Sunday , December 5 2021

A new wicked Tory Poll Tax?

The SNP has responded to the rise in National Insurance by calling it a poll tax on Scottish workers. The complaint is that the tax rise will be used to fund health and social care in England, which will mean Scottish tax payers paying for something they won’t use and for which they already pay in Scotland. This the SNP thinks amounts to poor Scots being charged twice.

There is something peculiarly grubby about this complaint. Scotland at the moment is running an enormous deficit, entirely funded by Treasury money. We received billions during the pandemic to fund furlough and to help struggling businesses. If English taxpayers took the attitude that we are not going to fund services in Scotland that we don’t use, then Scotland would have to either cut the services or attempt to pay for them by increases in taxation. The SNP argument is that it’s OK for England to pay for services that only Scots use, but it’s not OK for Scots to pay for services that only English people use.

There is a certain sort of Scot who the SNP is appealing to here. There are really some Scottish nationalists who think that Scotland pays more into the UK budget than we take out. It’s hard to see how these people can understand that Scotland is running a deficit if that were so. But no doubt they deny that we do. It is the same mentality that argued that it was Scotland’s oil and that we shouldn’t be sending one drop of it to England, but should keep it all for ourselves. The problem is that the fiscal transfers are going the other way now and have been doing so for decades.

The idea that an increase in National Insurance amounts to a poll tax will appeal to those aging demonstrators from the 1990s. But we were also paying National Insurance during the Thatcher years and no one thought to call it a poll tax then, nor indeed did the SNP until it was increased. But an increase in something does not change its nature. If a slightly higher National Insurance is a poll tax now, it must have been a poll tax all along, which is odd because not everyone pays it, and not everyone pays the same. It begins to look rather unlike a poll tax at all. Still, it stirs memories.

The objection that Scots will pay taxes for something that only benefits English people is anyway false. The way taxation works is that money raised across the UK including money raised by National Insurance is divided according to the Barnett Formula so that it funds Scotland. What this means is that Scotland will get back rather more from the increase in National Insurance than we pay in. Far from Scots being asked to pay twice for something we don’t use, we will pay once, but get more for our money than the English do. The SNP of course know this, but they can’t quite help complaining about funding old English people.

The money raised by this tax increase is to be used for health and social care. The SNP has also been complaining that this is telling the Scottish Government what to do with money sent by the Treasury. Health and social care are devolved issues. But the SNP Government already pays a certain amount on health and social care. It will now receive some more that must be used for these purposes. This will free up some of the money that is at present used for health and social care, which the SNP can spend on what it likes such as planning for an independence referendum, redecorating its headquarters or building ferries. So, there will no constraint whatsoever on what the SNP can do. It’s all just another fake grievance.

The SNP of course would like to create a Scotland that never sent any money whatsoever to England. This does not mean that they have anything against England or English people, it’s just they can’t stand there being tiny English flags on Big Ben and do everything they can to stop English plague victims spreading their filth into the pristine streets of Glasgow. But unfortunately for the SNP’s latest independence plan there is the fundamental problem that it is not us that is subsidising England, but rather England that is subsidising us.

It is completely normal in any country that fiscal transfers are made so that taxes raised in wealthier parts are used to help poorer parts. It is the same principle that means a wealthier person pays more tax than a poorer person. Likewise, we don’t complain that my taxes are used to fund healthcare even though I am never ill. So too, I might pay for social care that I never use because I don’t need it.

Within Scotland the SNP accepts the principle of paying for things we don’t use. Everyone pays in taxes to maintain the Skye bridge. There is no longer a toll such that only Skye road users pay it. What the SNP objects to is not the principle of me paying taxes for things other Scots use, it only objects to paying for things that English people use. It is for this reason that it wants to separate Scotland from the UK, so that never again would Scottish taxes pay for the welfare of English people. This is what Scottish nationalism does. It turns a fellow countryman into a foreigner to whom I have no obligation to share and with whom I have no solidarity. This is why the SNP complains about Scottish taxes going to fund English social care.

But the lowness of the SNP complaint is that while it doesn’t want Scottish money going to help English people, it is happy for English money to help Scottish people. If Treasury money were cut, the SNP would be the first to complain. This means the SNP thinks English people have an obligation to Scots that is not reciprocated. It is why the SNP thinks it can just walk away without gratitude, without thanks and without paying our debts. There is something morally contemptible about this mentality.

This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog: https://www.effiedeans.com/2021/09/a-new-wicked-tory-poll-tax.html

About Effie Deans

Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger who works at the University of Aberdeen. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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