Since the 2016 Brexit referendum the UK government has shown no respect for the devolution settlement. It has been persistent in chasing a deal that undermines the democratically elected Scottish Parliament and rip powers away from it without consent.
The UK Government this week has shown again it’s complete disregard for devolution with the publishing of its new Internal Market Bill. The internal market bill according to the government looks to strengthen trading links within the union, better connecting all 4 nations and boosting the economy. However, that is far from the truth. The bill first of all will lower food standards to strike a trade deal with the US, this is already a devolved area, but it looks like the UK Government doesn’t care about that. In fact, the entire bill is filled with clauses that looks to override many areas of devolution without any consent or consultation with the devolved administrations.
And today Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Jack has written to the First Minister to try debunk her own claims. In this very short and awful letter Jack tells the FM that “Independence would destroy devolution”. I mean that’s some line to go with. Obviously, I don’t need to sit here and tell you that Independence would replace devolution with something better, but the only ones here destroying devolution are the Tories with this reckless power grab. The Tories have never had any respect for devolution and this bill reaffirms that. Independence gives us full powers to help people in Scotland, with Independence we can actually protect food standards and our democracy from this Tory government that is more concerned with tightening its grip on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Scottish Government, Scottish Greens, Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have all blasted the attempts to undermine devolution. However, there has been an eerie silence from UK and Scottish Labour. The party of devolution seems to have fallen silent on the atrocity that is the internal market bill. Why is labour not speaking out on this? Has the party of devolution simply given up on devolution? At the time of writing this, Richard Leonard and the Scottish Labour Party have not uttered a single word about the attack on devolution and Scottish democracy.
Unfortunately, I think the worse is yet to come. The conservatives currently sit in Westminster with an 80-seat majority, so no matter what I think the Tories will plow ahead with this awful piece of legislation. It never fails to amaze me how little the Conservative government thinks of Scotland. in 2014 we were told to lead, not leave the Union. How can we do that when Westminster is so keen on overriding devolution and our elected Scottish Parliament. Be in no doubt this bill is an attack on our democracy.
We must call out this attack at every turn. The only way to protect Scotland’s parliament now is with Independence, and people are waking up to that reality. Scotland can do better than this.
This article was written by Jamie McDiarmid. Jamie is the President of University of Stirling Students for Independence.
Jamie can be contacted through the University or on twitter @Jamie_McDiarmid
The release of the yearly Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report is the one of the most intensely debated topics of the constitutional question. The debate of the report exists in two parts. First on the methodology of the report itself and how accurate is represents the Scottish economy within the UK. Second, what the data suggests an independent Scotland’s fiscal balance could look like and what challenges this could entail.
These two debates lead to a healthy and largely informative discussion that introduce activists to new macroeconomic concepts. Yet sadly the debate also reinforces orthodox language and misleading claims that exist on both sides of the debate. This fundamentally comes from either a far too basic understanding of how the macroeconomic system works (i.e. only referring to “tax and spend”) or misguided knowledge regarding monetary operations that exist in the UK today. Responding to these issues will be the main purpose of this article, whilst leaving room to discuss methodology in the future.
From the unionist perspective, GERS is deemed as a positive advertisement for the UK as the data suggests that Scotland is subsidised by other regions within the union. The argument follows is that Scotland’s national deficit, which as part of the UK was £15.1 billion in 2020, could only have been achieved from the spending of the UK Treasury. The newly appointed leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglass Ross, responded to the GERS report, writing:
“That £15 billion deficit is larger than the entire health budget. Balancing the books would mean savings on the scale of throwing away Scotland’s entire NHS, every nurse and doctor, and every service that is so vital.”
