Answering Lochgilphead

“Albert grunted. “Do you know what happens to lads who ask too many questions?”
Mort thought for a moment.
“No,” he said eventually, “what?”
There was silence.
Then Albert straightened up and said, “Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.”
― Terry Pratchett, Mort

This is a companion piece to my article on a talk I gave to AyeFyne in Lochgilphead in May 2023. Read that article here for context.

I live in Sheltered Housing and already pay £900 a year in Council Tax. How would a Land Tax affect me?

It very likely wouldn’t. A land tax would usually not tax the land under and around a house (the “curtilage” in technical terms. The house and its garden, but not any fields or estates that may exist beyond that). That land is already effectively taxed by the Council Tax. However, we know that the Council Tax is itself deeply unfair. I don’t know the specific circumstances of the questioner’s house and arrangements (i.e. whether they qualify for discounts to Council Tax) but replacing the Council Tax with our proposal for a Property Tax would very likely result in a tax cut. For example, a house in my area worth around £60,000 and in Band A Council Tax would pay around £867 in Council Tax (plus water rates) but would only pay £378 under our Property Tax proposals. On the other hand, a villa worth £600,000 in Band H would see their tax increase from £3,190 to £3,780 while a mansion worth £6 million would see their Council Tax of £3,190 (yes, the same as the house a tenth of its price and only 3.5 times as much as the house 1% its value) rise to £37,800 per year (plus water rates). If the owner of the mansion also owns land then that is where the land tax would also apply.

If, during independence negotiations, Scotland isn’t given a fair share of assets, why should we take on a share of debts?

This is an extremely long and detailed topic better summarised in my blog post here. In short, it’s better not to think of “shares” of assets and debts but to instead think of what Scotland needs out of negotiations. Most of the assets we need are already based permanently in Scotland and will transfer automatically. “Moveable” assets can be transferred on a population share basis but we’d probably be better thinking about what we actually need (e.g. military equipment that meets our security threats rather than just a random assortment of kit) and either “mortgage” it against a share of the UK’s debt or take the debt on ourselves and just buy what we need (which might not be from the UK if, for example, a Norwegian boat or Swedish fighter jet suits our needs better than a UK one).

Could we see a kind of “All of Us First” meter, rating all Scottish policies against Common Weal ideals?

A formal and consistently updating meter would likely be well outwith what we can do with the resources we have though the idea isn’t that far off from metrics such as that published by the Climate Change Committee. We do regularly review Scottish policies (such as the Scottish Government’s recent mini-PfG, the UK Conservative budget, or Labour’s devolution proposals) and we always review them with an “All of Us First” approach.

As you travel round Scotland promoting “Sorted”, do you hear a response of “That’s great, let’s do it” or is it more like “There’s too much power invested in keeping things the way they are”?

The challenges of political lobbying are numerous and great and we don’t always win – at least, not at first – but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time at Common Weal is that everything in politics is impossible until the moment that it becomes inevitable. The barriers ahead of us are there, right up until the moment they are not. But the will remain there if we don’t try at all.

Where are the pressure points for Indy? What are the topics that could win people over?

It might be strange to think of it this way but I know precisely the kind of UK that could be one that would make me vote No to Indy. It’s one that is radically more democratic – in line with European norms, one that demonstrates confidence by giving up its nuclear weapons and signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, one that takes its obligations under the climate emergency seriously and signs up to a Green New Deal. I don’t believe that the UK is capable of any of these things and certainly none of the current Unionist parties are proposing anything like it. That’s a major pressure point for me and I’m certain that if you actually seriously offer that future to Scotland AND show the will and willingness to follow through and deliver on that promise then a majority of the country would agree with me. The problem for me right now isn’t in the will – all of the major pro-Indy parties push in roughly that direction to a greater or lesser degree – but in the willingness – none of them are actually offering plans such as Sorted or our Common Home Plan. Triangulating towards a mythical “centre” of vague platitudes that no-one disagrees with isn’t nearly as powerful as trying to deliver on a proposal that many more actually do.

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