First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to commit to no further tax increases ahead of next week’s Scottish Government Budget.
Deputy Tory leader Jackson Carlaw told First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood that there had been a “shudder down the spine” of taxpayers following an interview given earlier this week by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Mackay said he “sensed” there is further scope to increase rates.
Referring to the interview, Mr Carlaw said: “He sensed that he could squeeze people more. I sense a shudder down the spine of taxpayers everywhere.
“The First Minister’s Budget is now going up – she has the money to spend. The fact is no further tax rises are necessary. Isn’t the right choice this year to commit to no further increases on Scottish taxpayers?”
Ms Sturgeon said tax increases had raised £550m for Scottish public services.
She said: “The Finance Secretary will set out to parliament the Budget next week and we’ll see very clearly that not just businesses, but taxpayers across Scotland will continue to get a very fair deal from the Scottish Government.
“If we had followed the Scottish Conservative’s advice to us when we set last year’s Budget, we would right now have £550m less to invest in our NHS, the education system, in local government services. The Tories never said where that money should come from. Will Jackson Carlaw tell us which public service we should raid to fund those tax cuts?”
Scots earning above £33,000 already pay more than elsewhere in the UK following an overhaul of the tax bands introduced by the Scottish Government last year.
However a majority of Scotland – about 55 per cent – pays less than elsewhere in the UK.
The tax gap is already poised to widen after Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled plans in his recent UK budget to raise the higher 40p threshold south of the Border to salaries of £50,000 and above. In Scotland this rate, set at 41p, applies at salaries of £43,430 and above.
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raised the issue of specialist teachers for children with additional support needs (ASN), saying there were now 122 fewer of these teachers since 2014, while the number of pupils identified as having ASNs had gone up by 40,000.
He raised the case of Callum, 13, who has low functioning autism and whose mother has said her son went into “meltdown on a daily basis” due to not having the right support at secondary school.
Mr Leonard said: “First Minister, can you tell Callum’s family why specialist teachers have been cut under your government?”
Ms Sturgeon replied that the overall number of staff - not just teachers - supporting children with ASN had increased.
She said: “The overall number of staff supporting pupils with additional support needs has increased.
“We want to do more and we want to understand the experience of young people like Callum. That is why the Deputy First Minister would be very happy to speak with that young man’s family.”