Our Election, Brexit, and Going Forward

"Vote Here/Vote Aqui" sign in Orlando, Florida - 2008. Image Credit:  Erik (HASH) Hershman  via  Flickr   CC

"Vote Here/Vote Aqui" sign in Orlando, Florida - 2008. Image Credit: Erik (HASH) Hershman via Flickr CC

     So it all comes down to this. After arguably the most bruising, unconventional, and wild political campaign in American history, we are finally at the moment when we choose our next president.

     To be honest, it has been tough to get my head around it all, with so many twists and turns, ups and downs, allegations and innuendo being thrown around, facts and falsehoods being spouted about, claims and counter-claims being made, and just generally, the anxiety over the whole affair.

     As it stands, the choices we face as a country are both unpopular and with unprecedented high negative ratings. For many of us, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is one we would rather not have, for neither has been particularly inspiring and they both have heavy amounts of baggage – the contents of which have been exposed for us to see.

     Nevertheless, that’s those are choices we have and a choice must be made, for this election has come down to a referendum on the future – about what kind of country and society we wish to be, much like the UK’s referendum on the EU in June. Indeed, much commentary has been written and discussed about that referendum and what happened there in relation to our election. There are differences to be sure, but just as our election has pitted the wild card Trump against the more seasoned Clinton, the EU referendum pitted the unknowns of Britain leaving the EU against the what was known about staying in – in other words, the relative status quo vs a desired yet ill-defined change.

     What ought to be clear is that vast swathes of the people in both countries are not satisfied at all with where they are in their lives and with the state of our countries. There is the sense that the establishment has been failing them for years with policies appearing to benefit only those who are ingratiated with the system, such as the politicians, their families, wealthy campaign donors, corporate and other special interests, and just about anyone with inside connections to give them a leg up over everyone else.

     Along with the effects of 2007-2008 financial crisis, there have been the issues - repeated throughout the Western world - of globalization and how many people have been left behind as a result of it, changing economies and demographics which have clashed with the traditional structures and assurances of societies, and a general sense of uneasiness and the feeling that things are going downhill in many ways. Frustration with the status quo has allowed for the rise populism, which has fueled Trump in America and Brexit in Britain.

     That decision for Britain to leave the EU was a shock to everyone because it was figured that given the given the stark choice between the known and the unknown, Britons would stick with what they knew as a future in Europe as opposed to the unknowns outside of it. When the vote came, a slight majority of Britons decided that whatever unknowns there were outside the EU, they were worth it in the belief that the fortunes for themselves and the UK were better off outside.

     The mistake that some of the pro-EU campaigners made leading up to last June’s referendum was that they focused too much on the negatives of leaving, rather than the positives of staying, just as those advocating keeping the UK together during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum were criticized for accentuating the downsides of separation in order to get the people to vote “No”. This resulted in the “Yes” vote for separation being much higher than anticipated as the separatist campaign – appealing to positive platitudes if not solid facts – made inroads particularly among the working classes who felt they little to lose in choosing separation. Two years later, the Brexit campaigners did much of the same thing by portraying themselves as having new and bold solutions, as opposed to the stale answers offered up by the establishment. Similarly, a significant chunk of the American electorate appears prepared to risk uncertainty with Trump rather than go with what they know (and probably dislike more) about Clinton, who has been touting her experience and readiness for office in contrast to the unpredictability of Trump.

     Whatever happens, it is incumbent on our leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to commit themselves to getting things done for the great good. At everyone’s heart is the desire for a government that works effectively and efficiently, which works in the national interest while engaging with the world. Indeed, there is a lot that needs to be done domestically and internationally, and the people and political leaders must rise to the occasion as we do live in unprecedented times where people’s trust and confidence in government and other institutions are so low.

     This is the landscape facing the victor of the election tonight (or tomorrow) and on top of that, about half of the country not only voted against this person, but probably has a low opinion of them, to say the least. Whoever it is will have to work hard to unite the country as never before and provide answers to legitimate issues raised throughout the course of the campaign.

