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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The means to live beyond yesterday

We have some sympathy with the view that snapshots about yesterday like GERS are not hugely illuminating.

However, they do beg an important question; precisely how can Scotland stop living beyond its means tomorrow, independent or not? The trend of change in the annual GERS reports, even discounting oil, is not good.

In answering that question, the Scottish Government is perennially quiet – and is likely to remain so in its ignorance of supply side incentives. It nods at the fine sound of a “jobs and growth” agenda, but offers nothing but state corporatism, eagerly adopted by Scotland’s many state corporatists. The ideas of our nation, across all parties, appear to be caught in a time warp somewhere around 1975; Keynesianism rules – despite being bunk.

The evidence that any growth and jobs will emerge from central planning of economic development is not just thin on the ground – it’s zero. That there is such a vacuum on how to create jobs and growth is a shame, because the GERS deficit may appear to be appalling but in an economy the size of Scotland a mere one percent additional growth would soon make a good dent in it. A few years of constrained spending and five percent growth would get rid of it.

Is that such a hard task to achieve? Not really if the right low tax pro-entrepreneurial climate were found through policy decisions. We have the skills and the resources, the world is awash with capital desperate to find a home, the only problem is that perceptions and expectations about Scottish Government policy are entirely focussed on how much more of our money they might spend, and what they might do through taxation to obtain it.

Those perceptions are important, because they tell us something else. If a perennial over-spend goes on, and a perennial subsidisation from elsewhere also continues seemingly ad infinitum, the Scottish “brand” becomes more and more tarnished. Brands also carry perceptions and expectations, but good ones; our grandfathers who built a powerful industrial Scotland traded heavily on Scots’ honesty, hard work, thrift and creative enterprise. How sad if tomorrow’s Scotland is seen instead simply to be quaint with a need for subsidy.

We don’t want that, we want a Scotland that holds its head high across the world as a powerhouse of industriousness. To get there, we need the state to think again about its role and that of its taxpayers. Taxpayers can help the collective state achieve objectives, but only if it leaves them free to generate the wealth to pay for them.

Government here is the problem, not the solution; most taxpayers know how to live within their means; it’s time our state did as well – and firmly stated its aim to do so as quickly as possible.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Spending tomorrow’s taxes

Today, yet again, Scottish taxpayers are seeing their cash allocated to ideas that politicians think might stimulate the economy.

Not surprisingly, we are talking here about things like hospital expansion, roads, bridges and the like; construction and capital spending done to a strategic central plan. Initial funding comes from an underspend last year, future funding comes from who knows where including the thought that post-Brexit there might be EU Structural Funds available.

It won’t work.

As we have pointed out before, lead times in infrastructure are long, funding moves towards larger players, many not based in Scotland, spending goes not to the many, but the few, and mostly to pay for financing on equipment, imported materials and imported specialist labour. We will not rebuild Scotland this way.

Isn’t it appalling that all our politicians can offer is to “protect jobs”, not create new jobs or whole new industries, but to support what has been and is struggling? Squandering pork to corporates in construction and quangos of the state is no way to build a wealthy nation.

In this Keynesian process the state builds something else; a liability payable in the taxes of future generations for servicing these new fast-tracked “investments”. Has anyone in the Scottish Government a clue as to the whole life costs of these new structures they propose. Last time we asked, the answer was a flat no, they had not been considered. Anyone for more debt?

These moves are said to help to “build confidence”. Really? Creating an un-costed future liability, accrued from production that will be done at an undefined time in the future, funded initially with £100 million of small beer spare savings adding 1.66 percent to existing projects, and later by money-tree funds of unknown likelihood. Jings … tak’ aboot fechin the larrie.

Taxpayers should shout out loud that two years down the line for some sort of unlikely stimulus is of zero interest or credibility. The Scottish Government now has new powers; they could offer a cut in Land and Building Tax, a cut in Income Tax and a few cuts in daft spending, with a promise of more to come, and we’d have a real and growing stimulus from tomorrow.


