When the Jubilee 2000 coalition came to an end after having successfully put debt on the agenda of world leaders, campaigners realised that sustained pressure was needed to ensure true debt justice. So in 2001, Jubilee 2000 was reborn in Scotland under the name Jubilee Scotland and for almost 20 years we have been leading successful and innovative campaigns to secure justice for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. From speaking to politicians, baking giant cakes, cycling across Europe, protesting arms debt and holding overnight vigils – our supporters have pushed for debt justice in a huge range of ways!
Below are just a few examples of our campaign successes – you can also download our education guide which has a full history of the debt campaign in the UK.
Make Poverty History
If you wore a white band, wrote to your MP, sat on your school playground, marched in Edinburgh or held hands around the castle, you helped contribute to one of the biggest calls for action in a generation. For many people, Make Poverty History was one of their first experiences of taking action for a better world, and Jubilee Scotland led the charge. Although it didn’t change everything it set out to (nobody could claim that poverty is now history!), it marked a change in attitudes towards poverty – recognising that it was the result of political decisions and global economic systems. It also led to significant debt cancellation, though the problem is far from solved.
Vulture funds are insidious hedge funds which buy up poor country debts cheap, and then drag the country through the courts until they pay, with no regard for where the debt came from, or the impact that paying it might have on the country, They are debt collectors on a global scale and make huge profits from poverty. Now, thanks to lobbying from people across the UK, these vulture funds are no longer allowed to operate on British soil, meaning relief for many indebted countries (case study). The fight continues, however, as we try to use Britain’s experience of banning these funds to help other countries do the same and ensure that they cannot operate anywhere in the world.
Together with the World Development Movement (now Global Justice Now), we started campaigning on this issue in 2010 to ensure that climate adaptation funding for countries affected by climate change was given as grants, not loans. There is a real danger that vulnerable countries would be pushed further into debt as they borrowed money from rich countries (who caused the problem!) to deal with the impact of climate change.
Defuse the Debt Crisis
Our campaign to make Scotland a seat of arbitration has received huge support within Scotland and internationally. We held a People’s Debt Tribunal in the Scottish Parliament featuring Lidy Nacpil, the founder of Jubilee South. This event highlighted the injustice of many debts owed by countries in the global south to the UK, and led to a motion to make Scotland a seat of arbitration on unjust debt – one of the most popular motions of the parliamentary session. This campaign is now incorporated in our call to make Scotland a nation of debt justice.
Edinburgh World Justice Festival
We strengthened our bond with the Edinburgh World Justice Festival acknowledging that it is a
useful way to engage other organisations in our work and make new people aware of our work. We took
part in the main conference by chairing a session and having a stall with our
Campaign Director taking part in planning the overall festival. Our most successful event of the
year also took place in the EWJF. We had economist Ann Pettifor talk about the launch of her
new book and the event was attended by almost 100 people. Ann did a great job in encouraging
people to be involved in the organisation. At the end of EWJF 2017 we successfully proposed
that the theme of EWJF 2018 was around the 10 year anniversary of the financial crash.
Finance Change Coalition
We joined the Change Finance Coalition which used the 10 year anniversary of the financial crash to highlight the impact the crash had on regular people and to push for tighter regulation of the finance sector to prevent another crisis. We worked with the Edinburgh World Justice Festival to make this the theme
of the festival. We asked all organisations to think about the way these things affected their
issue. We organised the main event of the festival: ‘Re-imaging the Economy’. The panel looked at what has continued to go wrong over the last 10 years but also a look at some of the amazing global struggles that have been fighting back. We had economist and activist Grace Blakely, Derek Wall and Bodo from Eurodad as speakers. You can read some of what Bodo had to say on the topic here.
On the actual day of the financial crash we were one of the very many organisations globally who took to the streets and had actions at banks. With help from Friends of the Earth Scotland and other activists we turned 2 RBS banks in Edinburgh into financial crime scenes. Police tape was used to mark off the areas outside the banks and people dressed in hazmat suits. We held banners, handed out flyers and chanted, urging the public to take notice. We chose RBS because as a largely publicly owned bank and a prime example of how ripped off the public were.
Jubilee Scotland is campaigning against the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in Scotland. Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are long-term contracts where the private sector designs, builds, finances and operates an infrastructure project. Since the 1990s Scotland has been using PPPs to fund public projects. This scheme – in its various forms over the years (PFI, NPD, HUB) – has left cash-strapped local authorities across Scotland paying millions more for public projects than needed. Scotland has a higher per-capita expenditure on PPPs than any other UK region. We conducted research for a report on the negative impact they have have had on Scotland’s public services, working with organisations like Oxfam, Unison, and experts in the field like Helen Mercer from People Vs PFI. In early 2020, we hosted a book launch for Dexter Whitfield’s new book, and successfully hosted the launch of our report recommending alternatives to these schemes at Holyrood.
While this campaign is still ongoing (and you can sign our debt justice pledge to show your support) we have already made great strides, with our campaign asks featuring in the Scottish Government’s White Paper on Independence, which said they would:
“give careful consideration to the question of unjust debts; will work to ensure that Scottish export policies do not create new unjust debts; and support moves to establish Scotland as an international centre for debt arbitration”
While we did not take a position on independence, this shows the success of our supporters in keeping unjust debt high up the international development agenda.