Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Scottish independence and the "heavy price" of voting no


According to the IPPR Future of England survey 2014, I'm in a small minority of Englishmen who support Scottish independence. Just 19% of respondents to the Future of England survey were in favour, which makes me one of the few English people who support the idea of greater autonomy and increased political accountability north of the border.

The findings of this survey paint an ugly picture of England as a land filled with bitter, resentful and vindictive people, seething with anger at the audacity of the Scots for even daring consider an escape from the misrule of the Westminster establishment.

What is much more concerning than the fact that the majority of the English oppose Scottish independence, is the fact that a clear majority believe that the Westminster establishment should punish the people of Scotland with huge funding cuts should they vote against independence in the referendum. The mainstream media has described this attitude as "the English" seeking a "heavy price" for the independence referendum.

The motivation behind this common English desire to have Scottish funding cut by some £4 billion to bring per capita spending down to the UK average, is the pervasive media narrative that the Scottish are a bunch of "subsidy junkies".

A brief look at the actual facts reveals that Scotland does indeed benefit from slightly higher per capita government spending than the UK average, however Scotland also has a much higher per capita GDP than the rest of the UK, thanks largely to the revenues from Scottish oil and gas. Once the proceeds from oil and gas are added into the equation it turns out that tax revenues in Scotland are nearly 20% higher than the UK average which would make slightly higher public spending seem pretty fair.

Once the supply of North Sea oil begins to dwindle, Scotland also has huge renewable energy potential, including some 25% of EU offshore wind potential, 25% of EU tidal potential, and 10% of EU hydroelectric potential.

These vast supplies of actual and potential energy reserves make Scotland a very wealthy country indeed, however a great swathe of the English public seem to believe that the Scottish people should be denied the benefits of all of this Scottish energy wealth so that it can be distributed to the people of England instead.


One of the most absurd things about this English bitterness towards Scotland is the way that they completely overlook the fact that government spending in London is much higher than the levels of public spending in Scotland that the mainstream media have whipped them up into a frenzy of bitterness and jealousy about.

The disparity in public spending between London and the rest of England is so enormous that more than half of England's infrastructure budget is spent just in London and the South East. To put this into perspective, the annual investment in transport infrastructure in the North East of England is just £246 per person, while the annual amount in London is £4,895!


You'd have to be a particularly one-eyed Englishman to allow the mainstream media to whip you up into a frenzy over the fact that average public spending in Scotland is slightly higher than the average for England, without realising, or caring, that vastly more public money is poured into London than anywhere else, including Scotland (and that's without even adding the £1.5 trillion in public money that was sunk into the City of London financial sector to save the bankers from the consequences of their own reckless gambling into the equation).

When the majority of English people demand that the level of Scotland's per capita government spending is reduced to the UK average, what they are actually demanding is that the Scottish public be denied the economic benefits of their own abundance of natural resources, so that the benefits can be redistributed to England instead. In order to adopt this absurd "It's not fair that Scotland gets more" position, they have to completely ignore the elephant in the room, which is the vastly bigger disparity that exists between government spending in London, compared with the rest of England.

What makes this common English "punish them if they vote no" attitude so much worse is the fact that the majority of respondents to the IPPR survey also want to see
 the Westminster establishment use its powers to obstruct an independent Scotland by trying to force them out of the EU and other international institutions, and by attempting to prevent them from using the pound (even though that would be impossible because the pound is a fully tradeable international currency). 

This "punish them whatever they decide to do" stance actually makes a very strong argument in favour of Scottish independence. Not only do a majority of my fellow Englishmen want Scotland to vote no to independence because they feel a sense of entitlement to the revenues from Scottish natural resources, they also want Westminster to attempt to severely punish the people of Scotland for their audacity, should they dare vote yes to independence.


It seems that the majority of my fellow Englishmen are not very nice bedfellows at all. 
The fact that most of my countrymen oppose Scottish independence isn't all that much of a problem, after all, everyone is entitled to their opinion. What is completely unacceptable is the ridiculous sense of entitlement that so many English people seem to have towards the proceeds from Scottish natural resources, and the blatantly vindictive "punish them whatever they decide to do" attitudes they hold towards the people of Scotland.

