Bitter feud over Cumbernauld Tax Office #IndyRef future continues

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 16:27 on 10 September 2014.
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Mr Hepburn says McClymont is scaremongering over Tax Office jobs.                                                                                                                     Picture: Cumbernauld Media.

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A BITTER feud has erupted between local of Cumbernauld’s elected parliamentarians, as both battle over the future of Cumbernauld Tax Office – the town’s largest employer.

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth’s SNP MSP, Jamie Hepburn has again attacked comments made by Gregg McClymont, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s Labour MP, in which Mr McClymont warned that a vote for independence was effectively a vote to close Cumbernauld Tax Office, claiming that 1,400 jobs were on the line.

The town’s MP stood alongside Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Jim Murphy MP and Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, Anas Sarwar, outside Cumbernauld Tax Office, late last month to issue a chilling proclamation that independence could wipe out the 1,400 jobs at the site.

At the time, Labour man, McClymont said: “When you talk to people in Cumbernauld practically everyone knows someone who works there – it is the UK’s biggest tax centre, and is hugely important locally.”

He claimed that: “But if Scotland became independent it would lose more than 90 per cent of its market immediately – which then poses a very obvious question about jobs.”

However, the comments from the Shadow Work and Pensions Minister caused a war of words between ‘Yes’ campaigners, Cumbernauld’s Nationalist Member of the Scottish Parliament, and the HMRC branch of the PCS union. 

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth SNP MSP, Jamie Hepburn criticised the Shadow Work and Pensions Minister for attacking the idea of independence rather than mentioning “Tory cuts [which] are threatening 40 local posts”, meanwhile John Miller, PCS Cumbernauld Revenue & Customs Office Secretary said it was “unacceptable for Gregg McClymont, Jim Murphy and Anas Sarwar to make statements which seek to distort facts and are tantamount to deceiving the public and the employees of the local tax office on job security as a result of a Yes vote in the forthcoming independence referendum.”

Since the original exchange, the battle has continued on – after Mr McClymont repeated his comments in last week’s edition of the Cumbernauld News – an action which Mr Hepburn referred to as “scaremongering”. 

According to the area’s Member of the Scottish Parliament, the “Scottish Government’s white paper on independence ‘Scotland’s Future’ makes clear that with independence all those Civil Servant’s currently employed in Scotland by the UK Government will have their employment transferred to the Scottish Civil Service. It also details how this transfer will see the existing policies of no compulsory redundancies and payment of at least the Living Wage already enjoyed by their Scottish Government counterparts being extended to them.”

“Rather than inventing threats, Mr McClymont should be holding the UK Government to account for the real and present threat of job loses which are hanging over the heads of some 43 employees and their families,” Mr Hepburn said, in reacting to Mr McClymont’s repeated remarks.

He added: “The reality is that it is not independence that threatens job security at HMRC, but continued management by the UK Government. We know that the PCS Union, which represents workers at HMRC has identified further tens of thousands of jobs to be cut by the UK Government.

“The Scottish Government has made clear commitments to transfer over UK Government Civil Service employment in Scotland with independence.

“Not only would these jobs remain but they would be better protected, as the Scottish Government’s policy of no compulsory redundancies would be extended to include all Civil Servants, as would the policy of paying the living wage as a minimum. These are policies which the UK Government hasn’t committed to.

“It is regrettable that the No campaign have to repeat scare stories which have long since been disproven. Little wonder then that the wheels are coming off the No campaign as momentum builds to a Yes vote.”

Page 122 of ‘Scotland’s Future’ – the manifesto for how an independent Scotland might look, according to the Scottish Government – lays claim that: “…the Scottish Government proposes a transitional period during which the current functions of HMRC are continued in Scotland and the rest of the UK on a shared services basis126. Taxpayers will therefore see no immediate change to their current arrangements for paying tax on independence. However, the initial improvements to the system will be in place within the period of the first independent parliament.”

The so-called ‘guide to independence’, adds – on page 364 – “The structure of public services under independence will be for future Scottish governments and parliaments to decide. The current Scottish Government’s plans for the Parliamentary term beginning in May 2016 would be to… establish a citizen-focused personal tax system, with staff transferring from HMRC to provide the necessary skills and capacity within Revenue Scotland”.
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