The Point
Last updated: 08 November 2018.

...red sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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21 big things to make an indy Scotland progressive and post-capitalist ready

Steve Arnott, editorial co-ordinator of The Point online platform, outlines 21 big musts he thinks left progressives of all parties and stripes should get behind for our future indy Scotland.

The pro-independence press and social media have lately been full of different economic and social visions for an indy Scotland. Common Weal have regularly published papers, Business for Scotland published their economic model this week, and the SNP’s own growth commission will report in the next month or so. Of course, it’s perfectly right that everyone lays out their different visions of what an indy Scotland could look like, but within an overall paradigm that getting independence is about giving ourselves CHOICE: the right to choose democratically our own route as an independent nation.

So bearing in mind that indy is about democracy and the normal state of being for a nation, and that’s what unites us all – here’s my sketch of what a left leaning, post-capitalist, socialist Scotland could look like (if we make that choice) after a couple of Parliaments.

So, let's play imagine.

We are in the twenty twenties and Scotland has achieved its independence with an interim constitution in place. Capitalism internationally by this time will almost certainly have had Crash 2 - a loud echo, if not a downright repetition of the great financial crash and recession of 2007 to 2012 - because they never resolved, and, in fact, are incapable of resolving, the underlying issues that caused the first crash in the first place. It is increasingly clear, at least to a growing progressive minority, that capitalism as a socio-economic system no longer represents the future of mankind - if it ever did. An alliance of socialists, anti-capitalists, left-Greens, and left independence supporters is coalescing around the idea that our new indy Scotland can be a shining beacon for a better future internationally, by becoming the world's first post-capitalist ready state.

By post-capitalist ready we mean a state that has created the initial conditions for an organic and ongoing evolution towards a higher level of democracy, society, equality, culture, science and economics than the capitalist mode of life is capable of providing.

What is the progressive and radically transformative program that can get us there?

My shot at it is probably not exhaustive and it’s certainly not meant to be overly prescriptive - though it is meant to be pragmatic and doable as well as principled and transformative. It is one that can dovetail well, I think,  with some of the work and policy suggestions of both the Common Weal and Business for Scotland independence think-tanks. It also serves as a general but adaptable template as to how other countries might seek to achieve such ‘initial condition’ status – including our neighbours elsewhere in these Islands.

It's an ambitious program and clearly one for more than one Parliament. Obviously, a sense of urgency is always contending with our patience and sooner is better. Some of these policies are probably more immediately urgent than others, a few we already partially have and  are in need of perfecting and setting in constitutional stone, but, if we are to do things right and, take people with us, then implementing this program in full over three independence parliaments, say by the mid 2030’s, fifteen years or so years after independence becomes a reality, it would be a huge and lasting achievement. For brevities sake I haven't incluuded things that are already 'in wi' the bricks' of the indy movement, like the removal of Trident nuclear weapons and ongoiong support for  policies we already have, like free tuition, personal care, free prescriptions etc.

• Democratic Public Ownership, using various competing models, of key utilities, key finance, key production and key distribution networks – including energy exploration and supply, banking and finance, public transport, water, and in telecommunications and digital communications, engineering and construction. This would be a program that would have to be implemented over more than one Parliament, in all probability. Part stakes in industries and sectors can be taken initially and then expanded, and costs kept as low as possible using a combination of long term bond schemes and windfall offset financing*.


• Reversal and cancellation of all PPP/PFI schemes on a minimum possible compensation basis and a return of all assets in health, education and elsewhere to full democratic NHS or local authority control


• A democratically elected and accountable Public Ownership Commission to sit in permanent session tasked with reviewing the efficiency and contribution of publicly owned industries to the Common Weal, and with making recommendations to Government on the expansion of public, social and common ownership within the economy.


• The setting up of a bespoke nationalised pharmaceutical and biogenetics company to provide generic and new drugs and gene therapy CRISP(R) based treatments to the Scottish NHS on a not-for-profit basis.


• Abolition of the monarchy and all feudal title and privilege. Creation of a modern democratic republic, with an elected ceremonial Head of State. Scotland's feudal estates and privately owned wild lands to be owned and administered for the Common Weal, either through national public ownership via an expanded and democratised Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish National Trust, or though community ownership and buy out within a regulatory framework that supports common weal practices and aims.