     As an optimist, I do not believe all will be lost regardless of who wins. Our country has gone through so much in over two centuries of existence, including an all-out civil war and presidential resignation, and we have shown the capacity to not only survive, but go on to be a better country than before. Our Constitution and hard-won democratic institutions are greater than any one person who temporarily occupies them for a few years at the pleasure of the people, and I believe the same to be true of the UK as well.

     That said, the choice we make does matter and I hope that people do consider the future carefully make a wise choice that we can be holistically comfortable with for generations to come.

Reflections on Brexit and Moving Forward

Map of the United Kingdom displaying the results of the EU referendum via the strength of the Remain/Leave vote in each county/council area. Image Credit:  Mirrorme22  via  Wikimedia Commons   cc

Map of the United Kingdom displaying the results of the EU referendum via the strength of the Remain/Leave vote in each county/council area. Image Credit: Mirrorme22 via Wikimedia Commons cc

     It has taken time for me to get my thoughts together on the aftermath of the unexpected Brexit vote. Indeed, I fully expected that the United Kingdom would retain its membership of the European Union in last Thursday’s referendum, with the result being a close one, but still being a Remain vote and the country moving forward on that basis. There would need to be national healing and reconciliation of course after such a bruising and personal campaign, but the status quo would hold and potential constitutional, political, and economic disruption would be avoided.

     However, that did not happen and the decision to leave the EU was quite a shock to just about everyone, including those who voted Leave and expected to Remain.

     To be sure, it was a clear result, narrow but clear at 52% for Leave and 48% for Remain, and it was the express will of the British people, which must be respected. Nevertheless, the result has made a divided nation ever more divided, as new rifts have opened up and existing ones further exacerbated, as the country enters into a period of uncertainty as it confronts the future.

     David Cameron has announced his resignation as prime minister in the wake of losing the historic vote and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn has been facing calls to stand down from the leadership of the Labour Party and even threats of a leadership challenge as many of his MP’s are unhappy with what they saw as his lackluster support for the Remain campaign, and are not confident in his ability to lead the party to a general election victory – either in 2020 or sooner depending on the outcome of the Conservative leadership election.

     That very election appeared to be almost a formality with former London mayor Boris Johnson as the favorite to succeed Cameron in large part to his leading role in the Leave campaign. Yet, this has been upended by another prominent Brexiter, Michael Gove, who was expected to back Johnson, but has announced he will stand for the leadership on the basis that he does not believe Johnson is capable of uniting a fractured country. Not long after that, Johnson pulled himself out of contention for the keys to Downing Street – throwing more another lump of uncertainty into the repercussions of the referendum.

     Those repercussions include the impact on the economy; financial markets throughout the world tumbled upon the news of Brexit and the pound plunged to levels not seen since the 1980’s. Both have since become more steady since the initial first couple of days, perhaps in part due to the behind-the-scenes work by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney in reassuring the markets and taking appropriate measures to promote stability and mitigate the fall-out from the vote on the 23rd.

     Still, the UK having its credit rating downgraded from (gold-standard) AAA to AA status by rating agencies who have also downgraded the UK’s economic outlook is concerning and ought to be concerning for everyone as seemingly abstract economic and financial forces have real impacts on people’s lives. In addition, much of the economy’s future will hinge on the results of UK’s exit deal from the EU and the ability of Britain to obtain favorable free-trade deals with the EU itself (with access to the single market) as well as several individual countries.

     Furthermore, there is the issue of the racist incidents and hate crimes that have occurred since the vote. To be fair, such things have happened before and are not entirely new, but given the role of the immigration issue in this campaign, it has only confirmed the view of some people that Brexit was driven by a dislike for immigrants and is not a good show for a country known for its sensible nature and general tolerance for foreigners. These incidents need to be condemned in the strongest terms and action must be taken against those causing unnecessary societal disturbances and making people feel unwelcome in a country where they have made a home, built a life, had children, and been contributing to the economy for years.

