CHILDCARE AND FINANCES
Scotland’s fertility rate is far too low to sustain the population. Falling population causes many problems for a nation, not least with regard to the financial support of the retired. Many families would like to have more children, but financial and practical pressures deter them. We seek to reduce these barriers.
For decades, government policy has had the aim of encouraging both parents to work instead of committing full time to caring for their children. We reject the philosophy that regards it as desirable that men and women approach family life and career in identical ways. We believe that each family should make its own decisions in this area, and the state’s role is to facilitate these choices. There is currently generous support for those opting for the twin income model, in the form of subsidised and free childcare. However, those favouring full-time parenthood are penalised rather than supported, paying high taxes to subsidise childcare for other families while receiving no help themselves.
Our policies are intended to redress the balance. The Government is doubling the hours of nursery care provided for 3 and 4 year olds. We would offer cash in lieu of this additional provision for families deciding they do not want their young child to spend so long away from a parent. A family wanting their child to go to nursery in the morning but not the afternoon as well would be entitled to a substantial payment instead.
Instead of treating married couples as two individuals for tax purposes, we should move to a system that assesses them as a family. Tax allowances would, therefore, be fully transferable. Beyond that, we also would consider additional tax allowances while dependent children are living with parents. Variants on this system are common in European countries which do not have the same structural anti-family bias as the UK tax system. This is a reserved matter, so we would press this case at the Westminster level, and urge that the necessary powers be devolved so that Scotland can lead the way in treating families fairly.
Child benefit payments should be increased, and be available regardless of family size.
Those without dependent children may need to pay more tax to balance out these changes. This is justified because each generation relies on upcoming generations to pay for their care in retirement. It is unfair if those producing these vital new generations are not compensated for their expense in doing so.
The need for a large, and therefore more expensive, home correlates with family size. Therefore, property-based Council Tax tends to penalise families with children. We would seek to offset this by either a Local Income Tax or Council Tax discounts for all families with dependent children. Council Tax is a devolved matter, so we press this case at Holyrood level.
Government agency and Council-run attractions, such as historic sites, museums and swimming pools, should give free entry to accompanied children.
Public transport providers should be encouraged to reduce children’s fares.
These measures would remove factors that may discourage parents from having more children. Scotland’s population decline could be addressed by such policies that would encourage larger families.