The recently released Growth Commission report hasn’t had a universally positive welcome, with some critics arguing it isn’t radical enough. Fair enough – it isn’t possible for a document like this to be all things to all people.
But the document, and the response to it, got me thinking. Whose responsibility is it to bring about an independent Scotland, and whose responsibility is it to make it work when it happens? For me, the simple answer is: All of us.
We all have a stake in this. It isn’t up to the government to do the heavy lifting while we snipe from the sidelines. They can provide a framework, but it’s up to the rest of us to put the meat onto the bones.
Business, citizens, and the government each have a role. We must become the change we want to see and there is no reason to wait. If you want a more socialist country, then start behaving like a socialist. Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to do it for you.
Winning independence is imperative, but for a long time, I wasn’t sure how I could help the movement. I’m not a politician, I’m not an economist. Heck, I’m not originally from Scotland. But I am a businesswoman and have been for thirty years. I do have something to offer. And I can offer it right now.
Sadly, UK has slowly become one of the most unequal places I’ve ever lived, and watching money being syphoned off by the rich and powerful while social welfare crumbles is horrifying. As business owners, we can’t pay people a pittance, expect the state to pick up the slack, and then gripe when we’re asked to pay our fair share of the taxes. We have to take some responsibility for the people who work for us and the society they live in.
When it comes to an independent Scotland, business has a vital role to play in building a better society for all citizens. Everyone deserves a decent life and both the public and private sectors must work towards it. Here is what my company has done in pursuit of this goal:
Big things: We raised pay so that all employees are receiving at least the Real Living Wage. We cut our working week to 23 hours with no loss of pay to any employees. We include employees in any major decisions that affect their working practices or lives.
Little things: We provide free fruit, tea and coffee, snacks, and sanitary products for employees. We signed our employees up for perks like discounted cinema tickets, dinners out, and shopping vouchers. And we offer free in-office yoga classes to all employees.
My company was able to do these things with no loss of productivity. We did take a hit to our profit, but how much profit do we actually need? I am able to pay myself, my business partner, and all of our employees a fair wage, so it really doesn’t matter to me if our profit is zero. As long as the company keeps us all happy and well paid, that’s enough. I don’t need an arbitrary number about which to boast when I’m asked how well the business is doing. That’s the mindset we need to ditch.
When profit ceases to be the focus and the wellbeing of humans becomes the goal, everyone benefits. I can’t express how much happier we all are now that the focus is taken off money and put squarely onto people. It’s how we move forward into a more fair and just society. It’s the thing we do right now to move things in the direction we want them to go.
There’s a danger that this post may seem rather self-aggrandising, a terrible trait I’d hate to have applied to me, and I understand that our model won’t work for every company. Businesses work in different ways and it’s not always feasible to reduce hours or hire a yoga instructor. But I do believe there are things businesses might be surprised to find they can do if they begin to view profit and loss in a different way and thereby contribute to the society we want to build. I am happy to discuss the changes my company made to see if they might work for others.
I invite everyone to have a think. What can you do? What can you offer? What changes can you make right now? This is how we’ll build an independent Scotland. All of us. Together.