Politicians pay heed! Social Security is not a contract between the state and the people, it is a contract between the people themselves. This is not your welfare state to give or take away.

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By Robin McAlpine The Scotsman 14th June 2013


A few years ago an opinion poll investigated the most popular political phrases of the 20th century.

The winner by far?

“From the cradle to the grave.”

It was immediately identified by those of the post-war generation as a story of hope captured in six words. But – most interestingly – it drew no lesser degree of support from a young generation which had never been exposed to it before.

It is important to understand just how incredibly, overwhelmingly popular is the welfare state.

We’re told “attitudes are hardening”.

They are; they’ve gone from massive support to massive support with a minor quibble about housing benefit.

We must never imagine that anything could be less popular among the people of Britain than returning to an era when widespread public provision was replaced with charity and penury.

Of course, the day that politicians follow the will of the public over the ideological interests of the powerful and the financial interests of the corporations will be the day we live in a participative democracy.

Instead, Serco, G4S, Atos Healthcare and the rest make fabulous profits out of a declining welfare state.

The more they can get the government to engage in expensive means testing the more profit they can cream off.

It is they who spend the big money lobbying Ed Balls to believe pensioners should be assessed for winter fuel payments, knowing they’ll make much more profit than the public purse will save.

The anti-welfare lobby has erected a fence between the popular parts of the welfare state such as the NHS, education, roads, trains, pensions and the fire service and the less popular parts like housing benefit. So far has this gone that I suspect some reading this will be surprised to see schools and fire engines described as welfare.

“Destruction by anomaly”, the process of dismantling a good idea by finding tiny parts of that idea that look odd, will only go so far.

“Why should rich pensioners get bus passes?”

might gain some ground;

“why should rich people get heart operations?”


The assault on welfare has already gone well beyond where the citizens of the UK want it to go.

What does this mean for the report this week on welfare by an expert group commissioned by the Scottish Government?

Only that it shows how desperately we need to get beyond the debate we’re having. That is not because I disagree with the report but because – at least in its main findings – few sane people could disagree. In a transitional period after independence we would need to share our welfare system with the rest of the UK while the full institutions of a new nation are developed.

Sure, but that’s only to say that for a transitional period on a rapidly-sinking Titanic everyone had to stand patiently on the deck while the lifeboats were lowered. It is not, in itself, a coherent argument for drowning.

But is this even a Scottish issue, one where our interests are different?

The settled view of many commentators is that social attitude surveys show the gap in support for welfare on either side of the border is “not as big as all that”. As someone with a social science background, my mind spins at this simplification. Presumably this is also a case for interspecies marriage, given that the difference in DNA between us and a sheep is “not as big as all that”.

If you want to argue this seriously, you need to establish frameworks to identify how different is “different” by looking at normalised ranges of opinion spread and so on. Much more productive is to measure difference not in theory but in reality.

It is not to talk down the commitment of the other peoples of the United Kingdom to the welfare state to note that when Scotland has a chance to choose a political approach to welfare it makes a consistent, substantial and measurably different choice.

No massaging of social attitude surveys will unelect the consistently socially democratic administrations we have had in Scotland.

The welfare debate has a starting point, shared to varying degrees by David Cameron and Ed Miliband. That assumes that welfare will decline as budgets get tighter – tax can’t be mentioned

Welfare should be divided into public services and benefits.

Both must shrink, but where the process of shrinking the benefits part should be loud and shrill, the process of shrinking the public services part must be stealthy and surreptitious. And the latter shrinkage must be done through the rolling back of the principle of universalism, the continuing expansion of outsourced private sector profiteering and the expansion of means testing.

Their only guiding principle is:

“how much can we take away from the people before they squeal?”.

Is this where Scotland – devolved or independent – would choose to begin from?


All the serious data shows that it isn’t where England would choose to begin either – even the Adam Smith Institute accepts that there are many more people in England who would raise tax than would cut services. But Scotland has taken that extra step and made this its firm, democratic will.

So, let us begin afresh. Let us make the radical and revolutionary step of accepting that a democracy is only governed with the consent of the people.

The powers that be do not have consent for the assault on the welfare state. If we can start to dismantle the British habit of “feudal democracy” in which all we get to do is select our lords and masters, we might notice something important.

