SNP wants Labour to raise taxes on English workers

John Swinney, the First Minister, helps out at an Asda supermarket in Edinburgh, while on the campaign trail
John Swinney, the First Minister, helps out at an Asda supermarket in Edinburgh, while on the campaign trail - Jane Barlow/PA

The SNP would attempt to wield its power at Westminster to push Labour into raising taxes on English workers, John Swinney has said.

The First Minister, whose government has ramped up income taxes for Scots, suggested his MPs would apply pressure on Sir Keir Starmer if he becomes prime minister to replicate its controversial policy throughout the UK.

The SNP has introduced six tax bands in Scotland, double the number elsewhere in the UK, meaning everyone on £28,000 or above faces increased bills.

A worker on £50,000 per year pays £1,542 more in Scotland while someone on a wage of £130,000 faces paying £5,378 extra in income tax.

In a BBC Panorama interview with Nick Robinson, Mr Swinney said that raising taxes throughout the UK would be an alternative to the £18 billion of spending cuts he has warned Scots Labour is preparing to impose.

“People know in Scotland that the SNP has increased taxes on higher earners,” Mr Swinney, who has said Labour winning the election across the UK is a certainty, said.

“For people who are teachers or police officers, the difference in tax is very limited, but of course there are other benefits, like the fact that people in Scotland don’t pay for university tuition or that they don’t pay for prescriptions.

“I’m not in any way seeking to downplay the significance of increasing tax for higher earners… that’s allowed us to invest in our public services.”

Pushed by Mr Robinson over whether SNP MPs would use votes to “persuade the government in Westminster to put people’s taxes up”, including those on modest earnings, he replied: “The alternative to that, of course, is cuts in public spending.”

The SNP leader added: “Labour are not being open with people about the fact that they’ve signed up to £18 billion-worth of cuts, because the Conservatives have already signed up to them.”

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, has denied that a Labour government would impose “austerity”.

The SNP claim relies upon analysis by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), which said in response to the March Budget that under current projections real-terms cuts of £18 billion will be imposed by 2028-29.

The same body has also warned that an independent Scotland would be forced to raise taxes or apply spending reductions to balance the books.

However, Mr Swinney said he did not accept this IFS analysis, as a Scottish state would have “flexibility and manoeuvrability as a country to improve our economic performance”.

He is set to claim a mandate to demand a second independence referendum from Westminster should the SNP claim a majority of seats in Scotland.

Opinion polls suggest that Labour is on course to defeat the SNP in Scotland, despite winning one seat in 2019 compared to the 48 claimed by the nationalists.

Meanwhile, in another election issue in Scotland, the Tories have urged Mr Swinney to clarify his position on new oil and gas drilling.

Stephen Flynn, the Westminster leader who is defending an Aberdeen seat, is pushing for Nicola Sturgeon’s support for a “presumption” against new oil fields to be ditched.

However, in a move that risks opening up a rift within his party, Mr Swinney hardened his language against new drilling.

In the BBC party leaders interview, he accused Rishi Sunak of being a “climate denier” and called his decision last year to give the go-ahead to 100 new oil and gas projects “utterly irresponsible”.

In what was effectively a restatement of Ms Sturgeon’s position, Mr Swinney said any new oil fields should have to pass a climate compatibility test before being approved.

‘Independence obsession’

Andrew Bowie, the Tory candidate for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, Mr Swinney had “finally let the cat out of the bag and admitted what we all knew – that the SNP has abandoned the North East”.

He added: “The SNP have sought to dupe voters in the North East into thinking they were having second thoughts on opposing new oil and gas licences.

“But John Swinney has made it clear that nothing has changed by doubling down on his party’s anti-oil and gas stance, which threatens tens of thousands of jobs.

“Scots will also be dismayed to hear John Swinney cranking up his party’s independence obsession, instead of focusing on the public’s real priorities – like fixing our ailing public services and creating good jobs.”