Tories query First Minister on tax increase
First Minister replies to Tories
Tory Ruth Davidson has warned low and middle income Scotland that the First Minister is “coming for your pay cheque”. The Scottish Conservative leader challenged Ms Sturgeon on taxation after she signalled the start of a discussion on” responsible and progressive use of our tax powers”.
The SNP’s Holyrood election manifesto in 2016 ruled out increasing the basic rate of income tax for the lifetime of this Parliament but the First Minister did not comment on a rise when she was questioned in the chamber.
The Tory leader insisted on the issue and said discussions on tax should “begin right now”. She said,
”I am opposed to all current basic rate tax payers paying more in income tax”.
She wanted to know if the First Minister also thinks so. The SNP leader responded:
“Usually when opening a debate and when you commit to listening to what others have to say, it makes sense to carry on and do that before ruling things out in advance.”
She pledged her government would “not simply transfer the burden of austerity on to the shoulders of those who can least afford it”, but Ms Sturgeon also said:
“As we look forward over the next few years we owe ourselves a genuine debate about what kind of society and economy we want to be.
“We know that we face further Westminster austerity, imposed by Ruth Davidson’s party, we know that we face the implications of Brexit, implications Ruth Davidson thinks the country might never recover from, and there are a range of other pressures – demographic pressures for example.
“So if we want, as I certainly do, this country to continue to have the highest quality public services, well paid public servants, the support and the infrastructure that our businesses need to thrive, if we want to have effective policies to tackle poverty, then I think we do need to have an honest, mature debate about how best to deliver that.”
Ms Davidson responded:
“I think anyone earning less than £43,000 a year in Scotland just heard the First Minister’s message loud and clear – she’s coming for your pay cheque.”
However Ms Davidson welcomed Scottish Government plans to cut Air Passenger Duty for stimulating economic growth. She said there was some “room for consensus in this Parliament” on taxation overall.
“But we have to get the balance right,”
“And jacking up taxes on working families and businesses in Scotland will damage the Government’s stated objective of getting the economy growing faster and of bringing in more revenue.”
Ms Davidson said that business leaders are opposed to hike in income tax. She said that business leaders such as David Lonsdale of the Scottish Retail Consortium and Liz Cameron of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce have spoken out against possible income tax hikes. She told the First Minister:
” Scotland’s businesses are telling you what they want and need and you’re not listening.”
Ms Sturgeon responded:
“Our businesses need investment as well; they need investment in health, in education, in skills, in infrastructure. All of that has to be paid for. And we all want, at least all of us on this side of the chamber, want high quality public services.
“So we will lead an open, honest, mature debate about how as a country we best provide the services and the business support we need.”
The First Minister added:
” I don’t know if the Tories will want to be part of that debate or whether they will simply call for more and more spending and more and more tax cuts for the richest.
“But I am determined to lead a debate that is right for the overall interests of this country that I am proud to be First Minister of.”
Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish Government rejected calls by Labour and the Liberal Democrats to increase income tax for the highest earners to 50p. She added that ministers “consistently take a very responsible approach to taxation”. But she indicated raising payments for services such as schools and hospitals.
“We have a responsibility to everybody in our country to make sure as we go into the next decade and beyond we are protecting the public services all of us depend on, that we are ensuring our nurses, our doctors, our police officers, our teachers, our firefighters are well rewarded, that is why I have said we are going to lift the 1% public sector pay cap.”
Ms Sturgeon continued:
” It’s vital we make sure the support our businesses need – whether that’s the additional investment in research and development I have announced in the last few days, or the transport and digital infrastructure that our businesses need to thrive – is there as well.
“What I am saying is as a parliament, as a country, let’s have that mature and honest debate.”
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