Election Comment: Terry Murden
SNP Manifesto: something borrowed, nothing new
The SNP manifesto was published today, although anyone wanting to know the party’s plans only had to look at last year’s ‘White Paper’, a so-called blueprint for a new constitution that was an SNP manifesto by another name.
The new briefing paper is therefore little more than a reprint, shorn of the naive pledges on oil revenues and with a little more emphasis on what Westminster can do for us (ie. spend more, borrow more).
One craves some truly creative input, a new idea or two. Instead we get a wishlist that, in summary, means more money poured into public services, higher taxes and punishing the well-off (how dare they make money!). Curiously there is a demand for a higher minimum wage rather than a commitment to the Living Wage which was a centrepiece of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s address to the business community last year.
There is nothing about rebuilding a manufacturing base and it commits only to consider maintaining the annual investment allowance at £500,000 until 2020 to enable businesses to make longer term investment decisions. It makes no pledge to lower taxes, or provide the stimulus that would ensure Scotland could live up to its billing as an economic powerhouse.
The Scottish government has done some good things for business, mainly through its encouragement for entrepreneurs and it recognises the value of enterprise at the micro level. Its new document promises to lift more self-employed out of paying national insurance by raising the annual £2,000 reduction on their NIC bill gradually to £6,000, which would allow one-man companies to make a salary payment of more than £43,000 with no employer’s NIC whatsoever.
But in the main business is offered morsels of grants, reliefs and wishes of goodwill that pass for government support.
It blames its inability to do more on Westminster’s grip on economic powers, but it would do itself a favour by presenting a more pro-business case built on what it would do if it were given those powers.
It continues to disregard warnings that if it used these powers Scotland would have to make “substantial” spending cuts or increase taxes. The Institute for Fiscal Studies is the latest to make this case.
The SNP talks about supporting the economy while at the same time penalising businesses with high rates and a denial of the review already promised by the English. It shares Labour’s ambition to restore the 50p higher rate of income tax.
This higher rate, imposed on those earning more than £150,000 a year would affect a mere 14,000 people in Scotland. So raising the tax by 5p would raise only £700,000.
Added to the 1,000 properties affected by the ‘mansion’ tax and these look like unnecessarily punitive measures dressed up as gestures to the electorate that the SNP wants a ‘fairer’ society when in reality they would achieve nothing of the sort.
Picture: Nicola Sturgeon (BBC)