Scotland’s First Minister has said he does not recognise reports he may move away from the principle of progressive taxation, but said no decision has been made ahead of the Government’s budget.
The Times reported at the weekend that the First Minister was considering abandoning the principle – which sees those earning more paying higher tax – and not increasing tax in a bid to attract middle class voters following defeat in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.
But speaking to the PA news agency during a visit to Glasgow, the First Minister was asked if he recognised those reports.
“No I don’t,” he said.
“We’re going to continue on our journey of progressive taxation, that’s not something I’ve ever shied away from.”
During the SNP leadership contest earlier this year, Mr Yousaf said he would be open to the creation of a new tax band for higher earners.
But he added: “Now, of course we’ll consider what we are able to do, what we can do.
“I’ve been very up front, of course, we’ll have to consider what the UK Government is doing in terms of taxation, that will undoubtedly have an impact on what decisions we make up here, but I make no apologies for saying those who earn the most, they should absolutely pay the most.”
Asked if the Scottish Government – which is predicted to have a £1 billion hole in its budget next year – will opt to raise income tax when the Deputy First Minister lays out the draft budget in 2019, the First Minister said: “I’m not going to tell you what the budget is going to say, I’m afraid you’re not going to get that exclusive, that will be announced to parliament in the appropriate way.
“We’re still considering, I have to say, not a final decision has been made yet.”
Deputy First Minister Shona Robison, he said, had convened a tax advisory group that the Government was “still listening to” ahead of making a final decision.
The speculation around the Government’s tax position comes as the First Minister announced a council tax freeze – to the outrage of local authorities – in his first speech to the SNP conference as leader.
The freeze, ministers have said, will be fully funded by Government, but it is not clear how high of an increase they are willing to offset.
Mr Yousaf said he was keen to begin negotiations with local authority body Cosla “as soon as we possibly can” on the funding, adding: “People might have faced a really significant hike in their council tax.
“This is a Scottish Government stepping in an saying we’re going to freeze those council tax bills for you because we know bills are going up and up and up.”