Mike Vickers' Blog

November 29, 2013

There may yet be a 3rd way for Scotland

Filed under: Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:26 pm

Following hard on the heels of the Scottish Government’s ‘White Paper’ on Scotland’s future there have been a number of articles advocating yet again that the Independence decision shouldn’t happen.  There ought to be a 3rd way with more devolution – Devo-Max.

(Unfortunately the Scotland Act of 2012 although passed by both the Westminster and Scottish parliaments has found no favour in either house; yet does give more power to the Scottish Government will come into operation in 2016 if there is a No vote in the Referendum.)

First from Simon Jenkins

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/26/stop-lecturing-scots-freedom-not-wealth

In the tail piece he states

Modern Edinburgh already feels more like Dublin than London. The coalition must seriously consider offering a new Anglo-Scottish deal, somewhere between independence and the present devolution’

Second from Brain Wilson; I first came across Brian as the terror editor of the West Highland Free Press.  He has mellowed somewhat since those days (may be as result of a stint in the Blair Labour government as Energy Minister)  In

http://www.scotsman.com/news/brian-wilson-no-substance-in-snp-white-paper-1-3209731

Brian berates what the current SNP Government could have done for child welfare already but features that  they will do it following Independence

‘Apparently short of women’s votes, the Nationalists have made promises about what would happen to childcare by 2024. Big deal, one might say. The obvious point is that nothing of significance has happened since 2008 when they gained control of the Scottish Parliament. Certainly nothing as radical as the childcare and pre-school revolution which benefited the whole of the UK in 1997.

As always, the Nationalists prefer to talk about what they would do if only they had independence. Like everyone else, they should be judged not by what they say they would do, but by what they have actually done. If they believe in childcare or anything else as a social priority, the time for evidence is not 2024 but 2014.

We are, after all, talking about Scotland’s children – not pawns in the Nationalist game’

But then Brian does not support Independence but could well support a 3rd way!

Yesterday Bill Jamieson, Editor of the Scotsman, in his article

http://www.scotsman.com/news/bill-jamieson-white-paper-fails-examination-1-3211174

‘It was Cameron’s insistence on a straight independence Yes/No that has not only ensured a more polarised debate, but also denied Scots the opportunity of voting for an option that was clearly the preference of many. This has allowed the SNP to argue that only a Yes vote will secure any change in Scotland’s governance arrangements. How ironic that a Yes vote for independence next September would be likely to result after all negotiations, concessions and compromises on a solution not far removed from devo max. Unfortunately, the route which we have been compelled to take has made this entire process far more divisive and antagonistic than it need have been. And that stems directly from the insistence of the Westminster Prime Minister not to allow Scots a full choice’

brings up the point that the Scotland’s Future as stated in the ‘White Paper’ will, following a Yes vote and Independence will look very little different from Devo-Max, the 3rd way that Cameron would not consider.

Finally only today just three days after the publication of the ‘White Paper’ Joyce McMillan, one of the consistently relevant columnists of the Scotsman

http://www.scotsman.com/news/joyce-mcmillan-independence-waiting-to-be-created-1-3213196

hammers the point home:

At a deeper level, though, we are now facing the profound consequences of the fact that this is not the referendum most Scottish voters would have wanted, if anyone had cared to consult them.

We have been landed with next year’s straight Yes-No vote on independence through the mere mechanics of party politics – that is, by the unexpected scale of the SNP’s victory in the 2011 Scottish election, combined with the subsequent refusal of the Unionist parties to table a third referendum option, in the form of a new “devolution max” scheme.

The contrast with the 1997 referendum, which sought approval of a home rule scheme drawn up over a decade by a wide range of grassroots civic organisations in Scotland, could hardly be greater; and it’s therefore not surprising if large sections of the Scottish public talk as if this referendum has been dropped on them from a great height, by forces far beyond their control.’

May be we can just hope that at even at this 11th  hour both sides will see that a straight Yes No is to neither the Westminster or the Scottish SNP Government’s advantage.

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November 27, 2013

“The evolving Scottish Labour market; how the College sector fits in”

Filed under: DHI SPIF, Education, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 10:44 am

On this auspicious day, 26 November 13, when the Scottish Government issued its White Paper on Scottish Independence  I cast my mind back only as far as the evening before to the David Hume Institute’s  seminar and Professor Keep’s realistic assessment of the evolving Scottish Labour market.  There is little he said that gave me any assurance that the situation would be any different whatever the Independence decision.  As I picked up, not only is the demand for jobs low and what there are for low skills, but that the demand for such jobs that there are, are over-subscribed.  One consequence is that there is little incentive for business managers to provide their low level low paid employees to any training.

He quoted statistics that 18% of Scottish employees are paid less than the ‘living wage’; just 2% better than for the UK as a whole.  Even managers in the catering business are paid no more than 25p – 50p above the national wage.  Somewhat surprisingly he stated that those on the lowest pay are complexed and uncertain of their future and subject to high risk. But then it’s a situation, which fortunately, I have never had to experience.  Despite this Professor Keep stated that  UK workforce is the 2nd highest qualified workforce in (Europe).

Both Professor Keep and Mandy Exley, Principal of Edinburgh College, the other speaker,  did agree that there could be hope in putting employees, managers and trainers together to see if there could be some synergy in creating training programmes that not only give job satisfaction to employees but increase productivity leading to more profitability.  In this respect they considered the Wood Committee report gives hope:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Education/edandtrainingforyoungple/commissiondevelopingscotlandsyoungworkforce.

Ms Exley quotes the very encouraging statistics that for the Edinburgh College 30% of the students come from the lowest paid 20% of the population.  She was particularly pleased with the College’s courses in engineering tied to the oil and gas and the renewables businesses  and would like to expand  the College’s experience to tackle the care, tourist and hospitality businesses, although she recognised that these are more ‘horizontal’ (which I take to be broad based) than engineering.

Nevertheless Professor Keep came back to the point that, despite the desire to increase job skills at the bottom end of the job market, there will always be the lowly jobs that have to be done by someone.

November 18, 2013

Supply-side position in the UK – a seminar by Nick Crafts – 14 November 2013 at the DHI

Filed under: Business Development, DHI SPIF, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 7:34 pm

‘What kind of Supply-side policy for the UK and What implications for Scotland ‘

Nick Crafts is Professor of economics and economic history at Warwick University and appears to have advised many organisations across the world.

His lecture was interesting and much of his slides can be found at the following website

http://www.res.org.uk/SpringboardWebApp/userfiles/res/file/res_policy_slides.pdf

No doubt they will appear on the DHI website in due course.

Crafts covered a lot of ground and the points that got to me were:

  1. Industrial growth can be either sector based or horizontally oriented.  The UK has been best recently at horizontal and Crafts picks on Pharma, ICT application and finance as success stories
  2. Growth particularly in ICT has been by best application of other peoples innovations (mainly I suspect US).  In this respect Germany has not been nearly as good.
  3. What drove the 1900th century was Steam – ICT is driving the 21st.
  4. UK investment in Rand D is the worst in the western world. We are relying on Diffusion.
  5. Likewise development in Human Capital has been pretty low.  Crafts certainly gave the impression that education should be skills based.
  6. Inequality is growing; but exclude the 1% very rich – their wealth comes from the globalised capital markets not individual counties.
  7. The bigger the city the higher the output.  But this leads to urban difficulties and welfare loss.
  8. The UK has been bad in investment in infrastructure – roads are a prime example.
  9. Public capital should complement private capital.  Banks need to be the source of private capital.  He featured Germany.
  10. Private capital is short term but Government is worse.  Long term investment is needed on the supply side.
  11. Incremental steady investment.
  12. Productivity is difficulty to measure – not like in the past, coal dug per person in the pit.
  13. Regulation can encourage but can impede – regulation of land in England
  14. Don’t look back to 1970s; Save the High Street is doomed.  HS2 is vanity – remember Concorde.
  15. Tax revenue should come from general taxation on consumption rather than from industry.
  16. The UK is good at the service industry; even Rolls Royce was more value coming from the supply side than from the engineering.
  17. As to Scotland – Scotland should focus on the horizontal industries.
  18. Scotland is higher than the UK as a whole in service industries.
  19. The Celtic Tiger got it right before the crash with its low corporate taxation.
  20. Edinburgh is the 4th most prosperous city in the UK.
  21. Regulation can be a stimulus to innovation.
  22. Don’t yearn for the 1970s.

I found this all good stuff but I feel that Crafts time may well be fading as he considers the 1970s have faded.
Western civilisation is realising that continual growth may no longer be achievable and should not necessarily be the target for a future Scotland.

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