Monday, August 08, 2016

No White Knight will save us from Wonderland economics

"It seems very pretty, but it's rather hard to understand". Alice’s words from Through the Looking Glass about the nonsense poem Jaberwocky seem to capture the confusions of the nation. Our leaders gyre, galumph and chortle with frabjous energy.

Much is put down to the consequences of Brexit, but this is salving of the wrong wound.

Milton Friedman would be aghast at the notion that monetary policy can somehow stimulate the economy. Not because interest rates are already at rock bottom, but because monetarists have never claimed that such dangerous footling could. Bizarrely, contrary to much of the commentariat’s claims that we have seen a major response, even in announcing his intent the Governor of the Bank said his powers are limited and that fiscal measures are also vital.

On the other side of the looking glass we have the Tweedledum and Tweedledee posturings of the Corbynites and Sturgeonites. Their fiscalism adheres to an amalgum of Mad Hatter sweetmeats that went stale around forty years ago; national investment banks, wage and price controls, and nationalisation of industrial sectors. The Queen and King of Hearts laud it big time among a phalanx of supporters in a mad world of fantasy economics.

Let’s get real. Social democracies of the state-sponsored corporatist kind who pretend that more spending and more borrowing is public investment that will improve lives have had their day. The bureaucratic managerialists who purport to “run the economy” don’t. They create unemployment and stagnation – and within the oh-so-old-school EU vast armies of permanently non-employed under 30’s. That’s dangerous.

Employment and growth come from those who get to their workbench at six in the morning; who build networks of discovery about how to turn ideas into revenue; who negotiate, cajole and persuade others to become like-minds sharing mission goals; who manage the cash from sales cannily, balancing tomorrow and today in a never-ending re-appraisal of what happened yesterday.

Ah yes, yesterday, today and tomorrow. As the Queen of Hearts said, “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day”. That, sadly, appears to be where Big Government takes us. “There is no more money” has an addendum; any money at any time can only come from yesterday, today and tomorrow. In fiscal language, those three time periods offer financing from savings, taxes and borrowing; the state has gobbled all of them through its voracious appetite for more and more tax, and now we have no jam today.

What is peculiar, and concerning, is that those who create new money at their workbenches, driving their vans and lorries, or staring at screens and coding machines know this. Free lunches are not part of their world, and the interminable vote-buying with our money by politicians is so transparent that it is inducing many to turn away from social engagement and, worse, turn inwards to protect themselves and their family's future; the very opposite of the social cohesion our politicians intended to create as they gleefully spent our money.

Less spending, lower tax, higher growth, more jobs. Anything else is just Wonderland economics.


Monday, August 01, 2016

Should we let politicians tax us for energy?

There is nothing like politics to make a mash-up of coherent decision making. Mrs May’s decision to “review” Hinkley Point is the outcome of around twenty years of havering.

We are told that this decision is about how we might keep our lights on in our homes, but it is much more than that. It’s about how we feed power at economic prices to our basic food and chemical industries, especially the processing industries that operate day and night to feed, clothe and house us. The knock on effects of expensive energy are felt by every family across the UK. Expensive energy taxes us all.

Does this make Hinkley Point a no-brainer and a gift to every consumer? No, the issue is bigger than that. Hinkley Point is a testament to the UK’s loss of industrial confidence; to the wrapping up of all economic development in a labyrinth of politics created largely by central planning and the tendency of politicians to meddle and introduce price controls in energy markets.

These price controls are ostensibly introduced to offer relief to hard-pressed consumers struggling to meet energy costs, but actually what they do in the longer term is curtail investment and distort realities in demand and supply – at taxing cost to all of us. It would be much better if we always paid realistic prices for domestic energy, and prices were liberalised such that generators knew what investments to make for us to be ready twenty years down the line. Instead we perennially underfund energy production, relying on the state to bring in investment through tortuous contractual arrangements that are perennially unstable and use our taxes unwisely.

