Over decades, the BBC4 Saturday night slot has been one of my favourites – learning about Scandic culture; strange languages, but more nuanced than the inescapable money-worship of the ‘American Dream’. I remember well the series ‘A State of Happiness’ (2020), set in Stavanger in 1969 – when one of the largest oil pools in the world was discovered off the Norway coast. Memorable, was how canny Norwegian politicians made sure their own people, and not just multinationals, secured the benefits. The Sovereign Fund they created, to manage oil revenues, is now valued at 1.4 trillion dollars.
I was reminded of this triumph recently when Scotland auctioned seabed plots for 17 massive, offshore windfarms – hailed by the First Minister as a truly historic economic opportunity. Think tank, Common Weal has a different take: they say that the failure to create a state-owned energy company to sell ScotWind to the grid – and failure to develop the capacity to manufacture wind turbines ourselves – amounts to ‘arguably the greatest economic failure of the last decade’. Common Weal Director, Amanda Burgauer said: “Scotland has sold off its energy future for a pittance and there should be outrage and fury”.
We have the same population as Norway, yet the option that the ScotWind project might be owned and operated ‘in house’ won’t even have been considered. It’s ‘sair’ to admit, but at this time the governance of Scotland lacks both competence and confidence – even aspiration. Our opportunities in offshore wind power are Premier League – our team is second division.
It became clear this week that Johnson will never resign as PM – not of his own accord – he’s ‘digging in’; as Paul Waugh wrote in the ‘i’: “They’ll have to drag him handcuffed from the building”. There are also signs that his disregard for rules and win-at-all-costs approach is spreading to the Tory Party – which points to the deeper moral problem. Johnson is a temporary nuisance whose character flaws have been laid bare; far more worrying is the embedded political culture which elects someone who openly mocks truth and integrity. Britain urgently needs an era of serious leaders, who respect democracy.
The UK is distracted just now by the crisis of our ‘rotten’ political culture but, in the daily lives of so many, ‘getting by’ financially is the real crisis. This Guardian piece by Frances Ryan suggest that skipping meals, and wearing coats in the front room, will not only be for our poorest in the coming months.
An acceptable term for the shape of the future post-capitalist economy, is a ‘wellbeing’ economy; here Dr Trevor Hancock identifies some important aspects: “GDP fails to account for incalculable social and environmental damage that may be caused by the pursuit of profit; measuring ‘real’ wealth includes natural, human and social capital”.
Robert Peston on the jaw-dropping £8.7bn losses incurred on PPE last year (£1.3bn broke the rules).
“Climate savvy millionaires are buying up huge areas of the Scottish Highlands and transforming how it is managed. These ‘green lairds’ are re-kindling debates about who owns Scotland’s land and what they are doing with it”. The best article I’ve read about it is beautifully assembled by Reuters; note the visual impact.
In the western world, there’s a welcome loosening of the grip of work on citizens – the pandemic certainly facilitated this trend. This article is about how a new law in Belgium, is allowing 65,000 federal workers to make themselves unavailable outside normal working hours; the right to disconnect; towards a better life/work balance.
Writer/sage, the late Doris Lessing once wrote: “There have been great societies which didn’t use the wheel, but there have been no societies that didn’t tell stories”.
This quote is extracted from her Nobel Prize speech in 2007:
“The storyteller is deep inside every one of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is ravaged by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise. But the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us – for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.”