Category Archives: Economics

ConDem bad arguments for #indyref

The Tories have produced a buzzfeed-style page for the indyref.

Cake WorldThey take their assertion that Scots are better off by £1200 per year each in the UK than we would be if independent (their figures don’t make sense, but frankly the SNP’s arguments that we’d be better off by x amount per year each don’t make sense either) and they’ve done a series of images of the things that £1200 could buy.

Both sides have tried this argument, and both sides made a hash of it, because it is a frankly silly argument. The wealth of the UK is not a cake to be sliced up and everyone given a bit. Even if Scotland were to become actually independent in March 2016, or enter a devomax arrangement set up between the Tories and the SNP as planned in the White Paper, or remains part of the UK as at present, Scotland will still have a very few very rich people, a proportion of wealthy people, and a lot of people who are horrifyingly poor.
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Filed under Cake, Poverty, Scottish Politics, Tax Avoidance

The #indyref campaign begins today

In less than four months, we’ll go to the polls to vote Yes or No to the question:

“Should Scotland be an independent country?”

And today, the campaign period for the referendum officially begins.

Scotland's FutureBut as I pointed out a few weeks ago (and Simon Jenkins pointed out yesterday) the SNP are not offering independence: they want major decisions for Scotland’s governance to be made at Westminster/in London. (It’s all in the White Paper: haven’t you read it?)
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Filed under Economics, Elections, European politics, Indyref White Paper, Scottish Politics

Offshore politics

When the SNP transited smoothly from “we’ll use to the Euro” to “we’ll use the pound” that was a campaign tactic.

When the Tories, LibDems, and Labour all bounced to their feet and said ha ha, we won’t let you use the pound, that was a campaign tactic.

I do not believe either the Yes Scotland or the Better Together campaigns have really thought this through: or at least, they are certainly not making a fact-based argument based on having thought this through.

Ian Bell writes in the Herald:

“Hardball” is the macho cliche being applied to the Chancellor’s fiat towards a currency union. Despite its protestations, Mr Darling’s team pursues the kind of negative campaigning that never goes out of style in Westminster. No compunction is involved. The referendum must be won at all costs. But what might that cost be, exactly, if the prize is a united kingdom in the aftermath?

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Filed under Currency, Economics, Scottish Politics

SF: How will we pay for it?

Scotland's Future Yesterday, the Bank of England announced that interest rates would not rise from the historic low of 0.5% at least until 2015, as the Bank “believes the UK economy is running at around 1.5pc below its potential, and said it would need to make up more lost ground before it would consider raising rates”: that “productivity was much weaker than expected, while surveys pointed to less slack in the economy.”

Austerity is stifling the UK economy. The Tory/LibDem oft-repeated claim that there are more people in work than ever before is technically true but says nothing about the real state of the economy: people in part-time work, work on minimum wage, work below minimum wage: more people than ever before in work but claiming benefits.

What of the Scottish economy?

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Filed under Economics, Indyref White Paper, Politics, Scottish Politics

Arguing the wrong debate

The currency debate is a pure waste of time.

Keep Calm and Waste TimeThe SNP’s line if Scotland votes Yes has for several years been that Scotland will continue to use rUK’s pound. This is a good campaign strategy as far as it goes, since it means people don’t have to think about the logistics of setting up a Mint in Scotland to produce our own coins and a national supply of banknotes: it means people don’t have to think about changing currencies if they go to England/Wales post-independence: it means people don’t have to think about monetary change as a symbol of the huge changes of independence.

So, good campaign strategy, but it’s a completely rubbish way of deciding on a currency for Scotland post-independence.

To counter this SNP campaign strategy, the UK government/Better Together campaign have announced they will not “permit” Scotland to make use of the pound post-independence, and to counter that… but never mind. The whole thing gets indescribably messy, with both sides grandstanding more and more, and the whole thing is an utter waste of time.
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Filed under Economics, Poverty, Tax Avoidance

On stealing food

Iceland Foods - Kentish Town RoadWithin a mile of the Iceland on Kentish Town Road (the Trussell Trust’s find-your-nearest-foodbank map provides this information) there are two foodbanks: Chalk Farm and Camden.

A recent food banks report discovers 960 emergency food providers (food banks and soup kitchens) operating in the UK, and this may not be a complete list.

