Independence the way to a more prosperous, fairer Scotland - report
In a major report, Yes to a Just Scotland, Yes Scotland says successive UK governments had failed to do something about the widening gap in inequality.
Its chief executive, Blair Jenkins, said: "The evidence of the past 30 years tells us that alternating Labour and Tory governments at Westminster will not create a social democratic Scotland and yet a 'No' will leave welfare and economic policy in Westminster’s hands."
A Just Scotland, published last August.
Yes Scotland's report also marked the launch of a major campaign focusing specifically on why Scotland could and should be a fairer country.
Addressing an audience of trade unionists, voluntary sector workers and students at the launch in Glasgow, Mr Jenkins said it was clear independence offered the best opportunity of creating the kind of prosperous and socially just nation most Scots wanted.
"It is becoming increasingly clear that Westminster isn’t working for Scotland and we need a change of direction. This isn’t about one government or one parliamentary term, but about an economic and social path that has been followed for more than 30 years now, with changes of government resulting only in a change of pace rather than a change of policy direction."
Mr Jenkins said investment in and around London had been deemed most economically efficient and this had led to a growing economic imbalance across the UK.
"In terms of social and economic cohesion, the Westminster system is breaking up Britain," he said.
"Westminster policy is targeting the most vulnerable in our society. Welfare changes are pushing more and more families into financial hardship and austerity, as an economic policy, is consigning thousands of Scots to unnecessary unemployment or under employment."
He said the UK was already the fourth most unequal society in the developed world and was on track to become the most unequal. Scotland, he said, was being taken down the wrong path.
"Independence is about having the ability to choose a different future for Scotland. It is about being able to make Scotland the sort of country we want it to be: we believe the consensus in Scotland means a Scottish government will do more to build a more caring society – a nation that feels more like a community."
The report says that Scotland has both the wealth and the will to become a fairer country and that creating more social justice goes hand-in-glove with a thriving, vibrant economy.
It says: "Too often policies that are designed to promote social justice and tackle inequalities are seen as inconsistent with policies that promote economic growth."
Leading economists, including two Nobel laureates who are members of the Scottish Government's Fiscal Commission Working Group, argue that countries which are most equal are best placed to boost sustainable growth.
The report continues: "We are fortunate in Scotland that there is a different balance of consensus around issues of social justice and social democracy - a consensus held by citizens, civic groups and organisations, as well as political parties, and indeed by some of our most successful entrepreneurs. With independence we can create a virtuous cycle of enterprise and compassion whereby jobs and investment create growth, helping to deliver a more equal and caring society."
Among a series of proposals in the report, Yes Scotland calls on the STUC to urge all political parties to spell out how they would create a more socially just country in the event of a Yes vote in the independence referendum. It says people need to know before the autumn of 2014 what specific policies parties had for tackling growing inequality and to develop a fuller understanding of what independence will mean in other areas beyond the starting point that will be set out by the Scottish Government in its independence white paper.
The report also invites the STUC to:
- Work with Yes Scotland to develop a programme of grassroots engagement focused on exploring policy options in an independent Scotland.
- To investigate and publish in full figures showing the impact of welfare changes on Scotland.
- As part of the next stage of the Just Scotland engagement, to set out its understanding of the key economic data to confirm that Scotland has the wealth to create a fairer nation.
- Given the known advantages of small economies, to host an event to inform understanding of small state dynamics in the context of the Scottish economy.
- Explore what services and welfare system we want, what sort of revenue levels we need to deliver on these ambitions and how we can make a fair tax system that is good for the economy.
- With partners, commission research to enable a better understanding of the balance of pension provision in Scotland.
- To help further the debate on the future of nuclear weapons in Scotland, including an update of its work on the economics of Trident replacement to include independence scenarios.
- Explore Scotland’s strategic national interests and how these should be reflected in overseas policy. In particular, how Scotland might seek to develop relationships through an enhanced Council of the Isles and opportunities for developing new relationships with Scandinavia, including engagement with the Nordic Council.
"We believe that if social justice is at the heart of the independence debate and is a substantial part of the reason why Scotland chooses independence, then the delivery of social justice will, as a consequence, become an essential part of the early independence years."
Actress and leading independence campaigner Elaine C Smith, a member of Yes Scotland’s advisory board, hosted the launch of the report.
She said: "If we don't embrace the inequalities in our country and face up to the harsh realities of so many people's lives, then we are not doing our job either in the Yes campaign or as a nation."
As part of its focus on fairness, Yes Scotland will this weekend launch a major information and leafleting campaign to highlight how prosperity and social justice are mutually reinforcing and how both elements are more readily achievable in an independent Scotland.
This weekend and over the next few weeks, through its nationwide network of local and special interest groups, Yes Scotland volunteers will be taking the fairness campaign into communities across the country.