No. I have heard enough of Dean Lockhart’s nonsense.
In these uncertain times, when we face increased Tory austerity and a lack of clarity from Boris Johnson and his cronies at Westminster, it is a relief to many Scots in my constituency—and, I am sure, to many others across the nation—to know that they will be treated fairly by their Government here in Scotland.
Despite the suggestions to the contrary from the Opposition, under our proposals no Scottish income tax payer will in 2020-21 pay more from their current salary than they do at the moment. Our Westminster counterparts, on the other hand, are quite happy to penalise low-income families—who are simply doing all that they can to make ends meet—in order to give tax breaks to the richest people in society.
The system in Scotland is vastly different. It is based on fairness, dignity and respect. The SNP wants to support our citizens and to make this country a better place—one where everyone can thrive. The SNP Government’s decisions on taxation have resulted in a more progressive tax system that protects lower and middle-income earners while raising additional revenue to support our economy and invest in delivering the widest range of free-to-access public services anywhere in these islands.
In looking at the rate proposal, it is vital that we consider all the services that are available to us in Scotland that we would not have access to elsewhere; for example, free prescriptions, free higher education and the baby box are enormously beneficial and life-changing initiatives that every Scot can take advantage of, regardless of their financial situation.
The Tories like to create misconceptions about the higher-rate threshold freeze, and to suggest that middle-income taxpayers are being targeted unfairly. The average taxpayer income in Scotland in 2018-19 was estimated to be £24,000 per year, so any notion that the tax policy of freezing the HRT is impacting on the middle classes is untrue and misleading. The higher-rate threshold freeze affects only people who earn more than £43,430, which is about 16 per cent of Scottish taxpayers in 2020-21.
Ultimately, the rates proposal that we are considering today, along with a budget that puts people firmly at the heart of the equation, renews our social contract with the people of Scotland. Scottish taxpayers continue to have access to a wider and better-funded set of free-to-access public services than taxpayers anywhere else in the UK. Scotland is the best place to live, work and do business in. Businesses benefit from our investment in infrastructure, broadband, research and development, business rates support, and skills and training. Above all, the social contract that the SNP has made with the people of Scotland continues to be upheld after 13 years in government.
As Paisley’s MSP—which, as all members know, is a job that I love to do day in and day out—I am tired of seeing many of my constituents needlessly struggling at the hands of the Conservative Party. Those constituents are using food banks to feed their children and are having to decide between a hot meal and a hot home. They are generally struggling from day to day to make ends meet. That is why it is vital that we protect the low and middle-income earners in our society, and continue to ensure that the majority of Scots have the best deal in the UK.