Gimme the money…!

I get fed up having to justify my dream of independence when all I ever hear from the No side is reasons why it shouldn’t happen. If I give a reason, I have to spell out all the arguments and have them challenged in microscopic detail while the Naysayers offer no alternative vision, just No Change. Remember the Positive Case for Union? It seems to amount to the longest list in history of Don’t Do’s.

There are many reasons why Better Together would never dare to produce its own white paper entitled Britain’s Future, according to Kevin McKenna in the Observer. “For how could any Scottish Labour supporter subscribe to a document that would talk of penalising the poor; cutting the taxes of the rich; allowing our defence and intelligence policies to resemble those of Texas and re-introducing a light touch for bankers? Not to mention leaving Europe and telling immigrants to go home.”

For my case I suggest national dignity, making new international friends, being fairer, unleashing our economic potential, investing in our human capital and the rest of what has become the longest list of good reasons to do something – ever. Today I’m adding another. I want to be richer.

That’s right. I want more money.  I want to be better off, not just scraping along above soup kitchen level, but tangibly, measurably wealthier. And before Robin McAlpine pings me an email about social justice, I want us all to be richer. That’s what independence can deliver. It means keeping our own wealth here in Scotland and deciding how to spend it and invest it, not handing it over to someone else with other interests paramount and getting back what they decide I should get. If we decide wages should be higher and the money is there, we can do it. If we want to rewrite the welfare rules so it’s easier to remove staff when an employer is struggling but we make the welfare safety net stronger so the unemployed can live with dignity and find another job, we can…if the money is there.  If we want to retain our universal benefits to keep household expenditure down, we can,  and if we want to create a less stressed, savings orientated, debt-limited country, we can…if the cash is there. And that’s the point. The money is there.*

Every utterance from the No side is laden with doom about needing the security of the UK, spreading risk and ironing out imbalances. This is how it is working…. “One in five of Scotland’s children – 220,000 – are officially recognised as living in poverty. In some areas over one in three children grow up in poverty. With Scotland’s undoubted wealth this is a scandal. Its effects last a lifetime, negatively impacting on health, education, social and physical development and seriously harming future life chances and opportunities.” That’s from the Child Poverty Action Group. We have 18 per cent, or 910,000 people in poverty and those numbers are significantly higher than in other European countries. What exactly is the Better Together justification for this as a case for Union? The numbers are coming down they may say, although I think you’ll find it’s a topic they would rather ignore. Scotland’s government is playing a key role in this and it’s not as if the UK government sets out to make people poor yet there will be massive rises in child poverty in the coming years. In Scotland alone forecast trends would suggest between 50,000 and 100,000 more children will be pushed into poverty by 2020 – because of Coalition cuts and benefit reform. That is Scottish poverty and I regard that as my poverty. Total eradication is probably impossible but how can we have a chamber full of MPs cheering the economic news when across Scotland we are consigning a city-sized population of children to a life of poverty, lack of achievement, disengagement, ill health and probably crime? Every report makes clear that apart from the human misery, the cost to the national finances is massive.

But I also want a Scotland in which the ideological divide between business and customers which acts as a brake on progress can be buried forever. One of the worst aspects of the UK has been the generational acceptance of a boss culture. At its most trivial it is the company car and allocated parking space and at its worst it is executive incomes. Chief executives of FTSE 100 companies earn an average of £3.7m – or 145 times the average wage. By 2020 they are expected to be paid 214 times more than the average. Remember these are the people who say in interviews how important it is to keep costs down and reduce workers influence through trade unions.  According to the High Pay Unit the top one thousandth of the British working population currently receives 5 per cent of the country’s entire earnings, a ratio equivalent to that in the 1940s, the report says. If these trends continue, income for the highest paid will account for 14 per cent of the country’s total by 2030 – the same proportion as in pre-universal franchise 1900. Aren’t we supposed to be making social progress? Do you think those numbers would receive popular approval if they were put to the people in a referendum?

And before you say That’s the Tories for you, here’s another part of the analysis.  During the decade Labour was in power, income at the top grew by 64.2 per cent, while that of an average earner increased by 7.2 per cent over the same period. Redistribution, New Labour-style. Thanks, Alistair and thanks, Gordon.

