previous occupation at St Andrew Square last week, to avoid the expenditure of taxpayer money involved in an eviction. The previous camp lasted over 100 days.

May this one last even longer.

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"What do we have?"

"MOST OF THE MONEY!"

"What do we want?"

"THE REST OF IT!"

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The best an happiest eviction in history!  Stay tuned for the future of Occupy Edinburgh.

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