Labour would protect Scots from tax credit cuts, vows Kezia Dugdale


Scots will be protected from UK Government cuts to tax credits if Labour is returned to power at Holyrood next year, the party's Scottish leader will promise.

Kezia Dugdale will pledge to use new tax and welfare powers coming to the Scottish Parliament from April 2017 to ensure families north of the border do not lose out.

Ms Dugdale will announce the move in her speech to the Scottish Labour conference in Perth - her first such address since she became leader in August.

The cost of meeting the policy will be met by making "different choices" on tax from both the Conservatives and the SNP.

A future Scottish Labour government would not increase the threshold at which people start to pay income tax at 40%, she will say.

As the Conservatives pledged to increase this from £42,385 to £50,000 in their general election manifesto, this would see some Scots paying more in income tax than those on the same wage south of the border.

Labour would also not go ahead with SNP plans to cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) by 50% before abolishing it altogether.

Changes in the Scotland Bill will mean that from April 2017 Holyrood will be have power over income tax rates and bands, new powers to top up benefits and responsibility for APD.

Ms Dugdale will say: "With the real powers that are coming to the Scottish Parliament comes a real chance to change things.

"That means real choices need to be made."

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the planned reductions in tax credits, which top up the incomes of families and low paid workers, as being "unfair, unjust" and "punitive" when he addressed the conference.

Ms Dugdale will say today: "Scottish Labour will stand for the elections with a promise to restore the money Scottish families will lose from this Tory tax rise on working families.

"We will act as soon as the new powers make it possible."

She will continue: "We don't need to tax ordinary Scots more to make this change.

"We just need to make different choices from the Tories and the SNP.

"The SNP have said they would cut the tax paid on airline tickets, a policy which will eventually cost £250 million a year.

"I know that this is a policy which many will welcome. Not least the airport operators, but I say this: A tax cut for those who can already afford to shop for airline tickets cannot be Scotland's priority when families cannot afford the weekly shop.

"So we will spend the money the SNP would instead spend on abolishing Air Passenger Duty, and we won't implement George Osborne's new tax cut for those on the higher rate of income tax.

"We will do things differently."

The policy announcement comes just six months before next May's Scottish Parliament elections, with Labour trailing well behind Nicola Sturgeon's SNP in opinion polls north of the border. The party also lost all but one of its Scottish MPs in the general election as nationalists secured a landslide victory.

Ms Dugdale will say: "Before the UK elections our opponents said there was no difference between Labour and the Tories. I hope they can see the difference now.

"A Labour government introduced tax credits, a Tory government cut them."

She will continue: "At the Scottish elections if people ask what is the difference between a Scottish Labour government and an SNP government this is the difference: A Scottish Labour government will restore tax credits.

"An SNP government, left to their own devices, would leave the Tory cuts in place."

She will tell Scots: "By using both votes for Scottish Labour in May's election, you are voting to use the new power of the Scottish Parliament to restore the money lost through tax credit cuts.

"Every Labour MSP who is elected will make sure that is what the Scottish Government does.

"Voting Scottish Labour is a vote for a Scottish government that offers a break from Tory austerity, not a Scottish government that offers excuses."

SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie said: "For eight years a succession of Labour Party leaders in Scotland have promised a fresh start for their party and policies that will change Scotland.

"Yet these words have proved to be nothing more than hollow words and empty promises.

"Labour politicians have spent the last few months bickering among themselves - and they remain hopelessly divided on some of the most vital issues facing the country, including the renewal of Trident.

"Labour in Scotland is beset by infighting and confusion, so whatever their rhetoric - on Trident, tax credits or any other issue - the fact is they are a party who are barely fit for opposition, let alone government."