A DECADE ends and another begins. We look back and peer forward, so what can we divine from our recent past and what resolutions should we make in the New Year?
For all Scots the metaphor is rightly that of the glass half empty or the glass half full. Physically for many of us the issues of obesity and alcoholism have come to dominate this decade in our well-off land. This neatly contrasts with starvation and want in much of the poor world, particularly Africa and Asia where deserts grow and oceans rise - the galloping horsemen of climate change apocalypse which add a searing threat to self-inflicted ill-health here at home.
As ever I see positives for our future. It came as no surprise that the trade cycle would end in slump around now. Each eighteen years the same issues arise. What came as the greatest surprise was the extent that globalised banking was up past its neck in so much bad debt. To learn from experience we need different forms of tax in future at local, national and international levels to capture the unearned wealth we lost through under-regulated and socially useless banking practices.
Property speculation is usually at the root of such ill-advised investment; this time sub-prime entered the global vocabulary. Land value taxes could even out the financial peaks and troughs. Also a transaction tax, or Tobin Tax – named after a Nobel Prize winning American Economist in 1981 - on international bank deals could fund the £300 billion the poor world needs now to tackle their urgent climate issues. Will David Cameron back Gordon Brown and other EU leaders to press the issue at the G20?
A UK age of austerity is certain. What a pity the Church of Scotland minister’s son Gordon Brown forgot that the biblical seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine. Thanks to my friend Prof. James Mitchell of Strathclyde University for spotting that useful analogy. Whoever governs the UK after the General Election next spring has to slash the huge borrowings incurred by the London Government to bail out the bankers. Why should we have to suffer?
Readers should have experienced how aspirations in various parts of a very different UK that has developed in the past ten years. That’s why TV debates between three Westminster political leaders do not fit the diverse nature of these islands today. Scotland, Wales, the north of Ireland and London have legitimate and growing confidence as distinct law making nations, provinces and world city. Failing to reflect that growing diversity in Westminster politicking and media coverage is deliberately blinkered, arrogant and tries to ignore these diverse realities.
Remember in 2007 how the Scottish Government instigated a Broadcasting Commission that exposed the glaring bias against coverage of Scotland from London and confirmed the vast under-funding of Scots TV production by Scots in Scotland. If the UK is to mean anything by 2020 it has to give each devolved area its head to be all they can be. There is scant evidence that the broadcasting bosses have changed their metropolitan mindset.
Looking out from our snowbound land I am so proud of Scotland’s participation in the Climate Leaders Summit in the Klima Forum at Copenhagen. What a stark contrast to the shambles I witnessed at the Bella Centre in Copenhagen in the United Nations attempts to create a worldwide climate treaty. Note the title Climate Leaders, that’s where Alex Salmond was welcomed. Among his commitments such as 50% of Scotland’s electricity from clean renewables by 2020 he also made a pact to work with the Maldives, that island nation which clings on to land no more than two metres above sea level. He joined leaders from Ontario, North Rhine-Westphalia, Victoria, Sao Paulo, Quebec and California to strike a global deal between sub-national governments. Each of their targets show what we are doing and where we lead the nations at the UN top table will need to follow.
Earlier I talked of appropriate taxes for this climate change age. May I say we need carrots as well as sticks. But first, when you have energy for sale, be it oil or electricity there must be benefits to the producers and those whose resource is utilised. Recent TV shows have highlighted the deliberate downplay of Scotland’s oil resources since the 1971 discoveries in the North Sea. Their revenues have fed London’s policies which have never put Scotland’s sustainability first.
Just this week the Secretary of State for Scotland with a propaganda office based in Whitehall tells us again we could not make a go as a country with full tax powers because oil revenues won’t bridge the gap in current spending. Creative arithmetic can tell you anything, just like the bankers and their collateralised debt obligations.
London’s proud record is such that Scotland has always lagged behind the UK average in growing our economy. They have proved to this day that Scotland having discovered oil is the first nation to get poorer as a result.
That need not be so in future. We can complete the powers of the Scottish Parliament. We can vote for a Scottish solution to Scotland’s needs. So getting out and voting in the British General election this spring is essential; voting in our proposed independence referendum in the autumn even better. It is not a wasted vote for SNP whose target isn’t No.10 Downing Street. All other parties refuse to allow Scotland to flourish for it is an inconvenience to their selfish interests.
There’s much to do in the New Year. Enjoy the festivities and turn the good feelings of 2009, the Year of Homecoming, into 2010 the year to bring home full powers to the Scottish Parliament and let all parts of Scotland flourish in a climate savvy world. Bliadhna Mhath Ur! A Guid New Year tae you and yours.