Independent Scotland’s tax system could ‘fix inefficiencies’ of UK system

Richard Murphy
Richard Murphy

An independent Scotland could “fix the inefficiencies and large scale abuses of the UK tax system”, according to a report from the pro-independence Common Weal think tank.

A Scottish Tax System: Imagining the Future calls for radical changes, including tax hikes across the board and the creation of a financial transaction tax to modify the financial sector’s “tendency towards reckless behaviour that destabilises the economy”.

It also proposes the creation of a tax ministry independent of Scotland’s finance ministry, with a tax minister and a tax select committee in the Scottish Parliament.

In order to protect the “political independence” of the tax collection function, the tax ministry would devolve such tasks to an administrative agency with an independent board incorporating representatives from private business, trade unions and civil society.

Report author Richard Murphy told The National: “HM Revenue & Customs is not directly accountable to minsters in the UK; there is no minister for taxation in the UK Government and there is no select committee on taxation in the House of Commons.

“All of these situations are very obviously inappropriate given the significance of tax in the political process.

“There may be historical reasons for this situation having arisen in the UK, but the legacy of the English civil wars of the seventeenth century need not impact Scotland in the twenty first century.

“As a result it will be necessary to create new structures to manage tax within the political landscape in which it will play an integral part within an independent Scotland.”

More controversially, the report also proposes the end of banking privacy, stating: “Any bank trading in Scotland must be required to provide full details to the Scottish authorities of any account that they maintain anywhere for any Scottish resident person or company on an annual basis, including the total sum deposited in the account each year.”

Ben Wray, head of policy at Common Weal, said: “This Common Weal report – which is a fully comprehensive study of a prospective independent Scotland’s tax system – is a major landmark publication in the Scottish independence debate.

“The report shows that tax is an essential mechanism for government to meet social and economic goals, and that a fair and effective tax system after independence requires an independent Scottish currency to go with it. It should be essential reading for anyone who wants to renew and update the case for Scottish independence.”

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