One other reality is that the UK used to be a world leader in nuclear power, but after three generations of design we effectively gave up. We could not make the transition from early type developmental reactors to more economic repeating designs.

Where does Scotland come into this? We have a government dedicated to renewable power generation through wind; where large quantities of German and Danish investment paid for by renewable taxes is bringing costs down, but the basic physics of the technology is essentially a hopeless dead-end with servicing costs increasing suspiciously. And from the point of view of making us more knowledgeable about how to create energy, it has been said that for the UK wind power lets us dig the holes and make the tea.

For Scotland, still a producer of specialists steels and high value engineering components, as well as being a nation well-versed in large construction projects, a home developed nuclear industry on behalf of the UK and export elsewhere is worthy of serious consideration. There are some interesting module reactor designs on paper that could be developed in half the time of Hinkley Point; a twenty year programme could introduce a whole new line of work for our nation with enormously profitable and global value. It would also offer an across-the-board tax cut to every business and family in the country.

It is worth repeating two things; that nuclear energy does not produce carbon dioxide and that the number of deaths in the nuclear industry due to radio-nuclides or radiation is so small as to be unmeasurable. Anyone for a Scottish Nuclear Energy Forum to grab this advantage?


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A fund, localism and best use of our taxes

For all the power seeking stage-strutting that has been going on, it is easy to forget that life continues pretty much as normal. For some that means a daily struggle for cash to live on.

The Scottish Welfare Fund is Scotland’s home-grown fund to help those in real need at times of crisis. It helps people buy daily essentials, including heating. It’s grown from nothing to nearly £100 million in just over two years, with more than 200,000 households benefitting.

There are two interesting aspects about this fund; first, it’s a fund and, second, it’s delivered by local councils. As a fund, taxpayers can see the bill and know that it is not a hidden unlimited entitlement; while local councils are just that, local and in touch with the things that are hurting in their communities.

In that sense, the Fund meets an important criterion for efficient social welfare; that it is based on a limited contribution, overseen locally; albeit provided by a national collective. Is it any great surprise that we are told it has underspent by £1.5 million this year? One other good element of its design is that underspends can be rolled over for future years. It tells us that someone is interested in stewarding our tax money.

This fund supports individuals like those cited by Mhairi Black in her maiden speech in the House of Commons; struggling folk hit for six by a sudden change in circumstances that brings them to their knees. For many hard-working taxpayers this is exactly what welfare should be about, rather than lifelong destructive support creating a way of life reliant on regular entitlements. That the Scottish Government has had to find the money for 200,000 households tells us a lot about the failures of the grand design of the nationalised welfare system.

Localised and contribution based welfare should be the goal of the Scottish Government in its struggle to obtain more control over how social support funds are spent. We think Scottish taxpayers would be better served if there were more devolution of social support provision to Scotland, and then to its localities. It would pull up short those who see the £1.5million underspend on welfare as a bad thing, rather than prudent management of taxpayer funds. And of course at national level it would put a clamp on vote-buying largesse - there's nothing like there being no more money to clamp down on stupid politicised point-scoring taking over from compassion and decency in social support provision.

We think local councils also have a much better idea of the connection between money given out and local trade and jobs. If every penny spent on welfare in Scotland was spent locally and was taken from businesses and individuals locally, the connection between the jobs that higher taxation destroys and the jobs that lower taxation can create would be a lot more visible than today. It would also make the welfare system competitive between providers, the best way to induce efficient use of our money.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Aspirational tyranny

Can you imagine what “the impact of a strategic decision on inequality” might mean in practice?

Think about this.

Imagine a public authority wants to put in a new cycle route as part of its climate change strategy. This might change the way some people go to work; for some it may get faster, for others it may get slower. It might take some money away from the local bus company who might reduce their service, making it more difficult for some to get to work. It may intrude on the physical space on the local streets, creating traffic bottlenecks and making trade deliveries more complex. It might increase the risk that some children will get injured going to school, but others may be safer. It may make it easier for some to get to the local factory in one industrial estate, but might change access for articulated lorries to another. For some town centre professionals and shoppers it might reduce local parking, making the local dentist practice and three local retailers less able to employ juniors. On balance, it could save about half a ton of CO2 a week, which might then be added back by traffic diverting to easier and longer routes.

