Climate Camp Scotland unites climate, migrant and workers’ struggles

Climate Camp Scotland saw hundreds of climate and community activists gather in Aberdeen to discuss the practice and theory of fighting for climate justice.

Acticists hold banners reading "Climate justice = migrant justice" and "No new oil and gas"
Photo: Climate Camp Scotland

From 28 July to 1 August, activists came together to take action against some of the abhorrent fossil infrastructure and migrant oppression evident in the self-professed ‘oil capital of Europe’. The camp was situated in St. Fittick’s Park, the last major public green space for residents of Torry, Aberdeen. Aberdeen City Council is planning to allow developers to build an ‘Energy Transition Zone’ on the park, a site for hydrogen and other greenwash technologies promoted by the oil and gas industry. Climate Camp Scotland brought people from Aberdeen and across Britain together to support the Friends of St Fittick’s Park’s campaign to resist this, to say no to new oil and gas, and to call for a proper worker- and community-led climate transition.

After arriving at the camp, which was kitted out with widespread accessibility options, wellbeing spaces, and a full camp-run vegan kitchen, campers took part in two days of workshops and assemblies. These were a wide variety of sessions, some focused on the practicalities of mass action and others on pressing environmental justice issues.

Discussions of climate justice action, migrants’ and workers’ struggles

On the first day, alongside direct action training, Tripod, a group of activist trainers, ran a session on ‘Holistic Security Culture’. This reflects the camp’s collaboration across multiple struggles and its mission in trying to skill up activists with the practicalities of organising mass radical action. Surprisingly, the workshop minimally touched on traditional ‘security’ topics like Signal, using affinity groups, etc., and instead centred on the importance of building good relationships between people in the group, and caring for each other beyond the organising context.

The rest of the day saw workshops on land justice from the Land Workers’ Alliance. This saw people explore what sustainable and democratic use of land in Britain would look like. It also saw a discussion of the Scottish Land Reform Bill, which is currently being consulted on before its reveal in 2023. Scotland has one of the most concentrated land ownership regimes in the world, with one estimate suggesting just over 600 people own half the nation’s land. The upcoming bill will potentially empower community groups to express their interest in buying large tracts of land when put up for sale, giving them priority over private buyers. This ignores the potential lack of resources communities have to buy land as well as the potential for large landowners to break up their land into smaller parcels to avoid community interest. What was made clear, is that for the working-class people of Scotland, there is an ongoing struggle around the use and ownership of land, which MSPs remain tepid in tackling.

The first day of workshops saw further sessions on the Just Transition, with speakers from Aberdeen Trades Council and the RMT. Similarly, a workshop on energy systems was given, where activists discussed how we can effect a just transition for workers in energy and take back power from the large energy companies. This reflected a cross-camp commitment to workers’ power and the just transition, with comrades from Scot.E3 participating throughout the camp.

This radical energy was taken forward into the second day of workshops. Coal Action Network ran a session about the Lochinver coal mine being planned by NAE Ltd in Gretna, near Dumfries and Galloway. There are currently no large coal mines in Scotland, and the facilitator spoke about the situation with the Aberpergwm mine in South Wales and Whitehaven in Cumbria. They’re hoping to stop Lochinver in the planning stages, by creating and supporting community opposition. They’re currently looking for contacts and groups in Gretna who can get involved.

The Radical Independence Campaign led a session on how Scottish Independence can link with climate justice. It saw discussion of everything from energy ownership, to recognition at COP or the UN, to more powerful economic demands around fuel poverty, to creating a Scotland with open borders for climate migrants. It could ground concerns for international climate justice in Scottish communities, beyond the circles of climate activists. There’ll be a demonstration outside Scottish Power in Glasgow on 12th August, 4pm, focused on the energy price hikes. This is an opportunity for climate and independence messaging to coalesce.

Tipping Point UK organised a session envisioning what global climate reparations would look like and how to incorporate the reparations movement into climate action. Chantelle Lunt organised a session on decolonising environmental activism, allowing participants to understand how colonialism is fundamental to environmental breakdown, and how to build environmental organisations that are fully inclusive in the face of this.

Housing Justice was a further workshop topic, centred on retrofitting. Participants learnt about the energy inefficiency of British homes, the barriers to retrofitting them, and the concept of retrofit cooperatives. The talk was geared toward homeowners, and it was participants who pointed out the very different situations in rented accommodation, as some were members of Living Rent and London Renters Union. Landlord ownership of the majority of homes presents a huge obstacle to just housing and climate adaptation, as retrofitted rented flats give landlords a prime excuse for ‘renovictions’ – kicking tenants out, raising property value through retrofitting, then leasing the property for higher rent.

Hauns affa Torry – taking action

Following these trainings and workshops, the camp switched to taking action in Aberdeen. First, a rally of a few hundred was held in central Aberdeen on 31 July, with speakers discussing the need for a worker- and community-led just transition in Scotland, for an end to new oil, gas, and coal projects in Scotland, and for St Fittick’s Park to be saved from developers.

As the participants from the rally headed back to the camp, around a hundred activists broke off and entered a restricted area of Aberdeen Harbour. This area of the harbour had previously been ‘Old Torry’, a working-class area bulldozed to make way for the oil and gas industry. Whilst occupying the harbour, the activists held a banner proclaiming ‘Hauns Affa Torry’ and another stating ‘Yir Nae Getting Awa Wi This Again’ – highlighting how they won’t allow St Fittick’s, Torry’s only green space, to be bulldozed for another oil and gas industry project.

Activists hold banner reading 'Hauns offa Torry'
Photo: Climate Camp Scotland

As the occupants marched around the harbour, they interacted with workers on nearby ships – chanting in favour of a worker-led transition, calling for the workers to join this summer’s strike wave, and focusing on taking on oil company bosses. After occupying the harbour for several hours, the activists succeeded in leaving en masse and returning to camp without consequence. The action had linked together worker struggle against oil and gas bosses with local community campaigns against park destruction, and seen many take their first direct action for climate justice.

Finally, on Monday 1 August, a rally was held in Aberdeen, in conjunction with the camp and Migrants Organising for Rights and Empowerment. This rally explicitly linked together the struggle for migrant justice with that of climate justice, with activists calling for an end to hotel detention and the wider hostile environment border system.

Activists hold migrants' rights banners
Photo: Climate Camp Scotland

The testimonies of asylum seekers and refugees who had experienced hotel detention were read, making clear the violence of the border system and its effect on the global working class. A moment of silence was held for Adnan Olbeh and Badreddin Abadlla Adam, who both died as a result of violence in hotel detention, as well as a further silence for all those who died due to the border system.

Overall, the Scotland Climate Camp brought together workers, environmentalists, and anti-border activists. It gave them space to discuss radical politics, from land justice to reparations, and trained activists in mass direct action. With commitment to migrant and worker justice central to all subsequent actions, it left participants hopeful of a radical, strong ecosocialist movement, with a core of activists remaining in Aberdeen to continue the struggle.

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