Unionist commentator and chairman of the right-wing think tank These Islands, Kevin Hague, has also previously made comment on how this spending works within the UK. In his July article “Fiscal Transfers and Shifting Narratives” he makes a revealing comment with the following:
“It shows the journey from the oil boom of the 80s through to the situation today where Scotland benefits from a fiscal transfer of £2,000 per head or over £10bn annually. If you look carefully, you will see a pleasing symmetry: far from being a source of either grievance or shame, fiscal pooling & sharing within the UK has worked out remarkably equitably for Scotland over the last 40 years.”
From the independence perspective, others have argued that Scotland’s national deficit can be better managed if we had control of fiscal and monetary levers. Finance Secretary for the Scottish Government, Kate Forbes, was questioned by ITV on the size of Scotland’s government deficit compared to other countries and the rest of the UK. She said:
“We have just seen unprecedented borrowing from countries all around the world – small and large countries – including the UK government whose deficit is set to rise to £372 billion this year…the difference between them and Scotland is they have the powers and levers to manage a deficit. Those are powers we can use in order to invest in the economy and manage our public finances far more sustainably than they’re currently managed under this arrangement.”
Andrew Wilson, who is chair of the SNP’s Suitable Growth Commission paper, seemed to suggest himself that Scotland’s government deficit should be reduced. He argues:
“The whole point of independence is trying to make the economy and society more equal, better performing, more productive and better sustainable. It won’t happen overnight, it will take effort, but that effort will be worth it. I find it profoundly ironic that arguing for the United Kingdom are about saying things are so bad, we’re so unequal, the public finances are so dreadful, that things should stay the same. It doesn’t seem to me to be a sensible argument or one that’s winning.”
There are a few fundamental claims made by both sides of the argument, some with shared agreement and others with disagreement.
1) An independent Scotland would have to “balance the books” to control its finances (Indy+Union Argument)
2) Scotland is subsidised by taxpayers from the rest of the United Kingdom. (Unionist Argument)
3) Independence will allow Scotland to better manage a deficit compared to devolution. (Independence Argument)
The first claim is a dangerous route to austerity, the second claim is wrong from an operational analysis and the third claim is true from a macroeconomic perspective.
First – Must Scotland “Balance the Books?”
The first major problem from the discussion around GERS is the sole focus on one sector of the economy, that being the government sector. By focussing the narrative around the government as if its finances work as a household, political and economic commentators are ignoring two other vital sectors that must be included in any analysis of Scotland’s overall fiscal position. The best framework to look at any country’s overall macroeconomic position is to use the Sectoral Balance sheet, as shown below.
When using the sectoral balance framework, the net sum of all equity of the economy (i.e. all three sectors) is equal to zero. If the private sector (which includes households) is in a surplus, then that requires one of the other sectors to be in a deficit. In this case, it is revealed through GERS data that Scotland has a government deficit. But what does that mean for regular people?
When the government sector is in deficit to the private sector, the private sector is expanding which in-turn increases economic activity. A government deficit adds net-financial pound assets to other parts of the economy. It increases our income, which is then spent into private firms. Private firms then can afford to expand projects and production, in turn generating more jobs and growth. By increasing our productive output and further utilising our resources, we create a stable and functioning economy, which is down to economic boost from a government deficit. This is completely normal and necessary in order to run a healthy economy.
The proposed argument that this is somehow economically wrong does not make any real logical sense. In fact it’s when we attempt to “balance the budget” (i.e. government spending is equal to revenue) we face serious challenges. Before the global pandemic, the UK government had moved towards a government surplus, whilst the private sector has been moving to a deficit. With both the coalition and conservative governments imposing austerity on the population of the UK, there are now less pound assets in the economy, less spending and thus a fall in private incomes.
If the private sector wants to mitigate the damage to their lost income, they would need to cut into their savings, sell their assets or take out loans on credit (which they would have to pay interest). With less money in the private sector to be spent on goods and services this then strangles growth with increased private debt. That is exactly what has happened when governments have attempted to “balance the books” and is the correct recipe to lead the country to a recession.
