Sturgeon told she has power to deal with NHS bonus tax
Douglas Ross: ‘SNP needs to stop playing games’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has accused the First Minister of “playing games” by claiming she cannot gift her £500 bonus to NHS staff tax free.
Nicola Sturgeon yesterday pledged the cash to thousands of health and social care workers but she claimed she did not have the power to stop them paying tax on it.
Instead, she put the onus on Prime Minister Boris Johnson “not to take any of it away in tax.”
But Mr Ross pointed to a response from the Fraser of Allander Institute which said the easier solution would be for the Scottish government to offer a gross payment of £625.
This would give NHS workers the full £500 and the Scottish Government would receive the £125 back in income tax. The Treasury need not be involved.
Mr Ross added that the ‘thank you’ payments, far from being an SNP gift, have been funded by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Covid spending guarantees, which have added nearly £10 billion to the Scottish Budget.
The Tory leader said the same economic experts had shown that “around £1 billion” of UK Government funding for Scotland had not been spent by the SNP.
“The SNP have all the funding and powers they need to top up this payment today. Any extra income tax would go to the Scottish, not the UK Government, so if they increase it, no-one misses out,” said Mr Ross.
“Why is it that the SNP feel the need to take a £500 NHS ‘thank you’ payment and stoke up division with such a clearly political move, all to provoke a fight with the UK Government?
“The SNP are pushing for indyref2 in the middle of a pandemic and creating a political bunfight out of thin air. As the Fraser of Allander Institute have now made clear, this is all a political game from the SNP. They’ve dialled nationalist grievances up to 11.
“So my message to Nicola Sturgeon is, put your political guns away, apologise for trying to politicise the efforts of health and social care workers, and top-up this payment immediately.”
Tax free bonuses ‘not a good policy’
Exempting any bonuses from tax is not widely regarded as a good use of tax policy – regardless of which govt has the powers to do it, and regardless how much we appreciate the work done by NHS/social care workers in recent months, says the Fraser of Allander.
“There’s a reason bonuses are taxed; if they weren’t, everyone would want paid in bonuses rather than regular pay.
“Making an exception to the rule once opens the possibility of endless future lobbying for tax-exempt bonuses – which is not something any government should be keen to encourage.”