Fly the flag and write off debts, say SNP councillors

The Saltire must fly above council offices every day and unpaid poll tax debts should be written off, SNP councillors have said.

Two motions are being submitted to next week’s meeting of Argyll and Bute’s policy and resources committee by members of the SNP group.

The total unpaid poll tax or community charge owed to Argyll and Bute Council is more than £7.5m, although most of this is subject to ‘prescription’, since the debts are more than 20 years old.

A motion by Helensburgh councillor James Robb calls for the authority to stop chasing these debts, and also to refund all poll tax arrears payments made since October 2 – that figure is currently £10.

Cllr Robb has also seconded a motion from Bute’s Isobel Strong which calls for the Saltire to be flown every day of the year apart from those specified in the council’s ‘flags policy’.

A council spokesperson made the following comment on the current situation concerning poll tax debt: “For those debts not yet prescribed we will continue to collect in the normal fashion. The council is considering writing off community charge debts but as yet no decision has been made.

“Our council tax team receives regular monthly updates of the electoral register, which is then used to ensure the council tax register is accurate; this will continue as normal.”

Seven of the council’s 36 members are SNP representatives – the party won a by-election in Oban last week; it won 12 seats in the 2012 elections but has been hit by a series of resignations.


  1. Its a disgrace and should not be written off. If you owe money then that should be collected. No wonder A&B Council are the worst run council in Britain. If you let them get away with this what else will he let them get away with.

  2. The poll tax only existed for four years before being scrapped in 1993, after widespread protests. Some poll tax arrears have effectively been written off under laws that extinguish unacknowledged debts after 20 years. Write-off Is a business practice in many organisations, and would certainly be a very common response against debts, like these ones, which are over 20 years old.

    It is worth repeating the leader column, which appeared on 2 October this year in the Scotsman, not a newspaper noted for its love of the SNP or admiration for Alex Salmond. The Scotsman said:

    “Two cardinal points barely need repetition. First, people should pay their debts. But second, if a tax is perceived by a large number of people to be unfair, there will be immense problems in securing its collection. The bills for the poll tax, coinciding as they did with a rates revaluation, came as a shock to many. In both timing and concept – a binman and a millionaire paid the same amount – it was injudicious and iniquitous. Little wonder it was abandoned four years later.

    The passage of more than 20 years since its withdrawal makes it no more acceptable. Those who de-registered because they would not, or could not, pay suffered disenfranchisement. This was a tragedy for democracy. Penalising people who chose to register to vote in the independence referendum with demands for payment now adds a further injustice. That Scots coaxed back into the democratic fold should be punished for so doing is grotesque and unacceptable.

    Mr Salmond may be accused of playing to the gallery in settling an old political score against the Conservatives. But he is right to act as he did. The poll tax is a stain on our history, and until last month its effects were still with us in a lack of engagement with the political process by a significant section of the population. It is time to turn the page. Massive re-engagement with the political process is something to celebrated. It bodes well for the future of our country. That is surely more important than the collection of a tainted debt.”

    On this unusual occasion, the Scotsman got it right, and Argyll & Bute Council should follow its advice.

  3. I was raised through my life to always pay my way and my debts. Under no circumstances should anyone who can honestly pay their debts be allowed to get away with it. Be it a bin man or millionaire. Right from the start there were people that blatantly refused to pay this because of their political beliefs, and nothing to do with they couldn’t pay. A debt should not be written of just because of a certain time period. This is why so many people now contact debt agencies because they have run up vast amount of debt on credit cards and whatever.
    Today it is so easy to run away from debt, wait six years and then start all over again. That is why this country is in such a state has it is. If you owe you pay full stop or pay the consequences. Again it is so so easy today to run away rather than face up to reality.

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