Blog: The Scottish Government can replace the unjust Council Tax – not just tinker with it

David Eyre

David Eyre,
Communications Officer,
The Poverty Alliance

Scotland is a wealthy country, full of resources. We can use that wealth for strong, sustained social investment to end the injustice of poverty, and to make sure that everyone has the chance to thrive and develop their potential.

When that happens, we all benefit, because when people can look after their own wellbeing, they’re better able to contribute to our society’s overall wellbeing.

Alongside Oxfam Scotland, IPPR Scotland and more than 50 other organisations, we’ve been highlighting how the Scottish Government can boost investment in our shared public services through progressive taxation. It’s fundamental to creating and sustaining a just economy and a compassionate society.

We recently gave evidence about this to the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee, and we raised our voices again in our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on making changes to the Council Tax.

People want their public services to be designed with equity and fairness at its heart, where those who have more, invest more, and where those with limited incomes are not pushed into debt to meet unaffordable bills.

Sadly, on these measures, our current system of Council Tax is failing. The Poverty Alliance believes that - nearly 25 years after the establishment of the Scottish Parliament - now is the time to stop tinkering around the edges of a fundamentally flawed and unjust system.

I recently looked at average house prices for each local authority in Scotland, and compared them with the average council tax for the area. Edinburgh has the biggest average house prices, over £300k. Inverclyde has the lowest - just over £120k. But there's a huge difference in the amount of council tax paid as a percentage of those house prices - in Edinburgh it's around 0.37% - but in Inverclyde it's nearly 0.9%. This can’t be right.

We have had power over local taxation in Scotland since 1999. This huge injustice is perhaps one of the biggest failures of political leadership in the context of devolution.

The Scottish Government can replace the regressive Council Tax with a progressive system that places justice and compassion at its heart, and invests in strong public services that work for all of us.

Alongside Oxfam and others, we have told the Scottish Government that they can launch a cross-party process to replace the current Council Tax before the end of this parliament in 2026, ending the long and damaging impasse.

The existing proposals to change the Council Tax rates within higher bands would, if implemented, provide a small but welcome short-term improvement, but they won’t  address the inherent unfairness in the system. The process of replacement can no longer be delayed.

A replacement system for the Council tax can tax property wealth more fairly and seek to contribute towards gender and other equalities.

We all rely on our public services – and they are a lifeline for people on the lowest incomes. Now is time use our country’s resources to invest in a better society for all of us.


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