G8 Report : Introduction

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In 2005, the annual G8 summit - the meeting of the leaders of world’s most powerful countries - is coming to the beautiful glens of Perthshire. In some respects, the G8 leaders are coming home to their roots: Scotland was home to 18th century philosophers, Adam Smith and David Hume, staunch defenders of free trade, whose ideas, taken out of context, are now touted in justification of market fundamentalism and the corporate ransacking of people and planet. Scotland gained huge financial wealth from colonial rule, and today it is the regional centre for the oil industry, making it an appropriate place for the G8 leaders, the new colonial masters, to be discussing pressing issues such as climate change and poverty in Africa.

The Scottish Executive has made clear that it wants to take the opportunity of the G8 to promote Scotland and Scottish enterprise, code words for celebrating Scotland PLC. In response, this booklet aims to highlight the darker side of some the corporations with bases in Scotland that stand to gain profile and wealth from the G8 summit. Besides the direct financial benefit of the Gleneagles summit, Scotland and its corporations are very much part of the global economic agenda, known as neoliberalism, which is promoted by the G8.


Alongside its colonial legacy, Scotland has a hugely exciting history of resistance to corporate and centralised power. With its vibrant environmental, peace and radical labour movements, the protests around the G8 in Scotland 2005 promise a great deal in terms of radical ideas and action.


However, this report isn't only about Scotland and the G8. It aims to raise the important questions many are asking today about democracy in the face of global corporate rule. Will we be subsumed into a fossil-fuel-addicted global economy or will we resist to build vibrant, sustainable local economies? Which will win out - ecological sanity or pathological capitalism? Will it be the corporate globalisation of profit and control, or a peoples' globalisation of ideas, creativity and autonomy?


'When we say a better world is possible – we mean it. We want a world that reflects basic life centred values. We’ve got the vision and the big ideas and the other side doesn’t. We’ve got organic food production, direct democracy, renewable energy, diversity, peoples' globalization and social justice. What have they got? Styrofoam? Neo-liberalism? Eating disorders? [Corporate blended whisky?] Designer jeans, manic depression and global warming?'1


Why the G8 and Scotland Plc?


While the G8 is ostensibly an informal meeting of eight world leaders, it is also an important part of the architecture of global governance. Although not a policy-making body, it is open to, and openly courts, the same form of corporate influence as the major formal global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. That global order in turn subverts and colonises national sovereignty.


Scotland today can be seen as an example of global corporate rule in microcosm, brought about by policies endorsed through the G8 and other super-governmental engines of global control. Multinationals with headquarters or operations in Scotland have benefited from the same economic trends that benefit corporations worldwide. Communities and local businesses have lost out in the same measure. The biggest companies in Scotland have gained their wealth through the privatisation of public services, such as energy and transport; through PFI projects, including the major banks; through unsustainable industries such as oil and gas; through the casualisation of labour and through the co-opting of traditional industries, such as fishing. The broader shifts away from corporate regulation towards corporate welfare are strongly reflected in the Scottish economy.


As at the global level, national and regional politics are also being captured. Although for many people the newly devolved Scottish Parliament symbolises a new era in the history of the Scottish nation, the actions of the Scottish Executive are closely aligned with corporate interests.


Corporate influence on the political process, globally or nationally, happens on two different levels. The first is direct corporate involvement through institutional lobbying. While the G8 works closely with global business lobby, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to bring corporate perspectives on its discussions and declarations, a similar process is happening in Scotland. Even in a small country like Scotland, corporate lobbyists consider it important to exercise influence over the seat of government. Take for example the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), at the forefront of corporate attempts to undermine environmental action through lobbying worldwide against regulation in favour of 'voluntary' action. WBCSD now has a Scottish steering group working closely with, and even partially funded by, the Scottish Executive to influence policy at Holyrood.2 Members include road building consultancy Scott Wilson, ScottishPower, the biggest user of natural (water) resources in Scotland, and oil giant Shell.3


At the same time many highly influential Scottish-based multinationals, such as the Royal Bank of Scotland and ScottishPower, are integrated into global corporate lobby groups.


The line between lobbying and capture dissolves with corporations actually integrating themselves into the governmental and super-governmental infrastructure. Since 2001, the G8 has actively welcomed corporate involvement on its task-forces as part of 'stakeholder' engagement. Meanwhile, personnel move seemlessly between the Scottish Parliament and big business on secondments and exchanges.4


And all this corporate lobbying takes place in an already favourable environment. The world leaders meeting at Gleneagles, and certainly Jack McConnell and the Scottish Executive, exist in a pro-market, pro-economic growth paradigm, where 'what's good for business must be good for the country'. This fundamental belief not only underlies the decision-making in most corridors of power worldwide, but is also a generally held assumption about 'development'. These beliefs and assumptions are thankfully something that many are beginning to question.

Corporate Watch

References

1.'Decolonizing the Revolutionary Imagination - Values Crisis, the Politics of Reality and why there’s Going to be a Common Sense Revolution in this Generation.' Patrick Reinsborough Journal of Aesthetics and Protest August 2003: volume 1, issue 2

2.Spinwatch website, 'Taking the Risk out of Devolution' David Miller 6.9.04 www.spinwatch.org, last viewed 07.03.05

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