Submitted to The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 20/12/15
I had a tweet printed last week where I had stated that Phil Boswell had engaged in a legal method of tax avoidance. M Wilkinson also commented on this by letter and their opinion was that due to Mr Boswell’s wealth he should “do the right thing“ and pay the money back to HMRC. Looks like M Wilkinson is pretty envious of the fact that Mr Boswell has made a few bob, but that’s a pretty poor reason to single him out for special treatment. I’m one of over 400,000 people who use a legal method of tax avoidance: the Cycle to Work Scheme. By using this scheme I can buy a bike and at the same time I avoid a small percentage of my income tax. This is used by many people across the country, and is not only 100% legal but it’s promoted by the government. It’s used as an incentive to get people out of their cars and to adopt a healthier lifestyle. There are many other legal methods of avoiding paying one tax or another, which the government allows for one reason or another; charitable donations, pensions, ISA’s, the list goes on, and it’s perhaps surprising how many people utilise these schemes.
As far as I can see Mr Boswell has used a legal scheme to avoid paying some tax; it just happens to be a far bigger chunk than the average person saves. He’s also asking that this particular scheme be closed off. Cynics may say that’s a bit rich as he appears to be pulling up the ladder behind him, having already benefitted from it. Supporters on the other hand may say that he’s using his personal knowledge of the system to point out an outdated method which now needs to be closed off. And those who don’t really care but simply wish to make political capital from the situation, be they his opponents outside or indeed inside the SNP will engage in the time old game of throwing mud and hoping some sticks. Already some are calling for him to be reported to the Parliamentary Standards Commission, knowing fine well that earlier this year they already clarified that events which take place before someone becomes an MP aren’t within their remit. This won’t stop the calls for enquiries, suspension or the like, and I’d say that people should look closely at those doing the shouting instead and ask if the best tactic they can come up with is a pointless smear is there really any substance to their argument.
Of course it would be nice if Phil Boswell would just come out and set the record straight, but like his SNP colleague Sophia Coyle he has been gagged by his party, and it must be a real concern even to SNP members themselves that no effective rebuttals are employed, merely the issue of a brief statement, a battening down of the hatches and a faint hope that it will all just go away.