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Ruth warns of SNP-Labour high tax escalator

26 Mar 2016

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Ruth Davidson today will warn that Scotland will be trapped on “a high tax escalator” if the SNP and Labour are returned as the two leading parties in the next Scottish Parliament.

In a speech setting out her vision of a ‘balanced parliament’, she says it is only Scottish Conservative MSPs who can drag Holyrood back to the centre-ground on tax.

She warns that, if the SNP is returned as a government with Labour as principal opposition, the debate will only centre on “who can tax more”.

By contrast, she says that by pushing the case for lower taxes, the Scottish Conservatives will provide the strong opposition Scotland needs – leading to a more moderate plan on tax for all Scots.

Ruth’s speech follows Thursday night’s live TV debate in which Labour and the LibDems demanded the SNP increase taxes even higher – despite the SNP having already said they want to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK.

Under pressure, Nicola Sturgeon is now suggesting she may u-turn on a plan to increase the top rate of tax – even though her own analysis shows it will raise no money.

Ruth says today:

“I want to deliver the kind of balanced parliament that will make better decisions for all of us.

“I am afraid that will not happen if the principal fight in Scotland continues to be Labour versus the SNP.

“We saw what will happen from Thursday night’s debate – we will end up with a high tax First Minister being told by a high tax Opposition leader that taxes aren’t high enough.

“My fear is that the SNP and Labour will ensure Scotland is trapped for the next five years on a high tax escalator – with the political contest solely focussed on who can tax more; with the only question being how high taxes rises should be, not whether they should happen in the first place.”

“That won’t grow jobs – it will cut jobs. That won’t boost the economy – it will damage the economy. That won’t support our public services – it will pile more cuts on them.

“And that’s why we’re needed. Because it is only us, the Scottish Conservatives, which can stop that escalator in its tracks.

“The LibDems are even worse than Labour. The Greens live in a fantasy. Let’s not talk about UKIP.

“Only we can do a job for Scotland: to hold the SNP to account, and to ensure our Parliament is balanced.

“And that will only lead to better, more moderate, government

“That’s what strong oppositions do.

“Not egging on the Government to do more of what they’re already doing. But to challenge, to confront and to question the Government’s very philosophy.

“Scotland doesn’t need a left wing party in opposition – we’ve got one of those in government.

“What Scotland needs is a strong Conservative opposition which finally challenges the SNP.

“Which takes them on. Which fights for our Union. And which backs Scottish taxpayers.?”

A STRONG OPPOSITION: A BALANCED PARLIAMENT

Good morning everybody and thank-you for coming out today.

I want to talk today about our economy, about jobs and about the taxes we are soon to start paying here in Scotland.

It comes in the wake of what was an historic week at Westminster.

On Wednesday evening, without much fanfare, the Scotland Act received Royal Assent.

On time. And with the Smith Agreement fully delivered.

Now, you’ll remember all the hyperventilating from our Nationalist friends about this.

How we were going to renege on our commitments. How we wouldn’t deliver.

…you’ll remember the endless attempts to claim Scotland had been conned or duped.

At one point, I think they may even have claimed the angle of the BBC weather map was a solemn breach of the Vow.

And now a new battle – you can take our lives, but you cannot take our caravans from Holyrood park.

What a nonsense.

Well, I’m sorry to spoil the Nationalists’ grievance – Because we have delivered.

Quietly, David Mundell and his Scotland office team has got on with the job. And in the face of seperatists’ endless confected criticism and complaint, this week they delivered.

No fuss. No spin. They have just worked to get it done.

And it has confirmed what we have now known for some time:  that, from next year, sweeping new powers on tax will come to the Scottish Parliament.

It means that this Scottish election is entirely different from those which preceded it.

In short, we need to have a proper debate about how best we find the money to fund the public services on which we depend.

So I want to talk today about how we do that.

And I want to set out why it is now vital that a strong team of Scottish Conservatives are in the Scottish Parliament..

…to stop the parliament engaging in a bidding war on higher taxes –

…instead to pull that parliament back to the moderate, centre-ground so it puts jobs and the economy first.

I believe in the benefits of a lower tax economy.

And the last few turbulent years have only helped reinforce that view.

Remember where this country was when the Coalition government first came to office in 2010.

The boom years of the 2000s were a distant memory – but Britain was left with the hangover of Gordon Brown’s debt mountain.

We had an economy so unbalanced that we were racking up more than £150 billion in borrowing in one year alone

The end result is that we are still living in a country which has to spend as much on debt interest as we do on the military.

