Monday, 11 August 2014
Saturday, 9 August 2014
SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION, 4.8.14
Kimon, a member of the Greek political organisation, Antarsya and Real Democracy Now (a group of Greeks living in Edinburgh)
1. The appeal of the EU includes the ideas of:-
i) Nations working together
ii) Free movement of workers
iii) A safeguard against fascism
i) EU nations are actually forced to continuously compete – “Competitiveness” is the main EU goal. Also the EU itself is imperialistic.
ii) The EU borders themselves are guarded with an iron grip, leading to tragedies like at Lampendousa and Farmakonisi.
iii) The EU supported openly Nazis in the Ukraine and fascists (e.g the LAOS party) in Greece.
1. The Greek crisis
The EU didn’t cause it, but it played a major part with the impact of:-
i) Imposed neo-liberal reforms
ii) Greece’s competitive disadvantage against the major EU powers
iii) Whole sectors of the economy being shut down (eg agriculture because of restrictive EU measures)
Greece did not have the financial tools to deal with the crisis
2/3 members of the Troika which is enforcing brutal austerity represent the EU.
The measures passed more easily because “the EU demands it”
The Greek case is an example of the erosion of popular sovereignty, but not the only one. EU restrictions and penalties regarding budget deficits, do the same in other countries.
2. Maybe what we can do is change the EU from within?
i) However the EU has an undemocratic structure
ii) Only a third of the EU institutions are elected (the Parliament)
iii) This is the weakest institution
iv) You can’t change the individuals at the top of the EU institutions
v) These institutions are immune to street demonstrations, etc
vi) The transnational corporations have influence in institutions.
viii) They participate in the experts groups of the European Commission
viii) They help to draft EU legislation
ix) These expert groups designed the Euro and the main lines of the Lisbon Agenda
x) Corporate lobbyists are often the last people Ministers see before entering negotiations
xi) There is 1obbyist representing trade unions for every 60 representing corporate interests
xii) If the EU Commission has the monopoly of making legislative proposals the corporations have the monopoly of influencing the Commission
Therefore it is impossible to change the strategic aims and working culture to serve society
3. Why not break the weakest links if we can?
A potential left wing government can not do much without breaking some EU treaty and in the end coming into an all-out conflict with it. A potential left wing government in Greece for example, should nationalize banks. This is impossible without coming into an all-out conflict with the EU.
4. The Eurosceptics
i) One reason for their success is the fact that they have absorbed people’s anger towards the EU. This is helped by the failure of the European Left to oppose it.
ii) They take the ‘law of the jungle’ competitive culture one step further
5. Scottish independence and the EU
Joining the EU would negate some of the best arguments for independence:
i) We would leave one imperialist, only to join another.
ii) Instead of Westminster, it would be Brussels calling the shots, not the “people of Scotland”.
i) The EU should be seen as a weapon in the hands of the enemy.
ii) Leaving it, or dissolving it, would not improve the situation by default, but it is a necessary step on a different path.
iii) It is very important that we oppose the EU not from a nationalistic point of view, but on the basis of a different, internationalist, framework for cooperation and solidarity between the peoples of Europe, in their own interest not in the interest of capital.
WALES AND SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE
LEANNE WOOD, PRESIDENT OF PLAID CYMRU
Last year, in the run-up to the second RIC Conference, the Edinburgh branch put forward a proposal to organise a session on ‘Internationalism from below and the break-up of the UK, with speakers from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales, This was agreed agreed and Mary MacGregor ( Dundee RIC), Bernadette McAliskey, Steve Freeman (Republican Socialist Alliance in England) and Leanne Wood (President, Plaid Cymru) were all invited to speak. Unfortunately, Leanne had another engagement and sent her apologies.
In June, some Plaid Cymru activists met with Pat Smith and Allan Armstrong of the Edinburgh RIC branch, and with Glasgow RIC members. The net result of this was decision to reinvite Leanne to speak in Scotland.