This is a discussion that is largely ignored within the GERS debate, with commentators only focusing on the government sector and what that means for ordinary people. Therefore Scotland, as an independent country or within the UK, should embrace a government deficit to mitigate the current austerity measures that has been imposed over the last decade. As Professor of Economics Eric Tymoigne concludes in his paper “Debunking the Public Debt and Deficit Rhetoric”:
“If a growing public debt is so concerning to some, it is because it is supposed to raise interest rates, slow economic growth, raise inflation, and raise tax rates. Even a casual look at the evidence shows that these concerns are not warranted and that prior beliefs should be reversed. Deficits help to stabilize the economy, deficits do not raise interest rates, deficits are not necessarily inflationary, and a rising public debt does not lead to higher tax rates. The public debt and fiscal deficits provide several benefits to the rest of the economy.”
Second – Is Scotland Subsidised By The Rest Of The UK?
We’ve concluded that Scotland’s government deficit is, in current circumstances, necessary to reverse austerity. But the next debate is where Scotland would find the money to fund such a deficit. As we’ve seen from most discourse on the discussion, commentators more frequently use the (TAB)S framework – taxing and borrowing precedes spending. As the name suggests, this framework argues that there is only two options for the state to increase its spending; to tax the population more or to borrow our savings. This framework is to suggest that a government’s budget is like that of a normal household.
This is where “£2,000 Union Dividend” argument presents itself: if Scotland became an independent country then the sudden lose of income would require either massive tax hikes and/or fiscal austerity.
This is factually wrong.
The (TAB)S framework is a dated concept that does not reflect the realities of monetary operations for modern day economies with their own economies and central bank. Instead an updated framework is S(TAB) – spending precedes taxation and borrowing. This framework shows that modern day governments credit currency into the relevant accounts first, then followed by taxation and borrowing. This logic also applies to private banks when it comes to deposits. Private banks create brand new deposits by simply crediting the correct accounts, and do not use money from savers. Instead of taxation being used as a tool for spending, it is better used to control equity, social behaviour, demand and inflation. What we also call “borrowing” is also an accounting adjustment used to set over-night and long-term interest rate (a topic we recently touched on).
This is not a ground-breaking revelation. John Maynard Keynes in his two-volume masterpiece “A Treatise of Money” writes in page 30:
“There can be no doubt that, in the most convenient use of language, all deposits are ‘created’ by the bank holding them. It is certainly not the case that banks are limited to that kind of deposit, for the creation of which it is necessary that depositors should come on their own initiative to bring cash or cheques.”
“An analysis of reserve accounting reveals that all government spending is financed by the direct creation of HPM; bond sales and taxation are merely alternative means by which to drain reserves/destroy HPM. The choice, then, is between alternative methods for draining reserves in order to prevent the overnight lending rate from falling to zero. In light of these findings, it is, perhaps, time to reconsider our definitions of monetary and fiscal policy as well as our treatment of taxation and bond sales as ‘financing’ operations.”
“Banks making loans and consumers repaying them are the most significant ways in which bank deposits are created and destroyed in the modern economy. But they are far from the only ways. Deposit creation or destruction will also occur any time the banking sector (including the central bank) buys or sells existing assets from or to consumers, or, more often, from companies or the government.”
Based on current monetary operations, taxpayers from the rest of the UK do not subsidise Scotland. It is the Bank of England marking up relevant accounts on behalf of the UK Treasury with credit creation that results in higher spending in Scotland. If Scotland were to become an independent country, it would require its own currency and central bank in order to carry out similar operations to credit relevant accounts. If this can be set up during the transition period towards independence, then the question is not if Scotland can finance its public services, but if it has the domestic resources (labour, skills, physical capital, technology and natural resources) to carry out public services and programmes. However, what an independent Scotland’s spending priorities would be entirely down to political decision making.
Third – Can an Independent Scotland Better Manage A Deficit Compared To The Current Model?
