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Scottish Rate Resolution

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Gordon MacDonald Gordon MacDonald Scottish National Party

No. I have only four minutes.

However, we could do a lot more if the setting of personal allowances, national insurance rates and income tax levels on dividends and savings were devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

We ask people who can afford it, such as MSPs, to pay more. That helps us to deliver a wider and better-funded range of free-to-access public services than is available elsewhere in the UK. One recognisable example is prescription charges. South of the border, they will rise to £9.15 per item from April. That is, in effect, a Tory tax on poor health that will affect millions of people, while in Scotland we have chosen to make sure that medication is free for all.

By passing the rate resolution on income tax today, we can pass the budget at stage 3 tomorrow, thereby protecting the £589 million increase for local government and the extra £60 million for Police Scotland, and ensuring that free bus travel for young people will be delivered.

The Scottish budget will also benefit most families across Scotland. First, our council tax rates are substantially lower than rates south of the border. The average rate for a band D property in England is currently £1,750. In Scotland, the average cost for the same band is £1,251. Here in Edinburgh, the rate for a band D property is £1,277, which would be a saving of £473 per household from the English average. The combined council tax and income tax savings will ensure that, for the majority of people in Scotland, the claim that Scotland is the highest-taxed part of the UK, which is made by other parties in Parliament, is utter nonsense.

Secondly, the Scottish Government’s proposal to introduce by Christmas a £10 per week Scottish child payment for low-income families with children under six will help to lift 30,000 children out of poverty. That is only the beginning. The Scottish Fiscal Commission has forecast that by the time that it is fully rolled out in 2023-24, at least 280,000 children will receive the Scottish child payment. When the benefit was first discussed, churches, trade unions, poverty academics and charities agreed that a £5 per week payment would make a huge difference: the Scottish Government has doubled that to £10. I hope that the other parties will support that move.

Scotland is taking the right steps to provide a more progressive tax system, but let us not forget that we could do even more if we had had certainty about the settlement from Westminster in advance of setting our budget. I hope that the Tory UK Government will see sense, and will in future years set its budget at a more appropriate time in order that the Scottish Government can continue to provide, with certainty, the support and services that the people of Scotland need.