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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

We're Not Broke

I was at the European film premiere of We’re Not Broke last night, part of the Take One Action film festival. I was also a member of the post film discussion panel.

The film follows the actions of USA Uncut members in their protest actions across the US. They modelled themselves on the UK Uncut model in highlighting tax dodging companies and the consequential cuts in public services. The film also explains how multi national corporations transfer funds across the globe, using tax havens to avoid US business taxes. Equally powerful was showing how corporations influence, well buy actually, the US legislature on tax issues.

There was also a clip of another panel member, Jolyon Rubenstein’s (BBC The Revolution will be Televised), film highlighting Philip Green’s tax dodging activities. As I pointed out, Green was hired by Cameron to advise on public service efficiency. You really couldn’t make this stuff up!

While the film focuses on the US, there were plenty of messages for us in Scotland and the UK. Not least because many of these tax havens have the Union Jack in their flags. In effect the Queen is the head of the world’s leading tax dodging corporation! Those in the SNP leadership who really think Ireland’s Corporation Tax rate is the way Scotland should go, should also watch the film. It’s done little for the desperate Irish economy and as the US experts pointed out, these corporations are not interested in halving Corporation Tax, they want zero tax. It’s just a race to the bottom.

Another message for us was the role of the big accountancy companies in oiling the wheels of corporate tax dodging. As an audience member pointed out, these are the very same companies brought in to advise on efficiency in Edinburgh council and others. Again you couldn’t make this up.

I set out our response to austerity economics through the Public Works and Better Way campaign messages. In the US the Tea Party and others focus on all tax is bad, government is evil etc. There is some of that here with the Tax Dodgers Alliance, but the particularly British take is, “We are all in this together”, invoking some sort of Dunkirk spirit. Of course ConDem spending cuts and tax increases hit the poorest hardest, while real wages are cut and the rich tax dodge their way to record levels of wealth.

There was a good debate about different methods of protest. Jolyon emphasised creativity as a tool and Christian Aid drew attention to their Tax Justice Bus that is in Edinburgh today. I highlighted the opportunity presented by the Procurement Bill that will be presented to the Scottish Parliament next year. If companies want to benefit from taxpayer pounds they should pay taxes as well. Including aggressive tax avoidance as a factor in tender evaluation would send a very clear message to corporate Britain that those of us who do pay our taxes have had enough. I also urged the good folk of Edinburgh to take a trip to Glasgow on Oct 20 and join the STUC march for ‘A Future that Works’.

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