Saturday, October 16, 2010

SNP's priorities - cutting taxes for the rich

Well, we can see where the SNP's priorities lie from their plans announced at their Conference, and they're not with the poorest and most vulnerable people, that's for sure.

This reminds me of research done by the Scottish Liberal Democrats last year which shows that over the whole of their four year term, the SNP will have given 133 times more every year to a household on £100,000 than they have to households on £15,000. That doesn't seem very fair to me. At the time, Tavish Scott said:

“Over four years, the SNP will have spent £950m on a set of distorted priorities and hand-outs that give more to the rich than to the poor.
“If you have two children and earn £100,000 then you will have gained £802 per year from the SNP.
“But if you have two children and you earn £15,000 then you will have gained just six pounds and seven pence.
“So that’s enough champagne and lobster every night for the rich, but a fish supper for the poor.
“So I mean it when I say that, in Scotland, the only party at the General Election for a fairer society will be the Liberal Democrats.”
I'm not sure why we haven't made more of this. I mean, to give £802 per year to a family on £100,000 and only £6 a year to the poorest is not something the SNP can be proud of.

The Nationalists seem to be even more in denial about our financial circumstances than the Labour Party when they were in power at Westminster. It worries me greatly that in the current climate, they intend to continue their Council Tax freeze which gives most benefit to the better off. This was only supposed to be a temporary measure until they introduced their Local Income Tax,but they gave up on that one with undue haste. If they'd agreed that local authorities should be able to set their own rates, this could have been up and running by now and people would be paying their local taxes according to their ability to pay and not the size of their house. The elderly widow on a low income paying the same as 2 lawyers across the street under the Council Tax doesn't get any fairer. Yet another failed SNP pledge.

And then there's prescription charges, which they still insist they're going to abolish completely next year. I can think of many  better uses for the £40 million it's cost us. There are more efficient ways of making sure that those who need help most get it. Under the Scottish Liberal Democrat plans unveiled in our 2007 manifesto, we'd have limited prescription charges so that people with chronic conditions who needed a lot of medication would only pay the equivalent of one full prescription charge per month. That seems fair to me.

Under the current system, I,with my dodgy thyroid, am entitled to free prescriptions. I need to take one tablet a day and I am prescribed 8 weeks' worth at a time. Even if prescription charges up here had remained at the same level as in England, my drugs would cost me less than a glass of wine in an Edinburgh pub per month. That's easily affordable. I don't need it.

I may be sick, and I'm certainly not rich, but paying for my prescriptions is not going to cause me any great hardship. I'm sure I can't be alone in that.

The SNP Government has, to add to its pretty shameful record on education, the mantle of being the Party that does most for the rich. For that reason alone, they need to be kicked out of office come May.


Jeff said...

Pretty full on post despite being several months out from election time. And that's a compliment.

It'd be interesting to see where those £6 and £802 figures came from. You'll hopefully forgive me if i don't take them at face value, particularly if Tavish did the Maths as £802 is not enough for "champagne and lobster every night" unless Aldi are doing some sort of all in deal for £2.20.

Also, I take your point about prescriptions but an NHS free at the point of use should be just that. I daresay some richer people than you and I could afford their own heart surgery if required, it doesn't mean we should bill them
for it.

Still, I genuinely like to see a blog post coming out swinging and this one certainly does that!

PS Sorry about the dodgy thyroid.

Gryff said...

I'm unconvinced on a couple of levels here. What you've identified is a problem affecting LDs in Westminster as much as the SNP in Holyrood. It is really hard to give money to the very poor, much easier to give it to the rich.

For Council Tax; compare income tax threshold. The raising of the income tax threshold is indubitably a good thing; but hasn't actually helped anyone who was already not earning enough to pay tax. Ditto the CT freeze has benefited many people, but not anyone already in receipt of CT benefit.

The only way to help the very poor is by bumping up, or spreading out benefits, something out of the hands of Holyrood, and which no-one is suggesting in Westminster.

I also find myself increasingly alienated by the LDs, if our line is going to be to attack the extension of universal benefits, and healthcare free at the point of use (a programme that they pushed for when in power before 2007 - free prescription charges sits very comfortably with free care for the elderly).

Finally I do not know who to blame for the failure of Local Income Tax. Either the SNP, or the LDs could have compromised, and neither would, but that would not have solved the problems regarding funding for CT benefit with were an issue coming from Whitehall.

Caron said...

Jeff, last time I looked, heart surgery cost a bit more than a packet of Thyroid pills.....

Gryff, the elderly already get free prescriptions and I think that should continue so there's no correlation between that and free personal care.

Richard Thomson said...

Is it not Lib Dem policy to freeze council tax south of the border? If so, is there something magic about England which renders the policy 'fair' there, but not in Scotland?

Gryff said...

I don't connect prescription and personal care, because its anything to do with the elderly. What I mean is that the personal care isn't means tested - just as you could afford your prescriptions, lots of elderly people could afford their own personal care. I thought the reason that the personal care was not means tested was because a plank of modern British liberalism was a belief in universal benefits. It is one think to say that a universal benefit is not affordable, quite another to say it is undesirable.

Caron said...

As I said, Gryf, what we would have done on prescriptions is made it so that nobody would have had to pay more than one prescription charge a month if they required a lot of medication. That's easily affordable by the better off and therefore an easy way to save the Government some money without causing hardship.

And, Richard, surely you understand that devolution means that the English and Scottish parties have the right to have their own policies? There are loads of areas where we differ and that's fine.

Free personal care is different - it's compassionate and humanitarian and right that a liberal society should care for those who need it. Few can afford to pay for that sort of care long term and so it is vital that we continue to provide it.

Richard Thomson said...

Oh, I understand the concept of internal party devolution perfectly, Caron. What I don't understand is how an identical policy can be fair on one side of the border but not the other.

Judging by your response, perhaps you don't understand that argument about cross border fairness either, and are just putting on a show for show's sake here?

Clive of Inverkip said...

"And, Richard, surely you understand that devolution means that the English and Scottish parties have the right to have their own policies? There are loads of areas where we differ and that's fine."

But then surely you should be attacking your colleagues for their shameful record in only helping the rich?

Why not?

Indy said...

This is actually sickening.

Your party had the opportunity to back the SNP on moving to a system of local taxation which, while it might not have been the ideal system you preferred, would nonetheless have turned a deeply regressive form of taxation into a progressive form of taxation.

You didn't. You hummed and hawed and in the end did nothing and now you have the utter cheek to criticise the SNP for freezing council tax because it will benefit the well off.

Yes it will benefit the well off but it will also protect the poor and that is the whole point of it.

Council tax accounts for less than 20 per cent of council spending. Increasing council tax would, in the context of overall local government spending, raise very little. Yet on a personal level, an increase in council tax could make the lives of low income taxpayers very diffocult, indeed it could cause people to become homeless. Common sense dictates that this is not a sensible option and I expect that the Lib Dems, like Labour, will not in fact be going into the next election calling for an increase in council tax.


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