BY EFFIE DEANS
An organisation called The Social Justice and Fairness Commission recently published a report dated March 2021. We didn’t see it in March however, but rather it was only revealed after the Scottish Parliament Election. Of course, the organisation is another of the SNP’s front organisations. The authors of the report are SNP politicians and supporters. Like every other SNP report, it concludes that independence kills all known germs and every single problem in Scotland is caused by the wicked Conservative Government.
But although much of this is familiar, there are some ideas that have not been stated quite so explicitly before.
The report suggests that an independent Scotland should be much more open to immigration than the UK is at present. One of the reasons for this is that Scotland suffers from depopulation and has not had the growth in population that England in particular has had since the Second World War. For this reason, it is suggested that with independence Scotland would not seek to reduce migration from oversees and would no longer have what is called a “hostile environment” to immigration.
But if the SNP thinks that Scotland needs a higher population, why doesn’t it encourage people from other parts of the UK to move here? The advantage of attracting British citizens to rural Scotland would be that they would already speak English and be familiar with most aspects of Scottish life. The SNP could for instance offer grants or tax breaks to people from the rest of Britain. If there are empty houses in the Highlands they could be sold or rented to British families at a discounted rate.
Instead over the past year or so we have had numerous attempts to close the border between England and Scotland. We have been told that English people may not go to pubs and restaurants and people from other parts of Britain have been discouraged from coming here.
But more people from other parts of Britain live in Scotland than any one else. Clearly it is easier for someone to move here from London than it is from Laos. Independence would discourage people from other parts of Britain, moving to Scotland, it’s easier to move within your own country than abroad, but these are the very people we are most likely to attract. The SNP then wishes to discourage British people from moving here while encouraging people from the rest of the world, who won’t necessarily speak English, some of whom may require time to integrate into Scottish society. It looks as if the SNP wants to encourage all immigration except British people. I can’t think why.
If there were a small Highland village with a population of 100 Scots, it would change beyond all recognition if it were suddenly repopulated with Armenians. If such a village had some Gaelic speakers, or even Scots speakers, it would find itself with a completely new demographic situation. What anyway would keep these Armenians in this small Highland village. No doubt they would admire the scenery, but unless there were jobs, they would rapidly go elsewhere either to large Scottish cities or more likely to London.
This is the fundamental problem for the SNP. The Common Travel Area that at present exists across the British Isles only works because each part agrees to follow roughly the same immigration policies. If large numbers of migrants were arriving in London through Jersey or Ireland checks would need to be introduced.
The SNP wants Scotland to have a radically different immigration policy. If it were to succeed than Scottish towns and cities would more closely resemble places like London, Birmingham and Manchester. But a party whose support is monocultural to the extent that it dresses up in historical Scottish dress and obsesses about battles from the Middle Ages, might find it rather harder to be a genuinely multicultural and multiracial Scotland than the SNP expects. If you can’t bear living with English people in the UK, how are you going to be able to bear living with people who neither share your race, religion, culture or language?
Large numbers of Scots express prejudice about whether someone is Catholic or Protestant. Still larger numbers are Scottish nationalists are at least mildly hostile to English people and Tories. The idea that we would have no prejudice at all if the numbers of migrants from other cultures, religions and races increased massively is unlikely at best. The extent to which Scots are not racist is primarily due to there being few people from others races to be racist about.
The SNP might create peace and harmony by repopulating the Highlands with anyone who wants to come, but it is just as likely to create conflict and resentment from those who see the village, they have always known change beyond all recognition. To suppose that Scottish nationalists would welcome unlimited numbers of non-Scots is to go against everything we know about nationalism. The indy marches are after all almost universally made up of white people born in Scotland who very frequently think Scottishness is something you get from your parents, not least because the kilts they wear they are entitled to because of membership of a clan.
The SNP’s concept of fairness amounts to an open-door policy with the rest of the world. But how does it plan to attract people to come here. After all most migrants to the UK at present do not choose to come to Scotland. If they had we would not be 96% white. One way is by introducing something called a Universal Basic Income and a Minimum Income Guarantee.
What this means is that the SNP would give everyone whether they worked or not a Universal Basic Income which would be above the poverty line. In this way it would eliminate poverty in Scotland.
