Monthly Archives: September 2014

Scottish Referendum

Though there are undoubtedly many bitterly disappointed people at the outcome of last night’s referendum on Scottish Independence, I personally am nowhere near so negative, and in many ways think that how things have turned out may actually have been the best possible result for those wanting political and economic reform in this country.

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Scotland may not get independence, but things are still going to get a whole lot better. Picture © W. L. Tarbert

Firstly lets put the result in some perspective: when the referendum was originally being planned, Alex Salmond and the Scottish Nationalists (SNP) wanted 3 options on the ballot paper: In, Out, and Full Devolution. This was clearly because, at the time, they didn’t feel they’d ever get enough support for full Independence, and a very successful ‘middle-way’ result would have been Devolution. The Westminster parties, not wanting to give up any more power than they had to, didn’t allow the Devolution option on the ballot paper, as they thought they would easily win a straight In/Out vote. Of course things turned out differently, the Yes camp ran a very successful campaign, and in the final two weeks the No camp were panicked into offering Devolution anyway, in their efforts to sustain the Union. Therefore, despite what it may look like, the entire campaign has been a victory for the SNP, who ended up getting what they originally wanted.

So the question remains: would full independence have been better for Scotland – I have to say I’m dubious. Despite the Yes campaign being lauded by all those wanting Political and Economic reform, the actual outcome may well have been somewhat different. For a start the SNP were intent on either using the Pound or the Euro as their currency, which means the Scottish economy would still have been at the mercy of the bankers in either Westminster or Brussels. One can absolutely guarantee that the outcome of that would have meant Scotland being forced to run a ‘Free Market’ economy – absolutely no different to what they have now. Secondly, those who think the SNP would have been more responsive to the needs of their people should bear in mind the SNP support TTIP, that absolutely evil piece of Free Market legislation coming our way, which makes corporations more powerful than governments.  And finally, in terms of political reform, the SNP are supporters of the Royal Family, which doesn’t really sound particularly reformist to me.

Also, whatever happened in Scotland, once the pain of the break-up had been completed, I suspect the rest of the UK would have just gone back to ‘business-as-usual’, with the City of London controlling our economy via their political wing, the Tory Party, and the other parties weakened by the loss of their Scottish voters.

So what do we have instead? The No Campaign’s rushed promises of Devolution have led us to nothing short of constitutional chaos, with not just massive changes in prospect for the way Scotland is run, but also talk of English Devolution (ie an English Parliament, to run alongside the Welsh and Scottish assemblies, and Stormont in Northern Ireland) and perhaps a Federal United Kingdom. People throughout the UK will undoubtedly get really engaged with this process, and in particular debates about what levels of power should reside where. Who knows where all this will lead, but by getting the electorate thinking in this way, there is the very real prospect of more power being passed back to local people, more accountable politicians, less corporate influence, and other profound changes to our rotten corrupt system. Independence for Scotland may have been better for Scotland (and that’s far from certain), but the results of last night’s vote will undoubtedly improve things for all of us.

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Austerity Affects Law and Order

The inevitable consequence of Free Market Capitalism is that society becomes ever-more unequal, as the wealth gap between those at the top and those at the bottom gets larger and larger. This happens directly (with salaries diverging, and wealthy people using their assets to generate yet more wealth for themselves), but it also happens indirectly, as  pressure from those at the top to pay less tax forces the government to balance the books by imposing Austerity – the result of which is ever-greater cuts to public services, and so an ever-faster decline in the standard of living of the more disadvantaged members of society.

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Cutbacks to policing as a result of Austerity are starting to make our streets less safe. Picture © Canley

This last point took a particularly unpleasant turn today when the Police Inspectorate announced that much criminal activity was now going uninvestigated due to lack of resources, and in some cases the victims of crime were even being asked to do the investigations themselves (including interviewing neighbours, looking for fingerprints, locating CCTV footage or checking eBay for their stolen property.)  The result of this, it said, is that a lot of offences, including criminal damage, car theft and burglaries of property were effectively being decriminalised.*

Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Police Officers Association made a direct link between this and Austerity, saying ‘The reality of austerity in policing means that forces must ensure that their officers’ time is put to best use and this means prioritising calls.’

This is of course just the thin end of the wedge, and as Austerity continues to bite more and more of these essential services will be cut back, and our streets will become less and less safe. Anyone who has ever travelled to countries with very divided societies and under-funded police will know where this all ends up. In places like South Africa, and many parts of South America the huge crime levels mean that the wealthy start to barricade themselves in their homes, living behind razor wire, high walls or in secure compounds, and often with private security.  Meanwhile on the streets the less well-off have to make do as best they can, often living in constant fear of the dreadful crime levels. In this country we may be some way off from such awful times yet, but we are undoubtedly taking the first steps in that direction. And as long as those with the reins of power think that their personal wealth is all that matters,  the needs of society are irrelevent, and it’s simply down to every individual to look after themselves, then for sure that is the kind of society we will eventually find ourselves living in.

* Ref:  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/09/04/police-not-investigating-crimes_n_5763632.html

As a sad addendum to this piece, last week it was announced that lawyers are setting new records for personal wealth, with more of them than ever before now earning over £1m/year. Could our society be any more dysfunctional, with lawyers raking in so much money, whilst those who actually catch criminals are unable to do so due to lack of funds? http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/economics/article4192714.ece

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