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First Minister must prove he isn’t timid on tax, say campaigners  

This news post is about 1 year old

A letter from a number of charities has urged Humza Yousaf to act.

The First Minister has been urged to prove he isn’t timid on tax by looking at “bold” changes in Scotland as he prepares to lay out his priorities for the country.  

Ahead of a major speech to the Scottish Parliament scheduled for Tuesday, campaigners are calling for Humza Yousaf to outline how he intends to kick-start tax reform to raise the new revenue that is needed to tackle poverty and fund climate action, while building a wellbeing economy.   

Speaking during the SNP leadership contest, Mr Yousaf highlighted calls from anti-poverty organisation for the Scottish Government to be bold around taxation, including potentially wealth taxes, saying it was something he was committed to looking at.  

Oxfam Scotland, the Poverty Alliance, CPAG in Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Budget Group, One Parent Families Scotland, and IPPR Scotland say the First Minister must demonstrate visionary leadership by taking radical action to address Scotland’s stubbornly high poverty rate while ensuring that the country’s highest polluters pay for their damage.  

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “The First Minister has been strident about his desire to tackle poverty and climate change but if he’s to achieve those ambitions then he must now back-up his commitments and consider bold changes to tax.   

“There is no shortage of money in Scotland. The First Minister now must prove that there is also no shortage of the political courage needed to take the urgent action required to build a fairer, more sustainable future. Failure to do so would short-change us all: Scotland simply can’t afford to be timid on tax any longer.”

Campaigners say that if the First Minister is serious about tackling the interlinked challenges of poverty, inequality and climate change, then he must ensure the country’s tax system is used so that those who have the greatest capacity to pay and those who are the highest emitters pay their fair share of tax.   

The organisations are calling for Humza Yousaf to deliver on his pledge to go further in using income tax powers to ensure the country’s highest earners make a fairer contribution in the next Scottish budget. 

IPPR Scotland has estimated a new income tax band for higher earners could generate £257million.  

Ruth Boyle, policy and campaigns manager at the Poverty Alliance, added: “The latest data on poverty highlights the need for bold action to build a more equal Scotland. Tackling poverty requires greater investment in our social security safety net and the public services that we all rely on, but that are a vital lifeline for people on low incomes.  

“For too long, our tax system simply hasn’t kept pace with Scotland’s growing inequality of wealth and income. It’s time for the Scottish Government to use our tax powers in a progressive way, to raise the investment we need for the just and compassionate society that people believe in.”  

Campaigners are also urging the First Minister to pursue more radical tax reform, including to overhaul Council Tax and exploring new ways to tax wealth.

The organisations say that such measures could raise substantial additional money, ensuring those with the highest incomes pay more while protecting those on the lowest.  

John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, added: “With families across the country struggling to put food on the table and pay the bills and one in four of our children still living in poverty, this is absolutely the time for the new First Minister to be bold in his use of Scotland’s tax and benefit powers. 

“Harnessing Scotland’s undoubted income and wealth and investing in tackling poverty through, for example, the Scottish Child Payment are vital to ensuring every family has the resources they need to give their children a decent start in life.”  

Figures released last month showed that one in five people in Scotland live in poverty. 

The poverty rate is much higher for single women with children, people who are Black as well as other people of colour, and people who live in a household where someone has a disability. 

Statistics on wealth inequality are equally alarming, with Scotland’s richest households having 217 times more wealth than the poorest. 

Campaigners say that the First Minister must be ambitious on tax if he is to fulfil the Scottish Government’s goal of share wealth more fairly while raising new revenue to fund his Government’s priorities.  

Satwat Rehman, director of One Parent Families Scotland, said: “The people who have benefitted the most from our economy should be asked to contribute more to the public purse.  

“We must work to achieve a progressive tax system in Scotland which will help ensure people on lower incomes have enough left in their pockets to pay for basic necessities such as food, heat and shelter.”