VAT Charges (Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 31st October 2017.

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Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

Although we were aware of the arguments of the UK Government, we did not accept those arguments, nor did we accept the principle when we were already seeing exceptions being made to the rules, and moving goalposts being provided for the BBC, for example. I will come on to the intricacies of the legislation in a moment.

The Treasury windfall of £140 million could be invested in our police and fire and rescue services. It would make a huge difference to their ability to respond to the needs of the people of Scotland for emergency front-line services. We have been in discussion with the UK Government for more than five years on the issue and so far, sadly, it has rejected all requests for an equitable solution.

When we considered the creation of Police Scotland and the SFRS, we focused on the wider benefits that would be attained by moving from eight regional police and fire bodies to single national organisations. We introduced new and more streamlined bodies in order to reduce bureaucracy and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of those key public services, so that they could meet the challenges of the 21st century. However, the core functions and purposes of both bodies remain as they were before reform, and funding continues to come from the public purse, as is the case with respect to territorial police and fire services across the rest of the UK.

As Mr Fraser has just said, we were indeed aware of the implications of VAT for our reform propositions. Equally—as I have said—that was not a position that we either accepted or agreed with, and we have continued to lobby UK ministers and seek fairness of approach in respect of other changes that they have made before and since. I will come to those in a moment.