Think about Scotland in 2050. What sort of a country do you want it to be by then? Prepare to share that vision.
We’re not interested in the ‘now’ or in the vested interests and mantras of either Better Together or Yes Scotland [in alphabetical order].
We want your thoughts, your ideas, your aspirations?
Don’t worry about the ‘hows’, about what would have to happen to get to the country you’d like Scotland to be in 2050. There’s plenty of time between now and then for the best ideas for Scotland as a nation to be shoehorned into existence, whether the country is independent or part of a federation.
The three core members of the For Argyll team, Charles Dixon-Spain [on community empowerment], John Patrick [on the environment] and Lynda Henderson [on education and infrastructure] are starting this off below, with snapshots of the Scotland they would like to see in 2050.
After we’ve seen the range of comments you contribute to this launch piece – we’ll pick a specific topic, name it, frame it and open it for discussion on Monday 23rd September.
When we feel that it has run its length in your contributions, we’ll identify the next topic.
These discussions will have their own special place on this site so it will be possible to review and add to them as things roll on.
In March 2014, we’ll wrap it all up and start working on topic summaries, one by one – publishing them as they are ready.
This is not a Political excursion, it’s a collective aspirational adventure.
Let’s go. 2050 it is.
Charles Dixon-Spain on community empowerment
In 2050 Scotland is a country of enabled, empowered communities dealing with the challenges and opportunities that being a more independent state brings. Centralised decision-making has been overtaken by a more distributed, democratic process that began after devolution in 1999.
During the last years of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first isolated rural communities began to see that ownership of their own assets was a really positive way to take control of their future.
Often during those years decisions taken in Edinburgh or London imposed change on those communities, reducing services, making life difficult, causing depopulation.
Organisations like Development Trusts, Community Interest Companies and Cooperatives began to be formed around the idea that decisions taken and assets owned locally were enabling, empowering and ultimately a way of reversing the decline of the communities they served.
The Land Reform Act provided a basis for this, whereas in the rest of the Union community organisations had no way of creating similar asset-acquiring opportunities, those in rural Scotland at least could start to define and take charge of their future.
In the revisions of the act that followed over the next twenty years, Scottish communities, both rural and urban gained compulsory rights of purchase over community assets like pubs, village shops, post offices and publicly-owned forests.
These rights of purchase were enabled through innovative land funds set up by those very same communities, who having benefited from renewables, particularly wind, hydro and biomass, decided that, once their wish list of projects was complete, rather than keeping funds to themselves they would enable those around them by making strategic investment.
This entrepreneurial farsightedness combined with the Land Reform the Scottish Government continued to pursue, meant that by 2030 all communities owned or leased at least one asset, and often more.
This model finally began to made inroads into the inequities of land ownership that had characterised much of the nineteenth and twentieth century Scotland, meaning that the value that land use in Scotland created, year-on-year, through forestry, farming and amenity both benefited Scottish-based enterprises, be they commercial or social enterprise, and also the Scottish taxpayer by keeping the profits within the country.
And because communities all across Scotland were becoming asset owners, were having to develop the internal capacity to deal with that ownership, were starting to see a measure of success in innovative entrepreneurial ways, they came to demand a greater level of input into the way their services and facilities were run.
There was a greater engagement in Community Councils, in Local Councils and in National Government because these institutions started to see communities as contributing partners in an ongoing national reinvigoration. More decision-making powers were devolved. Council services were more and more tendered to community organisations. Taxes raised in the community began to be spent in the community.
Now, instead of pouring resources into communities to tackle the symptoms of dysfunction, the government spent money to enable the communities to find their own solutions. They identified communities who weren’t prospering and offered options for self-help. By 2050 there were still pockets of deprivation, but unlike forty years earlier these were the exception rather than common.
Communities began to see that by becoming successful they attracted more people to them, they began to make choices about housing, about what was sustainable, what skills they needed to be resilient, and they began to see that by making informed choices about these things, they became much more able to cope with change, particularly during times of global economic hardship and of climactic difficulty.
And interestingly, only 40 years after the first Land Reform Act in Scotland opened the doors to a Community’s Right to Buy, Westminster finally enacted similar legislation for England.
John Patrick on the environment
After the crippling fuel prices of 30 years ago which left our elderly dying of cold across Scotland, fuel poverty has been eliminated north of the border. The Scottish Government has wisely invested the proceeds of Scotland’s second oil and gas boom from deep sea drilling for future generations and its GDP now exceeds that of Norway.
Scotland is the only country on the planet to exceed its target of an 80% decrease in pollution set 37 years ago.
Renewables are being replaced quickly with small scale modular fusion reactors and there are several ‘Save Our Farm’ groups throughout Scotland, protesting to save their local wind farms in fear that the push to fusion will lead to substantial job losses in our hydrogen fuel industry.
Scotland is headlining in papers across the world as the first country to ban all petrol and diesel cars from our roads. California was the first state in the USA to ban the petrol and diesel car but Scotland is the first sovereign state.
The hydrogen car has been the main stay in Scotland for many years due to our proliferation of wind and tidal resources which was cleverly used to manufacture the hydrogen for fuel. Scotland is also the largest exporter of liquid hydrogen to Europe which overtook petrol sales a decade ago and about to surpass diesel sales shortly.
Owners of classic cars will soon be the only purchasers of fossil fuels in Scotland.
Money can solve problems when used wisely and the Scottish Governments of the last thirty years have proved it by continually investing in modern apprenticeships, colleges and university programs. They doggedly insist that education will remain free and open to all Scots regardless of their ability to pay unlike the bulk of our neighbours in Europe.
