JOHN Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times published his latest data visualisations last weekend. They showed that the well-off in Britain have incomes similar to those of the well-off in other countries of northern Europe.

But at the median level of income, where there are as many people with higher incomes as there are with lower incomes – the best measure of average income because it is not skewed by the earnings of the filthy rich – people in the UK have been falling behind their European counterparts since the financial crisis.

And for the poorest 10% of the population in the UK, there has been almost no increase in income over the last 15 years. Being poor elsewhere in many countries in Europe now means having an income which is at least 50% higher than in the UK.

It would be very easy – indeed tempting – to start from these observations and churn out yet another article explaining why the UK Government is vile. But The National has a whole stable of writers who can do withering contempt much more convincingly than I.

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Morten Morland, The Times’s cartoonist, captured the social reality which should lose the Tories the next election. An old man watching the Queen’s funeral on TV turns to talk to the person in the chair next to him. But the chair is empty.

Put to one side the vaccination programme. The UK Government’s response to the pandemic was erratic. Waiting lists in the NHS are now over six million. It will be difficult to reduce those numbers quickly because patients will present with much worse conditions than they usually would. People will experience more pain for longer before they are treated.

At a macroeconomic level, Burn-Murdoch has already demonstrated that poor health is having a measurable effect. Long Covid and untreated illnesses are reducing the UK workforce. Fewer people in work means output is lower. Such observations are commonplace in development economics.

We tend to assume that the governments of advanced economies will not be so careless of their citizens’ lives.

Such a government deserves to lose the next General Election and to lose it badly. The almost inevitable denouement will be Jacob Rees-Mogg languidly haranguing corpses for malingering.

For readers of The National, the prognosis for the next UK General Election may be interesting, but it seems to do little to bring about Scotland’s independence.

READ MORE: Graph shows exactly how Tory tax cuts make the rich richer 

Think of Scotland as a 40:30:30 society. That’s 40% of the population who are doing well, keeping up with their European counterparts. Another 30% are managing but having to count pennies carefully this winter. And 30% are struggling, many of them disengaged from politics.

It’s a crude simplification, but in elections, the bottom 30% have almost no voice. Think of those constituencies in Glasgow in which scarcely half of the population cast votes, while in the leafy suburbs, gerrymandered out of the city into East Dunbartonshire or East Renfrewshire, up to 85% of the population might vote.

By expecting people not to vote, political parties can safely ignore a substantial chunk of the population. The strategy of opponents of independence, once they need to engage with a referendum, will presumably be to appeal to the 40%, asking them what the point will be in taking the risk of choosing independence. It might just give them a majority.

Part of the case for independence will counter those claims. But it seems possible that the UK Government is inadvertently opening up new opportunities for the Yes campaign. Its willingness to increase social and economic inequality could mean that we are moving towards a 30:30:40 society – in which more people will feel that their lives are precarious.

I am not sure how to frame these opportunities for the independence campaign, except that I keep thinking about the Labour Party’s argument from 1945, “Never again,” and its two promises – not to go back to the unemployment of the 1930s; and that there would be a National Health Service.

In the 1940s, Labour Party politicians were confident the NHS would soon pay for itself, and its budget would fall. Infection control would mean we would all live much longer lives, and child deaths would become truly exceptional. But cardiovascular disease and cancer instead became serious problems.

There is a part of me thinking that the referendum campaign needs to go well beyond saying that Scotland will protect the NHS. That should almost go without saying. But too often, the NHS is responsive. Suffer a stroke, and it springs into action. Have high blood pressure, and a doctor will prescribe medication and discuss lifestyle.

A healthy Scotland would value all its citizens’ well-being. That should be enough for it to be the antithesis of the UK. If we look to Scandinavia – and specifically Finland – the state considers that its responsibilities to its future citizens begin before birth.

Maternal care is exemplary. Early years support for children enables parents to have substantial leave from employment, as well as ensuring there is affordable, high-quality childcare. Education is far more egalitarian. The people prosper.

And if the people prosper, then growth will look after itself. Equality of opportunity leads to more innovation. Better health increases productivity. Education improves both. But that’s a utilitarian economic argument.

Simply, this should be an ethical duty for the Scottish state.