Hike taxes for the mid­dle classes, says ex-min­is­ter

Ma­cAskill says uni­ver­sal ser­vices must come at some kind of price

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS - Gareth mcpher­son Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor gm­cpher­son@the­courier.co.uk

Mid­dle class Scots should carry the bur­den of “in­evitable” tax rises, a for­mer SNP min­is­ter has said.

Kenny Ma­cAskill, who served as jus­tice sec­re­tary, said bet­ter-off sec­tions of so­ci­ety do well out of free pre­scrip­tions and free univer­sity tu­ition in Scot­land and should be pre­pared to pay more.

Ni­cola Stur­geon has opened the door to higher house­hold bills by call­ing for a de­bate on in­come tax amid a squeeze on pub­lic ser­vice spend­ing.

Mr Ma­cAskill, who de­scribed rises as “in­evitable”, said “puni­tive taxes on the rich” could lead to a loss in rev­enue.

“It seems that she (Ms Stur­geon) is set­ting the scene for mid­dle earn­ers to pay more. That’s un­der­stand­able and right,” he wrote in The Scots­man.

“The Scot­tish mid­dle class can’t ex­pect the uni­ver­sal ser­vices they mainly ben­e­fit from with­out pay­ing for them. In all like­li­hood it will be a re­run of Alex Sal­mond’s call in 1999 for a penny for Scot­land.”

The Scot­tish Par­lia­ment has been in charge of set­ting in­come tax rates and bands since April this year. The SNP chose to mir­ror the UK’s in­come tax pol­icy in the bud­get, although they de­cided not to im­ple­ment a tax cut to higher and top rate earn­ers.

Ms Stur­geon has sig­nalled in­creases are on the way af­ter she con­demned the im­pact of Tory aus­ter­ity on fund­ing for Scot­land’s pub­lic ser­vices.

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive shadow econ­omy sec­re­tary Dean Lock­hart said: “Kenny Ma­cAskill’s the lat­est high­pro­file 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 hard-work­ing 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.”

This week the Scot­tish Greens, who helped the mi­nor­ity SNP ad­min­is­tra­tion pass last year’s bud­get, have pub­lished their tax de­mands.

They would cut bills for work­ers on less than £26,500 but in­crease them for those earn­ing more, in­clud­ing a 60p top rate.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Lib Dem MSP, said it is “time the SNP got off the fence” and de­liv­ered “mod­est in­creases to prop­erly fund ser­vices”.

Pic­ture: Kim Cessford.

For­mer jus­tice min­is­ter Kenny Ma­cAskill said it was “right” that mid­dle classes ben­e­fit­ing from ser­vices such as free pre­scrip­tions should pay for them.

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