RADICAL INDY CONFERENCE 01: Scotland and Big Money

In the run up to the first Radical Independence Conference on Sat 24th November Bella will be focussing in on some of the ideas to be discussed and some of the folk participating in the various sessions, presentations and workshops.  We’re kicking off with an introduction by Robin McAlpine, editor of Scottish Left Review and a director of The Reid Foundation.  Robin will be speaking in the final session of the day : Another Scotland Is Possible (5-6pm)

SCOTLAND AND BIG MONEY

We know what’s wrong. What’s wrong is that the British State has been captured almost entirely by one social class. Let’s call that class ‘Big Money’.

It has a simple goal – to make sure that power and wealth flows from us to it forever. It is the war business, which talks about security but is really about transferring public money to the arms industry and using our army to protect commercial interests abroad. It is the finance business, still twisting national policy to make sure that its scheme for siphoning cash from people to it is protected at all costs. It is the deregulation business, using its ideology of ‘free markets’ to make sure the interests of big tobacco, big pharmaceuticals, big oil, big supermarkets and all the rest are always put ahead of our interests and that they are free to use their power to exploit us. It is the privilege business, where a tiny network of institutions like private schools reserved for the children of the wealthy are given almost total control of all the top levels of decision-making. It is the privatisation business, working every day to undermine the public realm and dismantle the welfare state for the profit and ideological pleasure of the few. It is the crooked media business, using wealth to own and manipulate the way the public is supposed to learn about what is happening to them. It is the anti-democracy business, the web of lobbyists, private consultants, quangos, think tanks and senior civil servants which work to make sure that as many decisions as possible take place behind closed doors where democracy can’t get in the way of wealth.

We know what’s wrong. The question is what do we do about it?

In 1995, when I was still a wee boy (well, 22), I went to work as the press officer of the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. I packed my cases for London in the excited belief that what I would find there was a mass of people who wanted to change Britain, to make it a fairer and better place. That’s not what I found. Instead I found the London Elite, an interchangeable queue of upper-middle class people who believed that what Britain needed was, well, them. And what they needed was power. Sometimes they talked about reform, but mostly they talked about not rocking the boat.

The question was put in my mind there and then – will Britain ever really change? And if it is to change, can it come from inside this rotten core? I saw nothing to make me believe it. I watched as the Labour Movement’s best chance of reforming Britain for a generation was not only squandered but actually subverted.

Then I thought our best chance was devolution. It was; it protected us from the worst of the dismantling of the Welfare State and from the worst of the neoliberal policies of Westminster. But now the problem is deeper. The very nature of Britain is under attack and devolution isn’t enough to protect us any more. And much as I wish it was different, I can see no democratic way to reverse this long, slow death of the British Welfare State.

Well, there is one way. I believe that it is possible for Scotland to save Britain, but I no longer believe we can do it inside Britain. What we can do is leave amicably and show the working people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland that it can be different, that the way of the London Elite is not the only way. I have come to believe that independence is not the only option for a better Scotland, it is the only option for a better Britain.

Lots of us feel the same way. You must have noticed that the real independence movement is now almost indistinguishable from the movement for social justice in Scotland. These are the only people willing to talk about a Scotland different from the one we are being given by London. This is the only vision of a better Scotland anyone is talking about, or that anyone believes any more.
So come and hear people who feel like you talk about that vision, about that chance to change Scotland, and to help the rest of Britain to believe that it can change itself.

If you believe the British State is close to being ready to reform itself, to remove the power of Big Money from its corridors, then you have no need to be at the Radical Independence Conference on November 24th at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow. For everyone else, join us and let’s start to talk about a better country, for us and for our neighbours. 

Comments (9)

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  1. Macart says:

    Mr McAlpine, you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. An article which goes right to the heart of the problem with the British State machine.

    More please.

  2. picpac67 says:

    Agree. A perfect summary of what the ‘machine’ is up to. I would only add the important ingredient of false flag state terrorism which is used to generate fear and hatred towards the latest ‘ennemi du jour’ (currently Islam) or alleged ‘terrorist mastermind’.

  3. Stuart Farquharson says:

    Got it in a nutshell!

  4. But would independence really put a stop to the very real ills talked about here? An independent Scotland rids itself of direct rule from London, but not from the global capitalist system — the same multi-national capitalists who have the world in a stranglehold and the same capitalist system that London elites who are among the world’s most ruthless enforcers would retain their powers, undiminished. Scottish independence is strictly a question for the Scottish people, but ask the peoples of the Caribbean or Central America just how free of the U.S. they are despite their formal independence.

  5. florian albert says:

    After the biggest crisis to hit capitalism in over 60 years, the left in Scotland – like the left elsewhere – has failed miserably to respond. One reason is that it lives in a world which most of us do not recognize. Robin McAlpine falls into this category. He writes of the ‘dismantling of the welfare state’ after Devolution was set up. Total UK spending on benefits rose by £56.4 billion in the decade from 2001.
    In the UK in 2011, welfare spending included child tax credit (£19 billion), income support (£8.3 billion) and incapacity benefit (£6.1 billion.) Where Scotland has had autonomy, it has a poor track record of helping the least well-off. Education is a case in point. The disparity between schools in middle class areas and those in working class areas is a national scandal. Responsibility for this lies not with the ‘British State’ but with the Scottish ruling elites. This is a major reason why independence has failed to inspire the mass of Scots; they see it as leading to more power being given to groups who have shown – whether in failing to build tram lines or in failing to educate young people – that they are not likely to use it productively.
    Campaigning against ‘big supermarkets’ or ‘big tobacco’ is so far removed from everyday concerns that it will attract a minority but will ensure that most Scots remain indifferent.

    recongize.

    1. wanvote says:

      Do you have any positive suggestions on how the current Scottish government should help the “less well off” starting today? I am not disputing your challenging of the “left” but am genuinely asking for positive suggestions.

      1. florian albert says:

        There is no quick fix. Improving education and the benefit system would be the best places to start. Unhappily neither of these is easy. Governments can make a difference if the concentrate on an issue but, too often, are looking for immediate, identifiable success. I would say that we need a more productive economy. These are more deeply rooted problems than the present austerity drive.

        dealing with the underlcass is more

  6. Scottish gardener says:

    great article, thankyou

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