The Tories used Scotland as a testing ground for the poll tax

Margaret Curran

Today’s revelations from UK Government papers released under the thirty year rule confirm what many people across Scotland have suspected since the 1980s – that the Tories used Scotland as a testing ground for the poll tax.

What is more shocking is that it was Oliver Letwin – now David Cameron’s policy chief – who pushed the idea of trialling the poll tax in Scotland, against the advice of other Tory ministers.


All through the 1980s, Scottish Labour stood against the poll tax and stood with people across Scotland who were affected. It was a cruel and unjust tax and, much like the bedroom tax, hit people across the country who couldn’t afford to pay it.

Unsurprisingly, it was one of the final straws that eventually led to the downfall of Margaret Thatcher.

David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher are two Prime Ministers separated by thirty years, but they share the same policy adviser. And Oliver Letwin is now the man responsible for ideas such as the bedroom tax and the millionaires’ tax cut.

The phrase “same old Tories” has never been more appropriate.

Then, like now, the Tories were completely out of touch with the will of the Scottish people, and it took the Labour Party to get rid of them and clear up the mess that they made.

Today’s documents also reveal that David Willetts – then also a Downing Street adviser – wanted to freeze the Barnett Formula in order to reduce the Scottish budget.

At a time when industries across Scotland were going to the wall, and unemployment was crippling many Scottish communities, the Tories were plotting to cut Scotland’s budget even further.

In 1985, the Tories had only been in power for 6 years, and still had another 12 to go. They were only at the start of their project to change the face of our country forever.

Today, we also have a Tory Government that has only been around for a few years and they have tried to start where Margaret Thatcher left off.

We can’t allow them to carry on for another decade, let alone another five years.

In May, we have the chance to get rid of this Tory Government and just like the poll tax was consigned to history after fierce, we’ll start work to get rid of the Tories hated bedroom tax on day one.

Scotland cannot afford another five years of the Tories. These would be five years when people like Oliver Letwin and David Willetts could go even further and finish the job that they started with Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

This weekend, a whistle-blower revealed that the SNP really would do anything if they had the balance of power in May, including signing up to support the bedroom tax. That means they’re preparing to deal with the Tories after May.

That means that the only way to get rid of the Tories – and Tory policies – from Scotland is to vote Scottish Labour this May. Every vote for the SNP is a vote that will let David Cameron, and Margaret Thatcher’s advisers, back into Downing Street.

Margaret Curran is Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

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