All three of the Westminster establishment parties have been offering Scotland "jam tomorrow" promises of more decision making powers for Scotland should the people of Scotland vote no to independence, however the results of this survey show that the English electorate are baying for Scottish blood. It seems extremely likely that any further devolution of powers would also see massive cuts in Scottish public spending, imposed in order to appease the much larger English electorate.

The only way for the people of Scotland to ensure that the economic benefits of their abundant natural resources are not redistributed to England is to vote in favour of independence. The majority of my fellow Englishmen want to see the people of Scotland punished whatever they decide to do, and should the Scottish people vote against independence, it's quite clear that it would come at a "heavy price".


The results of this survey are an embarrassment to England. They paint us as a selfish, resentful and vindictive bunch with an intense loathing for the Scottish, however I'm proud to be one of the minority of English people who support the idea of Scottish independence, and wish the people of Scotland all the best for the future, no matter what the outcome of the independence referendum.

 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of revenue for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.




Flattr this



MORE ARTICLES FROM
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
         
Reasons Scotland should vote Yes - 1: Uncertainty
           
Reasons Scotland should vote Yes - 2: We don't need your pity
                     
A letter to Scottish voters
       

A letter to fans of Workfare
                                  
Who is to blame for the economic crisis?
                          
"Bedroom Tax" - tax the poor to subsidise the rich
                
The "unpatriotic left" fallacy
                 
          
The Tory ideological mission
                 
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies
  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

12 things you should know about the Tories and the NHS


In this article I'm going to explain twelve things that you should know about the Tories and the NHS.

I have also uploaded a version of this article to Buzzfeed, which contains more pictures but fewer words. You can see that here.


David Cameron Lied about the NHS

Before the 2010 general election David Cameron promised "no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS", then within months of coming to power his Health secretary Andrew Lansley launched the biggest top-down reorganisation in the history of the NHS (the Health and Social Care Act). Cameron also made the pre-election promise that the Tories would "cut the deficit, not the NHS", before launching £20 billion worth of NHS cuts.

Michael Portillo admitted the truth

In 2011 the former Tory leadership candidate Michael Portillo admitted that David Cameron and the Tories had lied to the public about their intentions towards the NHS before the 2010 General Election: "They did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do because people are so wedded to the NHS."

Portillo was right, the privatisation of the NHS is a very unpopular idea


According to a 2013 YouGov poll, 84% of the public would prefer to see the NHS run as a not-for-profit public service, whilst just 7% favour privatisation. [source]

Even though they were facing a Labour party led by an incredibly unpopular and blunder prone leader in Gordon Brown, and in the wake of the biggest economic meltdown in generations, the Tories were still incapable of even winning a majority government. Had they admitted their intentions to carve up the NHS and hand out the pieces to their corporate mates, this would surely have cost them hundreds of thousands of votes, and potentially left Labour to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

Loads of Tory politicians have vested interests in the privatisation of the NHS

Dozens and dozens of the Tory MPs and Lords who voted in favour of the privatisation of the NHS had clear vested financial interests in private health corporations. Here is a detailed list of some of those politicians who look set to benefit from the NHS privatisation bill they voted for.

One of the most notable examples is Lazy Lord Coe, who barely ever turns up to vote in the House of Lords (he voted in just 7.9% of debates between 2000 and 2013). However when the opportunity to benefit his numerous private health interests (PruHealth, AMT Sybex, Chime Communications) presented itself, he was amongst many Tory lords with financial interests in the private health sector to make rare appearances in the House of Lords and vote in favour of greater NHS privatisation.

The Tories have been carving up the NHS and giving away the pieces to their donors
Circle Health, which is 29.2% owned by a hedge fund run by major Tory party donor Paul Ruddock has been handed over £1.3 billion in NHS contracts. Other Tory party donors with major investments in Circle Health include Martyn Arbib, Crispin Odey and Michael Platt.

 Care UK has received over £100 million in NHS contracts. Their chairman is John Nash who has made £247,250 worth of donations to the Tory party. Aside from his company picking up huge NHS contract as a result of Tory party legislation, he has also been handed a seat in the unelected House of Lords.

 [source]

The NHS is one of the best health services in the world

A recent study by the Washington based Commonwealth Fund has shown that the NHS is one of the best, cheapest and most efficient health services in the world, whilst the private sector dominated US health system is the worst, most expensive and least efficient of the eleven different health care systems that they looked at. The NHS reforms introduced by the Tory party are designed to make the NHS much more like the US system by bringing in ever more private health corporations to take over NHS services. The Tory mantra about bringing in the private sector to "make the NHS more efficient" is just a smokescreen. The real reason for bringing in the private sector is to soak as much profit out of the system as possible, with no regards for the quality or efficiency of the service.


