As MSPs, tomorrow we will debate the SNP Scottish Government’s budget proposals – proposals to protect public services, give public sector workers a pay rise and cut taxes for the majority of workers.
When the draft budget was announced before Christmas, it received widespread praise from various sectors across Scotland – including business organisations, charities, trade unions and cultural groups.
Given this wide-ranging support, it’s high time that Labour and the Tories stopped their petty political point-scoring and backed the SNP’s sensible and progressive budget proposals to make a real difference for people across Scotland.
This SNP budget will help deliver a fairer, more prosperous Scotland – where taxpayers get the best deal anywhere in the UK and get the very best public services in return.
This progress and greater fairness will be delivered within the context of swingeing cuts from the Tories at Westminster – with Scotland’s discretionary budget being cut by £2.6 billion in real terms between 2010-11 and 2019-20. That’s £2.6 billion less for Scotland because of the Tories at Westminster.
This SNP budget offers action to build thousands of new affordable homes – something that’s very important for people throughout Edinburgh. It also offers a commitment to 100 per cent broadband coverage, a boost in creative and cultural funding, protection for the police budget, more free childcare, and additional funding for key frontline services like the NHS and education – as well as ending the public sector pay cap.
There will also be progressive reforms to income tax to help fund the services that we all hold dear.
These progressive changes include introducing new bands, lowering rates for the majority and asking those who can afford it to contribute a little bit more.
However, be very clear, a majority of taxpayers in Scotland – 55 per cent – will actually pay less tax in Scotland than if they lived elsewhere in the UK. Nobody earning less than £33,000, which is £5,000 above the average full-time salary, will pay any more income tax next year than they do now – overall 70 per cent of taxpayers will pay no more in tax under the SNP’s proposals.
Everyone earning up to £24,000 will pay less tax next year than they do now. That will mean more money in the pockets of individuals and families than in any other part of the UK.
The Tories might claim to be the party of low tax, but that’s simply untrue – instead, they are the party of tax cuts for the wealthy and austerity for everyone else, and that’s why their record on the economy and public services is so dismal. The Tories only want to cut taxes for the wealthy few, while making the poorest pay for it with cuts to public services. They simply do not value working people or our shared public services, whether that’s the police, the NHS or education.
The progressive changes to income tax that the SNP are proposing stand in stark contrast to the Tories’ proposals - according to their plans, the Tories’ would rip £500 million out of Scotland’s budget, which would mean £500 million less for our schools, hospitals and public services.
On the other hand, the SNP’s budget proposals are progressive, fair and ambitious – that’s why our proposals are strongly supported by the public, by a ratio of 2-to-1 according to a recent YouGov poll.
Therefore, it’s time for the Tories and Labour to end their nonsensical, tribal opposition to the Scottish Government’s budget proposals.
Instead, all MSPs should back the SNP Scottish Government’s progressive proposals, which will meaningfully help to make Scotland a wealthier, healthier, safer and better place to live for all of us.
Ben Macpherson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith.