Nicola Sturgeon will rule out raising the basic rate of income tax in Scotland if the SNP is re-elected to Holyrood in May, claiming that to do so would be passing the weight of Tory austerity onto the country’s poorest people.
In a speech to the SNP’s spring conference in Glasgow, the First Minister will accuse Labour and the Liberal Democrats – which have both called for an immediate 1p increase in the basic rate of income tax to help fund local services – of engaging in “a competition over who can tax ordinary people the most”.
Promising that an SNP government would not change the basic rate over the course of the next Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon will argue it would be a mistake to increase income tax on Scotland’s hard-up workers at a time when household budgets are already being squeezed.
“Taxing the lowest-paid doesn’t tackle austerity, it simply passes the burden of Tory austerity to the shoulders of those who can least afford it and that is not fair,” she will say. “I think it would be wrong at this time to raise taxes on the lower-paid.”
The SNP has delayed an announcement on how it intends to use the new income tax powers coming to Holyrood until after George Osborne delivers his Budget next week, but Ms Sturgeon will insist her party’s plans are “fair to all taxpayers, fair to our economy and fair to our public services”.
The First Minister will also use her speech to announce that free lunches which are already given to children in the first three years of primary school will be expanded into nurseries if the SNP is elected – and will warn the Chancellor that any tax cuts for the wealthy in the Budget would be “deeply wrong” at a time of continuing austerity.
Labour has said modest tax rises are needed to raise money for Scotland’s public services, accusing Ms Sturgeon of ducking the chance to stop further cuts to local council budgets. But on Friday she suggested that her opponents were able to make rash promises because they knew they would not be elected.
“I am standing in this election because I want to be First Minister, so everything I say in this campaign I want and hope that I'll be in a position to deliver and implement,” she said. “The other parties appear to be battling it out for second place, so perhaps don’t have that responsibility.”
The SNP conference, which is expected to attract more than 3,000 people, comes less than two months before the Scottish Parliament election on 5 May, which based on current polling the party is expected to win by a comfortable margin.
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