Election 2016: Greens would take a different route on taxation

John Finnie
John Finnie

Yesterday saw the launch of the Scottish Greens manifesto for Holyrood.

It’s very much a manifesto for a fairer, greener, healthier Scotland, and the ideas and policy within make full use of the powers the next Scottish Parliament will have at its disposal.

Frankly, it’ll be the only manifesto in this campaign that will bring fresh, new, and bold ideas to the Parliament – and crucially it recognises that there are no magic bullets, but a clear need for a whole range of interlinked reforms.

You can read the full manifesto here: www.greens.scot/scotland-can

Now, there’s clearly a lot of brilliant ideas and ground breaking policy in there, but the first question many people ask is: how are you going to pay for it all?

Taxation is one of the areas of Scottish Greens policy that really is very different from the other main parties. As someone who believes in having a far more powerful Scottish Parliament, I was delighted to see the devolution of income tax powers, and what it could mean.

What I have been disappointed with though, is that the other main parties plans for income tax are either do nothing, or very minor tinkering. This begs the question: what’s the point in campaigning so hard for, and then winning, tax powers if they’re not going to be used?

Fortunately for those who believe Scotland should chart its own course, that’s exactly what the Scottish Greens are doing.

Tax isn’t just about raising money to pay for services, a truly progressive taxation system can be a transformational tool to close the wealth gap, which in turn acts as a driver in so many other areas from improving overall educational attainment at school, to better health.

So what we’re proposing are a set of new bands and rates. Under Green plans for Income Tax, everyone earning less than £26,500 a year would get to keep more of their pay, while the highest earners would be expected to contribute more.

The current Basic Rate of 20% would be replaced by two bands – 18% for the first £7,500 of income above the personal allowance and 22% for income above £19,000. The net effect of these two bands would mean that everyone earning below the £26,500 would be better off. Income above £43,000 would be taxed at 43%, and income above £150,000 would be taxed at 60%.

SGP Tax Bands

Switching to this system would raise at least an additional £331million to invest in public services, and reduces inequality by four times more, compared to the SNP’s do nothing proposal for income tax. Someone earning the median salary in full time work – £27,710 – could expect to pay just £24 a year more in income tax. An MSP, earning £60,685, could expect to pay £938 a year more.

But that’s only half the story.

We’re still trying to scrap the Council Tax too!

This isn’t a changeable fashion statement, the Scottish Greens have been trying to replace it since first entering Holyrood in 1999, and it’s clear to pretty much everyone else now that it has to go.

Tweaking, dithering, and centralised control has been the fate of local taxation under successive Scottish Governments, but we want to see an end to Holyrood demands and threats to local authorities and a transition to a more progressive and fully local form of taxation.

We propose to scrap the discredited Council Tax and replace it with a Residential Property Tax. The Council Tax system is currently based on valuations a quarter of a century old and the most expensive homes pay only three times that of the least expensive, despite being worth on average 15 times more.

Our property tax is fairer since the tax is more closely related to the actual value of each home and represents a significant step towards our long-standing policy of a land value tax for Scotland.

A rate of 1 per cent across Scotland with a tax-free housing allowance of £10,000 for every home would raise an additional £490million for local services. The majority of households would pay less than at present. Councils would have powers to vary this tax locally and set exemptions. The new system would be introduced over a five-year transition period, a tax reduction scheme would be available for low-income households and eligible households could reduce or defer payments as they choose.

By voting Green and re-electing John Finnie on the 5th May, you are ensuring that Moray and the Highlands and Islands have a strong voice to fight for progressive taxation and the bolder Government we need.

All Moray candidates in the 2016 Parliamentary Election plus list candidates for the Green Party and an Independent were invited to submit their views on one day each week until Friday, April 29 – they will then be invited to sum-up their cases on Sunday, May 1 in a final address on insideMoray before the election.

Candidates for the Banffshire and Buchan constituency that includes part of Moray around Buckie have also been invited to submit their views – two accepted, two did not reply – and none have actually submitted any article.