They say there’s nothing new under the sun, and for those who’ve seen the results of more than one Tory Chancellor’s attempts to help us out of a recession, the news last week that Rishi Sunak was going to give us all some sort of “New Deal” had us scrambling to look at the small print.
As we move onto phase three of the move out of lockdown, and many of the things that we have missed over these last few months become possible again, the idea of what a “new normal” will look like begins to take shape, and so too we begin to think about the other consequences of the pandemic.
Every recession is different, but we need to learn from the ones we’ve been through to make sure that we come out of this one in a better place than we were before.
Most people like me will think of the 1980s, with closures of some of the country’s most iconic factories and industries, and what that meant for so many families like yours and mine.
The worst part wasn’t the initial shock, devastating as it was: it was the slow realisation that these skilled industrial jobs hadn’t been replaced with work on anything like the same level.
So that’s why when the Chancellor came waving his chequebook about I realised the chance we have now to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, where communities like ours were sacrificed to save some rich man in London’s bottom line, and we were left without the tools to grow successfully out of recession.
Very quickly after the announcement, two important facts emerged. While this £25billion stimulus may be unprecedented in peacetime, Germany had already announced a stimulus four times larger, which will focus on giving those affected by this crisis the skills and opportunities to move on.
And from a Scottish angle, when all is said and done, experts at the independent Fraser of Allander Institute calculated that this would only mean £20million of extra spending here, with Westminster deciding where the rest is to be spent.
For this child of the 80s, I don’t like where this is going – warm words and meal vouchers won’t prepare Clydebank for the new digital economy, or encourage the growth of new small businesses at the heart of our community.
Countries smaller and poorer than Scotland have been able to do it, although the fact that they are able to make all of their own decisions may have played a part in that.
At times like this, our experience makes us ask, who do we trust to spend this money better? It’s time to put that experience to use and make these decisions ourselves.
This article was written for publication in the Clydebank Post.