The principle that moderate levels of economic inequality encourage growth may hold true in many cases.
However in the United Kingdom, one of the most unequal societies in the developed world, doing nothing to tackle the very high levels of inequality that exist has encouraged the emergence of a society riddled with extremely hard to shift social problems.
The longer it goes on this way – the United Kingdom government will never dismantle the economic and political frameworks that brought us to this point – the less likely things are to get better. So we need to ask the question, seriously, in what respect is Scotland better remaining part of the United Kingdom, when the United Kingdom has been in social and moral decline for generations?
It is one thing to trumpet the temporary trackers of economic success, such as low interest rates, low inflation and low unemployment, as Alistair Carmichael, Secretary of State for Scotland, did today; it is fine to talk about the security, stability and certainty that being part of a larger and more diversified economy offers; but it should never, ever be forgotten that these are the very conditions that have conspired to conceal the true extent of the corporate greed, fraudulent trading and immoral practices that have been propelling the United Kingdom forward for years.
Independence would not be a magic wand, nor does anyone seriously believe that; furthermore, even if an independent Scotland were able to build a new society in which economics and politics had not been granted permanent exit from the moral space of reasons, as is the case in the United Kingdom, other new social problems would be likely to emerge in the future to take place of the old ones.
It is worth reminding ourselves that economic inequality and social injustice, to the extent that we experience them today, are not inevitable, except within states and societies that consciously choose to organise themselves in certain ways; the United Kingdom is an excellent example of that way of organising things.
Although not a quick fix, independence could create the right conditions for Scotland to positively redefine itself and start to eradicate many of our existing social problems. This should not sound too good to be true, but it does. Why is that?
It is partly because we lack the belief that we could be doing so much better as a country, and there are some unscrupulous politicians within the Better Together campaign who are desperate to keep us feeling that way; but largely because some of our most basic economic beliefs and social values are partly constituted by the politically manufactured institutions that have been stubbornly holding the United Kingdom together well beyond its sell by date.
Regrettably, many of us are now at a point where we can no longer make a confident judgement about the authenticity of the beliefs we hold and can no longer recognise that the source of our social values is to be found within the complex web of capitalism, consumerism, cronyism, corruption, elitism, entitlement and greed, that sits immediately behind the façade of security, stability and certainty (the very things we are being asked to choose by the Better Together campaigners!).
Disdain for those living in poverty and needing government help, because they are bone idle and have become an unaffordable drain on our economy; suspicion of those unable to work due to illness, because they are a burden on our elitist society, and probably at it; fear of increasing integration into the European Union, because Westminster would not be able to call the shots and because it permits immigrants employment rights and benefits we would rather they did not have.
Making life as comfortable as possible for corrupt bankers and financiers because their skills are vital to the prosperity of the City of London and elitism is economically efficient; invading other countries because military intervention is required to deliver them a modern democracy similar to our one.
These are politically manufactured bull shit British attitudes.
They are dangerous and manipulative, but they have served an important purpose for successive United Kingdom governments. The question is: do we just keep going along with them because we don’t yet know which currency we will use in an independent Scotland, or how long it would take to process our application to join the EU? Are you being serious?
There is no disguising the fact that many of the institutions we consider to be supremely and quintessentially British were created to justify the United Kingdom’s imperialistic thinking, whilst many others now exist to encourage us to remain subconsciously wedded to the false and damaging world view created in Westminster, and unashamedly promoted by its band of job’s worth politicians, including the ones living it up in Holyrood and still pretending to care, really care, about economic equality and social justice.
It is this world view that still underpins the union today and is the reason why so many of our deep rooted social problems remain, despite all of the showy efforts to tackle them through the use of meaningless initiatives, such as David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. British politicians have forgotten what the concepts of social justice and equality actually mean, despite their rhetoric to the contrary.
Westminster’s puppets in Holyrood are keen to argue that the Scottish Government already has the powers it needs to eradicate the high levels of inequality we have in this country; it just chooses not to use them. But that is an illusion. It is too simplistic to think this way. Eradicating inequality cannot be achieved by exercising more of the powers we have at our disposal. Nor would further devolution achieve this. It would just be more of the same way of thinking, within the same set of restrictions and the same end results.
What Scotland needs is the confidence and the creativity to think differently about how it organises itself, and the boldness to return economics and politics to their rightful place within the moral space of reasons.
Independence would not solve all of our problems quickly; but it would offer an opportunity to start again, on Scotland’s terms, and with wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity at the heart of what we are trying to achieve.