Jeremy Hunt

In 2009 the Tory MP Jeremy Hunt co-authored a book which called for the NHS to be dismantled and called it "no longer relevant". In 2012 David Cameron appointed Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary, meaning that the man who is now responsible for the NHS is a man who has called for it to be completely abolished.

The fact that David Cameron would appoint a Health Secretary who is on record saying that the NHS should be abolished illustrates exactly how gullible he imagined the general public to be when he made the pre-election promise that "the NHS will be safe in my hands".

No Confidence

Medical professionals have voted time and again against the Tory NHS reforms. The British Medical Association have also passed motions of no-confidence against the current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and his predecessor Andrew Lansley. Virtually the entire medical profession is opposed to the Tories and their plot to privatise the NHS. It is quite impossible to make the NHS "more efficient" when the people in charge of it are conducting an ideological war against the people who actually run the service. What is needed is people in charge who want to work with the doctors and other medical professionals, rather than against them.

The myth of private sector efficiency

The facts that the private sector dominated US health system is hugely expensive and inefficient, whilst the public sector dominated NHS is rated as one of the most efficient in the world should be enough to convince most people that it is a complete myth that the private sector is somehow inherently more efficient than the public sector.

When it comes to health care provision it is quite easy to understand why greater private sector involvement causes inefficiencies in the system. If the NHS signs a 30 year PFI contract for a new hospital, or outsources the provision of health care services to a private health company on a 25 year contract, these contracts can only be escaped from at enormous cost in compensation. Even modifying the contracts to take account of changing needs is extraordinarily expensive. When such long term contracts are signed, the NHS is legally obliged to continue paying for them, no matter what the changing health care requirements of the community.

These obligations build inflexibility and inefficiency into the system. When the health system operates under a single umbrella, services can be modified with relative ease, but when contracts with hedge funds, private equity groups and multinational healthcare companies have been signed, any modifications incur large financial costs.

Forced hospital closures

The Princess Regent University Hospital (which cost £118 million to construct) was built in South London, but under the terms of the PFI contract, the amount repayable over the decades will be £2.5 billion, returning a handsome 70.6% profit to the PFI consortium.

The extraordinary costs of paying off this PFI debt crippled the South London Healthcare Trust, forcing them to look for savings. The proposal they came up with was a plan to shut down the Accident and Emergency department and the maternity ward at Lewisham Hospital, and to sell off the land and buildings in order to raise £17 million towards paying their PFI debts. This plan would have left Lewisham (population 750,000) without an A&E or maternity ward, and sparked large public protests and a legal challenge against the decision to shut down most of the hospital and sell off the land.

The legal challenge against the closure of Lewisham A&E was successful, but this victory for people power was a short lived one. The response of the Tory party was to pass new legislation to allow the Health Secretary the power to shut down any NHS run hospital, no matter how efficiently the services is run, in just 40 days. As a result, next time a local health authority gets into financial difficulties as a result of their PFI debts, the Tories can simply shut down a load of local NHS run services in order to protect the profits of rip-off PFI consortia, no matter how efficient the NHS services are, or how strong the public opposition.

More Tory lies

Here's one undeniable example of lies from the Tory party manifesto.
2010
"We will stop the forced closure of A&E and maternity wards, so that people have better access to local services, and give mothers a real choice over where to have their baby, with NHS funding following their decisions." 
2010 Conservative Party Manifesto, page 47

2012 
The Tories attempt to force the closure of the A&E and maternity ward at Lewisham Hospital, but were defeated in the courts.

2014 
The Tories pass new legislation to make it much easier for the Health Secretary force the closure of NHS hospitals and services.

And here's another example.

2010

"We will make patients’ choices meaningful by putting patients in charge of making decisions about their care, including control of their health records."
2010 Conservative Party Manifesto, page 47

2014
The Tories table new legislation aimed at allowing private health corporations to buy access to people's private health records without their consent. After a huge public outcry against this plan the Tories were forced to postpone their plan to sell off our medical data. However within a week of them shelving their data sharing plans it was revealed that 47 million private medical records had already been sold off to a private insurance company.

