New Poll Tax Law Announced

The Scottish Government's planning to bring in new laws to stop councils chasing people for unpaid poll tax.

Legislation is to be brought in to prevent councils from collecting "ancient" debts, going back over 20 years.

Alex Salmond announced the plan at First Minister's Questions.

He said, "After 25 years it is about time that the Poll Tax was finally dead and buried in Scotland."

Fears had been raised that council chiefs in Scotland could use details of the tens of thousands of people who registered to vote in the the run-up to last month's independence referendum in their efforts to recover old debts that are still outstanding from the controversial charge.

The scheme, which was officially called the Community Charge but was more widely known as the Poll Tax, was introduced by Margaret Thatcher when she was prime minister.

It was introduced first in Scotland in 1989 before being rolled out to England and Wales a year later.

But it proved to be massively unpopular, sparking a large scale non-payment campaign and major protests, some of which turned into riots.

To try to avoid the levy people refused to register to vote, sparking concerns that the large-scale increase in the number of people on the electoral roll brought about by the referendum could see some of them pursued for historic Poll Tax debts.

More than 4.2 million people in Scotland are now registered to vote.

Mr Salmond announced today that councils would not be able to take any further action to recover Poll Tax debts.

He said the charge, which was replaced by the Council Tax, had been abolished more than two decades ago.

"It is over 20 years since the Poll Tax came to an end and I believe the expanded electoral roll should not be used to collect poll tax debts," Mr Salmond told MSPs at the start of First Minister's Questions.

He said £396,000 in old Poll Tax debts had been collected by councils in Scotland last year as he announced, "It is the Government's intention to bring forward legislation to ensure that councils can take forward no further action to recover ancient poll tax debts."

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