Paradise Papers get to the heart of the case for an independent Scotland
The Paradise Papers are just the latest in a long line of scandals that illuminate the corruption at the heart of the UK establishment.
The release of the papers comes at the end of a decade in which the average person has seen their living standards decline. A slump caused by needless austerity imposed on us by a political elite dominated by the upper-middle classes. They tell us austerity was necessary to cover the costs of the 2008 financial crash. A crisis that was caused by the mismanagement of our financial system by super-rich banking executives and the failure of our leaders to regulate them.
Ten years on and little has been done to rein in the excesses of the banking industry and it is the majority of the populace who are left to suffer for their excesses. Those with the least have been persecuted the most. The top bankers still get millions in bonuses but the disabled die in droves days after being declared fit for work.
The reason for this is simple, the business elites and those running the country are the same people. There is a merry-go-round of politicians, party funders, lobbyists, civil servants and business people looking out for each other whilst the rest of us struggle on.
The Paradise Papers show just how endemic establishment corruption is.
The revelations go right to the top. The Queen has millions hoarded away in the Cayman Islands. Lord Ashcroft, who is a member of the Privy Council, has nearly half a billion dollars nestled in a Bermuda based trust fund. Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are British overseas territories and all their laws are approved by the Sovereign with advice from the privy council. Can greed and corruption at the highest levels of power get more blatant than that?
A report by the Tax Justice Network estimated that tax avoidance costs the UK treasury just under 70 billion pounds a year.
Most of this is lost by people and businesses using complex loopholes to channel money into shell companies set up in tax havens. There are solutions to these problems but the UK government has been reluctant to use them. Why would they, when they and the people and companies who fund them are the sole beneficiaries of the schemes?
The fact that a global elite is seen to be so corrupt while so many struggle to make ends meet is undoubtedly one of the key factors responsible for the election of Trump and the Brexit vote.
Both of those decisions were the result of an exasperated population lashing out at those who have presided over wrongdoing for decades. People wanted to shake up the system but sadly what they voted for was at least as bad as the establishment they spurned. Much of the money behind Brexit and Trump was dirty and many of the most powerful cheerleaders for those causes are serial tax avoiders. It is not a coincidence Brexit was funded by so many tax dodgers at a time when the EU is about to crack down on those who do it.
In contrast, with Scottish independence, we truly have a chance to end the political facilitation of excessive greed and corruption.
The solution is a constitution that ensures fairness in society in conjunction with a political system that is compelled to enforce that constitution. We need governments who are representative and work for the many and not the few. We need an electoral system that is bottom-up and that puts people in power who reflect the broad make-up of society. A system that outlaws the worst excesses of corporate lobbying and cracks down on the old boys’ network between politicians and businessmen. We need leaders who are incentivised to create a tax system that is fit for purpose and who are not afraid to close down the legal loopholes that are being exploited. We need laws that will punish those who abuse that system and the politicians who fail to hold them to account.
The UK establishment has shown it is rotten to the core and highly resistant to reform.
On the other hand Scottish independence will herald instant reform. It will bring a modern proportional voting system and a representative government close to the people, will rid us of an antiquated unelected second chamber and it will grant us a written crowdsourced constitution built around fairness.
If you want to live in a more equitable society, the only way it will happen is for ordinary people to use our collective power and make our politicians act on our behalf. In Scotland, independence is the only viable option for taking a big step in that direction.
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