Scottish independence: Common Weal book launched

Shop stewards convener Jimmy Reid addresses a mass meeting of the Upper Clyde Shipyards workforce at Clydebank, July 1971. Picture: TSPL
Shop stewards convener Jimmy Reid addresses a mass meeting of the Upper Clyde Shipyards workforce at Clydebank, July 1971. Picture: TSPL
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A VISION of a high-wage, productive Scotland energised by small and medium-sized businesses has been outlined by a foundation established in memory of trade unionist Jimmy Reid.

The transformation of the Scottish economy into one with a highly-skilled workforce which concentrates on manufacturing and exports is the key to tackling inequality, the Jimmy Reid Foundation claims.

Today, the foundation launches its Common Weal project, an ambitious attempt to examine how Scotland can establish a more equal society with better public services.

Taking inspiration from the Nordic countries and the old Scots term “Common Weal”, which means wealth shared in common, the project has commissioned academics and writers to explore policies.

The foundation was set up to examine radical, left-wing thinking and to bring together people from the SNP, Labour and Greens to counter-balance what it describes as the “well-funded conservative and neo-liberal agendas being pushed in Scotland by big business”.

The Common Weal’s work aims to be relevant whatever the outcome of the referendum and has worked to bridge the constitutional divide.

“At its heart the Common Weal is a proposal for an economic transition from a low-wage unproductive economy to a high-wage productive one,” a statement from the foundation said.

“This involves a major rebalancing of the economy towards many more small and medium-sized enterprises involved in high-skill manufacturing and exporting and a programme of action designed to increase wages and greatly reduce inequality.

“This must be accompanied by a major programme of investment to overcome the universally poor rates of investment currency being made across the UK. The result will be strong public finances which come from a high-pay population which enables investment in an excellent welfare state and good infrastructure.”

It added: “As this is achieved, a much greater focus will be put on how to design a society which improves the lives of its people rather than maximises profit for corporations.”

The launch will see the publication of 50 policy papers in the form of a book, designed to create a “new politics”.

The foundation was set up by the Scottish Left Review periodical’s editorial board in memory of Reid, who famously led the shipbuilders’ work-in on the Upper Clyde.

A charismatic and eloquent leader, Reid rose to prominence in the early 1970s when the work-in was called in response to the Conservative government of Edward Heath’s plan to close down the shipyards on the Clyde, which would have cost 6,000 jobs. 

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “As the Common Weal publication makes clear, Scotland is ready for change, and independence is the only way to secure a better future for the people of Scotland.

“Our vision is of a Scotland founded on the fundamental principles of equality and human rights and characterised by economic success and social justice, giving people control over the decisions which affect them. She added: “With the full set of economic and fiscal levers, independence would unlock Scotland’s full potential as a vibrant and dynamic economy and a fairer society. We welcome the contributions that Common Weal and other independent organisations are making to the dynamic and positive debate that is encouraging people in Scotland to consider a better future.”