M77 dead end

“MY FIRST thought was that they were a bunch of thugs hired by the contractors to kick us off the land.” Lindsey Keenan of Earthfirst later realised that it was Allan Stewart, Scottish Office minister, who, according to demonstrators, brandished a pick axe at them. All say they are committed to non-violence.

Stewart has since resigned and faces assault charges. His son and another young man present are both being investigated for carrying firearms.

For the past 10 months protesters, led by members of Earthfirst, have occupied Pollock Park in Glasgow in an attempt to block the proposed M77 Glasgow-Ayr motorway extension.

The £53 million road will destroy 6 acres of woodland on a green site only 15 feet away from some of the most run down and depressed housing schemes in Glasgow.

Locals and conservationists see this development as unnecessary and as destroying further the quality of life of thousands of workers who live in conditions of damp and squalor.

Lindsey Keenan links the campaign to save this park with the call for improved public transport: “We don’t need a motorway; we need a decent bus service - one bus every 45 minutes is a disgrace.”

Keenan does not fall into the trap of just “blaming the Tories”. He was clearly pleased with Stewart’s resignation, but said that the next resignations he wanted to see were those of the Strathclyde Regional councillors - Labour - who voted through this motorway against the demands of their constituents.

The protesters do not fit the middle class hippy stereotype of veggie tree worshippers. They are highly disciplined and trained in non-violent direct action techniques. They are also characterised by their lack of naivety: they work well with Scottish Militant Labour because of their links on the estates, but they see Labour as part of the problem, not the solution - with or without clause four.

Although some trees have been felled the protesters are optimistic. “We’re looking for a result,” said Keenan. “Get as many buses here on February 25 and give us some support. We’ll look forward to seeing you.” He and the people around Pollock Park mean business.

Although we do not automatically support often reactionary conservation projects, this is quite clearly a ridiculous scheme to run a motorway through what was a leisure facility in an otherwise very decrepit and rundown area. Needless to state nothing like this amount of money is being splashed out on housing improvements or on improving public transport in the area.

The protesters are working closely with the Scottish Alliance Against the Criminal Justice Bill, which is yet to be passed in Scotland and is an attack not only on anti-road protesters but any organised action against the state. The campaigns have combined to organise a mass demonstration on February 25, marching from Glasgow city centre at 12 noon, to ‘Pollock Free State’, Pollock Park.

Mary Ward