1947 and All That

poverty-ethnicity420x250By Pete Ritchie

When the independence debate ignited after the 2011 election, much of the conversation was about substitution – could an independent Scottish state manage the functions of the UK government, and maintain an equivalent standard of living.  The SNP was asking for a mandate to govern, not offering a programme for government.

But the cat was out of the bag, and the debate about the new Scotland began.  No-one captured the mood better than Lesley Riddoch, whose book Blossom paints a pixelated picture of better – a grand vision of possibilities constructed from clear and present stories.

We’re not there yet: but while everyday life will carry on after the yes vote, a disruptive space is opening up in public discourse.  The foundations for the post-Independence settlement will not be laid this time by an establishment Beveridge but will emerge from a thousand town hall conversations which refuse to conclude when the chairs are put back on the tables after 18th September.

Beveridge’s five giants of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness are not yet slain: but we need to find our own names for what we are against and what we are for.  The principle of universality underpinned the NHS (Scotland) Act of 1947; while mutuality underpinned the nationalisation of the Bank of England, railways, coal and steel.  For all its unintended consequences, the 1947 Agriculture Act was designed to create food security and was a response to the shocking inequalities in diet which wartime rationing had started to reduce.

Are we prepared to implement the 2015 UN Sustainable Development goals and eradicate hunger in Scotland? Are we willing genuinely to put our children first?  And what about our young people who for the first time since 1947 have worse prospects than their parents? We’re not short of space and building materials: could we make sure everyone has a decent house? Will the women of Scotland take the place they have not been given? And can we play our part in the world by becoming a zero waste, carbon neutral, nature-friendly country?  Does mutuality in 2015 mean common ownership of our wind, sun and water as the cornerstone of more equitable wealth and income?

In 1947 debt was 200% of UK GDP as against 70% now – so the economic challenges were more acute than wondering if the oil would run out in 2040 or 2050.

But what’s for sure is that as Beveridge said “Freedom from Want cannot be forced on a democracy or given to a democracy.  It must be won by them.”

As citizens of the world’s newest democracy, it will be over to us.



Categories: Uncategorized

8 replies

  1. We will produce a better society because we need to,its for the betterment of those still to be born that we must.

  2. Pete, This is characteristically articulate and aspirational. Indeed many of us in these islands share these values and our parents and grandparents (as well as some who actually remember those days of post-war socialist reconstruction and the global war which created the conditions for radical change) continue to work to advance these values in the 21st Century. For myself, I don’t believe that Scottish independence will advance our prospects in the rest of the UK. Perhaps that doesn’t matter too much to advocates for ‘yes’. But I think it should. To coin a phrase ‘No man is an island’.

  3. Regards, Phi Yen

    >

  4. I’m not sure that everyday life will carry on after a YES vote.
    People have wakened up (politically). Personally I, and I know a great many others, will want to see real progress, real day by day improvement in the way our country is managed and run. We’ve made the time to be involved in the Yes campaign, and will be willing to make time to help publicise and implement the things that will grow our country into a modern representative democracy.

    A Yes vote is only the start, everyday life will be different.

    • After the vote, will all of these people who claim good intentions just vanish like snow flakes on a river?
      There is plenty talk of an independent utopia, but when real work needs to be done – like volunteering for community organisations or running community projects (or will this utopia all be brought about by raising tax and government government), – I suspect all these people will disappear never to be seen again. This IndyRef has created lots and lots of talk, but I suspect, no matter the outcome, it will amount to nothing (in addition to the great work already done by the few).

      • Andrew, I have heard very little talk of Utopia, and plenty of talk of the job of work to be done after a YES vote. If you have met, as I have, literally hundreds of volunteers giving up their time, energy and yes money, they I doubt that you would be so dismissive. The activities that volunteers are undertaking do not just constitute “lots and lots of talk”,.

        Most of the people I know are determined that there will be a return from their investment of time, emotion and expertise, and this is not just up to the 18 September, so buck up, get involved and make your plans for after a YES 🙂

  5. Good to see the economic facts set out in black and white, instead of through a prism of right wing voodoo economics. The nub of the No argument is fear reinforced by ignorance, selfishness and spite. It’s down to us the people of Scotland to show we are not”fearties”

  6. Like many others I imagine, I can swing from elation to despair and then back again…all in the course of an afternoon.
    Looking for signs and portents…I even found myself interrogating Doctor Who for evidence of unionist or independent thinking! Sanity is usually regained by talking to people and doing something positive….we cannot control what others do or think, only what we ourselves do or think. And I must remember what I learned years ago – don’t read the papers, cos they’ve never represented me, they thrive on fear and doubt, and they rarely ever inspire (so can I add my thanks to Lesley Riddoch).

    The cats are well and truly out the bag. The country is a different place than it was two years ago. People have looked up and asked themselves what all of this is FOR. I hope enough people will be voting for the chance to make society anew and not from petty selfish motives or from fear. And I hope that people who still don’t know – as they stand there with the stubby pencil on its string, but who want to vote – don’t vote No, thinking that it equals Don’t Know or No Change.

    I find I’m also preparing myself for what happens afterwards…

    Will a Yes vote bring a surge of democratic popular engagement and multiple desires to find local ownerships of decisions and assets? Or will it cause a shrinking-back – in awe at what we’ve done but maybe scared a wee bit too – and so we choose the safe paths and end up replicating the structures and assumptions (and the problems) of the UK; rather than asking what are right for US and OUR futures?

    Would a No vote bring a surge of doom, of drink and shame-filled self-inflicted wounds, a turning-inwards of the beaten, while the UK leaders steal from us and others elsewhere look away in disappointment? Or will it cause Disruption – a tectonic disengagement with the UK structures, a deeply digging-in of heels and building of resistances and localised autonomies?

    Threats and opportunities both ways. The struggle to make the future is ongoing…either way, things will be in flux, which is the best time to make change happen.

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