cryptogirl: (Rael)
[personal profile] cryptogirl
So we spotted something on the news last night that perhaps Wings over Scotland and Bella Caledonia may be interested in. I'm not usually given to doing a spot of civic journalism or whatever you call it, but this was the BBC and, well, they're not in my good books generally at the moment.

Last night, Reporting Scotland ran a story on the perils of introducing a new tax system in an independent Scotland. The figure they quoted from ICAS was £750m, which was, they said, the cost of a less complex overhaul in New Zealand. The cost might be more than that because Scaremongering Reasons, they add. Don't forget the cost of setting up a website, they holler. Michty me, will nobody think of the poor web developers in an independent Scotland? *clutches pearls to chest*

(You can watch it if you're quick on iPlayer from the 10:29 mark.)

My husband wrinkled his nose at all this (he's good at being suspicious of news facts). 'Could you fact check that figure?' he asks. I duly head off to Professor Google, but I have a hard time finding anything beyond what the UK papers are now gleefully crowing about:

- The Hootsmon runs with a figure of £3.25 billion.

- The venerable FT does exactly the same.

- And just because I needed a good therapeutic dry retch, the Sexpress moans that Salmond 'hides separation plan's true impact on tax costs'. (Fire your sub, by the way. 'What are you hidding Alex Salmond'? Really?)

Anyway. I remembered that [ profile] crazyscot is now our local friendly New Zealand correspondent, and thought I might ask him for a bit more reliable information on this. He didn't recall hearing the figure they're using, but some digging found this recent piece, claiming they're considering spending NZ$1.5bn (£750m) on a tax system overhaul. Considering. I'm assured that this paper is pretty reliable journalistically, being part of the NZ Herald group.

So, they're only considering it? Why on earth is ICAS and the Scottish media throwing the £750m thing about then?

Well, there's this piece which you'll note is dated last year. In it, MP Peter Dunne explains this is a ballpark figure, and that some parts of the system may cost more or less to overhaul. Interestingly, the interview suggests that a similar overhaul for a larger country, Australia, cost $800m and was totally disastrous. Oh, and the company mentioned in the Hawkes Bay piece, Xero, pop up a year ago too explaining how the cost could be brought down.

Let's just spell that out. They were *planning* to spend £750m on an overhaul *last year*, and they're still only *planning* to maybe do this. This is not the same as 'has already spent a wodge of cash on the tax system'. Golfclaps all round, UK media!

It's almost as if you can't tell how much anything will cost or the end result without your Magical Independence Crystal Balltm.

That's right, NOBODY KNOWS.

ICAS, by the way, have stated they are neutral in the wake of the CBI furore. It's almost as if they've stuck their pin in a map of imaginary financial disasters to scare the natives. I mean, let's not forget that in an independent Scotland supermarkets will charge extortionate amounts, all businesses will pack up and leave, you won't be able to watch Doctor Who and you'd all be left pawing sadly at the barbed wire erected over Hadrian's Wall.

Only, that's all a load of wank. Speaking of wank, I wonder if ICAS, the BBC or any of the papers are going to do some fact checking of their own. It'd be nice to know the media provide a balanced, impartial account of the upcoming referendum CBI member, the BBC.


Date: 2014-05-24 06:48 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] swaldman
My overall reaction to this is.... "meh".

So independence would mean that some new systems needed to be set up, which would cost some money. This is news?

The numbers sound scary, so I guess that's why we're hearing them... but even if they're right it's a one-time cost, not an annual one.

Date: 2014-05-21 11:30 am (UTC)
aldabra: (ghost)
From: [personal profile] aldabra
£750M would create a fair few jobs, wouldn't it. Especially if they had the wit to spend it *in Scotland*.

Date: 2014-05-21 12:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Like a lot of things, this depends on the nightmare that is state procurement of IT services.

It's worth comparing with Westminster: Universal Credit has lost an unknown large amount of money "Senior civil servants pitch the current total losses between £161m to almost the entire amount spent so far (which ranges from £312m to almost £700m depending on who you ask, and Labour says equates to just over £190,000 per claimant)."

The other thing to watch is the "baseline": how much is HMRC planning to spend on reorganisation anyway? For example, consolidating its buildings. Or the devolved taxation which is about to happen anyway.

Hopefully everyone will see sense and partition the existing buildings, staff and computers geographically, and Revenue Scotland would be given a copy of the current database* (or at least the subset for people living and/or working in Scotland) plus the existing software, so it can continue operating from day 1 until further changes are made.

No doubt Oracle, IBM and Accenture would turn up after a Yes offering to "help" with new IT systems for Scotland; hopefully we could fend them off.

*someone's going to contest this on DPA grounds, aren't they? uhoh

Date: 2014-05-21 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
::reading and sighing but without comment to add::


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