TODAY, my old trade union, Unison, is launching a major report offering solutions to the long-term financial crisis that has squeezed local government jobs and services since the global financial crash a decade ago.

It was trailed in yesterday’s Herald on Sunday as a set of “radical plans to transform the stricken finances of Scotland’s local authorities”. As I write this, I have yet to read the detail, but on the face of it, an initiative to open up a wide-ranging public debate is long overdue.

I expect Scottish Labour to jump swiftly on to the bandwagon because anything that has the slightest potential to embarrass the Scottish Government is fair game for Richard Leonard’s team. The born-again evangelism of Scottish Labour, however, would have cut more ice had the party done anything remotely radical in the eight years they held power at Holyrood.

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They may have a bunch of new faces in the Parliament today, but many of these were activists at local level right through the New Labour era, and were conspicuous by their silent acquiescence, at best, as their party in power pursued aggressive privatisation via the private finance initiative scheme, deregulated the banks, cut corporation tax from 33% to 28% and joined with George

W Bush’s murderous war in Iraq. From the pro-SNP camp, I anticipate some suspicion towards the Unison report and maybe even some downright hostility. After all, the union has links to Labour, so the proposals must surely be designed to discredit the Scottish Government? Well, no. If anyone in the independence jumps to that conclusion, they’d be making a big mistake. Why? First, because Unison in Scotland is not a pliant puppet of Scottish Labour. It is not nearly so nearly intertwined with the party as some other trade unions. Many in the leadership are, I believe, not hostile, and maybe even sympathetic, to independence. Their main priority, however, is their members, many of whom deliver frontline local government services.

I would add that, based on demographics and statistical probability, most Unison members backed a Yes vote in 2014, and vote in greater numbers for the SNP than for any other party.

If that doesn’t convince you, then maybe this will: the authors of the report, two highly respected academics – Mike Danson and Geoff Whittam – are anything but puppets of Scottish Labour. Danson spoke at the founding public rally of the Scottish Independence Convention in 2005 and has always been a strong advocate of independence.

Further back, in 2001 and 2002, the pair developed a detailed – and extremely popular – policy for the Scottish Socialist Party which set out a progressive alternative to the council tax. The Scottish Service Tax as it became known, was, in the absence of any real fiscal powers in the hands of Holyrood, designed to redistribute income from high earners to those on low and middle incomes via local government taxation. Unfortunately, it was far too radical in its scope for any of the big political parties to touch with a bargepole. Things have moved on since then. Holyrood now has significant powers to vary tax rates. These powers should, in my opinion, now be used much more boldly to tackle poverty and reduce inequality, using at least some version of what was in the past designated as the Scottish Service Tax.

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The new report calls for a land value tax – long a cornerstone policy of the Scottish Green Party and its sister parties in England and Wales. The current council tax system is inherently unfair. It was cobbled together in a rush by the John Major government back in 1991 to replace the uncollectable poll tax, replacing a uniform flat tax set by each council with a property tax with a three-to-one differential between the lowest and highest bands. Yet in the real world, house values in the richest, most expensive postcode areas are around 10-times higher than in the poorest, cheapest areas. At an individual level, that differential can rise to 100 to one. And that’s before we even start on Scotland’s highly concentrated pattern of private land ownership. Most people, I think it would be fair to say, would find it extremely difficult to get their head around the idea of how a land value tax would work in practice. It would need a lot of clear and convincing explanation before beginning to move towards such a change, and the authors of the report do acknowledge that the system, which would involve an annual ground rent payable by property owners and tenants, would be complex and would need to be phased in rather than introduced suddenly.

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Other proposals include writing off council debt, which amounts to a billion pounds a year, half of all council tax revenues; higher taxes on second homes and properties owned from outside Scotland; bringing local services, including buses back into public and municipal ownership and control; and cracking down on tax avoidance. All of these combined have the potential to transform the financial health and the status of local government in Scotland. They also answer at least some of the questions raised by the Growth Commission report, which argues for sustainable public finances with reduced debts. This report seems to be offering a way of achieving that goal, by improving public services and creating jobs rather than imposing austerity.

With more than 60% of the vote in a council by-election last week in the former Labour stronghold of Leith Walk, Scotland’s two main pro-independence parties seem to be in remarkably strong electoral shape. But that’s no reason for complacency. The best way of convincing wavering voters to come over to the Yes side is not by standing still and arguing over a hypothetical future, but by driving forward a dynamic programme of social change right now. Deeds will galvanise national confidence more effectively than words and help the hesitant to overcome their fears and take that big leap forward towards full national independence.