First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Margaret Jamieson Margaret Jamieson Labour 12:00 pm, 22nd March 2007

To ask the First Minister what impact the Chancellor of the Exchequer's budget will have on Scotland. (S2F-2794)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

The budget is, of course, set against a backdrop of unprecedented economic prosperity in Scotland and the UK. We have a record number of Scots in work, a historically low level of unemployment and, in the UK, the second highest income per capita in the G7.

For Scotland, the budget means good news for children, working families, pensioners, business and the environment. It is a budget for families, fairness and the future. If I was in another place, I would say that I commend it to the house.

Photo of Margaret Jamieson Margaret Jamieson Labour

I thank the First Minister for his reply.

Yesterday's budget provides the lowest basic rate of income tax in 75 years, which of course will be of benefit to many of my constituents in Kilmarnock and Loudon. Does the First Minister agree that pensioners and hard-working families are better off with a stable economy in the United Kingdom and that a Scottish National Party Government, by increasing tax by 3p in Scotland, would make our pensioners and hard-working families worse off than their counterparts in England and Wales?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I should make clear that my Liberal Democrat coalition partners would take a different approach on this issue. Having made that clear, I am delighted to defend the budget. The reality is that the budget cut corporation tax. Last week, the SNP was calling for that; this week, it is squealing about it. The reality is that the budget cut income tax. Last week, the SNP was proposing to put up income tax; this week, we are bringing it down. The reality is that we are giving people help to get into work and helping families through child benefit, which will make a difference to every family here in Scotland.

All this help and assistance, with stable growth in the UK economy, is painted against an alternative from the Scottish National Party that would see a rise in income tax of 3p in the pound. The SNP's poll tax is only the first instalment of the £5,000 or more that the SNP would cost every hard-working family in Scotland.

Everybody in Scotland knows that the SNP is unfit to govern and run our economy, and would create havoc with jobs and investment in Scotland. I am sure that the SNP will learn the cost of that over the next few weeks.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Does the First Minister realise that, as a result of Gordon Brown's budget yesterday, low-paid workers earning only £7,500 a year will see their income tax bill rise from £232 to £416 a year, which is an increase of 78 per cent, while Gordon Brown, earning over £130,000 a year, will see his tax bill go down by 5 per cent? Is that what Labour is about: robbing the poor to pay the rich?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

The only robbing going on in the chamber at the moment is the robbing of statistics by the SNP and, of course, the deception that it tries to pull on the people of Scotland whenever it talks about such matters. We all know what the SNP stands for—it stands for disinvestment and a backward step for Scotland in relation to economic growth, whereby Scotland could become the highest-taxed part of the United Kingdom.

Over recent weeks, the SNP has come along to the chamber and claimed that it has business support for its policies, but it has not been willing to defend them and explain them properly in the chamber. I have only to quote one of the SNP's supporters, Mr Crawford Beveridge, who was hailed again by the SNP last week at its conference as one of the business figures who speak for the SNP and therefore is an advocate for independence. Just five short months ago he said:

"I advocate the policy that Scotland should raise the money that it spends. I know that could potentially plunge the place into recession".

That shows how the SNP fails on independence. Its ability and willingness to cover up independence over the next six weeks will be exposed by my party and, I am sure, by others. The SNP is not fit to govern Scotland. It is playing fast and loose with the Scottish economy, and the Scottish people will reject it.