     On this point, there is the question of what happens to those non-British EU citizens who currently live, work, or study in the UK, as well as British citizens living abroad in other parts of the EU (of whom I know quite a few), and this has to be solved in a manner that is fair to all parties as well as humane, for real lives and livelihoods hang in the balance.

     In the week gone by, I’ve been concerned about all of these things as the reality of Brexit settles in on people, just as I was concerned about them before the vote. Now that it was happened and will in all likelihood be made official by Parliament and invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (to begin the official two year process of terminating EU membership), minds will be focused on negotiations that will take place and the result of them.

     There will also be a focus on the internal struggles within the UK itself, for though the UK as a whole voted to terminate its membership of the EU, London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland all voted to have the UK keep its membership of the EU and the realities of a country divided were seen in stark relief on the maps displaying the results of the vote.

     The capital city, with its global financial services industry and culturally diverse population, is concerned about the effect of Brexit on its economy and ability to be a critical gateway and international hub. In Northern Ireland, there is concern over the peace process and the open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – the only land border which the UK shares with another country – which in part have been underpinned by the Republic and the UK both being members of the EU. These issues will have to be resolved in a suitable manner.

     With regard to Scotland, I had hoped that with the SNP losing its majority and support for separation appearing to stagnate at best, that perhaps we had gotten to a turning point away from the inward-looking constitutional obsessions of the SNP.  Even with the Nats preparing for their summer independence campaign (a.k.a., the “Summer of Love”), it appeared that things had gone somewhat muted on the separation front. This may have been due to the EU referendum taking up much of the political space in Britain, but even then, I had a feeling that Scotland was moving forward as part of the UK with no immediate threat of another referendum and it appeared that the UK was going to vote Remain in the EU referendum – therefore avoiding further constitutional disruption.

     The surprise Leave vote has – at least for the time being – upended that prospect and the SNP has been given new life to go about its grievance-mongering and push for a second independence referendum on the basis that Scotland voted 2-to-1 for the UK to retain its EU membership while the UK overall voted to terminate it on a much more narrow vote. This was the nightmare scenario in which the SNP could complain that Scotland was being “dragged out” of the EU “against its will” due to the strength of the Leave vote in England and Wales, and then claim that this was a “material change” in circumstances from when Scotland voted to keep the UK together in September 2014. Indeed, there were many people who rejected independence back then on the basis that the UK held EU membership and Scotland did not, but may well vote the other way in a future referendum – especially if Scotland became a member of the EU in its own right or they saw independence as the means for Scotland to attain EU membership (notwithstanding the steep obstacles to EU membership for an independent Scotland, which are laid out in this blog post by my Twitter friend, Keith Steele, as well as in The Scotsman by Bill Jamieson).

     Before long, a Sunday Post poll claimed that support for separation had surged to 59% – just short of the 60% Nicola Sturgeon has cited as the number she needs for a consistent period to move forward with a second referendum and win it. But if that appeared scary, another poll by Survation reported (perhaps a more realistic) 49% support for separation and 42% support for staying in the Union, or 52%-48% when don’t knows are stripped out, which is still a ten point swing from the last time that poll was taken in April, which showed support for the Union at 47% and separation at 44%. Yet, that poll also showed that 45% of Scots opposed a second referendum in contrast to 42% in favor, which may indicate that while independence may be somewhat favorable, there is a lukewarm appetite for yet another referendum.

     Furthermore, it is totally possible that this is a knee-jerk reaction in the face of the Brexit result and that with time, any bounce for the separation cause will cool off (and it may also be of some worth to note that more Scots voted to keep the United Kingdom together on a much higher turn-out than for the United Kingdom to remain in the EU).

