Linda Fabiani MSP has this week blasted Scottish Labour’s decision to vote for a tax hike for 2.2 million basic rate taxpayers across Scotland – including almost half a million pensioners.

The SNP budget was debated by the Scottish Parliament this week and, in contrast to Labour plans, will deliver a pay rise for up to 51,400 low paid workers and no rise in Income Tax or Council Tax bills.

The draft Budget was debated by the Scottish Parliament this week – with key pledges including a £500m rise in the NHS budget, the protection of the teacher-pupil ratio, the protection of the police budget, and funds to pay care workers the living wage.

Commenting, Linda said:

“This week Labour MSP’s chose to vote for a complicated, unfair and unworkable tax hike that would hit low and middle-income earners hardest – rather than backing a pay rise for 51,400 low paid workers.

“I voted for an SNP budget that will help people on low incomes by rolling out the living wage across the social care sector, freezing the council tax and supporting low paid public sector workers – while Labour voted to increase how much tax they pay.

“Setting the income tax rate across all bands will inevitably hit the poor. Questions remain over its complexity – how will it be administered? Will that income be taxable, and will it impact on other benefits such as tax credits? Are we to believe that every time our block grant is cut from Westminster, will Scottish Labour increase taxes?

“Labour plans will place the burden of Tory austerity onto working people across the country – forcing people such as all newly-qualified nurses, teachers and police officers to effectively take a pay cut.

“I will continue to stand up for low paid workers in East Kilbride and fight the impact of Tory austerity – I will never ask ordinary workers to pay for Tory cuts.”


Linda’s contribution to the budget below:

I will start by putting some of what is being said in context. Some of that context is the Scottish Government’s strong economic record. The proof is there: the employment level in Scotland has reached a record high of Scots now in work; Scotland has the highest employment rate of the four UK nations and it outperforms the UK as a whole; the youth unemployment rate fell to the lowest level for September to November since 2006; and the number of registered businesses in Scotland has grown by 12 per cent since 2007, along with a growth in Scotland’s productivity rate from the same time. Not only that, our international exports have increased by 36 per cent between 2007 and 2014.

The Government has a strong economic record and it has delivered balanced budgets over its time in office. That can be contrasted with some of the stuff that has been going on recently with Labour, which has put forward what is largely a confusing position. Instead of putting forward positive things for discussion at budget time, which I am sure John Swinney would listen to very carefully, Labour has taken a scatter-gun approach, with anything that will do for a headline in the paper. For example, it was only in December that Jackie Baillie, Labour’s finance spokesperson, said on television that she agreed that the Scottish rate of income tax was a blunt instrument.

Perhaps the member would agree that we have sharpened that instrument by introducing a rebate to make it more progressive and fairer.

That is an interesting point. Earlier, Jackie Baillie said that the detail would be provided; I very much look forward to hearing that detail. The position has changed—Labour’s position has changed even since Friday, when Lesley Brennan and Jackie Baillie did not agree any position whatsoever for the Finance Committee, as Mark McDonald pointed out.

Labour members cannot even agree within their own group, so let us look at the context from which Labour’s new policy has come. In the Scotland Act 2012, following the Calman commission, Labour and the Tories agreed a single Scottish rate of income tax. There was no control over personal allowances, tax bands, tax reliefs or rebates—therefore, it was not progressive.

Now Labour is offering this £100 annual payment. How? I heard it said that we would be given the detail and I look forward to seeing that. It cannot be a tax rebate or a tax allowance, because that is not allowed. If it is to come through local authorities, it must be a benefit. Benefits are generally a reserved matter, and will be so even if the current Scotland Bill is enacted.

That was a look at how the rebate could be paid. Next comes how it will be administered. How will the local authorities get the appropriate data, and how will they check it? Will people have to apply for the rebate? We all know that the low take-up of benefits is worst among those with the lowest incomes. Is this yet again a Labour push against universality?

All those issues and many more will perhaps be explained in detail by Labour in closing, along with the timeline to 1 April for implementation. Labour’s plans are all over the place.

Linda Fabiani talks about looking for extra detail. Could she give us the detail about what the SNP is going to do to stop the swingeing cuts that are affecting our communities?

The SNP is very clear in what it has put forward; John Swinney’s budget has that detail. Labour would do better to work with that. It should recognise that it is the Tories who are the problem here and work with us to get a better deal, and with the councils to make it better for people all round, instead of coming up with crazy economics that have no back-up.

There is a complete confusion in what Labour is trying to do. I said that perhaps clarification would be given, but I am not convinced that it will be. We have heard so many off-the-cuff announcements from Labour over the last while,

“full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing,”

as is often mentioned in literature. Every time detail is requested, we move on to something else. I have not even heard air passenger duty mentioned today, although it is supposed to be the answer to many issues.

I have no doubt that the consistency and commitment of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will result in the correct decision for Scotland on the fiscal framework that is being negotiated, which Labour cannot agree on either. I also have no doubt that, when the confusion and the incompetent financial and operational forecasting of Labour’s proposed policy are contrasted with the record in government and sound financial management in the hardest of times of John Swinney and his team, it will be widely recognised that the Parliament should agree to the general principles of the Budget (Scotland) (No 5) Bill.

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