Breakthrough for Green Tax Policy: Economic Justice Moves Forward in Scotland
|April 23, 2003||Posted by Staff under The Progress Report|
Breakthrough for Green Tax Policy
Economic Justice Moves Forward in Scotland
Scotland has been in dire need of land reform for many years. Now an important breakthrough has occurred and the chance for radical improvements in the land and tax policies of Scotland is much greater. Many thanks to Robin Harper of the Scottish Green Party.
Here is a news report from the Henry George Foundation of Great Britain.
Scotland’s fledgling Parliament to investigate land value taxation
Scottish Green Party’s Robin Harper MSP’s successful motion on ‘Transforming Public Finance’ will mean a Parliamentary Inquiry into the contribution that land value taxation could make to the cultural, economic, environmental and democratic renaissance of Scotland.
In a radical and ground-breaking decision, the Scottish Parliament has voted to ‘consider and investigate’ land value taxation. On Thursday the 30th of January, Green MSP Robin Harper won a significant victory in the Parliament when his proposal to look at the radical alternative tax system was voted through by MSPs – the first time in the Parliament’s history that a non-government motion was passed without amendment.
The vote was split across party lines. Nationalists, Scottish Socialists and Independents voted for the motion, the Tories against. Labour – the senior partner in the coalition government – abstained, and the Liberal Democrats, junior partners in the government, were divided, with two thirds abstaining. Presiding Officer Sir David Steel declared Harper’s land value taxation motion carried, with votes 35 For, 13 Against, with 59 Abstentions.
After the vote, Harper said “I don’t claim this as a victory for the Greens. I claim this as a victory for the vision that I know — sometimes despite appearances — inspires every Member of the Scottish Parliament. It is just the sort of constructive politics that [First Minister] Jack McConnell has recently been talking about — a positive approach that could rekindle people’s interest in politics.
He added Greens believe there is a fairer system of taxation, which could unlock resources and encourage social and environmental development that is beneficial to the wider community . It was clear from the debate that there are many misunderstandings of how land value taxation might work. Now my proposal has been accepted by Parliament we can start to examine these concerns and explore how the new tax could be used.”
Harper was advised by Land Reform Scotland and the Henry George Foundation. Peter Gibb, Chief Executive of the Foundation said “This constitutionally ground-breaking decision of the Parliament means that Scotland really could be starting down the path of fundamental cultural, economic, environmental and democratic renewal said Gibb. Land value taxation is exciting interest all around the world and now the Scottish Parliament can also explore the possibilities. Transforming public finance will be critical to the future of the new Scotland.”
The Parliament already has the powers to introduce land value taxation as a local tax, and there are moves to increase the parliament’s fiscal autonomy from the UK government, opening the door to the reform of Scotland’s national taxation system.
Land value taxation is seen by campaigners as lying at the heart of the ‘new economics’. The policy’s supporters claim its adoption would impact beneficially on many policy areas — poverty, affordable housing, quality public service provision, transparency and accountability in taxation and government. Devolution was seen as Scotland’s opportunity to look at radical policy solutions the UK was unlikely to consider, and many see land value taxation as the case in point. The week before the debate the Parliament’s first land reform legislation was finally enacted. That Saturday, the back page of The Herald, headlined Land value tax could be next radical reform.
About Land Value Taxation
Land value taxation is an alternative way of paying for public expenditure. Its principles put right faulty analyses used to justify current taxation practices. The introduction of land value taxation as a replacement for current taxation would have wide and profound economic, social and environmental benefits.
Land value taxation is an annual charge on the rental value of the land alone, excluding the value of buildings and other improvements. It would be levied on all land parcels, rural and urban, developed and undeveloped. There would be no exemption for land held deliberately idle or under-used. Valuation would be based on optimum permitted use within planning and environmental constraints.
Land is distinct from buildings and manufactured goods in that it is not man-made. It is a common resource to which we all have an equal claim as a birthright. Recognition of this equal claim cannot in practice be achieved by reallocation, nor should it, but it can be achieved by fiscal means through land value taxation.
Land value taxation is different from all other possible sources of public revenue. It is not a new and additional form of taxation: rather, it is an alternative system of raising public revenue. Land value taxation has an economic and ethical underpinning that ‘traditional’ forms of taxation do not. Land value taxation seeks to recover and recycle wealth created by the community to fund the expenses of the community: traditional taxes ignore the realm of common or publicly created wealth and seek instead to appropriate private wealth.
Robin Harper — “I believe that a transformation of our public revenue system — through the simple yet radical introduction of land value taxation by this Parliament — will be an essential and fundamentally important step in the renaissance of our country. We must look more closely at these ideas, for they are the future.” Email a text-only version of this articleSign up for free Progress Report updates via email
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