Tax is the big issue in Scotland this week. The media is fixated on the tax affairs of over privileged and over paid big weans who kick baws about while ruining a good lawn in a display which is allegedly symbolic of 400 years of sectarianism. The Inland Revenue has won its tax case against Rangers, which had tried to claim that its highly paid staff were receiving loans and not wages and so income tax and national insurance were not due. The affair famously set off a chain of events that led to the dissolution of the club and its reformation in the third division, having a reformation being appropriate in the context of a fitba club that has historically seen itself as a bulwark of Protestantism. Presumably the new Rangers is exactly the same as the old Rangers in the same way that the Church of Scotland is exactly the same as the Catholic Church.
But arguments about the status of a fitba club are trivial and childish. The real scandal is that a powerful institution sought to avoid paying tax, and it’s been ruled in the wrong in the same week that the Scottish Government is being pressurised to compensate low paid workers who have lost their tax credits. If only other large companies also had to pay their fair share of tax then perhaps there would have been no cuts to tax credits for poorly paid workers in the first place. However Labour in Scotland prefers to focus its ire on the Scottish Government, and not on the Westminster Government that condones industrial scale tax avoidance. When it comes to the actions of Westminster Goverments, Labour prefers abstention. The party could have voted against austerity, but instead they abstained. Labour plays in the third division of the fantasy league of politics.
Despite the much advertised new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament, they are limited and partial. Holyrood does not have anything like the full range of tax raising powers available to Westminster, and that is quite deliberate. The new tax powers granted by Westminster are deliberately restricted to those taxes which the average punter is going to notice in their pay packet, since the average punter isn’t able to avail his or herself with a loan arrangement from a former fitba club. Westminster wants you to notice a tax increase in your pay packet, and wants you to blame it on Holyrood. Specifically, they want you to blame it on the SNP. Then Westminster can get on with the serious business of offering tax breaks, concessions, and subsidies to large businesses without troubling itself with the thought that Scotland might get sick of its charade and walk off the pitch.
Labour’s cunning plan is that they can force the SNP to take responsibility for Tory cuts. Labour doesn’t actually have any costed plans, they’re not going to say how they propose to pay for the increased expenditure required to mitigate cuts imposed by Westminster. Kezia Dugdale says that she’ll not cut Airport Passenger Duty, but that’s not going to raise any more money. She’s also planning to resist Westminster changes to tax allowances that benefit the well off, but she’s not saying how that’s going to happen with just one Labour MP from Scotland and a party that thinks resisting the Tories means sitting on their arses in a Commons bar when a vote is called.
Today the SNP announced that they’re putting forward a measure in Westminster to have all tax credits devolved to Holyrood. If Labour was sincere in its insistence that Holyrood mitigate the Tory cuts then they’d support the SNP’s motion. You already know that they won’t. Labour are only interested in point scoring. The proof lies in Kezia Dugdale’s insistence that Holyrood can start mitigating the Tory cuts in 2016 using tax powers that won’t be delivered to Holyrood until 2018. But who needs political principles when opportunism and Unionism are all you need to get you sympathetic headlines.
The truth is that if Holyrood were to mitigate every cut implemented by the Tories then Scotland would have no money left to spend on the things that hadn’t been cut. We’re left paying twice for our public services, and with EVEL we get second class MPs at Westminster to boot. This is the best of both worlds that the Better Together campaign told us about before the independence referendum. Scotland feels so appreciated and loved. Why do we need to take our own decisions when we can just keep taxing ourselves more to pay for the decisions that others have imposed upon us while we fixate on the fitba that passes for news. It’s the U-KOK way. Devolution ought to be about Scotland making its own way within the UK, not about constantly trying to repair the damage done to the vulnerable by a a shower of sociopathic bastards on expenses.
Holyrood ought to reject the new Scotland Bill. It’s unfit for the purpose it was sold to us for. The true purpose of the Scotland Bill is not to empower the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people, its true purpose is to aid the Unionist parties in their short termist politicking against the SNP. The fact that Scottish public services will get wrecked means nothing to them. They don’t care. What they do care about is preserving their own privilege and position.
It started with a vow to introduce the nearest thing to federalism possible. It was going to be Home Rule for the 21st century – a phrase that was historically understood to be dominion status for Scotland, giving us all the powers of a Canada or an Australia. Of course that was never made explicit, just implied. This conveniently allowed the Unionist to insist that they meant something else all along. Then the vow was diluted in the Smith Commission, and further diluted by the Scotland Bill. Then Westminster worried that it was still a bit meaty so watered it down some more, and rejected every amendment put forward by Scottish MPs. We were promised the whole hog roast, and we got an out of date ham sandwich that’s been screwed by Davie Cameron. It’s time Scotland relegated Westminster and started playing in a different league, Labour and the Tories have taxed our patience for far too long.
My new book is due to be published on 23 November. Barking Up the Right Tree is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper and is being published by Vagabond Voices press, who also publish Jim Sillars. The dug is in exhalted company. None of the articles collected in this book have appeared on this blog.
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