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Last Updated: Friday, 5 March, 2004, 13:05 GMT
SNP unveils 'axe the tax' plan
SNP leader John Swinney
John Swinney thinks the council tax will "see off" Labour
Detailed plans for scrapping the council tax have been published by the Scottish National Party.

Party leader John Swinney said the local income tax plan would see 500,000 pensioners paying nothing.

He said hundreds of thousands of other tax payers would also see their bills fall, but that about 400,000 high earners would pay more than at present.

But First Minister Jack McConnell said the SNP "made it clear that they want to tax ordinary, working families".

Speaking in Glasgow on Friday morning, Mr Swinney said: "The council tax takes no account of ability to pay and must be replaced by a fair alternative.

This proposal offers a chance for Scotland to end the unjust council tax and move on to a fairer future. It's time to axe the tax
John Swinney
SNP leader
"Local income tax is fair, it is democratic, it is local and, crucially, it is based on ability to pay.

"The poll tax finished off the Tories and I'm very confident that the council tax will finish off the Labour Party.

"I appeal to the Scottish people to support this measure as a fair method of local taxation."

The party estimates that income tax rates across Scotland would rise by 4.3 pence to generate the cash currently raised by the council tax.

Local councils would be able to vary that sum by about 0.74 pence depending on local circumstances.

The tax would be collected by the Inland Revenue and taken directly out of people's earnings.

'Tax-raising party'

Mr Swinney insisted that overall the SNP's local income tax would leave more Scots better off while being considerably fairer than the council tax.

He said: "It spreads the burden of taxation across all those who can afford it and lifts the burden from the shoulders of those who can't.

"This proposal offers a chance for Scotland to end the unjust council tax and move on to a fairer future. It's time to axe the tax."

In response to Mr Swinney's plans, Mr McConnell said: "I have been trying to get the SNP to admit they are a tax-raising party for some time.

Council tax protest
Pensioners' groups say they cannot afford the council tax
"They are now out in the open - they have made it perfectly clear they want to tax ordinary, working families more in Scotland.

"And I think people will make their own judgement on that."

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Iain Smith said the SNP was endorsing his party's policy.

He said: "The Scottish Lib Dems have for a long time been leading the campaign to replace the unfair council tax with a system based on ability to pay, as the current system hits those on low incomes, particularly pensioners, the hardest.

"I am pleased that the Nationalists have decided to back our policy and hope that they will work with us constructively to put the strongest possible case to the independent inquiry into local government finance."

'High tax, high waste'

Scots Tory finance spokesman, Brian Monteith MSP, said: "One would have imagined that the Nationalists would have taken note of the flaws of the Lib Dems' local income tax plans.

"Far from it, they have decided to copy them!

"The SNP is simply another high tax, high waste party.

"It's the last thing Scotland needs, and with policies like this the SNP will continue to haemorrhage support."

The Scottish Socialist Party is planning to give MSPs the chance to vote on whether the current system should be scrapped.

National convener Tommy Sheridan will lead the debate on Thursday.

He said the party would use its parliamentary time at Holyrood for a vote on whether or not the council tax should be replaced by an "income-based alternative".

BBC Scotland's Brian Taylor
"The executive is reviewing how we pay for local services"

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