I’m planning a look at Scotland’s so-called business community in the near future – sorry, but in my experience it’s more like a tankful of circling sharks than a community – because for all my left-of-centre sentiments I am…and this may be upsetting for some…pro-business. I think the lack of a detailed business start-up strategy is one of our country’s weakest points and that is also true of the referendum campaign. (More soon)

In the meantime I think it’s interesting how quiet the CBI has been lately. This is an organization that is a front for the business big boys and is supposed to do all their bullying and barking for them. We are constantly told how our poor wee business folk are trembling at the knees about the prospect of working in an independent country but they knock even more if they’re asked to speak up in case the fearsome, frothing beast from Alien that is John Swinney bursts out of the cistern in the executive loo and slavers over them hissing… “I’ll lower your corporation tax if you vote Yes…”

Strange, no? Where’s my chum Air Commodore Iain McMillan who has fearlessly defended 49 per cent executive pay rises and £400,00 a year additional pension contributions while in my studio….The other side, Business for Scotland is one of the highlights of the debate. Its material is up-to-date, informative, punchy and its representatives bring real added value to broadcast debates. They are credible business people taking the case away from the anoraks like me and changing the dynamic. When I started reporting politics in the late 80’s you couldn’t find anyone who would go public in backing independence if they wore a suit in an office. It was very unusual and limited career options so credit to folk like Swinney, Salmond and Hyslop for whom it was a career-risking step to campaign in public.

*But back to the money…just when you get tired of banging your head against a wall the FT comes out and says: Stop it, you were right all along. Here’s a section of today’s report on Scotland’s finances.

If its geographic share of UK oil and gas output is taken into account, Scotland’s GDP per head is bigger than that of France. Even excluding the North Sea’s hydrocarbon bounty, per capita GDP is higher than that of Italy. Oil, whisky and a broad range of manufactured goods mean an independent Scotland would be one of the world’s top 35 exporters.

An independent Scotland could also expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK. Although Scotland enjoys public spending well above the UK average – a source of resentment among some in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the cost to the Treasury is more than outweighed by oil and gas revenues from Scottish waters.

And here is Business for Scotland…. “New figures from the Global Connections Survey demonstrate that Scotland is one of the world’s top exporting nations with the economic strength to succeed as an independent country. Exports were worth nearly £100 billion in 2012 alone, a 17% increase on 2008. The Financial Times reports that the figures offer a picture of a mature and independent trading nation that would be a vibrant exporter of other goods and services to the rest of the world.

Scotland’s strong export figures create a trading surplus that enhances UK Sterling’s balance of payments. The UK currently suffers from a large trade deficit, but Scotland’s use of the pound underpins the value of the currency. This is a key reason for why a currency union is in the best interests of the rest of the UK.”

The money is there and the case is getting stronger. I think instead of being defensive about currency and economy, we should instead be moving on and claiming our right to be richer. The FT figures confirm we would be richer by £7b on today’s evidence. We should be declaring that there is a gulf between what we earn here and what comes back from the Treasury and it stops us being as wealthy as we could be. I want to be independent so I can be richer…**

** and I don’t care what Robin McAlpine says

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0 thoughts on “Gimme the money…!

  1. We need to think beyond the straightjacket of unionism and nationalisam, the two antipodes which to a large measure shape our political culture. We need to try and look at ourselves from the outside, from beyond the UK, No-one who does so and who carefully considers all the ways in which we can be better off with the powers of independence would ever want to return to the narrow view of ourselves which those in BT want us to have. In short we need to make it clear that we can be better than the UK in so many areas, and we need to actively challenge those who oppose as to why we should be limited by the status quo.

    I really can’t wait for independence, and for that inevitable and seismic change in the Scottish psyche, when we finally understand what power we have, and unrestrained by Westminster, all the things we can do to improve ourselves and re-create our place in the world with distinctive values and norms.

    Not only can we not possibly do any worse than the status quo within the Union but we can do so much better.

  2. I’ve received a heads up that the FT is running a story that Scotland will be £bns better off by leaving the Union. Anyone seen this ?

    • Apologies Derek – hadn’t read your blog before I posted as I was out in the wilds.

      Great piece today and it’s true about FT – bloody Hell; this is going to create a stir!

  3. Have you ever been in a pub and encountered the ‘pub drunk’ sitting fast asleep with head in hand, waking up occasionally to rant utter nonsense before subsiding into slumber once again. Just that this latest Tweet from the leader of Better Together reminds me of this.

    Alistair Darling ‏@A_DarlingMP 4h Let’s make this clear – if Scotland was separate from rUK, the Financial Times wouldn’t have to publish a pro-Scotland story at all. UK = OK Reply Retweet Favorite More Expand

    Beginning to doubt the man’s sanity.

