Campaigners for Scottish independence should think twice about holding up New Zealand’s economic record as an example to follow, a Kiwi MP has warned.
The SNP’s Growth Commission report, which examined possible options for an independent Scotland, described New Zealand’s economy as being on a “stronger footing” after being “reformed extensively in the 1980s and early 1990s”.
But Green Party economic development spokesman Gareth Hughes, whose party holds a number of ministries in Wellington, claimed “it’s not the size of the country – it’s what you do with it that matters”.
The MP, whose grandmother was born in Scotland, said inequality in New Zealand had increased following market reforms.
“In my lifetime New Zealand went from one of the most state-involved economies to one of the most market-driven and neoliberal,” he told the Daily Record. “We went from one of the most egalitarian countries to one of the most unequal.
“We’ve seen a dramatic rise in homelessness, precarious working conditions and child poverty. For the last three decades New Zealand has focused on light-handed regulation, a smaller role for the state, punitive welfare reforms and employer-friendly employment law.”
Mr Hughes continued: “However since September 2017 with the election of a new Government we have embarked on a new direction. We’ve achieved the biggest wealth transfer in a generation. Our national Budget will no longer myopically focus on Gross Domestic Product. The country has set an ambitious zero carbon goal by 2050.
“After decades of a trickle-down, austerity-ideology we’re changing direction. It’s flattering to be looked at as an exemplar by Scottish researchers but while you look at where we’ve been, please also look to where we are going.”
Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP said: “This important contribution from a New Zealand MP who is part of a progressive shift in government should serve as a warning to the SNP leadership about their faith in trickle-down economics but also as a warning to Labour that the case for a socially-just independent Scotland is very much alive. As Gareth puts it, what matters with independence is the policies you pursue.
“Greens believe in independence for Scotland precisely because it’s a way of bringing about a fairer and greener economy – better than if we leave Westminster in charge, regardless of who’s in Number Ten. Green influence at Holyrood – contrasted with Labour inaction – shows the direction an independent Scotland could take, building on our fairer income tax system that helps lower earners, and a compassionate social security system that does not impose unfair sanctions or disability assessments.
“It’s encouraging that Gareth Hughes agrees that Scotland can ‘successfully operate on the world stage’ and Scottish Greens will continue to demonstrate by our actions here and now how an independent Scotland could be even fairer. This is the kind of compelling case that will win over new supporters to independence, and it’s a far cry from a report designed to settle the nerves of centre-right commentators.”