More than a thousand protesters gathered in George Square in Glasgow today at an anti-austerity rally.

Jeane Freeman of Women for Independence and a columnist with our sister newspaper The National attracted huge cheers for a passionate speech at the rally.

She argued that austerity was a choice by Westminster rather than a necessity: "Austerity is a comprehensive attack on the rights of men, women, children," she said.

"It was an ideology which blamed migrants, women and others for our economic problems.

"Westminster is lying," she said and it was up to us to "stand against those lies". "We stand today on the shoulders of those who have fought for what we have today and Westminster is trying to take away."

Union bosses said they would break the law if the UK Government introduces reforms to union funding and the right to strike.

The Conservatives have devised the Trade Unions Bill, designed to "ensure hard working people are not disrupted by little-supported strike action" by introducing a 50% threshold for strike ballots and allowing union members to opt out of donating to political parties.

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, and Pat Rafferty, Scottish Secretary of Unite, told more than a thousand protesters at an anti-austerity rally in Glasgow that "bad laws" are there to be broken.

The rally also heard from Kirsteen Fraser, SNP Trade Union Group, who said "there is no actual reason" for the UK Government's austerity cuts.

Chancellor George Osborne says his economic plan is necessary to reduce the UK's budget deficit which is one of the highest in developed world.

Cat Boyd, co-founder of the Radical Independence campaign, urged protesters to follow the example of Greece, which is withholding repayment of a 1.6 billion euro loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), praising Greek citizens who are "refusing to lie down and submit to slavery".

Denise Christie, from the Labour Party Campaign for Socialism, was heckled as she criticised Scottish Government cuts to the fire service by a protester who went on to clash with a female steward who tried to subdue him.

Mr Smith said: "The Tories talk about outlawing undemocratic strike action. This has nothing to do with democracy or participation.

"I'm all in favour of more people participating in strike ballots. If it was about participation, we should be allowed to conduct secure online ballots or secret workplace ballots.

"This is about the naked self interest of a privileged elite attempting to prevent any organised resistance to its ability and desire to wield its economic and political power unchallenged.

"No one should be in any doubt about our determination to resit.

"It is inevitable if these policies are implemented then they will place unions in conflict with the law.

"We would not be standing here today if our predecessors had not broken bad laws.

"Across the world, civil and human rights have been won and protected only because people have united to break bad laws, and if that's what it takes to ensure unions can continue to represent their members then so be it."

Mr Rafferty said: "Let's get on the front foot and send a loud and clear message to Cameron and his cronies today.

"When you come after us we will fight back. When you create laws to curb our democracy we will break them, and when you oppress us we will organise.

"Comrades, we will show them that there is power in a union - you, me, us, our union - and we will win."

Ms Fraser said: "There is no actual reason for these cuts, there is no basis in economics for these cuts, it's just a full scale attack on working class people."

Ms Boyd said: "All across Europe, people are challenging those who think they have the ability to implement austerity without resistance.

"In Greece citizens are standing up to a political and economic system which has torn apart the very fabric of their society, against the United States, the IMF, the European elites, against all global power.

"The people in Athens just now are refusing to lie down and submit to slavery, and if we can show just a fraction of their heroism against our own elites, against the Bullingdon boys club in Westminster, we can be sure that this government will not last."

Ms Christie said: "I've been a firefighter for 20 years and I have never seen such devastating cuts to the fire service in all my life.

"We've been on the picket lines for our pensions, to stop fire stations closing and to save the fire service.

"We've seen cuts to the fire service of over 400 frontline firefighters and control operators in this last couple of years, and the biggest impact that has is on women - women that work in the control rooms, the cleaning department, the catering department.

"It's an absolute disgrace that women are having to bear the brunt of these cuts."

Ms Christie was interrupted by a protester who called her "a disgrace" and urged her to leave the stage.

"You're a card carrier of the Labour Party, you shouldn't even be here," he said.

"Get Labour out, they're responsible for the cuts."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was addressing the SNP Trade Union Group conference at a closed meeting in Stirling today.

She said: "I want to offer my support to those marching with the STUC today against the harsh, deeply unfair Tory cuts that are causing real pain for many in Scotland and across the UK.