In the event, the venue chosen was Glasgow. And, as you will to read from Leanne’s talk below, this was a particularly appropriate decision. However, this meant that most Edinburgh RIC members did not hear Leanne’s talk. It is not on the national RIC blog. This is why we have reposted it below on the Edinburgh RIC blog.
I want to thank you for the invitation to speak to you this evening. It is a particular pleasure to address you at this venue.
The last Welsh political leader to visit this building, as I understand, was David Lloyd George back in 1917 as Prime Minister, when this building was known as St Andrew’s Hall.
I’ve had a better reception tonight than he did almost a century ago when an angry protest awaited him outside. The night is still young but I’m hopeful I won’t need to be escorted out of here under military guard as Lloyd George was that day.
Lloyd George was here to attend a ceremony where he received the freedom of the city of Glasgow. The protest was assembled to register anger at the imprisonment of socialist leader John Maclean.
It was a tumultuous time and regardless of people’s views of Maclean’s politics, no one can doubt the lasting impression he has made on left-wing politics in Scotland and indeed further afield.
And the protest that day in 1917 certainly left an impression on my compatriot – Maclean was released from jail the following day! The people have power. It's good to be in Glasgow.
This city has a proud tradition of amplifying the radicalism of your nation. In that sense there are parallels, commonalities between my home - the Rhondda valley and this great city. In the respective histories of both our nations, particularly in our industrial and social history, the Rhondda and Glasgow have taken leading roles.
Maclean himself visited the Rhondda in 1911 during a dispute between miners and managers. There was a lockout of 800 men by the owners of the Cambrian Combine - where my grandfather went on to work - because some of them who were working in particularly dangerous conditions had the temerity to demand a fair wage.
The lockout prompted a downing of tools by 12,000 Rhondda miners and Maclean came down to Tonypandy and saw first hand the dispute and the impact it was having. He issued an appeal to miners in Scotland to stand side by side with the miners of Wales in demanding a minimum wage and by supporting a general strike, if necessary.
Maclean's letter was typically eloquent and it stands as an example of the strong bond between our two nations, and particularly the working people of our two countries. It was a letter written at a time of industrial excitement. An historic and formative period for both Wales and Scotland. And we’re living through an historic, formative period once again. It is an historic period for all the nations of these islands.
But of course especially for Scotland. From outside Scotland we are watching with great interest. I have been very conscious throughout the course of your national conversation not to come here and lecture you. You’ve had too many people coming over Hadrian’s Wall to talk down to you. To suggest that they are better placed to determine the destiny of Scotland than you - the people IN Scotland. You won’t get that from me tonight or ever.
Yes - I believe that a ‘yes’ vote in September would be the best outcome for people here in Scotland. Yes - I believe that a ‘yes’ vote in September would be best for Wales. Yes - I believe that a ‘yes’ vote in September will be best for all the peoples and nations of these islands. But it is your referendum. Your choice.
This evening I wanted to share with you my thoughts on a number of issues. First, I want to tackle this claim that's perpetuated by the No Camp that a ‘yes’ vote in Scotland would be a betrayal, a letting down or an abandonment of people in the rest of Britain.
Secondly, I will address the social and political opportunities that independence would provide, to you here, but to those of us outside Scotland too.
Finally, while all eyes will understandably be focused on Scotland over the coming fifty-eight days, there are, too, developments in Wales.
I thought you might be interested to hear a little about Plaid Cymru’s vision for Wales to firstly develop our self-government, then moving on to emerge as the fourth independent state of these islands.
It’s worth noting, I think, that the United Kingdom and, more generally, the political arrangements on islands, have been subject to constant change. The current UK constitution can be traced back to the advent of devolution in 1999. Prior to that, the United Kingdom’s constitutional composition was amended in 1948 with the Ireland Act and again before then 1922 with the creation of the Irish Free State. And so on and so on.
You get the picture. To claim that we live in a centuries old, static, union is incorrect. The union remains and always has been, fluid. The question people in Scotland are now asking, and a question that people in my nation will ask too - is whether or not our relationship with one another on these islands is best served through partnership and through a social union... or whether we should remain part of a more rigid and unequal union.
