Scottish parties unite to back Oxfam campaign to make sure a Scottish legal mechanism isn’t helping tax dodgers
The leaders of all five parties in the Scottish Parliament have expressed support for an Oxfam Scotland campaign to ensure Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs) can’t be misused to avoid tax.
The campaign, which follows a series of allegations about the abuse of SLPs, asked all politicians in Scotland to work together in support of efforts to close tax and other loopholes.
While powers over SLPs reside at Westminster, it is hoped the cross-party support in Scotland will strongly encourage the UK Government to take action.
Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland said: “The backing of all five parties in the Scottish Parliament sends a powerful message that Scotland has no desire to be linked, in any way, to the practice of tax avoidance.
“We are hugely grateful to the more than 2,100 Oxfam supporters who contacted Scottish party leaders to raise their concern about the reported abuse of SLPs – today we can say that they listened.
“SLPs are insufficiently transparent and there is growing evidence this is being exploited by those who want to dodge tax. Not all SLPs are being abused, but we urgently need transparency to crack open these ‘shell companies’ and identify the rotten eggs
“Oxfam cares about tax dodging because we know it is the poorest people who lose out most. Tax avoidance, wherever it happens, is wrong. It denies governments – at Scottish and UK levels, as well within developing countries – vital revenue which could be used to tackle poverty.”
With power over company law reserved to Westminster, the Oxfam campaign also sought the backing of the Secretary of State for Scotland. No response has yet been received but the issue was raised with Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Roger Mullin MP has been working in the Westminster Parliament to ensure that SLPs are reviewed he tabled an amendment, during the Finance Bill debate and the Criminal Finances Bill to secure this review.
During the committee stage (22nd Nov) of the Criminal Finances Bill, Security Minister Ben Wallace MP, took serious notice of the abuse of SLPs, a discussion paper which would see SLPs placed on a beneficial ownership register has been introduced. Given the Government’s positive change of stance on the issue Mr Mullin agreed to withdrawn his amendment.
Livingstone said: “Scotland has made its views on this issue clear. Now it is time for Westminster to act. We have been encouraged by the comments of Security Minister Ben Wallace MP, who stated that the UK Government is minded to place SLPs on a beneficial ownership register as a first step to addressing the problem. It is essential that SLPs are fully reviewed with any loopholes quickly closed.”
Notes to Editors –
1. Oxfam Scotland asked members of the public to contact political leaders in Scotland seeking their support for the following statement: “I agree that tax avoidance, wherever it happens, is wrong. It denies Governments – at Scottish and UK levels, as well as within developing countries – vital revenue which could be used to tackle poverty and fund schools and hospitals. I will work with other parties to ensure Scotland isn’t unintentionally helping tax dodgers and that we prevent any perception that this is the case. I will support efforts to immediately close tax and other
loopholes which allow ‘Scottish Limited Partnerships’ to be abused in order to protect Scotland’s reputation for professionalism, fairness and transparency.”
2. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Greens Co-Convenor Patrick Harvie, and Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie, have all responded to Oxfam in writing supporting the campaign. Their full responses can be made available on request. No response has yet been received from the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell MP.
3. Oxfam Scotland’s campaign action is now closed but can be found here.
4. Roger Mullin MP amendment:
(1) The Secretary of State must undertake a review into the extent of financial criminal activity associated with Scottish Limited Partnerships, and lay a copy of the review before the House of Commons within six months of this Act receiving Royal Assent.
(2) In conducting the review the Secretary of State must consult-
(a) the Scottish Government;
(b) the National Crime Agency;
(c) the Serious Fraud Office;
(d) the Financial Conduct Authority;
(f) interested third sector organisations; and
(g) any other persons he deems relevant.
(3) The review must set out what steps the Government intends to take to prevent
Scottish Limited Partnerships being used for criminal purposes.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to conduct a review of financial criminality associated with Scottish Limited Partnerships and set out what steps the Government intends to take to prevent Scottish Limited Partnerships being used for criminal purposes.