Local Income Tax (Clydesdale)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:41 am on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour 11:41 am, 22nd March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what impact local income tax proposals, capped at 3p in the pound, would have on the revenue available to South Lanarkshire Council for investment in public services in Clydesdale. (S2O-12447)

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

A local income tax capped at 3p in the pound would raise significantly less income than council tax. It follows that the funding available to South Lanarkshire Council for the provision of vital services would be significantly reduced.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

As well as removing local decision making—a key part of local government—the proposals would jeopardise free access to leisure activities for the over-60s, free use of outdoor facilities—[ Interruption. ] SNP members laugh, but those are serious matters. They want to take away from local decision makers the ability to make decisions locally. Most important, will the minister indicate to the people of Clydesdale how the proposals will put at risk the ambitious, exciting school building programme, funded from conventional finance, that has already seen new primary schools open in Law, Carluke and Lanark, with further new primary schools planned across South Lanarkshire in the years ahead? All that will be put at risk by this stupid SNP policy.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

The policy would put that programme most at risk because, when Scotland previously experienced a poll tax, vital services were placed under significant pressure. I have spent my political life describing the nationalists as tartan Tories. If they introduce poll tax 2 and seek to strip local government of its authority and independence, we will find ourselves in the same dire circumstances in which we were 10 or 15 years ago.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Does the minister not recognise that a proposal to abolish the council tax—I repeat, to abolish the council tax—and to introduce an alternative based on income and the ability to pay would lead to a massive reduction in local taxation for thousands of pensioners in South Lanarkshire and other parts of Scotland? In case the minister was not listening the first two times that I said it, we propose to abolish the council tax. Is that not preferable to the inevitable revaluation of properties that will take place if the Labour Party is returned to office and keeps the council tax?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

I am happy to tell the chamber what I recognise. The SNP wants to abolish council tax, but it wants to keep council tax benefit. That sums up the hypocrisy of the Scottish National Party: SNP members want to be independent subsidy junkies. Although under their proposals council tax would disappear, they still want £380 million from an Exchequer in London. Can they explain to us why, if council tax no longer exists, they will need £380 million from an English Exchequer? To the SNP's hypocrisy is added its foolishness. It is a party that talks about economic independence but that would be happy for the Bank of England—a foreign nation—to set Scotland's interest rates and to control its monetary policy. What other nation in the developed world would want a competitor nation to have its hand on one of the strongest levers of economic policy? That is nonsense.