Poll tax write-off is a shameful act

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I am seething at Alex ­Salmond and his decision to write off poll tax debts (your report, 3 October).

In 1990 and 1991 I worked on a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) for £29.50 a week. Supplementing this income, I worked in a shop for 20 hours a week at evenings and weekends. I was exhausted, hungry and broke.

And yet, in trying to be a good citizen and not pick and choose which laws I abided by, I managed to scrape ­together enough to pay my (albeit reduced) poll tax.

But I did not grudge this. On the contrary, in light of my trying circumstances, I was proud that I was pitching in and doing my bit for my community.

Fast forward 20-odd years, and the SNP has just kicked me in the teeth by, on the one hand, telling me I was a chump for having paid, and that my pride for having done so was thus nothing more than infantile naivety; and, on the other, pardoning those who were engaged in the very serious crime of tax evasion – criminals whose local services my own payments were subsidising.

Mr Salmond might have failed in the referendum, but he has succeeded in at least one respect: he has made me feel deeply ashamed to be Scottish.

Edith Walker

Kirklands Park Street

Kirkliston

We live in a country which professes to honour and observe the rule of law. Nobody enjoyed paying the poll tax, just as nobody likes paying VAT, income tax, parking tickets, various charges to local government, or car tax. But we pay because the law tells us we have to.

In the brave, new world of modern Scotland, according to the SNP’s soon-to-be-former leader, poll-tax arrears are to be wiped out because hard-pressed councils are using lawful means (the electoral register) to chase up debtors, and because the former tax is ­“discredited”.

Does the leader propose to allow us to ignore the laws we don’t like? Or is this a message that we may ignore the SNP if we find it to be discredited. I think we should be told.

If Holyrood passes such a law, it itself will be discredited to the point of irrelevance. The SNP’s grasp on the rule of law seems like the logic of the playground. I am so glad I voted No.

John Campbell

St Boswells

Well done to the Scottish Government for writing off poll tax debt in Scotland.When I returned to live in Scotland in 1999 after being a Labour councillor and MEP in Essex I was amazed to find Scottish councils were still chasing poll tax debts.

In Harlow, where I was a councillor, we wrote off poll-tax debts a couple of years after the end of the tax, concluding that it would cost more in officers’ time and administration costs than we would get in recovered debt.

Also, we recognised it was a major burden, particularly on poor people who were hit hardest by this unfair tax.

Incidentally, all local councils in England have written off their poll tax debts long ago so Scotland has been ­doubly disadvantaged: it got the poll tax first and it has been chased to the last.

When I returned to Scotland I worked in the Scottish Parliament as Tommy Sheridan’s press officer. Our biggest single casework issue was people being chased for poll tax debts.

Tommy, of course, had led the successful battle against the poll tax in Scotland.

Now we are supposed to get control of all taxation in Scotland (I will believe it when I see it!) it may be time to look again at the council tax.

Although fairer than the poll tax and frozen for the past few years, it is fundamentally a flawed tax reliant on property values and not income.

Tommy Sheridan and academics such as Professor Mike Danson devised the Scottish service tax based on income to replace the council tax and the SNP is committed to that principle.

Hugh Kerr

Wharton Square

Edinburgh

Perhaps if us law-abiding citizens formed a rabble and took to the streets, we could have parking ticket and ­income tax non-payment written off. After all, we don’t like paying them.

Brian Petrie

Vivian Terrace

Edinburgh

Regardless of what we think of any particular tax, in a democracy we cannot pick and choose which ones we pay (and that goes for our millionaire tax avoiders as well). It, therefore, beggars belief that the SNP administration is stopping councils from chasing community tax ­arrears.

This is a recipe for chaos and law-breaking. Is this what their independent Scotland would have looked like? Some advert!

William Ballantine

Dean Road

Bo’ness, West Lothian

As I paid the poll tax will Alex Salmond kindly ­authorise a rebate to me and all other upstanding ­taxpayers?

John Fraser

Edenwood End

Cupar

Over the years our family has paid fuel duty, rates, poll tax and council tax. After the referendum councils ­suddenly had lists of names and addresses from vastly expanded electoral rolls. It is their duty by law to pursue their monies.

Alex Salmond has decided to use this situation to bring into law a finish to poll tax arrears. It was unfair, he says.

If it was unfair that should apply to us all. “All” means ­citizens who paid.

Is he going to stop councils seeking to collect their tax in other forms? Without the high turnout, which Salmond fought hard to achieve, he would not have had to retrieve his position after exposing all the tax frauds on the new electoral rolls.

Doris Duff

Belmont Gardens

Edinburgh

The latest proposals to abandon collection of the poll tax is an insult to all Scottish law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes as a matter of ­social responsibility, ­irrespective of how they feel about the tax.

To reward tax dodgers, many of whom can but won’t pay, is tantamount to encouraging social chaos and to write off much needed funds can best be described as cavalier behaviour from a Scottish administration that should be acting more ­responsibly.

Dennis Forbes 
Grattan

Mugiemoss Road

Bucksburn

If you find a thief in your home, do you stop chasing him because he made it to the pavement?

Alex Salmond’s action to forbid councils pursuing poll tax dodgers after so long is a nonsense and should be condemned. And any formal, legal records (except perhaps medical) are a legitimate source of enquiry.

Neil A Thomson

Wester Drylaw Park

Edinburgh

It is easy for Alex Salmond to announce an amnesty for the poll tax dodgers. It doesn’t cost him a penny and won’t interfere with his policy of controlling everything from the centre. As usual, it is the local councils that suffer.

Most of those debtors were perfectly capable of finding the money, so why should they escape when the rest of us, who hated the poll tax just as much, paid it because we realised the importance of local services?

Henry L Philip

Grange Loan

Edinburgh

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