Education, Health, and Global Warming: Top 5 Reasons 45% of Scots Wanted to Leave the Right Wing UK

by Juan Cole

The US media coverage of the Scottish referendum is oddly lacking in any reference to actual politics. As usual, the corporate media concentrates on issues in ethnicity to cover up issues in social class and social policy. The “Washington consensus” of Neoliberalism, substituting blind so-called “market forces” for good governance, has been adopted with alacrity by the English ruling elite (including much of Labour). That this way of proceeding produces bad public policy and increases wealth inequality, damaging democracy, is seldom considered. But the Scots have Neoliberalism’s number, and they’re also aware that it is unlikely to be dislodged from Westminster any time soon. They are worried about the welfare of the average person under this elitist regime.

1. Scots are on the whole substantially to the left of the current government of the UK, with 64% unsatisfied with the performance of Conservative prime minister David Cameron. The Conservatives only have one member of parliament from Scotland.

2. Scots overwhelmingly favor renewable energy, especially wind power, over nuclear and hydraulic fracturing of natural gas. Mr. Cameron favors fracking.. Scotland has pulled out all the stops in promoting green energy and gets over 40% of its electricity from renewables, aiming for 100% by 2022. England in contrast is a carbon hog.

3. Scots believe in higher education and are afraid of the consequences of Cameron’s deep cuts to university and research funding, which have plummeted the UK to the bottom of the G8 in this regard.

4. Scots overwhelmingly support the National Health Service even if they criticize it for delays. But they are afraid that right wing England will completely privatize it.

5. Scots believe in government redistribution of wealth from the wealthiest to those less well off. Mr. Cameron and his Conservatives want to use the government to make society even more unequal.

The majority of those who voted in the referendum chose to stick with the United Kingdom, but the referendum showed very substantial dissatisfaction with Conservative policies that deeply affect the quality of life of the average Scot, and not for the better.

Channel 4 News: “Interview with Jonathan Shafi of Radical Independence Campaign”

8 Responses

  1. Also a lots of Scots did not want to burn a substantial amount of their budget to build new nuclear weapons – costly, dangerous, and illegal under the terms of the NPT

    maybe in 10-15 years changing demographics will push them over 50%…

    It will also depend on how well nationalists and leftist internationalists can play together…

  2. The five preferences listed would apply to any area of the UK, the Scots, and to a lesser extent the Welsh, simply possess more readily identifiable characteristics for most non British observers. There are local anti-fracking movements wherever it is proposed, broad distrust of the whole process and outrage at the sacrifice of ancient parkland. Nor is the urge for more independence from central authority peculiar to the UK, there are formidable movements in Catalonia in Spain and the Vèneto region of Italy, and less formidable ones in almost all European regions. We’ve seen federalist aspirations in Eastern Ukraine and they exist as far afield as China. The five selected preferences are symptoms of the much broader desire for local control over innumerable things that affect local people including health, education, and a more equitable distribution of wealth. The UK coalition of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats acts as it does only because it is in power, the Labour Party would be exactly the same. Cameron is not ‘conservative’,* he’s just another tool of the 1%. Centralization has moved decision making too far from the people it directly affects and in the process rendered them increasingly powerless, the frustration born of that is what fuels the urge for regional autonomy. Aside from Scotland and Wales, the UK has eight regions, and London, and there are regionalist aspirations in all of them.

    * The NHS is under enormous stress and in a state of economic chaos. I suggested to Cameron that it might help cut interminable waiting lists and reduce pressure on the system if bona fide medical expenses were tax deductible. He didn’t like that, he said he believed medical treatment should be the same for everybody, a purely political response to avoid any possible suggestion that he might appear to be favoring higher tax payers in an election year.

  3. It sounds like Quebec too, which leans left from the Harperites, though there was a right-wing political rise (on both English and French Quebec politics).

    Unfortunately Scotland has rejected independence. However, I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing and rather an opportunity for the progressives of the North to push for change eventually which may affect and catch on in the South. However, if we take Quebec as an example…it has not been very successful to pass on those traits…

  4. On the other hand there were Scots who might have voted “yes” but voted “no” because of a lack of confidence in the leaders for independence. Whether that was fair or not, I don’t know, but I’m sure it was a factor.

    But when consideration is given to some of the “no” supporters, such as Gorden Brown, it seems to have been in some cases a matter of choosing the lesser evil.

    • @Bill
      Lord Ashcroft’s Post-referendum poll claims for 57% of No voters sampled the most important matter was the currency aspect.
      Pensions were second (73% of 65+ cohort voted No)

  5. When you write that the neo-liberal Washington consensus was accepted with alacrity by the English ruling elite, I think you’re partly right, but you don’t go far enough. You ought to have found a way of saying that the Scottish ruling elite, which has worked in tandem with the English ruling elite for over 300 years, did so with equal alacrity. And the easy way to say all that is simply to talk of the British ruling elite. You might also encourage a more accurate view of the situation were you to also include the fact that a great many of England’s inhabitants stand quite a bit to the left of David Cameron’s government. I am, by the way, from Scotland.

  6. In many respects the arguments are sound. The difficulty arises in that despite Scotland’s Labour Party sharing these views, the majority would rather form common cause with a right-of-centre government they didn’t vote for (as well as UKCIP and the Orange Order) – and risk the possible consequences such as withdrawal from the European Union and damage to the health service – than support an arrangement that would deliver a better, fairer Scotland. Perhaps Scottish Labour have other priorities that are not always clear. I am also Scottish.

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