The SNP and the council tax – an act of huge political cowardice?


SNP election poster 2011

Always good to be reminded of history, and 2011 is closer and more relevant than 1314, but this post is not about past promises unfulfilled. Everyone’s used to them from politicians and they all have to trim their sails from time to time in government. Anyhow, if I wanted to seek unfulilled promises (actually downright lies) from the SNP I’d go no further back than 2014 and their ‘once in a generation’ commitment.

No, this is about their latest shennanigans on the council tax.

This is a prècis of what’s happened. They want to spend more money on education. Their way of raising the money is to increase the liability of the four highest council tax bands E – H, take the extra money raised from the wealthier council areas and redistribute it to the poorer areas to be spent on education.

If you’re in those higher council tax bands and stay in a better-off area you’ll see your council tax go up and the money spent somewhere else. Ironically, or maybe not, the less well-off areas, like all councils, have already suffered spending cuts in education because of lower government grants.

The chances are that when that envelope falls on the doormat with the 2017/18 tax due, you’ll curse the council. After all, the clue’s in the name – ‘council’ tax.

I call this an act of huge political cowardice simply because the government have the power to raise revenue through income tax for education. But, of course, you’d know directly that they were raising it. And since no-one likes being taxed, why not let the councils take the blame?

There’s a lot more in this story, not least the way the opposition parties united to ensure the government could only get the necessary legislation through for the council tax grab by voting for a motion that regretted the plans ‘undermine the principle of local accountability and autonomy and fail to address a number of issues’ (credit to the Greens’ Andy Wightman for that).

The SNP don’t have a good record on the council tax and local accountability. For seven years, they maintained a council tax freeze that had all sorts of undesirable consequences I pointed out in 2015, then earlier this year. And this latest action plays to another central plank of the SNP’s Holyrood tenure, what might be described, to paraphrase Tony Blair, as ‘Centralisation, centralisation, centralisation.’

My next two blog posts will look at issues directly related to all this – some recent local by-election results and what they might tell us about the council elections in May 2017, and the more-than-somewhat self-promoting ‘First Minister’s Reading Challenge.’

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2 Responses to The SNP and the council tax – an act of huge political cowardice?

  1. Sam Duncan says:

    “The SNP don’t have a good record on the council tax and local accountability.”

    Of course they don’t. They’re nationalists. I keep banging on about this but, as this story shows, the fact that nationalism isn’t simply a synonym for patriotism or even seperatism actually has real implications for the nuts and bolts of everyday policy.

    I’m looking forward to the council elections (and there’s something I never thought I’d find myself saying). As you noted earlier this year, the STV system could produce some very interesting results indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eric Sinclair says:

    I am happy to pay council tax for local services. I even think it may be a good idea to devolve more powers/financial responsibility to individual schools, where they want them. But I don’t see why I should pay for services provided by other councils. So can I please withhold that part of my council tax which is not going to be spent on local services, but is to be given to services run by other councils?


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