JOHN Swinney has defended the Scottish Government’s decision to write off decades-old poll-tax debt as he prepares to put his tax plan into law.
The Deputy First Minister criticised councils who pledged to use Scotland’s unprecedented level of registration on the voters roll for the independence referendum to chase down hidden poll-tax dodgers.
To prevent potential referendum voters being scared off by warnings from the councils, former first minister Alex Salmond announced that he would write off outstanding debt.
His pledge will take its first steps in Holyrood with stage one of the Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill today.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr Swinney said: “The poll tax was the worst piece of legislation that the Westminster Government ever inflicted on Scotland.
“A Tory Government which Scotland had rejected imposed the tax on Scotland and - as was confirmed very recently - they were determined that Scotland be a guinea pig for their disastrous tax experiment.
“The referendum on independence was a wonderful experience of democratic engagement, bringing people into politics who in some cases hadn’t been involved in decades, if at all - and that can only be a good thing.
“It cannot be right that people fear being on the electoral registers because of decades-old debt relating to a discredited and unjust tax.
“Nor is it right that some of the few people paying off poll-tax debt are the poorest in society.
“On current trends, we are very soon going to be reaching a point where the cost of trying to collect the remaining unpaid council tax exceeds the dwindling sums that are actually collected.
“The poll tax is a defunct tax but it has left a bitter legacy in Scotland - the Scottish Parliament now has the chance to right a historic wrong.”
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