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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 Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

We have had quite a good debate and some really interesting points have been made.

We need to encourage a wider discussion in communities across Scotland about what kind of Scotland we want in the future and how we pay for that. Those on the Tory benches often object to taxes being paid; they support austerity but they complain when public services are cut. That does not square up, however, because we cannot have all those things. A cordial discussion and debate is needed.

I was surprised by what George Adam said in his contribution. When he looks back on it, I hope that he will reflect on this point. We want to encourage discussion among members of the public, but if we then come into the chamber and call each other names and accuse each other of talking nonsense, it is hardly surprising that we see debates of the kind that are on social media and that people are not able to have cordial discussions. How we discuss such issues here is important.

A lot has been said in the debate about behavioural change, which the SNP Government often relies on in its arguments. As Rhoda Grant said, last year, we saw the SNP introduce a rate resolution that gave higher earners a tax cut but increased tax for some lower earners. The type of behavioural change that worries me is that we are seeing working people, who used to get their wages and then be able to go and buy their shopping, now being forced into going to food banks. That needs to be addressed in our discussions.

Sarah Boyack mentioned Citizens Advice Scotland. Just before I came into the chamber, I received a letter from Mrs Sandy Watts, the chief executive of Perth citizens advice bureau, which says:

“In the last year, the biggest debt issue across the Scottish Citizens Advice network was council tax debt ... In total, the people who turned to the Citizens Advice network in Scotland for help with council tax debt owe a combined £6.9 million or an average of £3,000 per person.”

We must surely be concerned about that. We should be talking to COSLA and local government as well as joining Citizens Advice Scotland in trying to raise awareness of the benefits of—