Richard’s wealth tax can transform further education

Trade unionist and Edinburgh Labour member Mike Cowley argues that Richard Leonard is the only leadership candidate determined, on the basis of wealth redistribution, to resource the further education sector.


Further education has traditionally been perceived by many as a Cinderella sector. On the one hand our service has on occasion been relegated in the public mind to a ‘last chance saloon’ for working class drop outs, troubled teenagers and the academically challenged. On the other, this caricaturing of our social role has been a factor in the sector being starved of resources for far too long, leading to an exhausted workforce overly familiar with the challenges facing other services more widely in austerity Scotland.

The first is undoubtedly linked to the second. Perception matters, and the more we are regarded as of a lower status than the higher education sector, the more difficult the task of effectively applying leverage on successive education ministers to meaningfully intervene and increase the level of resources has been. In particular, the last three SNP administrations have, despite their hollow social democratic rhetoric, left this essential lifeline to improvise and manage with ever decreasing teaching budgets and resourcing for our classrooms.

Richard Leonard’s planned wealth tax on the most affluent Scots will deliver a qualitative shift in the resources available to a redistributive Scottish Labour government.

Further education offers a second opportunity to students for whom attainment at school followed by a successful application to university is not the norm. A continuing commitment to no tuition fees is critical. But unless a Labour government confronts the fundamental causes and consequences of poverty, many thousands will never have the chance to exercise the opportunities university offers.

A continuing universalist pledge to maintaining a no tuition fees position is critical to our party’s future electoral prospects. But if in practice that commitment is not to entrench itself as a default subsidy to middle class university applicants, wealth and income must be redistributed progressively elsewhere so that the policy actually follows through on its collectivist logic.

For so long as our resources are depleted, as long as lecturers struggle with the multiple social penalties incurred by our students because of stagnant family incomes, cuts to services and social security, the system will struggle to maintain itself in circumstances wholly unsupportive of educational values. The SNP government has consistently cut the sector’s teaching budgets, and compounded the insult by failing to resource a poorly judged mergers programme.

Only a Scottish Labour Party led by Richard will free up resources so that all of our kids can access the liberation of education. Watching our students visibly grow in confidence, witnessing their accumulating of ideas, insights, skills and aptitudes are the most rewarding experiences of a lecturer’s career. We want more and more capacity in our sector. We want the advantages and disadvantages of class – material, emotional – and access to educational opportunities widened for all.

Only by voting for a candidate who offers a systemic critique of poverty and its root structural causes can we hope to squeeze the educational attainment gap. Resources, freed up by a wealth tax, will be essential to realising that ambition. As Richard clearly argues in his manifesto, a wide range of structural factors lock our children into poverty for life. Challenge them, and we free them to move confidently into a well-funded education sector and on into adulthood with options in front of them.

That’s why I am voting for Richard, the only SLP leadership candidate determined, on the basis of wealth redistribution, to resource an FE sector which has for too long struggled to pull our students out of poverty while labouring under financial restraints itself.’

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10 thoughts on “Richard’s wealth tax can transform further education

  1. Amazed this impossible left wing pipe dream got past our tough editorial commissioning process… I shall be cancelling my subscription (harrumph). I hope Comrade Roden will squash this madness in reply.

    1. I could not agree more, Brother Whitehead. The idea that education should be available to all and free to boot is about as deranged a notion as it is possible to imagine. I salute your vigilance, keep up the good work!

  2. So, a couple of points:

    1. Richard’s wealth tax proposal requires, as his own “legal opinion” confirms, an Order in Council, which means it requires the backing of the UK government. I don’t think a Tory government is going to back such a thing, so its implementation is reliant on there being a Labour UK government. At that point the question must be asked, why wouldn’t a Labour UK government levy a wealth tax across the whole UK? We could raise much more and do much more.

    2. The wealth tax proposal, unworkable as it is, is for a one-off windfall tax. Further education needs to be funded by continual taxation, not given a one-off bung. If we’re serious about properly funding FE, as I believe we should be, we should find a way to fund it from the revenue budget, not a one off tax lump sum.

