Lifting cap won't cost them a single penny but it took them until last Friday to do so

MY early years as a political activist were dominated by the poll tax.

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I can still remember vividly the sense of outrage across Scotland at the unfairness of it and at the fact that it was being imposed on Scotland a year earlier than the rest of the UK by a Tory government that had no mandate here.

There is no doubt that the experience of the poll tax cemented my belief that Scotland should be independent and that we should no longer have to put up with policies that the vast majority of us had rejected. Twenty five years later, the bedroom tax provokes similar feelings.

Once again a deeply unfair policy that threatens to take people's homes away from them is being imposed by a Tory government that we didn't vote for and against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of our MPs, MSPs and people who live here.

It is downright wrong.

And, although 25 years on from the poll tax, we have a Scottish Parliament, we still can't prevent the bedroom tax from being introduced - welfare is one of the responsibilities that lies with Westminster.

What we can do though, is take away the impact of the bedroom tax.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government set aside enough money in our budget to allow us to effectively compensate everyone affected by the bedroom tax, through what are known as discretionary housing payments.

Our objective was to make sure that no-one would be threatened with eviction because they couldn't afford to pay the tax.

However, so absurd is the way that we are currently governed by Westminster, that it still wasn't as simple as that.

The UK government sets a cap on how much can be spent on discretionary housing payments.

What that meant was that, even though we had set aside enough money to deal with the bedroom tax, we couldn't spend it without that cap being lifted.

So we have been asking the UK government - repeatedly - since January to lift the cap.

Doing so won't cost them a single penny, so there seemed to be no good reason why they wouldn't quickly agree.

But it took them until last Friday to do so.

At long last they have agreed - not to lift the cap - but to pass the legal power to the Scottish Government to allow us to do so.

I welcome the move, belated though it is, because it will now allow us to protect people in Scotland from the bedroom tax.

But I can't help thinking that it would make so much more sense if, instead of having to jump through hoops to mitigate the impact of Tory policies we don't agree with, we had the power to decide those policies ourselves in our own parliament.

With a Yes vote in September that is exactly what we will get.

No longer will Tory governments we don't vote for be able to impose a poll tax, a bedroom tax or any other unfair tax that Scotland hasn't voted for.

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