Swinney accused of income-tax 'own goal'

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JOHN Swinney suffered a further blow yesterday over his plans for a local income tax, with claims he had undermined the case for Scottish independence.

The finance secretary faced a barrage of criticism from opposition politicians, the business community and some trade unions when he launched the controversial proposal earlier this week.

Now Labour has seized on remarks made by Mr Swinney when he launched his tax plan. He said he wanted Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to collect the tax but, if necessary, he would create a Scottish collection agency to do the job. However, he warned this would be an "extra tier" of bureaucracy that would not be welcomed by business.

Jackie Baillie, for Labour, said: "Unless, in an independent Scotland, they believe the UK's HMRC would continue to act as a tax collection agency, then inevitably they would have to set up a separate Scottish collection agency."

She added: "This is hugely embarrassing for the SNP leadership. They have finally admitted that the costs of independence are prohibitive."

An SNP spokesman said Labour had failed to take account of HMRC's tax infrastructure already in place in Scotland, which would remain after independence.

"They seem to think the existing tax collection system applies only to England," he said.