Kate Forbes urged to rule out tax rises in Scottish budget

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is being urged to rule out any fresh taxes rises as she prepares to set out her Scottish budget for 2020/21 on Thursday.

Tory leader Douglas Ross says Scotland is already the highest taxed part of the UK and has demanded "no further tax rises" to stimulate growth when the economy finally reopens after the coronavirus lockdown.

Ms Forbes has pledged to deliver a package of measures which will drive economic growth, create jobs and support beleaguered firms struggling to deal with the impact of the virus this week.

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Mr Ross insisted this must start with ensuring that taxes are at least frozen to protect growth.

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate ForbesScottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes
Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes

"The SNP have made Scotland the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom over successive budgets,” he said

"We're saying we would love to reduce the tax burden of the Scottish taxpayer, but clearly right now during this pandemic we've got to take decisions to support us through a global pandemic when we have to ensure we have adequate funding for all the services we require.

"But the ultimate aim of the Scottish Conservatives is to reduce the tax burden on the Scottish taxpayer.

"But right now we're focused on no further tax rises by the SNP because we want to make sure people have money in their pockets to stimulate the economy when we get out of the current restrictions."

The Scottish Government has used it powers to overhaul the income tax system system in recent years, meaning the overall tax burden across Scotland's workforce is higher than it would be with the UK-wide system, to the tune of about £68 million.

But a majority of Scots (55 per cent) do pay less, while those making more than about £27,000 (45 per cent) pay more the south of the Border. This rises to more than £2,000 extra for those making above £100,000.

Ms Forbes has already said that her meetings with industry leaders left her aware of the "need for stability" in relation to devolved taxes.

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"The budget will deliver on those priorities," she said at the weekend.

The Finance Secretary has also complained that she is being forced to publish a budget before Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set out his UK Budget, which will include Scotland's block grant settlement.

She claims this effectively leaves her in the dark about what the full extent of her resources will be as she unveils her spending plans

But Mr Ross said: "There's absolutely nothing to stop the Scottish Government from setting their budget ahead of a UK Government budget.

"That's exactly what they did last year and the Welsh Government have done that for a number of years. The Scottish Government know from the allocation they were given in broad terms in the spending review back November the amount of money they will have to spend and it's perfectly possible for Kate Forbes to set out a comprehensive budget, as she did last year, based on figures that are available at the moment."

He said there was "continued dialogue" between the UK and Scottish governments on spending issues.

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