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SNP are ac­cused of bul­ly­ing over with­drawal of sen­si­tive tax re­port

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

had al­ready been re­leased to the me­dia un­der em­bargo, mean­ing its con­tents were still widely re­ported.

The Tories ac­cused the SNP of try­ing to “bully” the watch­dog, a charge fu­ri­ously de­nied by Ni­cola Stur­geon’s of­fi­cial spokesman.

The dis­pute cen­tres on an NAO es­ti­mate of how many Scots tax­pay­ers pay more than their English coun­ter­parts be­cause of the dif­fer­ent tax regime north of the Bor­der.

In Scot­land, peo­ple start pay­ing the 40p higher rate tax when they earn £43,000, but in Eng­land and Wales the 40p rate doesn’t kick in un­til peo­ple earn £45,000.

Draw­ing on HMRC data, the SNP Gov­ern­ment says around 366,000 peo­ple in Scot­land pay more. How­ever, us­ing un­pub­lished HMRC and other eco­nomic statis­tics, the NAO es­ti­mated 507,000 of Scot­land’s 2.6 mil­ion tax­pay­ers pay more than they would in Eng­land.

The new es­ti­mate sug­gests that, rather than one in seven Scots tax­pay­ers get­ting higher bills, it is al­most one in five.

The dif­fer­ence is sen­si­tive as it would mean the SNP tax pol­icy had cre­ated more losers than first thought, and so it may be harder to raise in­come tax again next year, as most Holyrood par­ties would like.

The NAO ad­mit­ted “hold­ing off” on pub­li­ca­tion be­cause of a dis­pute over the “sen­si­tive” num­ber.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser ac­cused the SNP of “try­ing to bully any­one who they dis­agree with”. He added: “It is clear they have pres­surised the NAO into this climb-down, sim­ply be­cause the SNP didn’t like what they were hear­ing.

A spokesper­son for SNP Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Derek Mackay said: “Mr Fraser’s claims are com­plete and ut­ter non­sense, and the Tories should apol­o­gise for im­pugn­ing the in­tegrity of civil ser­vants.”

An NAO spokesper­son said the re­port would be pub­lished “when we have de­ter­mined the most ac­cu­rate es­ti­mate of the num­ber of higher-rate tax­pay­ers in Scot­land. The de­ci­sion not to pub­lish the re­port was solely an NAO de­ci­sion.”

Pub­li­ca­tion of the re­port ex­pected by Christ­mas.

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Carl Sargeant was found dead at home.

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