Tax changes must be progressive, and comprehensive

Jim O’Neill welcomes the SNP’s consultation on income tax, but points out that it is important to know what any new revenues are intended to be spent on.


Now that the Scottish Government have released their consultation paper on income tax changes, I welcome the approach they are taking on cross-party talks to try to achieve agreement on the way forward.

As a result of First Minister’s Questions, it is clear that there is a substantial majority for a progressive approach to the tax bands, although Colonel Ruth and her Conservative brigade are not part of that majority. While this is unsurprising, it is nonetheless regrettable, and I am sure that their clear support for the wealthy against the poor will rebound upon them.

However, in deciding the structure of tax it is essential, as Jackie Baillie said, to determine the size of the budget. We need to know in advance whether Derek Mackay intends to increase the budget to pay for improvements to the health service, education and local government, including an inflation-proofed pay settlement among other things, that have been damaged by the austerity budgets of the last seven years. That will allow informed discussion on the actual tax rates, and how that will impact on the progressive nature of the tax structure.

I favour a five band policy, with a new lower band for the poorest tax-payers, and two higher bands, of 45 and 50% for those who can bear the greatest burden in making our country favour those in need again. Those on the lowest incomes are the ones who have suffered greatest in the period of austerity, whether by benefit cuts, frozen pay or inflation of basic items needed to bring up a family. It is they who are in most need of support from foodbanks and benefit mitigation, and they must be the absolute priority.

At the same time, however, it would be sensible to make similar changes to Council Tax. Council Tax bands have not reflected the explosion in house values across our country, with the owner of a £5m house paying the same as someone who owns a house worth £120,000. It would be sensible to increase the number of bands at the top by at least two, to begin to resolve this anomaly, and to reflect the higher worth of homes owned by the wealthy. Again, the principle has to be that those who can bear the greatest burden should do so, and those who have the greatest need should benefit most.

The Tories will, no doubt, come out with their shibboleth about the poor old lady living in a house that has increased in value over the years at no fault of her own. However, this constitutes a very small percentage of the cohort, and I cannot believe that it is beyond the wit of the bean counters to come up with a system of Council Tax rebate that takes into account very low incomes.

As I noted earlier, it warms my heart to see the conversion of the SNP to the need for increasing tax in Scotland. As Kez Dugdale said in a recent tweet, she led Labour in four elections on a policy of tax increases, only to be viciously attacked by the SNP for that policy. Indeed, time after time, SNP MSPs have voted against tax increases in the Scottish budget. It is amazing that Nicola can now flip a switch for them to take a diametrically opposite position. But, that’s politics in 21st century Scotland.

Finally, a word about the Catalan situation. In an earlier piece, I compared the SNP approach of ensuring that their referendum was legal with the approach taken by the Catalan government. Indeed, with a maximum turnout of an estimated 43%, Puigdemont did not have a mandate for declaring Catalan independence. Prime Minister Rajoy, however, exacerbated the situation by his bully boy tactics to try to stop the referendum taking place, and the Spanish courts have compounded this by jailing eight members of the Catalan government before a trial.

At least these eight brave souls were prepared to stay to fight their corner, unlike their president who ran away to Belgium to avoid facing the Spanish courts. It will be interesting to see whether the Spanish Government deploys a European Arrest Warrant to have him arrested in Belgium and returned to Spain. It could all have been so different, if Puigdemont had sought a legal referendum and Rajoy had the courage of his convictions and granted it. It would seem that the anti-secessionists would have won, with about the same margin of victory as in Scotland. By taking such a hard line, however, Rajoy and the Spanish establishment risk converting more in the state to the Catalan cause.

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18 thoughts on “Tax changes must be progressive, and comprehensive

  1. You know they sought a legal referendum first, it was denied. In order to get the Spanish constitution changed would require two supermajorities of both houses of the Spanish government followed by a Spain wide referendum. That is not feasible with the rest of Spain against their independence. It totally flies in the face of self-determination

    1. As I noted, if Rajoy had the courage that Cameron had, a solution could have been found. Faults on both sides

      1. Do you honestly think Cameron would have acted any differently between 2011 and 2014 if he believed the Yes vote was going to win?
        Do you think that Rajoy would have done the exact same as Cameron did if he believed the pro union vote was miles ahead in support?

