Lucius Winslow is an MA student at Queen’s University Belfast, who takes delight in being described as a Unionist reactionary, and hardline Tory. He also writes things.
Today represents the first post I have made since being given an actual account on Open Unionism. So I thought I would immediately abuse the trust of our editor Henry Hill (whom I should congratulate for getting the ConHome gig) and blog on something supremely anodyne: the new plastic bags tax that the Assembly has introduced.
For those of you who haven’t been following this riveting story closely; for every carrier bag supplied by a retailer, the customer will be expected to fork out five pence. The proceeds of the levy will go towards the Department of the Environment. The Department’s spin on it – filled as it is with the usual Green guff – is here
Please bear with me, there are reasons why this is relevant. And they are not because of the sums involved. I am under no illusions; I suspect the monies raised will be fantastically small. But the principle is one about which it is worth talking.
My own philosophy inclines strongly towards small government, and a somewhat libertarian conception of the state. And that is why I welcome this tax. Because it is a specific tax, and indeed an ad valorum tax – it is adding a surcharge to a good or service. This is far superior in form to income tax, which comes dangerously close to theft, and is at the very least confiscation. The faster and greater we shift the tax burden from income and wealth taxation towards specific, ad valorum, excises, and levies, the better.
But the second reason we might cautiously welcome this rare good move by Alex Attwood is because, as I already mentioned, the proceeds of the levy shall go towards the Department of the Environment. In other words, Stormont has just made itself that little bit less dependent on Her Majesty’s Treasury.
I am one of those unionists who finds it acutely embarrassing that we are so greatly subsidised by London. My views can be neatly surmised by the rather ironically named Sir Wilfrid Spender, who in 1939 (yes, Northern Ireland was a Treasury junkie even then!) wrote bitterly: ‘I think the world quite mad… my views on economics are quite too old-fashioned for modern conditions… and I am even fool enough to believe that one ought to live on one’s own income.’
Now there is an argument that because of Northern Ireland’s land border, and the higher rate of corporation tax we are crippled by Whitehall’s fiscal policies, and are entitled to some form of relief. Perhaps, but the constant pleating for special treatment is very grating for London, and shameless by Belfast.
If this new plastic bags tax reduces our rather cap-in-hand approach to London even by a little bit, then good. We have been taking vast sums from the central government for nearly eighty years now; that can’t end soon enough.Share on Facebook