Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 15:59 UK

Salmond confirms council tax plan

Alex Salmond sets out his legislation plans

The Scottish Government has set out its plans for the next year, including scrapping the council tax in favour of a local income tax of 3p in the pound.

First Minister Alex Salmond also outlined plans to ban under-21s from buying alcohol from off-licences and to restrict the shop display of tobacco.

Mr Salmond said the government was responding to the many challenges Scotland faced.

Speaking at the Scottish Parliament, he announced 15 pieces of new legislation.

They took in a wide range of areas, including criminal justice, the environment and public service reform.

Mr Salmond told MSPs: "There should be no limits to our ambitions for this nation, just as there should be no limit to what we can contribute globally."

The first minister should stop pretending that he knows better and dump the local income tax now
Cathy Jamieson
Acting Scottish Labour leader

The first minister said it was time to replace the "unfair" council tax with an alternative, based on ability to pay, which he said would lift 85,000 people from poverty and save the average Scottish family between 350 and 535 per year.

The local income tax legislation is likely to be introduced in 2009 - but there is no certainty it would get as far as a Holyrood vote before the next summer recess.

"I have no doubt Scotland will judge harshly any MSP who votes to keep the council tax in the face of the overwhelming benefit that would flow to millions of ordinary Scots," added the first minister.

Labour attacked the local income tax plan, which currently lacks enough parliamentary support to be passed, claiming it faced "near universal opposition".

Alex Salmond on abolishing council tax

The Holyrood government's other legislative plans included cutting emissions by 80% by 2050, a presumption against the closure of rural schools and a move to hold Scottish council and parliamentary elections on different dates, in the wake of last May's election night fiasco.

But acting Scottish Labour leader Cathy Jamieson said the council tax alternative was discredited, adding: "The SNP's tax plans will simultaneously make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK and damage local services.

"The first minister should stop pretending that he knows better and dump the local income tax now."

Conservative leader Annabel Goldie also slammed the government's tax plans and said they had been "comprehensively rubbished and ridiculed".

Our strategic objectives [are] building a Scotland that is safer, stronger, greener, healthier, smarter, wealthier and fairer
Alex Salmond
First Minister

She also urged the first minister to confirm his election pledge on police numbers and questioned why SNP student debt and class size pledges were omitted from the statement.

New Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott accused Mr Salmond of failing to address the rising cost of living and said he should set out his plans for tackling the "housing crisis".

Mr Salmond said increasing sustainable growth was the "single, overarching purpose" of his minority administration.

He added: "That purpose is supported by our strategic objectives - building a Scotland that is safer, stronger, greener, healthier, smarter, wealthier and fairer."

The programme will also include a Budget Bill to seek parliamentary approval for the Scottish Government's 2009-10 spending plans.

The detailed proposals also included action to bring in community sentencing, while ensuring violent offenders went to prison and plans to tackle the risk of flooding.

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