View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 10 December 2010

Friday 10 December

A grey, drizzly and mild day. The mercury is at 9C, on a par with most of northern Scotland.

The news is dominated by the events of yesterday, when the House of Commons approved a rise in tuition fees for university and college students in England to between £6000 and £9000 per year. Students demonstrated around Westminster, near the Houses of Parliament, and there were violent clashes with police all day. Several students were injured, one seriously; several police were injured, one seriously as well. A car, carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were attacked in Regent Street as they were headed for an engagement at the Royal Palladium Theatre; a window in the car was smashed and a can of paint thrown over the vehicle.
Today, the violence was roundly condemned, and although Prince Charles nor Camilla were hurt, it is said that the armed police accompanying the vehicle exercised great restraint; if the couple had been in any real danger, they could have discharged their firearms.

Students are angry with the current Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition government, because the Lib Dems promised not to raise tuition fees before the election. That promise has come back to haunt them. Coalitions are rare in British politics, and the concessions that parties need to make in order to form a viable government not readily understood. On the continent, coalitions are the rule of the day, and nobody would have faulted the Lib Dems in Germany or Holland for abandoning some of their manifesto pledges.

I can understand the students' anger, but I disapprove of violence in any form or under any pretext. If a route for the protest march was agreed, then divergence from that route is likely to result in police action. And seeing some of the damage done to property around Parliament Square on TV this morning, I do think the police were justified in taking the action they have taken.

Higher tuition fees are here to stay now, but other cutbacks, proposed by the coalition government, will result in more street protests. Which are equally likely to get hijacked by the rent-a-mob anarchist elements in society, who hijacked yesterday's protests. Some students felt that anything is justified to highlight their cause, but that's a sentiment I disagree with.