THERE’S nothing like an income tax hike to give high-earners itchy feet.

Or rather, this week’s developments suggest there is actually one thing: an income tax cut for the rest of the UK while Scottish rates remain roughly the same. “That’s it!” they cry. “Time to leave! Harrumph!”

READ MORE: Leonard throws Labour into chaos over Tory tax cuts for rich

Quite right too. Why should those earning the most be denied a tax cut at a time when low-paid workers are relying on food banks, libraries are cutting their opening hours and social care budgets are being slashed to the bone? Who needs food, books or home help anyway? The weakest, that’s who. The ones who just aren’t trying hard enough.

One of those trying very hard is the long-distance lorry driver who joined the Kaye Adams phone-in on Wednesday morning to discuss whether it was right for Scottish higher earners to pay more tax than those in other parts of the UK.

He wasn’t happy. In fact, it’s fair to say he was incandescent about the fact that his annual income tax bill is due to drop by £123.50 (due to an increase in the personal allowance that will take effect on both sides of the Border).

The irate caller advised that his earnings only creep over the basic-rate threshold due to overtime, yet he responded with outright fury to the suggestion the SNP Government would not be cutting the higher rate. You’d think Nicola Sturgeon had announced she’d be personally sneaking out in the night to deflate his tyres.

When he started snarling at a fellow caller, demanding to know how much “b’roo money” the retiree was claiming, a startled Kaye was forced to intervene. There’s a lesson in here somewhere – but the lesson relates to the wisdom of participating in a radio phone-in after two consecutive days of sleeping in your vehicle, not to the tax-and-spend decisions Derek Mackay will be announcing in next month’s Scottish Budget.

Other callers suggested high-earning Scots would quit the country for the sake of about £80 a month, with one oil and gas worker suggesting flight to the Middle East might be a good idea for some of his colleagues. (Not for himself, you understand, as he has a son. But for the high earners who don’t have any family or friends, or any ties to Scotland or the UK).

So, how about a relocation to Saudi Arabia? It should be safe to disregard the nation’s abysmal human rights record – just make sure you don’t get arrested. So don’t be gay, don’t be an atheist and definitely don’t be a woman. But did I mention the 0% income tax rate? Eyes on the prize, people!

Where else might these folk (or sophisticated people-shaped, tax-minimising cyborgs) wish to make their new homes? Might I suggest Guatamala, where the top rate of income tax is a mere 7%? Teachers will find plenty of opportunities, given more than a quarter of the population is illiterate, and there’s also plenty of need for healthcare workers given the current rate of one doctor for every 1000 people.

I concede a 7% top rate might seem a bit steep compared to the Middle Eastern options, but it’s arguably a price worth paying to significantly reduce your risk of a public flogging.

Of course, these will seem like silly suggestions to most high earners either living in Scotland or contemplating a move here. Why travel so far when slightly lower taxes are available just across the border in England and Wales?

Well, there might be a few more factors to consider. There’s the cost of renting or buying a property, the cost of health services (even in a nation with a National Health Service), the cost of education and the cost of personal care in your old age. But the benefits of living in a particular jurisdiction go beyond comparing your tax bill to a laundry list of benefits (what the Scottish Government somewhat misleadingly characterised as a “social contract” when announcing its new tax bands last December).

Talk about cuts to public services tends to focus on those used by people who take from the public purse, rather than those who contribute to it. Of course, most of us switch from takers to givers to takers again over the course of our lives, but setting aside that important distinction, it’s worth challenging the idea that public services are only used or needed by people who earn little or nothing.

Those on decent incomes may opt not to use their local libraries, may never require intensive social work input, and may never have need to summon the police or fire service, but few would dispute that we all benefit from living in a society in which these services are well-funded and available to everyone who needs them, regardless of their income at the time.

Of course “tax flight” exists, but most high earners are savvy enough to look beyond their payslips when weighing up their next move. Money matters, but so does quality of life. What price being able to shop for vegetables in Waitrose without having to worry about snipers? What price doing some lengths in your local pool without anyone drawing attention to your “jiggly belly”?

Some of those living in Scotland may well weigh up their options and decide that chaotic Little England looks like a great bet right now, simply because the UK’s embarrassed Chancellor has come out of hiding for long enough to woo his party’s core voters. Good luck to them. The door will still be open if they decide to come back.