Boris Johnson's National Insurance hike will hit young people hard, claims SNP

Young people are being forced to pay the price of Westminster failure, the SNP has claimed, warning Boris Johnson's plans to hike National Insurance will unfairly hammer young people, low-paid workers and Scottish families.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said young people were being forced to shoulder the burden of regressive tax rises, £9,250 a year university tuition fees, skyrocketing house prices, poorer pension prospects, and increased costs for travel, dentistry, prescriptions and other charges.

He said UK Government plans to impose a regressive National Insurance increase would "add to the intergenerational unfairness imposed on younger generations" – and argued it stood in stark contrast to the approach taken by the Scottish Government.

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Reports – unconfirmed by the UK Government – have claimed life-time contributions on care will be capped at about £80,000 and National Insurance will be increased by 1.25 per cent to raise between £10 billion and £11bn a year.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has spoken out against the planned rise to National Insurance.

Pre-recess Mr Johnson faced increasing pressure to offer details on his plan for social care reform, which could be funded by the National Insurance hike. The move has sparked opposition among senior Conservatives, including former chancellor Lord Hammond.

The SNP last week called for Westminster to guarantee that Scotland receives every penny it is due through Barnett consequentials.

Mr Blackford’s comments come as the SNP prepares to unveil its Programme for Government on Tuesday. The Scottish Conservatives have called for Scotland’s economic recovery to be the focus, with key targets set in job creation rates and economic growth.

Mr Blackford said: “Yet again, young people are being forced to pay the price of Westminster failure and shoulder the burden of another regressive Tory tax hike.

"Boris Johnson's damaging plan to increase National Insurance will unfairly hammer young people, low-paid workers and Scottish families with hundreds of pounds in costs each year - and add to the intergenerational unfairness that Westminster has imposed on younger generations.

"Young people are getting an increasingly bad deal from the UK Government, which is failing to deliver its side of the social contract. Under the Tories, young people face regressive tax rises, thousands in university tuition fee debt, stagnant wages, skyrocketing house prices, poorer pensions, and increased charges for basic necessities like travel, dentistry, and prescriptions.

He added: “In stark contrast, the Scottish Government has funded social care provisions from current budgets and invested in young people by scrapping tuition fees, building affordable housing, protecting the Education Maintenance Allowance, and introducing a range of progressive benefits from birth, including the Best Start Grant, the Scottish Child Payment, free bus travel for under-22s, free prescriptions and free dentistry.

"It's not acceptable for Westminster to endlessly add to the growing burden that young people face, while stripping them of the benefits that previous generations enjoyed.

"Nor is it acceptable to effectively impose a new Tory poll tax on Scottish families, who would be forced to pay for a crisis in England caused by the failure of Westminster governments it didn't vote for. Boris Johnson must go back to the drawing board and think again."

At the 2019 general election, the Conservatives pledged in their manifesto not to raise the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance. However, the idea of increasing national insurance was floated earlier this year.

Lord Hammond, who was chancellor between 2016 and 2019, said: “An increase in National Insurance contributions is asking young working people, some of whom will never inherit the property, to subsidise older people who’ve accumulated wealth during their lifetime and have a property, and, on any basis, that has got to be wrong.

“I think that if the government were to go ahead with the proposed increase in National Insurance contributions, breaking a manifesto commitment in order to underwrite the care costs of older people with homes, I think that would provoke a very significant backlash. I think it would cause the government – the Conservative Party – significant damage.”

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Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross called for the Scottish Government to implement “a bold plan for a jobs recovery” when it unveils its Programme for Government, with investment in long-term infrastructure projects and skills programmes to fill short-term needs.

He also warned now would be the worst time to “spike uncertainty” by pushing for another divisive independence referendum or threatening key industries.

Mr Ross said the “Programme for Government has to be for the whole country, not only for nationalists”.

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, has also said “supporting business recovery” must be “front and centre” of the government’s priorities this year.

Mr Ross said: “This year’s Programme for Government must focus on job creation and tackling the economic emergency facing us. We should be setting ambitious targets to create more jobs and grow the Scottish economy faster than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

“For too long, our economy has lagged behind under a government that treats businesses as an afterthought, when we should be leading the rest of the United Kingdom.”

He added: “The Programme for Government has to be for the whole country, not only for nationalists.

“It would be peak recklessness to risk jobs just now. Threats to key industries, such as oil and gas, must be ruled out in favour of positive moves to invest in infrastructure projects for the long term and help workers increase their skills in the short term.”

The Scottish Government pointed out that Barnett consequentials accrue on any additional funding provided to Whitehall departments in areas of devolved responsibility and it is for Scottish ministers to decide how they should be allocated in Scotland, depending on their priorities.

It said a rise in National Insurance contributions does not automatically increase funds to the Scottish Government via the Barnett formula, which only applies to spending, not revenues raised.

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