Report back from Edinburgh Climate Camp

In August of this summer, the Camp for Climate Action set up on the front lawn of RBS headquarters in Scotland.  Manchester Climate Action’s Tom Barlow reports back from the field.

Photo by Kriptik
Environmental and anti-capitalist campaigners have been taking action against the Royal Bank of Scotland for several years, even before they were bailed out by the Government.  With anti-RBS sentiment at a high in Scotland around 100 Mancunians decamped to near Edinburgh to join the Camp for Climate Action 2010.

The camp was not just focused on RBS but also its’ investments, especially in large and environmentally destructive companies such as Manchester-based Peel Holdings and Glasgow-based Cairn Energy.  It is companies like these that are behind a new bout of open cast coal mining in Britain and the destruction of a forest lands the the size of Britain in Canada.

The site of the protest was as audacious as the actions to follow, with barely 100 metres between the camp and the international headquarters of RBS, the sprawling camp was in full view of all the employees and directors for a week.  This is in comparison to previous Climate Camps where they have often been situated up to a mile or more away.

The audacious location of the camp set the tone for the following days. Instead of the usual one day confrontation with the police, the activity of the camp was continuous and varied.  With RBS sponsoring the Edinburgh fringe festival, which was on at the same time, a lot of mock street theatre, ‘greenwash’ detection and subvertising of their corporate messaging occurred in Edinburgh itself.

At the same the headquarters were graced with hundreds of dancers in white boilers suits who repeatedly wound their way round the headquarters and even attempted to occupy it.

On the feted day of action a 20 foot siege tower with a papier machier Rhino’s head made it’s way sedately to the front of their international headquarters whilst at the same time over twenty different actions happened across Scotland, with open cast coal mines being shut down, headquarters of oil and mining companies being occupied, as well as several branches of RBS. Even the regional headquarters of RBS were blockaded by protesters super gluing themselves to the front car park.

Hostile media coverage of the camp focussed on a seemingly phantom oil spill, which police press releases attributed to the Climate Camp with accusations of ‘recklessness’.  The story was lapped up by journalists without any evidence to link it to the Camp – and protesters suspect the police of yet another smear attempt as had been seen in previous years.

On attending the camp Vanessa Hall, former Green Party Councillor in Manchester believes “we the tax payers own this bank. We have been through the democratic channels, I have even served as a Councillor. But the government and big business do not listen until we take our message to their front doors, barricade them and demand to be heard. We demand a better future than the policies of short-term power and profit will deliver.”

Manchester Climate Action are now gearing up for ‘Crude Awakening’ –  a mass action in London on Saturday 16th October targetting the oil industry.

Tom Barlow


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