A union that will centre on the sovereignty of Westminster. And let's make sure we always remember - the sovereignty of Westminster always trumps the demands, hopes and aspirations of the people.
A political elite in London will prevail over the will of our peoples for as long as the political union is upheld. They choose not to hear the people. There are numerous examples that can be cited to illustrate this point.
One that sticks in my mind is that day in February 2003 when millions of us marched to stop the illegal and bloody invasion of Iraq. There are no circumstances I can see whereby an independent Scotland or an independent Wales would have collaborated and joined in that illegal war. But by virtue of our membership of the union, that war was fought in our collective name. In September you have your chance to ensure that never ever again will your country be dragged into an illegal war against the will of its people.
That in itself would seem to me to be a good reason for starting afresh with independence. But of course the opportunities are greater than in just one policy area, even one as big as war.
You may have heard the phrase - from Wales, that devolution is a process not an event. That statement appears to have been accepted. But although even those who want to preserve this political union accept that devolution is a process and not an event, they have never spelt out the destination, the end-point to their process. Where do they want to go?
It's quite peculiar, from a pro-union point of view, to accept that your nation is involved in a process to which you are unwilling or unable to describe the destination.
Could it be that there is no destination in their minds? Is their vision of a process one that is knee-jerk in nature? One that gives as little as possible and only when the political circumstances demand.
It was Tony Blair who said "power devolved, is power retained. " Not only is independence an articulation of self-empowerment, the purest form of democratic expression, it is also the logical progression of the devolution journey.
There is no predetermined destination, of course. The most exciting aspect of your national conversation for me, as an outsider looking in, has been the excitement and the engagement the conversation itself has created.
Town halls full. People in shopping centres, in pubs and on social media wanting to engage. This process and the conversation it has generated has reinvigorated democracy in Scotland. That's what it looks like from outside anyway.
Scottish people will themselves decide on the 18th of September, the outcome of this national conversation. That outcome is in the hands of the people.
It's been argued by some that Scotland’s decision to become independent would in some way be an abandonment of the peoples in the rest of these islands. The inference is that a yes vote would be a selfish act, contrary to a spirit of solidarity. That it would confine the rest of us – especially working people to decades of unabated Tory rule.
I have to tackle this point head on. It is simply wrong to say that Scottish votes will save us from Tory rule. Wales and Scotland both voted Labour at the last UK general election, but that made no difference. Both our countries are enduring a government in London that has no mandate from our people.
I'm as keen as anyone to be freed of the shackles of Tory rule, but to argue that we should all endure it together, whether we voted for it or not... that for some reason, solidarity has to equate to collective suffering is to argue for a position that is both perverse and illogical.
To those who argue that solidarity can only be expressed through the collective suffering of all of the peoples of these islands, then surely the logical conclusion is that they should be arguing for an end to the devolution of education and health. Should not Scots and Welsh students have to endure £9,000 a year tuition fees as an act of solidarity with the people of England? Should not Scots and Welsh patients have to accept the privatisation and the break up of their health services as an act of solidarity?
Of course not. Collective suffering, disguised as solidarity, is a cynical ploy on the part of the No Campaign. Solidarity through uniformity of policy is no solidarity at all. And the ‘no’ camp know that. An attempt at guilting Scots that I’m sure will back fire. For those of us on the left, solidarity with others, of course is a central part of our political paradigm.
And I believe the best way for Scots to show solidarity with the rest of us is through voting ‘yes’. Because a yes vote here will usher in a new period of solidarity through divergence.
On the face of it that might appear as a contradiction. But let me outline how solidarity through divergence can work and how it has, in some respects, already begun.
The United Kingdom is an unbalanced state. We know that from every single economic indicator. Average wages. House prices. GVA per head. Unemployment levels. On every indicator, the London city-state bears almost no resemblance to the rest of the UK.
