Public ownership essential to meet climate and Covid crises

FOR A SOCIALIST GREEN NEW DEAL: we are now seeing the culmination of over a decade of sunshine stories about a jobs Eldorado and Alex Salmond's infamous bluster about Scotland being a renewable energy “Saudi Arabia” proved a Mirage (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Ken Ferguson 

· The total failure of the SNP’s attempt to save fabrication jobs at BiFab while playing by the EU’s market friendly state aid ban can truly be described as a disaster.

Hardest hit of course are those who have seen their hopes of skilled work at the yards dashed as the turbine jackets—for use locally—are built half way across the planet in Indonesia.

However, as trade unions, the Voice and the SSP have repeatedly underlined tragic as this is, far more ominous implications flow from the quasi-religious adherence to the discredited idea that all economic questions can be left to markets.

Indeed the original Scottish Government BiFab rescue which bankrolled a new Canadian owner to keep the facilities in existence to compete for work on the far from even international market playing field contained the seeds of today’s crisis.

The reality is that we are now seeing the culmination of over a decade of sunshine stories about a jobs Eldorado and Alex Salmond’s infamous bluster about Scotland being a renewable energy “Saudi Arabia” proved a Mirage.

To make matters worse we have been here before with our experiences over 50 years with the then supposed economic super drug of North Sea oil. Some jobs were of course won and decent pay wrung out of the bosses in bitter struggle.

Radical change needed
But the decision by free market high priestess Thatcher to privatise this irreplaceable resources saw decades of super profits pumped out of Scotland and turned into bargaining chips in the casinos of Wall Street and The City of London.

In contrast Norway which kept oil in public hands now has a massive Sovereign Wealth Fund to invest while Scotland confronts every growing poverty, insecure work, spending cuts and a housing crisis.

If the same is not to happen to the huge resources of wind and wave within Scotland’s territory then there needs to be a massive and radical change. Public ownership of natural resources is first base in creating the conditions for a different normal based not on profit but the needs of people and planet.

However before this desperately urgent task can be tackled the pretence that such advances can be won while leaving the market cult in place must be overturned.

This challenges all politicians and policymakers but in the current politics of Scotland most heavily it raises big questions for the incumbent and, likely to remain so, SNP.

In power now for more than a decade the SNP benefits from a weak and ineffectual Labour Party, a Tory Party increasingly damaged by association with the buffoon Boris and Lib Dems seen as bad tempered gripers. The Greens who aspire to replace Labour are only too easily—not always fairly—characterised as an SNP subsidiary.

Faced with the historic twin crisis of climate and Covid the weakness of the politics on offer at both Holyrood and Westminster is that they show little signs of either grasping or dealing with the earth shattering dimensions of what we face.

Despite fine sounding targets and middle distance aims for change accompanied by a plethora of task forces, commissions and consultations actions which deals in actual concrete measures are sparse.

So we face a world where think tanks, campaigners, trade unions and a sea of pressure groups develop plans and proposals, many interesting, to chart the way to a Just Transition to a new post Covid world meeting the climate challenge but they remain plans.

Brutally put the world of Business as Usual, upended by Covid must not be reconstructed as if the current emergency told us nothing about the broken pre-Covid world of poverty, low pay, housing crisis a yawning wealth gap.

Ideas into action
Yet as we asked recently in a review of a set of excellent proposals by the STUC where is the political and social power to translate ideas into action and more importantly how can such power be built?

In recent mega article in the Herald on Sunday we were told that the author of the SNP’s keynote neoliberal Growth Commission former MSP Andrew Wilson was ‘the brain of the Yes movement” implying that his moth eaten “bribe the capitalists” plan should be at the heart of a second indyref.

Any such idea must be firmly rebuffed and the SNP brought to understand that any Yes drive which fails to link independence with urgently needed economic and social changes is likely to perish.

Rather than the elite think tanks of smooth business lobbyists peddling their clients greed as policy Scotland’s working class majority and its needs must be put at the head of the drive for economic, environmental and democratic change.

The core of such a development needs to break with the 40-year taboo against public ownership, planning and intervention by challenging the dominance of Thatcherite ideas.

An active role for real change and a Just Transition must link meeting the needs of both planet and people by building rented homes, rebuilding industrial skills and jobs to ensure that the goods, technology and design provides stable well paid work reversing decades of decline.

Today’s pro market centre right timidity which dominates our politicians at Holyrood just wont cut the mustard of the revolutionary changes we need.

Centred on the working class a movement capable of pushing politicians towards real change can be built.

Faced with the Covid fall out and the accelerating climate emergency we don’t as Harold Wilson said have “Years to spend taking minutes” but need a mass movement for change now.

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