Visions of the Possible
Posted on April 12th, 2021
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
Over the years since the first IndyRef, this blog has from time to time mentioned aspects of the sort of Scotland I’d like to see once we become a normal, self-governing country. Listening to the excellent Lesley Riddoch Podcast last week, I had to agree with the comments that none of the Parties vying for election have very much to say about their vision for an independent country. We can ignore the Unionist Parties for the purposes of this article because none of them have any vision other than to keep Scotland tied to Westminster no matter how far down the road to Right Wing authoritarianism that might lead.
So what do I want to see in a normal Scotland post-independence? It’s a long list, and, as the popular saying goes, these are in no particular order, although there are one or two things that need to be done fairly quickly after we become independent.
A priority must be to establish our own central Bank and move as quickly as we can to having our own currency. This is a prerequisite for re-joining the EU, so anyone who favours returning to the EU family must go along with the currency option. It also frees us from being tied to the UK’s apron strings, and Richard J Murphy of Tax Research UK has written many pieces on the necessity of Scotland adopting its own currency. It’s not really as daunting as it may sound, and Common Weal have also produced some excellent information and proposals. You can read more at How to Launch a Scottish Currency – Source (sourcenews.scot)
I also want to see a written Constitution, preferably establishing Scotland as a Republic, although I suspect that might be a step too far in the short term since a great many people have spent lifetimes being subjected to propaganda exhorting them to adulation of the Royal family. I expect the monarch will remain Head of State in the short term at least. If we do go for the Republican option, then provision will need to be made in the Constitution for the role of President (or some Scottish equivalent) to be established. The powers and role of that person will need to be clearly defined.
As for the Parliament, I would like to see a fully PR electoral system, preferably through a Single Transferable Vote system. STV is difficult to get your head around at first, and there are some variants, but it is the fairest way of electing representatives who actually represent the preferences of the voters.
Whether we need a second House is up for debate. The current system at Holyrood of having scrutiny by Committee has been shown to have flaws, but I’m not in favour of a second House unless it cannot be avoided. The Scandinavian countries seem to cope with a single House of Parliament, and I’d like to learn more about how they impose checks and balances on that single House.
Universal Basic Income could transform our society. Yes, it may seem expensive to run, but it would also result in the scrapping of all other benefits (with one or two exceptions for things like people with disabilities, or for child support. Administration of all such social security would hopefully be streamlined, thus making many savings. In the longer term, UBI has been shown to improve all sorts of things, reducing demand on social services, and greatly improving the mental wellbeing of the population.
We also need to revise the Tax system. The current UK system is far too complex and has so many loopholes, it is not really fit for purpose. A much simpler, fairer system must be possible, and that system needs to ensure that large corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share. With full control over tax income, and with the borrowing powers of a normal country, Scotland could ensure that its public services are run to higher standards than are currently possible.
As for those public services, the NHS should remain free and in public control. I’d also like to see public transport under Government control. That need not be a recipe for inefficiency, because management within those businesses can be given targets and remuneration to encourage efficient running, and also keep prices low for the public who use their services. Utilities like gas and electricity could also be run this way, with a publicly-owned service provider perhaps running in competition with the existing suppliers rather than full nationalisation of all existing energy.
We should return to a system of encouraging houseowners to install solar panels or other renewable systems, with the Feed In Tariff reintroduced for new entrants. This is a great way to encourage people to install such systems, and the more energy we produce for ourselves, the better for the environment. I’d certainly like to see all new houses built with solar panels or some other form of renewable energy supply.
Talking of energy, our renewables sector needs to be encouraged to grow even faster. Government subsidies and incentives could encourage this. If we could establish undersea connections to places like Ireland, Norway and Denmark (no doubt a challenging engineering task), we could sell our surplus electricity to our other European neighbours as well as to England.
As for other links to the continent, our ports need to be greatly expanded. We need direct freight and ferry operations running from the east coast of Scotland to European destinations, and while air travel is problematic from a climate perspective, it would surely be more efficient to allow flights to more destinations from Glasgow and Edinburgh rather than require travellers to connect via London. Perhaps Prestwick could at last achieve the role it was originally envisaged to have as a major international flight hub until Westminster decided to give that role to Heathrow.
Sticking with transport, moves are already under way to switch motor vehicles away from fossil fuels towards electric power, and I’d like to see this speeded up. As a blind person, I’d also like to see driverless cars become the norm. For one thing, that ought to reduce the number of road traffic accidents since it will remove the human error factor.
Education is always a difficult topic, but I’d be in favour of abolishing private schools. However, it is essential that this is done with a view to increasing overall attainment, not bringing every school down to the level of the poorest. It’s a mammoth task, and anyone who has been involved in education understands just how difficult it can be to run properly. However, other countries manage it just fine, so I see no reason why Scotland could not do the same.
Land Reform is another area where Scotland needs to take drastic action. We need to see far more land taken back from the handful of wealthy owners and put to better use than grouse shooting. Reforestation, even full re-wilding with the introduction of such species as wolves and lynx should also be part of this. Farmers may protest, but compensation for livestock lost to predators can be part of the re-structuring of our landscape. Again, other countries do this, so there is no reason why we can’t do the same. Re-wilding could also help reduce the risk of rivers flooding because predators like wolves mean that deer spend less time at river banks where they might be preyed upon, and so they eat fewer young trees, which means the trees grow, the banks are bound better and can prevent flooding.
I’m not going to dwell on the current nuclear weapons situation except to say that England should be told to remove them from our waters. Our own armed forces need to be proficient and efficient, but their numbers and role should be relatively small since Scotland should have no aspirations to go around the world threatening other nations or bombing them. Our armed forces should be focused on protecting our land and sea areas, and that will probably mean we will need a good number of coastal patrol vessels, with many of them hopefully built in Scotland.
I haven’t mentioned things like developing in areas such as sports and the arts, but I think Scotland has no shortage of the sort of people who can promote such things. Even putting those to one side for the moment, I’m sure I have missed some important things, and no doubt more will occur to me as soon as I’ve posted this, but those are just some of the things I think could make Scotland a better place for everyone. Above all, many of these ideas could reduce poverty, close educational attainment gaps, and make Scotland a fairer country. I’m not saying it would be a Utopia, because no country is, but if you aim for Utopia, you can only improve things from where you start. And let’s face it, after three centuries of control by Westminster, many aspects of our society are starting at a pretty low level. We need to rebuild some heavy industries, reduce deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide, and we need to do our very best to eradicate poverty. We certainly want a Scotland where food banks are not necessary.
Of course, all of these are aspirations, but there is no reason why we cannot work towards achieving them. What you can be sure of is that none of them will even be attempted, let alone achieved, if we remain under Westminster control.