Poll tax protests.

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Introducing the poll tax:

In 1990 the conservative government wanted to change the way that local government was financed. The plan was to replace the existing rates system with a 'poll tax'. It would tax everyone over the age of 18 and everybody would pay the same amount. 

The old system was based on an estimate of the value of each house, so people with expensive houses paid more than people with poor houses. In the new system all adults in a family would pay but it also meant that wealthy people and poor people would be paying the same amount. 

  • In 1987 a new law was passed to introduce the tax in Scotland on the 1st April 1989. It was then to apply to the rest of Britain from 1st April 1990.
  • It was a flat rate tax and there was no consideration about whether people could afford to pay it, unless you were in a very poor income category.
  • All those over 18 were liable to pay the tax, exceptions were the homeless, the severely mentally impaired and members of religious communities.
  • The act set up a register of all those over the age of 18 who where liable to pay the new tax.

Protest or resistance?

In Scotland when the poll tax was first introduced public opinion was divided. The labour government argued for traditional protest marches and campaigns within the law to persuade the government to drop the tax-leaflets, posters and stickers were printed. Other groups also organised events, letter writing and information campaigns. Some groups thought more needed to be done so they resisted the tax. 

This created an important divide in the tactics of opposition to the poll tax. 

Protest within the law: campaigns to build public opposition to the point at which it would vote out the conservatives.

Resistance to the law: people prepared to disobey the law and take the consequences. 

The two main methods of resistance to the poll tax: 

Non-registration- ignoring the fines imposed as a result of not registering. 

Non-payment- but not as individuals- organised local groups would defend all those taken to court. Think about passive resistance= protest marches, posters, stickers and leaflets. 

Non-payment of poll tax was the most significant form of resistance. A person non-registering was also important but the numbers involved in non-payment were huge. When the poll tax ended in 1993 it was estimated that £2.5 billion of the poll tax was still unpaid.

The non-payment method caused huge problems for the government because they couldn't arrest 18 million people. 

When people were taken to court for non-payment they would often refuse to pay their fine.

The protest was organised in a new way- by local groups,




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