SNP will use high taxes as a political weapon (then try to blame Brexit)

IS there anything Brexit hasn’t been blamed for: the Second World War, perhaps, or the slump in ratings for The X Factor?

In fact, if you’re looking to economise this Christmas, just tell your children that Santa faced severe cost pressures as a result of the Brexit process.

Surely it’s only a matter of time before it’s linked to the partial closure of the Queensferry Crossing.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has learned this lesson well as he prepares for the ‘most challenging Budget in the history of the Scottish parliament’, a week on Thursday.

As well as Brexit, he has also highlighted a ‘decade of Tory austerity, changing demographics, the impact of the pay cap’ – and added in a ‘worsening UK economy’, just for good measure.

He was rather less keen to mention the £2billion boost for Scotland in the UK Government’s Budget.

Of course, Mr Mackay is preparing the ground, none too subtly, for a festive tax raid, and the SNP’s hunger for more of your cash won’t be sated by a mere £2billion dividend.

So be in no doubt that an all-out assault on your household finances is almost certain to feature in that ‘challenging Budget’, just 11 days before Christmas.

Timing hasn’t been the SNP’s strongest suit, of late: you might recall that last month Nicola Sturgeon unveiled her tax plans on the same day interest rates rose for the first time in more than a decade.

A 2015 analysis of the household earnings of Miss Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell, the SNP’s chief executive, showed a combined yearly income of more than £200,000, putting them in the top 2 per cent of earners in Great Britain.

It’s unlikely that they wake up in the middle of the night fretting about rising mortgage costs, and they are more than capable of withstanding an increase in taxes.

This also applies to many of our parliamentarians who, insulated from financial reality, are ready to wave through Mr Mackay’s tax rises.

In the Holyrood debating chamber, the only poverty on open display is of the intellectual variety.

Nearly £2million was lavished on a new lighting system earlier this year (each ‘lamp cluster’ has 129 bulbs to represent the number of MSPs).

Let’s not pretend that this is an institution that cares much about your household finances being squeezed when it shows such blatant contempt for taxpayers’ money.

And let’s not pretend either that any meaningful debate has taken place about the ‘progressive’ tax rises Mr Mackay is plotting: only the Tories are providing any semblance of resistance to the move.

Pulling the strings, as always, are the Greens – de factor SNP backbenchers, but an increasingly powerful voice – whose interventions at parliament are now almost beyond parody.

Last year one of their MSPs, Ross Greer, lodged a motion which congratulated a teenager on ‘successfully campaigning to be given the option of opening a bank account under a non-binary gender identity’.

Overdraft fees are rising at a meteoric rate and branches are being shut, but the gangsterism of the banks isn’t as much of a problem for the Greens as transgender politics.

Mr Mackay cares even less than Mr Greer about the content of your current account.

Remember that the Finance Secretary once admitted he had no understanding of the Laffer Curve – the economic principle that the more an activity such as production is taxed, the less of it is generated – and he believes higher rate taxpayers are ‘rich’.

All four proposals published by the Scottish Government last month included increases in the higher rates of tax, currently set at 40p, and the 45p top rate.

In addition, three of the options propose a new 21p rate of income tax charged on earnings of £24,001 and above.

With no apparent irony, Miss Sturgeon, writing about Brexit at the weekend, warned against putting ‘ideological totems before the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people’.

And yet yesterday we learned that the SNP’s Soviet-sounding ‘growth commission’, which is devising an economic blueprint for independence, will finally report back early next year.

Miss Sturgeon is said to have told a meeting of SNP activists on Saturday that the commission’s findings could provide a springboard for a fresh push for independence.

The Nationalists’ ‘ideological totems’ are, it seems, in full working order – even if they were hidden away for a while after the party’s bruising electoral losses in June.

The commitment to higher taxes is also a ‘totem’, which it seems can withstand any change in circumstance.

But it will lead to job losses by driving away the wealth creators who bankroll ‘free’ prescriptions and higher education.

(Mind you, if you’re middle-class, you might have to forget about sending your child to university, because of the SNP’s extraordinary social engineering drive – lowering entrance criteria for pupils from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds.)

The foundation of the SNP’s tax totem is in fact a cynical political calculation.

On the one hand, it is designed to ‘out-Corbyn’ Corbyn, aimed at winning over Left-wing voters attracted by the Labour leader’s particular brand of Marxist lunacy.

But on the other – and more importantly – it is a way of weaponising taxation against the middle classes.

The goal is to keep the SNP client base happy, with the aim of keeping the party in power and maintaining independence as a credible objective.

You see, the SNP doesn’t really care about you if you are ‘rich’, as Mr Mackay puts it, because you’re probably a Unionist, and therefore an impediment to the (bankrupt) independent socialist nirvana it wants to build.

In the meantime, lifting the public sector pay cap – regardless of the ruinous expense involved – and more energetic virtue-signalling to highlight why Scotland is more socially just than its nearest neighbours, are at the top of the SNP’s agenda.

Never mind that in the interim our public services are in terminal decline, and that entrepreneurs are forming an orderly queue to leave the country.

For years, Alex Salmond and John Swinney worked hard to build bridges with business – bridges that are now ablaze under this administration.

Former CBI Scotland director Sir Iain McMillan, ex-Scottish Enterprise chief executive Jack Perry, construction executive Anthony Rush and former PWC tax partner Rhona Irving warned the First Minister last month that increasing the tax burden could damage investment and hit consumer spending.

Chief executives, like many of us, regard Mr Mackay as someone you wouldn’t trust with the takings from the school raffle, far less with Scotland’s economy.

He has all the gravitas – but none of the nous – of an apprentice second-hand car salesman.

A minister with more miles on the clock would stop blaming Brexit, lay aside class prejudice, and put the country’s economic wellbeing before the narrow political interests of the SNP.

Home Affairs Editor, columnist, leader writer, Scottish Daily Mail. Twitter: @GrahamGGrant Facebook: @sdmnewspaper

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Graham Grant.

Graham Grant.

Home Affairs Editor, columnist, leader writer, Scottish Daily Mail. Twitter: @GrahamGGrant Facebook: @sdmnewspaper

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