This last argument is largely a political one and will depend on how we define “manage”. In this case, under the current devolution settlement the Scottish Government is limited in its abilities to reshape the economy in a manner that matches that of regular monetary sovereign countries of its size. Without monetary control and limited tax/borrowing powers, the current devolution model forces Holyrood to use the (TAB)S framework, which could indirectly influence how commentators discuss the economic opportunities and challenges an independent Scotland could face.
However, these opportunities come down to having the levers to invest into government programmes and utilise our resources. If Scotland were to adopt an economic model of Sterlingisation then we would still be bound by the (TAB)S framework. This means the monetary operations discussed above would not apply to us, and instead an independent Scotland would be more likely to raise taxes and/or cut public services. We could also borrow, but as we discuss in our bonds article this leaves us open to bond vigilantes and a real default risk.
An independent Scotland does have the capabilities to better manage its current government deficit compared to the model of devolution. But if the model Scotland picks is self-harming, then the short term economic opportunities are far more limited.
Further Comment – Tax and Regional Inequality
There has been an interesting discussion on the issue of Scottish taxation between economist George Kerevan and chartered accountant Richard Murphy. Kerevan presents the argument that Scotland’s taxation levels, as a percentage of GDP, are relatively low compared to international standards. He cites a few interesting examples, including Norway which has almost a 20% taxation gap compared to Scotland. Kerevan also acknowledges the potential risk of capital flight, but argues that a mix of capital controls and monetary sovereignty could mitigate any potential damage. Finally, he also discusses opening new revenues for taxation, citing the failed 28,000 new Green jobs target by the Scottish Government (only achieving 6% of the target).
Murhpy responds to George by arguing that, whilst raising taxation has clear benefits, the real case to be made is in spending. Murphy rightfully uses the S(TAB) framework and points out spending comes before taxation, and that as the aggregate tax rate rises so does GDP. Richard concludes that higher taxation should occur later down the line.
So who is right? Seeing as both men come from similar economic positions, both hold a large element of truth. As stated above, Murphy’s use of the S(TAB) framework is accurate, though for the short to medium term there could be the case to raise certain taxes. Tax liabilities creates demand for any currency, and when launching a new Scottish currency post-independence it would not be unreasonable to offer a tax rise in certain areas. Which areas this could be will depend on your politics and economic school of thought. But a reasonable position would be a gradual tax rise in line with growing GDP.
Finally, the discussion of regional inequality within the UK also raised its head, this time between Kevin Hague, Sam Taylor (also part of Hague’s think tank) and former Liberal Democrat candidate John Ferry. Together they have two arguments, which summarised are 1) No, the UK does not have some of the worst regional inequality in Europe 2) Even so, the fact this wealth is redistributed shows the UK is working.
“the UK is one of the most interregionally unequal countries in the industrialized world. Wide-ranging evidence suggest that on many levels the UK economy is internally decoupling, dislocating and disconnecting, a reality which the UK’s highly centralized, top-down, largely space-blind and sectorally dominated governance system is almost uniquely ill-equipped to address.”
The extremist attitude to deny or disguise regional inequality in the UK is concerning. Commentators need to start discussing how to evenly spread resources across the UK, instead of viewing the South East as some sort of economic protector for other regions. This is a structural issue, not simply a problem that can be tweaked. Further discussion on the issue can also be found by Dr Craig Dalzell, where you can his analysis on GERS by clicking here.
Conclusion – Update The Debate
The debate on GERS is a welcome and healthy discussion for Scotland’s democracy, even if it is largely contained within a social media bubble. But discussing macroeconomics with one eye shut only leaves voters and political commentators misinformed. Activists on both sides of the debate must go beyond the headline numbers and ask themselves what this means for our economy, but more importantly for ordinary people.
Folks, its that time of year again. The annual GERS figures (or Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) have been published and again we will see Unionists try and say that it shows that Scotland can’t go it alone. While they take the figures and completely skew them up lets take a look at this years GERS figures and see what they actually say.
