On the Politics Show, Sunday 26 October 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed John Swinney MSP, Scottish Finance Minister
JON SOPEL: The emails made it clear that this information was destined for a paper to be presented to the Scottish Cabinet and that means the SMP's Finance Minister, John Swinney, he joins us now from Dundee. Mr Swinney, thanks very much for being with us. Is a massive U-turn being prepared here.
JOHN SWINNEY: Well what we're doing Jon is looking at the evidence that came out of the consultation exercise that we carried out earlier on this year and broadly the consultation exercise said that we should look again at the issue of investment income. We're looking at that again. We're not looking at savings income, there's no question of us applying this to savings income.
The consultation exercise asked also to look at local variability and we'll look at the possibility of local variability down off?(?) the local income tax and we're also looking at the position of students, as Iain Gray mentioned a moment ago. So all we're doing is acting as I think people would expect us to do, as a government that listens to the people and the views that they express.
JON SOPEL: Why can't politicians accept it's a U-turn. You specifically ruled out this in exemptions for savings and investment income was clearly stated and now you're sending emails saying, which you're not announcing publicly, we found this out under freedom of information, that you are wanting to look at what money would be raised by this means.
JOHN SWINNEY: Well we'll certainly, we're certainly considering that as an option Jon. I'm very happy to confirm that and if we decide to do this in due course and we all want to call it a U-turn, then I'll call it a U-turn, I'm not fussed about that. But what we are doing is going to through a genuine process of listening to the feedback from the consultation exercise, assembling the data and the information, as everyone would expect us to do and I'll make announcements once the cabinet has considered these issues, later on this year and that's the normal orderly process of government, that the SNP government goes through, moving forward.
A proposal that's designed to ensure that four out of five households in Scotland are better off or no worse off as a consequence of this proposal and that we deliver what will be, as a consequence of the local income tax, the largest tax cut in a generation in Scotland, when about three hundred million pounds of extra burdens in council tax, will be removed from householders in Scotland.
JON SOPEL: You say it's as a result of the consultation exercise that you're now considering this. It's not because there was a black hole and you needed more money and therefore investment income is the best way to plug it.
JOHN SWINNEY: No, because in some of the other ways, in some of the other examples that you've cited, for example on students. If we were to exempt students from the local income tax, that would cost us money, so we've obviously got to look at the balance of these proposals to ensure that we put forward a sustainable proposition and these are all issues that we're looking at within the context of the response to the consultation exercise, as people would expect.
JON SOPEL: So students will be exempt.
JOHN SWINNEY: We're looking at that as part of our... to parliament... (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Tell me what you think. Is it a good idea to exempt students.
JOHN SWINNEY: I think there's a very strong argument for that yes. And what I will do is set out comprehensively the differences of the proposals that we've put forward, when we respond formally, to the consultation exercise and we also set out the Bill that will introduce a local income tax.
JON SOPEL: So maybe this should have been thought of beforehand.
JOHN SWINNEY: Well, it's part of the development and policy Jon, I think, you know, we set out a basic proposition, we're a government that has to listen to the views of other people because we operate in parliament without a majority, so we've got to find a way of building consensus and we've already had a great triumph on this question, or three great triumphs on this question in parliament - parliament has twice voted in favour of abolition of the Council Tax in Scotland and it's also endorsed the Scottish government position, that the UK government, under no circumstances, should try to retain council tax benefit from the new local income tax system.
Now the Scottish Parliament, has now, by majority, endorsed the Scottish government's position and that's a great fill up to the campaign to ensure that we introduce a tax that is fair and abolishes the council tax which has punished hard working families in Scotland since it was introduced and has increased under the last Labour administration by 60% in ten years, and we the SNP government have been the first government to come in to office to freeze the council tax and to give people some relief from the punishing impact of the council tax.
JON SOPEL: Okay. Mr Swinney, thanks ever so much for clarifying the position. Good to have you on the Politics Show. Thanks very much.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH JOHN SWINNEY
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The Politics Show Sunday 26 October 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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