        I truly believe that the Spanish and UK regimes are no different. They both acted the exact same way the other would have had the level of support for their causes been reversed.
        And I believe you and every other pro union supporter in Scotland would have supported Camerons stance had he acted the same way.

        We are seeing evidence of a failure to respect Democracy already from the UK Government and Labour in their open denial of the Scottish Parliaments passing of the second Indy ref bill.

        I absolutely guarantee a second Indy ref will be denied if the indications tell the UK Government that a Yes vote is going to win and any attempt by the Scottish Government to go ahead with one will be met in exactly the same way.

        Its not as if the UK state doesn’t have a track record of suppressing the will of its civil populations.

      2. “Faults on both sides” is a very poor refrain. It’s basically victim-blaming; “They was asking for it! You can’t expect me to restrain myself in such circumstances!”

        Catalans have voted repeatedly for a peaceful and democratic means of achieving independence. There has been no concessions from the unionist Spanish government towards that end.

      3. I predicted that Spain would used an EAW to get the Catalan leadership. They have

        1. No, the haven’t. In Spain they are using law which could only exist in a Fascist ( bound to the State) country.
          In Belgium they will have to give a legal case to extradite the Catalan leadership. They won’t find the Belgium courts as accomodating as the Spanish.

      4. Can’t believe you are so naive as to what Rajoy and his fascist henchmen represent. The Spanish constitution is written/rigged so that Catalonia (and any other region) is hamstrung and crippled. The concept of self determination is anathema to them.
        Anyone taking their side,especially Labour members or self described socialists. should be ashamed as the apologists for an active neo fascism in Spain/Europe in2017.

  2. Can you list all the “PROGRESSIVE” taxation methods the Labour party has introduced as a Government in the UK Jim Bob? The council tax? the bedroom tax? Business rates?
    You welcome the SNPs approach to consultation? Well that’s new. You’ve criticised them for setting up a consultation process on Independence Fracking Trident more powers Police merger etc in fact every previous consultation process they’ve engaged in.
    The SNP have engaged in consultation since 2007. First off because they were a minority Government and wouldn’t be able to get a budget passed without it as a majority Government they continued with the principle of consultation with Labour criticising the time the Scottish Government took to consult.

    And then you point out that Labour has the gall to demand that the Scottish Government increases its expenditure while ideologically advocating the continued restriction of revenue income to the Scottish Parliament.
    Until Labour starts to promote the idea of Full fiscal autonomy they have no moral or legitimate right to criticise the amount any Scottish Government expends.
    Labours political default positon continues to be double standards and hypocrisy. Not something that encourages voters to vote Labour.
    This absolute abomination of a Tory party should be a doddle to beat in any election but Labour remain either behind or on par because people still perceive Labour to be no better and they never will if all we get is wilful hypocrisy and manifestos with no credibility.

  3. At no point does Mr O’Neil give any indication of the rates of tax for the differing bands, that Scottish Labour proposes. Perhaps that is because of its front bench’s predeliction to repeatedly spend the “1%” rise they are presently committed too, on a large number of wish-lists.

    On Catalonia, Labour are every bit as disgraceful as the Tories. The ELECTED Catalan government (now jailed-would O’Neil hang about for a 30year sentence for an act of democratic involvement?) has tried repeatedly to engage Madrid in a debate on Catalan’s constitution. Madrid is a disgrace to Western norms of freedom and tolerance for the rights of others/minorities. Sadly Western countries have shamefacedly backed this intolerant behaviour.
    There will be old commies moping in their Dacha’s, thinking ironically of the response of the West to the “Prague Spring”. Now the metaphorical tanks are rolling through Barcalona.
    Read the disgraceful article by Brian Wilson. Says all we need to know about British nationalist thinking these days.

  4. It is also worth saying if the British State actually COLLECTED the taxes due to it, then we could probably forget austerity and tax hikes, and we would enjoy the standard of living much that North and West Europe enjoys.
    But no, repeated governments at Westminster allow big business/banking scams. Off shore payola and other tax haven trickery.
    The ordinary worker can lose their house ( probably their only serious asset) to fund care costs. Meanwhile the rich can own vast landholdings and other assets and not get touched by taxation.
    It’s estimated that 70+% of land “gained” during the Norman conquest is still owned by the same small number of families. Inheritance tax? Not on our watch—Darling/Brown.

