Friday, 13 December 2013

A Just Scotland: fiscal sustainability and income inequality

Today at the STUC we held a small conference, one of a series to help inform our next A Just Scotland report due for publication early in the New Year.

David Comerford, Stirling University asked a highly topical question: is the IFS report consistent with the Scotland's Future White Paper? The slides from this excellent presentation are available here and I'd encourage you to read them. What really struck me was the contrast between this patient and effective critique of the IFS report and the hyperbolic ad hominem nonsense which followed its publication. There are many on both sides of the referendum debate who could learn from Comerford's analytical approach.

David Eiser (chaired by Dave Moxham this was one helluva Davefest), also Stirling University, then presented on Income Inequality in Scotland; a subject much discussed but tragically under-researched. The slides are available here and I'd also recommend the important paper written by Eiser and David Bell on which it was based. There has I think been a laziness about the inequality debate in Scotland; a tendency to assume that 1) the trajectory of inequality in Scotland has closely imitated that of the UK, and 2) the trajectory has followed a relentlessly upwards path. Eiser punctured these canards. I'm also far from convinced that people understand the role of working hours (rather than hourly pay) in driving inequality. The presentation concluded with some slides which described the stark difficulty of tackling inequality through tax policy changes alone. Much food for thought.

The conference finished with a debate between John Foster of the Red Paper Collective and Robin McAlpine of the Jimmy Reid Foundation but on this it would be very difficult to comment without preempting the next AJS paper. And I'm not going to do that.

Stephen Boyd

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