The reality – that any attempt to enforce policy design such as “to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage” (the required legal provision) is doomed to be inadequate, complex and contradictory with wildly differing effects on the economics of advantage and disadvantage.

Note that in the above very small example, it is not just that the planners making the decision do not have the knowledge to make such an assessment, it’s that they cannot possibly know the effect of their decisions; knowledge about the future is simply not available to them.

It gets worse.

Any authority with a capacity to tax us, or the capacity to use our tax money, takes decisions with an element of coercion based on their power – very often that of a monopolist. The streetscape example above is a change proposed by a local authority with such a monopoly. The way of assuaging such decisions is to allow localised democratic consultation and refusal.

Mrs May is right to say such legislation is “ridiculous”. And it is more than “simplistic”; it’s downright tyrannical if followed through.

We all know that public authorities, particularly quangos, hate their ideas to be turned down by the electorate; they will fight tooth and nail to keep to their chosen path, planners have long-term battle plans to construct their desired outcomes and they are paid to do battle unlike ordinary taxpaying citizens who purportedly direct the ideas of their civil servants through the political process. We should not kid ourselves that in the Big Government state our politicians can protect us. They too have also become bureaucratic managerialists – corralled into ineptitude by party prejudice and unable to act on proper principle.

The outcome of this legislation is likely to be another huge overhead on the struggling public sector, another burden on taxpayers, and an even larger loss of the liberty of Scots taxpayers to design their own future as the public sector soaks up more of our incomes. In the process of enhancing Scotland’s economic impoverishment it will also reinforce precisely the inequalities it aims to reduce. It is the less well-off who always suffer from central planning.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

No growth bunkum will not help equality

The Green Party leader, Patrick Harvie, has described as “ideological nonsense” the idea that a cut in corporation tax will increase revenues. His view is that this will only allow “tax dodgers” to profit, and “leave control in the hands of wealthy corporations” and curtail “efforts to move to a common tax base”. It’s all part of some dastardly plot to “continue with austerity”.

Oh dear, if you want ideological nonsense from a Scottish perspective, it’s Mr Harvie spouting clichés like this that offers it.

There are 361,345 private sector enterprises working in Scotland. SME’s account for 99.4 percent of all these, with 3,870 medium sized, and 2,295 with more than 250 employees. There are only 35 public corporations – wealthy corporations. Many of these are international traders.

So much bile is directed at these large traders , yet is it really likely that corporations like the Clydesdale Bank, AG Barr, John Menzies, Stagecoach and Johnson Press can be found skulking in their board rooms each day working out how to fleece their customers and workers of money? Get real; these people are audited to within a penny in each earned pound and most of them are trying to find out how to make any net profit at all. The margins they do make are re-invested or helping pay the pensions of the elderly.

The lack of numeracy among many of our politicians is repeated in the notion that it is possible to find “a common tax base” for corporates taxes. We explained in a previous blog piece why this is a false crusade because net profits at any one moment are almost impossible to identify for even the smallest trader. Trying to do the same calculation for all sizes of company has led to farcical outcomes with a 4,500 page corporate tax guide that no-one, yes no-one, understands - although many make large fees from pretending to do so on behalf of large corporates in an expensive merry-go-round of negotiations with an over-worked and hence ineffectual (and, more recently, arbitrarily aggressive) HMRC.

Small traders really matter in Scotland. The 99.4 percent that Mr Harvie taints with the idea of being “tax dodgers” are those who create about 1.2 million jobs – that’s 55 percent of all employment. And how do they do that? Well, think about something like a small café or shop, or small jobbing engineering firm or parts distributor:

Let’s say that to earn an extra hundred pounds of revenue you have to spend £50 in wages and £20 on product content. You are trying to work on a retailing margin of 30 percent gross. (We will come back to this figure below). Operating like that:

  • The employer loses £6.40 paying employer's NIC.

