All of the Nordic and Celtic countries continue to have higher living standards than the UK


by Prof. Mike Danson

Professor Danson is a respected economist at the University of the West of Scotland

You would be forgiven for believing that the UK was in a deep financial crisis of record levels of state debt; the media, political parties and commentators repeatedly tell us such.  The actual figures show that public sector debt is close to the lowest it has been for almost two centuries.  Yet deep cuts in the welfare state and in ordinary people’s standards of living are being pushed through because ‘there is no alternative’.  Well there is, and an independent Scotland should and would be following a different path.

But then we are fed other myths which, if repeated often enough, are also taken to be self-evident truths.  Here in particular I am thinking about the notion that joining an ‘Arc of Prosperity’ of northern Europe would be a disaster because, as we all know, they have been going through a torrid time with exposure to the bitter winds of recession, globalisation and falling living standards.  The truth is somewhat different.

According to the IMF, World Bank, CIA all of the Nordic and Celtic countries continue to have higher living standards than the UK, and Scotland is even below the UK average.  Each household would be better off by at least one-third if we had the economic performance of Sweden or Finland, and have far higher incomes if we were in Denmark never mind Norway.  And Iceland and Ireland, those two ‘basket cases’ according to the last Labour Government and other unionists, are still well ahead of Scotland.

Our Nordic neighbours are also the most equal societies on the planet, Scotland within the UK suffering some of the very worst levels of inequity and poverty in the developed world.  Women, young people and the old all fare much better in these small open economies.  Ireland, which follows the Anglo-Saxon economic and welfare model, resembles our levels of inequality.  In terms of happiness and quality of life, Forbes Magazine and the OECD have reported repeatedly that the Nordic countries, with their social welfare states and relative affluence, occupy four of the top five spots in the global ranks.  The UN Human Development Index shows the same relative order, with the UK and so Scotland lagging far behind.

In the comprehensive Legatum Prosperity Index, widely promoted by Lord Mandelson, again all the members of the Arc of Prosperity are well ahead of our position, even after the crisis had wrecked its worst on the economies of Iceland and Ireland.

And yet these happy, prosperous and inclusive nations are small independent states, surely they would be swept aside by banking crises?  Well not according to the IMF, New York Times and our own Iain Macwhirter who each have praised Norway and Sweden for showing how to address the failures of their own bankers and banks at no long term cost to their economies or people.  The EU reports that, among member states, Sweden, Denmark and Finland are all continuing to have surpluses in their public finances and levels of public debt far far below the UK and Ireland’s.

In summary: we should be aspiring to join this arc of prosperity, reversing a century and a half of relative decline, and adopting an economic, tax and welfare regime that taxes the rich and protects the poor: high tax Sweden, Denmark and Finland are well ahead of the UK and Scotland in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.  Only through independence can Scotland join that Arc and see poverty and inequality attacked, living standards and quality of life raised.{jcomments on}


Published with thanks to the Scottish Independence Convention.