     Nonetheless, anyone who supports continuing the United Kingdom ought to be concerned about any polling which shows independence in the majority, or at least with more support than staying in the Union. It does no good to discount polling simply because it offers results going in contrast to one’s preferred option, for all that will do is engender a sense of denial and complacency which will prevent pro-Union supporters from fully understanding what needs to be done now and in the weeks, months, and years to come. Indeed, it was – I believe – complacency and a lack of imagination which cost pro-Union folks the 70-30 victory they had wanted to put the independence issue away for a long time.

     Of particular concern will be those who voted No in 2014 and Remain in 2016. There are many among that group of people who feel, at the very least, disillusioned with the UK in the aftermath of by what happened last week, possibly even betrayed. For them, there is no sense in denying that circumstances have changed and it is severely unhelpful to browbeat them by claiming that they are unpatriotic, traitors, or the like, and furthermore, they have every right to re-asses their position on the Union.

     My pitch to them would be that they should think of bigger picture with regard to the UK as a whole and not go down a path of creating more uncertainty piled on the uncertainty which already exists. Another way to put it is that current situation is precarious enough and need not be further exacerbated. Yes, you did not vote for this result, but neither did millions of your fellow citizens in Scotland and throughout the UK, and breaking up the UK will not be helpful to you or any of them. On the whole, the UK is still a better option than separation; for example, the rest of the UK and the UK’s domestic single market is of more importance to Scotland than the EU, with vastly more Scottish exports going to the rest of the UK than to the EU. Going forward, I hope this reality and other things will weigh on the counsels of people who may be thinking again about whether they support continuing the UK, and that they will take time for the dust to settle and think with a good mix of rationality and emotion to come to the conclusion that sticking with the UK is the better deal, for the world still needs the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom still needs Scotland.

     Indeed, everyone throughout Britain would do well to keep calm and take things a day at a time, especially after this referendum which proved to be so divisive, just as the one in Scotland had been to the point of causing horrible rifts between friends, within families, and young and old. The referendum and since have brought about an undeniably an ugly tone in British politics and society these days. I have see it every day on Twitter and Facebook, where people are demonized for what they believe in, shouted down and told to f**k off; where unfair accusations are made against those who hold those beliefs and where tempers flared and emotions were overflowing.

     Really, it is very sad to see the UK as bitterly divided as it is along so many fault lines. On a personal level, it has been painful and disappointing to watch friends and acquaintances from the campaign to keep the UK together going at each other over this issue and other that are related to it.

     Going into this referendum, I was concerned about the potential consequences for the economy, Britain’s standing in the world, peace and security, the impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, and the UK itself. Those concerns are true today and have been heightened by the edginess of the political atmosphere which took hold during the referendum and has been carried into the current circumstances.

     The nation needs to needs to heal itself in a big way following these last couple of years of constitutional wrangling between Scotland and the EU. Indeed, it may have been better to have held the EU referendum much later, so as to give it more space after the Scottish referendum and allow for the passions and feelings emanating from it to calm down before going onto another emotional and divisive vote affecting the constitutional structure of the country (which I believe ought to only be valid with a vast majority of the voters electing to change it).

     As with the Scottish referendum, this one was motivated by dissatisfaction with the status quo, the feeling of alienation from the political establishment, and a distrust of elites of all kinds. In many ways, those in power over the generations have themselves to blame for where we are currently, for it was they who failed to provide adequate answers to the issues of ordinary people who struggled with the effects of an ever-changing and increasingly global economy, as well as economic and societal pressures of immigration. The killing of MP Jo Cox, though it may not have been motivated by politics, still added to what has very much become an ugly atmosphere as discontent with the present system bubbled to the surface, and of course, this discontent is felt throughout the Western world, including America.