The Tories and the NHS eventually admitted that the records shouldn't have been sold off without anyone's consent, so I suppose that's alright then!

   
Privatising the profits, socialising the losses

The most recent example of privatising the profits and socialising the losses can be seen in the botched eye operations carried out at the NHS Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton by the private sector contractor Vanguard Health. 30 of the 60 operations carried out by the private company led to complications, including complete blindness in one case. After just four days the NHS Hospital terminated the contract with Vanguard, but it seems that the NHS hospital will be held liable for compensations to the victims of these botched eye operations carried out on NHS premises by a private company. Another example of the taxpayer having to pay out for the failings of private health companies can be in the case of the Lister Surgicentre in Stevenage, which was run by the private company Clinicenta until the contract was terminated early in 2013 due to poor standards of care. In order to terminate the contract, the taxpayer had to fork out £53 million in compensation to Clinicenta.

 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of revenue for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.

Flattr this



More articles from
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
   
The NHS is not safe in their hands
          
The Tory ideological mission
                  
Tories sell NHS blood supply to vampire capitalists

Friday, August 15, 2014

Universal Basic Income vs the current welfare system



In this article I'm going to set out the case that a Universal Basic Income based welfare system would be a massive improvement on the current punitive welfare bureaucracy in the UK.


What is Universal Basic Income?

I've already written a fairly comprehensive article explaining Universal Basic Income, so for the sake of brevity I'm not going to go into masses of detail about it again here, other than to say that it is a form of unconditional welfare payment to which all citizens are entitled.

Ideally the UBI payment should be set at a rate which covers the basic costs of living (housing, water, energy, food) meaning that nobody would be forced to live in abject poverty in 21st Century Britain. Those wanting anything more than a frugal and very basic standard of living (stuff like foreign holidays, expensive furniture, new cars, fashionable clothes ...) would have a strong incentive to work in order to pay for their luxuries.

One of the main benefits of a universal, unconditional welfare payment would be the removal of virtually all of the costly means testing bureaucracy from the welfare system. Another benefit would be the near complete elimination of welfare fraud, which would free up teams of fraud investigators to go after much bigger fish such as tax-dodgers and organised crime networks.
                   

What is wrong with the current welfare system?

There are so many flaws in the current welfare system that it would be literally impossible to list them all in a blog post. It was in bad enough shape when New Labour left office in 2010 but after four long years of Iain Duncan Smith's hopeless mismanagement, it is now a humanitarian disaster of bad planning, poor implementation and dehumanising bureaucracy. For the sake of brevity I'll limit myself to detailing just four of the worst aspects of the current welfare system, and how the introduction of UBI would represent a significant improvement.

1. The disincentive to work

One of the biggest problems with the current welfare system is the way in which it creates strong disincentives to work through the removal of benefits. In many cases benefits are removed at such a rate that people find themselves even worse off if they decide to work. 


Many hundreds of thousands of people have found themselves receiving desultory increases in income (often less than £1 per hour worked) because of the way that benefits are removed almost as fast as additional income is earned, or have even found themselves economically worse off for having found a job
.

At best, the additional income through finding work is desultory, at worst finding a job actually costs people a share of the pittance they were surviving on. Few would argue that these factors are not strong disincentives to work.


Iain Duncan Smith's catastrophically botched Universal Credit scheme was supposedly designed to eliminate these appalling disincentive to work, but research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that it actually does no such thing. Should Universal Credit even survive Iain Duncan Smith's incompetent management, many people would still be financially worse off should they decide to increase the number of hours they work under the Universal Credit system.

Even though Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP relentlessly talk up their Universal Credit scheme as the biggest welfare reform in decades, it's absolutely clear that it is actually nothing more than hugely expensive tinkering with an already dysfunctional system.


The introduction of a system based on Universal Basic Income would neatly resolve the disincentive to work problem because if the public are always entitled to their basic unconditional income, paid work would always result in a notable increase in individual income, since the individual would be earning their salary, on top of their unconditional basic income payment.

2. Sanctions

The problem that the disincentive to work problem presents to the establishment order is that it is extremely difficult to tackle long-term unemployment when work doesn't pay, or results in nothing more than a desultory increase in overall income.

The fact that people can't be positively encouraged into work with the "carrot" of increased income means that the only motivational tool left for the state to use is the "stick" of rendering people absolutely destitute through arbitrarily applied sanctions if they won't comply with DWP demands.

