When the poll tax was forced on to the people of Scotland in 1989 it caused outrage amongst everyone, however, a group of people from Hamilton were not going to stand back and take this without a fight.
So, on Wednesday the 24th of January 1990 a group of around fifty demonstrators stormed the Sheriff’s offices premises in the towns Muir Street. The anti-tax campaigners occupied the sheriff officers’ premises and held up work for about two hours before leaving peacefully at the request of the police.
The demonstration was held on what the campaigners say was the eve of the first direct action to recover tax arrears in Hamilton district by the sheriff officers.
They hailed the action as a victory and a warning to the authorities that “we can mobilise large numbers of people to prevent poindings and warrant sales going ahead.” The action was organised by the Hamilton campaign for Non-Payment, the umbrella organisation for the area’s various anti-tax groups.
An organiser said at the time that they could call on up to 300 volunteers to act as a ‘Flying Squad’ to rush to the home of anyone threatened with a pinding – a valuation of household goods by sheriff officers as a prelude to a warrant sale and these volunteers would prevent the poinding going ahead by “Non-Violent means.”
During the siege at the Sheriff’s Office, the demonstrators took a unanimous vote to carry on the occupation of the building when at the point the manager of the office kindly asked them to leave. They informed the manager that they were not budging and wouldn’t move! Well, that was until they later agreed to leave when the local constabulary arrived. Their campaign spokesman said that their point had been made and that they intended from the start not to provoke arrests.
The protesters did, however, obtain a written guarantee that the sheriff officers would give prior notice to anyone about to undergo the poinding process. The demonstrators failed to exact a promise that a four-day spell of notice to be given which they claim, is the legal minimum.
Later a spokesman for the Sheriff Officers said that their work had been disrupted on the day of the invasion but that the demonstrators had acted peacefully and had not infected damage on the office.
Were you one of the poll tax demonstrators? We would love to hear your story. Tell us your memories of the Poll Tax and the events that followed after its introduction.