    1. Gavin and everyone else who comments it will be an SNP budget if you get hit with any tax rises will you still support them . And I can tell you there are wage claims coming this is what governing is about will you be prepared to support will you be prepared to support them .Then there is today I was approached by a complete stranger who recognized me as a Labour party member. He was complaining about the cost of a trip the FM made to the USA at our expense . Luckily the bus came as he was about to start on Nicola as a woman .
      I would have said something about that . I have done before .
      Because of brexit my vote If there is another ref is a don’t know leading towards indy
      There have been some rumblings that the next ref if there is one should not be SNP run
      And if it is not led by our FM
      That’s the same argument that was raised in 14 against Alec Salmond
      One of the differences between the 14 ref and Spain I feel is that Alec Salmond David Cameron and George Osborne got on and Alec Salmond knows how to negotiate .
      Nicola has no intention of holding a ref .the present SNP leadership are very well paid and are happy to keep it that way

      1. David—I would rather raise VAT. I would rather have a land tax. I would rather have a tax on inheritance. I would rather have a tax on those who off-shore their income (often as dividends rather than wages). I would rather we were raising tax on oil revenue, same as everyone else(The UK is LOSING revenue while oil prices rise). I would rather tax havens were out of reach of people who want to live in Scotland. I would rather Sturgeon was judged the same as Labour FM’s who travelled abroad, or any of the Westminster lot who seem to fly round the globe for fun.
        You also have to realise, David, that a rise in tax will not raise a huge sum of money, that austerity has eaten into budgets for a decade and you cannot solve the decline in living standards overnight. If agencies are given an affordable rise in revenue( say 2%), then wages can only rise by a similar amount—otherwise it has to be paid for in job cuts—simple economics.

        David, you made a ludicrous remark about the “present SNP leadership”.
        Look at it this way—–
        Are you saying Labour doesn’t need to fulfil their electoral ambitions—because they are happy with their lot? £2,000 a week and no work to speak off? Isn’t THAT the same thing as your SNP jibe?
        You are starting to make comments that wouldn’t be out of place in the Daily Heil.

        1. Thanks for your comment Gavin the Nicola abroad comment was made to me by a complete stranger who recognized me as a Labour Party member I was glad the bus came .
          The point I am trying to make is the budget will be an SNP budget with input from other parties . I hope Labour do engage even if its only behind the scenes .And yes Labour do have to fulfil their electoral ambitions
          The FM is very aware of the electoral challenges she is now facing
          Minority Government and I would as I am sure you would love to see what the internal report is into how that happened .A minority government that has to get a tax raising budget through Holyrood .
          I think raising taxes will be a first for any Scottish Government It could make or brake them . And Labour will need to prove we are up to the day job as well . Carping from the sidelines isn’t enough for me
          On pay I did not know there are public sector pay strikes about to start this month .The teachers are about to start a rolling series of strikes starting with Glasgow I think its 1 day to start with then move on . I know that local authority workers want more money I used to be one .
          But I think the Scottish Government will have to give more money to local authorities .
          Then there is the NHS its the next scandal waiting to happen Its my view not the party.
          For me the Scottish Government dealing with that and other things will now find out for the first time what governing is about .
          Opposition parties likewise for the first time will have to be a credible opposition that can only be good for Scotland .
          My views on the SNP leadership sorry not mine
          I was quoting collumnists in the National not the Daily Heil
          They are looking at all aspects of how to win the next Indy Ref .They raised a point first raised within the highest ranks of the Yes camp .In March 14
          That the SNP as a party should not front the campaign they think they need to attract people who might be swithering but wont vote for anything the NATS run .
          National collumnists were also making the point they need a charismatic figure to front the campaign
          My own vote on Indy is now a don’t know leaning toward Indy because of brexit
          No political party will sway me I will make my own mind up
          I started buying the National because its circulation in common with other titles has taken a big hit
          I was trying to make sure reporters don’t lose their jobs it would help if they dumped all those collumnists
          They make the paper nearly unreadable
          Well Gavin I have probably made this as clear as mud
          BTW STV News just said Nicola has chastised Alec Salmond for taking on a show With RT . She pointed out Alec is no longer an SNP elected politician
          Maybe she should have included the shows new roving reporter Tasmin
          Ha Ha
          And the teacher strikes the Scottish Government are talking to the unions about pay

