THERE is no doubt that our collective viewing during the Christmas period has always been enhanced by the various versions of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol that appear on screen together with, a film that extensively borrows both the plot and its thematic structures, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Both are shamelessly feel-good movies that seek to pluck at the heartstrings of viewers but the significance of their importance to contemporary audiences must never be underestimated.

Dickens’s most popular work was penned at a time when the government policy of laissez-faire was common practice and led directly to social, economic and political inequality, widespread poverty and inequity. The writer’s desire to pursue genuine social justice is one we today can empathise with, particularly when we witness the actions of the present UK government.

Capra’s most famous work was made in 1946 – a year after the tumult of the Second World War – and, at its most basic level, demonstrates a small-town battle between good and evil mirroring the vanquishing of fascism and political malevolence it represents.

Both films serve as social commentaries that prize utilitarian values above all else in that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is what should guide and inform a society. Both identify greed, corruption and a lack of real humanity as endangering the common good.

The present Conservative government ticks all of these boxes and then some. In 1947, the FBI criticised Capra and his film for his portrayal of Henry Potter as an attempt to discredit bankers and capitalism in general and, ominously, at the advent of McCarthyism, branded it as a Communist trick that sought to brainwash the American people.

Both films pose a question to the audience regarding their moral barometer and what kind of a world they wish to live in. When Scrooge responds to being asked to help support the most vulnerable in society, he answers “Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?”. When faced with a similar dilemma in contemporary Britain, today’s Conservative Party member may well wish to state “Are there no food banks, are there no homeless shelters?”. This party’s unfeeling and indifferent immoral reactions to those problems that affect the most vulnerable in our society has been momentously lamentable, particularly since Boris Johnson’s time in office. Cutting Universal Credit payments, slashing international aid and imposing the appalling national albatross of Brexit on the most impoverished reeks of upper-class entitlement and detachment. The corruption and sleaze have become the yardstick by which the present Tory administration is judged.

It would appear that, as 2022 looms ahead, the people of Scotland find themselves at a crossroads. Their choice in not a binary one that differentiates between good and evil but we must now decide what kind of society we wish to be and what kind of country we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in.

The UK has lurched to the political right, is governed by a Prime Minister and party strangers to the truth. The opposition is pusillanimous and pursue Tory-lite policies that they believe will gain them support but lack moral fibre or tangible aims to reform. Scottish Labour is in terminal decline and in political free fall with few, if any, socialist policies in sight.

George Bailey was permitted to see the difference that his selflessness and egalitarian commitment made to the people around him. The people of Scotland must now choose between being part of a Union that views them as collateral who are supine and compliant or support an independence movement that can establish a country that is guided by socially democratic principles.

In short, we can choose to remain in a Pottersville where iniquity is the norm or establish our own Bedford Falls, far from perfect but where everyone is held in respect any social equality is the order of the day.

Owen Kelly