Nearly a million people were left destitute by DWP benefits sanctions in 2013
. The widespread use of benefits sanctions is a humanitarian catastrophe, and I'm not exaggerating with hyperbolic language either. Very many people have died during their benefits sanction period (most often the mentally disabled and severely ill). In many cases people were still fighting appeals against arbitrary DWP sanctions until the day they died from their illnesses, in many other cases people committed suicide or even starved to death.

Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP have repeatedly lied that there are no such things as sanctions targets and sanctions league tables, however sanctions targets and the official DWP sanctions league tables were both leaked to the press in 2013
.

Sanctions targets and league tables are particularly vile things because it is blatantly much easier for DWP staff under enormous pressure to meet their monthly sanctions quotas by tricking the mentally disabled and uneducated into violating DWP rules, than it is to expend a great deal of effort in catching out the minority of committed benefits "scroungers", who often understand the DWP rules better than the staff themselves.


Under Universal Basic Income this kind of deliberate impoverishment by the state simply couldn't happen because everyone would be entitled to an unconditional subsistance income. This would mean that the pressure on DWP staff to trick vulnerable people into making mistakes in order to fulfill their sanctions quotas would be completely eliminated.

The power of the state to use absolute destitution as a social weapon against the public would be completely removed by virtue of the fact that the public would have an unconditional right to their subsistence income.

3. Means Testing


There are two main problems with the idea that all welfare payments must be means tested.

The first is the costly burden of bureaucracy that this approach loads onto the system. The current welfare system employs tens of thousands of people to means test welfare payments, welfare recipients are made to waste countless hours filling out forms with the same personal information and collecting supporting evidence over and again, and the whole system costs countless £billions to administer.

The second problem with means tested benefits is the way in which they are perceived by the public. When a benefit is universal, very few people strongly oppose it because everyone is entitled to it. Take the provision of universal healthcare through the NHS as an example. The NHS has very strong public support, with just 7% of the public favouring NHS privatisation
(not that this remarkable level of public support has stopped the Tories from carving up the NHS and giving it away to their donors).
   
If the state decided to bring in new rules to means test health provision (lets say anyone earning over £20,000 per year would have to pay compulsory medical insurance and/or pay for their medical services) there would almost certainly be a large decline in the level of public support for the NHS. It's much easier to convince people that welfare provision is a very good thing if they are entitled to a share of it. If they get the idea that they are paying for it, but that they are barred from receiving any of the benefit, it's easy to understand how strong feelings of resentment would arise.

The introduction of Universal Basic Income would resolve both of these problems.

The bureaucratic costs of administering the system would be massively reduced if the vast majority of people received a standard UBI payment. Of course administrative costs cannot be completely eliminated from any system, however, the lower the cost of administration, the higher the share of the budget that actually ends up where it should be - with welfare recipients. UBI would ensure that a much higher proportion of the welfare budget actually gets paid out to the public, rather than being wasted on the administrative costs of endless means testing.

The introduction of UBI would also assuage public resentment at the cost of the welfare system. The fact that everyone would be entitled to UBI would mean that nobody would be left thinking "why should I have to pay for this when I get no direct benefit from it".

4. Corporate parasitism

In recent years there has been an ever accelerating drive to bring in private outsourcing companies (A4e, Atos, Serco, Capita, G4S, Pertemps, Seetec ...) to carry out the administrative functions of the welfare system. This process was not started by the Tories (New Labour were the ones who introduced the discriminatory Atos WCA assessment regime for the disabled for example), however, under Iain Duncan Smith's "leadership" the DWP has brought in ever more private outsourcing companies into the welfare system on vast £multi-million contracts. Some of the most shocking examples include, the expansion of the notoriously inaccurate Atos WCA regime, the hopelessly underperforming Work Programme and their "Help to Work" forced labour scheme.

Many of these parasitical outsourcing companies make near enough 100% of their revenues from government contracts, and the contracts are so badly written and one-sided that it really doesn't matter how badly these outsourcing company perform, they suffer no financial penalties, they still get paid and they still get awarded even more government contracts despite their appalling track records of failure.

The problem is so serious that even companies like G4S that have carried out vast frauds against the taxpayer still end up being handed more £multi-million contracts, even though they were supposedly barred from bidding for government contracts during the tendering process
.