Never mind Scotland declaring independence – London was effectively granted it three decades ago with no referendum. When the Westminster political elite all agreed on a policy to intentionally deindustrialise places like Wales and Scotland and instead to prioritise the wholesale deregulation of the City, they placed all economic eggs in the one financial services basket. London was granted effective independence and it was granted at the expense of the rest of us.
Devolution has started to address the political imbalance of the UK, but without the economic levers that come with being independent, there will always be a limit to our ability to deliver equality, prosperity and social justice.
As I have mentioned, we can already point to Scotland as an example in terms of the different way they have prioritised public health and free education. Scotland gives us in Wales and our progressive friends in England opportunities to point to demonstrable examples of an alternative to neo-liberalism and the politics of austerity.
Just imagine what we could point to if Scotland emerges as an independent country. Having a new state on our doorstep approaching public services in a different, more progressive way compared to what will be left of the UK. Pursuing collaboration not competition. A Scottish state with control over its social protection policy.
This ability to create a different social security regime - one that will refuse to penalise and punish the unemployed, the sick and the disabled.
Friends, the greatest act of solidarity you can show us in Wales is to create in your nation a society that rejects the poison of spiteful right-wing rule and build instead a socially just country that will show the way for us all as a beacon in these islands.
I call it solidarity through divergence. By building for yourselves a new future, an alternative future, that will provide us with the context and the opportunity to tangibly point to alternatives as we confront the forces of neo-liberalism in the UK.
Scots are known throughout the world for your oil, your food and your whisky. But your greatest export to us after September will be social justice, Scotia style. Solidarity through divergence, isn’t introverted, inward-looking or selfish. Solidarity through divergence is internally selfless, within Scotland, because its basis is standing by those in need.
Externally, solidarity through divergence is selfless because you’ll be setting an example to all your neighbours of what is possible when the social tools are used for the good of society as a whole.
And there will be some who argue, ‘there are already examples of different approaches to social and economic policies elsewhere throughout Europe, yet what good has that done in building an alternative to austerity on the island of Britain?’
There’s merit in that observation. But I would respond by saying that the geography, culture and political position of the island of Britain has created several barriers in attempts to import alternatives. Britain is a largely English-speaking island, on the political and geographic periphery of Europe.
Free market-ism & neo-liberalism has meant that looking to the Unites States has been favoured in some powerful quarters, over looking towards Europe. We can see that from the difference given in media coverage to elections in the United States compared to say Germany, even though both have arguably as much of an impact upon our lives.
Imagine, a nation on this island, a new state on our doorstep pursuing a different set of political priorities, building a society based on a different set of values. It would be inescapable. We already see that when Scottish health and education policies are pointed to by English and Welsh politicians.
We saw it in practice when the other administrations of the UK followed your lead in public health policies such as the banning of smoking in public places. And we’ll see it again when you abolish the bedroom tax and provide for your people a wage upon which they can live.
The naysayers tell us that a "yes" vote will create a border, a barrier between Scotland and the rest of us. To me, that says a lot about how they look at the world. I see borders as gateways not barriers. And you have an opportunity for your border to become a new gateway for Scotland to the world.
That border has the potential to open up new opportunities for people England too. It could help people in England to find their own national voice and their own new place in the world. If that is what they want. And what about Wales?
How does the Scottish referendum itself impact upon our political debates? What will the impact on Wales be of either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote in Scotland in September? These are valid questions of course, but are they are questions that up until very recently were limited to a few anoraks and specialist commentators. Increasingly, people in Wales are beginning to consider their own national future.
More and more people are closely watching events here and pondering the possibilities for Wales. Wales and Scotland are two nations. Of that there is no debate. Wales and Scotland, to coin a phrase, were offered national legislatures because they are nations. The powers of our respective legislatures have been limited in case we act like nations.
I again turn to Blair’s assertion that power devolved is power retained to qualify that view (and I promise you I don't make a habit of quoting the former prime minister). Our two countries are on national journeys. Wales is at a different stage in our national journey to where you are in Scotland. That doesn’t mean in any way that I don’t aspire to Wales having the same national conversation you are having now... And for the people of Wales to one day having our own referendum so that we too can decide whether or not to emerge from the shadows as an independent nation.
