Lib Dem Holyrood leader Willie Rennie has claimed that Scottish independence is “closer than ever” and that a “mature debate” is needed on Scotland’s future.
The Lib Dem front man was responding to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who have insisted that “robust research and informed debate” is needed into the implications of devolving corporation tax to Holyrood.
Mr Rennie, who replaced Tavish Scott as the Lib Dem’s leader in Scotland after the party suffered a near wipeout in May’s Scottish election, claimed that devolving the tax to Holyrood was “reckless” and would “cripple Scotland’s public services”.
However in England Mr Rennie’s party, in coalition with the Tories, are preparing to devolve corporation tax to Northern Ireland in order to help it compete with the Republic of Ireland where business rates of 12.5% are less than the UK. The move is aimed at stimulating economic growth by attracting inward investment.
The SNP government has called for a similar devolution of taxes to Scotland as part of a package designed to grow the economy. The SNP have also called for control over Crown Estates, a move supported by the Lib Dems, and for more borrowing powers.
The tax calls have the support of leading members of the business community in Scotland including Sir Tom Hunter who has argued that Scotland’s corporation tax rates should be reduced in order to stimulate growth.
The Scotland Office has claimed that devolving corporation tax to Scotland would cost the nation £2.6 billion. However this has been dismissed by the Scottish government who point to research that shows Northern Ireland will benefit from such a move and that Scotland would be no different.
PwC have claimed that a full debate needs to be had before the implications are fully understood.
A PwC spokesperson said: “There is an enormous amount of work still to be done before the real costs and benefits of reducing corporation tax are clear. And, despite the recent figures from HMRC, we still don’t truly know how much UK corporation tax comes from companies here. This is why it is so crucial that there is consistency in how the impact of reducing corporation tax is calculated across the regions.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Corporation tax is a key lever to promote growth and investment, and we will issue a discussion paper shortly that will fully set out the arguments for devolving corporation tax to Scotland.”
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