Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 15:30 UK

Local tax plan comes under fire

Nicola Sturgeon was quizzed on the tax plans at First Minister's Questions

Scottish Government plans to replace council tax with a local income tax have come under fire at Holyrood.

Labour and the Tories used the first question time of the new parliamentary session to claim the 3p tax was unworkable.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, standing in for Alex Salmond, said the plan had attracted massive support.

New Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott pressed her on job losses at a closure-threatened wind turbine factory.

Scottish ministers re-affirmed their intention to press ahead with the local income tax after announcing their programme for the next year.

But the minority government is still short of parliamentary support for the proposal as the Liberal Democrats have demanded councils be given control over the tax, instead of it being set centrally.

What we have from the SNP is just brazen opportunism
Annabel Goldie
Scottish Tory leader

Acting Scottish Labour leader Cathy Jamieson led the attack, claiming the move would make Scotland the highest-taxed part of the UK.

She compared the local income tax to the Tories' poll tax, adding: "Alex Salmond's tax plans have been roundly rejected by nearly every organisation which responded to the consultation.

"As he is ignoring the results, why did he bother consulting?"

Ms Sturgeon said that, until the SNP acted to freeze council tax, Scots were paying "sky high" council tax rates under previous administrations.

And she said the SNP administration was looking forward to "very constructive" talks with the Liberal Democrats over the issue.

Also attacking the "Scottish national income tax", Tory leader Annabel Goldie said: "What we have from the SNP is just brazen opportunism. It's a con. This is not going to happen."

Job 'threat'

She urged ministers to use the 281m they needed to fund the new tax plans to instead cut council tax bills for all.

But Ms Sturgeon said the Tories and Labour had, for too long, laboured under the illusion that council tax could be made fairer.

"People don't like paying taxes but what they do want to know is, when they have to pay taxes, that those taxes are fair, progressive and based on ability to pay - and that is the hallmark of the local income tax," said the deputy first minister.

In his first question time performance as Lib Dem leader, Mr Scott was told "constructive discussions" were taking place to try to save almost 100 jobs at the threatened Vestas plant in Campbeltown, Argyll.

Cathy Jamieson accuses Salmond of being a Thatcher 'devotee'

Mr Scott urged ministers to travel to the firm's Denmark base to speak to bosses at the company, which owns Scotland's only wind turbine tower factory.

"The worldwide head of Vestas said from the start that he won't come to Scotland and will only meet in Denmark," he told Ms Sturgeon.

"If this threat to 100 jobs had happened under any previous government, the SNP would have been the very first to demand that ministers take the lead and get over to Denmark to engage with the most senior people in the company.

"Why haven't they done that when they are the government?"

Ms Sturgeon told him: "As Tavish Scott knows, the government has given extensive support to the plant, [Enterprise Minister] Jim Mather has been to visit the plant, there are constructive discussions ongoing with the management.

"Those discussions will continue and parliament will be kept updated as appropriate."

Salmond confirms council tax plan
03 Sep 08 |  Scotland


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