2007 - 2020

Facing the Facts

cam19_84_1630035i

Mike Daily has written an article, ‘Inequalities of fact,’ rejecting claims that Britain is one of the developed world’s most unequal countries. He concludes:

‘…there are two key points to be made about the SNP’s claims that the UK is ‘one of the most unequal countries in the developed world’. It isn’t! Not in the developed world, and not even on the sole OECD Gini indicator it isn’t. The SNP, as always misrepresent and omit. And as I’ve illustrated, equality cannot be meaningfully represented by one single income indicator while ignoring all of the more positive factors that don’t fit in with the SNP’s story to sell ‘independence’ to Scots. So why mislead the people of Scotland?’

As ‘positive factors’, he cites ‘the UK’s first class National Health Service, local authority public services, and access to schools, housing, colleges and university education.’ Ironically, most of that list is being dismantled by Con-Dem austerity, after years of New Labour ‘modernisation’.  Holyrood, by contrast, preserves what remains of these so-called British institutions, although this cannot last a No vote, which Westminster will see as a green light to cut the block grant.

Dailly says the GINI coefficient, which measures income inequality, is a crude way to measure overall social progress.  So let us examine some more concrete socio-economic indicators.

1) Pensions

Britain has among the lowest state pensions in Europe.

State pension

Spain £26,630 (113% average earnings)
Germany £26,366 (90% average earnings)
France £15,811 (53%)
Netherlands £10,981 (31%)
Denmark £11,381 (25%)
Ireland £10,415 (25%)
UK £7,488 (24%)

See: http://think-left.org/tag/uk-state-pension/

2) Our elderly population

Britain’s elderly fourth poorest of EU 27, with more than one-in-five at risk. See here.

3) Child Poverty

UK has some of the worst child poverty in industrialised world.  According to World Health Organisation, this is “a policy choice” by Westminster. See here.

4)   Environmental health

UK is third worst in Europe for using green energy.  Only Malta and Luxemburg generate a lower proportion of green energy.  Britain’s rate is 3.8 percent, Sweden’s is 48 percent, EU average 13%.  See Business Green here and the Guardian here.

Research on green energy is nearly ten times higher in Japan and Finland.  It is much higher in almost every comparable economy, including the US.

Source: Public Interest Research Centre, The Green Investment Gap, March 2011

Britain needs to spend £450 billion to meet its climate change targets.  Existing funding sources will provide just £50-80 billion.

Source: Will Hutton, Them and Us

5) Equality in the workplace

Britain has among the worst gender inequality in pay in Europe.  UK women are not expected to have equal pay to men until 2067 (for 54 years!)  Gender pay gap is eighth worst of 27 EU countries.

6) Security of work

One-in-ten UK private sector workers are in “precarious employment”. 

7) Wages and income

The decline of UK wages since 2010 is fourth worst of 27 Eurozone countries, falling 5.5 percent.  Only the Greeks, Portuguese and Dutch fared worse.  Spanish wages held up better, despite the depth of the economic crisis there. 

8) Fuel poverty

UK is second worst for fuel poverty in Europe, just ahead of Estonia. 

9) Affordability and the cost of living

UK has third highest housing costs in Europe. 

UK has the highest rail prices in Europe.  Since privatisation, fares increased by 107.1%, as against inflation of 68.3%. 

UK is “third worst European country to raise families” due to household debt and childcare costs, according to Relationship Foundation.

10) Democracy

Distrust in Britain’s political institutions is sharply rising:

crisis_report_graph1

Britain’s political parties are widely seen as reflecting the same interests as a result of the neoliberal consensus

crisis_report_graph7

As well as Westminster, other important British institutions are widely distrusted by its own population:

crisis_report_graph12

All graphs taken from: ‘The crisis of the British regime’.

Solutions and alternatives

UK inequality rose by 32% between 1960 and 2005.  By contrast, it increased by just 23% in Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush-era.  In Sweden it fell by 12%. (http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/sites/default/files/research-digest-trends-measures-final.pdf)

Britain’s dire trends could worsen.  Dailly, oddly, cites 2012 as a salad year for British living standards; but wage decline in Britain since 2010 has been the fourth worst in the EU (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23655605).  In reality, the Tories are not engaged in a programme of economic recovery. Their real aims are ideological, and they hope to entrench neoliberal hegemony for the long-term. Workfare, scrapping benefits for under-25s, free schools, privatising the NHS, etc, are not isolated events: they are a new Tory experiment to transform society, building on Thatcher’s work.

This is an inter-generational crisis. The OECD is now warning that High levels of youth unemployment will lead to widespread poverty in old age as young people struggle to save for retirement.

The human consequences are stark, and avoidable.  Last year, 31,000 died due to freezing conditions. This is no accident, and there is literally no need for pensions to choose between heating and eating this winter.  Not with booming energy profits, or an £80 billion on Trident.

Voting No and crossing one’s fingers for a Labour victory in Westminster elections is no solution. Firstly, a No vote will embolden Britain’s neoliberal establishment, to make further cuts, to entrench geographical and social inequalities.  By contrast, a Yes vote opens space – albeit briefly – for reshaping Scottish institutions, as the Common Weal and Radical Independence are showing.  In politics, momentum is crucial.  For the Left, momentum for changing society means a voting Yes, which challenges decades of neoliberal conformity.

A Yes vote means an end to Tory rule, and everything it stands for, in Scotland.  A Labour government in 2015 will still be locked into the cuts agenda, Trident will stay on the Clyde, privatisation – much of it started by Blair-Brown – will continue. Corporate interests choke Westminster democracy; to shift that requires a mass opposition movement beyond parliament.

