SORRY Michael, wrong again – I’m no socialist (Here are three key questions I’d like Progress Scotland to ask the country, February 12).

I have a lot of respect for socialists but I find their analysis out of date and their solution temporal. According to socialism the lot of the working class is the same throughout the world. Raising people’s standard of living is a matter of class struggle and the lot of an individual is improved by raising the living standards of the class as a whole. Class is historically defined in the words of Marx as your relationship to the ownership of the means of production.

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Accordingly socialists believe that there is no difference between the situation of the working class in Sunderland and the working class in Dundee.

This is wrong in two respects.

Firstly the ownership of the means of production is much altered since Victorian times. That ownership is now more likely invested in pension funds and savings schemes. So the actual ownership of the means of production is more likely to be held in small shares by most of us. There is an important distinction between ownership and control.

On the other hand, if you look at power in society you get a very different perspective. Power in Britain is held by a relatively small number of people, largely from a similar background of public schools and two universities. They control our lives directly or by influence. Not all are wealthy but some are very wealthy.

Some might argue that their power is the result solely of their wealth.The Duke of Buccleuch is enormously wealthy but his power is limited by how much his money can buy. I hazard the guess that Michael Fry is not as wealthy as the Duke of Buccleuch but his power is greater than what he can afford. So we have a class of the powerful which includes the CEOs of large businesses but also political representatives, church leaders and opinion formers such as journalists.

The powerful deliberately and subconsciously retain power within their own cabal. They meet at school and university; they are friends and their networks reinforce each other. They use that power to ensure that their interests are served. The powerless are progressively marginalised and denied the right to make decisions which affect them. Rather than power being solely a function of wealth, wealth inequality is one manifestation of the centralisation of power.

The other distinguishing feature between the powerless classes in England and Scotland is their reaction to inequality. One has embraced a racist nationalism blaming immigrants for the failure of the state to invest in the NHS, build affordable houses and legislate against exploitation in the gig economy. The other has sought to build a nation of equals sharing the benefits of their land and common fruits of their labour.

It is an idea that still has some way to go. We have to decentralise, and redress the depopulation of the deep south and far north; we have to utilise the benefits of our resources for the many not the few and we have to work together for all our benefit. To do this we have to put power back in the hands of the people.

Although I believe this to be universally true, the first step in harnessing these benefits is to build manageable power blocks. It is inherently true that these must be arrived at through communities themselves, but they must have some homogeneity and be of a practical size; Scotland for example. I do not believe that Scotland is better than England nor do I believe that Scots are inherently better than England. I do believe that the two countries have grown apart. They have different priorities, which each population must be allowed to address as they see fit.

That’s why Michael Fry and I can agree on one thing at least.

Ian Richmond
Dumfries and Galloway