Forsyth to train fire on Labour's 'Tartan Tax'

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Indy Politics
The new Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth, yesterday promised aggressive campaigning against Labour and the nationalists but hinted at a more conciliatory tone in dealing with policy matters.

Labour can expect to be hammered over the so-called "Tartan Tax", the 3p in the pound by which Labour's promised home-rule Scottish parliament could vary the income tax rate.

Mr Forsyth is also expected to direct fierce fire at the Scottish National Party over its goal of "independence in Europe", which he will depict as a surrender of power to Brussels.

Mr Forsyth told a news conference yesterday that his Scottish Office ministerial team was ready to consult virtually every interest group in Scotland. The planned appointment of members to Scotland's new water boards is to be delayed.

He promised more emphasis on attracting private investment in public infrastructure projects, a push to cut Civil Service red tape and a drive to improve Scotland's town centres.

In the late 1980s as Scottish Tory party chairman, Mr Forsyth was viewed as the demon king of Scottish politics, a hard-line Thatcherite ideas man who revelled in the turmoil he created.

But Mr Forsyth appeared to belie that image yesterday and told reporters: "You judge, but judge on what I did when I was here and not what people said about me. And judge me now on what we do as a team."

The promise of sharper attacks on Labour and the nationalists offered the prospect of some vintage Forsyth political scrapping and implied that the opposition had have been given too easy a time in Scotland, where the Tories are running at 11 per cent in opinion polls.

Questioned about this figure, Mr Forsyth said: "The only way is up, I hope. I think if the people of Scotland find out that Labour plans to make them pay an extra 15 per cent on the basic rate of income tax, that the "Tartan Tax" will only be paid by people in Scotland, and if they find out that independence in Europe means giving more power to bureaucrats in Brussels, you will see that lead in the opinion polls narrow very considerably."

The rest of the Scottish team comprises Lord James Douglas Hamilton as Minister of State, and George Kynoch, Ray Robertson and the Earl of Lindsay as under-secretaries.