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Scotland isn't different, it's Britain that's bizarre

(5 Posts)
ttosca Sat 22-Mar-14 12:14:15

Britain is in a state of self denial, sitting at the bottom of European league tables, but convinced it still rules the waves. The aspirations of the SNP may seem ambitious, but all they are really proposing is to be a normal European country.

There is a trope I hear a lot at the moment: “Scotland is different”. Left to lie, on its own, with no explanation, it's a sort of petty nationalism. The idea that any one group of people is intrinsically unlike any other strikes me as a perverse way to understand humanity.

The context, usually, is political. Scotland has free education “because it's different”. Scotland hasn't privatised its NHS, “because it's different”. It's utter bunkum. The truth is that Scotland is, basically, a very normal Northern European country.

Across Northern Europe, university education is either free (in Germany and the Nordic countries) or costs only a few hundred Euros (in the Netherlands and France, for example). Most of Europe has much lower levels of income inequality than the UK. Apart from the Benelux countries and Cyprus, all of Europe's countries use more renewable energy than the UK, despite Britain having more potential than almost any of them.

In most of Europe, in fact, in most of the world, the idea that significant portions of your economy would be publicly owned is quite standard. In Northern Europe, it's not abnormal to have decent childcare provision, to work a sensible number of hours a day, and to be more productive in total as a result.

No, when people say that Scotland is different, that the social democratic aspirations of Scots are an anomaly, they are missing the point entirely. The social attitudes of Scots, and the policies of the Scottish Parliament, are pretty much standard for a European country. Scotland isn't the exception, it's the rule.

The thing that's weird isn't even England. Most English people are against privatisation, and though there is a small difference in attitudes towards social security, it's nothing that won't change over the years.

No, the thing that's an outlier is Britain. As the Radical Independence Campaign has pointed out, it's Britain that is the fourth most unequal developed country on earth, in which pay has in recent years fallen faster than in all but three EU countries, in which people work the third longest hours in Europe for the second lowest wages in the OECD despite having Europe's third highest housing costs, highest train fares and the second worst levels of fuel poverty.

It's Britain which has the least happy children in the developed world, the highest infant mortality rate in Western Europe and some of the worst child poverty in the industrialised world. It's British elderly people who are the fourth poorest pensioners in the EU. It's Britain which has the eighth biggest gender pay gap in Europe and child care costs much higher than most European countries.

It's Britain which has a wealth gap twice as wide as any other EU country, Europe's greatest regional inequality, productivity 16% behind the average for advanced economies and the worst record on industrial production of the rich world. It's Britain whose elite has a radical ideology: 40% of the total value of all privatisations in the Western world between 1980 and 1996 happened in the UK; and it's Britain's parliament which is uniquely undemocratic, with its noxious combination of first past the post and an unelected second chamber, yet holds more centralised power than almost any other legislature in the developed world. With all that, it should be no surprise that Britain has the lowest level of trust in our politicians.

Most people in the South East of England never seem to understand this. Blinded by the headlights and headlines of post imperial UK nationalism, the idea that “Britain is Great” pervades. We (I live in the South East at the moment) cling with white fisted knuckles to the notion that Britannia rules, unwilling to let go of our imperial past for fear that we might find we are just another European country. It's a myth which works much more in England, and which helps explain differences in the tendancy to believe immigrant scapegoating North and South of the border "if Britain is uniquely great" people infer "it can't be the system that's to blame, it must be outsiders".

But the truth is that this is a very sick country indeed. We are investing a net figure of nothing in our future economy, and instead just about keep our head above water by flogging off our assets at a rate which would astonish almost any other country and re-inflating speculative bubbles which suck any wealth we do create into an unproductive black hole London housing market which eats wealth out of the rest of the country, hoovering any investment away from anything productive and then complaining when it's asked to redistribute crumbs from its table.

A metropolis once at the centre of the biggest empire in human history and now at the centre of a global revolution of money-men over making things, of the wealthy over the rest is disguised by a blanket of post-imperial false confidence. Post-imperial Britain is a very strange, very damaged place. And before the people of these islands, the English in particular, can move on, and find a new place in the world, they need someone to finally point out that not only is this former emperor naked, not only does he no longer rule the waves, but his failure to grapple sensibly with either these facts has led to some pretty unhealthy habits. Telling a difficult truth is what friends are for. In part, that's what Scotland's referendum will be about.

But for most Scots, it'll be about their families and their communities. And so for them, it's important to understand this: when people say that Scotland could do better, this isn't about some nationalist belief that the talents or the solidaristic instincts of the Scots are unique. In order to be a significantly nicer place to live, all that Scotland needs is to be normal. Compared to being in broken Britain, living in a bog-standard average Western country may seem like an impossible, utopian fairy-land, to which only naïve children conned by lying politicians would aspire. But for most of the Western world, the sort of Scotland that SNP talk about, that most yes campaigners say we can expect, isn't exceptional, it's not even better than average. I am a radical. I hope we can achieve much more. But the “cloud cuckoo land” aspiration of the Scottish Government is to be an average, run of the mill, bog-standard European country. Compared to where we are now, that would be a great start.

