THE impending changes in commercial rates highlighted in your series (The Great Rates Revolt, The Herald, February 14, 15 & 16) are but another example of the UK's multi-tiered and complex taxation system which has created a billion-pound industry of tax advisors, an army of HMRC and council collection employees, public and private sector surveyors and the like. It is a heavy price to pay.
Unless the Scottish Government takes a more enlightened approach to public funding I fear that Revenue Scotland will turn out at best a slightly more efficient model of what we endure at present as part of the UK.
A straightforward annual ground rent payable on all land and floorspace and charged at a rate per square metre according to land type would replace all existing UK, Scottish and local authority taxes. A figure of £3.93 per square metre for buildings and urban land would increase current levels of all public revenue in Scotland by 14 per cent. It would substantially reduce the tax burden on virtually all personal and commercial taxpayers and provide a dynamo for growth among home-based Scots and force the public and private inhibitors of growth who have failed to steward our rural and urban land over generations to pay up or give it up.
Loading article content
Redhouse Cottage, Arden, by Loch Lomond.
IF the Holyrood Government accedes to the plea from Aberdeen for intervention to ease the burden of the swingeing rises in business rates there (“Aberdeen's plea for aid”, The Herald, February 16), I trust this will extend to the rest of Scotland, which has largely missed out on the North Sea economic boom over the last 40 years.
R Russell Smith,
96 Milton Road, Kilbirnie.
I CAN well understand the anger felt by businesses across Scotland as reported. Their point is well made - income is down but rates are up. I share their distress. I know of no plans to increase my pension but I, and many others like me, are being threatened with increases in council tax on our private homes ranging from 7.5 per cent to 22.5 per cent more than last year.
This has been achieved, apparently, by sneaking in an increase, not in rates per pound of rateable value, but by an increase in the rateable value itself – that imaginary figure fancied up from somewhere by someone who doesn’t even call to look at my house, or have the courtesy to tell me what he is up to. This increase, in my case 17.5 per cent, will, says Nicola Sturgeon, make for a fairer result. Either her head buttons up the back, or she has lost her grip on the English language.
Council tax is not a tax on property, since my house earns no money. It is pure and simple an increase in the tax levied on my pension, since that is the only place from which this extra 17.5 per cent can be found.
It is likely now that once all the shenanigans have been performed I will effectively pay as much tax on my non-earning house as I do on my pension. This, says Nicola Sturgeon, makes for a fairer result. Send her a dictionary, someone.
40 Switchback Road, Bearsden.
KEVIN Scott's coverage of the perfect storm now engulfing Scotland's High Streets (“Retail's lethal cocktail”, The Herald, February 15) fails to take account of the role of local authorities and the Scottish Government under a so-called “innovative funding arrangement” known as the Growth Accelerator Model (GAM). This is an undisguised state subsidy which aims to “restart” wholly commercial schemes by supporting large-scale retail developments which might otherwise founder.
It is essentially a type of TIF – or Tax Increment Financing – as pioneered in Chicago in the mid-1980s, when that city was in decline as better-off residents deserted the centre for the suburbs, and it favours global investors such as the pension fund TIAA, based in North Carolina, which had a direct interest in the Buchanan Street Galleries. This was granted, in principle, an £80 million subsidy. TIAA is also the developer of Edinburgh's St James Quarter, which has received largesse of £61.4m.
Quite why TIAA, which has $850m funds under management, should be in receipt of such competition-distorting public revenues at the expense of other taxpayers, including those currently being hammered by unsustainable increases in business rates, not only defies logic, it would also seem to drive a coach and horses through EU competition rules and the principle of the level playing field.
Even worse, in my opinion it compromises the impartiality of the planning system to the extent that councils and Scottish ministers have themselves bought into these high-rolling deals, and thus have a conflict of interest.
TIAA has been granted planning consent to build a horrific “copper spiral” hotel next to Robert Adam's Register House. This might just about pass muster on Las Vegas Strip, but it certainly has no place in the heart of Edinburgh's UNESCO World Heritage Site.
These massive subsidies have to come from somewhere. In this case small businesses struggling to survive on our High Streets seem to be being frisked to subsidise competitors like TIAA, who will be further undermining the indigenous retail trade when their “designer shopping malls” come on stream.
David J Black,
6 St Giles Street, Edinburgh.