The first thing and probably one of the most important things to remember about the GERS figures is that it is in the context of Scotland IN the United Kingdom, the GERS own description quite literally specifies that is “Scotlands economy as part of the UK” and it doesn’t model Scotland as an Independent country. The GERS figures do get a lot of criticism from both sides, and rightly so. We’ve already seen, they in no way can reflect the finances of an Independent Scotland.
Let’s not forget about another important fact here. Figures included in the GERS report includes UK Government spending. UK Government spending that is proportioned to Scotland or “Money spent on Scotlands behalf”. And yes, that includes things that the UK Government spends money on that doesn’t benefit Scotland. A perfect example of this? The over budget shambles that is HS2. All this adds up, resulting in Scotlands “large deficit”. Now deficits, I could do a whole blog on deficits (I really recommend reading this for more info on them). Unionists love to talk about deficits. Why? Because it’s easy to use for voters. “Look at how much we’re spending, we simply couldn’t control this in an Independent Scotland”. They’ll claim that this is the fault of the Scottish Government and shows “how they’ll really perform” with the powers of Independence. But this is kind of shooting themselves in the foot. They’ve missed out a vital piece of information here…Scottish Government under treasury rules can’t run deficits, they have to spend within the budget. Remember Scottish Government is a currency user and not a currency issuer, they can ran out of money. So where’s this deficit coming from? As mentioned earlier – UK Government spending PROPORTIONED to Scotland.
With Independence, and our own monetary sovereignty, we can spend money on things that are beneficial to Scotland. No more wasted money on projects that we don’t need.
So lets look at a snapshot of Todays figures.
Onshore Revenue is £62.5 billion, that’s up £1.1 billion
Net fiscal balance (Including geographic share of North Sea Oil) was a deficit of £15.1 billion
Unionists will love that last figure. Now I could analyse these figures, but I’m not going to. Instead Im going to tell you a bit more how this is all flawed. Ive already told you about Deficits and how its a rally bad figure to use in Scotlands finances.
But lets look at the politics behind it and why it was set up. GERS was set up under John Major and first published in 1992. So straight off the bat, you can see they’ve been published since before the Scottish Parliament. It was meant to be divisive. It was meant to show that Scotland couldn’t go it alone.
How much can the GERS figures tell us about an Independent Scotland?
The Scottish Government themselves have warned that it only shows Scotlands finances under the current constitutional arrangements.
Again going back to the deficit, it is the most weaponised part of GERS. It is commonly used to show Scotland couldn’t go it alone, however this means accepting that the public finances would be exactly the same after independence. It wouldn’t. Independence for so many of us is about making radical change because we know it won’t happen under any Westminster government. So why would we keep it exactly the same. The SNP and many other Pro-Indy parties have consistently signalled Scotland would have much different spending priorities post-Independence. No money spent on nuclear weapons, on failed railway projects, vanity projects.
Are the figures used reliable?
Yes and No.
Its real data that is used in the GERS figures and not just estimates however that doesn’t mean its 100% reliable.
To conclude this short blog. I could go into depth about the GERS figures but I just don’t feel like putting that energy into it is worth it. It’s the same arguments every year. Unionists point to the deficit and we point out the flaws. So what should you take away from this. First of all DEFICITS. Scottish Government can’t run deficits, so UK Government spending prop tined to Scotland raises that deficit figure. Independence will give us the full powers over our economy to spend on the priorities for the people of Scotland and not waste it on failed projects and nuclear weapons.
Remember this is all in the context of Scotland WITHIN the United Kingdom and is in no way reflective of Independence. It can’t be, no one can’t tell you how a Scottish Government in an Independent Scotland will utilise the full economic powers that we will have. It shows how Scotland performs without the full economic powers available. An Independent Scotland can utilise these powers better.
One of the bigger arguments proposed by opponents of Scottish independence is the idea that establishing an independent Scottish state would result in a dangerous amount of borrowing. The borrowing levels would be so out of control that it would make the Scottish economy collapse.
