The Kirk presented its views on the Scotland Bill 2010 to the Scottish Parliament two weeks ago. The Church of Scotland is neither for nor against independence, but it has in coordination with other churches in Scotland, a long history of engagement and dialogue with the Scottish Parliament and with Westminster. It was therefore interesting to be able to reflect on 10 years of devolution in practice and to participate in a process that following the recommendations of the Calman Commission, sought to strengthen devolution and develop the fiscal accountability of Scotland in terms of tax-raising powers.
What best serves the interests of the people of Scotland? I believe that this question should be answered from the perspective of those at the margins of our society. For the Kirk, social justice is crucial because, tax raising powers should be intimately connected to tackling poverty and inequality. It is an opportunity missed that the Scotland Bill falls short of proposals to further devolve welfare provision and shows little emphasis on social justice.
I think that as a society, we should see taxation not as an imposition by the government, but as a way of sharing what we have, so that everyone’s life can be improved. This goes for us, as individuals as well as for corporations. Direct taxation is always more transparent than indirect taxes, but regardless of the way they get collected, taxation should respond to the need of the weak, contribute to the well-being of the community at large and be levied justly.