Divergent Paths – Scottish Independence

There is a feeling that a No vote will land us with another Conservative government. However I think it may be more than that.

I have a strong sense that substantial numbers of English people are growing more right wing. I think many people down South are in tune with Ian Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms and the need to rein back immigration from the EU. Many are also in favour of withdrawal from the EU; at least polls seem to indicate that. The major Westminster political parties appear to be singing from the same hymn sheet and a change of government may not alter that.

Whereas I do not think that is the case in Scotland. It implies that over the long term England and Scotland may continue to diverge in their attitudes to social justice and what constitutes a fair society. Scotland will not be able influence the course that Westminster politics takes and only a Yes vote will free us to follow our own ideas.

How to Decide – Scottish Independence

Both sides of the Scottish Referendum Debate are largely trading conjecture as fact. Assertions about currency, heads of state, membership of international organisations, interest rates etc., will all depend on negotiations after the vote. No binding decisions can be taken beforehand.

In essence the decision rests on each voter’s personal view of how they see the future. Remain in the UK and things will remain much the same. Vote Yes for the possibility of change. Remaining the same in my opinion involves accepting more of the Tory agenda for privatisation, for reducing the level and scope of social support and more inequality. At its worst it means a syphoning off of the public wealth into private hands, those of the already uber-rich. On the other hand we do not know if we have the leaders or the will of the electorate to improve our society to make it more equal, to make sure everyone pays their taxes and to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to have a fulfilled and satisfactory life. With independence there is that chance if we are capable of grasping it. Without independence I cannot see much chance of it happening.

So I am for taking the chance.

What Do We Really Want?

I sometimes despair of our current political and social environment. What would I really like to see change?

One blog post is not sufficient to gather all of that together but just let me take one topic at a time.

I assume that most people want to live in a nice environment, in a dwelling which provides adequate shelter and warmth and have access to food and drink. All of this should be readily available in an advanced society such as ours. I realise that this is not available to many millions in the world but that we in the UK are very fortunate.

It would appear self-evident that the government if not being the direct provider should at least arrange the country’s affairs in such a way that these basic requirements of the population are met. So why unaffordable house prices, food banks, night shelters for an increasing number of homeless people and government statistics themselves cataloguing thousands of children in poverty? And why, at the same time are we spending several billion pounds on aircraft carriers which will not have any aircraft?

Care Home Staff

The Panorama programme highlighting shocking staff behaviour in care homes is probably only demonstrating the tip of an iceberg.

Care home staff are generally on very poor wages with long hours. More reasonable hours and better wages would reduce the stress of the job and give staff a better standard of living which would address some of the problems. Good supervision by skilled managers throughout the day and night would reduce the chances of abuse. This costs money at a time when the fees charged by care homes are being squeezed.

As taxpayers we need to decide our priorities, dignity and a high standard of care for our elderly loved ones or allowing the uber-rich to pay minuscule rates of tax?

Efficiency

For many years now governments have been calling for improved efficiency and productivity in our public services. It is a truism that there is always room to cut cost but arbitrary reductions in budgets are often blunt weapons which reduce the service rather than make it more efficient. Many government budgets are effectively reduced every year over many years and these cuts actually produce inefficiencies and not savings overall. While reducing costs in one area these cost cutting measures may result in increased expenditure elsewhere. It is better to look to reduce the cost of any public service by reducing the need for it. In other words don’t look inside a  service for reductions in cost, look outside at the environment in which the service operates. I have recently come across the fact that many Looked After children, children placed in care by local authorities, end up in young offenders institutions after leaving care at a predefined age. Better to spend a marginal extra amount on extending their time in care than pay the far higher costs of secure accommodation.
Western societies have grown huge,  wide spreading and intricate support organisations. It is part of civilised society. These agencies cover every aspect of life literally from cradle to grave. They include education, social care, health service, the police service, the post, local authority services and many others. They have materialised over the last two centuries. An eighteenth century citizen was more or less dependent on his own and his families resources. Only the church gave any kind of external support to society.  Time travelled from 1713 to 2013, a person might well find our social structures just as baffling as our ability to fly in heavier than air cylinders of shiny metal.
This multitude of services has spawned a complexity in society which inhibits rather than encourages efficiency. Each service works in its own sphere often with little or no collaboration with related services. Managers of services have fought to protect their own territories and especially associated budgets from erosion by rival services. Social care services and health services have until recently formed barriers to protect their own turf rather than seek to collaborate. That is in spite of clear overlaps which if jointly managed would make services more efficient  and save considerable expenditure. Both health and social care services talk about early intervention without any realistic ways of achieving it and yet the education services might well be able to make some early interventions a reality. Many of the skills which an eighteenth century person would have learnt at home are now not taught at all with subsequent consequences for people reaching adulthood. Education is often the service most likely to notice early warning signs of dysfunctional families but with only haphazard ways of alerting other services competent to make an early and less costly difference. It is only in very recent times that the need for joined up social support has become a priority and we have a long way to go for it to be a smoothly working process.
Very few politicians or bureaucrats would appear to have grasped the idea that rather than cut budgets in an arbitrary fashion they should concentrate on cost reductions achievable by creating a system of collaborative working across all government financed services.