But the very basis of self-determination is that the peoples of nations themselves decide the pace and nature of their national progression. There is no one size fits all route map to statehood. Indeed, we can see that in these islands. Following the establishment of the Irish Free State and the creation of a Parliament at Stormont following partition in 1922, a number of home rule groups emerged in Scotland, anticipating home rule here.
There was an air of inevitability at that time. As history has shown there is nothing inevitable about the course of history. Scotland had to wait, like Wales, until 1999 for the first taste of home rule. A lesson for Wales and for Scotland, is that our own fate is in our own hands – if we want it to be.
Essentially, that’s the very essence of the question you and your fellow citizens will be answering in September. Do you want control over decisions like war and peace? About a public or private health service? A non-judgemental social security system that meets the needs of those unable to fully meet their own? About child care? About the ability to properly protect yourselves with similar trades union rights to the ones that were taken away from you by Thatcher and kept from you by a Labour Westminster government? Having decent trades union laws in place may well have protected some of the downgrading in workers terms and conditions we have seen in recent years.
They have kept telling us that there is no alternative. Well the people of Scotland are showing us that there absolutely is an alternative. And it is within your grasp. You are being given the chance to decide whether your next steps and your political direction lies in your hands or in the hands of others.
The same applies to Wales. Plaid Cymru advocates that at the very least, Wales must move from a model of devolution now to a model of self-government. That’s more than a matter of semantics. Yes, we believe in a powers reserved model of government, but unlike the London-based parties, the Party of Wales wants powers reserved to Wales – not London.
It should be up to the people of Wales to decide what decisions are made at home and what powers we choose to share with others. There shouldn’t simply be a division of responsibility where powers are transferred to Wales but for those powers kept at London, Wales has no say at all. I’ll give you what I consider to be a powerful example of why powers should be shared on certain matters in the meantime, rather than powers being wholly reserved to London on behalf of Wales.
Following a ‘yes’ vote in September among your country’s priorities will be the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish territorial waters. That process will involve their relocation, probably to another part of what is left of the UK.
I say, under no circumstances at all, should those weapons be relocated to Wales against the wishes of the people of Wales. And I can tell you tonight, that the Plaid Cymru government I will lead from 2016, will not, under any circumstances, allow our nation to be the dumping ground for unwanted, immoral, weapons of mass destruction.
It is my view, that moving to a model of self-government, where the sovereignty of the people of Wales is enshrined and respected, will give us in Wales the opportunities to begin the process of building the national infrastructure we need to deliver for our communities and our people.
But of course, Plaid Cymru’s aim is to secure independence for Wales. That is the normal status enjoyed by the vast majority of nations and there is no reason why Wales should continue forever as an international anomaly. Becoming independent is essential if the full potential of a nation and its people is to be unleashed. For too long in Wales we’ve expected others to deliver for us.
But there is a growing realisation now, that we have to do things for ourselves. Our recent experiences should act as a reminder to us that a culture of dependency will only deliver the same old disappointments.
I became politically conscious during the dark days of the miners’ strike of 1984/85. I know that time was equally significant for communities here too. In the eighties, the collective hope of so many Welsh communities was to see the Tories defeated. To see an end to Thatcherite policies. For most in such communities that hope of a better future was staked on Labour being returned to government.
Of course our countries had to endure two more terms of Tory rule against the democratic wishes of our two peoples. And then, when eventually a Labour government was returned to office, it was a New Labour government led by Tony Blair (that's three times he's been mentioned now)
Even when we voted Labour and Labour won, we didn’t get what we wanted! PAUSE 1984 and 1997. Both equally significant years in Wales’ history. The first a year where for a majority, a clear alternative was yearned for. 1997 the year that should have provided a new dawn.
It did not, because as we know, whatever the colour of the rosette or the ties of the party winning a UK election, their priorities will not be our priorities.
