Thursday, 24 March 2016

When they were up, they were up ...

".. and when they were down, they were down but when they were only half way up, they were neither up nor down!"

The children's song is about the abject failure of the Grand Old Duke of York's Flander's Campaign of 1793 after which it was decided that maybe 'Royalty' did not make great generals simply because they were 'Royal' in the mass murder, at ever increasing range, that was 'modern' warfare.

This week has seen the political and media comment equivalent of the Duke of York's Flander's campaign with the Brit Nats in the Duke of York role when discussing the SNPs putative tax plans post May 2016 - remember folks nothing happens until or if the SNP are elected as Scotland's next government at Holyrood.

If you are from the London media scrum, tax rates are going up for those at the top of the ladder with all the apocalyptic prognostication that Grannies who have over £100 cash in a Post Office Savings (aka Bank of Ireland) account they will be moving to England 'toute suite' to avoid a crushing tax burden inflicted on them by the SNP (if they are re-elected). If you are in the Scottish media scrum you are torn between agreeing with the London lead writers (Record / Daily Mail / Torygraph, Gruniad, Courier, Hootsmon) the murderous tax hike is a disaster for Scotland and will kill our economy or crying, "Shame, tax these rich bastards even harder!" as appears in the Record, Herald and The National. Yes, I know the Record appears on both sides but it is torn between its party loyalty and its rapidly plunging sales and advertising revenues so its 'neither up nor down'.

Trying to sort out what is actually being proposed, if the SNP are returned on the 16th May, is well hidden behind this stoor of claim and counter claim, rather like a fog of war (the smoke from all the black powder weapons made it hard for generals to see what was actually happening). So what do I think I know?

Council tax rises under the old system are being suggested for the higher end value homes and, in effect, a continuing freeze for all the rest. This is bad for Grannies living on a reducing basic state pension in a five room house in Morningside or Mulingavie (circa £1 million plus in the current property market) but in real terms it is a small reduction for the majority of us, given inflation is at around 1.5% per anum. So when Labour's Jackie Baillie brings up this poor, cash strapped Granny in Morningside or Mulingavie, as she surely will in her failing attempts at mud slinging, we need remind ourselves that the Granny concerned is entitled to a full housing rebate and her fiscal status is 'uneffected' unless "La Baillie's" London Head Office votes with their Tory bedfellows to cut council tax rebates even further, as they have been prone to do.

As to the higher income tax bands, the SNP have eschewed, for now, lifting them to the 50p level Ms Sturgeon allegedly promised some four years ago, a failure which is a betrayal of their Social Democratic principles according to Mr McWhirter in the Herald. Then again neither is Mr Swinney offering the top rate 'tax cut' being offered in England by altering the 40p tax rate banding to high end earners, as part of Osbourne's £4.4 billion tax give away, announced in Osbourne's car crash of a budget.

To those who support RISE or are to their left, these small council tax and high end earner tax changes are small beer in terms of tax redistribution. This is undoubtedly true but we have yet to see the impact of the Land Refom Act (Scotland) on income to the Scottish Exchequer as Scottish land holdings held 'offshore' in the British Virgin or Cayman Islands become available for taxation at Mr Swinney's hands, if the SNP are re-elected to govern Scotland. On the other hand the high earners in Scotland will be paying more income tax than their equivalents in England, in real terms, as Mr Swinney proposes not to change current income tax banding.

If you have followed this rather esoteric argument through to this point maybe, like me, a light bulb has come on in your head and you are starting to think, the canny SNP are at it again. The SNP are testing the water to see if all these bankers and financial whizzes in Glasgow and Edinburgh will actually do a runner or try to pull some stunt to avoid paying income tax in Scotland. Will all these multi-million pound houses they live in Morningside and Mulingavie suddenly be put up for sale with the council tax rise or, as I suspect, like the frog which is slowly warmed, they will stay put as they are, even as the taxation temperature incrementally rises over the next decade. After all most folk put a lot of things as 'important' in their lives before income. Income only becomes a big issue when you are 'skint' and struggling to feed and house yourself and your family. The one thing you can be sure of, the denizens of the big houses in Morningside or Mulingavie are a long way from being 'skint' and at worst may have to buy cheaper cases of wine each month, to get by, after Mr Swinney's proposed 'tax raid'.

So while the media and comment columns lament over milk yet to be spilled or not not enough milk being spilled, I suggest Mr Swinney is no "Grand Old Duke of York"; No, Sirrah; he is more a canny Duke of Wellington, giving his opponents a stiff volley and seeing if they stand or run, before making his true assault.


  1. So the rich will decant to Engerland so that they can pay £9000 plus for university fees etc and experience the congestion and stress that goes with living there. I don't think so.

  2. Let them decant or not.

    Suspect their purses and wallets will, again, determine their "principles".