Another example of a corporate outsourcing parasite that has been caught out defrauding the taxpayer is A4e. This is a company which made 100% of its revenues from government contracts at the time its director Emma Harrison decided to award herself an £8.6 million dividend. Given that all of the companies revenues are generated through the taxpayer funded "welfare to work" system, it's easy to see how this vast dividend represents nothing more than skimming off a percentage of the welfare budget to fund the lifestyle of a very wealthy individual.

The introduction of a system based on Universal Basic Income would eliminate the possibility of corporate outsourcing parasites skimming the welfare budget and diverting money that should be helping the most vulnerable people in society into their corporate accounts.

With the massively reduced bureaucracy, and the end of sanctions backed forced labour schemes that UBI would bring about, the scope for corporate parasitism of the welfare system would be severely reduced.

Of course there would still be a role for private companies looking to profit from helping people into work, but they'd have to help people train for and find the kind of work they want, rather than just hoovering up government subsidies in return for forcing them onto unpaid forced labour schemes under the threat of absolute destitution via benefits sanctions.



Conclusion

The current system was bad enough before the Tories even came to power, but after four long years of Iain Duncan Smith's maniacal blundering it's in the most appalling shape it's ever been in (and many would argue deliberately so). Iain Duncan Smith's tenure at the DWP has been little but a dreadfully prolonged systemic failure.                   
I'm not trying to say that Universal Basic Income is some kind of wonderful panacea. It wouldn't cure all of the problems in society in one simple step. There are no such things as magic bullets. What I have tried to demonstrate is that the principle of UBI could make the foundations of a much better welfare system than the current shambles.

I believe that a person would have to be delusional to argue the case that the current welfare system is well designed, well managed and efficient, therefore most sensible people would accept that there are grounds for improvement.

In my view you can either support the near identical prescriptions of the Westminster establishment parties (tinkering with the broken system) or you can support a completely new approach, be it based on Universal Basic Income, or some other fundamental reform to the system.

I suppose it comes down to this. If you are naturally a right-wing authoritarian who believes that the state has a right/duty to use the threat of absolute destitution as a social weapon against the public to force them into paid or unpaid work, you're probably quite happy with the way things are done right now.
             
If however you believe that the state has no right to force people, including tens of thousands of children, into absolute poverty simply because a family member committed "welfare crimes" such as being five minutes late to an appointment
, selling remembrance poppies, attending a job interview or even suffering a heart attack during an interview, then Universal Basic Income represents an elegant solution to the problem. If every citizen has a right to an unconditional subsistence income, then the state would no longer have the ability to use the threat of poverty/hunger/cold/homelessness as a social weapon.

 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of revenue for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.


Flattr this


        
                                            

Friday, August 8, 2014

A letter to Scottish voters



Dear Voters of Scotland

As a Yorkshireman who currently resides outside of Scotland I feel like a bit of an outsider looking in on the independence debate, but I have my opinions and I'd like to share some of them with you.

I'm strongly in favour of greater political autonomy as a general principle, so I'm strongly in favour of Scottish independence on the grounds that the people of Scotland deserve a government that is much more responsive to their wishes than the Westminster establishment have proven themselves to be.

It has been fascinating to see the various ways in which the independence debate has been framed by the different sides. The political establishment, supported by the vast majority of the mainstream media, relentlessly push the overwhelmingly negative argument against independence, whilst the much more hopeful pro-independence perspective is provided by an impressive array of community groups, independent websites and ordinary people.

One of the most interesting tactics used by the anti-independence camp has been the emotive argument that the Scottish people would be tearing apart "the bond of citizenship" that you share with the English should you vote for independence. The most high profile example of this emotive "bond of citizenship" argument was the pleading letter from some 200 mainly English celebrities that appeared in the press in August 2014
. The letter was signed by such luminaries as Cilla Black, Helena Bonham Carter, Simon Cowell, Richard Dawkins, Tracey Emin, Max Hastings, Ross Kemp, Rod Little, Peter Oborne, Sting, Alan Sugar and Ray Winstone.

That these celebrities would even consider basing their argument on an appeal to some abstract "bond of citizenship" just goes to show how desperately out of touch they have become with the everyday realities that so many normal folk endure. The fact that these celebrities range between comfortably well off and ludicrously rich provides some explanation of how they have completely missed the bigger picture in the Scottish independence debate.

The sheer number of establishment titles on this list (lords, sirs, dames, baronesses) shows that this is a bunch of people who are the beneficiaries of a system which keeps millions of people in Scotland, Wales and neglected areas of England in abject, soul destroying poverty. These people are not pleading with you to vote against Scottish independence because they feel it is in the best interests of the tens of thousands of Scottish kids growing up in such poverty that they have to go hungry on a regular basis (because it clearly isn't) they're pleading with you because they don't want to lose some abstract and inedible personal "bond of citizenship".

The referendum on independence isn't an opportunity to break some abstract "bond of citizenship" with the people of England as they like to frame it, it's an opportunity for the people of Scotland to stand up and free themselves from the misrule of the Westminster establishment. This mottly bunch of celebrities are incapable of understanding why this referendum is such a great opportunity for the Scottish people because they are part of the wealthy minority who have done pretty damn well out of the right-wing neoliberal economic system favoured by the Westminster establishment ever since 1979, which rewards wealth, punishes poverty and constantly builds ever more social inequality into the system.

I would like to present an alternative view from an ordinary English person, to show that we're not all as removed from reality as the English celebrities who put their personal abstract sense of shared citizenship above the very real needs of ordinary Scottish people.

Take the North East of England (England's poorest region) as an example. A recent study found that for every £1 spent per head of population on public transport in the North East, London gets £24 per head of population! This grotesque disparity in infrastructure spending between London and the North is just another way in which ever larger shares of the wealth are transferred down south. If Scottish independence means that a bit more of the wealth of the British isles is spread around a bit more fairly (instead of being siphoned off down to London), countless ordinary people will benefit from it. If only the North East of England had a bit more regional autonomy, perhaps things could be better and fairer for them too.


Another example can be seen in my home region of Yorkshire. If we'd had greater autonomy from Westminster, then perhaps our local representatives might have fought to protect our vital industries (steel, coal, fishing, transport), rather than letting the Westminster establishment deliberately ruin our industries, jobs and communities as part of their insane ideological experiment in turning the UK economy into a supposed "post-industrial society" built around the city of London financial sector (and we all know how that absurd fantasy turned out).

There are many in England who have seen our areas as badly misruled by the Westminster establishment as the Scottish have, the only difference being that you now have an opportunity to put this terrible misrule to an end for yourselves, but we must keep on fighting to achieve greater autonomy for ourselves. 


I, and many other English people, fully understand what it is like to see your own area left to poverty and ruin whilst the lion's share of the national wealth is diverted to London and the South East. Your problem is not with the English people at all, in fact you share exactly the same problem as many millions of English people; the problem of being ruled over from London by the Westminster establishment.
One of the strongest bonds between the people of Scotland, and ordinary people like myself from Northern England is that we understand the devastating consequences of having our local economies hopelessly mismanaged by the Westminster establishment. The fact is that this bond of mutual empathy is not one that can be broken should the people of Scotland take this wonderful opportunity to put Westminster misrule to an end.

These wealthy celebrities may imagine that they can sway you with their emotive argument about their loss of this abstract bond of citizenship, but there are many English people who understand that this is about something much more important. You have an opportunity to free yourselves from Westminster misrule and to set about trying to build yourselves a better, fairer nation with a smaller, more responsive government.

I won't feel any loss at all if you guys decide to free yourselves from Westminster misrule, I'll celebrate with a drink, wish you all the best, and hope that Scottish independence acts as a catalyst for greater regional autonomy for the remaining countries and regions that must remain part of the United Kingdom.

On the other hand, I'd feel an immense sense of loss if you guys turn down this wonderful opportunity to free yourselves from Westminster misrule out of some misguided loyalty to the sense of "Britishness" that people like Simon Cowell, Tracey Emin, Mick Jagger, Ross Kemp, Alan Sugar and Ray Winstone base their vapid anti-independence arguments upon.


All the best

Thomas G. Clark


 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of revenue for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.


Flattr this



MORE ARTICLES FROM
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
         
Reasons Scotland should vote Yes - 1: Uncertainty
           
Reasons Scotland should vote Yes - 2: We don't need your pity
                     
An open letter to the Electoral Commission
       

A letter to fans of Workfare
                                  
Who is to blame for the economic crisis?
                          
"Bedroom Tax" - tax the poor to subsidise the rich
                
The "unpatriotic left" fallacy
                 
          
The Tory ideological mission
                 
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies