Salmond accuses Labour of ‘promoting Tory tax plans’

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Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond branded Labour’s Iain Gray “chief spokesman for the ConDem coalition” saying that Labour were leading the arguments for what the SNP claim is a Tory tax trap.

The SNP leader claimed that only a Scottish Parliament with full economic powers can protect Scotland from the worst of the Tory regime and grow the economy as he set out the case for Scotland to have the full powers of independence.

Mr Salmond’s comments came days after a TMS poll showed support for maintaining the Union had dropped to below 50% and that there was now only a 4% gap between support for independence (40%) and those opposing (44%) with 16% undecided.

Addressing the SNP’s National Council meeting in Perth Mr Salmond said the vote on student fees showed that the only way to protect the values people in Scotland cherish is with a parliament in Edinburgh with complete powers.

Addressing delegates Mr Salmond said:

“In May next year voters in Scotland will face a choice. They can re-elect an SNP Government that will continue to put Scotland’s priorities first, grow our economy and protect Scottish values or they can back a Labour party leader who is currently the chief spokesman for the Tories tax trap.

“As a party and as a government we are focussed on the welfare of the Scottish people. In contrast the Tories, backed by the Lib Dems and promoted by Labour, are putting forward a tax plan that would have cost us £8 billion over the past ten years. That is a Tory tax trap and with Labour’s continued support it will snap shut on Scotland’s public services.”

Mr Salmond argued that the changes to the Scottish tax system proposed by the Scotland Bill and backed by the three London parties were not enough and that as things stood they posed a risk to Scottish public finances. He accused the Lib Dems of putting a desire for power before the people of Scotland.

The First Minister said:

“The key test of further financial powers must be about whether they promote economic growth. These proposals do not deliver that. They fall far short of the fiscal levers Scotland needs and, worse than that, they pose real risk to future public finances in Scotland.

“When the Treasury rejected full fiscal responsibility we put forward the tax powers favoured by the Liberal Democrats – all income tax, corporation tax, fuel duty, the climate change levy. Yet once again the LibDems put sharing power with the Tories before powers for the people of Scotland.”

Mr Salmond also highlighted the potential of renewables and called for devolution of the Crown Estate adding:

“And off-shore, where responsibility for the marine environment and devolution of the Crown Estate could make such a difference as we seek to create thousands of new green jobs the opposition parties led by Labour have backed down and given up Scotland’s fight.

“In the coming months, in parliament and on the streets of our towns and cities, the challenge for the SNP is to show that, while the opposition are putting our economy in danger, independence and financial responsibility can deliver a better future for Scotland.”

Demonstrating how increasing the powers of the Parliament can protect Scotland’s values Mr Salmond continued:

“This week the Scottish Parliament has shown that with power over tuition fees we can and will protect students in Scotland from the worst ravages of Tory ideology.

“Labour MPs for all their huffing and puffing could not stop tuition fees but the powers of the Scottish Parliament mean we are able to protect Scottish students from the Tories ideological attack on higher education. With power over education we can preserve a high quality Scottish system based on ability to learn, not ability to pay. That is the kind of cherished Scottish value that the powers of this Parliament allow us to protect.

“On taxes, on welfare, on support for our most vulnerable it is not with Labour MPs in Westminster, but with full powers for the Scottish Parliament that we will be able to support Scottish values, Scottish families and Scottish jobs against the dismal decade of cuts coming from London and that is why more and more people recognise that there is a better way – that with independence we can make Scotland better.”

Scotland is facing a £1.3 billion cut to the block grant as a result of the economic deficit left behind by the last Labour government. The cuts come despite figures showing Scotland to have been in fiscal surplus.

A group of leading influential Scottish based business people recently called for even more fiscal powers to be handed back to Scotland, however Lib Dem Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore rejected the calls.

Meanwhile:
Questions have been asked after it emerged that a senior Westminster civil servant who helped draft the Scotland Bill has been appointed to advise the Holyrood committee scrutinising the legislation.

Jim Gallagher had acted as secretary to the Calman Commission before adapting its findings into the Lib-Con Coalition Bill published on St Andrew’s Day.  Mr Gallagher had been appointed Director General for Devolution by former PM Gordon Brown.

Mr Gallagher will provide advice to the committee which is to be chaired by former Labour group leader Wendy Alexander who, prior to having to resign as Labour leader over the illegal donations scandal, was responsible for starting the process that led to the Calman Commission coming into being.

However critics have questioned how an independent cross-party committee can properly scrutinise the bill if it is being advised by the civil servant who effectively drafted it.  A senior government Minister has described the appointment of Mr Gallagher to the role as “deeply disrespectful to Holyrood”.

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said: “It would be inappropriate for any committee to appoint someone who had a hand in the proposals the committee is scrutinising. That would contradict the very independent views advisers are supposed to bring.

“If this is true the adviser being recommended by the convener worked on the Calman Commission, the Bill and its financial package, then the committee is being sorely compromised.

“It would be deeply disappointing if opposition parties are determined to play politics with this legislation.”