John McLellan: Trying to pay garden tax makes you go ‘aaargh!’

Gardening is a pleasant, relaxing pursuit...  until you try to fill in the online payment form for the garden tax (Picture: Jane Barlow)
Gardening is a pleasant, relaxing pursuit... until you try to fill in the online payment form for the garden tax (Picture: Jane Barlow)
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Like thousands of Edinburgh people faced with a regular drive to the dump or fly-tipping, I decided instead to stump up the SNP-Labour £25 tithe on gardens and register for the fortnightly waste service before the 22 July cut-off.

The council instructions don’t claim registration is easy, simply saying: “You need to sign up and pay on our website. A one-off payment of £25 will be taken.” But when every online process is “quick and simple” or “will only take a minute”, I should have known something was up when there was so such assurance. So off I went...

Type in the web address and the first thing it asks is whether I have a Mygovscot account, the Scottish Government’s much-vaunted universal public services payment portal.

I’ve no idea, we probably do because of the parking permits and the other little extras that come with being an Edinburgh council tax payer. But better ask my wife because she does the household admin (yeah, yeah, I know, believe me, as you’ll see it’s better that way).

Do we have one of these accounts? No, I don’t think so, she replies. Better register then. Right, fill in my email address and a user name. Rejection. Must have a symbol as well as numbers and letters. Ok, stick in @. Good, that works.

Haud oan a minute, it says that address is already in use. How can that be? When did that happen? An impostor? I must have registered for something, or maybe just did it for the crack. Whatever, I’ll press on with new details.

Step one: key in title, name and date of birth. Easy. Step two: Do I live in Scotland? Of course I do, this is a domestic bin service in Edinburgh I’m registering for, isn’t it?

READ MORE: Robert Aldridge: Council stealth taxes are like Ryanair’s add-ons

Enter postcode, simple because the automatic form does the rest. Hold on, what do you mean this isn’t a valid address? I flamin’ live here, of course it’s valid. Stuff gets posted here all the time, for goodness sake.

Ah, I can enter the address manually. Fine, you recognise that you digital dimwit. Haud oan another minute, the details I filled in first haven’t stored so I need to do that again – and now the address needs to be re-entered. This isn’t a valid address...

Finally, it’s loading the details but then the sucker-punch: “Your myaccount already exists.”

Aaaaargh! “We have reset your password and sent you two emails. One email with a reminder of the username you’ll need to sign in every time you use the website. The second e-mail will contain a password, which you will need to sign into your account for the first time.”

Patience is now in short supply. Try the new user name and first-time password? Nope. Try the original email address and the first-time password? By this time I’m feeling like the Indian computer hacker in McMafia except the aim is not to make illicit riches but to give Adam McVey and his pals the benefit of my 25 quid.

READ MORE: Fraud fears spark change in ‘garden tax’ payments

Finally I’m into the Myaccount page. “Search services” brings up a list of council logos and at least you can compare the best designs. Fittingly, Moray’s looks like migraine aura. Woo hoo, there’s Edinburgh, so click ... look for garden waste? Nope, the only leaf is on the Midlothian logo.

Start again. “Yes, take me there” says the button. Please, please take me there, and sure enough there’s the tab for garden waste. Phew, click ... have I registered with myaccount? YES, in the name of pity, YES!

With trepidation, I click the green bar again. This time it’s the form and with my details too. I’m there, I’m actually there. Proceed to payment. Please take my money, please let this be over.

But across Edinburgh at every domestic computer, the revenge of the tax-payer awaits.

Pythonesque government

As they said in Monty Python: “And now the punchline ...” This from a myscotgov announcement: “2018 will be a big year for this multiple award-winning service ... More online public services ‘powered by’ myaccount will launch – Parents Portal, NHS Scotland’s Health and Social Care Portal ... All will not only contribute growth for myaccount but will also build further confidence in online public services.” Deep in the heart of Government, someone believes this.

Airports are hypnotising us into parting with our cash

At the peak of the holiday season, it doesn’t take an RAC survey to remind Edinburgh people that parking at Edinburgh Airport represents poor value for money, but in fairness to Edinburgh that applies to most airports.

Whether Edinburgh compares favourably with other terminals or not, they all rely on extracting as much money from passengers for a substantial amount of their income. Never mind parking, amid the combination of post-security and pre-holiday euphoria, passengers are mesmerised as they wend their way through the maze of booze and outsize chocolate bars, choked by the fug of atomised perfume cocktails. Pure retail hypnosis.