  • And then has to pay Business Rates – about another £5 if they are lucky.

  • And then has to pay VAT on the gross margin. Another £6 gone at 20 percent.

  • So, three taxes in, that’s £17.40, leaving £7.60 net margin.

  • You haven’t paid for marketing, office expenses, transport and other things yet. You also haven’t paid yourself. And, crucially, you haven’t paid for tomorrow’s product out of this cash flow, which will actually create a £12.40 loss (£7.60 minus £20.00) if you stick at the same gross margin. This is called over-trading and is the second most common reason for small businesses going out of business.

    You are losing money, fast, so what do you do? You put your gross margin up – to 200 percent or more. You hoard cash, go canny and grow with great care so that you do not run out of it. You don’t hire new staff, or hire them part time, or on zero hours pay; you pay yourself a pittance, and you learn to laugh and be optimistic. Note how you are now part of a more unequal world; small business lives in permanent austerity; but you do it because you love what you do, even although you know your prices are higher than they could be, you are selling less and creating fewer jobs. This is what is called the “deadweight loss” of taxation.

    And any time you hit a new seam of margins, cash-generating business that could make you hire more people, pay them more, expand and invest, what does the government do? It taxes you again on the extra margin you have made. Ironically, VAT is the most common reason for small business to go out of business; so we certainly don’t need Corporation Tax on top to smash their accounting success.

    Taxation on companies is a core reason why economic growth does not happen at a rapid rate. It de-focusses large companies, making them staid and cautious, spending fees on the risk managers of law and accountancy. It hauls cash out of Scotland’s small businesses – entities which have been described as “bundles of informal contracts” between owner-managers, suppliers and workers; the real world of trust and honesty and hard-work.

    And there is a counter-conclusion, practical and certainly not ideological; if Scotland’s 99.4 percent did grow faster, the tax revenue they would create would far outstrip what the state can get today. Think Palo Alto, not Ravenscraig. Mr Harvie is plain wrong on this.

    He also says: “corporate tax competition is one of the mechanisms that has created the profoundly unequal economy we see around us today.” That is total ideological bunkum. In the business sector, it’s the one option that could create more equality through more jobs with higher wages, and higher productivity from investment.

    It’s time to scrap all corporate taxes, they have failed. They have no coherent base, cannot be calculated, favour fat cats with good lawyers, and destroy investment. Above all, they take the fruits of small company imagination and divert them into hoarded cash flow or public sector coffers where productivity is dismal – creating the very inequality they are said to reduce.


    Tuesday, July 05, 2016

    Large rocks and very hard places

    As Ms Sturgeon “explores every avenue to protect and maintain Scotland’s EU status”, Scottish taxpayers can be forgiven for adopting a canny watchfulness. Our First Minister has made it quite clear, in what comes across as a form of Presidential crusade, that she wishes to “protect the interests of the Scottish people”

    But hold up, many would say, what are our interests, and is it possible for her to protect them? Let’s be clear, Ms Sturgeon is not posturing, she is fully dedicated to the benefits she sees are obtained from EU membership. Her speech to the Resolution Foundation makes these clear. She has, in that sense, nailed her colours to the EU mast.

    But real-politic considerations must include economic and institutional realities, and here our First Minister is on shaky ground.

    The EU’s performance in international trade is lamentable; it is losing global share dramatically. Its record in reaching new “trade deals” is worse; there have been only a few with tiny jurisdictions like Fiji. If you want to enhance global, innovative, entrepreneurial trade advantage it isn’t with the EU. In fact, OECD figures show that nations outside the EU have increased their trade into the EU faster than the EU has enhanced its own internal EU trade.

