Scottish Greens call for tax on millionaires to fund plans for fight against climate change
The Scottish Greens have unveiled plans for a wealth tax, which will see a one per cent levy on the property, land and pensions of Scotland’s millionaires.
The pledge was outlined in the party’s manifesto for the Holyrood election, along with promises on creating new 100,000 green jobs and plans to tackle the climate emergency.
On independence, the party say there should be a referendum ”held during the next parliamentary session”.
The manifesto adds: “The Scottish Greens will campaign and vote for a referendum within the next parliamentary term and under the terms of the Referendums Act (2020).
“We believe that the UK Government’s refusal to respect a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament would not be politically sustainable and could be subject to legal challenge.”
Launching the manifesto, Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “We're clear in this manifesto that an independence referendum should be held during the next parliamentary session. The legislation, covering all aspects of this referendum, including the question and the timing should be decided by a simple majority in the Scottish Parliament. For Westminster to ignore this majority would be politically untenable, and an insult to our democracy.”
Other promises include £3.2bn of investment in public transport, £3bn in warm and zero-carbon homes, £450m in renewables, and £895m to restore Scotland’s natural environment.
This, the party says, will create 100,000 new jobs.
The new plans would be funded following a "fundamental reform" of the tax system.
The new one per cent “annual wealth tax for millionaires” would be levied on “all wealth and assets above the £1m threshold, including property, land, pensions, and other assets.”
The party says this new tax “would only apply to the wealthiest 10 per cent in society, with an average household in Scotland owning approximately £233k in assets.”
The manifesto says: “While the ideal would be a UK or Scotland wide wealth tax, this would require UK government consent. If that is not forthcoming, as might be expected, then we will explore the possibility of empowering and supporting Scottish local authorities to introduce wealth taxes within their own areas.”
Other tax reforms include a “windfall tax on pandemic profit”.
This “urgent one-off windfall tax on the extraordinary profits enjoyed by larger companies as a result of the pandemic” would, they say, help in “rebalancing the economy and supporting the recovery in those sectors which have suffered most during lockdown.”
On renewable energy, the Greens want to restore the role of onshore wind in Scotland, with plans to deliver an additional 8GW of onshore wind by 2030.
“This means installing 1GW - about 200 turbines - every year for a decade, doubling the size of the industry.”
They also want to expand tidal energy systems while phasing out North Sea oil and gas production, halting the issuing of new licences for exploration and development and ending subsidies and tax breaks for the industry.
On oil and gas, the Greens call for the “progressive phase out of North Sea oil and gas production based on the principles of a Just Transition.”
“This is essential to protect the livelihoods and economic wellbeing of workers and communities, preventing a deferred collapse.”
The party insisted their plans would not lead to jobs being lost.
“We see jobs being transitioned,” co-leader Lorna Slater said. “That's why we put in our manifesto a jobs guarantee for all oil and gas workers. We know from surveys that 70-80 per cent of oil and gas workers would rather work in renewables in a sustainable industry. Anyway, oil and gas is a sunset industry and of course people would rather work in something that has a long term future.”
Other key pledges include the recruitment of 5,500 additional teachers, a "frequent flyer levy" on international travel, rent controls, two new national parks, and the opening of new Scottish Government hubs Warsaw, Oslo, San Francisco, Atlanta, Delhi, São Paulo, Nairobi and Tokyo.
Slater said the manifesto was "transformational".
She added: “But it is also the minimum that Scotland needs to do to keep up with the rest of the world, to emerge from this pandemic and help lead the global transition to a zero carbon society.
“Because around the world, governments are finally seeing the opportunity, and they are moving. There will be no second chance when it comes to the climate emergency, and that is why we need to be bold and decisive with our climate action now.”
The party’s plans on independence were attacked by both Alba and the Liberal Democrats.
Former first minister, Alex Salmond, said: “The Greens are as weak as water on the constitution.”
He added: “Nicola Sturgeon says a referendum may not be held until after 2023, the Greens are now saying a referendum may be held as late as 2026 - if that were the case, on those terms, Scotland would be looking at the prospect of not being able to secure independence until 2028.
“That means seven more years of governments the people of Scotland don’t vote for being imposed upon us.”
Lib Dem campaign chair Alistair Carmichael said: "People who are concerned about the climate emergency will be shocked to see that the Scottish Green party's priority is independence.
"When we should be focused on switching one million homes to climate friendly heating, securing green jobs and boosting renewable energy, the different factions of the nationalist movement want to spend their time bickering over a timeline for another referendum.”