As Labour themselves said back in 2010: there was no money left.

Which left that new government with two options.

Whack up taxes, and use short-term measures to fill the deficit.

Or take a longer-term approach to growing the economy, lowering taxes and backing enterprise.

Thankfully, the government of the day chose the latter.

And the consequences have been clear to see.

Since 2010, the average basic rate taxpayer now keeps an extra £1000 thanks to the increase in the personal allowance.

And crucially, job creators have been given the boost they need to get on and compete in the world.

The SNP demanded we lower Corporation tax – well, it will now fall to 17% in the coming years, down from 28% when we came to power.

The effect of this pro-growth strategy has been immense.

Simply put, it has driven a jobs revival that no-one saw coming – and certainly not the Jeremiahs in Labour or the SNP.

Here in Scotland, three new private sector jobs for every one public sector job lost.

Employment up by nearly 200,000.

Nearly 50,000 fewer unemployed.

And for me the most important figure of all: 44,000 fewer children in Scotland living in workless households – the lowest figure since records began in 1996.

Labour said these jobs would be part time unskilled ones. Again they were wrong.

Real wages have gone up. The vast majority of the jobs are skilled.

Backed up by a new national living wage.

And as for the rich, the top 1% pay fully 28% of all income tax revenue – more than they ever did under Labour.

I could carry on with the statistics, but the evidence is clear.

The country is regaining its competitiveness following the Labour years – and working families are benefiting as a consequence.

And it is due to clear economic policies which have sought to make work pay, and incentivise job creation.

There is nothing more progressive in society than a good, stable job.

I speak as someone who has been out of work and knows what it’s like to look for one and has bridged the gap back into employment with as many casual shifts as I could find.

And I can tell you – little frustrates me more than hearing the patronising criticism of our opponents offering little but slogans and grievance – when what people need is security and work.

So we can be proud of the work that’s been done to get more people are back into a job.

So, it’s clear to me that the tax decisions over the last five years have been the right ones.

Letting people who work keep more of the money they earn.

Taking the lowest paid out of tax altogether

Supporting job creators by lowering jobs taxes

Restoring competitiveness to the economy.

But, as I said earlier, many of these decisions on tax now move to the Scottish Government in Edinburgh.

And the real concern for those of us who put jobs first, is that the lessons of those last six years are being passed up.

Last week, we learned the full cost of the SNP’s plans.

Firstly, middle earners in Scotland will be forced to pay £3000 more in tax than people in England over the next five years.

By the turn of the decade, the difference in take home pay for someone touching£50,000 will be £800 a year.

And secondly, the additional rate may go up too.

On Wednesday, the First Minister rightly declared she would not be increasing the additional rate of tax – because we know Scotland will lose money if she does.

But by Thursday night, we learned that, actually, she’s had second thoughts – and that she may do so in future years

In short, we now have a Government which we know will make middle earners pay more – and which may make higher earners pay even more too.

The same Government which, as we know, has already increased the cost of buying a home – and created a hole in its accounts – by whacking up stamp duty too..

Not that this is enough for Labour and the LibDems.

Both have now declared that far from doing too much, Nicola Sturgeon should tax people even harder.

Welcome to the twilight world of Labour and LibDem opposition.

If Nicola Sturgeon smashed a hole in the M8, their only complaint would be that she didn’t make it big enough.

Well, I take a different view.

First of all, don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure that somebody on £150,000 can pay a bit more.

I’ve never earned that kind of money, but it doesn’t strike me that those who do are short of cash.

But that’s not the issue here. The issue is: what’s best for Scotland? What’s in our national interest? What’s going to help jobs?

And my fear is that the kind of tax rises that Nicola Sturgeon is proposing will drive jobs away.

Not just because of the specific measures she’s adopting – but also because of the cumulative effect they have.

Because people are already beginning to take notice.

For example: at a biotech conference in Edinburgh a few weeks ago, an entrepreneur called Alan Walker was reported talking about how he wanted to expand his firm into Scotland.

But, he said –he was having trouble getting staff to come here.

Let me quote what he said:

“They see it as more expensive to buy a house and there are rumours of a differential in income tax between England and Scotland. Our chief scientists will not move out of London.”

London’s gain – our loss.

This is what my opponents just don’t get. Tax needs to be fair – of course it does. But it must also be competitive.

