I have just ploughed my way through the first four chapters of Scotland’s Future, the Scottish Government’s white paper which argues the case for voting “yes” in next year’s referendum on Scottish independence, and outlines the Scottish National Party’s “priorities for action” should they be voted back into government after Scotland becomes independent.
I confess that I’ve found the document hard going. Much of what appears in Chapter 1 (The Case For Independence) is repeated in several variations in the subsequent three chapters (Scotland’s Finances; Finance & the Economy; Health, Wellbeing and Social Protection). Many sections wander off at distracting tangents instead of sticking to the topics suggested by their headings. It’s a shame that the text has not been subjected to more rigorous editing because the repetitive waffle makes it hard to focus on what’s actually being said.
The general thrust of the arguments contained in these four chapters is that independence is an opportunity to do things better for the people of Scotland than is currently being done by the combined governments at Westminster and Holyrood. This is easy to agree with.
However, when you sift through the sections headed “The Scotland We Can Create” , “The Choices Open To Us” and “Priorities For Action” that appear in every chapter you’ll find that everything being proposed by the SNP lies firmly within the framework of our current systems of democracy and finance.
There are a few tweaks here and there that seek to shift the emphasis from austerity towards fairness, but what’s being proposed is a government in Holyrood that operates in much the same way as the government in Westminster: raising revenue from taxing the same activities and spending the money in similar amounts on the same sorts of social programmes. The currency will be the same, nominally controlled by the same Bank of England. Local government will be the same, at the mercy of an all-powerful central government.
From the first four chapters of the document it’s clear that Scotland’s Future under independence, according to the SNP, will be pretty much business as usual, albeit conducted 95% from Edinburgh rather than 50% from London.
This means that an independent Scottish Government (as envisaged by the SNP) will be constrained by the same dysfunctional systems as today’s Scottish/UK governments.
Allowing private banks to profit from the the creation, distribution and destruction of our money as debt does not work. The money that we need for our economy to function gets stuck in the hands of a few people, leaving the rest of us struggling to find enough to pay for the things that we need, which means more and more of us have to rely on the government as our source of essential spending money.
Taxing commerce to distribute this essential spending money as welfare benefits does not work. The need for more money to fund more commerce to pay for more welfare means more private debt and more money getting stuck in the hands of the few. The only way that government can keep up with demand for welfare is to borrow some of the money that’s got stuck in the hands of the few, which means more money is sucked out of the economy as interest payments on the public debt, which means we have even less money to keep the economy functioning.
Without a reliable mechanism for cycling money through the economy in such a way that everyone is able to buy the things that they need there will be no prosperous independent Scotland, or a prosperous UK for that matter. Productive businesses will continue to struggle to find the investment they need in order to thrive. Workers will continue to be wage slaves condemned to do whatever work is on offer under whatever conditions employers can get away with at whatever meagre rate of pay. Those who are unable to work because of age, infirmity or lack of opportunity, and those who work unpaid as carers and volunteers will continue to scrape along on inadequate hand-outs from the state, trapped and marginalised.
Independence is indeed an opportunity to do things better for the people of Scotland but this document offers absolutely nothing to help us escape from the trap that we’re currently in. There is nothing in this so-called “blueprint” that identifies the roots of the problems, defines the requirements for rectifying them, describes the concepts that will be employed to meet the requirements, or specifies how these concepts will become realities. There are no measurable outcomes nor any assessment of the resources required to deliver them. Scotland’s Future is no more a blueprint than I am a bluefin tuna.
We can and must do better. If enthusiasts for independence want the rest of us to vote “yes” in ten months time they must do a lot better than this, and do it quickly.