THE pro-independence campaign today set out its vision of Scotland as a more socially just country, but faced immediate criticism by Union chiefs for failing to ack the higher taxes needed to pay for it.
THE pro-independence campaign yesterday Friday set out its vision of Scotland as a more socially just country, but faced immediate criticism by Union chiefs for failing to back the higher taxes needed to pay for it.
The YesScotland campaign released a new report, in which it argued that the case for greater social justice would “fall on more fertile ground” after independence because of the different make-up of the voting public.
On highly topical issues such as welfare, universal services and free tuition, the paper declared that independence would allow the country to choose to avoid current cutbacks being forced on politicians as a result of deficit reduction.
However, the paper held back setting out a commitment to a larger tax take to pay for the retention of state benefits and entitlements and “free” services. It prompted Grahame Smith, the STUC’s General Secretary to declare that commitments to retain generous welfare spending were being made “without the necessary related commitment to redistribution through increased taxation.”
The STUC - whose paper “A Just Scotland” calling for more redistribution to combat austerity had prompted the YesScotland paper - also said that it should be the campaigns which should be setting out the implications of a “no” vote and a “yes” vote. They were responding to a proposal in the YesScotland paper which called on the STUC to help its cause by showing how much UK welfare cuts would cost Scots.
Publishing the paper, YesScotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said that he expected independence would lead to more “redistribution” in the tax system, because the country’s political profile would suggest it would follow a more “social democratic” path.
In an introduction to the report,Mr Jenkins declared: “Social justice won’t win by default just because we become independent, but have no doubt those arguments for social justice - made by the STUC and others - will fall on more fertile ground. With independence, we will have a Parliament fully capable of delivering on social justice, if the people of Scotland so choose.”
The paper argues that a “no” vote will not lead to a more social democratic Scotland because it “will leave welfare and economic policy in Westminster’s hands”. A “yes” vote, however, would create “the opportunity to create a more socially just nation”.
The paper, written by former SNP adviser Stephen Noon, declared that universal services are “threatened” by Westminster’s austerity. It concludes: “This makes a good case for independence.....independence would give policy makers a range of levers across both revenue and expenditure to protect key principles.”
On welfare, h He added: “YesScotland has no doubt that the Scottish Parliament today would adopt a different approach,” if it had control over benefits.
However, on the way to pay for such a different approach, the paper argues people should “move beyond a point of discussion that focuses solely on what movements up or down might be made to current tax rates, so that a view on independence stands or falls on potential penny changes to income tax or corporation tax”.
It says simply independence would allow a new Scottish Government to redesign a “simpler, fairer and more effective” tax system, by, for example, cutting down on tax avoidance, replacing council tax with a local income tax, or “integrating” tax and welfare.
Mr Smith said the response was a “comprehensive and serious” response to their own call for a more just Scotland.
However, he added Mr Smith added: “Nonetheless The STUC believes that significant challenges remain for both campaigns. Commitments in areas such as welfare continue to be made without the necessary related commitment to
redistribution through increased taxation. Both campaigns lack any clear vision of how collective bargaining and a properly regulated labour market might be used to reduce income inequality.”
The STUC also took issue with a call in the YesScotland paper for it to set out its own policy proposals for an independent Scotland and to publish full figures showing the impact of welfare changes under the UK Government.
Mr Smith added: “The vast majority of resources continue to lie with those who have made up their minds - the respective governments and the two campaigns. The capacity of those in civil society who wish to
promote a participative grassroots debate for the undecided is strictly limited by resource”.
Alistair Darling, the leader of the Better Together campaign said last night (Friday: “Their own fiscal commission
said that there would not be an abundance of cash to spend if we go it alone, but every week they are announcing more and more spending commitments. John Swinney has promised to cut tax, while the person in
charge of the Yes Campaign has today called for taxes to be higher. It just doesn’t stack up.”
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Those in favour of separation talk fondly of all the extra luxuries we would have under independence, in addition to the universal free policies we can’t
even afford at present. But there is never any real detail in how we would pay for such new services.”