But here’s the catch – an independent Scotland with its own currency and central bank would not borrow a penny. Not because Scotland is a magical utopia, but because we would use the same monetary powers that the UK uses right now. What we describe as “borrowing” is an accounting adjustment that changes our currency. This may seem confusing at first, but this will become clear as we explain how the monetary operations work.
No! A government deficit is totally normal for countries all over the world and allows people to have money in their pockets.
A government deficit is the difference between what the government spends and what it gets back. Some see a government deficit as a bad thing; however they forget that the government deficit is actually extra investment that, if spent correctly, allows us to have more money in our pockets and grow the economy. The UK government trying to reduce the deficit is what is causing austerity and suffering.
So Scotland needs a government deficit if it wants to reverse Westminster austerity and help support the most vulnerable in society. But does Scotland have the tools and resources to maintain a healthy government deficit? Yes! How do we do it? Well that depends on which experts you ask.
The Sustainable Growth Commission, an expert group set up by the Scottish Government to look at the economic case for independence, proposes that an independent Scotland would only borrow for public investment and, over time, spend above inflation to reverse austerity from Westminster. It proposes that with increased growth and savings an independent Scotland can reduce its deficit to 3% of GDP and its debt to just 50% of GDP.
However, other expert groups argue this does not go far enough to reverse austerity and tackle climate change.
The think-tank Common Weal has two books, “How to start an independent country” and “Our Common Home”, dedicated to the costs and benefits setting up an independent Scotland and tackling climate change together. They propose that the Scottish Government issues £170 billion in bonds over 25 years and for the Central Bank to buy all or the majority of them. This is called Quantitative Easing, which the UK government has done £435 billion worth of since 2009.
Whatever your views are on how we control Scotland’s economy, all the above experts can agree that Scotland’s resources are ridiculously good for a small country of 5 million people. This is covered in great detail by the business think-tank Business for Scotland in their book “Scotland the Brief”. With just 8.6% of the UK’s population we also have 34% of the UK’s total natural resources. An independent Scotland fully utilising these resources would see incredible growth, long-term investment and financial security for the majority of the population.
The question isn’t “how do we pay for it?”, instead we should ask ourselves “how do we organise our economy for the betterment of ordinary people?”
It doesn’t have to be, but it definitely could be! 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum. Despite this, on 31st January 2020, Scotland left the EU along with the rest of the UK, thanks to Boris Johnson’s renewed Conservative majority in Westminster. Because of this, an independent Scotland would now have to apply to re-join the EU, assuming its people expressed a desire to do so via a referendum or an election in which the winning party campaigned to re-join the EU. Of the major independence-supporting parties (and those represented in our society) the SNP and the Green Party support EU membership, whilst the SSP are more Eurosceptic.
You may have heard unionists argue that Scotland would require a deficit of less than 3% in order to join the EU. This is false. The Maastricht Convergence Criteria do require new members to ‘worktowards’ a deficit of less than 3%, but this is not binding and member states that do not comply are only barred from joining the Euro. A deficit of less than 3% is not a requirement of joining the EU. Countries with deficits higher than 3% have joined before, notably Croatia.
In any case, an independent Scotland may choose not to re-apply for EU membership. But the Scottish people would have a choice, and their democratically expressed view would be acted upon, unlike in the 2016 referendum. An independent Scotland would be able to re-join the EU if it chose to do so.
December 12th was the night of the proverbial final nail.
Yet again, Scotland was left to watch with dismay as the election results trickled in. Yet again, come the morning Scotland was left with a Westminster government it wanted nothing to do with. But this time something is different. This time the people of Scotland are starting to put their foot down. We’ve had enough.
The result of General Election 2019, in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few days (and who would blame you), was a stonking Tory majority. Vast swathes of England flipped from red to blue.
Meanwhile, Scotland turned yellow.