    1. Hi Duncan. Naturally, a Tory government are not going to rush to support a wealth tax that would jeopardize their portfolio capacity to invest effectively in the arms trade and other utilitarian enterprises….But just imagine the political dynamics that would result from an incoming Scottish Labour government legislating accordingly, only to be frustrated by a withered, chaotic and dying Tory/DUP axis. That is a prospect I am sure most of us would relish, the opportunity to assert leverage from a moral high point, with the PLP coming to our aid in Westminster debates. What a wonderful chance for coordinated North/South campaigning; on the one side, the Tories defending the 1% of the Paradise Papers, on the other a LP determined to redistribute a small measure of their ill gotten gains. We would very much be making the political weather. If that leads to a future UK Labour government upping the stakes, abetted by the impetus provided by a SLP administration, all the better.
      On the point of the tax being a one off. That is Richard’s current proposal, sure. But we must surely appreciate the political symbolism at play here. A Rubicon will have been crossed. The LP would be back in the business of redistributing wealth as both pragmatic policy commitment and fundamental principle. Let’s push at that open door, I doubt we will encounter too much electoral resistance. The revenue budget is one thing, but it offers limited resources, and does not begin to address the systemic crisis we currently find ourselves in. Rather than seek out reasons to oppose redistributive measures (the Tories will do that loudly enough), let’s get excited about the prospect of aligning ourselves with radical policy initiatives, and look for ways they can actually be achieved.

      1. So you accept that this can’t be done without a UK Labour government, but you think we should attempt to do it in order to make a point. I wonder if you’ve considered how that point would end up being interpreted?

        Labour legislated for and designed Scottish devolution. We argued for certain powers to be reserved in order to ensure a level playing field for working people across the UK. We were right to do so, and we would be foolish indeed to buy into the logic that everything we might want to change today could and should be changed only in Scotland if it cannot be changed across the country.

        To adopt your proposed approach is to buy into the SNP’s grievance agenda, to pit ourselves against the rest of the UK instead of pledging to work in unity with it, and to give succour to the demands of separatists. Even your language here echoes theirs.

        We cannot out-nat the nats. How many times do we have to have that lesson beaten into us before we learn it?

        Your comments on the practicalities of funding FE with a one-off tax betray the paucity of this approach. This isn’t actually about funding FE, nor is it about actually implementing a wealth tax. It’s about “aligning ourselves with radical policy initiatives”. This is why I can’t buy into your and Richard’s approach. I want to actually change people’s lives, not just be morally superior while the Tories and SNP destroy them.

  3. And just to add, the constitutional waters have not been tested as yet in this respect, as far as I know there is no case history to refer to. Let’s push the devolved settlement as far as it can go. At minimum we will find ourselves in very favourable political terrain.

