The key rationale for the following policies below is the state needs to guarantee a supportive basic structure for all citizens to enjoy equal access to genuine freedom. The caveat; however, is that we as a party stress the Classical Liberal emphasis on self-help and freedom of choice. Furthermore, the policies below seek to also address some of the key issues facing Scotland following the Covid-19 pandemic whilst supporting development in Scotland in a number of key areas:-
Full-Fiscal Autonomy for Scotland
Full Fiscal Autonomy is a constitutional arrangement in which instead of receiving a block grant from the UK Exchequer as at present, the Scottish Parliament would receive all taxation levied in Scotland; it would be responsible for most spending in Scotland but make payments to the UK government to cover Scotland’s share of the cost of providing certain UK-wide services, including at least defence and foreign relations. Furthermore, full fiscal autonomy would provide the maximum opportunity to apply the full range of tax policies in Scotland, including business taxes (like corporation tax), taxes on employment (like income tax), environmental taxes (like the climate change levy) and taxes on consumption (like fuel duty).
Land Value Taxation replacing Council Tax/Business Rates/Stamp Duty on unimproved land
The LVT argument is that ’You didn’t build that’. The value of a plot of land in a city is not the value that the landlord has added to it. Rather, it’s the value that has been added by other people building a city around that plot of land. In addition, it would shift the burden away from the tenant (as is the case with the system that we currently have) and onto the landlord. Furthermore, we would merge Council Tax and Business Rates charging them at the same level and thus charging them on unimproved land.
Business rates have enjoyed a particularly high profile during lockdown which has seen extended relief for tens of thousands of businesses as they struggle to survive. Whilst the calls for reform have never gone away, it has become even more relevant as businesses face up to the reality of surviving post-furlough and existing tax holidays cease.
The Scottish Liberal Party advocate abolishing stamp duty in full. This indirect tax prevents the housing market from working properly and has damaged it so much that people no longer move when they would like to. By abolishing stamp duty the market would be allowed to find its natural equilibrium. People would be able to move when they want to and the number of transactions would increase. There would be more chance for people to move up the market and therefore it would be easier for first-time buyers to get into the market.
Full expensing means letting businesses deduct the cost of any investment they do from their corporation tax bills straight away. In addition, full expensing allows for immediate deductions of capital costs in the year the expense occurs. This is the appropriate treatment of business investment because costs should be immediately deductible when assets are bought. Lastly, full expensing recognizes opportunity cost and the time value of money.
Given the dismal track record of the SNP in relation to Education since they assumed power in 2007, as a party we are in favour of the following reforms:
- The abolition of Education Scotland and the establishment of an independent inspectorate.
- Increased school and headteacher autonomy, including over curriculum.
- A government commitment to innovation and diversity with regards to both the curriculum and within schools.
- Reform of teacher education and professional development.
Invest a lot more in Rail, Mass Transit and Broadband
As a party, we are committed to investing in public transport in order to shorten commute times, cut air pollution and lastly grow our economy. Our proposal is to improve existing commuter lines as well building new and re-opening old lines to improve capacity. In addition, we’d also invest in light rail and trams across all major cities of Scotland as well as invest in stations to transform them into transport hubs. Moreover, we would make the railway greener by expanding electrification, reducing the use of diesel trains as well introducing a Scotland-wide smart card system for all forms of transport: we would give all 32 councils areas in Scotland, the power to integrate all forms of transport locally. Lastly, as a party, we would make the case for a High-Speed Rail (HS4) that would cover the whole of the UK, with continued progress to a route through Scotland (as far north as Inverness) from London.
Given that the internet has become such an integral part of our lives and that the pandemic has evidently exposed the glaring digital divide that exists between rural and urban parts of Scotland – the Scottish Liberal Party are committed to ensuring investment in Broadband within catch up zones to ensure that everyone has access to digital services that they need in order to prosper and thus no one is left behind.
Build up to 26,000 homes per year
Homes for Scotland (HFS) estimates that 25,000 homes are needed each year to keep up with housing demand, not including the 80,000 shortfall in the supply of housing since 2008. We as a party advocate building up to 26,000 affordable homes per year not only as a prerequisite to the Liberal ethos of: Liberals have long believed that wide property ownership, serving as a bulwark against state tyranny, is essential to the preservation of liberty but also generate further jobs and more in economic output.
In addition, as a party believe local councils should be able to determine housing policies with greater flexibility reflecting the local housing market and housing needs.
Universal Basic Income/Negative Income Tax (or some combo of both)
Automation threatens to put all jobs at risk. UBI/NIT would ensure that ordinary people are insulated from the worst effects of this. In fact, this could be a positive – allowing people to retrain or set up their own businesses. A UBI/NIT would also support the economy during this transition, ensuring that people can still afford to buy things thus driving up economic growth.
In addition, with the safety net provided by a UBI/NIT, many people would choose to work less: this would increase job opportunities for those currently excluded from the labour market. It would also recognise the economic contribution of unpaid labour, the majority of which is undertaken by women. Women would also benefit from a better distribution of jobs as well as the greater time a UBI/NIT would allow for family. This may lead to a more equal division of care within households. Furthermore, it would also reduce inequality in general, eliminating extreme financial poverty (currently approximately 20% of the Scottish population live in relative poverty).
A Hypothecated Tax for the NHS
Recent reports have highlighted that the general public is behind a proposed increase in funding for the NHS: The Scottish Liberal Party are advocating for a new form of de-politicized taxation which would see National Insurance rebranded as – National Health and Social Care Fund – and taken out of the control of the government. The tax would be paid directly from workers into a fund that the government has no direct control over. Instead of using the NHS as a leverage for political battles: the Scottish taxpayer would commit a set amount of money vis-a-vis Income Tax, to the service which would be assessed periodically. Furthermore, as things stand Physical Health, Social Care and Mental Health are all treated as separate entities within the NHS, thus we would be in favour of bringing them directly under the NHS umbrella to not only bring about efficiency in the NHS but also highlight the importance of Social Care and Mental Health as being on a par with Physical Health.
Decriminalisation of Cannabis for Personal/Medicinal purposes
Given the relative recent success in Portugal with regards to decriminalisation of recreational drugs, the failed global policy on the so-called ‘war on drugs’ as well as Scotland’s drug death epidemic: as a party we advocate for the decriminalisation of Cannabis for both personal and medicinal purposes.
The case in point of Portugal and its subsequent decriminalisation of recreational drugs, namely, Cannabis, for both personal and medicinal use – the following success has been attributed to its programme:
- Substance abuse and addiction rates have been cut in half.
- Addiction treatment and rehabilitation is less expensive than incarceration.
Repeal the Hate Crime Act
As a party, we are very suspicious about the legislative over-reach of this act and would thus aim to repeal it.
Replace Additional Member System with Single Transferable Vote for both Holyrood and Council Elections
We are fortunate enough to already have PR in Scotland for both Holyrood and Council Elections; however, we currently use AMS for Holyrood and STV for Council elections. We as a party advocate STV for both sets of elections as it’s considered the ‘Gold Standard’ when it comes to PR.
Carbon pricing is primarily a policy tool for combatting net emissions and is the name used for any method which aims to reduce emissions or increase the capture of greenhouse gases by adding a cost to those creating emissions, and in so doing encouraging the take up of alternatives and/or making the polluter pay for the damage.
There are two main methods of carbon pricing: a direct tax on emissions generated by a business or a system of allowances or permits to pollute, tradable on a secondary market, referred to as an ‘emissions trading scheme’ (ETS) or ‘cap-and-trade’ system.