The Green view on Scotland’s economic priorities is a guest post by Jason Rose of the Scottish Green Party.
The economy is once again central to the election campaign, and Scottish Greens are highlighting the need to invest in innovation and education.
Education is one of the most important public goods. Access should not be based on ability to pay. We should invest in schools and highly-qualified teachers, and maintain free university tuition here in Scotland while ending tuition fees the UK. Education is devolved to the Scottish Parliament but
a UK-wide policy that would support our colleges and access to vocational learning would be an increase in the minimum wage for apprentices from the paltry £3.30 an hour to a decent £10 an hour.
We should also provide more investment in research and innovation to create the foundations for new businesses and new jobs.
Our financial sector still needs fixed. Banks still serve shareholders and what we like to call the casino economy. The UK is still dominated by a handful of very large commercial institutions who use credit scores, not local knowledge, to make lending decisions. Let’s instead create a banking system with banks of all types and sizes. That means supporting more cooperatives, credit unions, mutuals and small banks serving the local area, focussed on lending to local businesses. To do this will require better regulation and oversight, but also new thinking. Why not use the government-owned Royal Bank of Scotland to create a network of local banks for every city and region? We could ensure they are obliged to offer cheap basic banking services, governed by local stakeholders.
In our workplaces we still see unacceptable pay inequality and poor treatment of employees. In such circumstances employees should have the option to buy out their companies and turn them into workers cooperatives. This right should be subject to limits and consultation but will help create a revolution in workplace cooperation and direct employee involvement in management, product development and innovation. More broadly, let’s see workplace democracy with employee participation on boards and a positive role for trade unions.
Scotland has huge potential for renewable energy and the benefits of that should be shared by everyone, not controlled only by multinational corporations. Let’s create local energy companies to build publicly-owned renewables, earning profits to fund public services. Let’s use the Green
Investment Bank for public and community-owned energy schemes and reform the energy generation market to support low-carbon energy and community ownership.
In terms of jobs we need a transition to an economy with sustainability at its core. A Green New Deal could see millions invested in homes, transport and energy, financed debt-free by a programme of Green Infrastructure Quantitative Easing. Let’s expand our food production, clean chemical sciences, digital and creative industries, medical and life sciences, construction and engineering. Let’s support independent small retail and tourism. These areas give our economy resilience.
The elephant in the room is fossil fuel. We know we will have to start leaving it in the ground if we are to meet our climate change responsibilities. It is time for a change in strategic direction. By acting now, Scotland could become the world centre of decommissioning the fossil fuel industry. Let’s invest in marine renewables to use the skills, engineering expertise and wealth of natural resources around our shores.
With skills in sub-sea engineering, concentrated in Aberdeen, we have an opportunity to excel in tidal and wave energy and use these as a basis for prosperity. Let’s support City Deals which aim to deliver these ambitions.
In this election Westminster parties are obsessing over the rate at which they can cut the deficit yet none seems prepared to do it by cutting the billions earmarked for nuclear weapons. The real challenges our economy faces are wages and productivity, which we can tackle with skills and access to good public services. Let’s invest in our future – in a productive, skilled workforce. Cuts are no path to prosperity.