Richard Leonard says tax cuts must "not be a priority" in Scottish budget

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Labour leader Richard Leonard has warned he will not back  tax cuts for Middle Earners in Scotland similar to those set out for workers elsewhere in the UK in the budget.

The move appears to mark a split with Labour south of the border where Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said he won't reverse Philip Hammond's decision to restrict the 40 pence Higher Rate to those earning £50,000 and above a year early.

Richard Leonard says Scots tax cuts should not be a priority

Richard Leonard says Scots tax cuts should not be a priority

Scotland has control over income tax rates and bands and SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has already indicated that he won't follow the cuts set out south of the border, insisting that Scotland will take a "fairer and progressive" approach.

Read more: Derek Mackay defends "fairer" Scots tax system after UK Budget cuts
And Mr Leonard appeared to back this approach today, confirming the prevailing political consensus in Scotland that Higher earners should pay more in tax to fund public services. Mr Mackay will set his budget on December 12.

Mr Leonard said: “We want to see a Scottish budget where the richest pay their fair share to properly fund public services and tackle inequality.

“The Tories have clearly broken their promise to end austerity.

"Income tax is devolved and raising the higher rate threshold should not be a priority for the Scottish government, we need a distinctive tax that meets the needs of the people of Scotland.”

In Scotland, the Higher rate is set at 41 pence and applies to salaries of £43,400, significantly lower than the position UK-wide.

Read more: Tax divide between middle earners in Scotland and England
The pro-independence Greens, the SNP's usual budget allies, are unlikely to back any tax cuts while public services are still deemed to be suffering.

The Tories say that Scots should not be paying more in tax than elsewhere in the UK.

Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “It seems even the Marxist John McDonnell isn’t extreme enough for Richard Leonard.

“It’s now clear there is a bidding war between the SNP and Labour to see who can punish hardworking Scots more severely.

“This intervention again goes to show that only the Scottish Conservatives are on the side of people and businesses when it comes to fair taxation.”