Tax fiasco - John Swinney may have misled Parliament

For immediate release 19 November 2010

The Scottish Green MSPs today backed a call for an emergency statement by Scottish Ministers on the decision to let the tax-varying powers of Holyrood lapse. The party also pointed out that this very week John Swinney twice failed to give Parliament accurate information about the status of these powers. These statements may have breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct, which states that "Ministers who knowingly mislead the Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the First Minister".

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"Ministers should have come before Parliament years ago and come clean about this fiasco, not waited to be found out. Better still, they should never have let Holyrood's basic powers lapse in the first place.

"This move by John Swinney and Alex Salmond has demonstrated extraordinary disrespect for the Scottish people, who voted overwhelmingly in 1997 for a Parliament with tax-varying powers. It is irresponsible and dishonest for SNP Ministers to have unilaterally and privately undermined the popular will like this, and the Cabinet Secretary twice this week failed to tell Parliament the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when I asked him about the use of these powers.

"In September, a poll showed 55% of the Scottish public backed the option of raising revenue, yet the SNP have taken that choice away from them. So far, only the Greens and a few lone voices in other parties have argued these powers may need to be used to defend public services from the Liberal/Tory cuts, but the SNP has no business in blocking this option from the next administration. It's not up to Alex Salmond to write our manifesto for us, nor to try to ensure that any new Scottish Government can only continue the SNP policy of handing on the Tory cuts next year.

"SNP Ministers appear to have repeatedly failed to give full and accurate information to Parliament on this issue. We must have an emergency statement from the SNP next week. If Parliament doesn't get a decent answer then Ministerial resignations cannot be ruled out."

On two occasions this week the Cabinet Secretary dishonestly failed to disclose that the SNP administration have let the tax-varying powers lapse. On Wednesday, during the Budget debate, he said in response to a question from Patrick Harvie MSP:
"I do not think that there is a compelling argument in favour of using the tax-varying powers at this time."

During Ministerial Question Time on Thursday, he stated only that:
"it would, in our judgment, be inappropriate for the Government to recommend using the Scottish variable rate"

The Code of Conduct states that:
"It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to the Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead the Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the First Minister."