Andy Wightman, author and Scottish Green Party MSP candidate for Lothian, has today argued that the Scottish Government's announcement on non-domestic rates, or business rates, is missing the big questions in the tax reform debate.
Wightman highlighted that the impact of the reforms on local economies and community empowerment would be limited, as rates continue to be set centrally and the benefit of reductions will lead to little benefit for struggling businesses. Wightman called for a more thorough debate on the local and property tax regime.
The Scottish Greens have proposed for non-domestic rates to be replace by a land-value tax that would be raised by local authorities.
"The Scottish Greens firmly believe we need to transfer greater powers to Scotland's communities, and this move is a welcome step away from the centralised SNP rule we've seen so far. But we shouldn't get too starry-eyed about the Scottish Government's promises of community empowerment - non-domestic rates will remain a central tax, with councils only able to cut rates rather than to set them. It's almost like the Tories handing over a few slithers of power to Scotland while keeping real control in Westminster.
"We should also be clear about how much these new powers can do for our communities - lowering non-domestic rates will put more money in landowners' pockets, but will do little to help struggling businesses. The consensus on the need for thorough tax reform is growing, with the Government's own adviser Sir James Mirrleess advocating for non-domestic rates to be replaced with a land value tax, a position long held by the Scottish Greens.
"We need a serious and well-informed debate about the local and property tax regime. This reform is just the latest in a series of ad-hoc tinkering with a broken system, while the Scottish Government continues to ignore the big questions on tax reform."