Jim Duffy: Enough tinkering, increase tax by 10p in the pound

Lots of talk and opinion ­pieces this week on the Scottish ­Government's Budget and what will happen in relation to taxation. It reminds me of that time at primary school when when you moved between years. What teacher would you get? There were some teachers that you really wanted to get and prayed for.

Jim wants a whopping 10p in the pound tax increase
Jim wants a whopping 10p in the pound tax increase

They were great motivators and excellent communicators. They were not moody and did not have favourites, favouring instead the whole class as a functioning collective. You just knew that you would look forward to school. Then there was that teacher that sent shivers down your spine. This teacher was shouty and jaggy; did not inspire you; and liked the girls more than the boys. No, you did not want this teacher at all. And this is what this new budget feels like. It’s either going to be very good or a dismal year with lots of fractions and mental maths.

This is the mindset that we are in as experts give their opinions and guidance on what to expect and who it will affect. But tinkering with taxation or the creation of new tax bands means zip. It will ­accomplish nothing with the ­economy and be all about making sure the SNP shows how caring it is to trump Labour, while highlighting how ­efficient and ­entrepreneurial it is to outfox the ­Conservatives. Yes folks, 1 per cent here and 1per cent there will make no ­difference to the Scottish economy, which, like the UK economy, is all but on its knees. Sound a bit harsh? Not fair on the Scottish ­Government as they try to look like very ­important people? Think again.

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There is far too much at stake elsewhere as the Brexiteers get all excited about deals with the EU and potential trade partnerships. But even that pales into insignificance if we take a closer look at what is not just a Scottish problem, but a British ­one.

Picture this. An old blue Ford Escort on a council estate with its wheels off. It is propped up by bricks. In the engine compartment, where there used to be an engine, there are a few rusty pipes and wires once attached to said engine.

The windscreen has a spiderweb crack covering the whole length and both front passenger windows have been smashed. Welcome to the clapped out economy that is Scotland and the UK. An economy that is ruled by consumption. Boy do we love to shop. But an economy that is poor at ­production. The whole house of cards is supported and powered by debt. And it will take more than an extra £400 on a higher rate taxpayer’s dues to plug the gap.

It’s a plain fact that we consume more than we produce. This results in an annual balance of payments deficit rising above 6 per cent of GDP, financed by borrowing, property and lots of spending. We used to be a “nation of shopkeepers” allegedly, but now we are a nation of shoppers hugely dependent upon debt.

Not only are shoppers asking for ­money from credit card companies and finance ­companies to pay for new Iphone 10s at £1,000, but Westminster is also borrowing more. We have far too much choice, too much easy money and an attitude of consume now and worry about it later. From what I can see at the shops, people are spending as if it will be the last Christmas on earth. Maybe we should rename the Wham! Christmas classic and change the lyrics to “fast Christmas I gave you my card”.

Us Scots, many of whom are minded to pull us into an independent nation, can mess around with income tax bands all we want. But, until a conviction politician stands up and declares “we are bust and I have a plan to sort that”, then we will just edge closer to that big bubble that is going to pop.

A plan, then? Increase income tax across the board by 10p in the pound, while cutting down on the amount of individual debt any one ­person can hold. If not, let’s just continue to walk towards the cliff edge.

Jim Duffy, co-founder of Moonshot Academy and author of Create Special.