Scotland’s Press and Politicos Push True Tax Reform
|November 30, 2013||Posted by Staff under Good Press, The Progress Report|
We should be challenging the privileges and entitlement culture, and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Labour Leader Johann Lamont signals her support for a new tax plan. The worsening impact on public services highlights the long-running council tax freeze.
These three 2013 excerpts endorsing the public recovery of land value are of: (1) The Scotsman, Spt 14, by Gerry Hassan; (2) The Scotswman, Spt 22, by Eddie Barnes; and (3) Hearald Scotland, Nov 2, by Magnus Gardham, Political Editor.
Bedroom tax hides more serious issues
Scotland is a land where many people are struggling to buy the most basic essentials of life, while others at the top have never had it so good. Oxfam Scotland’s recent Our Economy report found that the gap between the richest and poorest 10 per cent of households was 1:273. The Scottish Government’s council tax freeze, according to research by Unison, has given those in the most expensive Band H properties a discount of £441 per year, while only aiding those in the lowest band properties by £147 per year: effectively a distribution to those who already have the most.
The idea of power has to be addressed –- who has it, why and what the consequences of this are. Related to this is the limited nature of democracy which has seen the centralisation of public bodies and decision making. There is a direct link between this and the increasing concentration of wealth and income in fewer hands; the narrow realm of what it is possible to talk and act on in Scotland’s truncated democracy aids the rule of the rich and powerful.
Public finances need to be sorted – national taxes, local taxes and a land value tax introduced. As an interim measure, the council tax top bands could be raised to bring in additional resources from the richest group of householders: we could even call it a Scottish solidarity tax.
Labour leader Johann Lamont signals support for land tax
This tax is paid on the value of the land that people own, rather than the property on it. Backers, such as the Scottish Greens, say the reform would cut bills on council-tax while also bringing an end to damaging speculation such as that seen before the 2008 crash.
Johann Lamont said it was “almost impossible” to begin a debate about tax reform when the levels of trust in politicians was so low.
Business Secretary Vince Cable told the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow last week that a land tax in England was also being considered by the UK coalition government.
Three years ago, a paper for the Scottish Greens written by land-reform campaigner Andy Wightman concluded that a tax of 3.16p in the pound would be enough to replace the council tax and the uniform business rate in Scotland.
Wightman said such a tax would reduce “urban blight” and “land banking”, and would benefit business.
Alternative to council tax freeze is out there
The Scottish Government’s enthusiasm for the council tax freeze, now in its seventh year, has rather obscured the fact it began life as a stop-gap measure until the planned local income tax could be introduced.
Successive Labour/LibDem administrations had taken the view that while the council tax wasn’t too broke (people weren’t rioting, at least) then it didn’t really need fixing.
Despite its faults the council tax has become extremely useful. It’s become a pillar of the Scottish Government’s “social wage”. No wonder the council tax freeze looms over every election fought in Scotland.
By and large the better off continue to benefit disproportionately from freezing bills while councils face a growing problem providing services which, by and large, the less well off rely upon.
Labour have voiced tentative support for a land value tax, a levy on the value of the land you occupy rather than the house standing on it.
Ed. Notes: Scotland’s, England’s, and the rest of the British Isles’ leaders lead the world in discussing the public recovery of socially-generated locational values for the benefit of all members of society; may the rest of the world catch up!