In 2004 John Swinney said he’d “axe” the council tax. In 2007 Nicola Sturgeon said the “hated” council tax was beyond reform. In 2007 and 2011 Alex Salmond said in the SNP’s manifestos he’d “scrap” the council tax.
After 9 years in government, 5 of them with a commanding majority, Nicola Sturgeon has now decided to keep the council tax with minor modifications based on Tory proposals. The council tax will remain regressive, but a system of means tested benefits and increases in the higher bands will make it slightly less unfair.
These changes introduce many anomalies. Kezia Dugdale has said that as she earns £60,000 and lives in a Band D property she will pay nothing extra, but is willing to do so. Conversely, a hardworking family living on just above average income in a Band E property will see their council tax increase by over £100 per year.
These changes will raise an extra £100m next year. That is great, but looks a little insubstantial compared to the £400m of cuts forced on councils by the SNP. What the SNP is offering is not nearly enough to deliver the transformation in public services Scotland needs, it will simply help manage the decline.
As ever, the SNP are trying to perpetuate the myth that we can have more teachers and less potholes by timidly tinkering with our revenue raising powers. We can’t.