Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Apology call after tax decision

Iain Gray

Alex Salmond has come under opposition pressure to say sorry for dropping plans to replace the council tax with a 3p local income tax.

Scots Labour leader Iain Gray, who tore up a copy of the SNP manifesto during question time at Holyrood, said Mr Salmond had been short-selling voters.

Ministers said legislation to bring in local income tax would not be put before the current parliament.

Mr Salmond said there was not enough Holyrood support to pass the plan.

He also told MSPs that increased UK government efficiencies, at a cost of 500m to the Scottish budget, would also make it difficult for a local income tax to be brought in.

The council tax now remains with us - and only the Scottish Conservatives have a viable plan to reform it
Annabel Goldie
Scottish Conservative leader

Attacking rival parties for uniting against a local income tax in a "Valentine's Day love-in", the first minister said Labour had no alternative to the "unfair" council tax.

Hitting back, the Scottish Labour leader said Mr Salmond's credibility had been "shot to pieces" and that the local tax was an "unwanted, unworkable" policy.

Scots Tory leader Annabel Goldie said the current council tax system had to be reformed, in light of the Scottish Government's decision.

Mr Gray said Mr Salmond had been "caught red-handed selling short Scotland's voters - the first minister's own definition of a spiv and a speculator".

"This week, even the bankers had to say sorry," he said.

"Will the first minister say sorry to Scotland's voters for the way he conned them?"

'Still smiling'

Mr Salmond responded: "I think apologies are required from the council tax cabal of Labour and the Tories, who have been voting to uphold the council tax in Scotland - a Valentine's Day love-in between Labour and the Conservative parties."

Meanwhile, Ms Goldie said the cash earmarked for the local income tax should be used to cut council tax.

She said: "The council tax now remains with us - and only the Scottish Conservatives have a viable plan to reform it and to cut it for every household in Scotland and to go further for our pensioners."

But Mr Salmond told Ms Goldie she should come to terms with the impact of Westminster's spending decisions on future Scottish Government budgets, adding that local authorities were already freezing council tax for a second year.

Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott, whose party supports a local income tax in principle, cited SNP election material featuring "smiling people" who backed scrapping council tax, and he asked Mr Salmond if those voters were "still smiling" after the policy U-turn.

The first minister again responded that there was not enough support in Holyrood to get the local income tax through.

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