    • To be fair, @A_DarlingMP is a spoof. But a good spoof. The real Alistair Darling tweets as @TogetherDarling. That sounds like something out of Blackadder Goes Forth.

  4. Derek,

    Robin Mc. might send you an e-mail in agreement with you. He also wants us all to be richer. Central to his thinking is that we could live in a high wage country, like Norway. I’ve heard him speak a few times now on the subject.

    On that note, I came across a very powerful video that kinda sums up exactly this point. It’s been commissioned by The Reid Foundation (of whom Robin is Director). If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, grab a hanky and get a load of this beautiful work. Inspirational stuff.

    http://reidfoundation.org/2013/12/all-of-us-first-film/

  5. @A_DarlingMP is a spoof account, but a very good one :)

  6. Well spotted re A-DarlingMP spoof account but the fact that it fools posters on both sides of the debate into thinking it is real shows how close to a self parody Captain Not Now Darling really is

  7. Excellent article. The BT campaign is dissolving in front of our yes. May I suggest an idea for your pro business article. Could I suggest no corporation tax for the first two years for any new venture employing fewer than fifty employees. Most start up businesses suffer from a lack of capital in the first few formative years, by allowing companies to keep more of any profits in the first two years ( a hard thing to achieve to make a profit at all) I believe we would substantially improve business start up survival rates and through doing so generate more tax contribution in future years as well as broadening our business base by encouraging more enterprising Scots to set up new businesses.

  8. One of the things we need to get across to undecideds is that the current economic situation is as a direct result of POLITICAL decisions taken in Westminster and that it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t pay off debt (and they aren’t) by reducing economic activity. Excellent as alway Derek. Thanks.

  9. You want to be richer, but of course you are indicating what makes a society rich, certainly not just money. The TV chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall ( Eton educated, by the way ) was investigating Sweden yesterday and at times it was cringing to see the democracy of Swedish comments taking him aback – such as the responses and indifference to his cooking liver for the hunters ( which they had never eaten ). A UK programme would have had them all fawning over the wonderful food ! Anyway another aspect was the right to hunt ( with a government licence ) and roam which was so different to his English background, and indeed would be to that of the 400 odd men who own the bulk of Scotland as judged by the Landowners’ response to the Holyrood Land Reform Review Group.

    Other aspects were how the Swedes obviously enjoyed one another’s company, wanted understatement including in housing – compare this to “an Englishman’s house is his castle” ( is there a Scottish equivalent ? ).

    Another serious point was immigration which will need careful assessment by an independent Scotland if there is follow through on the rhetoric. Despite the rich society and openness to refugees etc ( which now comprise up to 15% of the population ) there is prejudice, so if this can happen to the Swedes with their track record ………….

    • Two things jumped out at me in the Scandimania programme. One was when Hugh F-W commented that the ex Abba, Bjorn, despite his success, still stayed in Stockholm. It was as if he though anyone successful should long ago have moved to London. Where else would a Swede stay but in Stockholm – a beautiful and vibrant city!

      The second point was the Ikea built houses. A prefabricated apartment block erected in a morning ready for occupation, at a cost of £70,000 per flat. They may be corrugated metal like a factory building on the outside, but they were insulated to a high specification so would have been economic to heat. Surely we should be looking at this type of property to solve some of our housing problems. Seems so obvious.

  10. Those who hanker after the Status Quo. Where ‘Status Quo’ means no or little change. Should listen up and realise this.

    THERE WILL BE FAR MORE CHANGE FROM THE CURRENT SITUATION IN SCOTLAND IF THEY VOTE NO THAN IF THEY VOTE YES.

    Vote YES and KEEP: Free care for the elderly. Free tuition fees. Free prescriptions. Free Bus passes for the over 60s The same retirement age. Community charge freeze. A national health service. Membership of the EU. The welfare system.

    Vote NO and LOSE:
    All of the above.

  11. I put this email together for a younger friend who wanted to know what is going on in the independence debate. It is a sort of summary of how I feel at this point in time.

    This referendum business in Scotland is showing up very clearly how devious the establishment is – even if we did know that anyway long ago. By “the establishment”, I mean the people who wield power in the UK from the government down through all the Lords and Ladies to the financial institutions which have got us all into such a mess and which dictate to the government to such an extent that the UK government is frightened to take them on. Of course the present UK Government are all millionaire yayas educated at Eton and Oxbridge and they are all totally in bed with the financial sector which looks after them very nicely. They are guaranteed very wealthy positions when they leave parliament or they go up to the House of Lords and get paid by us over £300 per day to doss out on the benches there.

