Mon 4 Jun, 2018

It’s flattering to be looked at as an exemplar by Scottish researchers but while you look at where we’ve been, please also look to where we are going. Gareth Hughes MP

Campaigners for an independent Scotland should be wary of looking at New Zealand’s economic track record as a model to follow, and instead take inspiration from its new, progressive intentions, according to a New Zealand Green MP with Scottish connections.

Writing in response to the SNP’s Growth Commission, which describes New Zealand’s economy as on a “stronger footing” after being “reformed extensively in the 1980s and early 1990s”, Green Party economic development spokesperson Gareth Hughes MP, whose party holds a number of ministries in New Zealand’s new government, warns:

“It’s flattering for my country to be singled-out but my message to my long-lost Scottish relatives is: it’s not the size of the country – it’s what you do with it that matters. The real issue isn’t the size of a country but what its policies are and the direction it’s going in.

“In my lifetime New Zealand went from one of the most state-involved economies to one of the most market-driven and neoliberal. We went from one of the most egalitarian countries to one of the most unequal.

“We’ve seen a dramatic rise in homelessness, precarious working conditions and child poverty. For the last three decades New Zealand has focused on light-handed regulation, a smaller role for the state, punitive welfare reforms and employer-friendly employment law.”

Gareth, whose grandmother was born in Scotland, continues:

“However since September 2017 with the election of a new Government we have embarked on a new direction. We’ve achieved the biggest wealth transfer in a generation. Our national Budget will no longer myopically focus on Gross Domestic Product. The country has set an ambitious zero carbon goal by 2050.

“After decades of a trickle-down, austerity-ideology we’re changing direction. It’s flattering to be looked at as an exemplar by Scottish researchers but while you look at where we’ve been, please also look to where we are going.”

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“This important contribution from a New Zealand MP who is part of a progressive shift in government should serve as a warning to the SNP leadership about their faith in trickle-down economics but also as a warning to Labour that the case for a socially-just independent Scotland is very much alive. As Gareth puts it, what matters with independence is the policies you pursue.

“Greens believe in independence for Scotland precisely because it’s a way of bringing about a fairer and greener economy - better than if we leave Westminster in charge, regardless of who’s in Number Ten. Green influence at Holyrood – contrasted with Labour inaction - shows the direction an independent Scotland could take, building on our fairer income tax system that helps lower earners, and a compassionate social security system that does not impose unfair sanctions or disability assessments.

“It’s encouraging that Gareth Hughes agrees that Scotland can ‘successfully operate on the world stage’ and Scottish Greens will continue to demonstrate by our actions here and now how an independent Scotland could be even fairer. This is the kind of compelling case that will win over new supporters to independence, and it’s a far cry from a report designed to settle the nerves of centre-right commentators.”



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