On March 5th, students, campaigners and curious folk in Aberdeen turned out to our 2014 matters debate on economic justice. Hosted by Aberdeen University Students’ Association and Shared Planet society, it would be a chance to pose some key questions to Maggie Chapman of the Scottish Green Party and Christine Jardine of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, with input from Jubilee Scotland director Alys Mumford and Ben Wray from the Jimmy Reid Foundation.
Alys from Jubilee Scotland kicked the evening off by highlighting some of the huge injustices in global economic systems and pointing out that although so much of the referendum debate played out in the media has seemed to focus on economic issues – think currency, oil funds and promises of more money in your pocket either way – there has been worryingly little focus on economic justice. Offering some shocking statistics on global debt, for example that Indonesia still owes the UK over £340million which was lent to the dictator General Sahuaro and used for genocide and repression, she challenged the panellists to explain whether independence or staying in the union would have more success in helping us be part of the solution to the world’s economic problems.
Next up was Ben Wray of the Jimmy Reid foundation who offered the audience a view of the economic injustice present in the UK today. Reminding the audience of the definition of justice being “giving to each what her or she is due”, he highlighted numerous examples of this simply not happening. Citing the work of the New Economics Foundation, he examined the idea that the value we offer society is not reflected in what we earn. Finally he explored the issue of in-work poverty facing many people in Scotland today – 60% of children in poverty have at least one parent in work – and challenged the panel to present their view of what a socially and economically just economy could look like in Scotland.
The audience were then invited to put questions to our panel, on a range of issues including the gender pay gap, taxation, and whether or not being independent would be better for debt justice. Given that both Maggie Chapman and Christine Jardine are standing as candidates in the upcoming European elections in May, it was also a brilliant opportunity to quiz them both about the impact that the European Union could have on economic justice. While both acknowledged the issues of the EU, highlighting the undemocratic nature of the EU, they were convinced that if people across Scotland and the UK engage with it, Europe could be a force for economic good.
The final round of audience questions focused on economic justice at home, with people quizzing the panellists on the future of the welfare system, and the potential for changing the way we view the entire economy. Christine Jardine called for a reform of the welfare system to ensure that it reached the people who needed it most, while Maggie Chapman argued for a citizens’ income to recognise the value of unpaid work such as childcare.
It was a great event, and discussions continued in full flow even as the organisers had to run to the station for their trains home! You can listen to the podcast of the event and head to www.2014-matters.org for more information about upcoming events.