The National:

I AM well aware that most people do not like paying tax. I could go a little further and say that most people do not like thinking about tax. Despite both of these things, it is my suggestion that those who are interested in Scottish independence really do have to overcome their discomfort on this issue and think about the tax system that Scotland should have when it has the chance to govern itself.

This is an issue of particular concern to me at present. My transition paper on tax in an independent Scotland has just been published by the Scottish Independence Convention. That’s not the first time I have written on this issue. I also did so for Common Weal in 2017. I do in that case accept that I have an unusual interest in this issue, but I really hope that the independence movement joins me in thinking that this is important.

It does, of course, have to be important. The ability to tax is one of the most basic indications of the existence of a state. In a very real sense taking control of its tax system will be what defines Scottish independence, as much as taking control of its own money will also be part of that process.

READ MORE: Here are six steps an indy Scotland must take for a fair tax system

More than that though, what I have long believed is that tax is the single most powerful instrument available to a government to influence the structure of the society that it is responsible for on behalf of the people who have elected it. This is what I described as the "joy of tax" in my 2015 book with that title. If that is the case then making the tax system of an independent Scotland distinctively Scottish is key to shaping the future of the country as a whole.

This is the focus of the paper that I have written. A tax system works when it reflects the values of a society. If you look at the UK tax system as it now, is it is very apparent in whose interests it is designed. There is a massive bias within it towards the wealthy. Most of their sources of income – from rents, to interest and dividends - are taxed at lower rates then the income from work is. Companies are also taxed at lower rates than those paid by most workers.

Quite bizarrely, those with wealth are also offered better rates of tax relief one of those on average income. For example, many wealthy people get double the tax relief on the pension contributions that they make when compared to what most working people get, whilst the wealthy who can record part of their income as capital gains get two annual tax allowances a year when all of the rest of us only get one.

The National:

I do not think that this reflects the values that will exist within an independent Scotland. I am not for one minute suggesting that Scotland should penalise the rich. What I am suggesting is that Scotland will expect everyone to make an equal contribution out of the income that they make, which is not the case in the UK as a whole at present. Redistributing the Scottish tax burden will be essential to reflect the values of the country that Scotland does, I think, share.

This, though, will require a radical rethink on how the tax system is Scotland is to be run. At present the UK tax authority, HM Revenue & Customs, is managed as if it is a very large company. It has a board that is dominated by people who also serve as directors of such companies, and everyone else is excluded. So I want to change that too.

The National:

I want a Scottish tax system that is accountable to the people of Scotland. I want to have a tax office in each major town and city in Scotland staffed by well trained and well-paid civil servants, when the current plan is that there will be no tax offices North of Edinburgh or Glasgow. And I want those offices to help the people of Scotland to pay what they owe in the interests of everyone in the country – which is an essential part of making it the place it wants to be.

Tax can and will help build the new Scotland in other words.