Brian Monteith: Stamp duty taxing matter for Scots

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I say Ossie, what a splendid jape it would be if you could come up with some wizard wheezes to help me win the general election, next May. Can’t you do something to help your old Bullingdon Buddy?”

The Prime Minister was in an excitable mood after telling Ed Miliband that a poll had found out more Scots believed in the Loch Ness Monster than thought the Labour leader was any good at his job. “Maybe we can get some Scots votes?”

“Well, I do have a few cunning plans, Cammy, although those rotters in Germany, France and Italy have made such a beastly mess of their economic recoveries that our exports to them are slowing down.

“Tax revenues have been poorer so we’re going to miss our borrowing and deficit reduction targets. I’m likely to get a right old Spanking by Bully Balls unless I can come up with something quickly. Give me a day or two to think about it.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer went off to the barbers, a hair was out of place and he needed it put right before he went in front of the TV cameras.

“Ordoure, Ordoure”, said the speaker as he invited the Chancellor to address the house with his Autumn Statement which, like his statistics, had missed its target and was being delivered on a very cold winter’s day.

“I am sure the whole House would agree with me that in these difficult times when the average property costs five times the average earnings we should do far more to help aspiring strivers and working families.” (Or whatever target voter groups we are caring for this week, thought his backbenchers.)

“I am therefore introducing changes to stamp duty that will reduce the cost of purchasing houses for 98 per cent of the public. This will be of immense benefit to everyone except Russian Oligarchs and Labour shadow cabinet members who are planning to move to be amongst their comrades in Islington.”

(A number of Labour frontbench members shifted about uncomfortably.)

“There shall be exemptions for properties at the lower end of the market and the rate will be two per cent for houses up to £250,000 after which it will be five per cent up to £925,000 – ten per cent up to £1.5 million and then 12 per cent beyond that.

“I can assure the House that this makes buying a house in England, Wales and Northern Ireland a much more attractive idea than it will 
in Scotland where, in line with our commitment to Scottish Taxes for Scottish Politicians, the SNP will introduce its own reform of stamp duty that will penalise aspiring strivers and working families with punitive rates.

“The House will be entertained to know that a Scotsman concluding a purchase of a property of £375,000 in March next year will pay my stamp duty of £8750 – saving him £2500 – but if he were unfortunate enough to conclude the purchase in the following month of April he would instead pay £14,800 to John Swinney’s Land and Building Transaction Tax – costing him £6050 more.

“This example of democracy in action through Scottish Votes for Scottish Tax Rises should be applauded by the House for its great self-
sacrifice that will allow me to reduce the transfer of funds from Westminster to Holyrood and thus reduce the deficit.

“Indeed, I would go further and welcome any further tax rises that Mr Swinney might propose for Scotland as an obvious benefit to the rest of us in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and an example to us all of what happens when you write policies in green ink.”

The shadow chancellor sprung to his feet eager to make an intervention.

“The Chancellor has not met his deficit reduction and is now faced with making more cuts to do so . . .”

But Osborne, was having none of it and rose to respond, cutting Balls off in mid flow.

“Let me remind the House that four years ago, the Honourable Mr Balls wanted to borrow more to solve the nation’s debt problem, then last year the Honourable Member was telling me that I was cutting public expenditure too much and too fast, he kept repeating it, too much and too fast – but now Mr Balls accuses me of not cutting enough.

“I believe the Honourable member to be confused, saying different and contradictory statements from year to year.

“Maybe the numbers are too large for him. Maybe he has been getting his advice from John Swinney in green ink?”

The Chancellor moved on to talk of his other plans. He had indeed missed his borrowing and deficit reduction targets, although they were at least still improving, but in spending £2bn extra on the NHS after Labour had demanded an extra £1.5bn and £15bn extra on roads – while announcing further plans to tax the banks, introduce a levy on tobacco companies and screw some taxes out of Google (and others) at last.

For those wanting to buy a house, and others with concerns about the NHS, he had come out of the Autumn Statement looking more like Santa Claus than Ebenezer Scrooge.