The Kentish Tower ran an article on then-new foodbank at Chalk Farm Baptist Church in April last year:

Who comes to the foodbank? In theory, people can receive a maximum of three vouchers in a row to discourage reliance, although longer term support is available at the discretion of the foodbank manager. “One thing that has surprised me is how open people are,” said Sammy, “when talking about their current situation. A lot of it is delayed benefits – or people who’ve had an injury and can’t physically work.”

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Filed under About Food, Charities, Children, Poverty

Wow, That Took Off Quickly

Little Bear LostOn Friday 13th December, Lauren Bishop Vranch found a little lost bear, obviously much loved, on an East Coast Train at King’s Cross, and tweeted a photo of it: “Found this well loved little dude on an East Coast train at Kings Cross – let’s find the owner, Twitter!”

By Sunday evening, that original tweet had been RT’d 6192 times. Lauren went on posting pics of the toy to Twitter, which got reposted on other social media including several Facebook groups, and at last, the father of the child who’d lost the bear contacted her.

‘WOW the power of the internet and kind folk – that’s my daughter Phoebes bear – she has been in tears all weekend and I’ve just shown her the picture and she is over the moon. Thank you all so much! Continue reading

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Filed under About Food, Employment, Restaurants

How Not To Help Foodbanks, Update

The other night I was invited over to dinner by my parents, who – as they often do – treated this as their “dine out” night (they’re both retired and can afford to treat themselves to a meal out each week) and ordered a vegetarian curryfest from their favourite Indian takeaway.

Give a man a fishAs they often do, they ordered lavishly – and the leftovers were packed up to go home with me. I was walking down the hill to the bus stop, with the fragrant bag in my hand, when I noticed a man sitting against the wall with a blanket wrapped round him, having a smoke. Now, I like curry, but generally don’t eat it two nights running: and the food in the bag had never been taken out of the takeaway cartons. It was safe enough to share. So I asked the man if he’d like a curry, and when he said yes, handed him the bag, and went on my way. It wasn’t exactly generous of me (though I hope he enjoyed it) and was classically helpful/unhelpful: a good meal for a night for one homeless person, isn’t resolving the problem of people going to bed hungry.

On 10th December last year, I wrote a post entitled How Not To Help Foodbanks, in which I discussed why the need for foodbanks was rising and quoted Jason Kuznicki:

Do you want to give food? Add up its retail price. Take that money out of your wallet. Flush 90% of it down the toilet. Send the food bank the rest. You’re still helping more than if you gave the food.
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Filed under About Food, Charities, Poverty

Women get paid less

Male-female pay divideToday is International Women’s Day, and there are many nice liberal articles about the reasons for the gender pay gap. Women get paid less than men. Jobs that are traditionally regarded as “for women” are also routinely paid less than jobs traditionally regarded “for men”.

Ever since I started working in IT I’ve been told that I make less than a man with the same skills. I chose to ignore that and focus on doing an awesome job, figuring I’d be paid what I was worth. I chose to believe that employers wouldn’t take me for granted and would reward my skills and abilities. In fact, I once had a boss who coached me to always ask for a pay rise and log my successes to ensure I always kept pace with the men in the company. I thought he was the norm – I thought all bosses wanted everyone to be equal and succeed.

Boy was I ever wrong.

While sexist conditions on work affect the average woman’s pay compared to the average man’s pay – when women take a couple of years off to have children, the work world is arranged so that this affects her promotion and pay prospects: the structure of work and career is fundamentally arranged to suit a man with a wife: a woman with childcare responsibilities may have to take part-time work or look for a job dependent on location and childcare affordability – the overriding factor is just as clear: women get paid less for being female. A women entering full-time work as a graduate will get paid less than a man who has also just graduated.
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Filed under Economics, Women

Women don’t know anything about poverty, obviously

Scottish Women's Convention manifestoThe Scottish government has appointed four well-off men to advise on poverty issues:

The members of the new expert group are: Darra Singh, a former chief executive of Jobcentre Plus now working for Ernst & Young; Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie Trust and former head of Citizens Advice Scotland; Douglas Griffin, a former finance director at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde; and Mike Brewer, a professor of economics at the University of Essex and a research fellow with the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The four, who are expected to make an initial report to ministers by May, will advise on a “fairer welfare system” outside the union.

It is, after all, not the Scottish Government’s fault that Iain Duncan Smith has succeeded in associating his mantra on “fairness” with the reality of making the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the unemployed so much worse off than they need to be.
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Filed under Benefits, Equality, Poverty, Tax Avoidance, Women