• Community and social enterprise buy-out schemes to be developed and extended to urban areas and farm lands


• The setting up of a sovereign oil and gas fund, with mass democratic oversight and control


• The setting up of a Scottish Public Patenting Fund* to drive new technology research and ensure it contributes to the national Common Weal, financially, technologically, socially and ethically.


• A progressive and redistributive taxation system, and the effective abolition of tax avoidance through a simplified and transparent tax system, to reduce the income gap and maximise tax take for social and productive reinvestment.


• The introduction of a Universal Basic Citizen's Income as of right, to replace large parts of the welfare state, tax credits and, where necessary, part of tax allowances, index linked to inflation and set initially at a level not less than the current higher rate of Employment Support Allowance. Housing benefit to continue to be paid additionally and seperately on the basis of need. To be introduced alongside a legally binding National Living Wage.


• Education, social and health services to be free at the point of need and paid for through general taxation. No private sector queue jumping and privileges for wealthy elites.


• Maximum devolution of democracy though a massive expansion of local democracy. Strategic local authorities to be reduced from 32 to 16 but to be given massively enhanced powers and responsibilities, including powers of fiscal competence to borrow within agreed limits for structural, capital and social investment. Cantons of 8-10,000 electors within each authority to be created, given a percentage of the annual budget to spend, and run by a combination of mass direct democracy, elected councillors and jury type selection by lot.


• Radical reform of local government financing to raise extra money and promote local taxation fairness; scrap the council tax and local business rates and replace with an income based Scottish Service Tax and a Land Value Tax respectively. Give cantons the right to raise local tourist taxes for special projects.


• A huge expansion of quality affordable social housing for rent, to be administered municipally.


• A single fully funded, comprehensive and secular education system, with an end to segregation of Scottish school pupils based on their parents' religion. Educational methodology to cease being a political football - with a permanent Education Commission composed of teachers, university specialists and neuroscientists replacing all current quangos and tasked with ensuring and monitoring the best, empirically verified, age appropriate teaching practice at each stage of education, commensurate with the values of humanity, dignity, excellence and the Common Weal.


• An ongoing expansion of mass direct democracy through the use of referenda and digital voting at national, regional and canton level. An elected Democracy Commission to be elected to oversee the process, and ensure democratic fairness, and factual information availability in all referenda and democratic elections.


• Gender balance at parliamentary and other elected levels of society to be achieved through constitutional electoral pairing* Equality rights – including a woman’s right to choose and basic biogenetic rights – to be included in any Scottish constitution.


• All elected politicians and officials to receive no more than the average income of a skilled professional worker in renumeration, with agreed bonuses for taking on ministerial, portfolio, chair or other additional responsibilities, and fully audited expenses. All elected officials to be recallable from post between elections if impeachable legal proceedings are laid against them, or more than 50% of their electorate signs a legal petition to that effect.


• An elected Technology and Infrastructure Commission, advised by technical and scientific staff, to sit permanently and progress and advise on capital projects and the development of the country's science and technological base, with a view to making Scotland a world leader in technological, science and infrastructure innovation and implementation.


• A renewables/clean energy only domestic energy policy and an ongoing and deep commitment to environmentalism, and meeting Scotland's international moral and legal obligations in combating climate change


• No membership of international institutions that promote neo-liberalism and capitalism, or membership of imperialist or first strike nuclear alliances such as NATO. Scotland to play its full part in solidarity with other nations seeking to become post-capitalist ready, and with working and oppressed people across the globe, to take as full a part as possible in international science and space exploration, and to take its seat in its own right at the United Nations.

(More detail on the idea of a public patenting fund* can be found here, on gender balance and Constitutional Elected Pairing* here and on the idea of windfall offset financing* at  http://thepointhowever.org/index.php/the-big-idea/87-reversing-privatisation-and-pfi )

This article was initially published in a partially different form as part of a part of a larger piece by Steve "Everything you wanted to know about how to get rid of capitalism and replace it with something nicer but were afraid to ask". This can be found in full on The Point magazine homepage or its Big Idea section.

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left

Greenpeace

The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books

Marilia Blesser