Welcome to my Blog

I am a semi-retired former Scottish trade union policy wonk, now working on a range of projects. This includes the Director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation. All views are my own, not any of the organisations I work with. You can also follow me on Twitter. Or on Threads @davewatson1683. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Monday 1 September 2014

Re-inventing our economy

We can re-invent our economy so that it works for people and the planet.

That’s the theme of a major conference organised by civil society organisations, including UNISON and the STUC, across Scotland in Glasgow next week. The conference brings together some of the leading experts from across the UK on alternative economic approaches. The aim is explore these alternatives and chart a way forward that offers a radical, sustainable, alternative economic pathway.

There is a widespread view, not just in Scotland, which argues that our current economic system isn’t working. We have growing inequality, high levels of in work poverty and stubbornly high unemployment. Even the new jobs being created are likely to be part-time and insecure with the growth of bogus self-employment and zero-hours contracts. The conventional economic development solutions simply aren’t working and are also driving climate change and resource depletion. The bankers and financiers have learned nothing from the crash they caused and are leading us into future financial chaos.

The conference will pose key questions such as how do we generate investment into rewarding jobs while at the same time, cutting polluting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing poverty? How can we extend public democratic controls over our economy and the financial sector so that it serves our ends?

If all of this sounds like leftie ranting on the fringe, take a look at who is now talking about inequality - and I don’t just mean the Pope!

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England noted in a recent speech that all the research suggests that "relative equality is good for growth”. He also said: “All ideologies are prone to extremes. Capitalism loses its sense of moderation when the belief in the power of the market enters the realm of faith. In the decades prior to the crisis, such radicalism came to dominate economic ideas and became a pattern of social behaviour.”

Carney also lauded an inclusive social contract and recognised that tackling climate change actually offers great scope for technological progress and economic growth: "Environmental degradation remains unaddressed, a tragic embarrassment now seldom mentioned in either polite society or at the G20."

The authors of a new booklet ‘Trade Unions and Economic Inequality’ point out that the decade in which the equality gap in Britain was at its narrowest was the decade in which trade union penetration was at its greatest, with more than 80 per cent of British workers covered by a collective agreement. They provide an excoriating critique of inequality and its consequences. But unlike others, the authors provide a blueprint for how to tackle it.

Solutions are also what we hope next week’s conference will offer. So why not come along to the debate and the conference. Both events are free, thanks to generous support from the Carnegie Trust and others. There is an impressive range of speakers and opportunities to contribute your own ideas. There is a better way!

There is a public debate on the evening before the conference on Wednesday 10 September at the University of Glasgow Union starting at 7:30pm. The conference is in the Kelvin Gallery at the university on the 11 September. Registration details at the conference website.

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