So Gideon finally gave us his Autumn Statement today even though we are in winter, all those numbers must have gone to his head. He announced that the UK government were going to steal the SNP’s clothes and change the Stamp Duty Land Tax to something close to John Swinney’s system which is due to come into force next April. This change is to be effective almost immediately. The Tories were gloating on social media.
I’ll bet that they’re chuffed to bits about that, but is it true?
Stamp Duty to £270k
Not exactly, you wouldn’t expect anything else from the Tories though would you. As can be seen from the graph above the new Scottish system would produce a lower amount of stamp duty until the home sold for £254000. From that point on the new Scottish system will take a larger tax take than the new rUK system.
Stamp Duty to £500k
For seriously expensive properties the picture looks very grim.
Stamp Duty to £6.5 million
But, as can be seen from the bigger picture the new rUK system closely tracks the new Scottish system and both are way above the old system. So it is quite odd that you don’t hear rich folks squealing about the huge extra chunk that’s going to be taken when they buy a new estate in England yet they squealed like fat little piggies when John Swinney announced the change in Scotland. The Tories themselves called it an “assault on aspiration” in this piece. I wonder if they will say the same for Gideon’s new regime?
Anyway back to the Tory gloat, are Scots worse off now? As I mentioned earlier the new Scots system has a lower tax take until the £254000 point where parity is reached with the new rUK system. According to the Registers of Scotland 10 year report the average house price in Scotland is £157476, so most buyers will still be better off. Even in the most expensive city, Edinburgh, the average house price is £216483 so the argument that people will be unfairly penalised in more expensive areas doesn’t hold water. Of course some people will pay more, but that is the point of a progressive tax isn’t it? If you want to buy a Scottish estate so that you and your chums can participate in blood sports then you’re going to have to pay through the nose. Oh well.
The funny thing about the question of English Votes for English Laws, a.k.a. EVEL, is that it is complete ruse on the part of David Cameron and his repulsive Tory party. Now I fully agree that if there is a devolution of power to the Scottish Government then there should be a corresponding devolution of the same powers to the other devolved assemblies. That would be fair wouldn’t it? But the English do not have a devolved assembly, they have the Westminster Parliament which they believe is the parliament of England. That is true, but it is also the parliament of the UK and what goes on in that parliament affects the whole of the UK.
Of course our Prime Minister is fully aware of this, what he wants from EVEL is a complete muzzling of the Labour party who derived a large proportion of their strength from Scotland and Wales (40 & 26 respectively). EVEL would also restrain the effects of SNP MPs in Westminster if, as seems almost certain, a large rump of SNP MPs are elected in GE2015. So EVEL seems like a win/win for our illustrious leader.
But here’s a thing. Due to the Barnett formula, funding of the devolved insitutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is dependent upon how much money is spent on public services in England. Now this is a bit crap because if the English Government (which one is that?) decides to reduce funding to the NHS then the funding to the devolved administrations would also be reduced. So there is no such thing as an English Government, there is only an UK Government. Which means that there is no such thing as the West Lothian Question because all decisions taken in the UK parliament affect the whole of the UK. It’s in the name.
So what’s to be done? I believe that all Westminster MPs should be involved in making all decisions in the UK parliament since all decisions made there affect the whole of the UK, that’s the answer to the West Lothian Question. The only fair solution to the conundrum is to set up an English parliament, separate and distinct from Westminster. Then give each devolved parliament exactly the same powers. This solution would be known as Federalism. Anything else is unfair to all the people of the UK.
Excellent news for the Unionist oilman Andy Samuel. He has been appointed as the head of the Oil and Gas Authority which is a new quango created at the behest of that other Arch-Unionist Sir Ian Wood. Andy was formerly the managing director of BG Group’s exploration and production in Europe.
During the Independence Referendum Andy came out on the establishment’s side with the following scare story, “An independent Scotland would have to invest 3,800 pounds per head – over ten times more than when costs are spread across the UK – to match the 20 billion pounds the UK Government has committed towards decommissioning in the North Sea.”
Which begs the question, why are the taxpayers footing the bill to clean up the oil companies’ mess? But of course that question never gets asked by our mainstream media. Anyway, back to Andy. I’m sure that he will have sold all of his shares in BG Group in order to avoid a conflict of interest, hasn’t he? I’m also sure we’re going to hear a lot more from him about how tax revenues from the North Sea should only go to Westminster because they’ve got all the safe pairs of hands down there. They know about tax and stuff. That’s why the oil companies are asking for a reduction as we speak, squealing because the oil price is almost $80 per barrel and oh how the costs have risen. Mind you a 62% tax rate is pretty stiff but, you know, someone’s got to pay for Crossrail, HS1, HS2, HS3, Olympics etc. The champers is getting expensive too as well. Oh, don’t forget the interest on all the money that Gideon has borrowed to make our economy look better than it is in the hope the Tories can get re-elected.
But wait, what’s this? New drilling licences being awarded. The oil companies can’t be that poor then can they? And what’s this? Danny Alexander casting about trying to find some purpose. Trying to suggest that the oil companies are not reducing prices at the pump as the oil price reduces. But the simple fact is that most of the price paid at the pump is fuel duty (55p per litre) and vat (20%) which leaves the oil companies about 49p to get it out of the ground (don’t forget that 62% tax rate on there) transport it to the refinery, refine it, transport it to the pump and sell it. The retailer gets about 2p per litre. So is the chinless one trying to deflect attention away from the government’s tax grab and on to the oil companies or is he merely making some populist noise in order to try to get re-elected? Or is this the first salvo in a public spat between the oil companies and the government? Were the oil companies promised reduced taxes to get the to side with the Unionists? We’ll find out in the autumn statement from the chancellor soon.
Ah but I digress. Andy has been rewarded for his staunch support of the Union. Pure and simple. Just like Sir Ian Wood got rewarded with some juicy fracking licences. Just like Alistair Darling will be feeling the touch of ermine soon. So on, and on, and on, the gravy train goes.
The Prime Minister has promised that the UK will not pay it’s debt to the EU on the 1st December which would leave the UK in default. David Cameron said, “If people think I am paying that bill on 1 December, they have another think coming.” This will henceforth be known as the “Call Me Dave” defence so the next time HMRC come knocking, wanting you to pay your tax bill by such and such a date, you just have to tell them that your name is Dave and the problem will disappear. How do you think that will work out? Exactly, and the same thing is going to happen here.
The spat is designed to make the PM appear to be tough on the EU but the effect so far is to alienate our trading partners and neighbours as well as diminishing our global standing. Who is going to trust a country which does not pay its’ debts? As Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Tory Lickspittle, said during the Scottish Independence Referendum about the SNPs’ promise not to pay its’ share of UK debt, “The Scottish Government’s plan to renege on Scotland’s share of the debt in the event of independence is simply not credible. Mortgage rates would go up, credit cards and bills would go up and the Scottish Government would have to resort to the bond markets equivalent of Wonga to raise money to pay for public services in Scotland.”
So that’s it then, we can expect higher mortgage rates, credit cards and bills to go up and UK government will have to go cap in hand to Wonga to bail them out. Just because Dave want’s to appear to be tough on the EU. Just because the Tories are running scared from the UKIP threat. We’re definitely Better Together now then.