    There are no reliable and trustworthy measures or estimates of the proportion of additional UK exports to EU countries that might be attributable to the UK’s membership of the EU. Additionally, the EU struggles with vast administrative costs which its “Better Regulation” team say could be reduced by 25 percent, implying a total cost around 600 billion Euro per annum or 6 percent of EU GDP.

    Those figures should not be surprising to anyone who has looked at what is called the EU external tariff “nomenclature” – a 932 page document defining import duties for everything from flax table-cloths through golf balls to hang-gliders. The EU operates through rules rather than on liberal principles.

    None of the above, of course, may trump the notion that the EU provides a family of nations dedicated to social and moral good through legislation that purports to protect workers. That’s a desirable goal, but there are few economists who would suggest that the wealth and growth enjoyed by poorer EU taxpayers is supported by EU workplace regulation. Even the French government disagrees. And, we would add, the presence of millions of poverty stricken individuals from less developed nations wanting to enter Europe because their own economies are locked out of the EU trading club is not a good example of morality in trading practice.

    And there is an institutional link here to influences at play. Our First Minister is, today, meeting with what are described in The Herald as “business leaders”. Actually, they are not, they are business followers – the eternally confused trade associations trying to be all things to all their members. In some instances they are the toadies of the bureaucratic managerialists who proclaim that they can run an economy. These organisations live off bungs; subsidies that buy opinion in favour of institutional causes; taxpayers should beware, the truth and many facts are often twisted by subsidy.

    Institutions that live off the EU club are part of the corporatist tendency that afflicts the EU and some say is the source of its poor performance. Once again, central planning and price controls, rife across the EU nations, show their debilitating effect. Is it really in the interest of Scottish taxpayers to support these centralist practices; to turn away from the reality that open competition is the driver of the new knowledge that makes us all more prosperous and able to afford improvements to the lives of the vulnerable.

    None of this means that we should not decide that it is better to reform the EU from within; but the First Minister appears to have made this no part of her crusade to remain in the club. But, for taxpayers, there are good arguments that Brexit could offer the most effective route to a productive future.

    Equally, the perspective above may be in a minority in Scotland, but that does not mean it is wrong; the English certainly do not think it is. And if they are not wrong, trading beside an internationally focused free-trading UK offers enormous opportunity for Scotland’s taxpayers.

    Everyone knows that Ms Sturgeon’s stance is really about the politics of separation. By nailing her colours to the EU mast she has conflated two debates into one. That’s unfortunate, because to achieve her democratic need she has to win them both and offer an institutional framework betwixt EU and UK that a majority of Scots can accept. That’s a tough call.

    The interests of the Scottish people, who are generally affluent and non-politicised, are to stay affluent and non-politicised. The grave doubt in all Scottish taxpayers minds must be that Ms Sturgeon’s choices to do battle on two fronts will neither protect our affluence nor keep constant politicking out of our lives. That’s a mess of her own making equal to that of Brexit.


    Wednesday, June 29, 2016

    Hauding wur wheesht and keeping calm

    We are in a period of high political drama; but thank goodness for the common people and their interests. And what a contrast to the flounderings of the politicians and other commentariat.

    Scottish taxpayers continue get up every morning, go to work, do their business, earn their taxed income, spend their taxed money, put aside a bit for their taxed savings, and then flop in the sofa to goggle at England losing at football matches.

    And those that their taxes are paid to? Hammering lumps out of each other. Making mince of objective debate. Stramash, rammy, squabble and feud – at our cost.

    We are bolstered by a pair of axioms from political science.

    First, that those in politics have “discretion without knowledge”. In the same way that during the Referendum there were no real “facts” offered; there are, post-vote, no “facts” – the future is largely unknowable. Hence the spinnings of equity markets.

    Politics has its central role in the expression of values, not facts; and the EU exit introduces a huge clash of values between factions. We all now have to re-assess our opinions and design a new future.

    Second, that the interest of the mass media is for “a fix” to any issue; someone is always to blame, something should always be done immediately, and it is implied that it is possible to come up with a better way of doing things – quickly.

