Tartan tax

Alex Salmond and the late Donald Dewar in 1997

By Andy Mackie

John Swinney and the SNP government are set to come under attack today for letting Holyroods’ tax raising powers lapse.

The furore surrounding this has been intense and the SNP’s political adversaries have siezed upon the subject. However, getting past political bluster the decision in principle of refusing to pay £7m to maintain the ability to us e the tax raising powers is a sound one. Not least because none of the 4 major parties in Scotland have shown any inclination to use the powers.

Indeed 2 weeks ago when I wrote an article about the Scottish Green Partys’ proposal to use parliaments tax varying powers the responses I received from the major parties ranged from un enthusiastic to downright hostile. indeed the Lib Dems finance spokesman said: “The Green Party has no credibility at all. They have called for more and more expenditure but have not done as we did and identified the waste and bureaucracy that needs to be tackled. This should be the priority; not putting up taxes for low or medium earners to a grotesque amount as the Green Party are advocating.” Yet today the same Lib Dems who are part of the coalition government in Westminster are implementing swingeing cuts to jobs, public services and benefits are railing against a decision to not spend £7m to safeguard a power they have no intention of implementing.

This is not, however to let Swinney and the SNP off the hook. In his defence Swinney yesterday said that MSP’ could not be informed of every piece of information with parliament then MSP’s would need bigger briefcases. This is undoubtedly true but this was a rather large and fundamental piece of information. Furthermore it was on an issue that the SNP campaigned vigorously on back in 1997 and one which the public may well have been interested in.

It should also be noted that on November 10th, only two weeks ago, an SNP spokesperson had this to say on the tartan tax: “The SNP has no plans to implement the 3p tartan tax at present. We believe that it would have a negative effect on household budgets.” Surely the SNP press office knew that the tartan tax was not an option until at least 2013 at this point? Or was the reason they had no plans to implement it the fact that they, but not the Scottish public, knew it was not possible?

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