On the day of the Coronation seven people who wished to express their discontent with the proceedings were arrested. They had previously engaged with the authorities and had, as is normal in these situations, agreed where they would be, how many would be there, what form the protest would take and when they would disperse. That’s how protests are done at Westminster. They are scheduled and coordinated, orderly and peaceful. But against that background the U.K. Government have driven through the Public Order Act 2023. And now perfectly peaceful protestors can be arrested under the most vague of charges. The once firebrand Labour Party have supported the U.K. government every step of the way in implementing this bill. They even withdrew their vote on the stop and search clause after agreeing to push it. And they abstained on the latest vote to repeal the act, brought forward by the SNP. Their lack of opposition has been noted and their leader, Keir Starmer, has said that if Labour wins the next general election, they will not repeal this act. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the Conservative and Unionists and the Labour Party these days. As Orwell nearly said, ‘from Tory to Labour, and from Labour to Tory again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.’ It was stomach churning on Tuesday to watch the Government and Labour front bench chatting and cosying up together during the speech from Anne McLaughlin, SNP spokesperson, on the Public Order Act. At times like these, as your ability to vote is being undermined, the right to strike threatened and right to protest removed, we need an official opposition that is prepared to stand up to the U.K. government and stand up for the electorate. Currently, they are posted missing. They see themselves as a government in waiting but in truth they have shown nothing that justifies that. The opinion polls may swing them back into power in England, but the difference will be negligible and damage will be irreparable to Scotland.
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