  5. Mike if our manifesto has no credibility why have the SNP now adopted large chunks of it .
    Including policies they have voted down in the past maybe the FM and a few people in the Labour party should apologize to Kezia Dugdale
    Anyway isn’t it funny how losing a bunch of your MPS voters and your majority can make you contemplate tax rises .
    If it is that important now why wasn’t it last year.
    I hope the Labour party takes the chance to at least contribute to the consultation process .
    Decisions on things like tax are the day job this is what government is about
    I believe and have done since the election the SNP are now firmly focused on that .
    The FM and friends know that with a left wing Labour party firmly focused on wanting to take power and willing to outflank them they will be facing a united labour party
    Make no mistake we are ready to take them on and the SNP know it
    To the people who say look at the arguments you are having over your leadership election so what .
    We have never hidden our differences our arguments are always public and passionate .
    Its one of our strong points .
    As a party member I know that young people are now coming into the party they are not taking no for an answer they are being elected to office in our CLPS and in my CLP 2 of them ran for MP .
    Believe me our FM knows the easy ride is over.
    As part of governing Scotland once she gets back from her latest trip abroad maybe she would like to enquire how the NHS is getting on
    All she has to do is ask her health Secretary who sits next to her at FMQS .
    Shona could tell her about her trip to Cross house Hospital for the Ayrshire and Arran health Revue that’s the area that covers where Nicola was born and brought up .
    The Health Secretary could tell her not very well minister.
    At the public session that was packed with health professionals who know what they are doing
    The Chair said the board had made 25 million in savings but they have a severe shortage in key hospital staff . And across the area GPS Nurses and dentists we cant recruit them.
    Then to make it worse staff members spoke up . A radiologist asked why she is sometimes the only radiologist on duty
    With the Ward patients waiting for x ray stacked up in beds in a corridor . Other patients being brought in from other hospitals for Xray
    and GP referrals still sitting waiting to be seen 40 mins after their appointment time What was I supposed to say to that .
    Don’t worry minister I was not daft enough to answer that I told the Managing Director to do it.
    Then I mean to say a cancer patient had the nerve to speak up.
    He wanted to know why when he lives in Dallmellington he has to travel to Cross house for his Chemotherapy rather than the unit in Ayr
    Well Nicola sorry minister was I answering that so I told the managing director to do it .
    The MD said he had been advised to close the Ayr Chemotherapy unit on safety grounds
    How were we to know the patient had overheard staff saying the Chemotherapy unit in Ayr is closed due to a shortage of staff
    Which is true
    I have written this as Shona telling Nicola
    The point I am trying to make is NHS is the next scandal waiting to happen
    This is peoples lives its people worrying about if they are going to get treatment
    I left a lot out of what was brought up there are some issues which will probably go to court

  6. On Catalonia I don’t know enough about Spains constitution
    But I think both sides got dug in . The Spanish PM has people much more to the right of him not letting him compromise.
    The Catalonia leader took the troops to the top of the hill and could not march them down again
    Its my view the Spanish government should just have left him on holiday in Belgium .An arrest warrant plays into his hands What do they do if Belgium says they can stay

  7. David

    The SNP were implementing policy in 2007 that Labour in Scotland added to their latest manifesto. Implementing not promising. Labour on the other hand have refused to implement the policies within Wales thereby assuring they have no credibility.
    There is only one Labour party and it isn’t fulfilling its worthless promises in places where it has the power to do so which you’ve been told several times now already.
    Labour in Scotland hasn’t got a leg to stand on with regards to taxation as long as it continues to support the principle of depriving the Scottish Parliament of the Scottish revenue streams reserved to Westminster.
    The pathetic attempts to attack the Scottish Government over their reluctance to use what little taxation power they have because Labour are united with their Tory comrades in continuing to ensure the Scottish parliament is deprived of all the necessary taxation stream revenues reserved to Westminster is as transparent as it is corrupt.
    The Smith commission was a real eye opener with regards to Labours position on Devolution. The party who advocated for nothing to be Devolved except income tax with caveats.
    Labour in Scotland are nothing now but a wide open gaping wound infected with a corruption that has been infesting beneath a blanket of media complicity which has been torn apart revealing the stench that has always been there but never acknowledged.

