TTIP and the Scottish independence referendum
Date: 28 August 2014
Whatever the outcome of the independence referendum on 18 September, surely everyone in Scotland would like to see a Scotland able to exert control over its own policies through democratic processes. TTIP threatens this.
There’s been a lot of debate and discussion in the last couple of weeks about the NHS in Scotland and what impact a Yes or No vote in the independence referendum might have on it. What that debate and discussion, and the media coverage around it, has overlooked though is something crucial (whatever the outcome of the vote): the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). TTIP is an aggressively neoliberal initiative which could threaten democracy and public services, and become the model for future trade agreements worldwide. It’s something that both the Better Together and the Yes Scotland campaigns need to pay closer attention to – and to vociferously oppose.
TTIP threatens the authority of the Scottish government and Scottish parliament to freely exercise their powers. Scotland has so far chosen to resist efforts to introduce greater private sector provision in the NHS. It has also been spared the top-down reorganisation of the NHS that England has seen as a result of the Health and Social Care Act.
However, TTIP could threaten this public sector oriented model. US companies will be free to bid for NHS contracts where these are offered up for tender, which could lead to the entry of giant US health corporations into the UK. Once entrenched, the multi-million pound lobbying and legal clout of these companies could erode the Scottish NHS.
Existing private sector involvement in Scotland’s NHS, through procurement, the provision of services or PFI would become irreversible. Decisions such as the recent move to reduce the extent to which private sector providers are used could lead to the Scottish government being taken to international arbitration by companies.
From the NHS to the provision of education, TTIP could force Scotland to adopt a system that allows US multinationals to provide public services.
Both sides of the independence referendum campaign are misguided in their support for TTIP: it’s no secret that the UK Government is a major supporter of TTIP, and both First Minister Alex Salmond and deputy Nicola Sturgeon have also voiced their support. And in all the media coverage around the independence referendum, very little attention has been given to the likely negative impacts of TTIP in Scotland.
Both sides of the independence referendum must recognise TTIP for what it is: a charter for big business, and a huge threat to democracy, to Scotland’s highly valued public services, to environmental protection and to equality. And both sides must publically reject it, whatever the outcome of the independence referendum.