By Andrew Barr
The Scottish finance secretary John Swinney has announced plans for ‘Revenue Scotland’, a new Scottish tax agency which would be 25 per cent cheaper and more efficient than Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
The new agency would collect and administer taxes under new freedoms devolved to Scotland in The Scotland Act 2012. Although the Act would give Holyrood control over property, stamp duty on land, income tax and borrowing powers, it is not set to come into force until April 2015, long after the independence referendum.
Regardless of the results of the referendum, today’s announcement means it is now certain that Scotland will be in a position to control and administer its own taxes by 2015.
Mr Swinney said the new Revenue Scotland body would be more efficient, and would be more closely aligned with the social democratic politics of the Scottish people.
He said: “In setting up Revenue Scotland, we are developing an innovative approach to taxation, working with existing organisations to deliver Scottish taxes set by this Scottish parliament and to save the Scottish taxpayer money.”
“This is an example of the advances that could be made if Scotland had the powers to determine its own future.
“The government’s approach to taxation is founded on Scottish principles that have stood the test of time. Adam Smith’s four maxims with regard to taxes – the burden proportionate to the ability to pay, certainty for the taxpayer, convenience and efficiency of collection – were defined in 1776. They provide the basis for a system that will meet the needs of a modern, 21st-century Scotland, grounded on solid foundations.”
Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman Ken Macintosh refused to welcome to proposition, calling it a “separate tartan taxman” and claiming the move had more to do with “commitment to separation” than fairness or transparency.
The Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown joined Labour, claiming “This is just more back-of-the-fag-packet policies from the SNP.”
However, SNP MSP Mark McDonald said the reaction of unionist parties was “deeply disappointing”, and questioned why they had chosen to oppose progressive taxation that will save the taxpayer money and “put the powers parliament has to good use.”
Mr McDonald added: “This is a hugely significant day for the Scottish Parliament. Although the fiscal powers devolved in the Scotland Act fall way short of what is required, the establishment of Revenue Scotland to oversee these means that, for the first time, the decisions surrounding those taxes will be taken by those who care about Scotland most – the people of Scotland.
“Revenue Scotland and Registers of Scotland will deliver a service of tax collection that is more efficient and better value for money, with savings of millions of pounds for the public purse.
“The SNP Government is saving the Scottish taxpayer money with efficient collection and treating the taxpayer fairly with a move to progressive taxation.
“No one likes the current system of stamp duty and the Scottish Government is right to get rid of it. Just imagine what we could achieve if all of the taxes collected in Scotland were being used to the benefit of Scotland.
“It is only right that the people of Scotland determine their own taxes and I would encourage as many people as possible to take part in the consultation on the proposed Land and Building Transaction Tax.
“It is deeply disappointing that the opposition parties could not find a way to welcome a move to progressive taxation that will help those at the lower end of the market, save the taxpayer money and put the powers parliament has to good use.
“What Scotland needs is the full powers of independence to help us fully make Scotland more successful and improve the lives of the people who live here.”
Hear Mr Swinney speaking on Radio Scotland