A political panel debate at the New Economic Reality conference in Edinburgh has heard a trenchant attack on the economic consensus of the large political parties.
Scottish Green Party MSP Patrick Harvie said that Labour, Tories and Liberal Democrats all assumed that economic recovery would entail a return to a consumerist, high-risk casino-based economy.
In fact, the Scottish budget is expected to face a £3.7 billion cut in real terms over the next four years.
Up to 10 per cent of public sector jobs could be lost as a result, say unions, community groups and political critics of the Westminster-imposed austerity package - which the Greens say the SNP and other parties are not doing enough to resist.
As many as 60,000 people may be put out of work as a result of the cuts. Analysts predict that it could take 15 years for the economy to return to pre-crisis spending levels.
The New Economic Reality conference (http://neweconomicreality.holyrood.com/) met yesterday (29 September 2010) at the Sheraton Hotel in Scotland's capital, aiming to contribute to an independent evaluation of options for the country.
"The Independent Budget Review will inform public and parliamentary debate about the challenges and choices we face as a result of the spending cuts set in train by the previous UK Government, and intensified by the current Westminster coalition,” said John Swinney, Scottish national Party MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth.
But Green MSP Patrick Harvie told the conference: "When Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilisation, he said he thought it would be a good idea. That's how I feel about debating the 'new economic reality'. The sad truth is that the Liberal/Tory coalition is imposing a deeply regressive cuts agenda which will leave society's most vulnerable paying for the risks taken by the wealthiest casino capitalists."
He continued: "Balancing the books by cutting public services will do nothing to create a new economic reality. It will simply deepen the crisis of the old economic reality.
"The crisis we've been living through should have been seized on as an opportunity to put the shallow, selfish values of the last thirty years of deregulated free market economics into the dustbin of history and to recognise the need for an economy which shares wealth more equally, an economy which places value on human wellbeing and care for our environment instead of concentrating enormous wealth in the hands of a very few individuals."
Harvie continued: "The slogan of the old economic reality was 'let's go shopping', and sadly the UK coalition and the main political parties in Scotland seem to think that economic recovery will mean a return to that mantra. Recovery means dealing with the underlying economic and social problems."
"The challenge for Scotland, under the constraints of devolution, is to shape a budget which recovers more than GDP growth, one which recovers human values and puts them at the heart of the economy," he said.
More on the Scottish Greens: http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/index