Should we tolerate our Council pouring millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into a bottomless bucket for spending on a 10-day party while people face rising unemployment, welfare cuts, homelessness and poverty? Yesterday, 15 March 2012, local people and supporters turned out to walk through the streets of the East End of Glasgow to say NO.
The event was the ‘”Poverty Games torch relay” and we were accompanied by Mrs Elizabeth Hogg, a visitor to our city bringing the “Poverty Olympics torch” all the way from Vancouver. Campaigners there have worked tirelessly to highlight the gross inequalities of wealth distribution in what is allegedly the world’s most ‘liveable city’ – especially related to the impacts of the Winter Olympics 2010 on the city’s poorest people.
We began outside the new National Indoor Sports Arena and Chris Hoy Velodrome, still under construction. There, Elizabeth handed over the torch (skilfully fashioned from an old toilet-plunger!) to anti-eviction campaigner Margaret Jaconelli.
Elizabeth said that she was pleased to be in Glasgow to continue the work of those highlighting poverty in Vancouver. She had spent time today with campaigners learning about the impact the Commonwealth Games is having on Glasgow’s poorest neighbourhoods.
Then we took the torch, and a host of colourful banners, along London Road past the Commonwealth Games construction sites and down Springfield Road, where we stopped outside a series of boarded-up shops which have been closed to make way for the Commonwealth Games Athlete’s Village. We were just a stone’s throw from the pile of rubble that remains after the Jaconelli’s family home in Ardenlea Street was evicted through a compulsory purchase order (CPO) and demolished. The shopowners and the Jaconelli family are yet to receive compensation – they have all lost so much in the face of this mega-event.
We heard about the disgraceful land deals being done with Council’s pals just across the road, something we have reported widely on this blog, but which is totally ignored in the mainstream media. Meanwhile, the people who live in the local community, who are part of it, who are what makes it a community, are treated with contempt by Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government.
Margaret and her husband Jack Jaconelli both made statements, with Jack suggesting that the Chris Hoy Velodrome will have to become the “Chris Hoy Bingo-drome” after the Games as nobody in the local area – faced with rising unemployment and a housing crisis – will be able to afford to go there.
Unable to attend in person, Mike Dailly, principal solicitor at the Govan Law Centre, and legal counsel to both the Jaconelli’s and some of the carers of the Accord Centre, sent along a statement. He stated:
“When it comes to compulsory purchase orders (CPO) it’s not fair there’s discriminatory treatment between householders and commercial entities, whether in the Commonwealth Games Village or elsewhere in Scotland. Big business and property developers get shown the red carpet while members of the local communities get a CPO cosh. No real negotiation, just take it or leave it and we’ll CPO you and then evict”.
“I remain convinced that Scotland CPO practice and procedure is not compliant with the Human Rights Act on a number of grounds and we are hopeful that this will be tested in the ongoing case of Jaconelli v. UK before the European Court of Human Rights. Communities must be treated fairly and reasonably by public authorities and their rights should not be overlooked, sidestepped or ridden over, for commercial reasons”.
As secretary of the Glasgow Anti-Eviction Alliance Margaret Jaconelli told us how she is fighting to challenge her own eviction, and CPO’s more generally, through the European Court of Human Rights court case. The torch then travelled to outside theAccord Centre, soon to be closed and demolished to make way for a Games bus park. The users are to be shoved into one unfit room in a community centre.
Grace Harrigan, Save the Accord campaigner, stated that this again shows the total disrespect for “the most vulnerable in our community”. Save the Accord campaigners have fought determinedly for suitable new premises for over a year now and so far have managed to obtain an ‘assurance’ from the First Minister Alex Salmond promising a feasibility study to convert part of the Tollcross Leisure Centre after the Games for a replacement centre.
Mr.Salmond’s promise is welcome, the carers said, but suspicions remain. For two years at least they are still being forced into a community centre which they have repeatedly stated is inadequate for their needs and for the rest of the East End community, and as of yet, there is no guarantee beyond the words of a politician that the promised new premises will come to light.
We know from previous experience how ruthless Glasgow City Council can be, and we know from previous Games events in other cities that promised potential benefits can be very vulnerable. The fight continues for justice, resources and a decent ‘legacy’ for the people of the East End from the Commonwealth Games 2014. The experience of previous mega-events tells us that community struggle is the only way to achieve any worthwhile social gains. We can’t hope or expect that politicians and developers share our interests. They don’t.
Get the background to the ’real story’ of Dalmarnock in our latest special edition of the East End Eye!