Tax the rich? No, hit the middle class – MacAskill
MIDDLE-CLASS Scots are set to be hammered with tax rises as Nicola Sturgeon is urged to ignore the rich and target hard-working families, according to a former SNP Cabinet minister.
Kenny MacAskill yesterday claimed income tax rises are ‘inevitable’ – but warned that even with a drastic intervention it is hard to see how this could ‘shore up’ current public services or fund Scottish Government pledges for the future.
He said that instead of hitting the rich with ‘punitive taxes’, Miss Sturgeon should force middle earners to pay more, which he described as ‘understandable and right’.
The First Minister has indicated her ministers will work with other parties to find a progressive new policy on tax – with three out of four of the opposition parties backing a rise.
Senior Nationalists have signalled that Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will unveil plans for a change to income tax in Scotland – which could see the tax gap between Scotland and the rest of the UK grow further.
Writing in The Scotsman yesterday, former Justice Secretary Mr MacAskill became the latest senior SNP figure to suggest Miss Sturgeon is expected to force up taxes, as he claimed public satisfaction with her is ‘diminishing’.
The party has said resources will need to be in place to fund stretched public services such as the NHS and police and the extension of free childcare.
Mr MacAskill said: ‘The party was warmed up to tax rises, which is no surprise. They’re inevitable and it’s simply a question of how much and upon whom they will fall. The Scottish Government is constrained in that it can only really tax income, not wealth, which hamstrings it.
‘Punitive taxes on the rich, even if popular, won’t work and could even be counterproductive. So it will be a modest increase with a limited take.
‘It seems that she’s setting the scene for middle earners to pay more. That’s understandable and right. The Scottish middle class can’t expect the universal services they mainly benefit from without paying for them.’
He went on to suggest it is likely Miss Sturgeon will ‘rerun Alex Salmond’s call in 1999 for a penny for Scotland’.
The former First Minister raised this policy during his first stint as SNP leader – but it was ditched by his successor John Swinney in 2000 after being blamed for costing the party votes.
Mr Salmond had proposed an additional penny on income tax to help fund services north of the Border.
But yesterday Mr MacAskill said public satisfaction with public services is ‘diminishing’ and as a result of this so is ‘satisfaction with the First Minister’. He claimed it was ‘hard to see’ how hiking taxes would ‘shore up the current services, never mind allow for expansion of new ones’.
Scottish Tory economy spokesman Dean Lockhart issued a stark warning to the SNP that forcing Scots to pay more income tax would not help stimulate the economy – or fund services.
He said: ‘Kenny MacAskill’s the latest high-profile SNP figure to hint at tax increases for Scots. That would reinforce our position as the highest-taxed part of the UK. That’s not what hardworking Scots deserve.
‘The SNP has this the wrong way round; it should be developing a strategy to grow the tax base and create jobs, not hitting people in the pocket.’
At the SNP conference earlier this week, Mr Mackay indicated the gap between taxpayers in Scotland and the rest of the UK is set to grow again as he suggested the Government will continue to freeze the threshold for the higher 40p tax rate.
In Scotland, this remains at £43,000 despite having risen to £45,000 elsewhere in the UK. It is set to rise again to £50,000 by 2020.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Taxpayers across Scotland already get the best deal in the UK, with a range of services and benefits not available elsewhere. With the limited powers we have, we have made taxation fairer, while also raising revenue.
‘We will publish a balanced package of tax and spending proposals as part of the draft Budget 2018-19 on December 14.’
‘That’s not what Scots deserve’