For immediate release 7 November 2010
Scottish Greens have this weekend voted to reject the deeply regressive cuts agenda, an agenda instigated by the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition in Westminster and now accepted by every other party in the Scottish Parliament. In particular, the Greens oppose measures that threaten the poorest in society, cut the social housing budget and child benefit, and jeopardise higher education, and believe that investment is still urgently required to boost green jobs. (1)
Once the Scottish Budget is published, the party will identify the threatened services and investment that need to be protected and set out proposals to raise revenue accordingly. The party will now consider ways to limit the detrimental effect of the cuts and promote jobs, either by enhancing the range of local taxes available, for example by introducing Land Value Tax, or by proposals for an increase in the Scottish Variable Rate. (2)
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
"The Scottish Parliament does not have the powers it should have to respond to the cuts proposed by the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition. We would rather see the gap filled with a range of progressive taxes, like a wealth tax or a financial transaction tax, plus a crackdown on tax avoidance and tax loopholes. These are the measures a progressive Westminster Government would have adopted, and they are the measures a Scottish Government with more powers could adopt. Sadly, these are not options available to anyone at Holyrood.
"But the cuts cannot stand. They will hit hardest on the poorest in society - they represent economic incompetence of the highest order. The UK will suffer, and so too will Scotland unless we are brave enough to take a different path, one that protects public services and boosts green jobs. But Holyrood does have the power to raise revenue, either by scrapping Council Tax in favour of Land Value Taxation, or by varying the basic rate of income tax - and the Scottish Green Party is now committed to this path.
"Labour and the SNP are just bickering about how to implement the Coalition's cuts. This vote today means the Scottish Greens will provide the people of Scotland with a pragmatic alternative, the only alternative to those cuts. When the Scottish public voted in 1999, they voted not just for a Parliament but also for that Parliament to have tax-varying powers. The options are limited, but they are there. If they remain unused during the gravest threat to public services in the post-war era, when will they be used?
"In May, the public will have a choice. They can vote for one of the four parties who either relish the cuts or are too afraid to challenge them. But they will also have an alternative - to vote Green, to boost the green economy, and to protect the public services we all rely upon."
1. The motion passed at Conference reads as follows:
Conference condemns the savage cuts to public spending which the Liberal/Tory coalition is imposing, which will inflict immense harm on society for which the coalition has no remedy to offer.
Conference condemns in particular the decision to cut up to £18bn from the welfare budget, leaving society’s poorest people to pay for the consequences of the failures of high-paid casino capitalists and the Ministers who were supposed to regulate them.
Conference further condemns the unprecedented attacks on higher education, social housing, housing benefit, child benefit, and other core elements of the welfare state.
Conference congratulates the trades union movements of Scotland and the UK for their ”Better Way” campaign, highlighting alternative approaches such as later or slower deficit reduction, creation of a financial transaction tax, closing of tax loopholes and criminalisation of tax avoidance, progressive reform of income tax and the option of a one-off wealth tax on the richest 10% of society.
Conference notes that the Scottish block grant will reduced by 10% over four years, and that the current powers of the Scottish Parliament leave us unable to make use of these Westminster-controlled options to defend Scottish public services against the UK Government’s programme.
Conference agrees however that the fundamental choice facing the Scottish Government and Parliament is between simply handing on a series of vicious public spending cuts, or raising revenue in the limited ways possible.
Conference believes that the Scottish budget should aim to raise revenue where possible to reduce the damage being done to society by the UK Government’s programme, and that this can be done in two ways: by implementing a wider range of local taxation powers such as additional higher bands of Council Tax (for as long as that tax operates) as well Land Value Tax and other possible options such as a hotel tax, a sales tax, and some use of resource taxes; and secondly by making use of the power to vary the basic rate of income tax. Conference instructs Council to produce a manifesto for Holyrood which sets out a programme of progressive revenue raising to offset as much as possible the cuts being imposed by the Tory/LibDem coalition.
For more information about Land Value Tax, see the recent report commissioned by the Green MSPs and written by Andy Wightman:
The Scottish Variable Rate can be used to vary the basic rate of income tax up or down by 3p, in increments of 0.5p. In 2008, HM Treasury estimated that a penny change in the rate during financial year 2009-10 would vary income up or down by £400m. See p113: