I have not written my blog since the referendum. I was so appalled by the result, so near and yet so far but more especially about how much of what I feared has since come true. So many No voters were plainly taken in by the propaganda of the Better Together campaign. Much has been written so I am not going to repeat it.
What the Smith Commission has come up with is a poisoned chalice as I suggested in August. Even Gordon Brown agrees with me. As Iain MacWhirter says “The cost of financing Scotland’s ageing population is being repatriated while.. means of growing the economy are reserved.’” This says it all in a nutshell. You just have to read tax expert Richard Murphy here to get the real story.
And I am also still worried about the NHS. The No campaign repeatedly and falsely claimed that it was safe. TTIP will make it completely vulnerable.
We should realise that Osborne’s Austerity is more than just a hopeful plan to re-balance the economy. Milton Friedman is, years after his death, an icon for the far right neolib / neocon economists and politicians. Naomi Kemp in her book “Shock Doctrine” draws attention to their deliberate opportunism in taking advantage of catastrophes to further their idea of minimal state intervention, preferably none at all, in the running of an economy. Osborne and his friends see our present financial situation as an ideal time to drive down the public services. It is a measure of his ineffectualness that more has not been sold off already. But given the chance in May 2015 they will continue to privatise all parts of the public services which can be turned into a source of private profit.
All three main Westminster parties have pledged to devolve some tax raising powers to Scotland after a No vote.
We already are able to vary income tax and no government in Holyrood has taken this on because by itself it is a poisoned chalice. If Westminster were devolve all types and rates of tax keeping only some universal federal taxes to pay for defence and foreign affairs then that would be worthwhile having. An increase in one tax rate can be offset by lowering another and in this way a fine tuned tax regime can be achieved that suits our internal needs.
As it is, these a weasel words from the Conservatives, their cronies and Labour because they know full well that a future Scottish government would be shooting itself in the foot if it were to increase a single tax rate. What is more I suspect that Westminster would devolve one or two taxes and scrap the Barnett formula. In other words they can immediately point to a high spending, high taxing regime North of the Border
It is simplistic to argue that new jobs and better employment prospects will automatically flow from independence. What should be easier will be the creation of the conditions for that improvement.
But it is a big task and will take a number of years. We actually rely on incomers (what a pejorative word!) in many walks of life from top surgeons to farm workers to skilled tradesmen to carers to the catering industry and many more. Does that mean that the indigenous population is genetically incapable of doing any of this. Of course not, but a cultural habit has grown over time which has meant many people, parents and children, lack the ambition and the skills to be self-sufficient.
That requires a change over many areas of life starting with education and training and including our benefits and taxation system. Education must start with valuing the contribution that every child can make. Tony Blair’s mantra of 50% going to university set a disparaging tone for the other 50%. Why should a person with a degree be more valuable to society than a person without one? People should be judged by their contribution not their qualification.
Let’s hope that after Independence we have leaders who can rise to this challenge.
Watching the opening ceremony last night it struck me how many small nations and regions go to make up the Commonwealth and how many were never part of the British Empire but have asked to join in recent years.
It would appear that an independent Scotland could do worse than cultivate relationships across the entire spectrum of Commonwealth countries. The UK has been too pre-occupied with the EU and the USA for many years now to pay real attention to the them. As a small nation with great strengths, expertise and agility Scotland could benefit hugely from membership. Just one example, the majority of the Commonwealth population is young and we need to bolster our demographics in that respect. There could be mutual benefits in that area alone.
Of course as Tax Expert, Richard Murphy, has highlighted many Commonwealth countries are tax havens. We might need to avoid contamination in that respect.
It will be a slow process converting the society and the culture in Scotland to a more people kindly model. We have lived with an increasingly aggressive Anglo-American model for many years. The mantra of the market economy, of capitalism as the the only sure method of running a country has been around for centuries and it has largely seen off its rivals. But its recent direction of travel has turned it into a monster rather than a benign method of government. Linked to a failure of democracy where governments come and go with no more than a passing nod to the hopes and fears of the people they govern, we are beginning to see the “end of era”, not unlike the last days of Rome. Are we all asleep in the so called great Western Democracies?
So what are the changes we need to make in an independent Scotland. One starting point might be the tax system. We should create a system which makes everyone pay a reasonable and fair share of the costs of the country, so the more you have the more you pay. However rather than have the burden of many people living a lifetime on benefits the tax system should encourage more and more people into worthwhile employment. Every bit of earnings no matter how small should be a plus. Earn a shilling, be taxed a penny, earn a pound be taxed ten pence. And lose none of the state benefits until you reach the tipping point when you pay in tax the same as you receive in benefits and after that you continue to pay more and more tax than your benefits. In effect your benefits become your personal allowance.
However the economy needs to provide opportunities for work over a broad front to accommodate as many of the nations talents as possible. It starts with education and then training. it continues with support for business across a wide spectrum. Let’s be creative, make things, trade things, not be frightened of failure, encourage inventiveness within a benign tax system for enterprise and business. Let entrepreneurs flourish and make money but be sure to pay a fair proportion of the tax burden. Let’s have politicians who govern according to the wishes of the voters. Wishful thinking no doubt but that does not mean in a new Scotland we should not aspire to it.
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?
As you see above this was first written in Crete in June last year but it appears just as relevant today with the Greek people no nearer the end of the austerity than two years ago. Politicians everywhere are kicking the toxic ball down the road in the hpoes that they will never actually have to deal with any real problems.
The austerity package in Greece is far more severe than in the UK. Pensions and wages have been reduced, retirement packages slashed. Beggars are haunting supermarket car parks and garbage bins are searched for food items. Tensions in some villages have resurfaced bringing added violence.
Britain’s austerity measures should be as severe if we are to eliminate our own deficit, in other words the annual increase in the nation’s debt, any time soon. Total removal of the lump sum payable to public servants on retirement would never be contemplated in the UK so why should the Greeks accept it? A 30% reduction the the Old Age Pension would bring down a government but the Greeks are expected to take it on the chin.
As always it is the weak and poor who bear the brunt but what is worse in Greece is the exemptions from tax enjoyed by many Greek companies, granted years ago for bringing in jobs. Itv is not all the fault of government and many Greeks have enjoyed the good times living beyond their means so it is reasonable to expect cutbacks but the rich and powerful should not be quarantined.