Decriminalising personal drug use, a land tax and prioritising the eradication of poverty would be considered if Scotland became independent, an SNP report has said.
The wide-ranging proposals from the Social Justice and Fairness Commission also include immigration reform with freedom of movement and a written constitution as a “crucial part of a renewed social contract” between the Government and people of Scotland.
The group was commissioned by Nicola Sturgeon in 2019 and its report says it wants to offer a “blueprint to future governments” on key policy areas if Scotland was to break away from the UK.
Tackling poverty in Scotland should be “the single most important ambition that the Government of an independent Scotland could seek to achieve”, according to the report.
But it claims poverty in Scotland cannot be eradicated without Scottish independence, suggesting Holyrood can “just reduce or mitigate its effects”.
Looking at drug reform, the commission calls for a citizens’ assembly to study the potential for the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use.
An independent commission featuring drug users and addicts should also be created to build consensus across political parties and wider society about the drug laws and policies of an independent country.
The commission backs trialling safe consumption rooms “with a view to expansion if it proves effective” as part of efforts to address Scotland’s drug deaths crisis.
Residential rehabilitation services must also be expanded, the report argues, “to ensure that this is a viable option available quickly to those who could benefit from that service”.
Calling for a “fairer, bespoke approach” to immigration in Scotland, the report argues the UK Government’s “pernicious” drive to reduce migration and barriers to entry create insecurity and undermine communities.
Raising issues such as depopulation in some parts of the country, the report adds: “Its relentless pursuit of a hostile environment is inhumane and ineffective, and entirely at odds with Scotland’s needs.”
Instead, the report proposes allowing free movement, with visa schemes that benefit rural and remote areas at risk of depopulation, allowing asylum seekers to work and creating an independent agency to adjudicate on asylum applications.
On tax, the report supports widespread reform of the tax system, with more progressive taxation so higher earners pay more, as well as the greater use of taxes to address the climate emergency.
The report adds: “The commission believes that we should shift the burden of taxation away from productive parts of the economy that we want to encourage, towards areas and activities that we want to discourage.”
It also backs a land value tax as part of a reformed property taxation system that could “remove our dependence on council tax, land and buildings transaction tax (LBTT) and non-domestic rates”.
Exploring the issue of a universal basic income – a minimum income for everyone without means testing – the report says there are “significant potential advantages” but identifies “practical and complex issues” with the idea, as well as requiring much higher tax levels than exist currently.
Setting out plans for a “democratic renewal”, the report suggests “agreeing, defining and enshrining our shared values and goals” in a written constitution that sets out the responsibilities of any Government.
The commission’s deputy convener, Neil Gray, said: “One of the obvious and important lessons learned by producing this report during the period of the coronavirus crisis is that huge changes can be achieved if the political will exists to be bold, dynamic and innovative.
“Alongside all those who contributed to the commission, I believe we have delivered a blueprint, a route map to a more socially just Scotland, one that focuses on how we should make policy decisions that can help us build a fairer and happier society.”
The SNP MSP added: “We have focused on issues affecting Scotland that have been particularly prominent and pressing during the pandemic, those that offer the greatest scope for tackling poverty. And, while the Commission has merely scratched the surface, the potential that exists to develop policy that delivers our shared ambitions is enormous.
“This report takes the first steps but now there is a need to delve deeply, to develop detail for practical implementation, and to build consensus.”
Responding to the report, Scottish Conservative housing spokesman, Miles Briggs, said: “This wish-list from the SNP is not remotely credible. Their election manifesto wasn’t costed and this blueprint for their vision of a future Scotland isn’t either.
“It is based on fantasy economics. They simply don’t accept the reality that independence would already cost Scottish families thousands of pounds before their plans to spend even more public money.
He added: “This report also talks up a raft of policies that the SNP have the powers at their disposal right now to tackle. We’ve heard it all before from SNP ministers on scrapping or reforming council tax during their 14 years in office.
“It was also Nicola Sturgeon who took her eye off the ball in relation to drug deaths and slashed funding for vital rehabilitation services. They don’t need drug laws to be devolved to fix that right now.
“The Scottish public deserve the SNP’s focus to be on our recovery from Covid, rather than talking up their plans for an independent Scotland.”