ON Wednesday evening, I attended the SNP hustings for West Scotland region in Johnstone Town Hall.

The event was chaired by Jeane Freeman. Two points stood out.

The first was the presence of several members from outwith West Scotland who were invited to ask questions. It was even commented on by more than one candidate that there were serial attendees in the audience who had been present at other hustings.

This is very concerning for party democracy as there was limited availability for tickets, and I am sure I was not the only member who naively thought that this hustings was for local members to question the candidates on matters of particular interest in the West Scotland region. Jeane Freeman did not give any preference to local members.

The second point was the conduct of the three candidates. I do wonder if they really respect the members and our party structures.

I get very angry when I hear our professional politicans – particularly those with government experience – when they pontificate on one of the principal challenges of our time, poverty. I fail to see the appeal of claiming that independence is the route to end poverty when, by their own admission, we are a nation of Haves – most of whom own our homes, enjoy a relatively comfortable lifestyle and have secure, well-paid jobs or private pensions.

For the third of our population who struggle to make ends meet and find any hope, far less fulfilment, in their lives, they are being failed by our government because the candidates for first minister have ignored the policy of the SNP approved in 2016 by the party’s ruling conference. That conference committed the party to explore the use of land as the principal source of public funding. If it had been prosecuted by our government, then lives would have been transformed, and poverty would be a thing of the past.

The party, as opposed to our leadership candidates, is in good company. The International Monetary Fund’s research confirms that land as the source of public funding “can be suffcient to fund the government”. The World Bank has also done good work on the correlation of land ownership and poverty, a fact of which, surprisingly, the chair of the Scottish Land Commission did not seem to be aware at a recent public engagement session.

Not one candidate has made any serious attempt to discuss taxation – yet without a substantial and sustainable increase in our public funds, our public services will never meet our people’s expectation. Our poor don’t have the luxury of waiting till we are independent. The candidates bleat about budgets largely fixed by Westminster and wring their hands that they have no means to intervene to any material extent in the great energy rip-off.

Their politics and appeal to the membership are bordering on the pathetic, and their cheerleaders are blinded by jobs, personal advancement or something along these lines.

If one is charitable, then perhaps the leadership candidates have failed to seek out party policy. If that is the case, then some party members who failed candidate vetting on the grounds of lack of knowledge of SNP policy will surely draw some ironic comfort that their lack is shared by the candidates for the leadership of our party.

The Scotland Act 2016 helpfully devolved on the Scottish Parliament the almost exclusive power to tax land. The specific wording of Section 80 of that Act is of particular interest to lawyers and should be to policy makers, as it opens up all sorts of possibilities for the Scottish Government to control and raise public funding without the interference or consent of Westminster or the HMRC.

Such are the opportunities that much of the revenue generated in Scotland through inheritance tax and corporate taxation on energy and whisky distilling which are reserved to Westminster could be diverted directly into the hands of the Scottish Government if our Parliament legislated to tax the land, buildings and erections which these companies hold in Scotland at rates to reflect the excess profits they make.

If the leadership candidates were serious about developing Scotland as an economic dynamo, then they surely would have appreciated that by taxing land and setting a zero rate for income tax on earned income, there would be an explosion of economic activity as vacant and dilapidated land and property were brought back into use.

Studies have indicated that if the party policy on the use of land as the principal source of public funding had been pursued with any vigour by the Scottish Government, then the sums amassed would be of McCrone Report proportions, allowing every adult and child a Universal Citizens’ Income (UCI) of £200 or more per week.

The dreadful reality is that the Scottish Government could have been providing the UCI to eradicate poverty now. By doing so, Scotland could be leaving the mediocrity which is the UK behind financially, socially and environmentally and instilling a confidence in our people to just dissolve the Union.

Party members are getting thoroughly fed up being taken for mugs. This was amply demonstrated at the recent National Conference in Aberdeen when 40% of the delegates voted down the proposed Land Reform Bill for its failure to implement party policy.

Later, at a fringe event, the hapless land reform minister was seen to put her head in her hands when challenged on this failure.

Even at this late stage in the leadership campaign, is it too much to hope that the candidates will stop talking about poverty and eradicate it now and commit to implementing party policy?
Graeme McCormick
Arden, by Loch Lomond