I began this evening by discussing the shared industrial experiences of our two nations and specifically of the city of Glasgow and my home valley of the Rhondda. Both places led their respective nations in political and social change. Radical change.
I very much look forward to this great city again leading a new beginning for the people of Scotland in September. And I’ll ask you, in a few years from now, to take time out of your efforts of building a new country from an old nation, to keep an eye on the Rhondda playing its part in the building of a new, fair and free Wales.
Diolch yn fawr.
Leanne’s talk was first posted at:-
Cat Grant, 21.7.14
Cat spoke about how independence could help women. There’s 60 days to go – so what to concentrate on? There is a gender difference in voting intentions, with more women appearing to be in the ‘don’t know’ camp according to latest poll by the Social Attitudes survey. This doesn’t mean they are not going to vote but that they are still unsure. Frustrating that ‘women’s’ issues are always seen to be about childcare – when this should be a joint responsibility for us all as the most important time of a person’s life. There are other more important issues such as unequal pay that need to be demanded – and workers who care for children (usually women) have had their hours cut and have no national bargaining framework.
The apparent reticence in making up their minds is because women have to take the risks in life and are naturally more analytical about what it will mean for them, particularly in relation to economic issues. They have a lot more questions about what will happen – about the economy, the welfare state.
But if it’s about risk taking, we should take that risk – it’s not being more conservative but more pragmatic. 4 out of 5 people applying to food banks are women because they have to organise their household and children’s welfare in the main. Labour is not promising to reverse any of the austerity cuts when £11 out of the £15 million of cuts affect women.
On the 19th September we should make demands for women in Scotland. In other small countries women have the support of a written constitution so they can go to the European Human Rights Court for cases of domestic violence etc. On Clydeside there is a statue of La Passionara erected on the Broomielaw to pay tribute to the International Brigade volunteers from Scotland who fought for socialism in the Spanish Civil war. What would she say if she could see the position of women in Scotland now – she would probably be under a control order.
We need a written constitution that enshrines women’s rights for good. We also need to learn more about the economy- perhaps economy classes would help??
Need to include play areas within meetings so children can be brought along
Need to learn from the experience of Iceland, in writing a new constitution. The long 2 year process was constantly eaten away by the opposition, people got worn down and now the old political structures are back in play.
The demands from the Women’s movement in the 60’s are still not achieved
How to get more women to meetings – crèche/daytime meetings/topics
To publicise events for ‘families’. Efforts to link with toddler groups
Not to forget how many women work in the public services – should approach branches of Unions and get invited along to speak.
The drop in cafes and politician free zones set up by WFI I work well in encouraging women to come. Most talked about issue – the NHS.
Not to be afraid of sounding ‘negative’ by warning people the status quo will only get worse under the Westminster regime. We need to emphasise that change is GOOD!
We’ve only ever got progress through fighting and demanding – no use waiting for a wonderful politician – this is a chance to fight for change and to think again about the kind of country we want to live in.
To attach our names to campaigns for equal pay/to protect the NHS/ CND removal of nuclear weapons.
Peter McColl (Greens), Alex Lunn (SNP), 23.6.14
Peter said the campaign originated in London, during the last Mayoral Election. The two major issues had been the Living Wage and Congestion Charges. The Living Wage campaign pointed out that the Minimum Wage was too low to live off, and some workers had to take three jobs to survive. The campaign commanded wide enough support that even the successful Tory candidate, Boris Johnson, bowed to this.
Then Maggie Chapman, Green councillor, took up the issue on Edinburgh City Council. The Liberal group opposed this, so it was not taken up. However, Glasgow Labour leader, Stephen Purcell took up the issue, and thus it came back on to the political agenda.
he reason we need a Living Wage is because the Minimum Wage is far too low. The main form of poverty today, is poverty in work. This does not correspond to the Daily Mail view of the world. No do they point out that there are also fewer jobs than there are unemployed.
he reason we need a Living Wage is because the Minimum Wage is far too low. The main form of poverty today, is poverty in work. This does not correspond to the Daily Mail view of the world. No do they point out that there are also fewer jobs than there are unemployed.
