How are those New Year’s resolutions going? Dry January; maybe that glass of Malbec was too much of a temptation. Losing weight; was that curry and naan too appealing? Jogging; perhaps the gales and storms have made you think twice.

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.

Resolutions and promises are easy to make, much harder to keep. That’s what the politicians who made promise after promise in the run-up to the election are finding out.

One sector with more than a passing interest in those assurances is Scotland’s 306,000 self-employed, 12.4% of the Scottish workforce. At the heart of the row are the proposed changes to IR35, which affect many of the UK’s five million contractors, entrepreneurs, self-employed and freelancers.

IR35 was introduced in the late nineties by the Labour Government. A rushed piece of legislation that was as useful as the ubiquitous chocolate tea-pot. Since then it has been accepted on all sides that there was a need for a more transparent, open and fair system to cope with this expanding sector.

When the changes to IR35 were introduced in the public sector in 2017, they not only stifled freelancers, but worsened staffing problems for the NHS and many other essential public sector bodies.

In April, now only a matter of weeks away, the government is planning to introduce these same changes in the private sector. It’s set major banks and many businesses, especially in oil and gas – vital drivers of the economy – panicking. Some are telling their contractors they must join as employees or stop working for them altogether. Out of fear of these changes, many vital outlets are hastily destroying the flexible workforce that is helping them prosper.

But hold on, enter the financial superhero that is: The Sajid!

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said in a BBC radio Interview in early December, that he wanted to ensure the proposed changes to off-payroll working rules, were “right to take forward”. He also promised to look at improving self-employed workers’ access to pensions and mortgages.

Talk about wise men bearing gifts, this was music to the ears of many in the freelance and self-employed community. It seemed Christmas had come early.

But when the government published details of the review on 7th January, that early Christmas present unravelled to reveal an empty box full of empty promises. The government has allowed little more than a month for the review, which is due to end in mid-February. In short, it looks like little more than a brief internal tick-box exercise.

No sign of pausing the process to ensure the new system is equitable. No sign of allocating enough time to ensure thoroughness. No sign of an independent chair to ensure transparency.

During the election, Sajid Javid said the Conservatives were ‘on the side of the self-employed’. Cynics might say this was just electioneering, others say it was an honest policy statement hijacked by an HMRC that is determined to implement the new rules in April come hell or highwater.

Accepting that IR35 is not fit for purpose knows no political borders. The Lib Dems, Labour and SNP have all supported IPSE’s resistance to the changes.

Sir Ed Davey for the Lib Dems said that the IR35 changes could stifle the entrepreneurial spirit; Labour’s Bill Esterson said the changes to the IR35 were not Labour policy while Ivan McKee, the SNP Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation was emphatic: ‘The clock is ticking. We opposed those changes, they should be cancelled.”

Over the years Boris Johnson has given us some dazzling quotes: Once asked about the prospect of becoming PM, he retorted: “My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or me being reincarnated as an olive."

But perhaps the most telling was his quote on promises: "It is easy to make promises - it is hard work to keep them."

Pass that glass of Malbec please.

Simon McVicker is director of policy and external affairs at Ipse, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (at, the biggest organisation in the UK representing some of the five million contractors, consultants and freelancers who make up this sector.