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by Louise Wilson
22 February 2024
Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar clash over windfall tax

Humza Yousaf faced questions on the windfall tax and NHS at FMQs | Alamy

Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar clash over windfall tax

Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar have clashed over Labour's plan to increase the windfall tax on oil and gas firms.

The Scottish Labour leader accused the SNP of raising taxes on workers while “siding with energy giants”.

But the First Minister pointed to industry figures who have suggested that an increase to the levy would cost thousands of jobs in the sector.

Labour’s proposal was announced earlier this month, with the party saying it would increase the windfall tax on oil and gas profits from 75 to 78 per cent if it wins the next general election. The levy will also be extended by a year to 2029.

Speaking at FMQs, Sarwar said the SNP’s opposition to the proposals showed the party was putting energy firms ahead of workers.

He also hinted that industry warnings about the negative impact were incorrect. He said: “Every time Labour’s proposed a change to help working people, warnings have been made and they’ve not come true. In 1997 when Labour proposed a minimum wage and a windfall tax, they were warned it would cost two million jobs. It didn’t happen – it improved the lives of working people.”

Yousaf said the Labour leader was "calling the industry liars", adding the policy would leave workers "on the scrap heap".

He added Labour's plans would "completely wipe out" the benefits of Scotland's oil and gas sector, while at the same time the party would fail to invest in the new green economy.

Labour earlier this month U-turned on its plans to invest £28bn a year in its green strategy, with leader Keir Starmer saying that doing so would be "irresponsible" in the current fiscal climate.

Earlier in FMQs, the First Minister was forced to defend his record on the NHS after Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross raised a recent critical report from Audit Scotland.

Ross said the report proved the NHS in Scotland was "getting worse not better" and that an 11-fold increase in patients experiencing long waits was "shocking".

Ross added: "Those are Humza Yousaf's targets, it was his recovery plan... Humza Yousaf sent waiting times in the wrong direction. Will he now finally admit his plan has failed?"

Yousaf, then health secretary, launched the NHS recovery plan in 2021, which included commitments to recruit more staff, reduce the backlogs from the pandemic, and increase capacity. 

The Audit Scotland report warned growing demand, operational challenges, and increasing costs have added to already mounting financial pressures facing the NHS.

It urged the Scottish Government to develop a clear strategy for health and social care going forward.

The First Minister said his government took the findings "seriously" but the concerns raised were "common challenges" across the UK following the pandemic.

He accused the UK Government of "taking a hatchet to our public services", saying there had been a 10 per cent cut to the capital budget.

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Read the most recent article written by Louise Wilson - Humza Yousaf says he ‘values’ Bute House Agreement as Greens face rebellion.

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