Because if it isn’t, we will all lose,

Only last week, we heard from Jim McColl – one of our greatest entrepreneurs, and a member of Nicola Sturgeon’s own Council of Economic Advisers – making similar points.

Put taxes up, he warned, and “we’re just going to accelerate the loss of this talent that we want to help grow the Scottish economy.”

Our loss – somebody else’s gain.

The point is this: tax policy sends messages.

And if the Scottish Government sends out the wrong messages, then we will all suffer.

Here’s another example.

The Scottish Government has recently launched a drive to encourage more doctors to come and settle here in Scotland.

I say: great idea.

After all, my colleagues in Westminster don’t seem to be flavour of the month with doctors right now – so if we can bang the drum for Scotland and get more doctors to come here or return here after working away; then great.

Except now there’s a problem.

Because Nicola Sturgeon is telling doctors they’re going to have pay thousands of pounds extra in tax than in England or Wales.

Is that going to help the Scottish Government’s own efforts? Is it going to help our NHS?

The truth is: it won’t.

And we will all pay for these policies – in the decisions not taken

The decision not to come and set up a business here.

The decision to choose somewhere else to make a living.

I believe there is plenty this Scottish Government is doing that can be supported.

But it needs to wake up to the damage this tax plan is doing to Scotland that will only undermine its own long-term goals.

And that is what our strong team of Scottish Conservative MSPs can deliver.

We will fight to keep people’s taxes as low as possible.
Not just because workers deserve to keep more of their own money – and they do –  but also because it is good for Scotland….

…..I want to deliver the kind of balanced parliament that will make better decisions for all of us.

I am afraid that will not happen if the principal fight in Scotland continues to be Labour versus the SNP.

We saw what will happen from Thursday night’s debate – we will end up with a high tax First Minister being told by a high tax Opposition leader that taxes aren’t high enough.

My fear is that the SNP and Labour will ensure Scotland is trapped for the next five years on a high tax escalator.

–        with the political contest solely focussed on who can tax more.

–  with the only question being how high taxes rises should be, not whether they should happen in the first place.

That won’t grow jobs – it will cut jobs.

That won’t boost the economy – it will damage the economy

That won’t support our public services – it will pile more cuts on them.

And that’s why we’re needed.

Because it is only us, the Scottish Conservatives, which can stop that escalator in its tracks.

Not just because workers deserve to keep more of their own money – and they do –  but also because it is good for Scotland….

…..I want to deliver the kind of balanced parliament that will make better decisions for all of us.

I am afraid that will not happen if the principal fight in Scotland continues to be Labour versus the SNP.

We saw what will happen from Thursday night’s debate – we will end up with a high tax First Minister being told by a high tax Opposition leader that taxes aren’t high enough.

My fear is that the SNP and Labour will ensure Scotland is trapped for the next five years on a high tax escalator.

–        with the political contest solely focussed on who can tax more.

–  with the only question being how high taxes rises should be, not whether they should happen in the first place.

That won’t grow jobs – it will cut jobs.

That won’t boost the economy – it will damage the economy

That won’t support our public services – it will pile more cuts on them.

And that’s why we’re needed.

Because it is only us, the Scottish Conservatives, which can stop that escalator in its tracks.

The LibDems are even worse than Labour. The Greens live in a fantasy. Let’s not talk about UKIP.

Only we can do a job for Scotland: to hold the SNP to account, and to ensure our Parliament is balanced.

And that will only lead to better, more moderate, government

That’s what strong oppositions do.

Not egging on the Government to do more of what they’re already doing.

But to challenge, to confront and to question the Government’s very philosophy.

Scotland doesn’t need a left wing party in opposition – we’ve got one of those in government.

What Scotland needs is a strong Conservative opposition which finally challenges the SNP.

Which takes them on.

Which fights for our Union.

And which backs Scottish taxpayers.

So my message to voters today is this.

This election is the most important since devolution.

The Scotland Act powers have made that obvious.

But – as I have said many times over the last few weeks – Something in Scotland needs to change and if we don’t change the government, then we need to look at changing the opposition.

Because Scotland needs a balanced parliament.

….in which a Nationalist party has a genuinely Unionist opposition.

….in which the party that has given us state guardians, is taken on by us: the party of family and society.

…and, as these new powers are transferred to Scotland, in which the high tax SNP is challenged by a low tax vision for Scotland.

Where, through the clash of ideas, we end up with a government that works better for all of us.

We have less than six weeks out to get that message across friends.

Let’s get out there and do it.