If this is the government of enterprise, not rent, ask yourself why capital gains tax (at 28%) is lower than the top rate of income tax. Ask yourself why principal residences, though their value may rise by millions, are altogether exempt. Ask yourself why rural landowners are typically excused capital gains tax, inheritance tax and the first five years of income tax. The enterprise society? It’s a con, designed to create an illusion of social mobility.
The Scottish programme for government is the first serious attempt to address the nature of landholding in Britain since David Lloyd George’s budget of 1909. Some of its aims hardly sound radical until you understand the context. For example, it will seek to discover who owns the land. Big deal? Yes, in fact, it is. At the moment the owners of only 26% of the land in Scotland have been identified.
Walk into any mairie in France or ayuntamiento in Spain and you will be shown the cadastral registers on request, on which all the land and its owners are named. When The Land magazine tried to do the same in Britain, it found that there was a full cadastral map available at the local library that could be photocopied for 70p. But it was made in 1840. Even with expert help, it took the magazine several weeks of fighting official obstruction and obfuscation and almost £1,000 to find out who owns the 1.4 sq km around its offices in Dorset. It discovered that the old registers had been closed and removed from public view at the behest of a landed class that wishes to remain as exempt from public scrutiny as it is from taxes. (The landowners are rather more forthcoming when applying for subsidies from the rural payments agency, which possesses a full, though unobtainable, register of their agricultural holdings.) What sort of nation is this, in which you cannot discover who owns the ground beneath your feet?