By breaking from UK PLC, we can set a better example for our partners in England.  While the White Paper is far from a utopia, it protects welfare, disarms Britain of its nuclear weaponry, shuts Dungavel and offers free child care.  It should have gone further; but can we imagine any of these commitments from British parties.

Dailly finishes by asking why the SNP have not established free childcare in Holyrood.  That’s fair enough.  But is this the best critique the Labour Left can imagine?  Thousands are taking active part in the independence movement but remain critics of the SNP.  Why?  Because there is an audience willing to listen to alternatives to neoliberalism, something which Scottish Labour has not provided in years. Many years.

For the Left, eradicating poverty and the Tory regime are points of unity regardless of referendum rivalries. But now we can shape the future of a new country, instead of defending a legacy of failure, and offering more of the same.  Britain betrays its people, the establishment around the City and Westminster do not deserve our obedience, and independence offers space for hope and alternatives.  We have to face the facts: Britain isn’t working.

 

*** We can support our ongoing work by donating whatever you can afford here. Thank you. ***

Comments (0)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. davidhood123 says:

    Just point Mike here:
    http://bellwether.metapress.com/content/m10m3736514222q5/fulltext.pdf
    and here:
    http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21576418-diverging-politics-labour-north-and-conservative-south-make-england-look-ever-more

    The No Camp always deny data and hard fact. As of the past 24h, Darling has denied his own assertions within hours. Mike is just keeping up a Bitter Together tradition.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks

  2. Tartanfever says:

    If Mr Daily is looking for broader coverage, then maybe he’d like to look at the UN’s HDR (Human Development Report). It’s available here:

    http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/GBR.html

    The report aims to go beyond income and factor in health, education, poverty, gender inequality, sustainability, trade and income, innovation and technology and so on.

    The UK is ranked 26th

    Norway is ranked 1st
    Ireland is ranked 7th
    Iceland is ranked 13th
    France is ranked 20th
    Finland is ranked 21st
    Spain is ranked 23rd

    We’re just managing to stay above Greece who are ranked 29th.

  3. Great choice of photo, really draws you in to the article.

  4. Good article,I’ve shared it as it needs more readers.

  5. Abulhaq says:

    Even if BritState were working that would not invalidate or demolish the case for independence. Does the desire to be free and sovereign require justification? Why are Scots, uniquely, required to jump through these demeaning fiery hoops. All rather pathetic really.

  6. And a few more facts on the £, EU membership and the Barnett formula from the House of Commons All Party Taxation Group (http://www.appgtaxation.org/APPTG_Achieving_Autonomy_2013.pdf). Not quoted because they are impartial. Quite the opposite, quoted because even a strongly Unionist House of Commons group says that . . .

    If Scotland votes ‘Yes’:

    7.2.2. “APPTG thus believes that it would be relatively unproblematic for Scotland to keep the UK£ initially as a transitional measure, thereby also helping reduce the immediate costs of independence, in order to smooth a later transition to a ‘more independent’ status that included Scotland adopting its own separate currency, and with it, genuine economic sovereignty.”

    7.2.7: “While in theory it is likely that Scotland would have to formally negotiate its own opt-out from the euro, as the UK and Denmark have done, the APPTG does not consider it likely in practice that the EU would exert much pressure on Scotland to join the euro, given the parlous state of the eurozone”

    and if Scotland votes ‘No’ then funding to Scotland will be cut dramatically because Scotland receives more per head, despite the fact that Scotland contributes more to the UK Treasury, and despite (or because) the whole system is skewed so that the 1% can fleece the rest of us:

    5.2.6. “The APPTG echoes the findings of the House of Lords Committee on the Barnett Formula in recommending that a shift is required towards a ‘needs-based’ formula, whereby a “dynamic” and “simple, clear, and comprehensible” system is used to allocate resources to the devolved regions “based on an explicit assessment of their relative needs”, calculated “per head of population”

    As Michael Meacher points out (http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2012/04/britains-1000-richest-persons-made-gains-of-155bn-in-last-3-years/:

    “the 1,000 richest persons in the UK have increased their wealth by so much in the last 3 years – £155bn – that they themselves alone could pay off the entire UK budget deficit and still leave themselves with £30bn to spare which should be enough to keep the wolf from the door.

    ” . . . even more staggering, is that whilst the rest of the country is being crippled by the biggest public expenditure and benefits squeeze for a century, these 1,000 persons, containing many of the bankers and hedge fund and private equity operators who caused the financial crash in the first place, have not been made subject to any tax payback whatever commensurate to their gains. This is truly a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.”

  7. James Coleman says:

    What a dopey looking shower of bods in the photo. Do they always dress up in pantomime clothes?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      We’re all in it together James

  8. majormacbloodnok says:

    Thanks Jonathan (and Bella). Great article. Will be sharing with certain undecideds who fear that YES will not make the radical difference they want to see.

  9. Greg says:

    great piece. Bit of a one stop shop for revealing what’s on offer with a No vote.

  10. john king says:

    “Dailly finishes by asking why the SNP have not established free childcare in Holyrood. That’s fair enough.”
    No Im sorry its not fair enough, why did the labour party (pre cuts to the block grant )not introduce free child care when it was infinitely more affordable? no they sent back 1.5billion pound to the treasury unspent to show what good little britons there were,
    lets have no”fair enough” when the money required to fund this ongoing would come from increases to tax receipts from newly employed women when at present that money would dissapear into the treasury to be used to help subsidize renewing trident and covering the costly defence of the banker bonuses in the European parliament

    1. Exactly, John. The “why haven’t the SNP established free childcare” is easily explained with a wee bit of common sense:

      http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2013/12/why-independence-makes-it-easier-to-fund-childcare/

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.