Yousaf: high earners will pay to rebuild Scotland
Humza Yousaf has signalled there will be no relaxation of the tax burden on higher earners as he spelled out his case for redistributing wealth.
In his inaugural First Minister’s Questions, interrupted five times by climate change protestors in the public gallery, Mr Yousaf told MSPs that he would ensure that those earning the most would pay the most to support public services.
He agreed to meet the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) to discuss plans for a “progressive” tax system to tackle poverty.
He said recently that he wanted to create another band of income tax on earnings at some point between £43,662 and £125,1540 with that money being used to fund increases to the £25 a week Scottish Child Payment.
In parliament today, Mr Yousaf faced opposition accusations that he and the SNP government had failed to grow the economy, improve the health service and tackle poverty which was worse than when Labour was in power.
Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused him of appointing a weak cabinet and “looking for a fight” with Westminster instead of seeking to work together.
Mr Ross criticised Mr Yousaf for prioritising a minister for independence while scrapping other posts such as the minister for tourism.
He said Mr Yousaf was leading a divisive party and government and had undermined his own vow to be the First Minister for all of Scotland by appointing “a taxpayer-funded nationalist campaigner.”
He added: “Within minutes of winning the leadership of his party, he said he would push ‘right away’ for powers to hold another referendum.”
Mr Ross said the new SNP leader and First Minister had “stuffed his cabinet full of his predecessor’s lackeys – ministers with almost as poor a track record in government as he has.
“He squeaked a win and then forced the former finance secretary Kate Forbes and her supporters out of government in an act of petty vengeance.
“And now to shore up his position within his feuding party, he’s back to pushing independence because it’s the only thing the SNP still agrees on.
“Humza Yousaf is more divisive than even Nicola Sturgeon was. He’s already split his own party down the middle – and now he wants to do the same with the country.”
But amid angry exchanges, Mr Yousaf unleashed an unbridled attack on “Tory cruelty”, division and failure to support Scotland as he set out his credentials for leading the country to independence.
He said: “We have a cabinet focused on the Scottish people. I make no apology for appointing a minister for independence. We need it more than ever before.”
Contrary to Mr Ross’s claims, he said his first act was to triple the fuel insecurity fund and said: “The Tories tore themselves apart over Brexit. I will not take lessons on division from Douglas Ross.”
The Tories’ spokeswoman on finance Liz Smith asked him to respond to the report last week from the Scottish Fiscal Commission warning of a widening gap between expenditure and taxation.
Mr Yousaf preferred once again to blame Westminster, in particular the “damaging” effects of Brexit and “immigration policies that work against the economic interests of Scotland”.
He said: “We will do everything in our power to help the economy. We are doing so under the constraints of devolution and under the constraints of a Tory Government that doesn’t work for the clear interests of Scotland.
“We will not be able to unleash our full potential until we have the powers of an independent nation.”
Commenting on the ministerial appointments, Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said: “Given the immense challenges facing the tourism sector at the current time – from the impact of the cost-of-living crisis to pandemic recovery – the lack of a dedicated Tourism Minister is highly perplexing.
“An industry employing so many people in Scotland that generates billions for the economy should be a priority, not an oversight.”