Following yesterday’s news that Barclays paid only 1% corporation tax on their 2009 profits, there was plenty of media interest in our protest in Edinburgh today. Tax Man was first spotted at noon, posing for photographs with the front page of the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/feb/18/barclays-bank-113m-corporation-tax), and greeting admirers, before flying off to challenge the tax-dodgers on our high streets.
Tax Man led us to Barclays in South St Andrews Street, where he was no sooner through the door when a security guard tried to throw him out. But Tax Man valiantly stuck his foot in the door and we managed to sneak inside after the police forced their way through to referee the situation. Once inside the building, we took the opportunity to read some of the literature arranged on desks and counters throughout the branch; one leaflet said “Don’t Hold Back Your Feedback”, so we pulled out our banners and placards to make sure that everyone knew what we thought of tax-dodging bankers.
After a few minutes of placard-waving, we decided to organise some games to keep everyone’s spirits up, so we had a round of bank-themed charades, then did the Hokey Pokey. That was when Barclays staff decided that we were having far too much fun, so first they closed all the blinds to stop the photographers outside from taking pictures of us, then – after a few people started peeking through the blinds so that they could continue posing – they asked the police to remove us from the building. Who would have thought that children’s party games could be such a threat to a large multinational corporation?
While all of this was going on, a few Uncutters were braving the cold outside to distribute flyers to curious members of the public. This week, as well as protesting the behaviour of banks, we’ve been drawing attention to the fact that Edinburgh City Council have recently decided to close down the Blindcraft bed factory as a result of the budget reductions from Westminster. This factory has provided employment for disabled people for over 200 years, but unlike the banks, nobody is going to bail Blindcraft out of their financial difficulties.
From Barclays, we nipped over the road to the RBS branch in St Andrews Square, which is definitely worth a visit – for a building that the government has an 83-and-a-bit-percent stake in, it’s incredibly fancy, with marble and statues and a huge domed ceiling with star-shaped windows in it. The RBS employee who came to speak to us as he was leaving work for the day was very insistent that the government owns less than 84% of the bank, so we should be rounding it down. He also claimed that the figures published on the BBC News website about the cost of the bank bail-outs were double the actual figure, and that public spending cuts have nothing at all to do with the financial crisis, so his words should probably be taken with a pinch of salt.
We also found time to pay a visit to Lloyds TSB in Hanover Street, where our protest outside the bank was met with great support from the public. During this part of the afternoon, Lothian and Borders Police decided to take a hand-off approach to supervising us, so watched us from inside their van on the other side of the road, which was occupying a clearly-marked disabled parking space. Apparently there was a very important “operational reason” that prevented them from parking the van somewhere else and making the last part of the journey on foot…
Just in case our old friends at BHS and Top Shop started to get jealous of us giving so much attention to other dodgy companies, we dropped in on them too. The welcome was warm, as ever.
Now we’ve packed up our banners for this week, and Tax Man has flown off to wherever it is that he goes when he’s not fighting fiscal injustice on the streets of Edinburgh. But tune in next week, when we’ll be back to tackle more of the monetary miscreants who are draining our communities. If the government are going to continue letting the banks get away with it, then it’s time for Big Society volunteers to step forward.
Press coverage of this protest and UK Uncut protests in other cities:
STV News: “Barclays forced to close Edinburgh branch amid nationwide protests”
Scotsman: “Protesters target Barclays over tax”
Guardian: “UK Uncut protesters target Barclays over tax avoidance”