    You’re in no fit state to challenge anybody anymore. Labour are in the spotlight and all the complicit media in the world can no longer put the genie back into the bottle.

    The kind of worthless lying corrupt crap you spewed with regards to the Health service in Scotland is just a tiny fraction of the weeping wound that is now Labour in Scotland.
    You cant find a single viable complaint to make against the best Government Scotland has had in over 310 years so you manufacture virtual grievances from fresh air in the hope that it becomes mud you can fling like a baboon with a handful of shite.

    In order to see what a failing health service actually look like you don’t have to go any further than Wales. If you want to see what a failing education system looks like you don’t have to go any further than Wales. If you want to see what a failing welfare system looks like you don’t have to go further than Wales.

    Wales is where Labour fails to live up to the standards it insists the Scottish Government live up to. The standard where a 94% achievement mark is a catastrophe while 85% is the best Labour has ever achieved.

    You do know why your leadership contest is a joke its because your candidates aint fit to be in office let alone put in charge of anything and yet Labour has nobody else fit enough to challenge either of them.
    I genuinely laughed when you put Murphy then Dugdale in charge and now you’re going to top it off with either Laurel or Hardy.

    Labour are a gift to the SNP that just keeps on giving and you’re delusional enough to talk about challenging them.

    Help ma boab.

  8. Mike
    That’s some reply so glad you did not hold back
    1 from what I remember both Labour and The SNP had serious trouble getting the very idea of devolution past their members .
    Indeed Alec Salmond and Donald Dewar had to work together closely to get if of the ground .
    Alec Salmond has complemented Donald Dewar for the work he put in and for understanding the problems he was having with his party over it as indeed was Donald Dewar
    2 Its splitting hairs I know the referendum to set up devolution was for a Scottish Assembly
    3 It was the new Labour Government under Tony Blair which set the whole project in train to allow us to vote
    I took part in that campaign as a member of the Labour Party many SNP members also took part in the campaign .
    So did many ordinary members of the public DID YOU .We handed out Leaflets attended committee meetings attended mass meetings went on demonstrations DID YOU .BTW the demonstrations to get devolution had a heavy police surveillance presence especially in Edinburgh
    Police photographers were on the roofs . I know because I saw them . I was there WERE YOU MIKE .
    One of the first acts of the new LabLib coalition was to end Compulsive Competitive Tendering which saved my and thousands of other jobs
    But then with that diatribe you launched do you either care or know what that is .
    4 Mike if you have any evidence of corruption take it to the police
    5 That worthless lying crap you say I spewed was what I saw and heard at the Annual Ayrshire and Arran health board review 2017 public meeting I attended in October
    I went because I have never attended anything like it before . I recommend if you have not done so before go to your local board meeting and do what I did SHUT UP AND LISTEN
    At my meeting which was packed with health professionals and patients
    We were told the board has made 25million in savings
    A severe shortage of Key hospital staff management words not mine . Hospital doctors GPS nurses dentists right across Ayrshire and Arran
    Management statistics not mine
    Hospital staff standing up and telling the platform every dept in the Hospital is short of staff Not my words Staff members
    A cancer patient asking why he has to travel from his home in Dalmellington to Crosshouse for his chemotherapy treatment when he could be attending a 400 thousand pounds Chemotherapy unit in Ayr which is closed he asked why
    He was told its closed for safety reasons .
    He then apologized to the platform for becoming upset
    He had been in isolation in Ayr when he overheard the staff saying the chemotherapy unit in Ayr closed due to Lack of staff .
    The platform then admitted that was true .
    This in front of the Health Secretary The platform should have apologized to him
    6 There were other issues raised I wont go into as I know they will be settled in court

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