OVER these past few days, two contrasting stories have underlined the grotesque double standards of the economic and political elites that run the world.

One story involved protesters in Glasgow burning eviction notices sent to asylum seekers who have been ordered to return to some of the most violent hotspots in the world.

These include Afghanistan where in the first six months of this year thousands of innocent civilian casualties were caught in the crossfire of a conflict that would have been resolved long ago had it not been for the reckless belligerence of the USA and the UK.

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The other headline story reported that the online retail giant Amazon paid only £1.7 million in taxes in the UK last year. That’s just a fraction of the expected £15m tax bill this year of Britain’s highest-paid footballer, Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United. It’s mind-boggling (both Sanchez’s salary and the Amazon tax bill).

We live in a world where borders don’t exist for the rich. Giant corporations are as free as the birds in the sky. They can migrate across continents, where they are guaranteed a red-carpet welcome by grovelling political leaders offering lucrative incentives for them to stay.

A manufacturing company can shut down a factory in one country like a matchbox, then reopen it on the side of the world a few weeks later. Wealthy individuals can stamp their feet and threaten to jet off to pastures new if anyone suggests they should pay a bit more in income tax. And the new digital giants are able to crush traditional businesses and destroy livelihoods thousands of miles across the ocean from their offices in Seattle and San Francisco.

But the poor are locked up in their boxes from the day they are born. Those few who do succeed in escaping famine-ridden, bomb-ravaged war zones are as welcome as the plague. We may not have Trump-style Mexican walls, but we have our own grim deterrents in the form of border guards, detention centres, removal flights, hostile politicians, frenzied tabloids and savage thugs parading the streets draped in Union Flags.

But no matter how many walls we build or border guards we employ, no matter how much the right-wing press rants and raves, until such times as the wealthy and powerful West sorts out the problems it has created across the globe, from mass poverty to savage violence, people will continue to cross borders to build a new life. In any case, most of our refugees have education, energy, intelligence and initiative. Without these qualities, they wouldn’t have succeeded in braving the dangers and overcoming the obstacles to get here.

They have the potential to make a valuable contribution to our society. And most of them will, given half a chance, pay their fair share of taxes. They will, we can be sure, put a lot more back in than they will ever take out. The same can’t be said for the digital lords of the planet. Last year Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and Netflix extracted almost £15 billion in sales revenue from the UK, taking out more than 100 times more cash than they put back in.

I should confess that I use all the services of all five companies. These days, most of us use at least some of them. They’re becoming almost impossible to avoid.

These companies employ some of the world’s most brilliant accountants to devise highly complicated tax arrangements that are perfectly legal but no longer fit for purpose. The taxation systems of the UK and the rest of the world predate the internet and belong to a different century.

One of the problems that faces those of us on the political left today is that capitalism has evolved into a system more sophisticated and all-consuming than the old pioneers of socialism could ever have envisaged.

Last week, it was announced that Apple has become the world’s first trillion-dollar company. If it was a country, it would be the 15th wealthiest in the world out of 200 nation states. Faced with such far-reaching, globalised corporate power we need more than ever before to look outwards, far beyond national borders.

That’s not an argument to preserve the United Kingdom. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Multinational states such as the UK and Spain are both too large and too small.

They are too large and lopsided to deliver genuine democracy for the smaller nations within their borders, be that Scotland, Catalonia, Wales or the Basque Country. And they are too small to deal with the big international problems of our times – the depletion of our natural resources, climate change, war and peace and the untrammelled power of transnational corporations.

In the EU referendum, I voted Remain without ever being able to able to muster the zealous enthusiasm of some. As things stand right now, the best way we can say about it is that compared to Brexit Britain, it’s the lesser of two evils. It also has the potential to be transformed into a progressive bulwark against global capitalism – a role which no individual national state has the capacity to take on.

A few years ago, the progressive left-of-centre French economist Thomas Piketty raised the idea of a global tax on wealth. He acknowledged it was a utopian demand because it was be hard to imagine the nations of the world coming together and agreeing with such a proposal. But he also argued that the measure could be pioneered incrementally, starting with the European Union.

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Private wealth across Europe amounts to the equivalent of five years’ GDP for the entire EU – approximate €100trn. And, according to Piketty, it would be easier to identify and tax wealth than income, especially on a continental scale.

That too may seem utopian, given the current political make-up of the EU. But the politics of Europe are in a state of flux – and if the broad mish-mash of organisations that make up European left could get together and come up with a coherent practical programme for identifying and taxing private wealth at a European level, regulating the activities of the multinational corporations cracking down on tax avoidance and creating standardised working conditions and workers’ rights, it could potentially become a strong pole of attraction for those who are currently turning to the right because they feel abandoned by the liberal elites at national and European level.

Within the UK, even in the unlikely event that Brexit is reversed, Scotland will continued to be pummelled by external forces over which we have zero influence. By creating an independent Scottish state and facing back to Europe, we will have at least the possibility of helping to shape a progressive response to the terrifying economic, social and environmental challenges that loom on the horizon.