Issue 13


By Professor Richard Kerley

We are clearly moving into a turbulent time for public policy in Scotland.

Elections - an array of institutional/constitutional changes that may - or may not - be agreed soon and implemented at some later point; political parties and organisations trying hard to work out exactly what the election of a new parliament might mean for all of us.

It’s also led to a flurry of argument about how such powers might be used – not least those related to income taxation and related benefits. Some of that argument has been sound and principled – some just plain embarrassing, from people who should know better … and maybe do.

There are some signals that whatever might fall into place after May 2016, we won’t just see a simple incremental continuation of where we have been over the past two parliaments.

For a starter, there is a now broad acceptance that the Council Tax and so also the Council Tax ‘freeze’ don’t have long to go. The Commission on Local Tax Reform generated a formidable pile of evidence that both the CT and maintaining a standstill on it were unsustainable – and undesirable, but fell short on suggesting any coherent range of replacements, leave alone any specific recommendation.

The uncertainty over the future of the only form of locally controlled taxation alongside the electoral strategies of all political parties makes it very hard to see what coherent proposals any parties might put into their manifestoes and by the time this edition of Scottish Policy Now is released, we may know more about that – or we may not!

Various of the articles we publish in this edition illustrate how many wicked problems we face in an ever more complex and sophisticated world.

We want to reduce carbon emissions in Scotland (and elsewhere) but that seems to mean wind generation and possibly an increase in hydro generation and storage. That means we have to balance out a concern for wild and remote places with power and heating systems both for the people who live there and those of us who live in cities . It also means that – at least at present – we seem to need large and regular cash transfers either to major utilities or to owners of large estates. That’s why Land Reform continues to be a matter that needs discussing in a more determined fashion than we have seen from the government to-date.

Elsewhere in Scottish Policy Now we have invited contributors to cover a wide range of topics, from housing to poverty in one part of Scotland; from evidencing the benefits of early childhood provision to a possible tourist tax in Edinburgh.

It will be interesting to see just what emerges from the democratic hurly burly of the election campaign – we hope that these articles will help your perspective on those discussions.

By Professor Richard Kerley

Issue 13


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