Scotland escapes the worst effects of UK strike action

THOUSANDS of public -sector workers across Scotland have gone on strike to demonstrate their opposition to the UK government's plans for pension reforms.

A spokeswoman for the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), the only body in Scotland to participate officially in the UK-wide action, claimed that 90 per cent of its 30,000 Scottish members came out in support of the action.

However, the picture across the country was patchy. Some government offices were forced to shut because of the action and picket lines across the country included protests outside Faslane naval base, at Glasgow Sheriff Court and the Scottish Parliament.

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The Scottish Prison Service, Scottish Court Service (SCS), and UK Border Agency, reported little or no disruption.

The main focus of the protest in Scotland was a rally held in Glasgow's George Square, where more than 700 people, including members of the Unite union and the University and College Union, gathered with PCS members.

Some held placards with the words "final salary pension we deserve better" and "cut tax evasion avoidance".

PCS Scottish secretary Lynn Henderson said: "We have 30,000 members across Scotland involved in today's action in every single part of Scotland from Shetland down to the Borders.

"The feeling is an immense sense of anger against the attacks on the civil service pension, in particular, but also extreme worry about the future of their own jobs and how they are going to live and manage day-to-day with the pay cuts that they are already facing."

A spokeswoman for the union said that its members were in it "for the long haul", adding that the action would continue in the form of a work-to-rule throughout July.

A second, smaller rally took place at The Mound in Edinburgh, while pickets were mounted outside Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government headquarters at St Andrew's House.

Among the government departments hit by the action in Scotland was the DVLA. Its offices in Dundee, Glasgow and Inverness were shut, while the centres in Aberdeen and Edinburgh worked on a reduced staff.

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The SCS said that although 30 per cent of its staff had taken part in the action, only Portree Sheriff Court had been forced to shut.

Although members of the National Union of Teachers, Association of Teachers and Lecturers were taking action in England and Wales, those in Scotland were not as they are on a different pension scheme. Down south, however, 10,000 schools were said to have been affected by the action.Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, who was also at George Square, said: "The Prime Minister says that the so-called 'gold-plated' pensions enjoyed by public-sector workers are not fair on the taxpayer.

"What is not fair on the taxpayer is to deny us quality public services, by denying public service workers, decent pay and a decent pension."

The Scottish Government said all of their buildings remained open for business and, by midday, there had been no reports of any "serious disruption to business delivery".

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Our returns show that 1,187 staff were on strike today, representing 16.2 per cent of the total of approximately 7,325 staff in the Scottish Government main bargaining unit."

The Scottish industrial action was dwarfed by the strikes that took place across the rest of the UK, with hundreds of thousands of public sector workers taking part in up to 80 marches.

The largest of the rallies took place in London, following a march through the centre of the city. The event was largely peaceful, though police were involved in scuffles with anarchist groups, resulting in at least 26 arrests.