General election 2017: SNP sets out its “fair tax” proposals as it launches manifesto

15 Dec 2018

The SNP is proposing a UK-wide 50p top rate of income tax and an independent review of OTS recommendations that the government has so far failed to take up.

The party’s General Election manifesto was launched today (Tuesday 30 May) at Perth Concert Hall by Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who introduced the document as a “manifesto with fairness, opportunity and democracy at its heart”.

Recognising that decisions taken at Westminster would continue to shape Scotland in spite of the significant powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon – who is not standing in this election, though she of course remains a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) – said that SNP MPs would “work every day to make Scotland's voice heard and build a better country”.

The SNP used its 48-page manifesto to reflect on many of the achievements of its decade in power in the Scottish Parliament and those of the party’s 50+ strong group of MPs who pulled off a quite remarkable feat in 2015 by winning 56 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster constituencies.

Opinion polls point towards another strong SNP performance north of the border, although it is expected to face a tough challenge from the Conservatives in the Scottish Borders and North East and from the Liberal Democrats in the affluent suburbs of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Summary of SNP tax proposals

Taxes on income (inc. national insurance)

Support UK wide increase in the additional rate of income tax from 45p to 50p on incomes over £150,000 (until such time as the Scottish Parliament controls the rules on income tax avoidance, the party says there is a “risk” that Scotland increases alone would lead to a loss of revenue) Oppose any proposed increases in National Insurance Reverse the married couple’s allowance Support the introduction of a tax on bankers’ bonuses

Business taxation

Oppose further reductions in Corporation Tax Press the UK Government to phase in the introduction of the Quarterly Digital Tax Reporting over a five-year transition period Consider industry calls for exemptions to digital reporting to those who are not incorporated or VAT-registered Ensure that the UK government takes appropriate action on the taxation of late life oil and gas assets and targeted incentives to develop small pool discoveries.  The SNP will also urge the UK government to incentivise oil and gas companies diversifying into renewables Double the Employment Allowance – the National Insurance discount that businesses receive when they increase employment.  This would increase from £3,000 per business per year to £6,000 per business per year, phased in over the Parliament Support extension of the Annual Investment Allowance, which encourages firms to invest in plant and machinery from £200,000 to £1 million per year Support the reversal of reductions to the bank levy

Indirect and property taxes

Oppose any proposed increases in VAT Back the continuation of VAT-exemption on essential items like children’s clothes Examine a reduction in VAT for the hospitality sector Hold the UK government to a commitment to remove VAT from sanitary products. Until VAT is removed, SNP MPs will call for Scotland’s population share of the Tampon Tax Fund to be transferred to the Scottish Government Continue to make the case for the UK government to extend a VAT exemption to Scotland’s emergency services Freeze Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) increases “which penalise those who pay more for their insurance such as young drivers and communities in flood risk areas” Advocate a review of alcohol taxation to better reflect alcohol content Ensure the UK Government continues to work with the Scottish Government to secure an exemption from air passenger taxes on Highlands and Islands flights

Tax compliance

Push for a formal, independently chaired review of the Office for Tax Simplification (OTS) recommendations (the party says that the UK Government has adopted just 16 of 60 recommendations made by the OTS Support a moratorium and review of the closure of HMRC offices in Scotland and across the UK Beneficial ownership of companies and trusts to be made public Back measures to improve the transparency of tax paid by major international companies Support further action by the UK government to tackle international tax avoidance and campaign for the UK to renegotiate a new, fair tax treaty with Malawi

Employment rights and pay

Continue to press for full devolution of employment and employability policy – including the Minimum Wage Following devolution, an SNP Scottish Government will take advice from a strengthened Fair Work Convention to deliver workplace policy that is fit for the 21st century, including a full review of workplace leave entitlements Press the UK government to follow the lead of the Scottish Government by establishing a Fair Work Commission to ensure worker’s rights aren’t adversely impacted by Brexit Back a transition over the next parliamentary term towards payment of the real Living wage as a new minimum legal requirement The rate paid to 16 to 18 year olds and apprentices should also increase in line with changes to the rate of the real living wage Call on the UK Government to abolish fees for employment tribunals, as is the case in Scotland Ban zero-hours contracts and ensure that appropriate protections are in place for workers in the “gig economy” Halt the closure of Jobcentres and press for joint governance by the UK and Scottish Governments, as recommended by the Smith Commission

Social security and pensions

SNP MPs will continue to call for the Scottish Parliament to have full control over all social security benefits to deliver a system based on dignity and respect that is tailored to the needs of all the people of Scotland Vote against further cuts to social security budgets and ensure that benefits rise by at least inflation Press for the abolition of the two child cap on tax credits and the associated “rape clause” Abolish the so-called “Bedroom Tax” when the relevant powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and campaign for its abolition across the UK Halt the roll-out of Universal Credit Abolish the benefits sanctions regime Support the re-instatement of the work allowance to all benefit claimants Oppose plans to increase the state pension age Support the establishment of an Independent Savings and Pension Commission, to ensure pensions and savings policies are fit for purpose and reflect demographic differences across the UK Retain the pension triple-lock, ensuring that pensions continue to rise by inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent (whichever is highest) Stand up for women in Scotland impacted by the accelerated timetable for increases in the women’s State Pension Age. SNP MPs will continue to support the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign in their efforts to secure fairness for the women affected Extend auto-enrolment, so that more low paid, and self-employed, workers can benefit from regular pension savings Seek to ensure that regular, simple, and affordable saving schemes are offered to provide for a secure income in retirement, with an end to “gimmicks” like the Lifetime ISA

Fiscal and economic policy overview

As long as part of the Scottish Parliament’s budget continues to be determined by Westminster, SNP MPs will fight to protect the Barnett formula and ensure that the Scottish budget is protected from further cuts The SNP will demand an end to austerity and demand a new, credible fiscal plan for the UK Balance the budget by the end of the Parliament and achieve a current budget balance by the end of the next Parliament in 2021/22 with net borrowing being used only for investment from that year onwards Return the deficit to its pre-crash long-term average.  Under SNP plans, the UK’s net borrowing requirement will fall to 2.3 per cent of GDP – the thirty-year, long-term average for net borrowing prior to the financial crisis. It will reach this level in 2020/21 and remain there in 2021/22 Set debt on a downward path from 2019/20, which will see debt falling as a percentage of GDP from 2019/20, meeting the current target on public sector net debt The party says this plan will release almost £120 billion for public spending over the lifetime of the next Parliament, while returning the UK’s finances to a stable, sustainable path.

Other relevant policies

At the end of the Brexit process, when the final terms of the UK’s deal with the continuing EU are known, Scotland should have right to decide whether or not to be an independent country Until such time as Scotland chooses to become an independent country, press for the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament to boost the economy, mitigate the impact of Brexit and protect the most vulnerable.  This should include the repatriation of powers from Brussels to the Scottish Government where devolved competency already exists but also in areas of reserved policy Use a general election victory in Scotland to demand a place for Scotland at the Brexit negotiating table and the inclusion of the case for Scotland’s place in the Single Market in the UK’s negotiating remit.  The SNP says losing access could cost up to £11 billion per year by 2030 and would impact on key economic sectors such as tourism and food and drink

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech at the launch of the manifesto can be read here.

A full copy of the manifesto can be downloaded here.

Summary by Chris Young, CIOT Scotland External Relations Officer