Humza Yousaf’s positioning on council tax makes zero sense unless seen through the prism of cynical electoral calculus.

It’s perhaps worth considering the word "calculus" here not just in its mathematical sense, but also its Latin meaning: "small pebble". In ancient days, little stones were used to cast votes. Yousaf’s council tax policy is designed with one thought: safeguarding the votes of Scotland’s middle classes at the expense of the poor.

Freezing council tax has angered Cosla, which represents Scotland’s councils, and upset Yousaf’s partners-in-government the Greens. Trade unions are furious. The right-wing Taxpayer’s Alliance, though, is delighted. Policies are always best judged by those both for and against.

Yousaf has sold out the poor of Scotland for a cheap round of applause at his party’s conference. It was the act of a desperate man: a leader fearful of his own party, and fully aware that the clock ticks on his political fate. The SNP, a party currently in the grip of mass delusion, has convinced itself that freezing council tax is somehow progressive.

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It’s nothing of the sort. Council tax is fundamentally regressive. The amoebas on the fleas on the dogs in the street know that. Freezing council tax simply maintains an unfair tax under the utterly galling pretence of social democracy. Yousaf and his party wear the clothes of social democracy like a child wears the clothes of its mother or father.

Council tax benefits the rich. The Scottish Government itself says “the tax rate is higher for lower-value properties and lower for higher-value properties”. The freeze also benefits the rich disproportionally more than the poor.

Any savings made are an exercise in national self-harm. Which budgets will be slashed to make up the loss? Avoiding a 5% council tax rise would see the poorest households save less than £50 annually, the richest £150: figures which illustrate perfectly council tax inequity.

Now, evidently, £50 matters to the poorest when mums and dads are going hungry to feed their children, in a country where food banks are as ubiquitous as charity shops.

But for a party which poses as progressive this simply isn’t good enough. It debases fairness. It’s not progressive to maintain taxes which benefit the rich over the poor while claiming a freeze is “delivering for people when they need it most”. That’s a lie. It’s rank populism.

There’s only one possible equitable action when it comes to council tax: scrap it and put progressive local taxation in its place. The SNP knows this. It has been promising council tax reform since it took power 16 years ago. It  called council tax “hated”. Replacing council tax was a 2007 campaign pledge. It's broken its promises. It's lied.

Stupidity is no excuse. It’s not as if the SNP doesn’t know how to fix council tax. The work has been done for it. All people have to do is read the STUC paper Scotland Demands Better: Fairer Taxes for a Fairer Future. I recommend it to any reader who wants a ready-reckoner to what levers the SNP can pull when it comes to Scottish taxation.

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The SNP often whines that it hasn’t enough powers. Big Bad London is to blame. Devolution isn’t enough. Only independence will save Scotland.

Lies again. There are many powers at the SNP’s disposal. It just doesn’t want to use them. A cynic would suspect a sleekit SNP leadership believes that by pretending it's powerless, and feigning grievance, it can ramp up independence support at the expense of effective policy.

Others may feel that the SNP has a rather dictatorial strain and if it can centralise power it will, slowly strangling councils across Scotland.

It seems clear now that the SNP simply doesn’t want to reform council tax as it has become the party of the establishment. It is the status quo, and the status quo is middle-class Scotland. Ergo, middle-class Scotland must always be appeased.

Scrapping council tax and replacing it with a fairer tax could, evidently, risk middle-class votes. Those middle-class votes, incidentally, seem more about keeping the SNP in power, rather than furthering the cause of independence.

The best replacement for council tax is a Proportional Property Tax (PPT). Currently, council tax bands are based on house valuations from 1991 - three decades ago, when I was still at university, for pity’s sake. PPT would - clearly - update the values of homes and see households pay a percentage of that value.

An annual charge of 0.6% would raise an additional £489 million in revenue compared to council tax. If we divide Scotland into the richest and poorest, analysis of PPT shows that if the tax was levied at 0.6% then in terms of the impact on annual income, the poorest would gain. The middle class would see very small declines, almost marginal across that income group. Only those with the highest incomes would dig a little deeper. But they can afford it. So bingo: it’s a recipe for fairness across the board.

What makes the current policy even more rotten is that the Scottish Government recently considered increasing the highest council tax bands - which offered at least a modicum of reform - but dumped the notion.

There are few people in Scottish public life who seem trustworthy. Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary, bucks the trend. Her team commissioned the study into council tax alternatives which the SNP - if it had half a brain, and a quarter of soul - could simply lift as a ready-made policy.

Read more: SNP has gone mad, fetch the popcorn

Foyer describes failing to scrap council tax as a “dereliction of duty by successive politicians”. Yousaf freezing council tax was “a disrespectful move of party-political electioneering”.

“The decision from the Scottish Government to revert to type is done out of short-sighted polling considerations rather than good governance or proficient public policy. If the First Minister is to stick to the progressive credentials he championed during his election campaign, policies we roundly support and will work with him on, he simply cannot roll back any further.”

Foyer is unquestionably right. Earlier this week, I wrote that the fundamental problem with politics is that the wrong people hold power. Perhaps Yousaf and Foyer illustrate the point more eloquently than I?