    1. On the contrary, we will find ourselves on the SNP’s terrain, trying to out-nat the nats. And failing.

  4. Guys whats the plans to tackle the problems in the NHS . Its a scandal already happening .
    Ayrshire and Arran healthboard annual review I was at the public meeting part .
    25 million in so called savings They have serious recruiting problems . They have in their own words key positions unfilled in Crosshouse hospital the management were told in front of the Health Secretary by staff members departments are short staff.
    Management said right across Ayrshire and Arran we have a serious shortage of Hospital staff GPS nurses dentists
    In West Kilbride I believe the NHS has had to take over a surgery .
    I saw on the news they have had to take over a surgery in Troon people interviewed said they were faced with 5 locums who did not know them or their medical history
    Back to the review a patient complained he lives in Dalmellington travels by car for his chemotherapy to crosshouse
    He asked why he could not use the 400thousand pound chemotherapy unit in Ayr which is closed
    He was told it is closed due to safety reasons .
    It turned out he was in isolation in Ayr and overheard the staff saying its closed due to a shortage of staff.
    The yard facing closure and the unions taking over the yard .
    For me the silence on all of it is deafening .
    We accuse the SNP of not doing the day job Well guys we are not doing the day job either
    Somebody tell me why an internal leadership election had to have a so called leadership debate was held on Scotland Tonight
    And as this long running election fiasco will finish on Saturday I want the new leader up and running by 5pm
    Whats the NHS plan go visit the yard Saturday night .
    A workin for god sake and apart from local politicians nothing I can see from our leadership
    We should own something like that
    Where is the NHS plan to be implemented Sunday morning
    Here we are arguing on this blog about wealth taxes
    There is a Scottish tax raising budget coming up .We should be voicing our ideas if we have any and trying to have an input
    What are we going to do about the Teachers strikes
    Whats the plan for funding local Government
    Are any of the leaders committed to getting out and about at least 1 day a week
    Start with the yard that is facing liquidaters on Monday
    Whats the reaction to the SNP GP recruitment plan or don’t we have one
    Has anyone even thought out why we are not in a commanding opinion poll lead
    How about this I joined in 1983 I did it because I was not working and fed up complaining about it
    I used to look up the old teletext and put the telly of again . My mother asked me why I told my mother and father because if Maggie had been killed it would be on first . I also said it would be some poor saud with no job not the IRA who would get her
    I saw a man sitting on a floor crying because we had lost been made redundant .And he did not know how to tell his family
    I walked home along a bypass at 2am crying because my parents were relying on my wages to get us over x mas
    I swore never again .
    The party leader was Michael Foot .
    In those days we had passion we faught for jobs we faught for the NHS we went on demonstrations
    A friend like me a labour supporter has often said to me if the SNP had been viable during the miners strike we might have gone for it
    Now thanks to our CLP secretary Jim O Neill we have a CLP that’s vibrant meets every month we don’t feel sorry for ourselves
    We have guest Speakers on a regular basis Hugh Gaffney MP and Monica Lennon MSP 2 examples
    Our North Ayrshire council leader Joe Cullinane have started to implement The plan for Scotland before the Scottish Government
    Sanitory products in Schools for example
    I still have my beliefs but the enthusiasm has gone I want it back
    We are arguing about Wealth taxes on this blog
    On another blog a lawyers squabble
    Somebody tell me why not on Monday Morning our new leader prove to comrades like me and the country you are up to the job by putting down a motion to enact some of the stuff that’s in the plan for Scotland It would
    It would unify the party
    Show me and others you have the enthusiasm the drive
    And I hope we are not going to abstain in the budget debate
    Put amendments down cause a row but don’t abstain
    Prove we are up to the job of opposition then just maybe we will get into power and that means stop fighting each other
    I for one am not going to defend it anymore the last straw was yesterday when a neighbour last Saturday was jabbing his finger in my chest asking how can we get the nats out when we cant even cooperate with each other
    And what am I going to do about it
    Here is what I am going to do to the new leader well done ok no more mister nice guy
    Get your own finger out and starting Saturday show us how you are going to get power no excuses

  5. It was Saturday I got the finger in my chest . The Saturday before I spent an hr outside the same papershop trying to keep 2 labour voters on board .
    The same argument it was the nastiness of our campaign
    I was being told about the row between the Unite Leader in his National comments and Jackiie Baillie replying on STV news which I saw
    I and other comrades are ordinary volunteers we never complain .
    But don’t continue to take that silence as a sign of approval or for granted
    And if you are interested the FM PM meeting lasted 40 mins
    Alec Salmond just had a good old fashioned bust up with Jon Snow on CH4news about his RT show and has made accusations about foreign
    Interference in 14
    does anyone know what time its on at on Thursday

  6. Mike Duncan what are your comments on the FMS 39 unminuted phone calls and meetings over the last few years . Neil Findlay has asked for an enquiry
    This for me is a step in the right direction not the stuff you 2 were arguing about which requires a Labour UK government we have not got
    And Ecks show is on RT is at 630pm Thursday and if you miss it 1130pm

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