NATIONHOOD: The For Argyll Referendum Project

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.

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29 Responses to NATIONHOOD: The For Argyll Referendum Project

  1. nice dream – the only way any of this could work is to abolish politicians from attempting to run the country

    dateline 2050 – Scotland first country to ban politicians

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

    • Like that. Actually, that was one of the major reasons for creating a project like this – take it out of the political sphere and really start looking at what things as a nation we might aspire to.

      And @short and sweet – it’s only a fairy tale if you approach the future without intent. You’d have to also admit that fairy tales are a great way into the psyche of a group of people.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  2. In 2050:

    We are only buying what we need, not what we want.

    There is no stigma against those with mental ill health. People with mental health problems can self-refer for services when they feel they need help, not when the gate-keepers to services recognise they are so ill they should have it.

    We truly value our environment.

    All subsidies that put money in the pockets of the rich whilst taking it out of the pockets of the poor are stopped.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 6

    • Why are there thumbs down?
      Can any of those who disagree with this post please explain why they find it so distasteful?
      Good moral and ethical wishes for our society and how well live post 2050 there Lowry, important ones.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  3. What has changed in the last 37 years ? – Any change will surely maintain the same rate for the next 37 years – why should the rate of change increase/decrease

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  4. why should the rate of change increase/decrease

    Because that is what it does. Social change is now driven primarily by technology, and the pace of technological change will continue to accelerate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  5. I’d like to add to Lynda Henderson’s thoughts on the roads infrastructure:
    ‘The regulations permitting Scottish Water customarily to use adopted roads as routes for underground pipelines was abolished in 2013 just as they were about to excavate and disrupt the A83 south of Inveraray – the new requirement for the water company to be liable for the full costs of delay to road users and reconstruction and resurfacing of the carriageway rendered the economics of digging up roads outside built-up areas much less attractive, thereby removing one cause of travel disruption’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

    • Why all the thumbs down? – Scottish Water are claiming that they’ve got to dig up the A83 because the surrounding land’s ‘too hilly’ – and if that doesn’t symbolise how some sectors of this country’s economy are basically unfit for purpose nothing does.
      Anyone would think it’s impossible to build a pipeline unless there’s a nice smooth road to bury it under.
      Or are some folk in denial – anything with ‘Scottish’ in the name is above criticism?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

      • Though even when they do the work at the side of the road, they will still close one lane (i.e. half the road in most cases in the Highlands) because of Health and Safety.

        My personal gripe with roadworks is when they are allowed to use a long section of the road as a car park for the people working at the scene and so increase substantially the length of the lane closure.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  6. In no particular order:

    - Politicians would be paid the average salary of the people of Scotland.
    - Manifesto’s will be enforceable – if by the end of the parties term they had not delivered, they would be answerable to the law. The punishment would be to bar anyone who could not justify non-delivery from politics for life.
    - Large political parties will be gone – they do nothing for our country. Smaller coalition parties will come into being.
    - Hard working people will be respected for being just that – hard working people who support the nation.
    - Use of technology will mean democracy might start to come into being. People will be asked to vote for what they want on local and national matters often and regularly..
    - Voting is compulsory – penalties will be reduction in tax allowance /benefits etc.
    - There will always be an option to tick ‘No-one fit to govern’ in an election.
    - Major infrastructure investment to remote parts of Scotland. It must be possible to reach Glasgow or Edinburgh from any part of Scotland in 2 hours for £50 return (in today’s money).
    - Religion should be banned from schools completely.
    - Nature must be given a priority higher and genuine priority.
    - Planning decisions are removed from local councillors and panels selected, much like a jury.

    That’s my starting list for now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  7. ‘- Manifesto’s will be enforceable – if by the end of the parties term they had not delivered, they would be answerable to the law. The punishment would be to bar anyone who could not justify non-delivery from politics for life.’

    Unfortunately not really practical and only effective against the party that gets power. What happens with coalitions because inevitably there will be deals done and manifesto items dropped.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

    • It may be easy to criticise someone else’s list but where’s yours?

      This is only an exercise for a fantasy world; most of us realise that none of this will happen – yet.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  8. Some random thoughts and in no particular order (and without giving much thought, at the moment to how we would achieve it):

    1. We would be a litter free country with a culture that is proud of our country and want it to look clean.
    2. We would have a social housing policy which is properly targeted at those who need it.
    3. Local councillors would be paid more (yes more, not less) thus meaning we attract a wider range of expertise and people of genuine calibre who can afford to do it as a full time job.
    4. We would have less local authorities meaning money can be redirected to service delivery.
    5. University education has recovered its status and there is less pressure for every child to think that not going to university is some sort of failure.
    6. We have vocational education at secondary school level to help provide an education system which provides career opportunities to children with a wider range of strengths and skills.
    7. We teach a second language compulsory in primary schools with a third language being an option in secondary school.
    8. Religious leaders have no more or less influence over public policy than any other member of society.
    9. Religion is still taught in schools but there are no single faith schools and the focus of religious education is to enhance understanding and tolerance of religion in general.
    10. There is genuine equality in the interpretation of family law about the importance of both parents to a child’s upbringing.
    11. The national lottery is state run and not for profit.
    12. We would be proud that despite periodic calls for it we have never entertained the idea of reintroducing the death penalty.
    13. We have a more progressive income tax system

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  9. Just one for the meantime.
    Councillors will only be able to stand for election once fully qualified having attended and passed to a minimum of Diploma level a course designed to equip each and every one with the skills and knowledge to fulfil their duties once elected.
    This may increase the chance of attracting career individuals from a wider age range those with intellect, and those with an actual interest in the position aiming to make this step their chosen profession just as teachers, doctors and lawyers do for example.
    Popularity and good intent is insufficient, can be too hit and miss with under qualified, wrong experienced types. This lucky bag structure has over the years been seen not to serve those who elected and their communities best.
    I too would have hoped this change would have had a much wider positive effect on politics not just locally but nationally.
    2050 is way too far away to allow the current situation to continue unrevised.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

    • I’d agree with increasing the salary for Councillors, but I’d also reduce the salary for MSPs. I’m fairly certain Sweden and other Scandinavian countries do not offer good salaries for politicians, which means you are not attracting people who just want a good salary.

      I’d bring councillors wages much closers to MSPs, but bring MSPs down. My local Independent works his socks off and I’d hedge a bet he does much more work that our MSPs for a fraction of the salary.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      • Not a bad idea. An MSP is on about £53k per year and there is about 130 of them so you are looking at just about £6.8m a year in salaries.

        Not sure how much scope there is to reduce that and for it to actually amount to enough to increase local councillors wages though as due to the number of them the actual increase would be marginal.
        However if we reduced the number of councils and number of councillors it would make the numbers stack up a bit better.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    • Lowry
      I’m not necessarily concerned about any deficiencies regarding literacy, this can be overcome without 3-4 years studying. My concerns are more a lack knowledge or understanding of the structure of councils, their procedures, a greater knowledge of and preparation for what is expected of them should they be successful at election time.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

        • Yes, so I heard Integrity, I believe the induction is brief, but is this adequate?
          A short induction on what is expected of them still does not separate the wheat from the chaff.
          I am unsure whether some of the elected councillors with particular backgrounds have the experience to adapt to the role or capacity to understand the politics, the processes, procedures and structures the position requires.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

          • Well it is the council’s responsibility to make it adequate. I also feel there is a joint responsibility on new councillors to seek further clarification where they feel it is required and also on more established ones to provide some guidance.

            Your point about capacity and experience is a fair one and something the electorate should consider when they are selecting who to vote for.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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