Now the Scottish National Party wheels out the 50p tax con

Christian May
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Nicola Sturgeon Speaks On Scotland's Democratic Right To Be Heard At Westminster
The SNP, led by Nicola Sturgeon, launched its manifesto yesterday (Source: Getty)

Yesterday saw the final party manifesto unveiling as the Scottish National Party (SNP) released their main campaign document.

The launch event had been delayed in the wake of the Manchester bombing, but now that campaigning is back in full swing the SNP perhaps felt they had some catching up to do.

The manifesto, Stronger for Scotland, contained all the usual left-wing goodies including “an alternative to austerity” based on eye-watering borrowing figures. Indeed, SNP proposals would see net borrowing in 2021/22 of £54bn compared to Tory plans of £28bn and Labour’s promised splurge of £42bn.

Read more: Sturgeon dials down independence talk at SNP manifesto launch

There was also, of course, a renewed commitment to hold an independence referendum. This is, after all, the raison d’etre of the SNP. Everything else is just decoration.

However, the manifesto also extended deep into areas of national, UK-wide policy – well beyond the remit of the Scottish parliament or the reach of SNP MPs in Westminster. Yes, they’re calling for an increase in the additional rate of income tax to 50p.

They’re echoing Labour in this regard, but at least Jeremy Corbyn’s party have a (very slim) chance of forming a national government. So what is the SNP up to? After all, if Nicola Sturgeon really believes in such a levy she has the power to introduce it in Scotland. One suspects it’s more about politics than economics, as is always the case with the 50p debate.

The IFS has long poured cold water on the idea that such a tax would bring in significant additional revenue and businesses have always cautioned against the move.

Read more: SNP blasts "scared" Tories which won't "dare" stand in way of democracy

And yet the policy is popular. A YouGov survey a couple of years ago asked voters whether they would back the introduction of a 50p rate even if it didn’t bring in any extra money.

Specifically, whether it should be introduced “on moral grounds”. Nearly 70 per cent of Labour voters agreed with the idea, as did 35 per cent of Ukip voters.

Remember – this is having been told it wouldn’t bring in any fresh revenue. Sturgeon must be counting on SNP voters being similarly inclined to support harmful tax measures on the basis of nothing other than a disapproval of high incomes. A sign of desperate times, perhaps, as she faces a Scottish Tory resurgence.

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