MSPs To Vote On Poll Tax Write Off

19 February 2015, 07:05 | Updated: 19 February 2015, 07:06

Legislation to end the collection of historic poll tax debt is expected to be backed at the Scottish Parliament today.

The Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill will will complete its passage through Holyrood with a final debate and vote by MSPs.

The Bill would effectively write off £425 million of the controversial levy introduced by Margaret Thatcher's government which has never been paid.

The proposals were brought forward last year by former first minister Alex Salmond after several councils said they would use the details of people who registered to vote in September's independence referendum to recover outstanding debt.

Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary John Swinney said: "The poll tax was a deeply unfair, regressive levy which should never have been introduced in the first place.

"A Tory government which Scotland had rejected imposed the tax on Scotland, and - as was recently confirmed in documents released under the 30-year rule - they were determined that Scotland be a guinea pig for their disastrous tax experiment.

"Although the poll tax is now defunct, its bitter legacy is still with us. It cannot be right that people fear being on the electoral registers because of decades-old debt relating to a discredited and unjust tax. Nor is it right that some of the few people paying off poll tax debt are the poorest in society.

"I urge all MSPs to vote to pass the legislation this afternoon, and ensure today is the day that the poll tax is finally consigned to the dustbin of history.''

Arrears collected by councils across Scotland fell to £327,000 in 2013-14 and some local authorities have already ceased recovery of the debt.

Councils are to receive a share of £869,000 from the Scottish Government in 2015-16 based on what they could still reasonably expect to collect.

Gavin Brown MSP, finance spokesman for the Conservatives, who do not support the proposals, said: "We oppose writing off the debt, not least because it sends completely the wrong message.

"It could also encourage people who think they don't have to pay council tax because it will just be written off a few years down the line.

"We also think it's wrong that councils could be forced to lose out financially, when it's the Scottish Government which has imposed this.''