Blog: Fair taxes build better budgets. Better budgets build a better future.


David Eyre,
Communications Officer,
Poverty Alliance

Imagine blowing up a balloon. You puff and puff and puff and eventually tie it off. It’s about the size of your head and you’re very happy with it.

But your friend comes along, and they have a balloon too. Except theirs is about twice the size of yours. It’s a bit bigger than a beachball. Suddenly, your balloon looks quite small.

Then along comes another friend. Their balloon is about three times the size of yours. It’s huge. It’s so big that it looks like your pal is carrying a space hopper - reaching from the top of their head right down to their waist.

The first balloon was the size of Scotland’s economy in 1960. The second was our economy in 1990. The third was our economy in 2022.

We are a rich country, and our collective wealth has grown massively over the decades. We have what we need to provide freedom, opportunity, and security for everyone, so we each have what we need to build a better life for ourselves and our households, and a better Scotland for all of us.

But that massive wealth and resource are kept away from far too many people. They are locked away by an unjust economy with low wages and insecure hours, and by a weakened social security system that is increasingly unable to keep people away from debt and destitution.

From our public roads and highways to our NHS, cleansing, schools and colleges, universities, apprenticeships, trains and buses, social care, social work, community safety, business support, community development – those essential public goods that we all rely on, all seem to be cut off from that wealth too. We can see the effects in towns, villages and cities across the length and breadth of Scotland, from weakened council services to the rise in community foodbanks.

That’s bad for all of us. But it’s a disaster for people on the lowest incomes, because those public goods are often a vital lifeline in difficult times, and a platform that people can use to build for the future. Without them people are trapped.

It’s also bad for business. They rely on roads to get goods to and from markets. They need public transport to get their workers in on time. They rely on the next generation of workers being educated and skilled. When a worker is sick, they rely on the NHS to get them well enough to return to work. They often rely on public grants and loans, and public support with paying their rates. In a myriad of ways, the public good is the bedrock of private enterprise.

So how can we unlock the potential of Scotland’s collective wealth? One vital way is using fair taxes that can support better budgets, so that we can build a better future.

We often hear that Scotland is in a ‘challenging fiscal position’ and that we face ‘difficult choices’. There’s no reason for that to be the case – just think of the balloon the size of a space hopper. We are carrying around massive wealth in this country - it’s just a question of using it to support the common good.

The public goods we have today only exist because past generations planned and budgeted for them. We all have a responsibility to make sure that we raise the revenue we need today to build budgets for a better tomorrow. Those with the biggest responsibility are our political leaders.

The Poverty Alliance and others have repeatedly called on members of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers to meet that responsibility; to use their powers over tax and investment to unlock our country’s wealth for our collective good; to build budgets that give people the means to build a better future; to create a true wellbeing economy that supports fair work and a just transition to the net zero future that we urgently need. .

Organisations like the STUC and IPPR Scotland have come up with concrete plans to raise the revenue we need from our country’s wealth of resources. They have clearly demonstrated that our political leaders have the tools they need to meet their responsibility to our collective wellbeing as a nation.

So the next time you get angry about holes in the road, or about teachers being made redundant; about modern apprenticeships being put on hold, or about the ongoing injustice of poverty in wealthy Scotland; about the too-slow transition to a green economy, or the rise in food banks; about poor bus services, or lack of support for children with additional support needs: about low pay for workers, or cuts to our NHS – please remember the big balloon, and that we have a way to move forward:

Fair taxes build better budgets, and better budgets build a better future.

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