The SNP carps from the side-lines about Kwasi’s tax U-turn — but where is Sturgeon’s cogent economic blueprint?
THE Tory tax U-turn is the very definition of an open goal for the SNP, so it’s no surprise that it spent much of yesterday capitalising on it.
Yet while it makes hay with the Kwasi climbdown, the Scottish economy remains in the doldrums after a series of punitive Nationalist tax raids.
The cross-Border tax gap means anyone living in the SNP’s progressive paradise pays a hefty premium for the privilege — even if public services are in terminal decline.
After the horrors of the pandemic, that disparity is a lead weight attached to any hope of recovery — and it looks as if it’s here to stay.
Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney, her stand-in Finance Secretary, claimed the volte-face on scrapping the 45p tax band was a glorious vindication of their own approach.
You might wonder what that is, as so far the SNP’s only real response to the Tory growth plan has been largely prevarication — although naturally it railed against tax breaks for the ‘super rich’.
The Chancellor’s retreat on the 45p tax abolition has given the SNP the licence it needs to keep doing nothing, arguing that it would be wrong to replicate the Tory tax chaos in Scotland.
That’s a willful misinterpretation of events, and bad news for the economy in Scotland, where growth has been running at roughly half the UK level since 2014, languishing in SNP-induced torpor.
Someone living in Scotland on a basic salary of £20,000 — hardly the ‘super rich’ — pays £52 more tax than they would in England, rising to an extra £195 for £30,000, a £395 premium for those on £40,000, and £1,863 for those earning £50,000.
For those on salaries of £60,000, the extra tax bill is £2,020, but for the SNP anyone on its 41p tax band, including headteachers and police sergeants, is impossibly well-off — and indeed ‘rich’, as shamed former Finance Secretary Derek Mackay once called them.
The signal has been clear for years — working hard isn’t rewarded, while billions more are ploughed into benefits, and a public sector which accounts for 22.1 per cent of total employment, up by 2.4 per cent in the past year.
Economic expansion can only be powered by business, but its needs have been consistently overlooked or neglected by the SNP Government, not least during the pandemic.
Its big ideas to help them recover now that the worst of Covid is behind us were to introduce a tax on driving to work — and threaten a hike in sky-high business rates.
Ludicrously, a parliamentary group last week proposed a universal basic income to reduce health inequalities, a move that would cost up to £20billion — money for nothing, bankrolled by — you guessed it — higher taxes.
Given the pressures of this world, with rising mortgage costs and energy bills, a trip to the parallel universe inhabited by these blue-sky thinkers might be a welcome relief from the strains of the cost of living crisis.
And as much as the SNP is happy to carp from the side-lines about the Tory tax meltdown, it’s painfully clear to anyone who’s been paying attention that it has no cogent plan of its own, or any plan at all, to galvanise the Scottish economy.
True, the Tories’ growth strategy was probably too much, too soon — lots of good ideas when just one or two, at this very early stage of a new government, would have been sufficient.
But its principles were sound, though the prioritisation of growth is a heresy for the SNP — which is wedded to failed, Left-wing statism of the tax and spend variety, with the emphasis on tax.
It’s also in league with the anti-capitalist Greens; as a result, in the corporate world, some senior players are completely in the dark about the SNP’s rescue plan for the economy it’s helped to drive into the ground.
One female entrepreneur told the Sunday Times: ‘I know all about the First Minister’s views on transgender issues and nothing about her plans for the economy.
‘She doesn’t want to cut taxes, fine, so what’s her plan to create well-paid jobs and attract investment?’
All good questions, but as ever answers are scarce.
The other brilliant SNP idea was to hire a ‘chief entrepreneur’, Mark Logan, on a taxpayer-funded salary of £192,000 for eight days a month — nice work if you can get it.
Meanwhile, the growth rate in the number of Scots starting new businesses is lagging behind the rest of the UK.
Liz Lloyd, the First Minister’s strategic and political adviser, tweeted yesterday in support of a ‘reversal of [UK Government] plans to slash investment in public services’.
Yet the SNP Government’s spending review, published back in May, paved the way for major cuts in the years ahead, with the axe falling on councils, police, the fire service, and universities.
Of course, that’s the Tories’ fault — blame-shifting is the first tenet of Sturgeonomics — but the growth Liz Truss is aiming to stoke, under plans which the SNP vehemently opposes, would be a financial boost for Scotland.
It’s that sharing mechanism — allowing the pooling and sharing of wealth across the UK — that the SNP wants to end for ever with its independence crusade.
The Tories’ problems, many of which would have been avoided with better planning and communication (perhaps even some within the Cabinet), have overshadowed the fact that the push for a second referendum is on life support.
Out-of-touch Miss Sturgeon, pictured the other day with an obliging flunkey holding an umbrella over her head, will be grateful for the deflection.
The tax row has also overshadowed the small matter of the SNP’s botched CalMac ferries contract, and allegations of corruption, as costs soar towards £400million.
Millions have been ploughed into public inquiries to probe SNP blunders, but it’s a safe bet there will never be an inquest into the party’s abject failure on the economy — at least not one instigated by this government.
It is happier obsessing about independence, setting aside £20million for a referendum that won’t materialise, and boasting about its progressive values.
Just how progressive was revealed yesterday in a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which painted a ’bleak picture of a society in crisis’, with nearly one in five households on low incomes in Scotland ‘hungry and cold this year, even before we enter the winter months’.
Don’t kid yourselves that the SNP cares more about those families than its goal to smash apart the Union, at any cost — or that in the meantime it has any clue how to grow the economy (given its partnership with the Marxist Greens, it’s not even clear that it wants to).
What we can expect is more of the same, for as long as this tired bunch of pathologically incompetent ideologues are in office.
- This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on October 4, 2022.
- *Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant