SNP slammed on tax rise vote and Brexit stance

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Opposition demands for a rise in income tax were last night backed by MSPs at Holyrood, even as the SNP was criticised over their stance on Brexit.

The SNP abstained from voting on calls to raise tax as part of a drive to offset austerity cuts, but the proposals were passed after being supported by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens. Scottish Labour’s motion calling for income tax to be increased to allow greater investment in public services was passed by 33 votes to 30 with 61 abstentions.

Although the vote has no legislative effect, it comes after Nicola Sturgeon announced she is open to the prospect of tax rises to raise extra cash for hard pressed public services.

The government wants to have cross-party talks on income tax ahead of publishing the draft budget for 2018/19, and has called for opposition parties to come forward with their proposals.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay told MSPs: “I want there to be an open and constructive debate, and so I and my colleagues will not prejudge the outcome of that discussion.”

He said the government was “committed to developing a progressive tax policy”. Labour interim leader Alex Rowley welcomed the vote.

Meanwhile, David Mundell urged the Scottish Government to “stop playing games” over key Brexit legislation.

The UK Scottish Secretary called on SNP ministers to “get serious” on discussions over the the EU withdrawal bill ahead of fresh talks.

Mr Mundell said: “If the Scottish Government are serious about having arrangements that will protect the vitally important UK domestic market, they need to stop playing games and start discussing the areas where we will need UK frameworks after we leave the EU.

“It is very clear that people do not want to see the Scottish Government trying to use Brexit to continue their campaign to take Scotland out of the UK.

“It is important that Scotland is ready for when the UK leaves the EU. The Scottish Government needs to get serious about making progress on the EU Withdrawal Bill.”

A spokesman for Scottish Brexit Secretary Mike Russell said: “David Mundell isn’t just on another continent - he appears to be on another planet.

“The idea of someone from the Tory Cabinet accusing others of playing political games is frankly absurd.

“The Tories fought tooth and nail against setting up the Scottish Parliament in the first place - we won’t let them use Brexit as cover to undermine it now.”