We need to transform the economy from its current model of a small percentage of super rich at the top - the London plutocrats – and a huge number of low-paid and relatively unskilled at the bottom; to one where there are many more well-paid and skilled jobs, with a more even income spread.
Things have got so bad that even George Osborne wants to lift the Minimum Wage. He is not doing this for any altruistic reasons, but because the state has to pay out so much to subsidised low wage employers. Boris Johnson supports higher wage levels for similar reasons.
I suggest a Living Wage level could be £14,000 p.a.
It is easier to force public rather than private sector employers to concede this. When the issue was raised at Edinburgh University, they backed down.
It needs community campaigns to back those inside workers inside low wage workplaces.
Alex is the SNP councillor for Craigentinny.
He said that when living in Gilmerton, where he had been brought up, he had been forced to sign on in 2001. He was told that if he wanted a flat he should move in with his girlfriend and try to find a job. He benefitted from the New Deal Scheme and was able to rent a flat in Albert Street. That would not be possible now.
His friend, Paul, has been working at Sainsburys at Cameron Toll since 1996. He rented a small house in The Inch. However, he can o longer afford to stay there, because rents have become so high. He has had to move out to Dalkeith, considerably further from his work. Paul is not on the Minimum Wage, but earns £12 an hour as a manager, yet he still can not afford to rent a flat in Edinburgh.
Alex still works 2 days a week at a local bank. His manager earns £19,000 p.a. but still faces considerable problems making ends meet.
Therefore, the Living Wage needs to be set at a proper rate. However, there also needs to be laws to control rent levels. Renting can be quite an attractive option. As a young person I did not want to shoulder the responsibility for repair. But the government also need to ensure there is affordable housing.
Eventually, my rent went up so much, I was forced to take out a mortgage, because it was £200 cheaper per month.
Therefore a Living Wage is not enough. It would be a useful symbolic event, a sign to employers that they had to take more care of their workers. However, we need housing controls as well.
Eric said that the reason for escalating property prices and rents is all the money created by private banks. We needed a land value tax to prevent property prices from rising. Not only is property not properly taxed at the moment, but agricultural land received large subsidies from the EU, and the more property you have the more subsidies you get.
Pat said that poor people don’t buy stocks and shares. They have to spend money on commodities and services. In the past, the way better pay and conditions were won was by workers in trade unions organising and exerting pressure. The way that rents were brought under control was through rent strikes. Social housing was a post-war gain. Rather than more affordable housing we needed more social housing.
Andy said there is a trade union dimension. He had worked in Macdonalds for 3 years. Here you are on the minimum wage and work up to 50 hours a week. It is very hard to try and organise under such conditions. You are so exhausted all you want to do after you have finished work is to go out and get pissed. The company’s profits and our lives are in contradiction.
RIC hasn’t gone out to workplaces and job centres. We should be doing this as part of the independence campaign.
Chris said that it possible to organise workers in such workplaces. In the School of Oriental and African Studies in London cleaners had won a Living Wage. They included many migrant workers. The Bakers Union has organised a Fast Food Rights campaign. It is targeting Macdonalds and Burger King.
However, these campaigns also need outside support. There is currently a campaign to organise some cinema workers in London. They are working for the same group, which owns the Cameo in Edinburgh. We could organise some solidarity support.
Aly said that £14,000 p.a. was too low a figure for a Living Wage. In Edinburgh is tough for a family to live on £20,000 p.a. and there is also very low pay in the public sector, particularly the NHS.
There has been a whole number of campaigns amongst low paid and particularly migrant workers in London. However, they have often faced obstruction and worse form trade union officials.
Stuart said that we should also be raising the issue of a Maximum Wage. Furthermore, there is a problem of unoccupied houses, only they are owned by the rich. We need redistribution too.
David said that another issue was Fuel Poverty. We could make more use of the Greenhouse Gases Reduction policy to push for the insulation of housing. Neither the private landlords nor the fuel companies have any incentive to do this. This will require a full scale campaign.
