By Alex Salmond
A QUARTER of a century ago, a deeply unpopular new tax was imposed on Scotland.
And this Tuesday marks exactly 25 years to the day since Margaret Thatcher’s Tory Government brought that new levy – the Poll Tax – to homes across the country.

The country in question was of course Scotland, not the UK.

In a move almost as cack-handed and ill-thought out as the Poll Tax itself, the Tories decided it should be slapped on householders in Scotland alone – a whole year before being rolled out across the rest of the UK.

Almost nothing could have been designed to more infuriate and harden Scottish opinion against the Thatcher Government.

The Poll Tax was wildly unpopular in Scotland and spawned an era-defining wave of popular protest, including a huge non-payment campaign.

But it was more than 12 months later, and only after similar protest turned violent in London’s Trafalgar Square, that the Tories began to realise just how big a problem their new tax was for them.

And in the end of course it was one of the things that sealed Margaret Thatcher’s downfall as Prime Minister.

But, for all its unpopularity south of the border, the Poll Tax had at least been introduced by a Government with popular support there.

The same could not be said for Scotland.

The Poll Tax was imposed on a Scottish electorate that had already rejected the Tories at successive elections and would go on to do so again.

That was the democratic deficit that was at the heart of the home rule campaign that brought us our devolved parliament at Holyrood – a campaign that intensified after the poll tax when John Major won the Tories a fourth term in 1992.

The Tories have tried to claim, both then and since, that the Poll Tax was actually the brainchild of Scottish Conservatives – the same Scots Tories who tried to claim Kirkcaldy economist Adam Smith as a Thatcherite icon.

But the reality is the Poll Tax was one of the most blatant examples of the democratic deficit that fuelled that home rule campaign through the 1990s.

And while having our own parliament has helped address that issue, the democratic deficit is still there.

It was there when Westminster pushed through the Bedroom Tax – another measure which marks an anniversary on Tuesday – despite the opposition of more than 90 per cent of Scottish MPs who voted.

It was there when a majority of MSPs at Holyrood voted against a new generation of nuclear weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde, but whose votes do not count on that issue.

And it was there when Tory-led cuts to child benefit were voted on in the Commons and when again around 90 per cent of Scots MPs voted against.

The Bedroom Tax, which came into effect a year ago on Tuesday, affects more than 82,000 households across Scotland, more than 80 per cent of which have an adult with a disability.

It is a cruel, regressive policy which is every bit as unpopular as the Poll Tax was and which has been imposed on Scotland in much the same way.

The Scottish Government have done as much as we can to help, providing £55 million over two years to help those most affected.

But only the powers of an independent parliament will allow us here in Scotland to scrap the Bedroom Tax once and for all.

And only independence will allow us to take all decisions in our own national interest, ending the democratic deficit at the heart of Scottish politics and society.

This September, people across Scotland will have the opportunity to make that choice.

A Yes vote will mean we will always get the governments we vote for.

It will mean no more Westminster Tory governments ever again.

And it will mean no more policies like the Poll Tax, the Bedroom Tax and Trident – all imposed against the will of the people of Scotland and against the wishes of our democratically elected representatives.

A quarter of a century on from Thatcher’s hated Poll Tax, we in Scotland have the opportunity of a lifetime and the chance to end the democratic deficit once and for all.


2014-03-30 13:58

It`s not just the Tories I want rid of for good, it`s all the Westminster parties. They will never represent Scotland as they must pander to our more populous neighbours who tend not to vote the way we do.
Can anyone seriously imagine the proud English nation allowing Scotland to decide their form of government if the tables were turned?
The better together lot like to make negative comparisons about Scotland in Europe but what EU country has any other EU country choose its government?
As far as i`m aware Scotland is the only recognized country where this happens. I`ll probably be corrected on that but it`s not good enough for Scotland`s democracy any longer.
2014-03-30 14:26

Has anyone else noticed BT are now saying we have a bigger budget than them,oh dear thats not fair moans Darling,Rennie and Carbuncle on the Politics Show today A Neil even thinks this is bonkers.
2014-03-30 14:58

When the British Labour party go round the doorsteps and tell people that it is better to have the bedroom tax than a government in Edinburgh (which would never impose anything so barbaric on our most needy).
This should tell people that London based parties always put their interrests before those of their constituents.
Our FM is always on the money.
2014-03-30 15:51

RTP makes a good point. Not only are the BT cabal moaning that the YES Campaign have better funding, but they also cite the “lottery winners” (the Weirs, in case anyone isn’t aware) as an example of the YES donors.

Yet these same whingeing NO campaigners ignore the fact that they are mainly funded by rich Tory Party donors, such as Ian Taylor who infamously financially supported the Serbian war criminal Arkan. Not only that, the NO side have the unanimous backing of the BBC and the MSM, providing them with free publicity and exposure of their misinformation and facts-free assertions.
From The Suburbs
2014-03-30 16:53

As Alex Salmond said on Politics Show, Andrew Dunlop, who was the architect of Thatcher’s Scottish Poll Tax experiment, was in cahoots with Alistair Darling to bring forward the No Currency Union bluff as part of Project Fear to cause uncertainty then milk all the companies that believed the UK parties political stance.

Westminster’s emphatic rejection of a currency union was taken on the specific advice of the former chancellor and Better Together chief, Alistair Darling, and the main Downing Street Scottish adviser, Andrew Dunlop. The Treasury had assumed that Osborne would stick to his position of saying that a currency union would be highly unlikely.
‘Alistair and Andrew are running the show – we just did what they said,’ one Treasury source said.”
2014-03-30 19:37

Funnily enough the outrage at the introduction of the Poll Tax was never really reported on by the BBC & the rest of the MSM until it was introduced in England.

Weird that eh?
2014-03-30 21:28

I remember John Major standing up in the house of commons to talk about the introduction of the poll tax in England and the relief measures that would be put in place for pensioners. He was totally amazed when the Scottish MP’s en masse stood up and literally howled at him. He didn’t have a clue what was happening. Of course, he didn’t realise that no such relief had been afforded Scottish pensioners in the previous year. Twat!!
2014-03-31 13:33

Thatchers scrapping of the rates system still reververates hugely, because water and sewerage charges would have been included in the rates, and the owner of a property was responsible for that. Now tenants are charged for water and sewerage, which is crippling if you are on benefits. It can even mean not heating your home because the charges amount to a huge chunk out of a minute income. I hope that we can look at introducing a different system like a local income tax, because people in very large houses pay very little for the land they occupy. The council tax is still unfair and income, or lack of it, is not taken into account for water and sewerage charges.

You must be logged-in in order to post a comment.