Why Scotland should adopt land value tax regime - Readers' Letters

The Federation of Small Businesses is urging the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, to commit to another year of business rates relief in tomorrow’s budget (Scotsman, 6 December).

It should go further and demand the Scottish Government take heed of its own Social Justice and Fairness Commission, whose report last May came out strongly in favour of land value taxation, which it said “would ultimately remove our dependence on council tax, land and buildings transaction tax and non-domestic rates.”

This is not a new idea. In 2011 the Mirrlees review – Tax by Design – for the IFS was even more specific and recommended “finding ways to replace the economically damaging business rates system with a land value tax”.

There is no excuse for the Scottish Government failing to act. Our current tax system penalises work and enterprise while allowing the unearned revenue from land values to line private and corporate pockets.

Land has no production cost and its value is simply a measure of the level of public demand for particular locations. It is a socially-generated value and therefore a natural source of public revenue.

The great economists agree that a land value tax is non-distortive.

It is within the devolved powers of the Scottish Government to move towards this and away from disincentive taxes that hamper economic recovery.

John Digney, Buchlyvie, Stirling

An ominous start

The winter has barely started but for many there has already been the threat of hypothermia because of power cuts.Seeing on television the hundreds of trees knocked down by the storm gives one some sympathy for the difficulties the power companies were experiencing as they tried to manage the aftermath.

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But nevertheless, I still see the situation as ominous. Privatisation has seen the big six energy companies siphon off around 82 per cent of pre-tax profits as dividends in the last decade. Good storage facilities have been reduced, according to various studies. so we rely too much on the steady supply of energy from abroad (gas in particular). Recently we saw that such supplies can be fragile.

A relative who was in the eye of the storm last week told me that he had seen far worse in the 1970s but back then there were limited reports of power cuts. Perhaps nationalisation was not always as inefficient as the neoliberals once made out.

While it is probably the case that managers and engineers have been heroic in their attempts to restore energy in the affected regions, I would still tend to think that privatisation has made our energy sector less efficient and less secure.

The neoliberal enthusiasm for privatisation and deregulation has blighted our society in many areas – with zero-hour contacts, inefficient train companies, Grenfell, Carillion, and Brexit being examples.

Can we every afford renationalisations in our present economic circumstances? The lesson is that the longer that economic decay continues the more difficult it is to restore what we once had.

That is why the Treasury should not be insisting on fiscal conservatism. We can reverse course or continue on a downward spiral.

Andrew Vass, Edinburgh

Petrol power

The UK government and the Holyrood administration are both on a foolish path to phasing out petrol and diesel power. But Storm Arwen showed just how valuable petrol and diesel engines are.

Petrol generators were a godsend for many when the power went out. Linesmen required hundreds of diesel 4x4 vehicles to access outages. Tree surgeons used powerful chainsaws to cut through huge trees blocking roads. No battery chainsaws can tackle big jobs, and when the mains are down batteries cannot be recharged. How would emergency services have coped during the storm if they had had battery vehicles? They would have been unable to recharge them.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going and that's when diesel and petrol power become indispensable.

William Loneskie, Lauder, Scottish Borders

Cambo’s oil

The First Minister may be dancing a merry jig with her Green partner Patrick Harvie over Shell's decision to withdraw from investment in the Cambo oil field but as they look over their shoulders they will recognise another participant in this drama that could yet let sanity prevail.

The energy company Siccar Point still holds a 70 per cent share and is not yet ready to concede, although they may be branded and dismissed by a vocal minority of activists such as Greenpeace as greedy capitalists who maintain that new oil and gas investments only serve to slow down transition.

Such warped and simplistic logic is hard to fathom. Anyone with a grain of sense knows that fossil fuels and their countless derivatives are currently indispensable to modern life.

Of course it is recognised that they are finite and that new technologies must be developed but the mad scramble to net-zero carbon emissions is a utopian green illusion that will be unnecessarily and ruinously costly both to the Scottish people and the nation. A pragmatic approach allowing a more measured transition by utilising our own oil and gas reserves is surely a more sensible option than hiding behind a green smokescreen of fake net-zero imported oil and a reliance on intermittent renewable energy.

Neil J Bryce, Kelso, Scottish Borders

Irish ayes

I have long pondered the strange relationship between Scottish nationalism and that of our Irish neighbours.

It comes as no surprise, then to read D Jamieson's letter (Jamieson is a Gaelic and an Irish name, of course), loudly trumpeting how wonderfully Dublin is doing and how terrible it is in Edinburgh.

Is this the capital of the country that the UK bailed out in 2010? Oh, yes. To be sure, to be sure.

It is the same country that is "one of Europe's main financial/business hubs" he says. The biggest of the lot is, of course, London, dwarfing Dublin. No fewer than five UK and European Crown dependencies are in the top 100 financial centres in the world, including Edinburgh.

In the EU, the only capital city that matters is Berlin and the Irish voted for Dublin not to be a capital city when they did what they were told and voted to accept the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

The EU closed the Irish border with Northern Ireland, but forgot to notify the Irish Government. But, hey-ho, that's what the Irish people votedfor.

Peter Hopkins, Edinburgh

Scotland in the EU

Mary Thomas (Letters, 7 December) correctly, if unintentionally, lauds how well we in devolved Scotland are doing vis-à-vis England as members of the UK.

As we now have 59 of the 650 UK MPs we thus have far more potential influence than we would have if in the EU Parliament where, ceteris paribus, we'd have only six out of the 705 (as we had before Brexit).

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Pension plans

Andrew Kemp (Letters, 7 December) says it a myth that the UK will continue to “administer, contribute to, and pay for Scottish state pensions”. Putting to one side that he ought to know the details of his contention have not been claimed, if it is a myth, it was stimulated by statements made at the time of the referendum by Steve Webb, the then minister for pensions in the DWP.

At the Scottish affairs committee in Westminster Labour MP Ian Davidson asked Mr Webb whether people could be assured that their pensions would be secure if Scotland voted for independence. Mr Webb answered: "Yes, they have accumulated rights into the UK system, under the UK system's rules".

It is of course accepted that this is a grey area, and one of many related to the share of assets between an independent Scotland and the rUK. It is made infinitely more complicated because there is no ring-fenced pension pot and the hundreds of millions of pounds paid by Scottish taxpayers to accumulate pension rights was paid into general taxation to be squandered by successive incompetent and profligate Westminster governments. Governments who have succeeded in racking up eye-watering deficits and a national debt well in excess of £2 trillion.

It's interesting that Andrew Kemp can make light of the situation with his little joke about people believing that the UK government should honour contributions made being "well oiled". In the meantime, we can assume that he is happy to soldier on existing on a UK pension which is one of the lowest in Europe.

Gill Turner, Edinburgh

Political parties?

The SNP are never slow to offer advice to Boris Johnson.

As our Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, has given the go-ahead for festive plans and advised people to celebrate Christmas safely, I wonder if that might be extended to the PM or will the SNP look to castigate him for whatever action he takes?

Will it be one rule for the many and another for their nemesis?

Ken Currie, Liberton

Disengaged tone

There are few things currently more irritating than the sight of some waster MP frantically tapping away on a mobile while the MP in front (usually a front-bencher) imparts some apparently vital coronavirus information to a Covid-weary nation.

If the MP on his phone is not paying attention, why should we?

Steve Hayes, Leven, Fife

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