"Five years of Tory austerity has done too much damage already; working families and vulnerable people cannot afford further UK government cuts. At Holyrood and at Westminster, the SNP will continue to make the strong case for an alternative to austerity to ensure the most vulnerable people in our society do not continue to face the brunt of unfair Tory cuts.

"There are now almost 16,000 members of the SNP Trade Union Group, compared to around 800 at the time of the referendum - which is far more than the membership of the entire Labour Party in Scotland - now down to under 13,000 according to figures leaked to the New Statesman last week.

"At the general election last month, most trade union members in Scotland voted SNP - for the very first time in a Westminster election.

"In all senses, the SNP are now the national party of Scotland - including the working people of Scotland.

She added: "Our approach as a party and as a government is to make common cause with trade unions, business, local government and the third sector. We aim to pursue a joint approach to economic development - one which recognises that a fair society contributes to a prosperous economy. That's why combating inequality was at the heart of the Scottish Government refreshed economic strategy earlier this year.

"We are a united movement in Scotland's cause - stronger and better not just because of the fantastic achievement of 56 MPs at the general election, but also by the efforts of the almost 16,000 members of this organisation in the broader trade union movement.

"Acting together, we will ensure that the voices of hard working people are heard more loudly and effectively than ever before at Westminster."

Read the tweets from our reporter Judith Duffy as the events unfolded throughout the day:

Meanwhile in London singer Charlotte Church branded austerity "unethical, unfair and unnecessary" as she joined tens of thousands of demonstrators in a protest against Government cuts.

Families, students and campaigners from all over the country descended on London for the march, which began in the heart of the financial district and snaked its way to Parliament.

Led by a brass band trio, they waved placards, blew whistles and chanted their opposition to the Conservative Government and its plans for billions of pounds of cuts.

Among them were comedian Russell Brand and singer Church, who brandished an End Austerity Now placard.

She said: "I'm here today in a show of solidarity with everyone here - it is a massive turnout - everybody who thinks that austerity isn't the only way and thinks it is essentially unethical, unfair and unnecessary."

Asked if she was inspired by the surge of the Scottish National Party she said "absolutely".

The 29-year-old added: "But I think that the Scottish have been able to galvanise themselves against the Westminster elite.

"We are in one of the richest nations in the world and social inequality is unacceptable.

"I'm immensely proud to be here. I think this is a brilliant movement and it is for the common good. We are here to make a stand."

Speakers including Labour London Mayoral hopeful Diane Abbott addressed the crowds before they set off for the Palace of Westminster.

Organisers promised a "festival atmosphere" and the march kicked off to the sounds of drum bands. But a loud boo erupted through the crowd as it arrived outside Downing Street and a red flare was set off, filling part of Whitehall with thick scarlet smoke.

Protesters, some clad in goggles and with scarves wrapped around their face to conceal their identity, chanted their opposition to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Another demonstrator waved a model of Margaret Thatcher's head on a stick. Many trade unionists and public sector workers were among the crowd.

Sian Bloor, 45, a primary school teacher from Trafford, near Manchester, warned that children "are being robbed of their childhood" because of swingeing Government cuts.

She said: "We have seen a huge impact on our work at primary school.

"I regularly bring clothes and shoes for children and biscuits for their breakfast, just so they get something to eat.

"You can see how children are being affected by the cuts.

"Children come into school concerned because they are being thrown out of their house and have nowhere to live for the umpteenth time that year because their parents' benefits are being cut.

"They are being robbed of their childhood."

Organisers said an estimated 250,000 people were on the march.

A spokesman for the People's Assembly, which is organising the protest, said: "It is clear this march has exceeded all expectations.

"Even the police are estimating that there are 'several hundred thousand' marching.

Today is not the end of our campaign against austerity but the start of a mass movement prepared to take on this government."

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, told a rally at the end of the march: "If they think they won the war of austerity on May 7 they better think again.

"If they thought on May 8 that we were going to disappear then they better think again. "Our fight goes on to protect our communities, to defend the vulnerable, to expose spivs and speculators and tax avoiders."

There were also a rally in Liverpool.