Social exclusion and constitutional change

The Scotland Institute has published its first report ‘Social Exclusion in Scotland’. Founded in June 2012, the Institute’s mission is to build an economy which is sustainable and competitive, a society where wealth is fairly distributed, and a politics which tackles social exclusion and deprivation as a matter of course.

The report recognises the efforts made since devolution to tackle social exclusion, but concludes that there are four main gaps: services to low income households; low wages; education and health outcomes; and support for workless families.

The report also questions (like the Red Paper) how independence linked to Sterling will address social exclusion: “If Scotland remains tied to UK-wide economic policy, and if that continues to set primarily to meet the needs of the City of London, then the best that can be achieved is a set of policies that will mitigate the worst effects. If, as currently suggested, independence means retaining sterling, then that independence will preclude the ability to create a genuinely different economic model.”

This report is a significant constribution to our understanding of poverty in Scotland and the limitations of the current constitutional settlement in tackling the deep seated causes.

Trade union approach to constitutional change

In recent weeks there have been two substantial trade union contributions to the constitutional debate.

The first comes from the STUC who have published ‘A Just Scotland’, an interim report of their Scotland wide consultations with members and community groups. General Secretary Grahame Smith described their approach:

A Just Scotland lays out challenges for both sides of the debate. In particular it criticises the use of misleading figures in the debate over Scotland’s fiscal position. The report identifies deep problems with the economic and fiscal model imagined by the leading voices in the YES Campaign. However it also calls on the Better Together parties to outline a practical vision of how social and economic justice can achieved within the union and to calls for detailed attention to be paid to proposals for enhanced devolution.”

The other comes from UNISON Scotland in their ‘For a Fairer Scotland’ paper that sets out the sort of Scotland UNISON members want to see. “For A Fairer Scotland” does not advocate support for either the “Yes” campaign or “Better Together”.  Instead it challenges those campaigns and others to show how their plans can match UNISON’s vision. It states:

“UNISON’s approach to constitutional questions is one that is driven by the interests of our members, by the sort of Scotland we want to, and deserve to, live in.  This means that for us precise constitutional arrangements are the end, not the starting point of the debate. We must first define the sort of Scotland we wish to see and then try and examine the likelihood of differing constitutional arrangements on offer to deliver on that vision.”