48 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats, over 80%, were won by the SNP. England chose Boris Johnson, Brexit, populism and the right. Scotland chose Nicola Sturgeon, Europe, sensible governance and the left. If you wanted an indication of the irreparably broken state of the Union, then here it is.
Despite Scotland’s choice, we must now face the fact that the fight against Brexit is over. We have lost. Boris Johnson now faces no obstacles to taking the UK out of the EU in whatever manner he sees fit. Whatever approach that is, it will be without Scotland’s consent and against Scotland’s interests. Remain is dead. Now we must rally around ‘Regain’. The only path to regaining the European citizenship that will now be stripped from us against our will is independence.
But the divide that the election showed was not just over Brexit. Across Scotland, social democrats and socialists – heck, anyone who believes in a vaguely egalitarian, fairly governed, green or meritocratic future – are waking up to the fact that the future they envisage cannot be achieved within the Union. Scotland is a small nation. Within the UK, a political arrangement that fails to entrench the importance of its constituent member states, Scotland is small enough to be ignored. And so we have been, time and time again.
Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters the country over have finally had enough. Personally, several of my friends have told me that December 12th was the final straw. Committed ‘Nos’ from 2014 are becoming ‘Yesses’. We’re beginning to see this all over social media as well, as supporters of unionist parties, even those who didn’t vote for the SNP this time around (and might never do so) are expressing support for our movement. They are all so very welcome.
Of course, this is all anecdotal evidence. But I do have a hard time imagining it won’t be reflected whenever the next poll on Scottish independence is released. The stronger the support for a Scotland that takes its own decisions in its own interests, the harder it will be for Boris Johnson to ignore.
That said, he’ll try to. Of course he will, Boris Johnson views democracy as a game played by people from privileged backgrounds. Power is his plaything, why should he pay attention to a pesky inconvenience like Scotland when to do so jeopardises his legacy?
But he should keep this in mind – the longer he denies Scotland’s right to choose, the longer he treats us like our opinions don’t matter, the longer he continues to pretend everything will all sort itself out in the end, the more people will decide they’ve had enough.
Prime Minister, Scotland rejects you. It did so on its ballot papers on Thursday, and it will continue to do so for as long as you remain in office. When you decide to ‘allow’ a referendum on independence is irrelevant. Because of you, because of this election, our movement is growing.
You know that moment when you meet someone new and you realise you have a lot in common? It’s a great feeling when you discover there are others out there who share the same passions and ideas as you do. It’s even better when you begin to learn new things from each other that perhaps you weren’t aware of before. Yet when it comes to the two biggest national debates in Scotland there are two campaigns that don’t seem to realise how much they have in common.
On one side we have the Scottish independence movement taking on the chaos of Westminster and Brexit, whilst on the other side we have the incredible Scottish climate youth movement fighting to save the planet’s sustainability. Both these movements have almost the exact same goals; fighting social and economic inequalities in a fashion which reverses the climate crisis created by neoliberalism.
The independence movement has struggled to discuss the issue of climate change, largely because activists see it as a different discussion. But reality tells it differently. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that we only have 12 years to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Failure to address this problem means the world faces a wave of extreme heats, drought, poverty and floods. Achieving independence will mean almost nothing if our children and grandchildren are living in a world that’s ruined from climate catastrophe.
The Scottish climate youth movement has successfully got the attention of politicians, but Scotland’s economic and political barriers still exist because of Westminster. Almost a decade of austerity from the Conservatives has harmed Scotland’s renewable sector, including a £1 billion cut to the carbon capture plan in Peterhead that ultimately ruined the project. The Conservatives also voted to stop grants for new onshore wind turbines back in 2017, which the Green Alliance predicts would lead to a 95% decline in investment by next year. How can Scotland fight climate change if it is at the mercy of right-wing governments it never voted for? How can we create a green economy when Westminster holds most of our macroeconomic levers?
