On STV’s Face-to-Face programme Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said she would argue for Scotland to have lower Corporation Tax if Northern Ireland was granted this power.
Ms Goldie’s party is currently steering the Scotland Bill through Westminster. The Scotland Bill, however, has no provision to allow the Scottish Parliament to take control over Corporation Tax. The Bill transfers the ability to raise or lower income tax but experts have told Newsnet Scotland that the legislation is being written in such a way as to make use of these income tax powers very expensive to administer and so are unlikely to be used.
Some commentators have observed that the Bill is meant to give the impression that powers are being transferred to the Scottish parliament whereas in reality, the net effect is that more powers are being taken away, including the controversial matter of ending the independence of Scots Law which has been protected for hundreds of years.
It is not clear why Corporation Tax powers are not being transferred to Holyrood, where they could be used to reduce the amount of tax corporations pay, whereas the same powers are being proposed for the Northern Ireland Assembly. Critics claim that the enormous Corporation Tax income paid by North Sea oil companies now comprise a large percentage of UK government revenue which London is keen to retain.
Responding to Ms Goldie’s assertion Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “The time to devolve responsibility for Corporation Tax to Scotland is now – in order to boost Scotland’s economy. Not after the event in Northern Ireland.
“While grabbing our oil revenues, the Tory-led UK Government is proposing to withhold responsibility for Corporation Tax from Scotland, even as they prepare to grant such powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
“The UK Government’s consultation on this issue should now be extended to Scotland.
“The SNP believe that Northern Ireland and Scotland should have this vital economic lever so that we can have lower Corporation Tax than Westminster. And what is more, Tory, Lib Dem and Labour MSPs at Holyrood are all in favour of extending the power to Scotland if it is introduced in Northern Ireland.
“There is a consensus building for this power and only a vote for the SNP can send the message that Scotland wants these powers to help boost our economy.”