By a Newsnet reporter

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has welcomed the admission from Labour Leader Ed Miliband that the small independent nations of Scandinavia are more equal societies.


In a speech to the Sutton Trust on Monday, Mr Miliband said:

"When you look around the world and compare the rates of social mobility, there is a striking fact.

"If you are born poor in a more equal society like Finland, Norway or Denmark then you have a better chance of moving into a good job than if you are born poor in the United States.  If you want the American dream – go to Finland."

Mr Miliband's comments are at odds with years of criticism of Scandinavia from senior Labour figures who consistently deny that Scotland is capable of building a society similar to those of our comparably sized near neighbours.

In a speech to the conference of the Labour party in Scotland in March this year, Mr Miliband himself claimed that Scotland required the parliamentary Union with Westminster in order to redistribute wealth equitably throughout the UK.

The Sutton Trust themselves sponsored research published in 2005 showing that – under Labour's watch – social mobility in the UK declined to a level comparable to that of the US.  Meanwhile, the Scandinavian countries continued to have the highest rates.  

The study found that social mobility in Britain - a measure of a person's ability to escape childhood poverty - is lower than in Canada, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

The study also noted that the gap in opportunities between the rich and poor is similar in Britain and the US, however in the US it the opportunity gap is static, whereas in the UK it is getting wider. The UK is becoming a less and less equal society as a direct result of the policies of successive Westminster governments, Labour, and now the Coalition.

Of the European and North American nations examined in the report, the USA and Britain languish at the bottom with the lowest social mobility.  Norway has the greatest social mobility, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland.  Germany is around the middle of the two extremes, and Canada was found to be much more mobile than the UK.  In all these countries a child born into poverty is more likely to escape poverty in adulthood than a child born into similar circumstances in the UK.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

"This is a very welcome admission from Ed Miliband that we should aspire to have the social mobility of countries like Finland, Norway or Denmark.

"It stands in stark contrast to years of using Scandinavia to attack and undermine Scottish independence.

"Mr Miliband and his Labour colleagues have to explain why they think Scotland is somehow uniquely incapable of becoming as equal a society as our neighbours in Scandinavia.

"Ironically, the Sutton Trust themselves showed that – under Labour's watch - social mobility in the UK declined to one of the worst levels in advanced Western democracies.

"So it's a bit rich for Ed Miliband to criticise the unequal society his party created.

"An independent Scotland can be a beacon for progressive opinion south of the border and further afield - addressing challenges in ways which reflect the universal values of fairness - and are capable of being considered, adapted and implemented according to the specific circumstances and wishes within the other jurisdictions of these islands, and beyond."


# cjmjr 2012-05-22 07:19
There is no reason that Scotland can't set the standard others aim for we have the skills we have the knowledge all we need is Independence from Westminster and the use of our own resources.
# Fungus 2012-05-22 07:34
Mr Miliband himself claimed that Scotland required the parliamentary Union with Westminster in order to redistribute wealth equitably throughout the UK.

That translates as: "The Southeast of England needs Scotland's wealth"
# Jim Johnston 2012-05-22 19:39
Well spotted !!!
# hiorta 2012-05-22 07:50
The UK as currently setup, is not aimed at equality, but is a cobbled hotch potch of a Monarchical system, bolstered by an aristocracy, with a wee afterthought of a 'democracy' bolted on.

We need this anachronistic position completely reversed in order to join the 20th century.
# Holebender 2012-05-22 11:40
I suppose that would be a good stepping stone to the 21st Century! ;)
# alasdairmac 2012-05-22 08:58
Don't worry folks, he'll have a very good reason for excluding Scotland from that comparison. I can't wait to hear it when he is challenged.
# proudscot 2012-05-22 09:45
A more socially equal society in Scotland is opposed by Lamont's London Labour lot, because it's an aspiraton of our SNP Government. Official Labour Party policy as voiced by Willie Bain MP.
# alexb 2012-05-22 09:47
Wonder if he consulted Lamont before making this speech.
# Harry.Shanks 2012-05-22 11:11
Quoting alexb:
Wonder if he consulted Lamont before making this speech.

