Opposition parties united over tax fiasco

For immediate release 24 November 2010

Today's debate on the decision by Scottish Ministers to let the tax-varying powers lapse will see the opposition parties unite to reject SNP excuses for this extraordinary mistake. The leaders of all four opposition parties at Holyrood, including Patrick Harvie MSP, have signed a joint amendment to this effect. The Greens remain committed to the principle that powers backed by the Scottish people in a referendum must be retained, and also that Ministers must be honest to Parliament. Green MSPs will also continue to argue that Ministers should consider using the tax powers rather than simply handing on the Westminster Coalition's cuts agenda.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"This is a crucial day if Parliament is to hold John Swinney and the SNP administration to account, and it's now essential that the SNP to accept the gravity of the situation for the first time. These powers do not belong to any party or any government - they belong to the Scottish people, and Ministers have dishonoured the people's vote by letting them lapse. The fact that Ministers took this decision unilaterally and without even informing Parliament is frankly scandalous, and a clear apology is now required.

"If there is one silver lining from this fiasco it is that people are looking again at these long-unused tax powers. They were designed in the 1990s to give Scotland some defence against a right-wing agenda of cuts to public services imposed by any future UK Government without a mandate in Scotland. That time has now come, and to rule out protecting Scotland's public services by raising revenue now is irresponsible governance of the highest order.

"Despite this mistake by SNP Ministers, Greens will continue to offer the public the only alternative to simply reproducing the Liberal/Tory cuts in Scotland. We certainly can't afford the kind of inaction and incompetence we have seen from the SNP over this issue."

The opposition amendment reads as follows. As an amendment to motion S3M-07477 in the name of John Swinney (Scottish Variable Rate of Income Tax), leave out from first "notes" to end and insert:

"considers it an abuse of power for the Scottish Government to abandon the Scottish variable rate of tax without the approval of the Parliament and by consequence preventing the Parliament from using this power until 2013-14 at the earliest; further considers it unacceptable for ministers to mislead the Parliament over the existence of these powers; believes that it is wrong that a power given to the Parliament by the people of Scotland in a referendum should be taken away by the action of a minority government without reference to or endorsement from the Parliament, and calls on the Scottish Government to admit responsibility for the lapse of the tax varying powers and to apologise to the members of the Parliament and people of Scotland to whom it has conveyed the impression that these powers are still capable of use.