Alex Massie Alex Massie

Alex Salmond’s taxing realism: Scotland cannot afford socialist dreams

Alex Salmond ventured south last night to lecture inform the citizens of what he termed Britain’s ‘Dark Star’ of his latest plans. You can read his New Statesman lecture here. The most telling moment of the evening came, however, when George Eaton asked if Salmond favoured raising taxes on the wealthiest Scots. Specifically, did he find the notion of raising the top rate of income tax to 50 per cent attractive?

No.

Or as the First Minister put it:

‘We don’t have proposals for changing taxation. We certainly are not going to put ourselves at a tax disadvantage with the rest of the UK.’

It’s not quite read my lips, no new taxes but it’s not far from it. This should not surprise long-term readers. Some of us have been pointing out for years that Alex Salmond is not really very much of a socialist. He is, in terms of economics, much closer to the neoliberal end of the spectrum. He would doubtless bridle at the suggestion he’s much of a Thatcherite but when it comes to tax no other British politician in recent years has cited Arthur Laffer more frequently than Alex Salmond.

Of course the future of an independent Scotland will not be decided by Alex Salmond alone. The left (or some of the left) see independence as a means to an end: the creation of a socialist Scotland. They are entitled to their dreams but dreams is all they are. There is much less enthusiasm for this sort of stuff than they imagine.

Polls consistently show that as many as 60 per cent of Scots expect their tax bill to rise after independence and rather fewer anticipate a dramatic improvement in public services that would compensate for that additional pain. It seems reasonable to suppose that this puts a brake upon their enthusiasm for independence.

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