Kezia Dugdale: Tax is the defining Holyrood election issue

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has declared tax to be the 'defining issue' of the Holyrood election, as she challenged party rivals to match her 'anti-austerity' public spending pledge.

The Scottish Labour leader believes tax will be the defining issue. Picture: PA

The Labour chief is pledging to increase spending on public services between the election and the next UK general election in 2020.

Plans for a one pence rise in income tax when Holyrood takes responsibility for this next year have been set out by Labour, along with the Liberal Democrats. Labour also plans a five pence increase in the top rate of tax to 50 pence.

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Nicola Sturgeon has said Scots middle earners won’t get new tax breaks coming to their counterparts down south after George Osborne increased the threshold for paying the 40 pence rate. She has so far ruled out tax increases for high earners.

The Greens have set out plans for a 60 pence top rate of tax.

Ms Dugdale said: “Tax is the defining debate in this election, and now it’s time for each of the parties to set out how they would use the new powers to stop the cuts.

“Our plans mean we can make an anti-austerity pledge – a guarantee that spending on services will rise under a Scottish Labour Government. It’s now up to other parties to match that.

“We can stop the cuts and take a different path from Tory austerity.

“The SNP’s tax plans will turn the Scottish Parliament into a conveyor belt for Tory austerity. Under Labour the poorest won’t pay a penny more than they do now and will be protected from cuts with Labour. With the SNP those at the top won’t pay a penny more than they do now and the poorest will pay the price with deeper cuts.

“Nicola Sturgeon refuses to use the new tax powers to stop the cuts and protect public services.

“Faced with a choice between using the powers of the Parliament to invest in the future or carrying on with the SNP’s cuts, Labour will use the powers.”