ACCORDING to National Institute for Economic and Social Research statistics published this week, UK growth was just 0.2% between March and May of this year. This is hardly any better than the Office for National Statistics’ figures, which point to just 0.1% growth for the first three months of the year. The economic dogma that holds sway at Westminster is, even by its own blinkered standards, transparently failing to deliver.

Let’s do the maths. The Consumer Price Index, the average cost of a standard basket of groceries, rose by 2.7% in 2017, with evidence that the rate of increase is still mounting. Between 2016 and 2017, the average total cost of household energy bills rose by 13%, with wide predictions of an even higher rise for 2017 into 2018. The average rent on a two-bedroom property has risen by 19.9% across Scotland between 2016 and 2017, with no signs of those trends abating. The minimum wage for those over 25 has been increased by barely 33p per hour since 2017.

When wages are stagnant, and the cost of living rising, the outcome is sadly predictable. Millions of folk have less and less after the essentials, and the domestic market shrinks. The domestic market shrinks, sales fall. Sales fall, profits fall, and the big bosses and corporations boost their profits instead by further holding down wages. When the economy is not growing, the only way to give to the rich is to take ever more from the rest of us. The size of the economy remains much the same, but with the division of wealth sucked upwards, into ever more concentrated holdings. Richard Branson now holds more than $5.1 billion. Mike Ashley holds more than $3.8bn. Yet neither of them considers this enough, each seeking to add to their hoard by paying staff barely enough to get by. Sometimes less. It is a vicious cycle we are locked into.

But it is a cycle which could be broken. The government’s own figures attest that it is in fact a £10-an-hour minimum Living Wage that we all need to be truly secure in getting by. Doing so would lift millions out of poverty, and make life better, happier and more secure for still millions more. Further, it would be a huge boost to our economy, especially to small or local businesses and community enterprises, as our spending power as customers increases. It is when working people, not international corporations, get better off that the economy truly flourishes.

In fact, by restoring overpriced essential utilities like gas, electricity and rail into the public hands from which Thatcher’s dogmatism took them, we can reduce the huge, needless drain on people’s income. Why should working people be held to ransom just to feather the nests of some of the richest executives in the world? Why should the retail worker in Edinburgh, or the clerical worker in Glasgow, live with the threat of needing payday loans just so their bosses can stow another million in some offshore tax haven?

We won’t get the changes we all need to see by sitting back and waiting for Westminster to deliver. We need to be standing up now, to both corporate greed and the politicians who facilitate it. That means campaigning for economic change now. It’s also why the truly meaningful vision for independence is one which enshrines the transformative potential it holds – a chance to shift the balance of power in Scotland away from wealthy vested interests and back into the hands of the people. The UK isn’t working for working people, but there is an alternative which will.

When we, working people, are losing out simply to further pad the profit margins of the world’s wealthiest corporations, surely a little commonsense socialism is the right answer?

Calum Martin
National co-chair, Scottish Socialist Party