Isitmebut Sat 22-Mar-14 18:50:06

I have to ask myself, why do socialists/Marxists feel the need to constantly run down England (thinly disguised as Britain), from the trade unionist leaders reporting to the old U.S.S.R.'s leaders over decades until the 1980’s, thinking their way was sustainable, to recent years when the Labour government wasn’t happy unless changing our way of life?

What is this unpatriotic need to dilute OUR culture, traditions, religion and instead adopt multiculturalism; as isn’t this the reason given for Labour’s immigration policy in the 2000’s, and the need at all (and any) costs to be assimilated into Europe?

And now as England looks to recover from an unbroken 13-year of a socialist government, with a large enough parliamentary majority throughout that period to mould the UK into whatever they wanted – yet history will record them as the incompetent ‘Rotten Parliament’ – we are being talked down relative to Europe & Scotland?

Socialism in countries that seem to work are those that have governments with a track record of competence in spending public money well and have the peoples trust, and they in turn do their part. Labour had a chance to reform our services and spend a 50% increase in UK spending from 2001 to 2008 wisely, but blew it, seemingly throwing good money after bad.

Privatisation or government run entities in the UK now has run a full cycle of incompetence, from industry in the 1970’s unable to compete with those from Japan and Germany needing countless amounts of tax payers money to prolong their inefficient existence, to public services in the 2000’s, where the only ‘improvements’ were due to the sheer weight of (unsustainable) taxpayers money being thrown at them.

So I wouldn’t mind so much, if your points were at least valid, starting with “sitting at the bottom of European league tables” a sweeping statement that without detail and/or including the missed (Labour) opportunities of the best decade in over 100-years to achieve so much, is a nonsense.

Isitmebut Sat 22-Mar-14 18:55:25

So lets look at some more of your points;

Energy; countries like Germany and France that had enough nuclear power within their energy source balance, had the option to reduce nuclear and go renewable, under Labour they left us in a dire nuclear shortfall and didn’t provide enough renewables. Labour sold the UK ‘privatised’ Westinghouse, our only nuclear expertise for a few £billion to Toshiba and chose the French State to build our nuclear plants via the government owned EDF, privatisation New Labour style.

Education, how many countries set a huge target of 50% of children going to university like Blair, oversaw our secondary education standards fall to try and achieve it, and didn’t budget for such a large university intake before they left power, hence the rise in tuition fees? Now our youth will be saddled with the personal debt for often mediocre degrees from that ridiculous target, achieved where else in the world?


'Dire' consequences loom for jobless Europe"

"Unemployment in the euro zone is currently sitting close to a record high of 12 percent, and is forecast to fall at a very slow rate over the next two years before reaching 11 percent by 2018, according to the spring EY Eurozone Forecast (EEF).

Figures from European Union's statistics agency show approximately 19.175 million are without a job across the euro zone and in Greece, unemployment is set to climb to 28 percent this year before it falls by 3 percent in 2018.”

As far as the nasty moneymen” of England goes, how much money does Scottish fund managers control, £300 billion if memory serves.

“Scotland is internationally recognised as the most important UK financial centre outside London and the south east.”



"Welcome to McCuba (2009). Scotland is set to become the third most state-dependent country in the world. Soon Havana and Baghdad will be the only capitals that rely more on public spending than Edinburgh, according to economic forecasters.

“They say the uneven flow of government funds to north of the border is putting an “unfair burden” on English taxpayers. They predict that public spending will soon rise to the equivalent of almost 70% of Scotland’s gross domestic product.

The forecasters — from the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), a consultancy that advises the UK government — warn in a report that the burgeoning Scottish public sector is “unsustainable”.

The CEBR paper, commissioned by The Sunday Times, shows that the annual public sector wage bill in Scotland has risen by 55% to £12 billion since the Scottish parliament was established in 1999, with nearly one in four working for the state. A further £2.3 billion is spent annually on pensions for public sector workers, whose ranks have grown by nearly 50,000 in the past 10 years.

The report will renew concerns among English taxpayers about the preferential treatment enjoyed by the Scots, who benefit from free personal care for the elderly, no tuition fees and free school meals.

The extra level of funding per head that Scotland receives has grown from £828 in 1999 to £1,644. In 1999 the state spent £4,993 per head in Scotland and £4,165 in England. Now Scotland receives £9,179 and England gets £7,535.*

Last year public spending was the equivalent of 43% of GDP in England and 56% in Scotland, placing Scotland 20th on a table of 160 countries most dependent on state spending, and England 67th.

The CEBR forecasts that the Scottish figure will rise to 67% by 2012-3, while the UK will rise to 48%. This would place Scotland in third place in the league of countries most dependent on state spending.

John Blundell, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “Scotland has been heading this way for an awfully long time. Adam Smith must be rolling in his grave.

“My impression is very much that Scotland got into a vicious circle of creating more and more benefits and more government jobs"

Just taking that last paragraph, no wonder ttosca approves, it’s Labour’s economic model on steroids.

cashewfrenzy Sat 22-Mar-14 19:00:46

If Scotland is so dependent one would imagine the rest of Britain would be delighted to wash their hands of such a financial millstone. Yet strangely they seem reluctant to let go ... how odd.

Isitmebut Sat 22-Mar-14 22:03:10

The history of the UK is one thing, it was another when a poster suggests that we should be more like Scotland when they have a less balanced economy than England - relying on more State money and financial services.

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