ELECTIONS are always a time of great interest, but this year’s Holyrood vote in May will have added importance.
For the first time, Scotland’s parliament won’t just be responsible for spending money, it will be tasked with raising it, too.
No longer will MSPs simply be handed a cash settlement from Westminster and told to distribute it how they please.
With the arrival of very significant powers over welfare and taxation in April next year, Holyrood is set to become a more grown-up parliament.
Political parties will have to set out their plans for how much people will have to pay in income tax, and defend that impact on the overall budget and economy accordingly. It was with that in mind that we announced the results of an independent tax commission last week.
Headed by the highly-respected Sir Iain McMillan, former head of CBI Scotland, it brought together a range of experts – away from political influence – who were asked to come up with recommendations not only for income tax, but other taxation, too. The comprehensive findings are available for all to see by visiting www.comtax.org.
There are dozens of detailed proposals which, as a party, we will consider ahead of our manifesto.
But one of the main headlines I agree with 100 per cent – that people in Scotland shouldn’t have to pay more tax than those living elsewhere in the UK.
In addition, we should also look at how to reduce the tax burden, when it’s affordable for us to do so.
We’ve seen in recent days the Liberal Democrats say they will put a penny on everyone’s income tax – regardless of salary – while Labour has also stated that it wants to charge people more.
In a battle to win Scotland’s left-wing voters, the SNP is also under pressure from its own members to take more money from the pay packets of hard-working Scots.
We think that’s wrong. People should be able to keep as much of their own money as possible, and if these tax powers are used wisely, both workers and the economy as a whole will benefit.
With a more attractive tax framework, the hope is that both people and businesses will want to choose Scotland over the rest of the UK.
For Edinburgh, as Scotland’s financial centre, that could be huge.
Another of the commission’s ideas was to make income tax more progressive. So, instead of tax bands jumping from 20p in the pound to 40p, we should put in a new 30p band for middle earners.
I think this idea has real merit and will consider it closely.
At this election, the new tax powers should focus minds on political parties and their aims and aspirations.
I will always back Scotland’s workers, and more Scottish Conservative MSPs in Holyrood means more voices speaking up for their pay packets.
It’s up to Scotland’s other parties to explain why they want to take more cash out of your pocket.
• Ruth Davidson is leader of the Scottish Conservatives