CarerWatch member Pat Onions attended the Hardest Hit rally in Edinburgh. Here is her thoughts.
The rally, in the beautiful Princes Street gardens of Edinburgh, was the largest ever staged in Scotland with over 1,000 of us. Many disabled people and their carers couldn’t make it to the capital but I know you were with us in spirit.
The organisers held it in the band stand which has a stage and tiered seating AND chairs! AND vital for me…. loos!
David and I found access somewhat difficult. It seemed a choice of 39 steps or parachuting from a cliff top. David, who had insisted he would walk with his trundler, chose the cliff. Slowly and painfully we made it. Yes of course there was disabled access but buggered if we could find it!
The march itself had to be cancelled. The authorities could not guarantee access for everyone along the proposed route. This had a lot to do with the fact that the controversial trams are now on the build again.
No matter I don’t think we could have negotiated the North face of the Eiger again!
Pam Duncan, of Inclusion Scotland, was the chair and damned good she was too. I don’t know if a chair is supposed to say quite as much but she wasn’t for stopping! I loved her.
Lord (Colin) Low was our first speaker and he, like the other speakers, didn’t really need the microphone. Such was their knowledge & passion in their words.
The young lad Jay Wakefield, from student disabilities, had a little trouble with the high winds & his kilt. This was a bonus especially for the ladies!
All the speakers talked on a different aspect of the proposed welfare reforms but the same message from them all. We ARE the Hardest Hit and we will NOT take it. I almost felt sorry for the Labour MSP who was heckled. I am sure he didn’t start the welfare reform ball in motion personally but our heckler felt he did. Brave MSP to come along. Strangely noticeable by there absence was the Tories & LibDems. Now that would have been brave or very stupid.
If the British Gov thought disabled people would be an easy target they couldn’t have been more wrong. We have all had to develop our own survival skills which has made us stronger. Camerout & his millionaire buddies seem to have overlooked this.
It was an excellent rally in the late autumn sunshine. Frighteningly there was nothing said I didn’t already know but we left with as much determination to carry on campaigning as we’d had on arrival.
Those of us there came from all walks of life with all sorts of disability. Carers, children & families. They all came. Came with their own struggles to share.
I was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my adopted compatriots. If Mr Salmond ever wants a vote on ‘Devolution from Westminster;….he will have mine.
A sort of PS.
David proudly wore his service medals. While walking back along Princes Street a young man, in his 30’s, came up to us. Is that a medal from the Royal Navy he asked. My Dad served with them and it looks the same. David told him what the medals were for. The young man wanted to know how long David had served. A brief history of how long & why he was medically discharged followed.
The young man, who called David Sir, asked if he could shake his hand? It was very moving and done out of pure respect for David and what he had stood for. This young man told us he was waiting for an operation for cataracts which he was unlikely to get due to the NHS cuts. He said it was nothing compared with what David had lived through and was still living through. A few more words as to why David was walking through the middle of the Capital with his medals. This young man made me even more determined to fight on. It was a extraordinary brief encounter from a total stranger.
A lesson there for all those who think they can dismiss any disabled person as unimportant.
David was very quiet on the way home.