Scottish Parliament backs principle of tax rises after SNP abstain

Written by Tom Freeman on 21 September 2017 in News

MSPs back raising income tax after SNP members abstain

Derek Mackay - PA

MSPs have voted to accept the principle of a rise in income tax to pay for services after the SNP abstained in a Labour motion.

Scottish Labour had introduced the debate in an attempt to force the SNP to "pick a side" over tax and spend, but the SNP said it wanted to keep an "open mind" ahead of the budget.

But the Greens and the Lib Dems backed the Labour motion, meaning Conservative position of keeping income tax the same as elsewhere in the UK was defeated.


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In her programme for government First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had said she wanted to "open a discussion" on progressive taxation, but yesterday Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said that discussion would take place through a government discussion paper ahead of this year's budget.

"We know that, in the face of continued Westminster austerity, the consequences of Brexit and demographic change, there will be increasing pressure on our public services. That is why now is the time to enter into a debate about how we can use our income tax powers to help to protect our public services and ensure that they remain sustainable in the future," he said.

"As with all our tax powers, I am committed to developing an income tax policy that is progressive. We are committed to keeping progressivity at the heart of our income tax policy because we believe it is right that those who can afford to contribute the most continue to do so."

Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley said the vote was significant.

“If we are to protect public services we need to be willing to increase taxation – when push came to shove SNP politicians sat on their hands," he said. 

“That simply is not good enough. Scotland deserves better than a government that doesn’t know whether it thinks taxes should go up or down. The SNP now must respect the will of parliament. Only Labour's tax plans can stop the cuts and protect public services." 

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the abstention showed the SNP "accepted" there would need to be a rise in income tax.

We don’t want to tax for the sake of it. We want to see a transformational investment in education to give our children the best start in life and provide them with the tools to succeed.

“Taxation is a force for good that has the ability to help change people’s lives and the Scottish Parliament must come together to deliver change.”

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said:

“This is the clearest sign yet that the SNP is heading for a tax raid on the majority of Scotland's workers. The nationalists are lurching to the left, and the hardworking people of Scotland will pay the price.
 
“The Scottish Conservatives are now the only party in Scotland who stand against this tax-grabbing agenda."

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