SNP pressed to ‘pick a side’ on income tax

Written by Tom Freeman on 20 September 2017 in News

Labour uses opposition day debate to push parties to clarify their plans for income tax

Scottish Parliament - Anita Gould

MSPs will debate the levels on income tax in Scotland today as Scottish Labour press the SNP to back plans to raise taxes to pay for services.

The Scottish Parliament has greater control over the levels of income tax rates and thresholds since 2016, and while the Scottish Government has not changed the basic rate, it has varied the threshold of the higher 40p rate.

Labour and the Scottish Greens have campaigned for a more progressive approach, while the Scottish Conservatives have argued for rates to be the same as the rest of the UK>

In her programme for government First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to discuss rates with other parties

“The time is right, in my view, to open a discussion about how responsible and progressive use of our tax powers could help build the kind of country we want to be,” she said.

Today Scottish Labour will force the issue with an opposition motion on the subject.

Interim leader Alex Rowley said: “The SNP faces a choice: tax cuts for the richest and public spending cuts for the rest with the Tories, or using the powers to protect public services with Labour. Today Nicola Sturgeon and her MSPs must make that choice.”

Labour’s 2016 manifesto pledged to introduce a 50p tax rate. The party has claimed it would have raised an extra £1bn for services.

Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said his party had been “leading the debate” on tax.

The Scottish greens have argued for an overhaul of the whole system which would see those on low incomes pay less and high earners pay considerably more.

“It's frustrating that it’s taken this long to get the Scottish Government and other parties to say they’re open to the discussion,” he said.

“Nevertheless, by working together, we can see people on low incomes given a tax cut, while those on high incomes should pay a fairer share for the public services we all benefit from.”

The Scottish Conservatives’ shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said Scotland already has a reputation as a high-tax economy.

“We simply don’t accept that there is a case for increasing the tax burden on hardworking Scottish families,” he said.

“The reality is we are already spending much more on our public services than the UK average, but in too many cases having poorer outcomes. And with increasing taxes for those paying above the basic rate, there is a real risk that you end up with a lower tax take as a result.

“It sends out a dangerous message which suggests Scotland is not an attractive place to live, work and do business if we are the highest-taxed part of the UK. We want competitive taxes in Scotland to help grow our economy, increase tax revenues and make Scotland the best place to be.

“We reject these calls from Labour to do the opposite, and urge the SNP to make its position clear.”

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