Mike Vickers' Blog

August 31, 2012


Filed under: History in the making, In Our Time, Politics, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 10:01 pm

Nationhood – A discussion at the Hub on 30 August 12 – chaired by Sheena McDonald

Inevitably moved to Scottish Independence.  I collected words, sound bites!

Participants – all attached to Edinburgh University:

Susan Manning – Cultural; Edinburgh via England but born in Scotland

Alvin Jackson – History; one time lecturer at University College Dublin

Christine Bell – Constitutional Law; from Human Rights Belfast – clearly Northern Irish

Susan Manning: Scotland a land of immigrants; Marx – workers stateless Virginia Wolf – women stateless.  Language, Proximity, Union of people.  Internet creating the virtual place

Alvin Jackson:  Ireland became independent – wanted to get rid of the English connection asap.  But then Ireland fought for independence – not Scotland, at least since the 45 – SNP committed to non-violence.  Nationhood ↔ Independence. Shared Institutions.  Ireland had no permanent Royal Residence.

Christine Bell: globalised world. Realm cf internationalism.   Self-government in smaller units.  Common interests, ties, culture.  Who has the right to pick the question; who owns the debate?  Mutual constitutional settlement.

The open discussion

Form follows substance.  Who has succeeded? South Africa,
Northern Ireland > Constructive Ambiguity

Who will speak on behalf of the disenfranchised; state fails the citizens.  The State – a modern word – earlier country, nation, national identity, community

Independence will take time – not a button press, the decision is just the start

Self-defence a tricky issue, the US right to bear arms – totally changed since the constitution establishes

Civil nationalism v ethnic nationalism.  Nation / nationality / citizenship / individual v collective.

Application for British citizenship > the lowest common denominator

In the Rugby match who do you support – easy for me Scotland unless its Scotland v England then its England but not a walk over – women don’t have a rugby team!

OK it’s a mess, but then so is the Independence debate – currently bogged down in trivia – even Trident
Two key sound bites:  Form follows substance – not vice versa.  Constructive Ambiguity

August 30, 2012

Property Taxation – Transactional or Annual?

Filed under: DHI SPIF, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 10:10 am

SPIF – Property Taxation – Scottish Government LBTT Proposals
Panel Meeting 28 August 2012 – RSE

I attended an interesting panel discussion with Prof Jim Gallagher in the chair.

The purpose of the Panel discussion was to review the proposed legislation on replacement of Stamp Duty by a Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) following the introduction of the Scotland Bill of 2012 and to set this in the wider context of property and land usage and its taxation in Scotland over the coming years.

Panel members were

  • Susie Simpson – Tax Director PWC
  • Prof Gwilym Pryce – University of Glasgow
  • Andy Wightman – writer on land policy
  • Eugene Creighton  Income and Capital Taxes – Irish Government

Susie Simpson concentrated on the Scottish Government proposals for a LBTT and the difference in tax take from the existing Stamp Duty taxation.  The UK Government will reduce the income tax paid to the Scottish Government by 10p in the Pound from 2014 which the Scottish Government will be able to make up directly how it wishes.  Susie showed graphs comparing the proposed LBTT with Stamp Duty for residential and for commercial transfer tax.  For residential properties there is an increase of up to ~30% while for commercial properties the proposed difference is much less between 3% and 9%.

Thereafter the presentations were more of a free for all of personal views!

Gwilym Price considered that these ‘fragile’ times any change was to be resisted.  Later on questioning by Andy Wightman on when would be a good time Gwilym admitted he did not know.  One of Gwilym’s real concerns was that there are always unexpected consequences and changes need to be incremental so that these become clear and can be reversed before the consequences get out of hand.

Andy Wightman considered that land prices are too high in the UK and Scotland in particular.  He instanced Bovis who in their comments on their house building said they made all their money from land speculation – house building was just a necessary consideration of doing business.   In his opinion far too much money is tied up in land in this Country – it is not delivering any benefit to the community and is one reason for the Country’s sad financial position.  Home ownership is now not possible for young couples who have to rent on Short Assured leases giving them no surety of tenure.  Land is in effect a frozen asset.   LBTT if it is to be levied at all, it should be the same for all.

That only left Eugene Creighton to tell us that the Irish have tried property, land and no tax and none has been satisfactory – Policy made on the hoof with expert advice ignored!

And real interest came with the discussion thereafter.   Transaction tax with Stamp Duty or the proposed Land and Property Tax decrease mobility, keeps unproductive land unproductive.  Unproductive land keeps other land costs high and unaffordable for the young in particular.  Not surprisingly there was a general feeling that an annual land tax would encourage land circulation, reducing its value and still provide the tax revenue that the Scottish Government is seeking.  But of course this is what politics should be about .

BTW I spoke with a chap afterwards who stated that 90% of the Scottish population lives with 10 miles of the coast – not sure who you define the Clyde!

August 25, 2012

Scotland – Undemocratic?

Filed under: In Our Time, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 8:46 pm

Many will have heard of the Edinburgh International Festival, many may have heard of the Edinburgh Fringe but I suspect few will have heard of the Edinburgh Festival of Politics (FoP).  FoP is put on by the Scottish Parliament and is held in the Parliament Building and runs at the same time as the International Festival.  This year’s FoP put on ‘shows’ such as Improving the Law in Scotland, impact of Scottish Art on Europe, more abstruse, Wallace and King John – no not the English King John who got trapped in the Wash but John Balliol who are various times showed allegiance to Edward 1 of England and at others fostered the Scottish cause for Independence with the backing of William Wallace (the guy portrayed by Mel Gibson).


Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament Edinburgh


But these are not my interest in this blog.  Here I want to bring out a number of points on today’s event ‘The Sound of Silence – Complacent Scotland, Undemocracy and Unspace’ – a bit of a mouthful but a very good session for all that.

Scotland is going to vote for an Independent Scotland in 2014 but apart from being independent will Scotland change.  Today’s speakers believe unless there is some form of revolution on democracy the answer is a resounding ‘No’.

The speakers were Gerry Hassan, Andy Wightman and the session was chaired by Eileen Reid.  Gerry and Andy have both voiced their views in numerous books and papers.

Gerry started by recalling the Scottish myth that Scotland is egalitarian, collectivist and democratic and somewhat left of centre.  A myth? Gerry considered that Scotland is more unequal than England and that is saying something.  Scotland is run by an Edinburgh Elite – beaurocratic corporatism.  Andy confirmed that the government in Scotland is a closed society.  He provided the statistics that ¾ million young voters didn’t at the last election.  Most European countries have local democracy enshrined in their constitution; France has 36,000 communes, Scotland has 32 Local Councils. Communes in Norway levy 25% in local tax of which 12.6% is kept local, 12.4% go to the State; in Scotland all taxes go to the Government which divvies out some to the Local Councils; the local councils provide services to the community in line with Government directives.  There is no room for local initiatives to decide on priorities.  Our local Community Council in Linlithgow has just peanuts to pay with – ironically the Town Management Group does have money to pay with but is unelected.

In Scotland house ownership is with the few – on the Continent in many cases house ownership is with the local cooperatives.

Both Andy and Gerry considered that the young and women are still effectively disenfranchised.

What can be done apart from revolution? There is no easy solution; Andy dismissed the idea that it would all be better come The Independence – the same elite groups will be still be in control.  What is required is for Scots to be less scared, find Space where they can discuss the philosophy and psychology of democracy as a prelude to a quiet revolution to realise the myth and why not start now.

The Scottish Government is to be thanked for providing a space for such iconoclastic discussion!

Blog at WordPress.com.