Scottish Independence must tackle “dwarfing corporate power”, says new report

Nathanael Williams

New thinktank research shows Scotland’s wealth “dwarfed” by corporate firms as workers still struggle for decent pay

SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE must address how a future government of Scotland would interact with corporations which still outsize its economy as a result of vast levels of tax avoidance and low pay.

Global Justice Now (GJN) the social justice and transparency body has undertaken research showing that Scotland’s revenue in 2015 was out matched by those of the biggest yet low wage businesses in the world such as Walmart, Amazon and Shell.

At a one day conference organised with the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) on the 28 January, both organisations hope people will attend to ask the question of who owns and runs Scotland.

“It’s vital that this important issue is raised as part of the debate on Scottish independence.” Liz Murray

Liz Murray, head of Scottish campaigns at GJN said: “Our research shows that while Scotland is a relatively wealthy country, that wealth is dwarfed by the revenue of many multinational corporations.

“With wealth comes power, and corporations have more power over our lives than ever before.  The vast wealth and political influence of corporations is at the heart of so many of the world’s problems. Time and time again we see important legislation to tackle issues like climate change and tax avoidance being watered down and undermined due to the increasingly powerful corporate lobby.”

According to GJN’s research, the total revenue of the Scottish Government was $66.4bn which pales into comparison to Walmart, Shell, Amazon which respectively raked in $482bn, $272bn and $107bn last year. This is not unusual within the current trend as the data also showed that 10 of the largest corporate entities are richer than most countries globally.

Parties such as the Scottish Greens who have been pushing the Scottish Government to change Scotland’s tax and land value regime have stated that using powers now could transform the nature of power and wealth in the country. In Dunfermline workers at an Amazon facility clashed with management on low pay and poor working conditions at the warehouse, camping outside during the winter period last year.

Event: Take back our world

In contrast, the Scottish Government has stated that growth for Scotland should be done with equality in mind and power should be used to end abuses however the crucial point is to ensure growth for middle and small businesses and encourage higher pay by private entities. Additionally they argue they have not obtained the exact powers on taxation to be able to deal with corporate power, tax evasion and avoidance. The Scottish Conservatives declined to comment on the research of GJN findings or the topic of corporate influence on politics.

Speaking to CommonSpace a spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: “It’s depressing to read that fossil fuel giant Shell’s revenue is four times that of Scotland’s, especially when it continues to make vast sums of money from the North Sea while contributing almost nothing to the transition to renewables, a necessary move to secure more long term, sustainable jobs.

“We look forward to the day when Scotland has the potential, as an independent country, to become a strong global actor that takes robust action out on these issues, because it’s unlikely that Westminster ever will. In the meantime, the Scottish Government must use existing powers to encourage responsible businesses, with penalties for big corporations that don’t respect workers or the environment.”

“We look forward to the day when Scotland has the potential, as an independent country, to become a strong global actor that takes robust action out on these issues.” Scottish Greens

Campaigners will join GJN in Glasgow at the event ‘Take Back Our World’ where speakers such as Larry Sanders, brother of Bernie Sanders, the US senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 will speak. They hope to challenge any attempt by big business to co-opt politicians or the structures of a future independent Scotland.

Murray added: “It’s vital that this important issue is raised as part of the debate on Scottish independence and that’s what ‘Take Back Our World’ is designed to do.  What would be the point of independence from Westminster if the future government of an independent Scotland just continued unthinkingly with the UK government’s work of prioritising corporate interests?”

Picture courtesy of James LeVeque

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