Douglas Ross defends tax cut plans for higher earners
Douglas Ross has defended plans to cut tax for higher earners, insisting it would bring back parity for those who are “taxed more for doing the exact same jobs” elsewhere in the UK.
The Scottish Conservative manifesto includes a commitment to return the higher tax rate to the same as England by the end of the parliament.
Currently earnings over £43,663 in Scotland are taxed at 41 per cent, while in England the higher rate, itself slightly lower at 40 per cent, does not kick in until a person earns over £50,271.
The party leader accepted it would take time to recover from COVID and therefore it would not be possible to make the change immediately, but he would seek to restore parity in the tax system as soon as possible.
Ross said: “As we see the budget for Scotland and the income from taxation, if we get to a stage where that is higher than our spending, then we would seek to restore the parity in our taxation system here in Scotland to help 1.1 million Scots who are paying higher taxes compared to other parts of the country.”
He confirmed the plan would be to retain the starter rate which sees those on the lowest incomes pay slightly less, while council tax would remain unchanged for the next five years.
Asked whether the plans to cut income tax was why the party had committed less to the NHS over than next five years than the SNP, Ross insisted this was because the Conservatives had fully costed its commitments.
He said: “We’ve fully costed our manifesto so we’ve said what we can do. The SNP have once again provided a policy document full of promises that sadly, I think if they were elected back into government, they will fail to deliver.”
Ross said his was the only party willing to hold the SNP to account on its commitments, adding the next parliament needed to be “laser-focused on recovery and rebuilding” after COVID.
But he would not be drawn on whether the SNP winning a majority at the election would provide the next Scottish Government with a mandate to hold a second independence referendum.
He said voters must pursue the “tried and tested” strategy of denying the SNP a majority.
And asked whether he believed there was no argument for the further devolution of any powers following the launch of a campaign to put a ‘devo-max’ option on any referendum ballot, he said the Scottish Parliament was “one of the most powerful devolved administrations anywhere in the world”.
He added: “Instead of constantly picking fights with Westminster, the SNP saying they need more powers, I’d like to see the Scottish Parliament focusing on the powers they have on delivering for people across Scotland.”