Wales needs control of taxes so that we can forge our own economic future
Steffan Lewis, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East
The government has published the first ever rates for the Land Transactions Tax, the replacement for Stamp Duty which is the tax on buying homes.
I am reliably informed that these are first distinct taxes to be levied by a Welsh administration since the Statute of Rhuddlan. And they are totally different to the rates that have been proposed for England.
This is a fundamental change, with Welsh people having no living memory of paying different national taxes to England.
Wales, England and Scotland are increasingly moving in different directions when it comes to public finance.
While the march of Brexit suggests a Westminster power-grab (and this prospect is completely real), the flow of powers before the EU referendum was in the other direction, albeit at a very slow pace.
As a Welsh nationalist, I welcome this policy divergence from England.
For once, we can imagine people living here to be Welsh taxpayers and Welsh citizens, and paying different taxes to our neighbours is an important step in deepening that relationship.
Plaid Cymru has long advocated that Wales should set distinct and better tax policies than England.
For what it’s worth, my analysis is that the proposed rates by the government are more suited to the Welsh housing market than the equivalent rates that are being endorsed at Westminster.
I believe there is scope for more action on second homes, but Labour and the Conservatives have usually been reluctant to agree, so this may have to wait for a Plaid Cymru government.
However, my challenge to the Labour Government is that if decisions on Stamp Duty are better made in Wales, then why not other economic decisions as well?
Independence is the only way to have a truly complete set of economic and fiscal levers in Wales.
But tax devolution is already happening, and is a normal development. Countries whose governments want independence, namely Scotland, Catalonia and Flanders, already have substantial tax devolution and have used that devolution to shape their own economies, ahead of independence being attained.
There is no particular contradiction between the two, and the point is that a looser and less powerful British state means a stronger, more confident Wales.
So if the Labour Government accepts that taxes on property should be made in Wales, why not Corporation Tax too? Why not VAT?
Why not keep even more of the £18bn we generate here in Wales? Do they honestly think the Tories could do a better job?
My position is clear. Tax policy should be set, controlled and decided for Wales, by Wales, as a matter of principle, no matter who is in power.
Our national story is one of small steps, because the unionist parties have for so long conspired to stop us from taking giant leaps.
But Plaid Cymru can and will grasp these new opportunities to forge a future for the nation which is decided by ourselves, not dictated to us from London.