Ruth Davidson condemns income tax rise ‘myth’

Ruth Davidson believes evidence shows the Scottish Tories'  low tax agenda is most in tune with popular opinion. Picture: John Devlin
Ruth Davidson believes evidence shows the Scottish Tories' low tax agenda is most in tune with popular opinion. Picture: John Devlin
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THE suggestion that Scots would be happy to pay more when control of income tax is transferred to Holyrood is a “myth”, according to the Scottish Conservative leader.

In a speech at Edinburgh’s David Hume Institute today, Ruth Davidson will say that all the evidence shows her party’s low tax agenda is most in tune with popular opinion.

She will argue that a Scottish Government review of proposed new tax rates for property purchases is a “foretaste of more to come” when new responsibilities over income tax and welfare are devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT), due to replace stamp duty in Scotland from April, has been heavily criticised by the Tories as a “tax on aspiration” for imposing higher rates on properties at the top end of the market.

Ms Davidson will cite a weekend poll which found only 7 per cent of Scots want income tax rates to be varied so they would pay more, while 27.9 per cent said they would like to pay less.

The Survation poll of 1,006 people for the Scottish Mail on Sunday found 26.6 per cent agreed Holyrood should use new devolved powers to “provide a more generous approach” to benefits, with 35 per cent saying they would like to see the cost of the benefits system cut.

Ms Davidson will say: “Just as last year showed the Conservatives in tune with majority opinion in Scotland in the referendum, so I believe we are in tune with majority opinion on how we use the powers coming to Holyrood. And the facts back that up.

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“The SNP-Labour consensus would have us believe that Scots are champing at the bit to pay more tax and use the money to fund more welfare payments. It is a myth.”

Finance Secretary John Swinney announced he would reconsider bands and rates of LBTT, which were set out in October, as part of the Budget process.

He will announce his conclusions to MSPs at Holyrood today ahead of a Stage 1 debate of the Scottish Budget Bill.

The LBTT review follows an overhaul of the UK stamp duty system announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement.

Ms Davidson will say: “Without a Conservative Chancellor in London and without a noisy Conservative Party in Scotland, John Swinney’s original plans would be going through from April 1 this year.

“And secondly, that plan would have been pushed through against the wishes of most Scots. I don’t believe the majority supported the original SNP plan to hike up the tax on aspiration.

“It gives me confidence - because the stamp duty issue is only the foretaste of more to come.

“More taxes will soon be devolved to go with it, and I will wager that when rates and bands are unveiled, it is the Conservative Party who will represent majority Scottish opinion by backing a low tax Scotland.

“Like two bald men fighting over a comb, if Labour and the SNP want to argue over the right to pay higher taxes, then they are more than welcome to do so.”

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