I welcome Ben Macpherson to his new role as the Minister for Public Finance and Migration. In much the same way as previous discussions between myself and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance have been conducted, he and I have had many constructive conversations since our respective election to the Scottish Parliament in 2016, and I look forward to continuing that positive dialogue with him.
I welcome the opportunity to open the debate for the Scottish Conservatives, but I regret that, yet again, we are faced with a Scottish rate resolution that continues to make Scotland the highest-taxed part of the United Kingdom. I remain disappointed that, despite the talks that my party had with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, our request that the Government guarantee no further divergence on tax with the rest of the UK should the UK Government make any changes in its budget next week was ignored.
Although many hard-working people across Scotland will, no doubt, be relieved that the tax-hiking, levy-raising tendencies of this Government have been silenced for this year at least, the freezing of the higher and top-rate thresholds will mean—as has been said by one analyst—that, at a time when earnings growth is over 2 per cent, more people in Scotland will be sucked into paying more tax. Many will rightly ask why that has happened in the first place, given the cast-iron promise of the Scottish National Party in its 2016 manifesto, in which it said:
“I have been very clear that the Government will not increase income tax rates”.—[
, 2 February 2017; c 10.]
That is not true; it is another promise broken.