Skip to content

An international recipe for progress

Scotland 2070: Healthy, Wealthy, Wise. Ian Godden, Hillary Sillitto, Dorothy Godden. College Publications (London), 2020. 218 pages.

What would it take for Scotland to attain the same level of wealth and wellbeing as the Nordic countries? This book lays out a fifty-year plan for accomplishing that. What’s remarkable about this book, though, is that its ideas easily translate to any country looking to the future.

I first became aware of this book from an article April 17 in the Guardian, “An independent Scotland could turn to Denmark for inspiration.” I ordered the book from Amazon.

Though one of the book’s subtitles is “An ambitious vision for Scotland’s future without the politics,” it’s not entirely true that there is no politics in the book. It’s pretty clear that the authors’ view is that Scotland can optimize its future only by breaking with the United Kingdom and becoming independent. The authors, though they are highly educated, are not scholars. They’re businesspeople. In the U.S., it’s generally safe to assume that businesspeople believe in conservative notions of small government, low taxes, keeping working people on the brink of starvation with no safety net so that they’ll work for cheap until they drop dead, crummy education, health care as a profit center rather than a means of keeping people healthy, and a manipulative and deceptive politics that ensures that people are preoccupied with cultural grievances and thus never figure out who is really eating their lunch. These Scottish businesspeople are the opposite of that. The central principle — a principle at last being advocated by America’s Democratic Party — is that government exists to serve the people. This is in opposition to the neoliberal principle that has reigned for decades, that government exists to serve private profit.

Twenty-five years ago I fell in love with Ireland on my first trip there. But Ireland has changed in the past 25 years, and not for the better. Ireland chose a low-tax, low-productivity, low-knowledge, low-education, low-equality neoliberal strategy. Global money thus poured into Ireland. The authors of this book use kinder language about Ireland’s mistakes. I’m more blunt. The way I’d put it is that Ireland greatly damaged itself and its people by becoming a global tax whore. But I’ve also been in Denmark a couple of times, where I admired the contrast between Denmark and Ireland and how Denmark has developed a prosperity that serves its people rather than the global rich. Scotland, on the other hand, has been pretty much in stasis, largely because Scotland is a tail wagged from Westminster. The United Kingdom — or should I say England — seems too inclined to waste time and opportunity by nursing its cultural hurts, which is holding Scotland back. If Scotland does become independent in the future, the power of global money would do everything possible to turn Scotland into another Ireland. The authors of this book understand that. It would be up to the people of Scotland to choose a better path by looking north rather than south, and that’s the point of this book.

Though it’s tempting to list the key points of this book’s vision, I think I won’t, because it’s a book worth reading no matter where one lives. I will say this, though. That vision of the role of government and the demands of the future have a great deal in common with the vision that President Biden has brought to Washington. California, America’s most progressive state, just announced a $75 billion budget surplus. Voodoo economics has had its day. It’s time to get serious about a sustainable green economy, with major new investments in education, health, and infrastructure broadly defined.

Go for it, Scotland.


  1. Chenda wrote:

    I read a report recently calling for a federal UK. The author points out that the UK is one of the most centralised nations in the western world, and also one of the largest. London alone is bigger than Scotland. If you broke England up into 10 regions each one would be about big as Denmark.

    Dictates from Westminster control so many aspects of life which in most European nations would be dealt with at a state or city level. This has contributed to a litany of policy failures; London-centric decisions which fail to understand the needs and problems of the regions, together with an excessive dominance of the financial services industry heavily slanted to the South East. This, coupled with the decline in heavy industries in the north of England has led to decades of mass regional inequality and economic problems, the victims of which naively believed Boris and Brexit would be their saviour.

    There is no guarantee that regional government will get it right of course, but the regions can learn from another and mitigate failures from the centre (As an example, he says Trump’s failures over Covid could at least be partially mitigated by more competent state governors)

    But he concludes that there is virtually no chance of this ever happening, due to too much inertia and vested interest. Instead he predicts the dissolution of the UK, leaving a rump, insular English state beset with social problems and economic inequality. Unfortunately, I find it hard to argue with that conclusion.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 1:45 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Chenda: Ack! That is a depressing scenario.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
  3. Henry Sandigo wrote:

    My wife recently visited Scotland on a fabric and design trip. She told me about a project of reintroducing tress and forest to the bare land. t seems it was wiped clean by “whomever” for ship building, firewood and home. So the introduction includes indigenous plants surrounded by cyclone fencing until its well established then hopefully nature will take over and the animals birds insects can live

    Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *