Monday, 1 December 2014

An interesting reaction

They say in organising that you do not have an action, until you force the opponent into a reaction.  Last week we definitely caused a reaction from the Weir Group, when we exposed their role in the Smith Commission.

Signing for Home Rule
Some context: Smith rallies support for UK fracking hub

On the 28th of November 19 people signed the Home Rule Covenant at the HQ of the Weir Group.  The goal was to highlight the fact that the Smith Commission was being chaired by a man who, as Chairman of the Weir Group, previously said he wanted to make Scotland a "fracking hub."  The event was called before the Smith Commission made its report (which was initially scheduled for St Andrews' day).  The Weir Group also submitted a letter to the Smith Commission arguing that we shouldn't get corporation tax devolved, should have our budgets ruled over by the OBR, and should be limited to only ever borrowing £4.4billion a year.

In the run up to this action however some strange things happened.

On the morning of Tuesday the 25th the treasurer of the Wyndford Residents Association (WRA) was doorstepped by two police from the Football and Public Order Unit.  At 7:30AM.  They asked that she get in touch with Nick Durie, who was organising the event.  They had the address however, because they came to Nick's door on the morning of Friday the 28th requesting that he get in touch - the attempt to cause embarrassment having been unsuccessful. 

The powers Weir Group argued we shouldn't get.
The law on public order is clear: there is no requirement to get in touch with the authorities to hold a static rally.  The idea that a photocall and signing a document requires explicit government permission is trying.  Nonetheless the police were clearly enthusiastic in pressing their case.  Their mapping (working out that the WRA treasurer was connected to Nick via the WRA and local Wyndford politics) must have taken some work, and the level of engagement this suggests seems somewhat extreme for a rally of this nature.

In addition to one off paid security, a riot van, & a number of visible
police, the plain clothes public order police were present thruout.
On the Friday event at 20 Waterloo Street, two officers from the same Football and Public Order Unit arrived early to speak to organisers.  The plain clothes officers pitched the virtues of correspondence for the left, but more important was what they had to say about the reason for their 'thorough approach.'  The offices of the Weir Group had finished work early that day, as a result of the rally.  The police had had a number of very concerned exchanges with Weir Group officials.  Security guards had been drafted in specially.  The police had been asked to provide an extensive presence. 

As one of our number arrived he told us that Weir Group employees had only recently come into Glasgow's Yesbar, on Drury Street, to seek information about the protests, and to remonstrate that they personally had nothing to do with fracking.  As we began to stand for a photocall a man approached and asked about the protest.  He was informed that it was to highlight the potential conflict of interest, and because they had expressly argued against Home Rule.  He replied that he worked in the building and that the management had been agog about the mass signing protest.

In the end Lord Smith actually recomended that Scotland gain powers over fracking licensing - a breakthrough.  This was not expected.  We cannot know for sure whether our public action in calling the mass signing at the Weir Group concentrated minds among the Establishment, but we do know it had the Weir Group very worried because of their panicked reaction and over-lobbying of the police.  A lot of the organisations in Scotland which have decided to stand in the way of social progress appear to cherish their relative anonymity, and are panicked when they are held accountable. Nonetheless which companies and agencies have spoken out against Home Rule and earlier against independence is now a matter of public record. We know that in calling for a specifically limited Scottish Parliament they oppose the majority of Scots.  If anything their voice is too loud, and ours is too quiet.  Yet.