Don’t walk away over the SNP Growth Commission
I have been trying to write a blog about the Growth Commission report for a few weeks now.
However, unlike pretty much every other person with a platform to pontificate about Scottish politics, I find it difficult to talk with surety about things I know little about.
I did take a few hours out to read the 55-page report summary. From the point of view of a non-economist, it seems to me to be very in line with the vision many of us got behind in 2014. That Scotland could and should be like one of the many other high performing small countries. Not a socialist utopia. But a country that is strong economically with a much better safety net for those who need it than the one we currently have.
The most interesting part of the report for me was the time it spends producing evidence showing why small countries like Denmark, New Zealand and Iceland perform better than larger countries in the modern world. Something we need to concentrate on more given how often we are put down as too wee to go it alone.
Of course, this report only really deals with one aspect of Scotland as an independent nation. It puts meat on the bones of how our wealth could be generated and handled so that we can afford the social policies we will need to reduce poverty, increase social mobility and distribute wealth more evenly. What we do with the wealth was not in the authors’ remit.
Some of the criticisms of the report have also been interesting.
Many left-leaning indy supporters have argued that the authors have supped too much of the neoliberal cool-aid. They argue that many of the assumptions in the report are not based on sound evidence and that a newly independent Scotland will be hamstrung by austerity if the Growth Commission gets its way. Some have even questioned their commitment to the cause of independence given what is contained in the report.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I am not an expert in economics so I am unable to appraise the merits of these arguments. However, I’m reasonably confident in saying that the conventional economic arguments laid out by the Growth Commission, combined with a strong social prospectus, will be more likely to convince the majority of the Scottish population than offering up experimental economics from day one.
Whatever the blueprint turns out to be(for the first ten years), anyone who would let it put them off independence as their main political goal, just isn’t thinking very clearly.
I get why someone might be upset that independence might not perfectly reflect their worldview but, guess what, it’s not going to perfectly reflect the worldview of any individual. However, one of the obvious benefits of leaving the UK is that in an independent Scotland the course we take will be representative of what Scots actually want.
This week at Westminster it wasn’t just the so-called ‘radical left’ of Scottish politics who were sidelined. It was the collective will of the whole nation. The SNP walkout of Parliament has been criticised in some quarters but at least they did it when they exhausted all other ways of having their voice and the voice of the Scottish Parliament heard.
The Brexit process has made the choice we face crystal clear. We can either choose to be a hostage of a thoroughly broken, unrepresentative UK system or make our own decisions via a political system that is designed to force consensus and makes it easier for smaller parties to get elected.
Maybe the initial economic prospectus for independence will be more conservative than you might find ideal. However, at least delivering independence will usher in a system that not only gives Scotland a meaningful voice but one that also leaves space for more unconventional ideas like the ones espoused by critics of the report. It would be silly to walk away from creating a system which will give your voice more of a chance of being heard.
Some of you might be thinking, but what about Corbyn, he represents what I believe? That argument is for the birds I’m afraid.
The problems we have are not party-political but systemic.
As I have stated previously, it’s a longshot but maybe Corbyn will be elected Prime Minister and maybe he will make some positive changes. However, anything he might achieve will be easily undone by whoever replaces him. The only truly radical solution to many of the injustices that those of us on the left want to deal with is to reform political systems so that they are truly representative and answerable to the people. This isn’t even close to being a realistic option at UK level as both of the main parties benefit from how crooked that system is. A vote for Corbyn is a vote for a continuation of the status quo.
On the other hand, voting for independence delivers real radical change to a more egalitarian and representative system in an instant. Losing track of that just because you don’t like the work of the Growth Commission is lunacy.
As we saw this week in Parliament, there are times when it is justified to walk away but ditching the obvious democratic gains of independence on the grounds of ideological purity, just isn’t one of them.