    The UK is still an essentially medieval country where hierarchic power and privilege looks after itself very nicely at the expense of the people and keeps everyone else’s nose out of the trough unless they are prepared to arse lick with sufficient deference their way up though the establishment hierarchy. Whereas the House of Lords is a perfect demonstration of the survival of medieval England, the actual Lords themselves belong to a much earlier period in history. They are the mental equivalent of Neanderthals in a twenty first century setting – the world has passed them by long ago and they simply can’t handle modern thought processes.

    The “No” campaign in this referendum has really shown very clearly how politicians are prepared to sell their souls and betray and ridicule their own country and its people as they try to slither up the greasy pole to positions of privilege and power within the establishment. The battle between “Yes and “No” is between the ordinary person and the establishment.

    A guy called Dr John Robertson and his team at the University of the West of Scotland spent a year watching the news bulletins on BBC and STV every night for a year and they have produced a report on the bias within the both these news broadcasters against the “Yes” campaign and for the “No” campaign. The BBC are attempting to blast this report off the face of the earth. Fortunately though there is another guy who used to work for BBC Scotland called Derek Bateman who retired from the BBC recently so that he could not be restrained in what he said about the BBC or about the whole issue of establishment manipulation of the news.

    In the days of the Soviet Union they used to talk about the news manipulation by the state through the newspaper called Pravda. What we are seeing in this referendum debate shows the UK establishment outdoing Pravda at the news manipulation game. But then I remember well the news manipulation at the time of the miner’s strike – it was absolutely shocking. Derek Bateman with many years behind him in journalism and with many contacts in the field is taking the whole charade apart in his blog which has has become a focus for many intelligent articulate critics of the establishment. The comments following his pieces are not the usual garbage you get on many websites. They offer constructive thoughtful analysis. You will get Derek’s blog at.

    http://derekbateman1.wordpress.com/

    Since the present government came to power at Westminster the rich have got ever richer and the poor have got ever poorer to the extent that the UK is now one of the most unequal countries in the world. Their welfare reforms and their bedroom tax really are medieval in their effect – more and more people are left literally with nothing to live on and food banks are springing up right across the country. Employment conditions are becoming ever more like serfdom with zero hours contracts where employers have total control over the hours and conditions of their employees, and the Government makes employment and unemployment law ever easier for such employers. As far as they relate to the lives of ordinary people in Scotland the UK Government might as well come from outer space.

    I am telling you all this because I want you to see where I am coming from when I say that I mistrust so much in the engineered and manipulated culture that comes to us through the media including the social media on the internet. It goes back to the brain washing techniques of the Soviet era but is now so much more sophisticated. Some people call it the dumbing down of society. You are expected to look up to and envy the “successful” through another quasi-medieval phenomenon; its not the medieval “cult of the Virgin” now but “the cult of Celebrity” and all the social froth that goes with it through from Hello magazine to the must-be-on-facebook business. This is all part of the same phenomenon as I was talking about above where ordinary people are seen more and more as very much at the bottom of the status pile with celebrity privilege and power there to be looked up to worshipfully. The general message from on high is that we lesser mortals are all inadequate and we should stay meekly in our place, don’t ask awkward questions, believe everything we are told, be content to be led by the nose and to know our place, and above all adore the rich and famous.

    You know I’ve always been a rebel. I still think Rabbie Burns had it right in a “Man’s a Man for a’ that”. We are each the centre of the universe in our own life and we don’t need to live it under anyone’s control and manipulation as long as we are strong enough to believe in ourselves. And this is the point Scottish people are coming to now collectively as we move towards a “Yes” vote. We have had an endless stream of experts telling us we and our stupid wee country are crap and we collectively don’t have the balls to go for it under our own steam.

    “The man o’ independent mind he looks and laughs at a’ that” as Burns would say. I think there is enough of the spirit of Burns hidden deep in the national psyche that will see us collectively through to independence.

  12. Good article indeed by the FT today, but seems not a game changer as all but ignored by the media and of course the BBC. Earlier, the bad Blair tweeted about devastating story to emerge on indy Scotland pensions. Ta! Dah!, couple of hours later, the scare is all over the media, and of course the BBC. ( still quiet on the FT report).

  13. Regarding the Scottish children that are living in poverty, it is my sincere belief that the Labour party accept this appalling statistic as a price worth paying for Scotland remaining as part of the UK. I’d even go as far as suggesting that Scottish poverty is deliberately engineered by the Labour Party.

