The Common Weal

The Common Weal
The Jimmy Reid Foundation
May 2013

A model for economic and social development in Scotland

For 30 years public policy in the UK and in Scotland (though to a lesser extent) has been based on one fundamental principle; that markets should drive economic and social development, that conflict and competition are the primary drivers for that development and that the role of the state is to protect those markets and ameliorate the impact of their failings. Concepts such as that society should guide economic and social development, that development should be driven by mutuality and that the role of the state is to express the democratic will of citizens in guiding that development has been driven out of UK politics.

The current debate about Scotland’s future has opened up a window to economic and social models outside the UK. There is much that we can learn from them. Many aspects of the Nordic countries, many aspects of economies such as those of Germanic countries, aspects of the large-scale cooperative model in many parts of Europe and other lessons from abroad are now informing Scottish debate. What we see in all these cases is that economic performance and social outcomes greatly outstrip the UK.

There has been much talk about how to achieve a ‘more Nordic’ Scotland. It is important to note that not only Nordic countries have things to teach Scotland and also that the Nordic countries themselves are very different. It is also important to note that they developed in a particular context so there is no ‘standard’ set of practices and policies which will make a country more ‘Nordic’. However, drawing conclusions about what they and others do well provides the startingpoint for an alternative model of how Scotland might move forward.

It is here referred to as the ‘Common Weal’, a distinctively Scottish version of the type of society that has been achieved in the Nordic area. This short note suggests a ‘spine’ of the key economic and social transformations that are needed to move towards a Common Weal vision. It is not prescriptive and is not ‘owned’ by anyone. It is a model for mutual development, onto which many other transformative ideas can be built.

So for example, a Common Weal Scotland would place a strong emphasis on issues such as a diverse and high quality media, a strong arts and cultural identity, a transformed approach to education, new attitudes to transport and urban planning, careful management of natural resources and the environment and so on. Developing all of these and more represent work ahead for those who support a Common Weal vision for Scotland.

But first there must be a fundamentally new approach to the economy and public governance.

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