Welfare is not a contract between the state and the people, it is a contract between the people themselves.

The state is nothing more than our useful vehicle for fulfilling that contact.

My message to all those deficit hawks in London and Edinburgh is simple:

this is not your welfare state to give or take away.

In effect, I made an agreement with my neighbour that he’d look after me if I needed help and I’d look after him if he needed help. You were chosen by us to deliver this on our behalf, not to fashion yourself a crown to wear while you lecture us on our mistakes.

If the SNP wants to persuade Scots to vote for independence or if Labour wants to persuade us to vote for the Union, they’re going to have to stop saying what Serco and the plutocrats want them to say and start listening to what the citizens who elected them told them to do.

My vision of the future of the welfare state is not complicated: government, we instructed you to make the rich and the corporations pay their tax to protect our public services and benefits. So get on with it – your next instructions will follow shortly. 

• Robin McAlpine is director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation


The Scotsman

9 thoughts on “Politicians pay heed! Social Security is not a contract between the state and the people, it is a contract between the people themselves. This is not your welfare state to give or take away.

  1. Humanity2012 says:

    The Politicians in Westminster have been and are Being Arrogant
    Tinpot Tyrants it is They who are the Scroungers

    A Decent Government Prevents Poverty Not Kowtows to
    Slave Driving Big Business Scum

    It has to be Said how Sheepish and Slavish People have been
    in the UK since May 11th 2010

    The Greeks have More an Hellenic Spirit of Liberty

  2. sovereign scot says:

    in the course of helping people with several problems i came across the “scottish local government act 2003 section 20 under the heading of well-being” well worth a read if you have the slightest doubt about what really can be done. teach yourself the truth the above is a public information document you will notice very quickly why it has not been posted through your door.
    if in any doubt login to http://www.scotlandisfree.com

    1. stan dalone says:

      Hi I am disabled and bedridden, I was crippled by the nhs and they have been covering it up ever since.I have now had all my disability and income support stopped
      I tried to look at the link ( http://www.scotlandisfree.com) but can’t find it ?
      see my story here
      Under The Knife NHS and Police corruption exposing Nikos Reissis the Watford butcher

  3. Scottish Soveriegn says:

    The solution sits with the people of this great nation. Join fellow minded Scots who operate together in order to create solution…….see you all soon… Scotland awaits your strength and voice.

  4. David Calvert says:

    Have any of you heard of this it may offer some hope?


    Article 25.

    (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

    (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

    Article 30.

    Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

  5. Nigel Simmons says:

    The Care Bill is in the House of Lords for consideration at present ,the Government & Media BS are on a propaganda exercise of Elderly Care-they are trying to brain wash us that the Elderly are better off staying with a relative and how lonely they are.So you can guarantee when passed the Bill will release the Government of their Duty of Care they have at present and the onus of cost and care put on the Recipient and their Families.
    This is the last piece of the jigsaw in Dismantling Welfare as we know it .The Liverpool Care Pathway became Public too early where they were legally starving elderly people to death only supplying their bodies by a driver syringe containing diamorphine, midazolam and cyclizine.to “give them a dignified end” so it was terminated so we are told.
    People don’t realise that is all Hitler did was put a plan into operation without Public Knowledge and nobody was any the wiser until it was too late it had become the ‘norm’ by then.
    We give £12 Billion in Foreign Aid.£54 million to the EU daily but they want another £4 Billion the Media & Cameron have kept quiet on that ,so will they get it.
    “Could we be spending £40 to £80 billion on things that would be of more benefit to the economy, I’m pretty sure the answer is yes.” That was a comment from Henry Overman, professor in Economic Geography at the London School of Economics concerning the New proposed Rail Line.Even academics nothing to do with Welfare Economics feel that Government priorities are wrong.

  6. Mary Vanhelsing says:

    We pay National Insurance if we are working. This is supposed to cover us for the risk of unemployment, disability and health care amongst other things. But like any dodgy insurance company the government is using any excuse not to pay out. If I really want to cover my risks I would have to pay BUPA, income protection and a private pension. Because there is no social security now. They aren’t paying out people are having their benefits removed for in excess of three months on trumped up excuses. That is a complete rip off. What are they doing with all that NI and VAT?? Spending it on moats and second homes?? That is the way I see it anyhow.

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