Ben Macpherson on Income Inequality and Scottish Independence

This is the script of a speech by Ben Macpherson which was delivered on Saturday 20 October 2012 to move the below resolution (number 24 in SNP 78th Annual National Conference Agenda).

In Scotland today, as part of the United Kingdom. In our society as it is. Our country is a deeply unjust place. Inequality in Britain comes in several forms – a beggar in the street, a pensioner in fuel poverty, a child hungry on their way to school.

Some people have opportunities that are denied to others; some have wealth and assets several times more than the majority; but for me, the most damaging and significant forms of inequality are the differences between pay-packets, the relativity of salaries, the wage differentials between and within organisations.

For, while social injustice is about much more than just money, it is income inequality that grants or precludes wealth and influence – it’s income inequality that creates and sustains, or denies and cuts off, opportunities. And from ill health to lower productivity, from fuelling crime to putting strains on our public services, the scale of the gap between the highest paid and the lowest paid in this country is holding our nation back.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in rewards for talent, commitment, ideas and endeavour.

Some skills and products are undeniably more valuable than others – but the worth of all of our contributions are as undeniably bound up together and for this reason we must aspire to build an independent Scotland where we’re all better off. Together.

In 2014, when Scotland grasps the possibilities of self-determination, we will still be constrained by the power of global capital and we will have to be competitive in a world that can be ruthless and unkind.

But what will be different is that with independence we’ll have an unprecedented chance to circulate and distribute wealth in new and more effective ways – the chance to create more jobs – to balance our economy – to value happiness as well as GDP – to make, produce, service, discover and supply more of what the world wants and needs.

We’ll have the chance to nurture and protect our welfare state – to change employment law and enter into working time agreements – to reconsider how companies are structured and regulated – to raise the minimum wage, if it’s sensible to do so – all of this and more will be possible if we vote yes in 2014.

And most significantly, independence will give us the chance to design and implement a taxation system that is both simpler and more progressive.

Not a system that divides the so called poor from the so called rich, or the so called middle-class from everyone else – not a system that favours either the private or the public sector as more worthy than the other – but instead a system that works in our shared interests, that is rooted in the common good.

With independence we can set out on a new path – we can begin a new journey.

And this matters, because we also need a shift in consciousness for real social change to happen.

We must have a dream as well as a plan.

Because when a manager takes on a school leaver or graduate at the expense of their bonus, that’s a genuine investment; when a company pays its staff a living wage, that changes all our lives for the better; when a millionaire is proud to pay their taxes, that’s an inspiring role model.

At this time so many people have lost their jobs – when the fear of redundancy hangs over too many households; when ever rising prices are putting pressure on more and more family budgets – at this time we must imagine and then realise a different Scotland where we remember that sharing the rewards rewards us all; that success is succeeding together; and that the most valuable incentives are always based on progress as much as profit.

The spirit of a man’s a man, the visible hand of collaboration – of cooperation – of encouragement. The handshake… The pat on the back… The lift up when another’s down… That is the Scotland we believe in.

Solidarity does not stop at a border, but social justice does start with courage, with a people brave enough to make a stand and lead by example.

It is often said that in 2014 we will have a chance to make history, and this is true – but, for me, more than that, it is a chance to make a tremendous difference. And we mustn’t waste it.

Income Inequality Resolution (number 24 in SNP 78th Annual National Conference Agenda)

Conference recognises that the United Kingdom has the 7th greatest level of income inequality in the OECD; further acknowledges that, during 2011, executive pay in the United Kingdom increased by 49% while average pay increased by only 3%, meaning that executives are now paid 145 times the average pay of their employees; and also acknowledges with disappointment that 19% of working-age adults in Scotland live in low-income households.

Conference condemns this level of income inequality as unfair and inefficient and believes that a successful and just society is one where wealth and income are distributed and circulated more equitably; and maintains that the most effective ways to address income and wealth inequality are increased wages for low-paid workers, executive and high pay-restraint, job-creation, and progressive taxation.

Conference supports the Scottish Government in its efforts to address income inequality with the limited powers it has, but believes that independence offers the best opportunity to create a more equal society which reflects Scotland’s egalitarian traditions across social and economic policy.

(Written by Ben Macpherson and edited by Cllr Richard Laird – submitted in the names of Cllr Richard Laird and Mark McDonald MSP)

The statistics mentioned in the resolution come from one of these sources:

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