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Scottish debate was, not least, about social justice

by
10 October 2014

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From the Revd Paul Nicolson

Sir, - Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 26 September) is wrong. There was a lot more than nationalism, and no "narrative of victimhood", being debated in the run up to the no vote in the Scottish referendum.

Influential members of the Church of Scotland, deeply committed to social justice, including the leader of the Iona Community, Peter MacDonald, expressed the concerns of many of us who work with and for the poorest citizens of England. He said: "I no longer believe the Westminster Government is capable of delivering the socially just and equitable society in which I want to live. The British state no longer serves the needs of all its people. Economic policies have favoured the wealthy, who have grown richer, and stigmatised the poor and vulnerable, who are paying for the failures of the private financial sector." He voted yes.

A majority of the young and the working-age residents of Scotland voted yes. Throughout the UK, Westminster has made them carry the burden of the 2008 financial collapse, while shielding the pensioners, homeowners, landlords, and property speculators from its worst consequences, allowing their wealth to increase, because they are more inclined to vote and finance political parties.

Meanwhile, low-income working-age tenants and their families are experiencing a reduction in the real value of their incomes in work or unemployment, housing benefits have been capped, and council tax has been imposed on the poorest tenants, while rents, food, and fuel prices have escalated over the past ten years.

Rent, council-tax arrears, and other debts mount up, leading to costly and draconian enforcement, and mental and physical health problems. The money saved by the Treasury by reducing the living standards of the poorest tenants is then used to subsidise the right to buy council houses and grants for first-time buyers, so ensuring that the value of a home and the level of rents continue to increase.

The response of the Church of England is to tinker around the edges of this disaster for the poorest citizens by staffing foodbanks and credit unions. What is needed is solidarity with the poorest tenants, and powerful lobbying against the policies, laws, and structures of State which create such deep economic and social injustice.

PAUL NICOLSON
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF

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