    • Yes, Labour exists not to protect the poor but to preserve them. Poverty is Labour’s lifeblood, it is nothing without the poor.

  14. Thanks, yet again, Derek. More valuable info re Scotland’s healthy economy being dumped into Westminster’s cavern of debt.

  15. Child poverty in some areas of Scotland 50%

    Child poverty in Norway 0% (yes, that is a zero) ***and falling***

    The disgrace of allowing rule of our country by westminster.

    Child poverty and nuclear weapons are my main reasons for voting for independence.

  16. Dunkie,

    I enjoyed your post very much. Pretty well sums up how a lot of us feel.

    Have you considered having a blog of your own? Something along the same lines, with you answering the ‘Question of the Day’ to your younger friend, who might be, let’s say, a ‘first-time’ voter.

    Just an idea, like…

  17. Thanks Ronnie and X_Sticks for your appreciation of what I posted. Your suggestion of a blog aimed at younger voters, Ronnie, is a good idea but I don’t think I am the man to do that. I only summoned up the courage to put comments on any blog (this one) in the last week and I know I couldn’t sustain anything remotely like what Derek does here on a daily basis.

    • Dunkie,

      Once you have taken that first difficult step of clicking the ‘Post Comment’ button it gets easier after that. I look forward to more input from you as your first post is very good. I wish I was as good with words. You might also like to contribute over on http://wingsoverscotland.com/ – thers a great bunch over there and some excellent banter. Hope to see you there!

  18. Derek,

    The passion and ambition are commendable but the fence-sitters are asking you “How?”

    Sure, independence will give a bit more wriggle room to a government that’s sympathetic to social justice or business but the scope for increasing prosperity across the board is very limited.

    Under the current systems the only ways for government to increase the flow of money into the productive economy are public borrowing or taxing commercial activity. Any meaningful increase in either of these is politically unacceptable

    In the private sector the only options are more investment (trickle down) or more private borrowing.

    Investing in productive businesses is risky, time-consuming, and ties up your money for a long time. Rich people much prefer to gamble on the prices of things, which means very little of the money that they’ve captured gets back into the productive economy.

    As for private borrowing, it’s is already on course to swamp us in debt repayments sometime in the future (maybe sooner than we think – the credit crunch of 2007/08 could have been the start of the tidal wave). Private borrowing adds a temporary boost to those who see the money, but is a serious long term drag on the productive economy.

    Our current methods of cycling money through the productive economy are woefully inadequate. The financial/fiscal/redistributive systems under which we toil are at the root of the problem. Independence, as it’s currently being proposed, will not help us in any significant way.

    The opportunity that the independence referendum gives us to debate and discover new, better ways of managing how our systems work is being wasted, which is a crying shame.

    You say of poverty that “total eradication is probably impossible”. If you’re talking about material poverty then I strongly disagree with you. A universal basic income can provide basic material prosperity for everyone in the land from cradle to grave. If it comes as part of a wider reform of our financial systems it will give a massive boost to the real business community – the bit that operates in the productive economy providing us with all the stuff that we need..

    I outline one way that this can be achieved in my book ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Our-Money-government-business-eliminate/dp/0992628512 ), but there are many variations on the theme.

    You have an audience, you’re passionate about making Scotland a better place. Please help us to bring some of these ideas to the fore so that there’s some chance of meaningful change, regardless of the outcome of the vote in September.

    • ‘Under the current systems the only ways for government to increase the flow of money into the productive economy are public borrowing or taxing commercial activity. Any meaningful increase in either of these is politically unacceptable’

      Really ? I would have thought a ‘land tax’ on the likes of foreign owners of Scottish estates may be quite popular, especially if it included the likes of Daily Mail supremo Paul Dacre

      • Land value tax isn’t part of our current systems, but I welcome you bringing it into the debate. Andy Wightman has done some research into LVT which suggests it is a good alternative to taxing productive activity. Well worth considering as part of the collection process but it doesn’t address the problems of distribution.

  19. Recycling the ‘Pension’ propaganda yet again. Scottish taxpayers pay for (UK) gov pensions. (£17Billion including welfare ‘benefits’). Private/gov Pensions can be paid anywhere in the world.

    British banks sell pensions/insurance worldwide. Lloyds etc. The biggest investment fund in Europe is based in Edinburgh. Aberdeen Asset Management.

    Scotland could be 10Billion+ a year better off, Independent. More than enough to ease poverty and create jobs. £7Billion + a cut in Trident and a tax on ‘loss leading’ alcohol = £10Billion.

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