But if Scotland were to eliminate poverty, then people on the Universal Basic Income would be comfortable enough that they were not poor. They would have enough to eat. They would have enough clothes. They would have enough to spend on leisure and perhaps holidays abroad. But in that case why work?
There are lots of jobs in Scotland today that are not particularly pleasant. The people doing these jobs are considered poor today. Who would do these jobs in an independent Scotland? If I knew that I would have a comfortable life even if I did no work at school, why would I bother to study? Difficult university courses like medicine might seem too much bother when my friends spent their time continually partying and never working. There would be no reason too to save for a pension as that would be covered, no reason to buy a house as the state would have to give me one otherwise, I would be poor.
Worse still for Scotland and its open border policy is that everyone in the EU who didn’t fancy working in his own country would come here. Every student who didn’t want to pay for his education anywhere else in the world could become a Scot and have it paid for by the Universal Basic Income, which would be paid at much higher rate than average wages in Eastern and Southern Europe let alone the poorer parts of the Third World.
The likelihood is then that Scotland would attract the poorest people who are least likely to work from both Europe and everywhere else. The price of a plane ticket would allow anyone to come here and live for free. Meanwhile ever larger numbers of Scots would be retiring as early as they pleased, knowing that they would not have to live in poverty as the state would pay their income. If work became tough or boring, who wouldn’t decide to live in a Highland cottage painting the local loch rather than getting up early to go to the office?
The cost of implementing a Universal Basic Income which would eliminate poverty would be enormous. The tax each worker would have to pay would be higher than almost anywhere else in the world. But as taxes increased work would become less and less profitable compared to doing nothing. Why risk your cash setting up a new business if you can get a similar amount for doing nothing with no risk? Why bother to work hard to pay ever higher taxes to pay for the whole world to come to Scotland to do nothing? As ever more people received the Universal Basic Income, there would be ever fewer tax payers to fund it. This would inevitably leave us in the situation where we would have eliminated poverty only by redefining it to mean being able to buy less and less goods and services. Our equality and social justice would be the fairness of the church mouse.
The SNP’s vision of a just and fair society takes no account of human psychology and what motivates people to study and work. Wealth is created by people striving to have a better life than their parents and their friends. Profit motivates us. I have better car than him. I have a nicer house. We may not like the profit motive, but it is how people think. It is what creates the wealth we may wish to redistribute.
Few wealthy societies are egalitarian, because without work being able to make me much better off than my neighbour and without the fear of being poor I won’t bother working. Capitalism therefore leads to wealthier societies than socialism, because of human nature, for which reason socialists have to re-educate humanity with Gulags and force us to be free. The close we approach socialism therefore, the closer we approach tyranny.
True egalitarianism by dispensing with the profit motive means that people do the minimum at work and have no interest in whether a state-owned business, shop or collective farm is run well or not. It is for this reason that attempts to achieve socialism invariably involve the wealth of a nation declining to the point where we are all equally poor.
An independent Scotland might be fairer and more just than it is now, but it would inevitably therefore be poorer, simply because a high tax society with no need to work would deter people from creating wealth. The former UK which would continue the policies of capitalism, free trade and work incentives, would be much wealthier overall than Scotland, for exactly the same reason that South Korea is better off than the North. The poorest person in England would inevitably be better off on benefits than a Scot on Universal Basic Income. But we could at least look down our noses at the selfish English and their wicked Tory profits.
It might be amusing to see the SNP try to implement a Scottish work-shy paradise where after independence most Scots would be dependent on the state, but it would be no fun to live there even for the work-shy. We should hope therefore that the English would not let us in after independence, because otherwise Scotland would be more depopulated than it is now.
The fundamental inconsistency in the SNP’s approach to social justice and fairness is that it wants to achieve wealth redistribution between Scots and with its immigration polices by extension with the whole word, but rejects wealth redistribution and a common identity between people in the UK who have been together for more than three centuries. If wealth redistribution is bad or cannot work within the UK between people who speak the same language, have more or less the same culture and are in nearly every respect indistinguishable from each other except for an accent, how can the SNP expect it to work in Scotland between Scots and people newly arrived from the whole world. If Scottish nationalists reject sharing wealth with people from the UK, why should we expect them to share it with each other and the whole world?
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.