Renew: Six policies that can refresh the Scottish Government’s domestic agenda

Ben Wray

A Scottish National Investment Bank to fund green re-industrialisation, transformation of housing and radical democratic reform among measures proposed for renewal of the Scottish Government’s agenda

COMMON WEAL has published a new paper proposing six policy ways to renew the Scottish Government’s domestic agenda through fresh and eye-catching policy transformation after 10 years in power at Holyrood.

‘Renew: Six policies that can refresh the Scottish Government’s domestic agenda’ can be read in full here.

The paper draws on published Common Weal papers over the past few years, and the six policy proposals are:

  1. Create a Scottish National Investment Bank and use it to finance an era of green reindustrialisation

A National Investment Bank owned by the public can fund housebuilding and new infrastructure like schools and hospitals, invest in businesses an support big projects. It can form the core of a strategy to reindustrialise Scotland beginning by boosting an innovative renewable energy sector.

  1. Build the homes and infrastructure that people need and rebuild the town centres they deserve

An investment bank can finance the building of a new generation of top quality housing, creating a genuinely mixed market of house owners, public and private rental options, cooperative and collective ownership and expanded opportunities for selfbuild. A Scottish National Infrastructure Company can work with the National Bank to build first rate public infrastructure. And all of this can be coordinated to reverse the decline in our town centres.

  1. Create a world-class childcare system

The childcare plans are exciting but are underfunded and so could be even more exciting. Scrapping the ill-judged Air Passenger Duty Cut would free up £600m. That extra money could build a universal, publicly-owned, first rate kindergarten system with highly trained staff working to a first-rate national child development curriculum based around play and discovery, taking place in first rate nurseries and with the option for ‘wrap-around’ care for parents.

  1. Take democracy seriously and give more power to citizens

People want more say in their lives, more control over their communities – but they feel power has moved away from them. A new generation of innovation in democracy means there are lots of exciting new approaches to engaging citizens in decision-making and giving them power. The Scottish Government should set a plan of making Scottish citizens the most powerful in the world.

  1. Send out the right signals

– Reverse education reforms and focus on reducing bureaucracy on teachers, increase the number of teachers and reducing class sizes to get back on the right track.

– Permanently ban fracking.

– Make progress on land reform.

– Create more art in Scotland, by Scotland, for Scotland.

  1. Embrace local tax reform for revenue raising and redistribution

Transformation requires investment in public services. Local government taxation needs reform and is a great opportunity for raising more revenue and increasing redistribution by replacing the Council Tax with a property tax that also taxes the value of land. This can raise £500 million for investment and still leave 75 per cent of households better off.

Support for ‘Renew’

Ronnie Cowan MP for Inverclyde said:

“I believe more than ever that we must define the Scotland we want to be part of. If we can share not just a vision but the practical steps to achieve our common goal then it is my view that the citizens of Scotland would rally round it.

“All organisations, political or not, that have a valid input must be encouraged to engage in the democratic process and their input must be heard, respected and when appropriate acted upon.”

Elaine C Smith, actor and yes campaigner:

“It’s refreshing to see the momentum building for these ideas which could visibly transform Scotland and they’re things we can start working on right now. There’s no point in tweaking the system when you can take real steps to change it, which is why these ideas are so exciting.”

Alex Neil, SNP MSP for Airdrie and Shotts said:

“I am delighted that Common Weal is bringing forward these new ideas, which are badly needed to invigorate the debate about the way forward for Scotland. We cannot rest on our laurels as a government. We must keep driving forward economic and social change in Scotland. These proposals are exciting and imaginative and should be given serious consideration.”

former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars said:

“I welcome a number of these proposals, which demonstrate that imagination is alive and well in the independence movement, and is above all capable of radical policies that are practical and achievable. With political will behind them, they can help transform the lives of so many of our people who are afflicted by low growth and a low wage economy, and the poverty which flows from it. We can change for the better, and these policies show how.”

Tommy Sheppard MP for Edinburgh East said:
“As ever, Common Weal are doing a great job in servicing a necessary debate. It’s vital we keep going forwards.”
Rory Steel, SNP Socialists Convener and SNP Youth Vice Convener said:
“It is vital now that the SNP reinvigorates the passions of the independence movement through a set of bold new policies – especially amongst young people who will be the next generation of workers, voters and leaders. This will not only bring radical and meaningful change to peoples’ lives, but also demonstrate Scotland’s potential as an independent country and the progress we can achieve together in our future.”
Mike Small, Bella Caledonia editor said:
“These ‘practical-radical’ policy ideas lay out the prospect of renewal. Malcolm Frasers ideas for quality affordable housing, self-build and renovation with an emphasis on collective infrastructure (such as district heating) are inspiring and essential. The plans to proper fund childcare and the ideas for a Second Citizens Chamber are also a vital and imaginative contribution to the public debate.”
Journalist and campaigner Lesley Riddoch said:
“Even their most ardent supporters would have to concede there was precious little policy content to the Labour or Tory election campaigns in Scotland. In the absence of imaginative or constructive alternatives from political parties, Common Weal has stepped in to the breach and given Scots some practical and radical solutions to the structural problems that will keep us “stuck” – whether we continue as a devolved nation or finally become an independent state. All power to their elbow – and this time I hope voters and institutions that care about our future make it there business to digest and respond.”
Iain Black, co-founder of Smaug (SNP members against unconventional oil and gas), said:
“Much has been said in the last week regarding the SNP’s loss of seats in the general election and a vital question remains over the role played by its recent policy agenda. In reflecting on this loss the SNP must reflect on whether its policy platforms captures the progressive demands of its post-independence referendum membership surge and those of the voters that trusted it in 2015 to deliver on the radical change promised by the Yes campaign.
“To recapture the independence agenda away from the mechanics of the process and towards the hope of building a better country, the SNP members must ensure its leaders move away from its previously successful strategy of effective managerialism to the strategy demanded by its electorate and the Yes movement: institutional transformation. These 6 policy platforms provide a backbone for this transformation.”

Ian Grant, activist in SNP Edinburgh West:

“I am certain that lack of ambition and excitement in the Scottish Government’s programme has been one factor in the SNP’s relatively poor result this time.

“Most of Common Weal’s ideas are excellent, in particular the National Investment Bank and re-industrialisation, revitalising our towns, land reform, improving democracy at national and local level. I’d certainly look to break down the big authorities and bring real local democracy to communities- that should be possible if social work is integrated with health and education is increasingly governed at school level. Reform of local tax also is important, with a land value tax.”