by Hazel Lewry
Reading a recent article by Gerry Hassan, where he asked how a nation can reconnect with a lost generation; the answer appeared obvious. It can’t. Reconnecting with the lost generation can’t be done when the “nation” under discussion is the state referred to as the United Kingdom.
The social chasm can’t be fixed by Holyrood because Holyrood is tied to Westminster, as Westminster is tied to Washington. The ties must be broken, and the easiest tie to sever for Scots is the Holyrood-Westminster connection.
But why is there is a lost generation? In his article Mr Hassan points to rising youth unemployment since 2004 leading us to the present debacle. But when the facts are examined, it is obvious that there is no lost generation. What we have now is a lost society.
The problem didn’t begin in 2004. It began in 1939, although no one realized it as there were slightly more immediate pressures that year. World War 2 brought an end to US isolationism and woke her up to the fact that there was a new market for her industrial goods.
Following WW2 there was a period of social upheaval from which many good public policy issues were brought kicking and screaming into UK public life. The welfare state and the NHS are two excellent examples of post-war policies.
The period also brought post-war austerity, as the UK had to make payments on its massive war debts. Rationing in the UK didn’t end until almost ten years after hostilities ceased, almost a decade after it ended in the USA.
After WW2 the UK was paying substantial funds to the US which its government and companies utilised to invest in Europe. The Marshall Plan was very good for US business and had a part in engineering the US post-war boom years.
Boom in the USA while rationing remained in the UK. Rationing officially ended on 4 July 1954.
Fifteen years after WW2 things were improving with a steady upswing in living standards. The 1960s also saw the first real incursions of foreign industry into the UK, primarily from the US in the form of corporations like IBM and Yale Locks.
Then in the early 1970s Nixon negotiated free trade deals with China, accessing that vast cheap labour market and spelling doom not only for US internal manufacturing, but much of UK manufacturing as well. American companies first trickled, and then flooded into China. Well paid manufacturing jobs in the UK and the US were rapidly lost to the Far East even as global production and demand increased.
If we require an example we need only look to television manufacturing, a device invented by a Scot, John Logie Baird. Domestic mass production of television sets ended in the UK in 2009. At about the same time the industry saw its demise in the USA. The industry’s workforces are gone together with its ability to train future productive generations.
No modern televisions are mass-made in either the UK or US. Both states are suffering a cataclysmic shortage of employment having pursued the same fundamental policies. TV manufacturing, like shipbuilding and others, are not industries that died, they migrated because government policy encouraged them to. Both the US and UK economies are now primarily service based.
These manufacturing industries are still vibrant in other countries, in large part because the UK preferred to encourage financial services over manufacturing.
The problem with financial services is that they are only enablers. They produce nothing and drain much from any economy. Financial services can only hold power when an individual or a nation is indebted, or prepares to become so. If a country is running a “sustainable” deficit it remains in thrall to the bankers, for the bankers and bondholders know it still requires more of their money. The nation needs them.
As a consequence of perpetually operating in the red, Westminster is compelled to have a revolving door to the City of London. It is this perpetual need that has created the fiscal elite. This situation is a direct consequence of the exportation of manufacturing jobs.
Red ink on the balance sheet was the reason Labour bailed out the banks and destroyed the concept of risk within the financial sector. For the time being, banking is an industry guaranteed not to fail. The cost of underwriting this guarantee is the high probability of societal penury.
This is where we find ourselves today, not with simply a “lost generation”, but a generation that has no apparent future, and where riots are the tip of a shimmering iceberg of discontent.
This combination of de-industrialisation and debt policy organisation has created our fiscal system, one that tells us that the banks are “too big to fail”. The consequences would be disastrous, we’re told. And yet previously society put in place laws, policies and procedures to prevent this happening, organisations such as the Monopolies Commission.
Subversion of these social protections by the likes of Gordon Brown brought us to our current position. In an attempt to make good on the debts encumbered upon us by Westminster, the entire UK is facing post WW2 austerity once again.
This austerity is yet again the result of a war, no less real, no less fraught with casualties, but for the most part without bullets. The conflict is between big capitalism and big society, and society is losing.
David Cameron’s actions are at cross purposes to his words, he is very much for big capitalism. Ed Miliband offers no real alternative.
Big society is one where we all pay in a little bit, we all share in the burdens of our fellows and we all have an opportunity to enjoy life to the best extent possible. It is a society where we care for our elderly and sick, our distressed and disabled, and it is a society where opportunity exists at all levels.
The proposals for pensions reform, welfare reform, retirement age increases, extra taxation and NHS privatisation are all designed to bleed resources from those who can least afford it. These policies are creating our lost society.
It began with de-industrialisation. Without the wealth that manufacturing generates, nothing else can be paid for.
In America, every winter they collect the frozen corpses from the underpasses and alleys where society’s detritus eke out a meagre existence. They’re often only a stone’s throw from the parties and bright lights of the wealthy celebrating the festive season. I have witnessed this, it is a lost society. I have witnessed the pensioner on oxygen working at Wal-Mart so she can afford her medication. This is a lost society. It is the society of big capital.
It is coming to a city near you.
England has no choice. Westminster has backed England into an untenable position. The future for England is bleak without a rapid and substantial re-industrialisation to create true wealth generation.
In Scotland we have a referendum coming up.
In this referendum the only sensible, the only intelligent, vote is a YES vote.
It has nothing to do with history. It has nothing to do with patriotism. It has nothing to do with political parties or affiliations.
It has everything to do with our culture, the preservation and ongoing resurrection of our society. It is the only way to the development of a future Scots nation in which our children will have far better opportunities to excel.
It has everything to do with the realisation that to preserve our society and way of life, we’re in a “war” that is as dire as any that Bruce or Wallace ever fought. The outcome will have a profound influence on Scotland’s future generations.
A YES vote has only one aim in the upcoming referendum, to prevent Scotland becoming yet another lost society, another England, America, Greece, Italy or Spain.
The one thing that makes a YES vote paramount in this referendum is a single SNP pledge, re-industrialisation.
Re-industrialisation, especially in a green economy, is a world class masterstroke from what will be a world leading nation with a society envied across the globe.
The green part of the re-industrialisation process can’t be exported elsewhere, except as a finished product. The technology and expertise united with proactive political leadership will be increasingly Scots based. University funding and research will likewise increase.
In the lottery of life we can make certain future generations of Scots hit the jackpot simply by the accident of their birth being here.
We can do this because Scotland already operates in the black. The ball is at our feet, not the bankers or the City. We will not blink as we put our nation on the path to prosperity. We will not hesitate to engage with all our generations.
Re-industrialisation is the only viable hope for our future, for our “lost generation” and for our soon to be lost society.
Re-industrialisation isn’t possible within the Union, Westminster’s fundamental fear of Scots confidence and her own loss of dominion ensure that.
Re-industrialisation and societal salvage are the reasons why there can only be a YES vote from any thinking Scot at the referendum.