by Rab Bruce’s Spider

There are a great many worthwhile charities in the UK. Like many people, I donate to quite a few whenever I can, either sending a cash donation or making deliveries of clothes, food, etc. And, like many people, I sometimes need to call on the services of some sight loss charities because they are the only ones who provide the help and equipment I need.

But charities should not be necessary. The very fact of their existence demonstrates a failure of Government. It is the responsibility of Governments to take care of their citizens, and the fact that charities are needed clearly show that far too many people are abandoned by the UK Government.

Of course, there are charities in other countries, but the UK relies on them far more than most other nations. This, I believe, is not only due to a failure of Government, but a failure of the UK’s social model which has developed over the past few centuries. Ordinary people in the UK are taught that paying tax is a burden, so taxes must be kept low, and that working hard is the only way to escape poverty. These messages are so heavily ingrained, few people ever question them, yet the truth is that it is the less well-off who pay the highest proportion of their income in taxes, and many people who are in work still cannot escape poverty.

In contrast, in the Scandinavian countries where taxes are high, social security is also high. In the UK, we must put up with the lowest pension in the OECD, minimal levels of unemployment and sickness benefits, and appalling public services when compared to other countries.

This is why charities exist. When Governments fail, ordinary people do extraordinary things and establish ways to support those who would otherwise have no help. This suits the Government as it means they can spend money on other projects while leaving the less well-off and vulnerable to the care of others.

The trouble is, this has been going on for so long, it has become completely normalised in the UK, just as the need for food banks has been normalised. This deeply embedded system has been reinforced in the social structure for so long that most of us simply take it for granted. Yet it need not be this way. It is not something that can be altered overnight, or even in a few years, but can you imagine living in a high pay, high tax and high social security nation? Introducing Universal Basic Income would be a start, but it is precisely because that would place more power of choice in the hands of ordinary people that the UK will never introduce it. The UK is still a very class-orientated nation state, with the aim of the ruling class to keep everyone else in their allotted place. Wages are kept low, workers’ rights are being eroded, and all the power resides with employers who can use the threat of unemployment to keep workers in line. Having a UBI system in place would mean that people would have the opportunity to seek alternative employment knowing that they had a built-in safety net. This would not only reduce the need for many charitable organisations, it would move power towards workers, which is why it won’t happen here.

Perhaps we could gradually change things in an independent Scotland. Maybe one day we could reach a stage where charities are not required because our high taxes, deducted from our high earnings, pay for all the things that charities currently do. I live in hope. One thing is for sure, though; it won’t ever change if we remain in the UK.