THE current Tory conference has seen May and others try to justify and refresh their version of capitalism and called for productivity improvements to fuel growth.

This approach has failed Scotland for decades and will fail again. Unquestionably, improving innovation and productivity will be critical to make Scotland successful, however you define success.

And no doubt an independent Scotland will face challenges. But it will also have a tremendous opportunity to break free from the chains of Westminster capitalism and avoid the black hole of Corbynista Marxist ideology that seeks to appropriate wealth rather than create it.

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Since at least the GFC in 2008 and, arguably, earlier public distrust in capitalism as practised in the UK (which has been described as neo-American capitalism) has grown and UK competitiveness has declined while Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark have all surged to the top of major global competitiveness rankings.

It begs the question, shouldn’t Scotland be adopting more of the features of those countries’ variety of capitalism, where company management focuses on corporate responsibility to all stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, community as well as shareholders) and considers a longer-term investment and environmental horizon rather than focuses only on shareholder returns and quarterly earnings reports?

In 2013, the Economist called this “Viking capitalism” and pointed out that Nordic countries ranked better than the UK over a wide range of measures that included both economic and social criteria. A global 2015 survey also found that Nordic countries together with Switzerland and Germany were the most successful in terms of improving the quality-of-life of their citizens.

A number of studies have also shown that income inequality, which tends to be much lower in countries where businesses consider their responsibility is to all stakeholders, not just shareholders, may actually impede economic growth and competitiveness.

A 2015 IMF report found that, “if the income share of the top 20 per cent increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium-term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down.”

Conversely, the report found that, “an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 per cent is associated with higher GDP growth”.

Not surprisingly then, the countries among the most globally competitive are also those that have the lowest rate of income inequality. According to the World Bank this includes Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany. The UK is well down the list and the USA, while it continues to be the world’s leading innovator, appears to be losing ground because of their intense focus on quarterly earnings, which is reducing R&D spending.

In designing an economic model for a resurgent, independent Scotland, there is much to gain from adopting the perspective of a stakeholder responsibility model if the stunting UK policies of the past are to be avoided.

While Scotland is constrained in many ways from taking this path today (eg, Corporation Tax) an independent Scotland would be free of these constraints. Thinking about it now and moving in this direction insofar as the current constitutional framework allows is something well worth acting upon now.
David Cairns
Finavon

THE sign that fell apart at the Conservative conference was unfortunate, to say the least. Judging by the shoddy workmanship I can only assume the defective sign was built under some kind of PFI arrangement.
Peter Craigie
Edinburgh

IN an ideal and democratic minded world, you would think that after watching the draconian actions of the Spanish black padded, and baton wielding uniformed thugs (I won’t give them the courtesy of the name police) beating up people daring to vote, that all respectable nations and countries, would shout down the perpetrators of this outrage, with loud but firm condemnation.

Why then are the countries of the EU not doing so? On reflection one realises they can’t, as each and every one of them is what’s left of former imperialist powers, and each and every one of them has one or two, or more, nations similar to Catalonia which are within their contrived borders which they in the past have had to crush when, like Catalonia, they made a bid for freedom.

Remember Winston Churchill’s wartime warning: “Any nation that does not stand up for its rights, deserves to be crushed”? Well, watch this nation of Catalonia being crushed by bullying police state Spain with the silent approval of EU fellow bullies France, Britain, Belgium, Italy, and even The Netherlands — all ex-colonialist empires, and all equally guilty of crushing present-day nations within their domain or, in some cases, even well beyond that domain.

Fellow suppressed nations can, however, make a stand on Catalonia’s behalf and Nicola Sturgeon was at the forefront of those when she told the world that the Catalans had voted overwhelmingly for independence, despite Spain’s illegal interventions and sabotage attack on legitimate polling stations.

It couldn’t happen here, say some — well, sorry to disillusion them, but it already has on many unsuccessful uprisings against the great annexation of 1707.
Iain Ramsay
Greenock