I HAVE come to the conclusion that were it not for grandparents the British economy would grind to a halt.

I travel quite widely throughout the UK and am struck by certain commonalities in most areas. My conclusions are based on my observations and experience and so are not at all scientific but I have personally estimated that of all persons delivering to and collecting children from nursery and school every day, 30 to 40 percent of them are grandparents.

During school holidays, children playing on the beach, playing in parks and activity centres or simply spending time in shopping malls and areas are accompanied by grandparents in about the same ratio of 30 to 40 percent.

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In this free market dominated world we live in, everything is measured by its market value. As a result, if you are unable to participate in the market economy you are of no value, because free market economics reduces everything to a commodity. Most commodities have a price, which is also a cost, but some commodities have no exchange value in the market and are only a cost. That is how the Tories view pensioners, in market terms they have no value, so they are useless and only a cost. Someone who cannot work, for whatever reason, is useless and valueless; they are a cost, and costs must be minimised and if possible eliminated.

This free market mentality has produced a culture within which the elderly are regarded as non-producers and are a burden. Their only significance is as consumers, but even then most of them have paid off their mortgages, for example, and have therefore limited value, and, in areas such as health and social care they are regarded as a significant liability. What is most held against them is the fact that they are pensioners and therefore a huge financial burden on the Treasury and on 'hardworking taxpayers' - which completely ignores the fact that such people have spent their entire adult life contributing to the tax and insurance systems.

For most of the adult life of today's average working class pensioners, they paid thirty-nine pence in the pound in income tax, a far higher proportion of their income than anyone does today. In addition they contributed significantly to national insurance throughout their working life, with many paying additional contributions to an employee's pension fund. However, in today's gutter tabloids, encouraged by the Tories, they are portrayed as being of the "something for nothing" society, a burden and a drain on the nation’s wealth.

The Legal and General Insurance Company regularly analyse the average value of non-working mothers in Britain in a survey they call "The Value of a Mum", and in today's values the unpaid work of the average British mother is estimated at £29,535. In Scotland she is valued at £29,628. Without this input, Legal and General argue that the economy would suffer considerably. So, if that is the case, and it is a very good case, then working on my assumption of 30 to 40 percent activity in child care and family activity, allowing parents to work and contribute to economic wealth creation, the unpaid input of grandparents must be worth about ten to twelve thousand pounds per annum.

In other words, if you wish to take a free market approach to such social problems, then rather than being a burden and a drain on the economy, the elderly are of significant economic benefit, and that is only in the area of child care.

I use this example with respect to the elderly to highlight the barbarity and stupidity of modern economics and the barbarity and intellectual sterility that permeates the Westminster. It finds its most repellant expression in the tabloid press. Modern Britain is indeed a nasty uncharitable place, populated by people who hate and resent others who they deem worthless and of no value. This is of course a generality, but it is general enough to support and encourage a set of politicians who are exercising what Ken Loach, the esteemed filmmaker, calls conscious cruelty towards the unfortunate and disadvantaged. This is why Scotland must become independent.