Edinburgh MSPs back plea to Chancellor: Take VAT off defibrillators

Edinburgh and Lothian MSPs are backing a call for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make life-saving heart-start machines exempt from VAT.

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At the moment, charities and councils can claim a VAT exemption when buying a defibrillator, but community groups and others cannot – which can make them very expensive.

Now 50 MSPs of all parties from across the country have signed a letter to the Chancellor ahead of his spring statement next week, urging him to extend the exemption to anyone buying the equipment.

Life-saving defibrillators should be exempt from VAT, say MSPs

The letter, instigated by SNP MSP Jenny Minto, says Scotland needs a fully-functioning, effective network of defibs easily accessible to the public 24/7.

And it goes on: "We must be able to make it easier for groups and firms in buying a defibrillator that will save lives and removing any financial barriers will make a difference.”

Ms Minto said she was delighted to have support from SNP, Labour, Conservative, Green and Lib Dem MSPs for the campaign to have VAT removed from the purchase of community defibrillators.“Defibs are vital and life-saving to those who suffer from an out of hospital cardiac arrest – every minute that someone does not receive defibrillation reduces their chance of survival by 10 minutes.

Edinburgh cardiac arrest survivor donates his seventh defibrillator to local area

"Making them easier to purchase for local groups and businesses is a massive step in making defibs more accessible and in more areas across the country.

“I look forward to hearing from the Chancellor and hope he will understand the urgency of this issue and scrap VAT, a measure which will save lives.”

She said Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and Public Health Minister Maree Todd had already written to the Chancellor urging him to take action.

Among those who signed Ms Minto’s letter was Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton. He said: “Your chances of surviving a heart attack are massively increased the nearer you are to a defibrillator, but all too few communities are served by ready access to them. By removing VAT we can make them more affordable for organisations and businesses to install them all over our towns and cities. Something with such demonstrable public good should not be regarded in the same basket as luxury items.”

And Lothian Labour MSP Foysol Choudhury, another signatory, said: “Having as wide a network as possible of out-of-hospital defibrillators is crucial to save lives from cardiac arrest. As the letter states, the British Heart Foundation has found that CPR and defibrillation can double the chances of survival for someone who has a cardiac arrest, and sadly every MSP has heard stories of that help arriving too late.

"Currently VAT exemption is only applicable to charities and local authorities, which makes defibrillators prohibitively expensive for smaller community organisations and businesses. I hope the Chancellor listens to the concern from all sides of the Scottish Parliament and exempts this vital life-saving equipment from VAT."

Other Edinburgh and Lothian MSPs who signed the letter include Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald, Linlithgow SNP MSP Fiona Hyslop, East Lothian SNP MSP Paul McLennan, South of Scotland Labour MSP Martin Whitfield, Midlothian North & Musselburgh SNP MSP Colin Beattie and Christine Grahame SNP MSP for Midothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.

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