Saturday 16 December 2023

Please Scotland can I have some more?


A few weeks ago, a light came on my dashboard and suddenly my car wouldn’t accelerate. I just about managed to drive it to a garage I’d found online, and it needed a new throttle. So, there was an unexpected bill for £600. A few days later a tyre burst, that was another £70, then I found I’d strayed into a bus lane that was another £60, then this month’s fuel bill arrived and the council tax. I’m sure I’m no different from lots of others. I’m better off than many Scots and worse off than some. But the last couple of years have been a struggle for most of us.

I have a reasonably good job. I feel rather about it rather like Basil Fawlty’s relationship with all things Teutonic. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it. But I’ve recently become stingier not because of where I’m from which I also feel Teutonic about, but because like a lot of Scots on middle incomes who thought we were doing pretty well a few years ago things have become harder.

No, it’s not at all like the deprivation suffered in some parts of Scotland, but lots of things that many of us took for granted like buying a new car when the old one finally breaks begin to look out of reach.

When the Scottish Government talks of making us buy a heat pump many of wonder where we are going to get the £10 - £15 thousand to pay for it. When many of wonder about going away for a couple of weeks to Tenerife we begin to realise it would be better to save the money. I used to go round the supermarket not thinking about the prices. Now I go to the yellow cans in Asda to save a few pence here and there.

It is for this reason that we all begin to resent how the SNP wastes public money and makes life harder for ordinary people who not that long ago felt well off.

I have the impression that Humza Yousaf and his colleagues just don’t get it. They are all earning vastly more than the rest of us. They use public money to go to a meeting somewhere nice and warm. It doesn’t matter to them if they have to pay 20 p extra for every can and bottle, they buy and then have the hassle to return it. It doesn’t matter to them if cans of beer and bottles of wine suddenly become more expensive because they decided to have a minimum unit price to save us from ourselves. But it has begun to matter to us.

Scotland is better off than many parts of the UK. We also get more public money from the centre than some poorer parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But somehow, it’s never enough for the SNP. Now Humza Yousaf wants to charge us more for living in Scotland.

The problem is that there is a whole chunk of the Scottish population who don’t pay tax. There are a few very wealthy people who either made their money from business or work as doctors. But most of us earn somewhere in the middle.

The middle income means that the idea of spending £25,000 for an electric car let alone £95,000 looks impossible. I’d need a mortgage to buy a car. The prospect becomes still less likely if I have to pay more tax to the SNP.

It makes sense for some things to be paid for by government. Schools and healthcare and a safety net for the poorest. But public spending across the UK and particularly in Scotland has increased way beyond what is reasonable.

The issue of tax is really an issue of whether I should have the ability to spend my money on what I want to spend it on or whether the government should forcibly remove my money in order to spend it on what it wants to spend it on.

It might be reasonable if a third of my money went on tax, because the government is better able to take care of schools and hospitals, but in Scotland the figure is closer to 50%. Now Humza Yousaf says please Scotland can I have some more?

But it won’t be the rich who pay most of this bill. There are not enough of them. If you are a doctor, you can just as easily move to England. If you run your own very successful business, you can probably run it just as well from Manchester. If you are a highly successful banker in Edinburgh, you can move to London. The rest of us can’t easily move.

The people in the middle might be able to get a job elsewhere, but most of us will stick with what we’ve got for good reason. We are stuck behind Humza’s wall just as much as the East Germans. So, he can tax us as much as he wants. We can’t easily escape, and he doesn’t need watchtowers and dogs to keep us as his taxpayers.

I wouldn’t resent paying Humza’s tax if I thought that it would make the lives of the poorest better. I wouldn’t mind paying a bit more if I thought I’d have greater access to better healthcare. I wouldn’t mind paying more if I thought the standard of Scottish schools and universities would improve. But they won’t. All of these things are incomparably worse under the SNP.

Michael Matheson is symptomatic of the SNP government. Because it’s someone else’s money he’s not bothered how much he spends on holiday in Morocco. This is the whole problem with public money. While we are all careful about our own money if you need to put in an order for a new ship or a new iron smelter or a free trip to the middle east, you don’t much care how much it costs because its someone else’s money. I will have business class thank you because I’m Humza Yousaf and I’m worth it. This is why public spending is always wasteful.

If I need a packet of paracetamol, I can find one in the supermarket for 40 p, instead I can persuade a doctor to give me free paracetamol every month. But the cost of this paracetamol taking into account the meeting with the doctor and the administrative costs of the pharmacy is vastly more than 40 p. It’s not free paracetamol. Instead, it’s more expensive, but we call it free. This illustrates quite ably why Scotland is struggling economically.

Instead of raising taxes which are already too high in Scotland, the SNP first needs to concentrate only on devolved matters. Every paper on a reserved matter like independence costs Scottish taxpayers and we gain no benefit from it.

SNP politicians need to cease spending public money on issues that are best dealt with at the UK level like climate change and foreign affairs. They need to cease wasting public money on ferries that are never built.

Scottish education and healthcare would benefit not so much from more public money as better use of the money they already have. The salaries of public sector workers like me need to be restrained, because Scotland has a huge number of public sector workers and if taxes rise to cover the cost of all our salaries the pay rise will be consumed by the tax rise anyway.

I’m doing better than many and worse than some. But I am much more careful with my money than I used to be. I think that goes for many Scots. It will become the defining issue on which we vote.

Humza Yousaf is forcing us to pay more for worse services and have less of our own money to spend when many of us feel we have less anyway. Why should we have to pay for SNP incompetence?


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