Radical plans to increase income tax by 1p across the board have been unveiled by the Liberal Democrats “to help make Scotland’s education system the envy of the world”.
Scottish leader Willie Rennie announced the “costed” package as the build-up to the Scottish Parliament elections in May intensifies and insisted it was a “small price” to pay.
The move has echoes of the SNP’s ill-fated “penny for Scotland” initiative going into the inaugural Holyrood election in 1999 which was seen as one of main reasons for the party’s poor showing and was later dropped after John Swinney replaced Alex Salmond as leader.
Political opponents last night warned that the Lib Dem policy would make Scotland the “highest taxed part of the UK”.
The announcement came as Scotland prepares to take full control over income tax rates and bands next year. Mr Rennie said the tax increase would generate £475 million a year.
He said: “Our costed and progressive package of measures will ensure Scotland races back up the international education standings to our world-beating best.
“We are protecting people on low and middle incomes thanks to the Liberal Democrats in government who raised tax thresholds to take thousands of people out of tax and cut it for thousands more.
“One penny is a small price for a big boost to get the country fit for the future. Our ambitious plan will enable every girl and boy in Scotland to make the best of themselves and get on in life. Progressives will support it, conservatives will oppose it.”
Other Lib Dem education proposals ahead of May’s election include a pupil premium, which would see extra funding for schools to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.
The party is currently floundering in the polls with a recent Panelbase survey putting the Libs Dems on 7 per cent.
Tory chief whip John Lamont said: “The Lib Dems have decided to join forces with a chaotic Labour Party in lurching to the Left on tax. They want to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK. It is unfair, utterly unnecessary and bad for Scotland.”