...and if not, will she be apologising "on behalf of the people of Scotland"?
# Jim1320 2012-05-22 12:38
When Ed says Britain will be a more equal and fairer society in the Union what he actually means is that he needs the social democratic voice of Scotland to counter the neo-liberalism of England. In the round we are, of course a less equal and fairer society than we would be if we went it alone.

I'm sorry, but it is not the job of the Scottish electorate to protect the English from themselves nor should it be. All it results in is a form of Government we don't particularly like and an extremely resentful attitude towards the Scots in the English Tory press (i.e. most of it).
# tartanpigsy 2012-05-22 13:19
"If you are born poor in a more equal society like Finland, Norway or Denmark then you have a better chance of moving into a good job than if you are born poor in the United States. If you want the American dream – go to Finland."

You really couldn't make it up, they know what's best in organising a modern progressive society, but it doesn't suit their power agenda at home, unbelievable.
# Dundonian West 2012-05-22 14:32
"Miliband praises "more equal" small independent countries"---from the Labour Unionist Leader.
One for the billboards/lamposts of Glasgow and Dundee!
# dundie 2012-05-22 21:28
Working on that right now, fellow Dundonian.
# pmcrek 2012-05-22 15:24
Its probably worth pointing out that both Ireland and Iceland still have a higher GDP per capita and HDI index than the UK despite their recent problems.

Perhaps the UK media could point this out next time they are having a go at Ireland for "being poor".
# lumilumi 2012-05-22 15:33
As a Finn, I'm quite chuffed Ed Miliband chose to highlight my fairly equal and socially mobile country in this way.

Unfortunately, I have two three objections.

Firstly, Labour, whilst in government in Westmister in recent history hasn't done anything to boost social mobility - they've actually made it worse! So it's pretty hypocritical pontificating on the subject to score political points against the Coalition.

Secondly, he treats Scotland as a total irrelevance. A country within the UK which actually aspires to a more equal, socially mobile society (free higher education, anyone?). What's well and fine for Finland, Norway, Denmark etc. apparently isn't fine for Scotland.

Thirdly, and most sadly, from my point of view, social mobility in Finland is becoming more curtailed. Finland has never been such a class society as UK (England), always pretty egalitarian. No private schools here, rich people's kids go to the PISA-topping, excellent local council-run schools same as everybody else, free education for all up until Master's degree level. But a social rift started appearing after our big depression in the early 1990s and now we're seeing signs that poverty/poor educational attainment/unemployment is becoming inter-generational, for the first time in modern Finnish history. I find this a real worry.

I blame neoliberalist policies by all our main parties, even the Social Democrats. Though I suppose our main right-of-centre party (Kokoomus) is still left from what the UK Labour have become. And so far Finnish politicians (left, right or centre) have managed government spending and debt quite well, we're still one of the only three Eurozone countries with a triple-A rating. But has the price been an increasing gap between the rich and the poor? Is it a price worth paying?

As a small-business owner I really like small-time capitalism (and gladly pay taxes towards free education etc.), but I really dislike big-time capitalism that disregards all social responsibility in pursuit of only profits. Greed. Ugly.

Sorry, rant over.
# scottish_skier 2012-05-22 15:43
OT but probably best place for it....For those who might be interested, I see little change in polling based on this month's UK-wide GE intentions

My analyses gives for Scots UKGE intention:

SNP 44%
Lab 33%
Con 16%
Lib 5%

Which would give a 62% majority of Scots MPs and turn most of Scotland yellow north of the southern uplands.


# lumilumi 2012-05-22 15:58
Hi, SS!

I always enjoy your analyses of polls and the methodology - I only did basic statistics at uni so it's good to have someone here on NNS a bit more knowledgeable explaining it all.

That said, I'm a bit curious about your analysis methods for your Scots UKGE intention figures. Care to elaborate a bit more?

