THE Tax Bus currently touring the UK on behalf of Christian Aid stopped in Inverurie Market Square on Friday, October 5.
Among those who boarded it were local supporters, including pupils from Inverurie Academy and GP’s Dr. Noel Mack and Claire Gunn, and Gordon MP Sir Malcolm Bruce. All of them are campaigning for changes to tax and accounting practices, to help ensure that international companies pay a fair amount of tax in all the places they operate.
Campaigners say that at present, many large international companies, just like some wealthy individuals in UK, employ clever advisors and use tax havens and other dubious practices to avoid paying their fair share of national taxes. Just as in Scotland, taxes go towards education and health care for all, so less tax means less education and more ill-health. And poorer countries don’t have strong tax authorities and other skilled people who can challenge and stop unfair tax avoidance. Christian Aid and other experts have calculated that the tax avoided by international companies far exceeds all the government and charitable aid that poor countries now receive. And the Committee of MPs that Malcolm Bruce chairs agree – they published a report on “Tax in Developing Countries” last August, with recommendations that the Westminster government has yet to accept.
Noel and Claire both have experience of working in hospitals in Africa, and know from personal experience how much of the health service we all take for granted just isn’t available to most people in Africa. And what they say is backed up by Lidi Nacpil from the Phillipines, who works for Christian Aid Partner Jubliee South.
Dr. Noel Mack commented “I’ve been amazed at the generosity of people in Gordon Presbytery when I came back from Nkhoma Hospital last year and told them about the need for a new emergency generator. Also the recent grants from the UK Department of International Development to the Malawi Health Ministry to pay their drug bills means that money owed to Nkhoma Hospital has recently been paid and their accounts are no longer in the red. But it would be so much better if the Health Ministry was properly funded by local taxes.”
Dr. Claire CalderwoodGunn did some of her Medical Undergraduate work in Kenya and said “We weren’t really encouraged to go, but learned so much that I’ve been able to use with my patients in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. I’d encourage other trainee doctors to do the same, and I’m really pleased that the Committee Sir Malcolm Bruce chairs has recommended the UK Health Services to be more proactive about such training – which benefits both countries in the long term.”
Ian Waldram, Chair of Garioch Christian Aid Committee commented “We’re so pleased that Inverurie was chosen as a Tax Bus stop. Lidi’s experience from the Phillipines, plus local supporters who know about Africa, all support what the International Development Committee is telling the UK Government – it’s time for UK to take the lead in this area, not wait for others. None of us enjoy paying tax, but we know in our hearts that if we didn’t then Scotland would be a worse place to live in. The same message is true for companies, in all the countries where they operate – pay your fair share!”