It is a key test of the European Commission’s credibility for it to step up to the mark and investigate the £130m settlement made by the UK Government with tech giant Google.
We know very little about this arrangement, reached between the tax authorities and the company. The discussions have taken place in private, little detail has been revealed by the Treasury and the methodologies employed by HMRC are shrouded in secrecy.
The sum of £130m also represents an incredibly low amount offered in lieu of taxes dating back over a decade, and is the equivalent of an effective tax rate of around 3%.
EU competition officials have previously shown themselves willing to act against tax deals struck by member states. Settlements reached in private between Starbucks and the Netherlands, as well as between Fiat Chrysler and Luxembourg, were ruled to be unlawful state aid by the European commission in October.
In addition, the EU is also currently investigating Ireland’s tax arrangements with Apple, and Luxembourg’s tax treatment of McDonald’s. It also recently ordered Belgium to collect an additional 700m euros from 35 companies.
There is a worryingly close relationship between multinationals and national governments in general when it comes to issues such as this. More transparency is vitally needed across the European Union to end these cosy deals and ensure that multinationals pay their fair share,
Alex Orr, Leamington Terrace, Edinburgh
SNP mimic Tories on austerity budgets
In his December budget, Tory chancellor George Osborne again cut the money going to local councils, repeating the threat to further cut funding if a council tax freeze was not maintained, but cancelled his proposed slashing of police budgets and found £250 million extra for social care.
In his Scottish budget, SNP finance minister John Swinney cut funding for councils by £500 million, and as a result was able to provide £250 million for health service support for social care, and an increased budget of £70 million for the police. Having also decided not to vary UK tax rates, Swinney once again followed the Tory austerity agenda.
In the latest twist, however, the SNP seem to have taken to following the Tory bullying line too. If Edinburgh council do not follow the freeze, they will be fined £7 million. Not delivering on teacher ratios will cost Edinburgh another £6 million. If the council don’t do what the SNP Scottish Government says on the integrated care element, it will lose £20 million.
The SNP say they are against austerity but seem to have the same priorities as the Tories and follow the same cuts agenda. Now they are adopting Cameron’s bully boy tactics too.
Phil Tate, Craiglockhart Road, Edinburgh
Missed opportunity to protect steel industry
The EU interferes in every aspect of our lives, but where were they when the steel industry badly needed the EU to impose import tariffs to protect British jobs?
The EU is corrupt and so riddled with fraud that the auditors have felt unable to sign off its accounts for 20 years. Time to get out and secure our borders and national sovereignty.
Clark Cross, Springfield Road, Linlithgow
Moral duty to help Calais camp children
I am usually against more immigrants coming to Britain and have major concerns when certain political parties encourage it.
However, regarding the refugee children in Calais, it is our moral duty to bring them here urgently. This situation is a disgrace.
I admit that we don’t even look after our own adequately; we have children here in need, we have families who are homeless and our elderly and disabled in need of better care and services.
However, this isn’t politics, this isn’t charity, this is our moral duty as human beings to protect the children on our planet. They need to come here from Calais immediately.
Elaine Pomeransky, Restalrig Gardens, Edinburgh
Choose your favourite Scots house building
Coinciding with the Saltire Society’s 80th anniversary year and the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design in Scotland, our 2016 Saltire Society Housing Design Awards are now open for nominations. This year’s judging panel is guest chaired by renowned Scottish journalist, writer and television presenter Kirsty Wark.
Now in their 79th year, the awards celebrate excellence and achievement in Scottish house building and place-making and are open to owners, clients, architects, house-builders and housing developers of all shapes and sizes across Scotland. Projects completed between January 1 2014 and March 31 2016 can be nominated for five different categories.
With so much creativity in the Scottish housing sector, these awards have a long and illustrious history of rewarding and celebrating outstanding housing design.
Kirsty Wark and an expert panel of judges will select the overall winner in each category, with the Scottish Government sponsoring the Innovation in Housing award and donating a cash prize of £1500 for the winner.
Anyone interested in entering has until midday on March 14 to submit their entry and the awards ceremony will take place in June.
Jim Tough, Executive Director, The Saltire Society, Fountain Close, Edinburgh