THE Institute for Fiscal Studies has published a paper in which it states that whichever party wins the next election will be faced with the choice of either raising taxes or cutting services in order to follow their own self-imposed fiscal rule requiring them to reduce the national debt. Both Labour and Conservative politicians should think hard about this before castigating the Scottish Government for raising income tax in an effort to mitigate the effects of reduced UK spending on services.

There is little if any evidence from international comparisons to suggest that countries with either higher or lower overall taxation levels perform better economically, but significant evidence to show that countries with higher taxation, and correspondingly higher levels of public services, have happier populations. The supposed need to lower taxation in the UK is purely an ideological construct that has been driven into popular belief by unrelenting propaganda from the right-leaning media. This is the same media that continually berates the quality of public services in order to encourage people to think it would be better to have those services provided by commercial enterprises.

There is one key reason for underperformance in the UK economy that seems to receive scant attention from the press, unless it provides an opportunity to scapegoat benefit “scroungers”. That is the lamentable state of our collective health. We have in unproductive economy because too many people are unfit for work. This has two related impacts. The overall population is underemployed because too many people find it impossible to work and, perversely, business struggles to attract employees because the labour pool is artificially shallow. This in turn discourages investment.

The answer to the problem does not lie in attacking those who are too sick to hold down a job. It lies in improving the overall health of the population, not only through increased investment in heath services themselves, but also in tackling the underlying issues of inadequate levels of social housing and under-resourced social and community services.

In all of these areas there is a massive hill to climb before we reach a stable plateau. At least till that point, we should not be fixating on lower taxation for those who can well afford to pay it. The UK has fallen so far behind its international competitors in so many areas that no political party should be given the space to claim there are any quick fixes.

That includes those parties advocating independence, but their get-out clause is that the UK is and has been for decades an economic basket case that only survives by continually pawning the family silver, hence the current inexorable downward trajectory. Scotland’s has the opportunity to reverse the decline by seizing control of its own economic levers and escaping from the shackles of the UK’s economic illiteracy.

This should form the basis of the next and all subsequent election manifestos for all parties that purport to support an independent Scotland. The message needs to be refined and posted on every wall, every billboard, every social media site, every lamppost and every bus in Scotland until it sinks in. Forget about process. Concentrate on the message and the process will look after itself!

Cameron Crawford

I THINK everyone agrees that one of the purposes of government is to govern. Government doesn’t allow robbery, drugs etc, and a major purpose is to bring justice and fairness. It has to manage the finances of our society. For example it has a minimum wage law but they are always afraid to tackle the amounts of money the rich can earn. It is afraid to say: “No, you are not allowed to earn obscene amounts of money because it is unfair and distorts the lives of the rest of society.” Now that would be REAL government.

B McKenna