Tax changes worth ‘price of a packet of crisps’ to people on £15,000 salaries

Households on an income of £15,000 a year will only be 49p better off as a result of tax changes made by the Scottish Government, the Tories have claimed.

Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said while those earning this amount would pay £130.49 less in tax next year, virtually all of this was due to UK Chancellor Philip Hammond’s decision to increase the personal allowance.

He said: “£130 of that much deserved tax break is because of the decision by the UK Government to increase the tax free personal allowance.

“How much of that tax break will be down to the Scottish Government’s budget announced yesterday? All of 49p.

“That’s the real difference between these benches – a £130 tax cut for low paid workers delivered by the Conservatives while the SNP give them the price of a packet of crisps.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pointed out “the personal allowance is reserved to the UK Government and they oppose the devolution of that”.

Mr Carlaw had pressed her on the issue at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament the day after Finance Secretary Derek Mackay revealed his draft Budget for 2019-20.

He opted to freeze the threshold for the higher rate of income tax – which is set at 41p in Scotland – at £43,430.

That decision will raise £68 million for the Scottish Government next year, Ms Sturgeon said.

It stands in contrast to Mr Hammond’s pledge to increase the threshold for the slightly lower 40p income tax rate south of the border to £50,000 in April.

Mr Carlaw raised concerns about the impact that move could have.

He told Ms Sturgeon: “You can’t tax people who aren’t coming to Scotland, First Minister.

“If you start to ensure that residency decisions are taken by those people we need in our hospitals to fill consultancy vacancies, if you start to take decisions that affect the number of employers we have , then you won’t have higher tax-rate payers here you can continue to tax the way you currently do.”

The SNP leader insisted her government’s budget was”fairer and gives a better to deal to people who are hardworking” as she said tax changes combined with more generous public sector pay settlements in Scotland would benefit workers.

She told Mr Carlaw a porter in the NHS could be as much as £800 a year better off working in Scotland compared to England, with a police constable at the top of their scale benefiting by £1,200.

A paramedic will get £400 more a year working in Scotland, she added, before stating police officers just starting work would be £4,500 better off.

“I think this budget is a good deal,” she said.

“Of course all of that doesn’t take account of the fact that if you live and work in Scotland your children don’t have to pay £9,000 a year to go to university , your elderly relative doesn’t have to pay for personal care.

“Taxpayers in Scotland, whatever amount they earn, get a far better deal under this government and long may it continue.”

She added: “That’s what you get when you get real strong and stable government in Scotland with the SNP.

“And what a welcome contrast to the utter shambles that the Tories are presiding over at Westminster.”