A Fate Worse than Debt

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Everything you know about the council tax freeze is wrong

Labour continually claim that the Council Tax freeze is regressive (bad for the poor), and that it is the cause of cuts to council services. I’m not sure if they are lying or just stupid.

It should be remembered that the council tax is only a slight variation on the poll tax. The owner of giant mansion pays just three times as much tax as the owner of a one bedroom council flat. Wings Over Scotland reported last year on an academic finding that “raising Council Taxes actually raises inequality.” Council Tax is regressive, and freezing it helps the poor.

Of course, taxation is only one half of the equation. The poor access more public services than the rich, and so suffer greater harm from cuts. Has the council tax freeze harmed council budgets? I had a look at the figures.

Scottish Local Government Revenue Sources

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The first thing to notice is that Council Tax makes up just 10.8% of Council income. Changes in Council Tax revenue are 14.7% of the total change in the budget, £149m of the cuts. This figure includes losses from Council Tax cuts, such as the cut by Stirling’s Labour / Tory coalition in 2012.

Meanwhile, business rates have gone up by £108m! The net effect of tax changes is £41m of the £1,015m cut to Scottish council budgets since 2009. Even by Scottish Labour standards it’s one hell of a bending of the truth to blame cuts in council services on the Council Tax freeze.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.51.13The fall in sales, rents and fees, presumably a result of the recession, is around the same size as the council tax changes. Both are dwarfed by the £371m fall in General Revenue Funding and a £448m fall in “Other Income.” I couldn’t find a clear definition of Other Income, but cross-referencing with the Scottish Budget suggests that it is mostly miscellaneous central government funding. Around £1bn of cuts have been made to Holyrood spending on local government since 2009.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.39.37The cuts to council funding from central government are severe, but must be seen in the context of Westminster’s £3,737m per year cut to the Scottish departmental expenditure limit since 2009. Local government cuts are caused by Westminster block grant cuts, not by the council tax freeze.

In fact, that SNP have reduced a regressive tax on homes and increased a tax on businesses. Tartan Tories, my arse.

Labour’s Class Problem

If I learned one thing from the independence referendum, it is that Scottish identity is deeply entwined with class. In the final delirious days of the campaign a panic gripped upper-middle class Scotland – finance workers and the gentry would shout at Yes campaigners in the street, while on spontaneous demonstrations (labelled “fascistic” by one Herald journalist) people sang football songs.

There was a genuine terror among Scotland’s privileged that they would be subject to a democracy, while a matching sense of hope and possibility propelled Scotland’s least privileged onto the streets.

So it is little wonder that Labour finds itself in terrible, terrible trouble. In fact it is fair to say the the SNP, not Labour, is now the party of the Scottish working class.

A new Ipsos Mori poll (apparently conducted twice, because they didn’t believe their results the first time) has the SNP on an incredible 52% to Labour’s 23%. Breaking the details down by class paints a dramatic picture.

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Worried about the #indyref polls? Read this.

I’ve seen a number of people worry about the newest Survation poll, which has Yes behind No by 6 points, no change on their last poll.

There is no need to worry about any individual poll.

A typical opinion poll surveys around 1000 people.

If those 1000 people were chosen with perfect randomness from among all of Scotland, and were all honest, there would be 19-1 odds of the real gap being within 6 points either way of the numbers reported by the polling company.

So if Survation say there is a 47% Yes, 53% No, what they mean is that there is probably 44% – 50% Yes and 50% – 56% No.

A lot of things can go wrong with polls. People lie to polling companies. The limited panels some polling companies use may not reflect the country accurately.

Survation, ICM, YouGov and Panelbase all use volunteer internet panels. ICM and YouGov both probably have far larger numbers of volunteers than Panelbase and Survation, which makes it easier for them to reflect the real population.

TNS and Ipsos Mori are especially interesting, because TNS door-knock and Ipsos Mori phone landlines.

When you take into account the uncertainty, this 6% No lead is really just a neck-and-neck poll the same as YouGov’s 2% Yes lead, TNS’s dead heat, and Panelbase’s 4% No lead.

Polls will go up and down. All that is left for Yessers to do now is door-knock, leaflet, run stalls – anything and everything to persuade people and turn them out to vote on the day. If you can, make sure you register with your local Yes group to do Get Out the Vote on polling day.

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Eckenaccio

Originally posted on :

alexflag

By Alistair Davidson

And Eck was cast into a furnace of fire: there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. To Britain’s journalists there was no question, Darling bested Salmond. To many Yes activists it felt the same. During a gruelling a two-year campaign, we’ve been called everything from “a virus” to Nazis. The endless attacks in the press have left us bruised, battered, and angry.

At last, we imagined, a chance to see our man, champion of so many a First Minister’s Question Time, finally sock it to them. In the run-in to the first debate, most Yes campaigners seemed to expect Salmond to wipe the floor with Darling. They anticipated a bloodbath, a humiliation, a ritual killing of the enemy that would relieve them of the oppressive weight of elite opprobrium.

It didn’t happen, of course. Salmond was conversational, not confrontational. He was badly caught out on currency, perhaps…

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Generation Yes (ish)

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YES March & Rally for Scottish Independence.  Image by Ivon BartBy Alistair Davidson

It is something of a tradition, when a radical political movement emerges, to hail the new generation of young people who are rejecting the bad old ways, and trumpet the return of the organised left. When I was a student in the early 2000s, the alter-globalisation and anti-war movements were taken as evidence that my generation were rejecting 1980s “greed is good” values. In 2011, Paul Mason claimed that anti-austerity protests and the Arab Spring were driven by “a new sociological type: the graduate with no future.” Of the independence referendum, Gerry Hassan has written that “Arguments articulated by the establishment and the political Old Guard fail to resonate with a new generation of voter”; Pete Ramand, that “radical Scotland has left its ghetto.”

It is fantastic, and hugely exciting, to see young people engage with democracy, to try to change their country for the better…

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Movement politics v professional politics

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Over 1000 people protest at BBC news bias

Over 1000 people protest at BBC news bias

by Alistair Davidson

On Sunday, over a thousand ordinary citizens demonstrated outside BBC Scotland against its perceived bias when reporting on the Scottish independence referendum. There can be no doubt that this is a major rupture in Scottish political life – the BBC has until recently been very well-regarded by most Scots, but has been plunged into crisis by contradictions between its role as British state broadcaster and the need to be neutral, and to be seen as neutral, in the referendum.

There has been extensive discussion on Twitter about the effectiveness or otherwise of the demonstration. Some leading Yes campaigners have come out against it, saying that it interrupted their planned PR schedule, and that time would be better spent knocking doors. Some journalists have expressed concern about facing this kind of pressure, and pointed out that no professional PR person would recommend such an action, which after all could alienate any…

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