Apologies for commenting here without reading the full Reform Scotland (RF) report. I have read the summary with Chris Deerin’s related comments on the RF’s website. Candidly, I’m surprised at the negativity of reactions being expressed here.
My take is that the report focuses on: (i) Scotland’s demographic challenge – is that at all controversial?; (ii) need for higher tax revenue – let’s frame that as higher public spending for better public services and a better social security system; (iii) need for tax reform – arguing for wholesale, root and branch reform of Scotland’s tax system.
The implications here for agency – who decides – and thus inevitably constitutional issues are profound.
First on the ‘demographic challenge’: in a country having to accept unwanted removal of freedom of movement in the EU/EEA; with no control over immigration; and with severely limited fiscal and zero monetary powers, this ‘challenge’ is too important to be addressed – cannot be properly addressed – by a hogtied legislature in Edinburgh.
On higher tax revenue: as the RF summary implies, this can be achieved in different ways – including broadening the tax base. It doesn’t need to mean higher personal taxes on individuals. And of course deciding on the optimum level of tax revenue for Scotland in particular social, economic and environmental circumstances pertaining at different times requires a government with access to all necessary ‘system’ levers.
On tax reform: the RF summary states this: ‘ “In short, Scotland needs to start again. It needs a new and fairer tax system, focused more on immobile tax bases such as wealth and less on mobile ones such as employment income. This new system needs to be used to drive sensible and sustainable increases in overall tax revenue to cope with the challenges of the rest of the 21st century.”
Thinking this could be achieved whilst within the Union is … delusional!
In his own comments Chris Deerin writes: ‘“it’s very difficult to see how Scotland can meet its future commitments – whatever its constitutional status – without looking afresh at the tax system, at who and what we tax, and at what the right balance should be.’
Within the UK, ‘Scotland’ might ‘look afresh’ but ‘looking’ doesn’t magically deliver the powers to change anything!
He adds: “Redesigning the tax system is a major task, and a delicate one, but THE SYSTEM WE HAVE IN THE UK IS CLEARLY NO LONGER FIT FOR PURPOSE, and serves only to limit smart thinking. As in so much else, political vision and courage are what the nation needs in this period of change.’ (my emphasis)
The system ‘we have’ – viz. the system ‘Scotland has’ – WITHIN the UK is no longer fit for purpose? I’d suggest ‘wow’ is a reasonable (preliminary) reaction at this time!
Finally Deerin writes (hopefully): “We trust policymakers will find this contribution to the debate a useful, innovative and inspiring one.”
In this he may be disappointed given what must have been THE ALMOST INSTANTANEOUS REACTION OF THE SCOTTISH TORIES’ MURDO FRASER on Twitter:
Murdo Fraser @murdo_fraser
“Given that Scotland is already the highest-taxed part of the UK, the assumption here that we need even more taxes is a terrifying one. It would simply lead to massive capital flight south of the Border.”
Leaving aside his spurious claim, did Fraser not even read to the end of the press release never mind the whole report?
Reform Scotland vs. Stasis Scotland forever?