Jackie Baillie: "Too much of our economy is foreign owned"
Scottish Labour has called for an alternative economy policy that would see Scottish workers given the right to take over firms that are being sold-off or closed down, warning that the current system is in danger due to the unusually high amount of foreign ownership in Scotland.
In an opinion piece for Scotland on Sunday yesterday, Scottish Labour's economy spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said that "We need to look at who owns the Scottish economy and why we are so vulnerable to external shocks – and why so much wealth leaks out from our country."
"Too much of our economy is foreign owned, liable to the whims of the balance sheet with no regard given to the impact closures can have on communities."
"The SNP’s cuts commission – the real long-term plan the nationalists have for the Scottish economy – proposes more foreign investment and ownership. This is a model which leaves Scotland vulnerable to global shocks rather than the solid foundations of an economy where working people have a real say." she said.
Scotland has the highest level of foreign direct investment in the UK outside of London.
The Scottish government figures from 2016 show that there are nearly as many foreign-owned manufacturers as there are Scottish-owned (44 per cent compared to 45 per cent).
In response Scottish Labour is proposing a "Marcora Law", which would allow workers to take over a business as a co-operative if it is being sold or closed down.
The Marcora law refers to an Italian industrial policy from the 1980s, which saw the North Italian 'Emilia-Romagna' region give the power to redundant workers to take over companies. The region now has one of the highest density of co-operatives in the world, with co-ops providing 30 per cent of the region's GDP, and nearly 2/3rds of residents co-op members. Under the law, over 257 worker owned businesses have been started in the past 30 years.
In her article Baillie argued: "we need to build the economy from the root up, which is why Labour’s plans for a Scottish Marcora Law, would give workers the preferential right to buy a business when it is put up for sale or facing closure. Because working people, the creators of wealth, should have the opportunity to own the wealth that they create."
"A Scottish Marcora Law would give workers the opportunity to take back control of their workplace, allowing for greater accountability of decision making and investment."
"Developing these new forms of ownership can also address the failures of privatisation and lead to greater long-term planning, for example, helping to deal with the significant rise in automation and ensure that technological change works in the interests of, rather than punishes, working people."
Labour has pointed to the recent sell-off of the manufacturing firm, BiFab, which saw the vast majority of the workforce laid off after the company was sold to Canadian company, DF Barnes as an example of the need for an alternative industrial strategy.
"The hollowing out of BiFab shows that we cannot carry on with business as usual." said Baillie.
"It is not enough for government to lurch from one defensive rescue to the next."
"Democracy in our economy won’t just help when things go wrong, but will ensure things go right in the first place."