Tax the rich? No, hit the mid­dle class – MacAskill

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Rachel Wat­son Deputy Scot­tish Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

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’

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