    This is simply politics as melodrama, with all the structure of theatre; set up, conflict, resolution contracted into a few hours of news cycle. Actually, progress in political economy takes years if not decades and involves sequences of trial, error and muddle with backtracking, contradictions and sheer stupidity thrown in. A liberal economist would add that it is impossible to “run an economy” and we should not expect either the media or politicians to be able to do such a thing.

    It is well known that politicians and journalists come very low down in polls about respectability; their biggest achievement at the moment is to spend a lot of our money successfully reinforcing that opinion. The teams of clever minds being put together to work out how Brexit can or cannot happen are going to cost us all a fortune.

    But as the common people, we have a role too. To haud wur wheesht in Scotland and keep our calm in rUK; to adopt the great British talent at “being steady” on the basis that the end of the world is rarely nigh, and roofs do not easily fall in. One of the great advantages of living in a country where freedom has induced affluence and the rule of law trumps arbitrary political rule is that we do not have to accept politicisation as a way of life.

    During the EU referendum, Ms Sturgeon made a speech to the Resolution Foundation in which she said: “Given the opportunity to truly engage in the issues, and realise the potential impact, good or bad, on their own day to day lives, then it is possible to generate a thriving democratic debate that leaves a positive legacy”.

    We think she is wrong on this. It is a tenet of the left, and an expectation, that a constant blether about politics is a normal part of daily life. The life stories of Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn both have this as a central feature – a continual focus on politics.

    As Nigel Farrage, with characteristic venom combined with insight, told the European Parliament yesterday, the people have rejected “big politics”. We neither need nor want to become politicised. In Scotland, we should continue to haud wur wheesht. We can be sure that the English will always keep calm. We are The People and we have the ultimate power over what values are used to govern us. Knowledge and discretion take time to mature.

    Pay your taxes, turn off the radio and hug the kids.


    Friday, June 24, 2016

    Keep calm and be international

    As we all digest this morning’s news on the UK wide referendum we can only, as taxpayers, adopt a position of keeping calm and carrying on. Whatever changes are coming are going to be festooned with political babble.

    If you believe in democracy that is no bad thing; all of us found that this was not an easy choice and it is always good to talk through problems; public debate in the UK is good at such things and we Scots are well to the fore in our ability to hold our own.

    For those fearful of what is about to be discussed, we offer the following thoughts:

  • Armageddon is not around the corner. Most of us will still go to work, earn a crust, haud wur wheesht and get oan wi it.
  • The tax revenue that supports the less well-off and the elderly is ring-fenced in expenditure budgets and it is not in the interest of any politician to have to deal with destitution. They will print the money if it is needed. Those who foresee sudden Draconian "cuts" are talking tripe.
  • If the pound falls out of bed, any Scot involved with the world beyond the EU – and there are many of us, we are a global tribe deeply engaged in global engineering and resources – is likely to make more not less income.
  • If the markets fall, the Scots legacy of internationalism embedded in the investment funds that operate from St Andrews Square will protect many of those with savings. Scotland’s capital focus looks far beyond Paris and Frankfurt.
  • What concerns us at TaxpayerScotland are not the uncertainties faced by business, but the uncertainties created by our politicians. Their interests are to seek power over us at the level of their competence, which by definition means locally in Scotland.

    If this means that the debate over Scotland’s future ends up being an argument about how our politicians continue to arrange subsidies in order to buy our votes, that will be a rotten offer for our future. Scots will be drawn into inward facing navel-gazing when we should be casting our eyes to the far horizons of the world in which we have to compete and make our way - whether in our out of the EU this reality stands.

    Now is the time for all Scots to be as international as possible – that’s where the wealth can be earned to generate the taxes that can support all the local services that so many want. And we would add this; there is no morality in adding our own claims for support to an entity that in its southern periphery has nearly half of those under twenty-five out of work and does not appear to know how to resolve that disaster.


    'Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavours to live at the expense of everybody else.'
    Frederic Bastiat