Thursday, 3 October 2013

Serving us and boosting our economy - Public Ownership

In the wake of the Ed Miliband/Daily Mail saga, a blog from James Maxwell of the New Statesman has an interesting series of points to make on the difference between Milliband’s pledges on the UK stage and Salmond’s in Scotland.

His point is essentially that while Miliband is (possibly against his will) being forced to challenge the UK consensus that the the Tories, their coalition partners and New Labour have espoused for a number of decades now - that an unregulated private sector is the saviour of the UK economy and that there is no role for the state to intervene; here in Scotland - despite the opportunities offered for challenging this consensus by the independence referendum - Alex Salmond shows no sign of doing so. Indeed he points to many policies where the SNP have actually moved towards the UK consensus.

To be fair, he also points to a range of policies where the SNP and Scottish Government are still to the left of the Labour Party, but the difference in challenging ‘business and its vested interests’ is marked. 
  The Scottish government was almost alone in retaining close relationships with News International, when even their close political pals were abandoning them. They have consistently courted tax-dodging corporations like Amazon, and argued against state intervention to take our share of windfall profits by North Sea energy companies, or to freeze energy prices to the consumer.

And where is the evidence that these policies work? Ofgen warns of power black-outs by 2015 as a result of lack of investment in the privatised energy sector. Privatised rail has the highest subsidies in Europe – except where the publicly owned East Coast line has delivered almost £1billion in profit. A socially disastrous housing crisis has resulted from the inability of the private sector to provide affordable houses. Yet elsewhere in the world there is economic growth – and it is generally in those countries where there is a significant measure of public ownership and active public support for industry.

In this context Sunday’s conference taking place in Glasgow on the need for greater public input
into our economic life is remarkably appropriate. While few at the conference would put much faith in Miliband, the lack of arguments for increased public ownership that have come out of the ‘indyref’ debate despite the spectacular failure of privatised companies, will hopefully be rectified by an impressive range of speakers. Economists and researchers like the STUC’s Stephen Boyd, and UNISONScotland policy chief, Dave Watson will be joined by politicians from both Labour (Neil Findlay MSP) and the SNP (Chris Stephens of the SNP TU Group). The conference will examine the evidence for successful public sector intervention, from the past and from the present, from the UK and from elsewhere in the world.

The conference is organised by the Morning Star’s Scottish Campaign Committee and takes place from 11 am at the STUC offices in Woodlands Road, Glasgow. Further details here.

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