No Local Income Tax ? Blame It On The Referendum!
Councillor George Regan
22 June 2011
For the next 5 years, the SNP Government will impose a council tax freeze across all Scottish local authorities.
The SNP have always called it not simply the "council tax" but the "unfair council tax", and at the time of the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections they indicated that if they won, they would introduce a local income tax to replace the "unfair council tax".
Local income tax (LIT) was to be one of their flagship policies, if elected.
After winning the 2007 election, Scotland waited for the SNP Government to introduce its new local income tax , but after almost two years of delay, including a public consultation costing over £10,000, the SNP finally abandoned its plans for the new tax, claiming that the lack of a majority in the Scottish Parliament meant that it could not guarantee that the legislation would pass through the Scottish Parliament.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said that the SNP Government had " decided not to introduce legislation to abolish the unfair Council Tax and replace it with a local income tax until after the election in 2011."
The "Herald" reported in February 2009 :
"Salmond and John Swinney, the finance secretary, now say they will fight the 2011 Scottish election on the same policy, and say they will re-introduce local income tax as soon as possible if returned as the government."
But during the 2011 election campaign the SNP said that there would be no local income tax introduced after the election.
Their manifesto said instead that, over the next five years, they would " consult with others to produce a fairer system based on ability to pay".
So we now have the astonishing situation where :
* the SNP are in favour of retaining a tax they dubbed as "unfair" and they said they would replace but now won't do so for, at the very least, 5 years
* the SNP abandoned plans to introduce local income tax in the previous session Parliament claiming the lack of Parliamentary majority as the reason for doing so, but today, when they have a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament, they now refuse to introduce local income tax!
So why the failure to bring forward their flagship policy on local tax?
The answer is - another policy also promised in the last session of Parliament but jettisoned for the same excuse as with local income tax of lacking a majority in the Scottish Parliament , will now be introduced because the SNP do have the necessary Parliamentary majority ! - the Referendum!
The SNP Government has already spent £80,000 of taxpayers' money in court battles to prevent details of their local income tax plans from being made public.
Estimates by Labour say that the SNP's plan could cost a couple, each earning an average salary of £21,000 a year living in a Band D home would pay over £550 a year more.
That's why the SNP won't bring in Local Income Tax this side of their Referendum.
Scots would learn during the passage of the Bill through Parliament how much separation would really hit their pockets , and that's also why the SNP have already gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal this information coming out during the recent election campaign.
So the "unfair council tax", as the SNP describes it, will remain the SNP's favourite local government tax for the next 5 years, rather than their own policy of a local income tax which would be amongst the many factors that would weigh heavily against them in the Referendum.
Politics has been described as " the art of the possible".
But for the SNP, the possible is just too risky
to implement even when they have a majority in Parliament, and even when
it's one of your party's most important policies, in case it loses them