(The link you provided only shows latest UKGE and Holyrood results, I couldn't get any predictions/recent polls, but I've got pretty stringent anti-ad filters on, maybe that's the reason.)
# scottish_skier 2012-05-22 17:45
If I do that Old Nat will just start picking holes in it ;-)

The scotlandvotes link was just to insert values/play with them etc.

I have uploaded my own graphs before – you may have seen them.

Bascially I’m working with information for Scotland in UK-wide polls; both the subsets and the figure for the SNP share of the vote. Scotland-wide polls are rare enough as it is, but they're like hens teeth at the moment.

Individual Scotland subsets are small (80-150 people or so) and not matched to the demography of Scotland, numbers jump up and down like mad; particularly for the SNP and Labour which have the large vote shares. However, if you combine these you can start to get the general trend. I use the actual total SNP share of the vote divided by Scotland’s population share (e.g. 4/8.4 = 47.6) which assumes only people in Scotland vote SNP and certain to vote numbers are similar across the border. I combine this with a running average of subset shares for each party in Scotland and also the running middle value (mid point between the highest and lowest shares polled). All of these actually give shares relatively close to each other and I then just average them out to give a trend through what is a lot of scattered data. However, scatter or not, the end result is that there is no way to explain the fact that the SNP are clearly polling higher than any other party in Scotland other than that they are! Oh, and the rare Westminster Scotland-wide poll matches what I get from subsets quite well.

And I’m a chemist, not a statistician – but of course used to working with lots of experimental data searching for trends.

This is fairly recent graph I posted – I’ve been updating it and playing with trend fitting but little change.
# lumilumi 2012-05-22 18:13
Thanks, SS, for your explanation. And I've seen the graphs you've uploaded, very enlightening, and encouraging. Thanks for them.

I'm still very worried about the Scottish subsets, they're tiny. Any political poll in Finland (~5.4M) uses a random sample of 1000 or 2000, that's not happening in/for Scotland.

And now I must go inside and dust all the birch pollen off my laptop - we're having the most birch pollen in about 50 years and everything gets covered in greeny-yellow dust. I'm not allergic but even my eyes and throat are feeling schratchy!
# Soixante-neuf 2012-05-22 18:00
I think you have to fill in SS's numbers for yourself, and click on "predict". That's what I did.
# lumilumi 2012-05-22 18:25
Thanks for the tip, 69. Just did that.

SS's numbers gave 2 (two!!!) Con MPs! 37 SNP and only 19 Labour, and 1 LibDem - so we can put this down as bit of fun and not very scientific. But maybe we can see a trend emerging.

And now I really have to go and wipe all the birch pollen off my keyboard!
# scottish_skier 2012-05-22 18:38
There is of course an error there and polls are polls. Shave just a percent or two off con and Lab and things look very different under FPTP...

I'm not sure how scotlandvotes translate %'s to seats but its probably reasonably accurate. The borders are unfortunately the last bastion of the Tories in Scotland ;-)
# Soixante-neuf 2012-05-22 17:59
That's not good enough! My constituency is still blue! Please, please deliver us from Mundell!
# Jim Johnston 2012-05-22 19:47
In a way you're lucky S-n, we're still stuck with major Joyce. (Major Bloodknock more like.)
# dundie 2012-05-22 21:31
That's kind of giving away your age there Jim... references to the Goons!
# mealer 2012-05-22 18:52
So unionists 54% SNP 44%.How does that fit in with the 40 40 20 analysis for the referendum? Sounds about right to me.
# scottish_skier 2012-05-22 19:31
I'd say so. It is not a simple SNP vote share = support for independence. There are supporters of independence in all the parties/their voters; these are just concentrated in the SNP. We're seeing people from unionist parties come out of the closet in drips and drabs now. Soon that will become a trickle, then hopefully a flood...

However, SNP intention for Westminster is probably a good barometer of the 'Ready to vote yes tomorrow' share as there is no other reason to vote SNP for Westminster; it's not as if they will ever form a UK government....

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