Both campaigns also have incredible resources. Tens of thousands of young people have taken to the streets to make clear they’re no longer tolerating complacency by those in power. It is the same kind of political energy you find at independence marches, also attended by tens of thousands of people. Combining these resources together would create an unstoppable grassroots campaign.
So what could that campaign look like?
One package that both campaigns have taken a liking to is the Scottish Green New Deal. It’s a long-term plan put together by many progressive experts to completely reshape our society today. First, it is a complete reversal of austerity. Scotland needs to invest heavily to kick start a new independent economy and build green projects. A good start would be removing old polluting public transport and instead reinvest in technology that helps create a zero carbon industry. This also means more solar panels, retrofitting coastal infrastructure and producing more electric cars. Investment can also go to reforestation and developing local food markets, meaning less reliance in imports.
Second, the levers to run our economy must be given to normal people. Policies such as the voluntary Job Guarantee allows communities to decide what jobs would best benefit local people, whilst offering a living wage and a healthy working environment. What if local communities wanted to build a local windfarm? What if communities wanted to retrofit renewable heating into their homes and public centres? Scotland has surplus labour and resources to turn this into a reality, which in turns strengthens our democracy.
Third, we must hold other big private polluters to account. The Carbon Majors report found that since 1988 just 100 companies have been responsible 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore they have a serious responsibility on their shoulders, especially when it comes to decommissioning infrastructure in the North Sea. Other actions include manufacturers moving away from the use of plastic, finding alternative means of transporting goods across the globe and even offering company lunches to staff sourced largely from plant-based foods. New climate models and technology also allows governments to put a carbon limit on private corporations.
Unionists and the political right will try to scaremonger about the cost of a Scottish Green New Deal, without realising that the cost of not implementing it will be astronomical. But history has shown us that massive social and economic change usually puts cost near the bottom of priorities. The creation of the National Health Service, the welfare state and new towns after the Second World War prioritised people over profit. In the 2008 financial crisis world governments seemed to magically find money to support their friends in the financial sector. If Central Banks can dump $17 trillion into the global money supply from 2008 to 2018 then there is no reason that an independent Scotland, and the rest of the world, could not finance a Green New Deal.
Scotland cannot change the world alone, but we certainly can be a leading example for others to follow. A green economy for people must be run by people. Only then can we all lift together.
You’ve probably heard – there’s a General Election coming.
On 12th December the UK will go to the polls to elect your Westminster representatives. That means you’ve got until 25th November to register to vote and make sure your voice is heard. Here’s five reasons why that’s a thing you really should do…
1) It’s your opportunity to make your opinion count
Our democracy might seem like it’s pretty broken at the moment – but this is your opportunity to change that! Feel like your opinion isn’t getting enough airtime? Then vote! Whatever issues are important to you, whether it’s the environment, healthcare, income inequality, austerity, student finance, Brexit or independence, now’s your chance to get them on the agenda and get a politician in Westminster who shares your views. They work for you, so if you don’t like the job your MP is doing, kick them out by voting! In an election, everyone’s voice counts the same, so use this opportunity to make your voice heard.
2) This one’s a really, really important election
So… There’s this little thing called ‘Brexit’ happening (or not…) However you feel about it, this election has come about because of Brexit. That means that you will be voting at a crucial time in the history of the UK. If you’ve been frustrated by the last three years (and let’s face it, who hasn’t been) then you’ve finally got another chance to shape the future of the country. Infuriated that Scotland’s 62% Remain vote is being ignored by a Brexiteer Prime Minister who can’t get anything through Parliament? Now you can make that known.
3) Young people get ignored because they don’t vote
4) If you’re a student, you’re in a pretty powerful position
If you’re a student, you can register at both your home and term-time address! This means that you have a choice of which seat to vote in (you can’t vote in both though). In this election especially, that means students have the flexibility to place their vote in whichever constituency it will be most valuable. For example, my home constituency is a Tory safe seat, but here in Stirling the seat was won by just 148 votes at the last election. If you’ve got the power to choose, use it wisely!