Monday, 29 September 2014

Why the wealthy should pay their taxes like the rest of us.

The UK is one of the most unequal countries amongst wealthy nations when looking at household income. Should we be worried? There is evidence that less equal societies have higher rates of violence and ill health.

But the wealthiest may believe they are protected against the effects of inequality. Not so.There is abundant evidence that reducing inequality improves the quality of the social environment for everyone. (The Spirit Level Chapter 2)

Inequality increases mental illness, clinical obesity, violence including murder and rates of imprisonment not just amongst the poor but across the population as a whole (The Spirit Level, Chapter 13)

If we halved inequality in the UK, the evidence suggests that:

- Murder rates could halve
- Mental illness could reduce by two thirds
- Obesity could halve
- Imprisonment could reduce by 80%
- Teen births could reduce by 80%
- Levels of trust could increase by 85%

 Comparisons show that in less equal countries like England and Wales death rates of working age men are worse than in more equal countries such as Sweden – including amongst those of high social class such as professionals 

Similarly literacy is better amongst children with parents of the very highest levels of education in the more equal countries of Finland and Belgium than in the UK. (Spirit Level, Chapter 13)

A more equal society is better for all of us – including the wealthy. Now all we need is to elect Greens so we can become a more equal society.

Should Local Councils be afraid of the TTIP?

TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is an international agreement between the European Union and the United States which is currently being negotiated behind closed doors in breach of the principle of open democracy. Luckily, the negotiations are being heavily leaked so that we have some idea what is being proposed.

Most worrying is the proposal that corporations can sue governments, including local councils, for profits they might have lost as a result of democratic decision-making on standards and safety.

TTIP includes provision for an Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanism (ISDS) which will take such legal actions out of the normal court system thus by passing all legal safeguards such as open justice, equality of arms and rules of disclosure.

A group of 120 academic experts has spoken out against the planned provisions on ISDS in TTIP. They are concerned that TTIP by passes national courts and national legal systems and allows foreign investors exceptional protections.

The European Greens are concerned that TTIP rules, designed to advantage large multinational corporations may undermine public procurement and increase pressure for privatisation of public services such as the water supply.

So yes, Local Councils should be afraid of this nebulous international agreement being negotiated between the European Union and the United States which will enable multinational corporations to disregard hard won environmental, social and labour protections.

Friday, 5 September 2014

If Scotland votes for independence will all Scots living in the rump UK become immigrants?

A yes vote in the referendum could result in a series of unintended consequences in the remaining UK.

First, who is a Scottish citizen? The SNP’s Draft Interim Constitution awards Scottish citizenship automatically to everyone living in Scotland at the time of secession and to everyone born of Scottish parents even if they don’t live in the country, whilst automatically allowing dual citizenship. As an estimated 830,000 Scots live in the rump UK, this could lead to a large number of British citizens with dual allegiance. There are many reasons why dual citizenship for a substantial number of citizens with divided loyalties could be a problem.

Where does that leave MPs of Scots extraction who have seats in England, Wales and Northern Ireland? Does this invalidate them as MPs as they are no longer citizens of this country? Currently only UK, Irish or Commonwealth citizens can stand for election to the UK Parliament. Scotland is, understandably, not included in the list of eligible Common wealth countries.

Just imagine what an additional 800,000 immigrants will do to David Cameron’s aspiration to reduce immigration into this country. The figures for immigrants living in the UK will increase dramatically overnight. Will Cameron introduce visas for Scots in order to reduce the figures?