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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."

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