Daily Business: A 10-point manifesto for government
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s new First Minister, wants to change the country and is preparing to put tackling poverty at the top of her priorities. But can she achieve it without punitive taxation on those who need to create the wealth she wants to distribute?
Here Daily Business presents a list of 10 initial and pragmatic recommendations:
1. Scrap the universal free prescriptions policy. Those who can pay, should pay. Furthermore, by and large, they are willing to pay.
2. There is no need for food banks in a country that throws away tonnes of food every day. Introduce legislation that forces supermarkets and restaurants to offer “waste” food for sale at a discount, even food beyond sell-by dates. Supermarkets should be given a guarantee of no liability. Consumers would get cheaper food and less of it would be destined for land fill.
3. Unemployed people should be expected to work for their benefits. There are plenty of jobs that can be done: cleaning up litter, graffiti, tidying up public spaces. They would be better off in work of some kind that instils routine, discipline and self-esteem than sitting at home watching daytime television.
4. Enforce all house builders to include all-weather and indoor sports and leisure facilities in their plans. This would provide teenagers with somewhere to go, encourage families to do things together, reduce crime, improve health and fitness and maybe give the sporting stars of the future a chance to shine. It would also help make up for the loss of school playing fields, the sale of which should be halted.
5. Revise the policy on minimum pricing of alcohol to encourage drinkers to drink in pubs where consumption is controlled and measured. At present too many young people get drunk at home on cheap supermarket alcohol before they go out. This is the real cause of binge drinking. This change of policy would also help slowdown the closure of pubs.
6. Before revisiting the independence question, have a rethink about the economic case built around oil. The recent collapse in the price should make Ms Sturgeon and her supporters look at a different economic model.
7. Reduce the number of local authorities in Scotland. The country is over-governed and 32 local authorities only adds up to narrow-minded thinking. In an age of commuting and cross-country trade it is a nonsense to think and plan on a parochial scale.
8. Create a government-backed bond that would underwrite the cost of bidding for major manufacturing contracts. Other countries have an advantage over UK firms that have difficulty raising finance.
9. Re-introduce grants to help start-up businesses.
10. Privatise Scottish Water, or at least sell a minority stake, and reinvest the proceeds in improving national infrastructure.