All parties must work towards fair tax reforms

Hand encircling money balanced on set of scales #TimeToTax

By Jamie Livingstone

Tomorrow’s Scottish Budget isn’t just about numbers and political choices: it’s about the things that truly matter to us all. It’s about the hospitals that help heal us, the schools that educate our children, and about how we keep our communities clean and safe. But these and other essentials — the very fabric of our society — are being stretched to the brink, risking irreparable tears without action.

None of us want to live in a country where almost a quarter of a million children are growing up in poverty, where we experience long and painful waits at A&E before being treated, where the pressures facing unpaid carers are so great that a third of them report thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and where the Scottish Government repeatedly misses critical pollution reduction targets.

It’s time our leaders were honest with themselves, and with all of us, about the reasons why this is happening.

Of course, such issues are complex, but one of the key reasons is that our collective social investment, our tax money, simply isn’t stacking up and it’s costing us all dearly. It’s making our schools struggle, it’s making our healthcare system wheeze, and it’s undermining the power of public services to counter the deep economic inequalities that all too often leave women, people with a disability, and black and people of colour at the back of the queue.

While the financial context is tough, and not every tax lever rests in Scotland, we cannot allow progress on critical priorities to hang in the balance due to a lack of investment.

Yet, too often we lack political agreement on how to fairly raise the funds we sorely need. It’s short-sighted. And, unless it changes, we’ll all suffer.

It’s time to see tax as an investment in a better future for us all.

That’s why Oxfam Scotland and 60 other organisations have written to the leaders of Scotland’s main political parties calling for urgent cross-party cooperation on fair tax reforms, both in tomorrow’s draft Budget and – importantly – beyond.

Short-term, it’s vital that this year’s Budget builds on progressive changes to date with further measures to ensure that those with the broadest financial shoulders contribute more through existing devolved tax levers, such as Income Tax.

Analyses points to a range of tax options that could generate more money next year, essential for building a society where everyone thrives: the cornerstone of a prosperous economy.
However, tweaking our inadequate existing tax levers, won’t deliver the investment we need to deliver on our transformational ambitions.

Instead, we need parties from across the political spectrum to urgently work towards wider fair tax reforms.

Of course, more progressive tax isn’t a silver bullet, but it’ll certainly help.

And it’s also what the people of Scotland want: 64% of people favour increased tax to fund more public spending on health, education, and social benefits.

The very fabric that binds us — our social investment through taxes — is fraying. Together, our political leaders must stich it back together.

This article originally appeared in The Herald.