Whatever our differing political positions on the reasons for taxation, one we should agree on is that the purpose of taxation is to raise money to pay for the public services that we all want. If rates are put up and are disproportionately high and the total tax take goes down, the money that we have to spend on public services will also go down.
Therefore, the SNP needs to listen to the Scottish Conservatives’ sensible, growth-focused budget requests and reduce the large business supplement to the same rate that is payable in the rest of the UK. The SNP cannot say that it is acting for the Scottish electorate; in 2016, nearly 65 per cent of the electorate voted for parties that promised not to raise taxes, yet the SNP Government hiked them up, with anyone earning over £27,243 paying more in tax than they would in the rest of the UK.
I have had many of my constituents contact me to ask why they are seeing their taxes rise so significantly yet receiving nothing in return. Why are they seeing local services deteriorate? Why are they seeing vital infrastructure literally crumble before their eyes?
The SNP has no excuse. Its block grant from the UK Government has increased by more than £1.5 billion this year, yet we find ourselves with local authorities across the country being forced to increase council tax by nearly 5 per cent just to stay afloat. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities states that local government funding as a whole has been cut by £200 million in real terms, which is putting local councils into a corner, slashing services yet increasing their rates.
On top of that, new figures show that, under the SNP, local authority debt has risen by almost 15 per cent in just five years, to an eye-watering total of more than £18 billion—yes, £18 billion. It is therefore no surprise that a recent report found that 62 bridges are due to be closed across Aberdeenshire by 2030, which will see hundreds of constituents cut off from their local communities and facing lengthy detours. Councils across Scotland are making drastic cuts due to the SNP’s imposed reductions on capital budgets, forcing local authorities to draw down their reserves. Essential maintenance is now being cut, which will only result in greater costs down the line.
They say that a stitch in time saves nine, but the only people being stitched up here are the Scottish taxpayers. The SNP Government should hang its head in shame because it has nobody to blame for those figures but itself. It has forced those difficult spending decisions on to local authorities while its own budget has been increasing. It has absolved itself from the responsibility of governing and that will not be forgotten in May next year. Scotland deserves better.