I put a book down the other day

… purely to allow a paragraph to settle, to muse on it.  Let me read it to you:

Thirty years ago, for every £100 of public money spent on housing, £80 went on bricks and mortar and £20 went on housing benefit.  So most of the money was spent increasing the supply of housing to enable people to get access to affordable homes and a minority of money was given as emergency support where affordable homes were not available.  Now, for every £100 of public money spent on housing, £95 goes on housing benefit and £5 goes on bricks and mortar.  So most of the money goes straight to property owners who control housing supply and virtually none goes to expanding the supply of housing.  This pushed up rents and house prices, the opposite of what public policy should be seeking to do.

Now read that again.  Happy with this wonderful society are we?

It was only a few days ago that Oxfam were warning that the UK was fast heading to become the most unequal society in the developed world.  We were talking about the awfulness of being 4th a year ago, and recently ‘rose’ to 3rd place.  Is this what we want?

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So as I was musing on all that along comes the High Pay Centre, an independent non-party think tank, with a review of the OECD Better Life Index.  Oh my goodness.

Now you’ll know that I’m an avid fan of the vision of Lesley Riddoch, casting an enviable eye across the North Sea to the Nordic countries; to what they have achieved with similar natural resources and populations; and to what we uniquely have the opportunity to try and emulate.

In the UK the poorest fifth of households have an average income of only just over $9,500 much lower than the poorest fifth in other countries in NW Europe – Germany for instance is almost $13,500, Netherlands over $11,250, and Denmark over $12,000.  But let’s look a little further east, to say Czech Republic, and Slovenia, for that’s our closest competition in this particular league of infamy, former Eastern Bloc nation states.

And if we look at average incomes we do compare with the Dutch and the Danes, all of us > $25,000 and < $26,000.  We get there because our top 20% is the third highest in the EU, at $54,000, way ahead of Belgium, Netherlands and the Nordic countries who fall into the $44-49,000 bracket.

So our wealthy are the cream of the European crop; our poor the dregs of Eastern Europe.  Happy with that?  Now read that paragraph that I started with again.  What are we to do about it?

spiritlevel

Well in the UK, precisely nothing, aim ever higher, regardless of whichever combination of Tory/UKIP and Labour/LibDem, gets the next five year stretch at Westminster.

But in Scotland, we can aim higher.  Not higher up that embarrassing table, but higher at our greater good.  Which is where the book comes in.  For that’s just one paragraph from Robin McAlpine’s Common Weal vision.  There’s only one way to go, and that is Vote Yes.

And we can rise like the other independent nations, break free from this relentless downward spiral.

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As always keep one eye on what’s being said over at Wings, though there’s much more to see in the wonderful world of the cybernat:

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Filed under On the Bedside Table, Scotland's Future

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