DEVOLUTION IS INCOMPLETE WHILE POWER IS STOCKPILED IN EDINBURGH, SAYS THINK TANK
Reform Scotland calls for devolution of local taxation as part of submission to Holyrood committee
Reform Scotland, the independent think tank, has called for local taxation – including council tax, and the power to replace it – to be devolved to local authorities.
The call came as part of a submission to the Local Government and Communities Committee of the Scottish Parliament, which is conducting an inquiry into the long-term financial stability of local government.
The Committee has asked how councils can respond positively to current challenges and what practical steps they can take to “future proof” themselves against foreseeable financial risks. Reform Scotland’s view is that there can be no future-proofing at local level without meaningful financial levers.
Reform Scotland welcomed the provisions in the 2018 Budget to allow local authorities to introduce new taxes such as the workplace parking levy and the tourist tax, however these are minor compared to taxes such as non-domestic rates and council tax.
It is those taxes, and the ability to vary or replace them, which the think tank now wants to see devolved.
Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Director Chris Deerin said:
“The Scottish Parliament is 20 years old this year, but the truth is that what we have seen since 1999 is only a narrow version of devolution. Power has been devolved from Westminster to Holyrood, but it has been stockpiled in Edinburgh since then, with all political parties culpable.
“Devolution will remain incomplete until Holyrood relinquishes taxation powers to local authorities in order for them to be able to react to local circumstances, which vary wildly in different parts of the country.
“This should include council tax – a local tax in name only. The council tax freeze, and since then the cap in increases, ties the hands of local authorities. They should be given total control over it, and be able to cut it, increase it, scrap it and replace it.
“Only this will future-proof local government against local financial risks.”