The more equal a society is the more it feels equal. The actuality and the feeling both make people happier and healthier. More equal societies have, amongst other things, lower levels of crime, less political corruption, lower levels of mental health problems, fairer employment practice and more charitable behaviour. All of these behaviour patterns make the country feel more equal and that feeling of equality makes these patterns of behaviour more likely. We know all of this is empirically true from the Spirit Level book.
That was my last reference. I’m going to write this like an opinion piece because referencing every claim would fragment the narrative. Everything I claim here is true. If you don’t believe me, search this blog, lazy sod!
Now, I know that there is still much to be anxious about. Scotland has far too much relative poverty, child poverty, drug abuse and homelessness. Even recognising the limits imposed by Westminster upon Scotland, there is more we can do. However, despite that, there is much to welcome in Scotland’s progress over the last ten years or so.
The Scottish Government is, in most ways, quite unlike that in Westminster. Sitting well to its left politically, it is by far the most trusted government in the history of Scotland or for that matter, of the UK. It has introduced universal benefits which mean that the sick need not fear the costs of medication, that the less well-off elderly need not fear isolation because of unaffordable public transport and that the young need not fear the astronomic costs of higher education faced in England. Economic poverty is lower in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. Investment in staffing and intelligent management of our NHS means that, despite soaring demand, the infirm can expect treatment more quickly than those living elsewhere in the UK. Similar investment in staffing and intelligent management of policing has helped in the reduction of crime and the consequent reduction in the fear of crime. It has campaigned in Westminster for the rights of migrants, of women and of the disabled. These and other actions have made people feel their government, unlike that in Westminster, is caring and inclusive. This has happened despite the relentless campaign of lies, designed to deny these changes, from the dominant media in Scotland.
The dramatic fall in crime in Scotland over the last ten years is the single most powerful piece of evidence that Scotland is becoming more equal. Like most social phenomena, crime levels are affected by many factors, from improved policing policies to home entertainment trends, car ownership or even levels of lead in the environment but we know, absolutely, that more equal societies have less crime and, crucially, that less crime makes life for everyone more equally safe and that that in turn further reduces crime.
Sometimes encouraged by Scottish Government initiatives, but not always, we see evidence that Scotland has more employers paying the living wage, that it has more organ donors and that it has more community ownership of businesses or energy-producers. The providers and the receivers in this process all feel better, more engaged, included. All are then less likely to become addicted, to become anxious or depressed or to engage in crime.
All of these, policies and behaviour patterns, combine and recombine to create actual improvements in terms of equality of experience and, crucially, to create a collective sense of feeling more equal. Tragic reports of division, of violence and of other horros emanating from England, via the ‘national news’ and thus bypassing Scottish media’s filtering out of UK context and its focus on murder, abuse and football, helps those living in Scotland to recognise and to value that which they have.
I’ve rambled but the subject matter is complex and sometimes contradictory, so I excuse myself.