The Devolving Union

“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.”  – John Steinbeck

Theresa May, in one of her last acts of power before abdicating as PM and turning over to either Boris Johnson or (perhaps) Jeremy Hunt has made a surprise announcement of a trip to Scotland to launch a “review of devolution” in the UK by Lord Dunlop – who was Head of Research within the Conservative Party during the Thatcher era and worked with David Cameron to formulate the UK Government’s strategy against the 2014 independence campaign.

Details of the review will be published on Friday but the early press release doing the rounds today has said that it will not “review” powers already devolved to the Scottish parliament and other administrations but will instead look at reserved areas to determine if they are still functioning optimally in the face of the changing politics of the UK and the last few rounds of devolution since the 2014 independence referendum.

This story comes in the same week that the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Lib Dems are having an almighty temper tantrum at the thought of the Scottish Government running a round of Citizens’ Assemblies on various issues including the topic of independence. Elected MSPs have even been encouraging a boycott of these Assemblies by Unionist supporters, seemingly not quite understanding that those who abstain from democracy lose the right to complain about the results of it when it happens without their input.

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Source: Unsplash

I won’t “empty chair” democracy. I won’t be disengaging from this devolution review but will instead offer some thoughts on it and speculate about what it might discover if it chooses to look. Continue reading

We Need To Talk About: The Growth Commission Report

If this is a discussion document – It’s time to start discussing it.

The Growth Commission’s long-awaited report is finally out and will surely take some time to fully digest. It has been described as a discussion document and a starting point for the revitalised case for independence; not the final word on SNP policy or national trajectory.

In many ways, the report covers ground now very familiar to campaigners in the independence debate. We’re all now quite familiar with the deep and systemic flaws of the UK’s economic system especially its regional inequality which, quite frankly, is embarrassing when compared to neighbouring countries in Europe.

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(Source: Eurostat)

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We Need To Talk About: The Deficit

Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact. – Barack Obama

Whenever we talk about national budgets, it doesn’t take long before someone mentions the “national deficit” and the “national debt”. Indeed, as I’ve noted in some of my commentary on GERS, sometimes it can seem like this is the only thing that makes it to the headlines at all. The almost unchallenged “wisdom” is that a government spending more than it raises in taxes is a terribly bad thing. It’ll leave future generations burdened with debt and, anyway, you wouldn’t run a household’s finances that way, would you?

This is a wisdom that has led us to Austerity and there is barely a politician out there who speaks for any other ideology. It’s not just the Tories. Corbyn’s team is at it, at least  by degrees and even Nicola Sturgeon often speaks the same language when defending Scotland’s finances. (And, yes, I’ve used that same language in the past too. Life is about learning.)

Of course, the root of the obsession lies with the fact that the “national deficit” is something that seems quite close to the politicians and therefore it’s something that they should be “sorting out”. But maybe the economy is a bit less simple than this. Maybe, like the fable of the blind men appraising the elephant, one can get a false impression of the whole by getting too close to one detail.

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A Government For All Of Us

“It’s a Common Weal program for government.” – In an email sent to Common Weal today.

Today saw the return of the Scottish Parliament for the 2017/18 session and the opening speech by the First Minster introducing her program for government. You can watch the full speech below.

After far too long of what seemed like the political doldrums of a couple of fairly drab elections and the ever endless string of intentionally depressing political headlines, this speech was a remarkably refreshing change of pace with some fairly strong statements of intent in several areas.

Notably, Common Weal appears to be finally having a significant influence on the political direction of government with several of our policies now being talked about openly or outright adopted as policy.

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Social Security For All Of Us

“Scotland can, if it chooses to be bold, creative and ambitious, use the opportunity  presented by independence to build a social security system for all of us.”

I’m proud to present my latest report for the Common Weal White Paper Project, Social Security For All Of Us – An Independent Scotland as a Modern Welfare State.

The report can be downloaded here or by clicking the images below. There has also been coverage in The National here and here.

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