Calum Crichton is a policy researcher at the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Conservatives.
Today there will be a vote in the Scottish Parliament on the SNP Government’s proposal to increase council tax, an ill thought-through plan that should be opposed by all opposition parties.
If voted through, the proposals would not only hard working families with higher taxes, but would also ensure that local people do not feel any direct benefit from the money raised.
The SNP’s council tax increases will eat into family budgets much more than under the Scottish Conservatives plans. The nationalists want to see Bands E, F, G, and H have their council tax bills rise by an extra £105, £207, £112, and £114 per year, respectively, compared to the Conservatives’ proposals.
In sum, the SNP will be taking an extra £77.8 million in tax from Scottish families, of which an extra £64.1 million will come from Bands E and F.
On top of this, local authorities will have the freedom to increase council tax by up to three per cent across the board, which is something the Scottish Conservatives do support. Yet the SNP will absorb this extra tax into the central government coffers, as opposed to allowing local councils to keep the revenue for local services.
Scottish local authorities’ representative body COSLA has already dubbed Scotland as the “most centralised country in Europe.” Indeed, 85 per cent of local authority funding comes from central government, and by choosing to cream off any additional revenue it is being clear that absolutely nothing is being done to reverse this trend.
Accountability is said to be an important guiding principle for taxation, but clearly not one that is high up on the priority list for this SNP administration.
This contrast in tax plans is an indictment of the current debate in Scotland. Whereas the Scottish Conservatives support a low tax, high wage economy, the SNP are pushing for the exact opposite.
Over the course of this Parliament, Scottish families and businesses are facing a surcharge of over £1 billion, putting the economy at a competitive disadvantage. This is the last thing Scotland needs.
The economy is suffering from a Sturgeon slowdown and has been lagging behind the UK for over six years; employment growth is dwarfed by every other UK region; income for the lowest earners has fallen; FDI is down nine per cent on the year; and uncertainty over a second referendum is holding back the property market.
For a party that has been in office for a decade, it is not a good story. Reversing plans to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK would a good start in addressing these problems. And today, it should start with council tax.