Tax, indyref2 & measuring pigs: party leaders sweat in election spotlight #SP16
Michael Gray, Common Weal
New tax powers take centre stage in second TV election debate
COMPETING VISIONS of how a Scottish tax system could raise revenue and reduce inequality dominated the second national televised debate between political leaders last night [Tuesday 29 March].
The main parties have a more divergent set of income and council tax proposals than at any previous Scottish parliamentary election, a split made more significant by the devolution of all income tax rates and bands by 2017.
The SNP, which has proposed minor alterations to both tax charges, came under pressure from the Scottish Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats for not doing enough to tackle inequality with devolved powers.
Audience members also called for “radical” action to combat high levels of poverty and inequality.
However, Sturgeon reiterated her warning that higher taxes on the rich (over £150,000) would not be effective.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats support a blanket 1 per cent tax increase to reduce the impact of Tory cuts and provide extra funding for education.
The Scottish Greens released new tax plans ahead of the debate, with an aim to raise at least £331m extra revenue from higher earners.
Harvie condemned a society where the super-rich are allowed to “hoard the wealth of the economy when all the rest of us create that wealth”.
Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, opposed to any tax rises, came under pressure over plans to bring back education tuition fees (£1,500 a year) and an £8 prescription charge for medicines. Opponents called the plans “stealth taxes”.
Party leaders got the opportunity to interrogate each other on a topic of their choosing, which led the discussion back to the referendum on independence.
Labour were challenged by both the SNP and Conservative parties over its position on independence. Sturgeon asked Dugdale to “apologise” for her coalition with the Tories as part of the No Campaign, a depiction she rejected.
Davidson then pressured Dugdale to promise to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the Tories against independence, despite a third of Labour supporters voting Yes.
However, both pro-independence and unionist politicians faced audience pressure over a future referendum.
Part of the audience cheered calls from Davidson to “move on” from the constitutional debate, while members of the public also supported Harvie and Sturgeon’s position that a second referendum is likely at a time when there is increased public demand.
The most eye-catching line of the debate came from LibDem leader Willie Rennie who, when discussing testing in schools, warned: “You don’t fatten a pig by just measuring it.”
Yet the focus of the debate returned to inequality.
An audience member, in an impassioned calls for action, said: “This is 2016 and we still have poor people. That is not good enough. We talk about austerity. The austerity was made there by bankers. It wasn’t the care worker who begins earning £16,000 a year for doing a really, really important job.”
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Source: Common Weal