Richard said that rent controls will be opposed by private landlords. This is why we need more social housing to increase the pressure.
Willy said that Edinburgh is becoming more and more like London. If there is a little bit of a boom, then property prices will go up. Currently the Community Empowerment (CE) Bill is going through Holyrood. Companies have been involved in land banking on a massive scale. Land that is already owned by us has been put up for sale. This further contributes to rising property prices. Only the property companies can raise the development money at these prices, so a CE Act will have little effect.
If you go to Ferry Road Drive you can already see the difference between private and council rented housing. Those renting privately are paying £500 a month but get no house repairs. The roofs and roans are overgrown. However, councils can be forced to make improvements.
We need to think about new ways of organising. The old IWW used music in its campaigns. Young people have become interested in the ‘Yes’ campaign. There was a meeting earlier this evening at Craigroyston School with 25 young people wanting to organise.
Callum said that the Living Wage was currently £9 an hour. However, there was also the problem of Zero Hours contracts
The SSP had been linking the Living Wage with Scottish independence in its campaigning. People had been asked where is this more likely to be passed - Westminster of Holyrood?
Allan said in reply to Willy on community empowerment, that to be effective, it would first need to be accompanied by the sort of land tax proposals, Eric had suggested. This would prevent property speculators hoarding unused land and property. Councils could also use land use zoning powers to ensure that land was reserved for housing or community uses.
Luke said that he worked at Macdonalds to help pay his way through university. Sometimes he had to work double shifts. This undermined his university course work.
He also thought we should be pushing for an agreed ratio between the maximum and minimum earnings in any particular company or public body. Furthermore, there should be guaranteed trade union representation at workplace level.
Jim said that taxation was also an issue. There was a real mismatch between the tax thresholds on Personal Tax set at £100,000 p,a. and National Insurance set at only £6000 p.a. The SNP had originally proposed the abolition of the Council Tax in 2007, and its replacement by a Local Income Tax, but this was opposed at the time. Westminster puts taxes into separate pots, and imposes different levels in each to hide the total taxation picture.
Peter replied that a Living Wage campaign could be a winner. There were indeed problems with official trade unions. Low paid workers occupying University College of London had found a sell-out agreement signed by UCL and UNISON. The levels of obstruction and opposition mounted by some union officials had led to many cleaners and other low paid workers turning to unions like the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain in London.
There certainly needed to be a wealth tax on landlords. Rent controls are also needed.
Various European Directives offering some protection also need to be pursued.
To sum up – if Boris Johnson can be forced to concede a Living wage, then we can do this in Scotland. The battle begins on September 19th.
Alex replied by saying we need a mixture of social housing and affordable private housing. There were other things that needed to be brought under control to bring down the cost of living. Both the fuel companies and the railway companies should be nationalised.
There is indeed a problem with existing unions. Their officials don’t share the problems of their members, Len McCluskey of UNITE earns over £120,000 p.a. There was also a case n another union, where the general secretary received a union loan at 1.7% interest to buy a second house in the Algarve.
Franklin Roosevelt and Clement Attlee are two of my heroes. Attlee was originally a Conservative supporter, but working in London’s East End converted him to socialism. He was a doer. When senior civil servants said they wanted to go over some new government proposals with them, he replied that these weren’t proposals but decisions already taken by the Cabinet, so get on with it.
Edinburgh has big problems with private landlords. There are also accidental landlords, who start to rent out flats because they can not sell them. They have no training and do not know what tit involves. So, as well as regulation of landlords, we need training of landlords.
If there is a ‘No’ vote in September. Cameron’s Tories will walk over not only Scotland, but England too. Scottish independence can inspire workers in England.
I support a federal Scotland. Both Labour and the SNP are too centralist. More powers need to be devolved to a local level. Local councils should even have the powers to decide what form of taxation they use, just as states and cities do in the USA. Edinburgh could use a Sales Tax, to take advantage of the large number of tourists coming to the city.