     Going forward now that the referendum has passed, everyone needs to reflect upon what has happened and go forth to work together to hammer out a just and fair settlement. In this light, it would be preferable for the SNP to be at the table of the UK team to offer assistance in these efforts, for there is a long and proud history of Scottish influence on the shaping of British diplomacy and foreign policy. My hope is that whatever happens, the United Kingdom will stay together and that people of goodwill will strive to make it a better place for everyone.

     Indeed, I must say that I love Britain. I value Britain. I respect Britain. I think highly of Britain and have given the better part of two years focused on keeping it together. I deeply care about Britain and its people, and wish nothing but the best for it in the years to come as it looks forward to its future.

     Along with Jo Cox, the beloved husband of one of my very good friends in Britain also passed away that day after a long and well-lived life. He served his country in the armed forces, and was from all accounts, a good patriot, father, husband, teacher, and all-around gentleman. Like Cox, I’m sure that he wanted was to pass on a better country and a better world to future generations.

     Their passing can be a reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the need to live our lives to the fullest extent, stop bitterness and needless violence against one another, and to work in a common effort to solve the problems we face with debates, discussions, and solutions befitting the lives they led.

     To the people of the UK, I say that in these challenging times, you need each other now more than ever. You’ve all been through so much over 300 years – fighting together to save the country from tyranny, exploring and trading with the world, exporting yourself culturally, standing up for basic rights and freedoms, pushing to advance social justice, and so much more. The centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme beginning on Friday are a testament to that.

     Indeed, you still have much more that unites you than divides you, and you need to move forward together as one country with a positive attitude and vision for the future, so as to aim for securing the best possible deal with regard to the EU and trading relationships with countries throughout the world, which means working toward a settlement which is beneficial for the UK as a whole, including its constituent parts and projecting Britain as an outward-looking and forward-thinking country robustly engaged in world affairs to help tackle the problems facing us all while taking care of its citizens at home, which are not mutually-exclusive.

     Perhaps this positive hope for the future can be expressed in the patriotic tune I Vow to Thee, My Country, which speaks of a love of country and doing good for it and the people, without malice or prejudice toward others.

Who's "Anti-Scottish", Now?

SNP advertisement from the 2007 election.

SNP advertisement from the 2007 election.

     This week, the SNP unveiled its plans for local government taxation should it win the Scottish parliamentary election in May.

     Under the proposed changes, households within the four highest Council Tax bands will have to pay more for the funding of councils; specifically, those living in the average home at the lowest of these bands (Band E) will pay an extra £105 per year, while those living in the highest band (Band H) will be paying extra £517 per year. For everyone else in Scotland – those who live in homes within the lowest bands of A through D – there will be no changes to how much they pay.

     The biggest revelation by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was that the package included the end of the Council Tax freeze in 2017 – ten years after the SNP implemented it when it came to power for the first time. The freeze was conducted under the pretense of helping all taxpayers by providing tax relief and it has been funded by the Scottish Government, which provided the money on the condition that the local councils did not change Council Tax rates (i.e., the “freeze”). However, the initiative has been criticized – including by the SNP government’s own poverty “czar” – for disproportionately benefiting those on higher incomes and living in larger homes at the expense of funding for public services.

     Sturgeon has claimed that the move to make those in the higher property bands pay more will raise £100 million for education initiatives, whilst the end of the Council Tax freeze and giving councils the ability to vary it by 3% per year will allow them to raise another £70 million for public services.

     In addition, those who are asset-rich but cash-poor – living in higher band homes on low incomes, such as pensioners – will be entitled to an exemption, and there will be relief across all property bands – particularly families with children. The First Minister further claimed that the charges for those in all bands will still be lower than of the freeze were not in place, average rates will remain lower than those in England, and that there were no plans for revaluation of properties, which are still taxed based on valuation from 1994.

     In many ways, this seems all well and good – getting rid of the prolonged freeze to give councils more breathing room and making changes to the overall system to make it “fairer”.

