Sunday, 12 October 2014

SSP condemns Labour over Poll Tax debts

The Scottish Socialist Party has criticised a former Labour Leader of North Ayrshire Council after he defended the right of local authorities to pursue 25-year-old debts from some of the poorest members of local communities.

As previously-reported by the3towns.today, Irvine councillor David O’Neill, in his capacity as President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), said he was ‘furious’ the SNP Scottish Government intended to introduce legislation to finally kill-off the hated Poll Tax, which was implemented by the Tory Government led by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  The Poll Tax meant multi-millionaires only paid the same rate for local services as people on the lowest incomes.  As a result, many poorer families were unable to meet the charges, resulting in debts being accrued.

Since the Poll Tax was finally ended – due mainly to public protests and direct action – historic debts have largely remained uncollected.  However, when thousands of people re-registered on the Voters Roll, after many years absence, in order to take part in the recent Independence Referendum, some councils indicated their intention to cross-reference ‘new’ names with 25-year-old lists of Poll Tax debtors.

Labour’s David O’Neill described the SNP move to prevent some of Scotland’s poorest people being pursued for historic debts they couldn’t pay 25 years ago as “the oddest decision ever to come out of the Scottish Government”.

Now, the local branch of the Scottish Socialist Party has linked Cllr O’Neill’s support for the Tory Poll Tax with Labour’s recent partnership with the Conservatives in the Better Together anti-independence campaign.  Prominent socialist activist Colin Turbett said, “The Labour Party locally sided with all the traditional enemies of working class people to gain a narrow win in the referendum: this was achieved through false promises,  appeals to greed and selfishness, and downright lies.
  
“In the the parts of Ayrshire that are suffering most from the austerity policies that Labour support, a majority turned against them and voted YES, and these voters will not forgive them when it comes to the General Election next year and the Holyrood election in 2016.”

Mr Turbett noted, “We are particularly disgusted with CoSLA President David O’Neill who represents one of the poorest council wards in North Ayrshire.  He was quick to condemn the proposed amnesty for those who still owe Poll Tax, some 25 years after its divisive and disastrous introduction in Scotland.  

“You cannot get blood out of a stone, and that is what councils have been doing for years in chasing the very poorest people for money they could never afford in the first place.  The cynical use of the vast engagement in the referendum smacks of punishing the poor for voting YES.”

SSP Organiser Richie Venton revealed the party has been joined by 150 new members in Ayrshire since the outcome of the Independence Referendum.  Mr Venton said, “These people have found their natural home in a party that throughout its history has stuck by its socialist principles of democracy, equality, redistribution of wealth, independence and internationalism.

“We still champion the goal of an independent socialist Scotland, and there is no way we will sit back and leave Scottish independence off the agenda for another generation, as some politicians have stated.

“The struggle continues, and with our flood of new members locally we plan to be on the streets campaigning in the immediate term for the Scottish Parliament to be given the powers to resist the war on the working class launched by both the Tory and Labour conferences.

“We demand that Holyrood has the power to implement a £10 national minimum wage for all at 16; to raise the state pension; to reverse the assault on benefits and welfare; to tax the rich and big business to fund our NHS and other public services; and to ban fracking and take the ‘Big Six’ profiteering energy companies into democratic public ownership.”

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