By Democrat reporter
The Scottish Conservatives have condemned the “disgraceful” leaking of the Scottish budget, which they claim will “stifle” growth.
John Swinney’s statement was delayed by more than half an hour after the Presiding Officer suspended Parliament to try to get to the bottom of how the BBC were able to reveal key details of it almost two hours before the interim finance secretary was due to speak.
Shadow finance secretary Liz Smith attacked the “appalling leaking of financially sensitive information”, before going on to criticise the tax rises and some other measures contained in the budget.
Mr Swinney failed to pass on full UK government education consequentials to Scottish schools and colleges, while hiking taxes for over half a million Scottish workers.
His decision to increase the higher rate of income tax from 41 to 42p will raise the burden on middle-earning Scots and widen the gap in the amount of tax paid by them compared to those earning the same in the rest of the UK.
Liz Smith condemned the tax rise for damaging Scotland’s competitiveness. This is at a time when Barnett Consequentials from the UK Government will see the Scottish Government receive an additional £1.7 billion in resource funding, while the SNP’s tax rises will raise just £129 million.
SFC documents also reveal that, while Scottish taxpayers together pay £1 billion more than they would under UK rates and bands, higher taxes contribute just £325million more for our public services.
The shadow finance secretary added that the cuts to the rural affairs budget highlighted the Nationalists’ “total indifference” to those living outside the Central Belt.
Liz Smith MSP said: “It’s disgraceful that the key details of this budget were leaked to the BBC by someone in the Scottish Government.
We’re talking about financially sensitive information being leaked to journalists. It’s appalling. I’m afraid the SNP government have form for this and I share the Presiding Officer’s anger at this huge discourtesy to parliament and the public.
“As for the budget itself, I fear it will stifle Scotland’s future growth because of the tax rises on half a million Scots – most of them aspiring people who are the key to our future economic success. The 42p rate increases the existing tax gap between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“Although John Swinney justified this tax rise because the money raised will go to Scotland’s crisis-ridden NHS, this is less than one per cent of health spending and he could have found this money elsewhere without damaging our competitiveness with the rest of the UK.
“While I recognise the interim finance secretary had tough decisions to make, he has received the biggest block grant ever from the UK government, an additional £1.7 billion, and he can’t keep blaming them for the failings and waste of his government.
“By cutting the rural affairs budget, the SNP-Green government have displayed once again their complete indifference to those who live in remote parts of Scotland. From the ferries fiasco to these budget cuts, their message appears clear: ‘If you’re not in the Central Belt, you don’t matter’.
“I welcome their decision to belatedly concede that spending £20 million on preparing for a referendum that’s not happening is unacceptable. I’m also pleased to see the freeze on business rates – something the Scottish Conservatives have long been calling for.
“But, taken as a whole, this budget is an anchor on growth, rather than a springboard for it.”
- The tax changes announced in the SNP’s budget are due to raise in total £129 million. Of which £92 million is due to come from increasing the higher rate from 41p to 42p and £3million from increasing the top rate from 46p to 47p .” (SFC, December 2022 Forecasts, p60, link).
- This is just 0.7% of the £18.2 billion of health resource spending (Scottish Government Draft Budget 2023-24, p125).
- And just 7.6% of the £1.7 billion increase in resource Barnett consequentials (SFC, December 2022 Forecasts, p60, link).
- The SNP’s tax gap between Scotland and the rest of the UK, sees Scottish taxpayers pay £1 billion extra each year in tax but this only adds £325 million to our public services. “We estimate that this revenue raising policy divergence in Scotland adds around £1 billion per year to the net position in 2023-24. However, the income tax net position is projected to be only £325 million in 2023-24, largely as a result of slower earnings and employment growth in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK since 2016-17.” (SFC, December 2022 Forecasts, p63, link).
- “An additional £129 million of income tax revenue is set to be raised in 2023-24 following policy changes announced at this budget.” (SFC, December 2022 Forecasts, p11, link).
- 530,000 taxpayers in Scotland pay the higher rate and the additional rate of tax and will see their rate of tax increase. 497,000 pay the higher rate and 33,000 pay the additional rate (SG, Income Tax Factsheet, 15 December 2022, link).