Imagine the benefits of an independent Scotland


By Bob Duncan

I would like to take a few minutes of your precious time in order to imagine a Scotland very different from today’s. A Scotland which could only come about once we no longer need to seek the permission of the Westminster before acting to create our future. A Scotland which could never come about under devolution, whether min, max, plus or sugar-free.

Imagine a Scotland where every citizen has a right to a basic guaranteed income, funded by the state. An arrangement very like a state pension, but paid from birth, with its value rising from infancy to adulthood.

Just to make it easier to envisage, let’s say that each adult receives £100 per week, and parents get £50 per week for each child. That would give a family of four an income of £15,600 pa, and a single adult an income of £5200 pa. The numbers are merely indicative.

This income, let’s call it Civic Credit, would be untaxed and would be paid to every citizen, regardless of their income or employment status. It would replace all forms of basic income support such as income support, tax credits, jobseeker’s allowance, child tax credit, child benefit etc.

This would be funded by a progressive income tax, designed to be redistributive. Income tax would be payable on all income, other than benefits, and there would be no tax-free thresholds and no social security.

Banding would be used to ensure that those on middle incomes would retain around the same post-tax income as now, less the amount of the Civic Credit, giving them the same approximate disposable income as at present.

The lower band might be set at 30%, the middle band (say above £40k pa) at 45% and the upper band (say over £100k pa) at 60%. At these rates and bands, a single person would pay the following effective rates of income tax, taking the civic Credit into account:

Salary of £20,000 pa – 14% tax

Salary of £60,000 pa – 32% tax

Salary of £150,000 pa – 47% tax

These figures are provided solely to make the proposed system easier to visualise, and are not intended as a serious proposal of a worked out system. They do, however, demonstrate the progressive nature of the tax system which would result.

The main advantage of this system is that it would remove the need for most of the benefits paid by the welfare system, while providing a safety net for everyone in the country.

Child poverty would be eliminated immediately. Administrative overhead would be markedly reduced. It would also substantially wipe out fraud, as there would be little scope or point.

Combine this with a simplified taxation system, provided by a brand new Scottish Revenue without the baggage of HMRC, and a legal framework which mitigates against tax avoidance. We could construct a combined tax and benefit system which is in line with the progressive aspirations of the majority of Scots.

Might that not be a compelling reason to vote yes to independence.

I offer this sketch, not as a template for a future Scotland, but as an example of the sort of vision which can be contemplated when starting afresh. The referendum on independence offers us a once in a lifetime opportunity to rethink everything we have taken for granted for centuries.

Just as crucially, perhaps, we risk the failure of the referendum, if we fail to inspire.

Presenting an anodyne view of independence which minimises the shock of the new will do little to inspire those who are currently undecided. The more aspects of life we assert will be unchanged by independence, the less compelling the need for change will appear.

Why take a leap of faith when the place you will land looks so much like the place you are standing.

And that will leave the game to be won by the nay-sayers, the scaremongers, the fearties and the self-interested. Those who Margo MacDonald has dubbed the “abominable no men”.

That is not to say that it is wrong to counter unionist fears with well-laid plans, nor that is it wrong to fight just one battle at a time.

But surely this is also the time for radical, creative, visionary thinking which demonstrates the purpose of self-determination by showing us what we might use it to achieve.

And what could be more inspiring than that.

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