Our educational model has become the envy of the modern world, much like the old UK NHS service was in the 1990‘s before the Westminster bureaucracy of the noughties and teens killed it.
Unemployment is no longer a headline item in Scotland, measured as a few percentile of the population and we remain a significant net importer of labour and financially important to many of our European neighbours.
Scotland in reality didn’t even notice the change from global super power to peace keeper, thirty years ago. Our own blue helmet regiments have served in many campaigns all over the world this last last thirty years and are known to be the best equipped and trained regiments at the UN’s disposal.
Fishing stocks are on the return, since Scotland’s ability post independence thirty years ago to fight for realistic quotas and fish management in Europe. Scotland was also instrumental in stopping the the dumping of tons of dead fish back into the sea due to an inefficient bureaucracy system that stopped boats landing their catch.
Lynda Henderson on education and infrastructure
2050… Three decades ago, Scotland finally recognised that education wasn’t working and rebalanced the whole thing.
We radically scaled down state funding of University education, refocused and upgraded it. We have a much smaller but highly specialised university sector now. We saved a very substantial annual amount from the tuition fees the state no longer has to pay, from salaries and property maintenance.
We put all of the resources we saved from this into a primary and secondary education that is so well found, so skilled, so supportive and so challenging that it is producing young people whose ability and confident independence are the envy of the world. Our students leave school able, ready and urgent to work.
School teaching is a profession at all levels for the brightest and the best, for the natural communicators and the most dedicated and authoritative. Class sizes are very small. Learning is demanding and strategic. Children are well supported and challenged in their learning. There is a drive to be the best and every child is supported to perform at the highest possible level in the areas where their strongest abilities lie.
Very high levels of literacy, numeracy, science, managing information and evidence, developing physical and technical skills have made Scotland’s schools the pacesetter it is today for other nations. Our young people are in universal demand.
The state now pays handsomely for the very best students to study for degrees and to do research - but only in the subjects the nation needs for high level expertise to drive its economic development. That includes our teachers. Our graduates and post graduates drive innovation, grow a highly specialist knowledge economy, attract entrepreneurship and venture capital.
Our universities are free to run courses in any other subjects they wish – where there is a market to pay the full economic price and where that market can see a real likelihood of career enhancement or personal development as a result.
Most of the students on these self-funded courses are ‘mature’, with some years of employment already behind them. They have savings to pay for study they know will develop their career or enrich their understanding. They have a lot to bring to the table and to each other from the experience. they have already.
Scotland’s population is now around 20% larger than it was 40 years ago. The country has been steadily filling up with incoming families, many of whom are returnees, all anxious to ensure their young and teenage children benefit from so enviable a start in life.
This growing working population, fuelled by ambition and responsibility, has driven an economic revolution, creating a skilled workforce new companies have been quick to recruit.
They pay an economic wage, with Scotland having long nailed its colours to the mast of quality, with strong financial management but no corner-cutting. It’s a long time since anyone has heard the words ‘It’ll do’.
People moving into Scotland to retire or as retirees already, pay double the normal rate of council tax. Those who have worked in Scotland for at least fifteen years pay the normal rate.
With superfast broadband universally available, Scotland has become a place where you can work anywhere, communicate and share complex information fast and flexibly – and travel around easily and quickly.
For decades now, Scotland has spent every penny of the tax revenues it realises from its oil, gas and renewable energy resources on its infrastructure – its transport systems and its housing. Our roads system has been developed and these assets are meticulously maintained.
For years now we have had RET on airfares as well as ferry fares. We have added small airports in Skye, Ullapool and Durness. We have a network of internal routes to add to the international flights available from our major cities. We treat internal air travel like a bus service. That – along with affordable fares, has proved a muscular answer to our topography.
Our strategic economic development policy identified the need to grow successful major towns in each area, as the economic engines for jobs, service and tourism in their hinterlands. New roads and bridges have made access to places like Oban/Kerrera, Gairloch, Ullapool and Durness quicker and easier.
About three decades ago we stopped treating our social housing like basic shelters for herded animals and started making them good to live in, with space for minds to grow and with some aesthetic pleasure. Our smaller clusters of these houses, on brownfield sites in urban areas, allow social support networks to flourish and are within easy distance of transport and core facilities. With meaningful social contracts in place, residents and the state together maintain these properties in good order.
With the rebalancing of the education system, seeing primary and secondary education never less than first class anywhere in Scotland, with ease of movement around the country, with first class connectivity and with the availability of decent affordable housing everywhere, incoming families are free to base themselves wherever best suits the opportunities they want for themselves and their children – in cities, rural areas or islands.
We pay for this through the strategic deployment of oil and gas revenues; of renewable energy licences [with the anachronistic Crown Estate binned decades ago]; of much greater tax revenues from a substantially larger working population and from a greatly enlarged business community; and of high council tax revenues from those moving here in retirement.
We also pay for it by the policies we adopted on welfare and health: dropping universal benefits altogether; building a culture where you expect to work and pay for what you want; developing the habit and ethic of work in our new approach to education; offering only medically essential services free in our hospitals; and looking after the truly needy fully, reliably, imaginatively and with genuine humanity.
Those we support through periods of unemployment work for the money.
With our earning up, our social costs down, a strongly rising working population, an efficient and well maintained infrastructure, the expectation of supporting ourselves and the drive to be the best, Scotland is well on its way to being a model nation to which others aspire.