MURDO Fraser could scarcely conceal his glee last week after Nicola Sturgeon announced the SNP’s policy on local government funding.

“Seems to be a remarkable similarity between the SNP council tax plans and what Tory Tax Commission proposed,” he tweeted.

And he did have a point.

When the council tax looked like it was on was on its last legs a few years back, the Tories argued instead for a bit of tweaking, including “adjusting the progressiveness of the multiplier”. Which is exactly what the SNP did last week.

With wearisome inevitability, this volte-face prompted a series of “Tartan Tory” jibes from Scottish Labour politicians – and from others who should know better. If the SNP were Tartan Tories, they would be supporting privatisation, demanding the renewal of Trident, hounding asylum seekers and supporting the anti-trade union laws.

On all of these and more, they are doing exactly the opposite of Cameron and Osborne. So let’s stop the nonsensical rhetoric that equates any convergence on policy with ideological affinity. The Tartan Tories label is as stupid as the Red Tories taunt directed against a Labour Party led at UK level by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

But let’s make no bones about it. The council tax was designed to protect the rich from paying their fair share of local taxes. It was hastily cobbled together in the space of just four months by multimillionaire Tory minister Michael Heseltine after the poll tax fell to pieces.

During the quarter of a century since, we’ve had 13 years of Labour rule in Westminster, seven years of Lab-Lib government in Holyrood and eight years of SNP power in Scotland. And still the stop-gap contingency plan worked out on the back of an envelope back in early 1991 lives on. No wonder Murdo Fraser is gloating.

Yes, it will be adjusted. Marginally. Instead of a three-to-one differential between the most expensive mansions and the cheapest one-bedroom council flats, we will now have a gap of three-and-a-half to one.

Under the old rates system that preceded the poll tax, the differential was 14 to one. And under the SNP’s former policy of a nationally set three per cent income tax to pay for local government, the chief executive of Standard Life would be facing a £165,000 local tax bill – almost 60 times more than he will pay under the party’s new policy.

The Scottish Government is in a commanding position, with popular support that few political parties anywhere in the world could dream of. It could have buried the council tax and opened up a whole new front against the Tory Government by initiating a mass revolt against the council tax south of the Border.

The Scottish Government has been extremely competent and generally progressive in comparison to any Westminster Government that I remember.

But this decision casts a shadow of a doubt over the SNP’s stated goal of reducing economic inequality to Scandinavian levels.

You cannot create a more equal society unless you’re prepared to force the wealthy to pay more into the pot, at local and national level.

So what is the best way to fund local public services fairly while reducing inequality?

Even on the progressive left there is no consensus. The Scottish Green Party calls for a property-based Land Value Tax, which focuses on fixed wealth rather than income. Rise argues for a purely income-based Scottish Service Tax, with graduated tax bands rising from zero to 20 per cent. Either would be a massive step forward. But the two proposals do not need to be in conflict with one another.

Inequality is not just about property. And it’s not just about income. It’s about both.

Any serious drive to reduce the gap between rich and poor in Scotland will require a combination of progressive taxes on income and on property.

I personally don’t feel too strongly about which taxes are earmarked for local as opposed to national expenditure.

In Scandinavia, which is far ahead of the UK on both local public services and progressive taxation, funding arrangements are varied and complex.

In Norway, the parliament sets three separate rates of income tax to national, regional and local government services. It’s closer to the model of the Scottish Service Tax proposed by Rise, but without the steeply graduated banding. Norwegian municipalities also have discretionary powers to set a local property tax to raise extra funding.

Sweden has a national property tax, but councils are funded by a local income tax. In Denmark, 70 per cent of council funding comes from local income tax, with a further eight per cent of revenues raised by a property tax and the balance coming from various other taxes.

There is no one true path towards fairness and equality. Maybe the Scottish Green Party and Rise should get together after the Scottish elections to devise a proposal for progressive new tax system for funding local and national government which incorporates elements of both the Scottish Service Tax and Land Value Tax.

In the meantime, the SNP seem to have taken a decision to play safe this side of independence.

Maybe caution is the best way to reassure those who were too nervous to take the leap towards independence in 2014.

But it’s not the best way to maintain the youthful and radical dynamism that helped to convert traditional Labour strongholds like Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire to the cause of independence.

That’s a difficult balancing act for any one party to pull off. Which is why we need a rainbow pro-independence parliament after May 5, with fresh, eloquent voices from Rise and the Green Party to remind everyone that the independence movement is multi-dimensional.

Greens will put forward their tax reform plans ahead of elections, confirms land-reform campaigner Andy Wightman