     However, it amounts to an overall tinkering with the present system, which is something they had criticized doing in years past. In fact, heading into the 2007 Holyrood election, Nicola Sturgeon as deputy leader of the SNP had said: “the Council Tax is unfair and cannot be improved by tinkering around the edges.” She had made this statement following the announcement by the Scottish Tories under then-leader Annabel Goldie that if elected, they would retain the Council Tax system with a discount for pensioners.

     To be fair, the Council Tax as been criticized throughout the United Kingdom by people of all persuasions. It was cobbled together by John Major’s government following the disastrous debacle over the Community Charge (aka, Poll Tax) which provoked a campaign of nonpayment, as well as riots and helped to bring down his predecessor, Margaret Thatcher. Council Tax has not generated such feeling as the Poll Tax, but is still considered unfair and regressive in many quarters as a means of funding local government.

     However, in responding to the Conservatives’ policy on retaining the Council Tax, Nicola Sturgeon went further in her criticism by calling them “anti-Scottish” for wanting to do so. Specifically, she said: “The anti-Scottish Tories have clearly run out of ideas as this is not the first time they have announced this policy.” Her party campaigned in 2006 and 2007 on a pledge to abolish the “unfair Council Tax” in Scotland and replace it with a “fairer local income tax where over half a million pensioners pay nothing and most will pay significantly less.”

     In May 2007, the SNP won the parliamentary election and formed a government for the first time, and they instituted the Council Tax freeze as a precursor to their objective of permanently replacing it.

     Once they got to the nuts and bolts of crafting policy however, they quickly realized that a local income tax was insufficient and undesirable; insufficient – because it could not be enough to bear the weight of funding local government, and undesirable – because it would have to be set by Holyrood and thus erode local accountability.

     Given these concerns, the SNP went into the 2011 election saying it would: “consult with others to produce a fairer system based on ability to pay to replace the council tax and we will put this to the people at the next election, by which time Scotland will have more powers over income tax.” Following that election, the cross-party Commission on Local Tax Reform was created during the current parliament and presented its recommendations in December – calling for the end of the Council Tax.

     In the wake of this, the SNP decided to forgo an all-out replacement of the Council Tax and instead, opted for the position of merely tweaking and reforming the current system.

     As Brian Taylor of the BBC noted, it has been a “long, slow retreat” for the SNP on this issue, and having placated the people with the nine year freeze, they now hope that this modest, moderate plan will be enough to satisfy the voters in thinking that they have kept their promise of producing “a fairer system based on ability to pay”, even if they failed to “replace the council tax.”

     Possibly the greatest irony of this climb-down from abolition is that the policy decided upon by the SNP shares much similarity with the recommendations offered by the tax commission created by the Conservatives. Tartan Tories, indeed.

     However, this may not matter for the election that occurs in two months. Indeed, one of my acquaintances on Twitter, who goes under the name “El Del” (@Del_ivered), believes that the very modesty of the proposed changes only further ensures the SNP’s reelection prospects. Specifically, he notes how the ability of councils to raise tax by 3% may actually be the SNP effectively passing on some of its ability to tax from Holyrood on to those councils, so that councils are left with the decision to raise council taxes for public services, but income taxation in Scotland stays the same as in the rest of the United Kingdom.

     This is important, because Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been advocating for increase in income taxes in Scotland in the belief that it may be attractive to some voters who believe that people – especially those of a higher income – ought to pay more for the benefit of public services. Not only does Del contend that they fell into a Nationalist trap, but they were “so hellbent on unleashing their tax missile at the SNP, they were blind to the vital bigger picture: Keeping [the] UK a level playing field and Westminster budgets relevant to Scots.”

     In this light, he further asserted that while the SNP does not “care a whit for UK cohesion”, they also did not wish to see talent drain away from Scotland to other parts of the UK due to tax differentials and that “calls for worker solidarity across the UK at the indy referendum were forgotten as [Kezia] Dugdale and [Willie] Rennie were happily prepared to make Scotland the highest-taxed part of Britain.”

