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Labour to force Scottish Parliament vote on 50p tax rate

Party campaigned on policy to restore rate to those earning more than £150,000.

Parliament: Labour accused of 'hypocrisy' by SNP (file pic).
Parliament: Labour accused of 'hypocrisy' by SNP (file pic). © Deadline

Labour plans to force a Scottish Parliament vote on a higher top rate of tax for Scotland's richest.

The party's election campaign set out a policy to restore the 50p tax rate for people earning more than £150,000.

The SNP backed the move at the 2015 General Election but Nicola Sturgeon later ruled out a 50p income tax rate for the first year Holyrood has its new powers.

The Scottish Government gains control over income tax rates and bands in April 2017, as part of the devolution of new powers in the Scotland Bill.

Now, Scottish Labour has tabled an amendment in a bid to force a vote on the tax issue at Holyrood during a parliamentary debate on Thursday.

The Scottish Government motion for debate proposes "creating a fair and prosperous Scotland" and "using the new devolved powers" to tackle inequality, including building 50,000 affordable homes.

Labour's amendment adds that the parliament "recognises the need for a higher top rate of tax for the richest earners so that this can be redistributed to tackle wider inequalities" and increases the affordable homes target to 60,000.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said: "This vote is an opportunity for the SNP to make a simple choice - they can work with the centre left parties like Labour to stop the cuts and invest in our public services, or support the Tories to carry on with austerity.

"Labour will make the case that we should use the new powers over tax to introduce a 50p top rate of tax on the richest 1% earning over £150,000 a year.

"It's the simple priorities we said we would adhere to in this parliament - tax the rich so we can invest in schools and stop the cuts to public services."

A spokesman for finance secretary Derek Mackay said: "We have already made clear we support a 50p tax rate in principle, and indeed we have not ruled it out in the longer term.

"But under the new tax powers being devolved we will not have control over tax avoidance, and independent advice tells us that, as a result, increasing the top rate now could actually end up costing the public purse.

"So it is for Labour to explain how they can guarantee their policy would not end up costing money - and potentially depriving public services in Scotland of millions of pounds.

"They are also guilty of appalling hypocrisy on this issue, as when the SNP pushed for a vote against scrapping the UK-wide 50p rate, Labour MPs were posted missing at Westminster and failed to support it."

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