20 Feb Scots go hungry to maintain London’s global status
Scotland is suffering economically because of an overwhelming bias towards the Union’s largest and capital city – London, according to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who said the preferential treatment was “emasculating” the entire UK economy.
The development comes as it emerges that Scotland will suffer disproportionately from the EU deal struck by David Cameron.
Calculations show that the UK allocation of EU structural funds could be cut by more than 30 percent in Scotland – compared to around 6 percent UK-wide. The deal will see the most densely populated parts of the UK – such as London – least exposed to the cuts.
Across Scotland, questions of equality, fairness and London-centrism are being increasingly raised owing to the referendum debate as it has emerged that Scotland’s poorer areas view independence as a vehicle for escaping the UK’s economic decline.
Commenting on the UK’s food poverty crisis Jamie Hepburn MSP, deputy convener of the Scottish parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee, said:
“As Westminster’s welfare cuts kick in over the coming weeks and months, more and more families will be faced with the stark choice between heating or eating.
“No family should be faced with such a harsh choice in resource-rich, energy rich, 21st century Scotland – in terms of GDP per head, an independent Scotland would be the sixth-richest country in the OECD.”
UK austerity or successful independence?
Pro-independence campaigners argue that Scotland should take control of its own economic destiny in order to avoid the UK’s debt overhang and the resultant austerity programme which is throwing more and more Scots into poverty and tightening family budgets as jobs are shed and inflation rises.
This week the Fiscal Commission report confirmed that “Scotland is a wealthy and productive country and has the capacity and potential to be a successful independent nation with a robust financial model from day one of independence.”
The Fiscal Commission has joined the Electoral Commission in calling for talks between London and Edinburgh governments over the process which would follow a Yes vote in next year’s referendum.
However, with Westminster refusing to enter into such talks the consequence is that business is finding the process confusing raising fears that economic instability will ensue. Critics argue that the less information available the more business will find the situation unstable and so business will be less likely to support a Yes vote.
Meanwhile, anti-independence supporters argue – in spite of the UK’s soaring debt – that the Union provides a good deal and crucial security for all nations and regions involved.
According to recent polls, Yes and No voters vary by social class. An Ipsos MORI poll conducted in early February revealed that support for independence was highest among those living in Scotland’s most deprived areas (43%), whilst those from “affluent areas” (65%) are most likely to vote to remain in Britain PLC.
London draining the economy
Mr Clegg’s latest intervention will further refocus the independence debate away from whether an independent Scotland is economically desirable to whether the Union remains economically viable.
He said: “London will always be at the heart of the UK’s economy, and the envy of the world: open, global, dynamic, diverse, unmatched in its talent and expertise. But we have other strengths too: in other industries, in other places. And there can and must be more than one jewel in our crown.”
He cited an on-going strife drive to maintain London’s status as a global financial centre as destructive and asked the City to assist the rest of the country in maintaining the British economy, telling financiers:
“you do have a choice now. And you can choose to make this city a force for regional growth, reaching out to the rest of the country.
“You can finance the diverse and dynamic private sector that will support your companies long into the future…You can help turn us into an island of exporters”.
However, Mr Clegg’s synopsis appears not to factor in recent events which means London is set to lose its status as a global financial capital. Rival business hubs in New York, Singapore and Hong Kong continue to challenge for leadership, whilst the latter is set to push the UK capital into third place by as early as 2015.
The Liberal Democrat leader referenced the once thriving industries in the North, which were far closer to London in their contributions to the British economy in the past.
Mr Clegg went on to say that several other countries such as Germany, the US and India do not simply rely on their capitals to survive.
UK food poverty crisis
News that food poverty in the UK may be falling below UN standards following severe welfare cuts may force the country to plan new survival methods.
The UK government signed a 1966 UN Convention outlining the minimum standards of access to food, clothing and housing.
Jamie Burton, chairman of Just Fair, the charity leading a group of around 70 charities said that the group could seek a formal UN investigation.
He said: “The rapid spread of UK food poverty shows that we are living in desperate times. Children are going to bed hungry and families are facing the distress and humiliation of needing emergency food parcels, some having had to walk for miles [to get them]. We believe this is wrong.”
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