March 3, 2010
Will civil society step up to the plate?
The recent ‘Civil Society Summit’ was an opportunity to vent some of the frustration that so many people feel about the current mess created by the combined failures of our politicians and bankers. But it wasn’t just about apportioning blame. There was a real sense that now could be the time for civil society to face up to the challenges that stand before us. Stephen Maxwell concluded the conference with a proposal that civil society should coalesce around a shared agenda for change. He suggested ten big ideas
Proposal by Stephen Maxwell – 10 big ideas for action
Among the core elements of a shared transformational response by Scottish civil society to the multilayered economic, environmental, social and political crisis now facing the world should be:
– the replacement of GDP as the official measure of prosperity by an Index of Well- Being and Sustainability
– the entrenchment of measures of social added value in public reporting and auditing processes
– the adoption by Government of explicit targets for the reduction of poverty and of inequalities of income and wealth supported by a specified and timetabled programme of actions
– structural reform of the banks and other financial institutions to limit their capacity to destabilise the economy (for example the separation of retail and investment banking, the appointment of customer champions to Bank Boards, stricter regulation of capital/lending ratios and of bankers’ bonuses)
– state help to develop alternative financial options, including mutuals, dedicated to using deposits to fund house building for social as well as private ownership, small business investment and personal credit, a part public Development Bank for higher volume business investment, and a public bond issuing trust for investment in the public infrastructure
– increased carbon taxes in support of the targets for CO2 reductions adopted in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, supported by a switch of infrastructure investment from road to rail, increased investment in renewable energy, carbon capture and energy conservation including mass insulation and community heat and power schemes.
– a redefinition of civil liberties in a Bill of Rights as part of a consolidated Written Constitution based on popular sovereignty and extending the rights of citizens as voters, users of public services, and members of local communities (for example by providing for citizens’ initiative referenda, enforceable rights for service users, increased autonomy for local authorities, direct empowerment for local communities)
– abolition of the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent
– electoral reform to increase the ‘representativeness’ of governments and the accountability of policy making
– an international development agenda focused on the most urgent social and environmental needs of the least developed countries within a global trading and financial system which recognises those countries’ rights to decide for themselves such macro issues as the role of financial markets and the balance of public and private provision of public services, and the promotion of human rights.