Hundreds gathered in a dreary George Square yesterday as part of nationwide protests against the rising cost of living in the UK.
The protest was not dampened by the rain – however – as trade unionists, politicians and workers stood together in the fight against the emerging cost of living crisis. Organised by People’s Assembly Scotland with support from The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the protest began at 1pm and heard from over a dozen speakers.
The nationwide protests were called after inflation rose to 5.4 per cent earlier this year – its highest recorded level in thirty years – and is predicted to peak at 7.25 per cent in April. This coincides with a rise in food, fuel and rent costs, as well as plans to increase energy price caps and National Insurance payments.
Despite this rise in living costs, wages remain stagnant. Many are concerned that this will disproportionately impact lower income individuals in the UK and plunge thousands of families below the poverty line.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) warns that there could be a 30% rise in destitute households, with almost one million families unable to afford basic necessities, unless the government reconsiders their plans to further increase living costs in the UK.
“Working people could not be working harder and yet life is getting so much more difficult,” said Laura Pidcock, National Secretary of the People’s Assembly.
“Older people will be cold in their homes and people will be struggling to feed their children, when none of this is a crisis of their making. Working class people shouldn’t have to pay for a crisis they didn’t create.”
Speaking at the Glasgow protest, STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer was clear in her message to the UK government: “Enough is enough.”
“[The government] made us pay for the banking crisis with austerity and cuts. They made us pay for the pandemic with our lives… and now, they are trying to make us pay for the energy crisis and we have to tell them very clearly that we are not paying. We can’t pay, we won’t pay and you must pay.
“Good hardworking families are having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children.”
Joe Cullinane, leader of North Ayrshire Council, said: “This is a genuine crisis for working class communities up and down the country.”
“Inflation is at a thirty year high, wages are stagnating, food prices are rising, energy prices are skyrocketing and Universal Credit is being cut. This isn’t just one thing – it’s a combination of everything and it’s going to be an absolute disaster.”
Alongside the rising cost of living, protesters also condemned the economic system in the UK which they argued only works in favour of ‘the billionaires and corporate bosses’ while ‘shoving working class people over the edge and into extreme poverty’.
This comes after energy giants Shell and BP celebrated staggering profit increases, at a time when millions of households in the UK face a rise of up to £693 a year in gas and electricity bills following a 54 per cent increase in the energy price cap.
Industry regulator Ofgem said this increase in energy bills will cause “extreme worry” to families and individuals up and down the country, “especially those who are struggling to make ends meet.”
22-year-old Charlie Hamilton, from Prestwick, was among the hundreds at the protest fighting against the rising cost of living, which he argues is ‘an attack on the working class’:
“It’s ridiculous, the working class are footing the bill for everything. We’re seeing energy companies making more money than ever, and yet, we’re expected to put up with worse standards of living.”
STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer said: “The absolute tragedy is that we are one of the richest economies in the world and sadly, we have an economy that is based on redistributing wealth to the rich rather than redistributing wealth to the poor.”
“We have had two decades now of wage suppression and the standard of living of ordinary working families going down while the wealth gap has grown, and the billionaires have doubled their wealth over the course of this pandemic alone.
“So instead of hikes on our National Insurance and taxing the poor, let’s tell them to tax the rich. Let’s tell them to tax the billionaires and multinationals – they can afford it.”
Foyer was pleased with the turnout of the protest but assured that this is ‘only the start’:
“Given the weather, for people to come out with very little notice, I think we’ve done well.
“We need to work together and build a broad alliance. When we join together, we have more power than we can dare to imagine and they cannot afford to ignore us because at the end of the day, we’re the many and they are the few.”
Featured Image Credit: Rebecca Kerr