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New Poll Shows Scots Back Fair Taxes

Posted by David Eyre UK Poverty Press Officer

5th Nov 2012

A picture of some coins

survey carried out on behalf of Oxfam has found that more than three-quarters of people in Scotland believe taxes should be raised for those with the highest income and wealth.

More than half of Scots believe the current tax system is not fair - including 61% of those who are in the least deprived fifth of the population.

Some 57% of Scots are against lowering taxes for everyone. And 74% believe that Scottish public services should mainly be funded through the tax system.

Oxfam says the results show people in Scotland want a fundamental change in the way we look at tax.

The charity is calling on politicians and policy-makers to start a debate about how taxes should be used for the public good.

More than 1000 people took part in the research, which was carried out for Oxfam by leading research company Ipsos MORI.

"This survey clearly shows Scots want a fairer tax system," said Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland.

"At the moment, the poorest Scots are taxed more heavily than the richest. In 2010/11 the poorest fifth of people paid around 38.2% of their income in tax - the richest fifth paid 33.6%.1

"That's just wrong - especially at a time when the gap between the richest and poorest in Scotland is getting bigger.

"The survey also shows Scots understand the importance of taxation in paying for public services. They know that we can't have a debate about public services in Scotland without a debate on taxation. It doesn't make sense.

"Without a robust and progressive tax system we can't deliver the public services people need, nor can we tackle Scotland's growing inequality.

"This poll suggests Scots overwhelmingly want a fairer tax system that raises more income from those who can afford it.

"Now is the time to bring tax into the discussions of what sort of Scotland we want - our Humankind Index describes the priorities, we now need to talk about the role of tax in helping to meet many of them.

"Politicians and policy-makers need to urgently take this message on board and come up with concrete tax proposals that will make Scotland a place where everyone can get a fair share in our collective prosperity and a fair chance in life."

Inequality in Scotland has increased substantially in recent years. Between 1998/99 and 2008/09 the richest 10% of Scots took 40% of the total rise in incomes.2

Oxfam says that kind of inequality shuts people out from wealth, leaving around 910,000 Scots in poverty - 220,000 of them children.3

The charity also points to a wide body of research showing inequality leads to worse outcomes across society as a whole. From violence and imprisonment, through physical and mental health, to social mobility, the evidence shows that more equal societies fare better.4

Indeed, Oxfam believes our economic model is perpetuating old inequalities and creating new ones.

Oxfam says progressive taxation that helps redistribute incomes is a fair and sensible way to tackle inequality and pay for public services that benefit everyone.

On Wednesday, Oxfam gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Economy, Energy & Tourism Committee and called on the Scottish Government to 'poverty-proof' all its policies to make sure they have a positive impact on poverty and inequality.

The charity also wants a new post of Poverty Commissioner to be created to act as a voice for disadvantaged communities at the heart of policy-making.

Robertson said: "During my evidence to the committee, I said that our current economic model has failed a fifth of the population of Scotland. Wealth in a growing economy hasn't reached those who most need it. We need to do something different.

"If policies were poverty-proofed then politicians would have to look closely at who are the winners and losers from each of the policies they put forward. This would help us find solutions that really work for disadvantaged communities."

1. DWP - The Effects of Taxes and Benefits on Household Income, 2010/2011

2. WP - Households Below Average Income

3. The Scottish Government, Poverty and income inequality in Scotland: 2010-11

4. R. Wilkinson and K. Pickett (2009) The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

Money image courtesy of Mihow.

Blog post written by David Eyre

UK Poverty Press Officer

More by David Eyre