In coming days the SNP is finally expected to break its longstanding silence on the issue of taxation.
It’s dropped enough hints about where it wants to go on this matter, revealing its dogmatic intention to make Scotland the highest-taxed part of the UK.
But now we are preparing to see in black and white for the first time what an SNP Government actually intends to do.
The very fact the Scottish Parliament is having this debate is a good thing. Finally, a grown-up issue that doesn’t involve independence has arrived at Holyrood, and we look forward to going head-to-head with our political opponents, all of whom want to hit Scots in the pocket.
The further devolution of tax powers to Scotland is welcome, and the SNP is just about to find out how challenging it is to set up a fair, sustainable and affordable taxation system.
SNP manifestos over the years have constantly suggested that tax hikes are on the horizon, and already by failing to mirror UK Government policy on income tax for those in certain brackets, it has increased the rate on some groups of workers by default.
It also charges home buyers more in taxation by setting more punitive stamp duty rates for larger properties than are in existence across the rest of the UK.
And the Nationalists have ended the council tax freeze, meaning standard family homes in place like Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire and Aberdeen have been hit with tax hikes, in some cases over £500 annually, to help fund services and get local authorities out of the financial pickle they’ve got themselves into over the years.
But it’s income tax which really sets the tone, and is the tax which people regard as the most sacred.
The SNP, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens would do well to remember that money earned by workers belongs to the workers, and government has a duty to keep its slice of the cake to a minimum, and spend the proceeds responsibly.
Instead, they think it’s their cash to play with, leaving only the Scottish Conservatives on the side of the honest, hardworking population of this country.
The SNP has been playing a careful game on this up to now. It’s terrified to alienate middle classes by increasing tax, knowing it has already haemorrhaged so much of that vote with its endless threat of breaking up Britain at the expense of all else.
But it is equally scared of the virtuous Left, who can’t think of any better way to raise money or boost the economy except dipping their hands into people’s pockets.
In their defence, Labour have been upfront about the banditry they want to embark on when it comes to people’s pay cheques. This week not one, but two, potential future leaders for the Scottish Labour Party set out how they would raid taxpayers’ accounts.
It was no shock to see arch-Corbynista Richard Leonard dictating during his set piece speech that he thought people should pay more, businesses should pay more, and households through council tax should pay more.
Perhaps more surprising was supposed moderate Anas Sarwar also signalling his intention for punishing tax hikes on ordinary workers. In his proposals, it seems almost anyone who wasn’t on the minimum wage would have to cough up more cash for him to spend, probably recklessly.
It’s a timely reminder that whoever the desperate and shambolic Labour Party pick as their new figurehead in Scotland, the consequences for the economy would be equally dire.
And it’s just not what people want. When Nicola Sturgeon, in her Programme for Government earlier this year, flirted with the idea of higher taxes, it was the strongest hint yet that workers should brace themselves to be robbed.
A survey carried out shortly after revealed the majority of people were against this idea, feeling that they already paid through the nose to support a government which has failed miserably on the stewardship of health, the economy and education. It’s astonishing more political parties can’t see this.
Scottish Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that it is wrong for Scots to have to pay more tax than their counterparts across the rest of the UK. And, if it’s affordable in future, we should actually look at the possibility of reducing the tax burden and creating a low welfare, low tax, high wage and high growth economy.
If you keep taxes low, it will persuade more businesses to invest, and make Scotland a more attractive place for workers to come from the rest of the UK and beyond. In turn, that generates growth, creates jobs and grows the tax base, meaning more tax receipts are in the pot, and public services can be boosted as a consequence.
As has been proved time and again over the years, the NHS, schools and infrastructure all benefit from a strong economy. But if you whack taxes up, you are in effect hanging a sign at the border which reads: ‘Closed for business.’
And the funny thing is, the SNP agrees with us on this, or at least it does when it comes to Air Departure Tax, the replacement for air passenger duty – the tax you pay every time you fly.
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay – the very man who’ll likely outline these tax hikes for Scotland’s workforce – believes that lowering the amount of money people have to pay to fly into Scotland will result in more visitors, and subsequently more cash for the tourism industry. It wouldn’t take long for that to make up for the drop in receipts from the ADT cut.
So if that’s the case for air travel, why’s it not the SNP’s plan for the economy more broadly? Only Mr Mackay and Nicola Sturgeon can address that question of idiotic hypocrisy.
If the Scottish Government wants a lesson in what happens when you brainlessly increase tax, it just has to look at its approach to Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, the SNP’s replacement for stamp duty.
We warned them repeatedly that if it pressed ahead with charging people more at the higher end of the scale, it would make life harder for those everywhere else. Two years on from these changes, the market has gummed up as predicted as properties aren’t shifting at the top end, making it more difficult for people to get onto the housing ladder, and move from first to second homes. Misery for them, and misery for the public purse, which has brought in tens of millions less than anticipated.
So the SNP has the evidence to hand and has two choices. Listen to the Scottish Conservatives, keep taxes down and focus on helping growth and business.
Or pander to the Left, punish the people who make our economy what it is, and pay the price at the ballot box in four years’ time.