     Having avoided this and for achieving a “reformed” (i.e., “tinkered”) Council Tax system, Del believes that pointing to broken promises by the SNP on abolishing and replacing it will prove to be ineffective because voters care about the here and now.

     However, pointing out this broken promise on Council Tax replacement is necessary when one realizes the circumstances of the election in 2007. To be sure, there were many things going on which help to explain why Labour lost power to the SNP that year, but this was still an election in which the SNP only beat Labour by one seat to form a minority government in Edinburgh. Given how close this election was in some individual constituencies (not to mention the irregularities and various voting/counting/ballot paper issues – possibly most infamously in Cunninghame North) and in the Scotland-wide result, it is possible that the “abolish and replace” promise was probably enough to help the SNP to power for the first time. Looking back, this election proved consequential, for it eventually led to the referendum, further constitutional upheaval, and nine years of SNP rule (with the last five years as a majority government). Without that promise, it is possible that Labour would have held on to power. At the very least, enough votes against the SNP would probably have kept it from attaining power that year, and all things being equal, prevented the madness of past nine years.

     Another issue is the fact that Sturgeon called the Conservatives “anti-Scottish” for taking the very position that that her party is now promoting: retaining the Council Tax system with some adjustments. Furthermore, during the 2011 election, senior SNP MSP Humza Yousaf tweeted that Scottish Labour was "betraying Scotland" by not lending its support for "scrapping the unfair Council Tax." Well, what does this make the SNP? As Euan McColm said recently in The Scotsman, "there's something troubling about the othering of politicians by opponents. It speaks of a pettiness that's a world away from the talk of consensus and working together that we so often hear."

     For that matter, if certain powers are not to be used because of the resulting disadvantage to Scotland (and the benefit of the rest of the UK), then what is the purpose – the need – for devolution, more powers, the recent struggle over the fiscal framework, or even separation? Indeed, this would seem to take the argument for the Union, as I explained a couple of weeks ago. Again, the SNP may not care about the unity of the UK, but they have paradoxically emerged as a UK unity party.

     Then again, it probably comes down to a simple fact: nobody likes paying taxes, and when they do pay taxes, they’d rather not pay any more. Even when they say they believe in higher taxes to fund public services in surveys and polls, so often, they vote according to their pocket books and not their political or social ideals – in other words, they usually vote according to their own economic self-interest.

     This may prove difficult to understand for people such as Lesley Riddoch, who seem to be wondering why the SNP is timid in its ambitions for local taxation. Why, they ask, is the SNP passing up an opportunity to really shake up the system of local taxation and come up with something new, innovative, and radical? The reason why is that Scotland is not as radical as she thinks or hopes, and the SNP knows this. Like most political parties, they don’t want to “scare the horses” (i.e., the middle classes, who tend to decide elections) so that they can stay in power. Indeed, some of those within Middle Scotland (a close cousin of Middle England) who benefitted from the freeze may well be shocked at having to pay more after nine years of frozen rates.

     In addition, as Brian Taylor pointed out, the SNP knows that any major change in local government taxation will be first such change since the advent of the Poll Tax, and we all know where that went.

     This brings up the important fact that there are no plans for a revaluation of properties, which means that Council Tax bills will be based on valuations from over 20 years ago – and that current property values are not accounted for and some people are effectively paying at a discounted rate. This sounds similar to what happened in the 1980’s when the Tories kept putting off what they knew would be unpopular revaluations and increases in the old domestic rates, until they couldn’t any longer (especially in Scotland) and decided to solve this problem by introducing…the Poll Tax.

     It is perhaps possible that similar conditions are being produced which will eventually force the SNP to move further on local taxation than it has thus far. For the moment however, they seem content with more-or-less adopting the position on local taxation taken by Tories in that consequential election of 2007. Who’s “anti-Scottish”, now?