Earlier this year Scottish government plans to restrict land ownership in Scotland only to EU registered people or entities were very well received, with 82 per cent of consultation respondents recorded as supportive. The proposals would improve transparency and accountability so that we’d know who owns what parts of our country and evasion of inheritance and other taxes would be much more difficult. If the Scottish government is successful, this could set an important precedent for policy direction UK-wide, particularly in the context of a seemingly inexorable increase in offshore (or “tax haven”) registration of UK companies and assets.
Our Westminster government has long tolerated and supported the growth of the tax haven culture, as evidenced by the fact that many of the most prominent are either British Overseas Territories with UK-appointed governors (like the Cayman or Virgin Islands) or non-EU territories like the Channel Islands which openly market themselves as extensions of the City of London.
It is a pretence that the UK is unable to influence them. In reality the relationship with the City is largely symbiotic but still damaging to our national prosperity. The cost to the UK Treasury is many billions in unpaid tax every year.
The cost worldwide is multiplied accordingly. Developing countries also lose billions of pounds every year as the proceeds of natural and other resources are exported in secret through tax havens. Unscrupulous dictators or other local powerbrokers have even been known to siphon international aid funds into private offshore accounts, leaving their native populations to repay the money.
More recently, the BBC reported that around 36,000 properties in London are owned by offshore firms, with much of this wealth known to come from the laundered proceeds of dubious or criminal activities abroad.
The many new Scottish MPs who want to fight poverty and injustice and undermine the London Establishment could do worse than join the campaign against the tax haven culture of the Global Financial Elite. Many decent Labour MPs would rally to help them.
Similar measures have been sought by Labour in Westminster but the difference is that in Scotland they have government support.
Jim Orr is an independent city councillor for Southside/Newington