COMMON Weal has today launched its new report on the economic model Scotland should pursue to recover from Covid-19, tackle poverty, inequality and insecurity – and to get ready for what we need to do to prevent the approaching environmental crises.
But for those who support independence, there is something in this report that it might be easy to miss. We’re calling it Resilience Economics because it’s about achieving the social, economic and environmental resilience Scotland needs to give everyone a good quality of life now and offer the security of knowing that quality of life is safe for the future.
The report is built from a series of respected economic theories which get pushed out of public policy in the UK but which can guide a government which wants to use them. We believe most economies need to move in this direction because of climate change, but there is a reason why this work is emerging in Scotland.
It’s because there may be no other economy in Europe better equipped to achieve that resilience. Resilience comes from being able to manage and use your resources responsibly but effectively, to use those resources as the main driver of your economy and then to build your economic strategy around them.
And Scotland has an abundance of these resources. In fact, in areas suc food, forestry, advanced materials, clean energy, construction supply chain and marine resources we have an embarrassment of riches.
Having these in and of itself wouldn’t be enough to fuel a recovery plan if they were being utilised properly just now – but they absolutely aren’t. Because the UK’s economic model is based around the City of London, policy has favoured financial speculation over productive capacity and is dominated not by manufacturing but by importing.
It means that when the rest of the world is scrambling to ensure they can import the resources needed by their domestic markets, we have an enormous number of them right here – and we’re not even using them properly.
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On forestry alone, Scotland has the lowest level of tree cover in Europe but the highest potential. Timber crops can be used for everything from our construction industry (we only source 20% of the materials we build with in Scotland) to making advanced bioplastics (which can be made from the cellulose from forestry crops).
Our energy resources are famous. Scotland could entirely decarbonise all of its electricity and transport using onshore and offshore wind alone. Our marine energy resources can then form the basis of a genuinely world-leading clean hydrogen industry (or we could even use the hydrogen to make synthetic aviation fuels which don’t cause climate change).
But what really sets Scotland ahead is not just the natural resources but how they combine with our social and human resources. Many other nations with the kind of wealth of resource we have are in the developing world. They have little option but to allow those resources to be exported by developed economies.
That is not the case in Scotland. We also have advanced infrastructure, political stability, a highly educated workforce, world-leading innovation in world-leading universities and much more. It means that rather than our resources having to be exported, we can exploit them properly domestically.
THIS is extremely important. It is capturing the high-quality jobs that spin out from a manufacturing industry based on our natural resources and building integrated supply chains so the benefits cascade down throughout the economy that means Scotland can quickly find a way out of this crisis and prepare ourselves for the crises which are inevitably ahead.
It is very much about backing Scottish businesses to step up and expand into these opportunities and about creating a public policy framework to make it happen.
Buying poor-quality plastic things from Amazon exports the nation’s wealth; producing high-quality goods made in Scotland by Scottish businesses multiplies our domestic wealth. All the potential is there.
In fact, this is all a symptom of Scotland’s underdevelopment inside the UK. This has been our weakness, the source of a rate of national wealth which is well below what we should have in a nation like ours. But the need to find a new economic approach has, overnight, turned that weakness into a great strength.
Where other nations are asking ‘where now?’, Scotland can answer quickly. This economic model we have set out shows how to ignite the fuel of a new economy, fuel which is everywhere around us in Scotland.
I think we lack national confidence just now. We constantly compare ourselves to the UK and far too often when we do something differently it is only a different version of the same thing London does. We don’t quite seem to have the nerve to say “look, the rest of the UK is different from Scotland and doesn’t have the same options so we are going to do something genuinely different”.
Soon we will launch the major part of what we have been working on, a detailed plan for exactly what this kind of “different” would look like and how we can start doing it now.
But because Scotland has seemed a bit nervous about breaking from UK economics, we produced this report to try to give people confidence. It is a firm intellectual underpinning for how a different economic model can work and how we can make it happen, all based on respected economic thinking.
In the end, though, we will hit a brick wall because of Scotland’s lack of economic power.
There is much that can be done under devolution but it won’t take very long at all before we reach the limits of what is possible. At that point Scotland will have to choose – resilience with independence or vulnerability inside the UK.
That is what I find so exciting about Resilience Economics. When people see what is possible when you stop using an economics which was designed for a different country, they will realise just how much is possible.
This report sets out our best chance of building a productive, high-pay Scotland which ends poverty and stops contributing to climate change and in which people have security and confidence. We believe it is also the best economic case for Scottish independence.