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Yousaf to defend tax regime and challenge Labour

Humza Yousaf
Claws out: Humza Yousaf will promise a ‘fairer Scotland’ (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

Humza Yousaf will deliver a stout defence of his progressive taxation policy and a direct challenge to Labour in an address this week that will see him align with ‘working people’.

In the face of hostility and concerns surrounding the SNP-Green government’s tax regime, the First Minister will tell the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) that raising taxes on the wealthy allows the government to invest more in public services, reduce poverty and tackle the climate crisis.

His comments come amid further warnings that the Scottish Government faces the prospect of further tax rises to maintain its public service commitments such as free tuition and free prescriptions.

The vast majority (82%) of respondents to a Scottish Financial Enterprise survey showed that increased tax divergence with the rest of the UK is impacting their ability to attract and retain talent in Scotland to some degree.  

His and his party’s popularity are also waning with another poll showing more SNP voters believe he is doing a bad job than think he is performing well. Concerns over the new Hate Crime legislation adds to frustration among business leaders over the tax regime, while the lingering police investigation into missing funds continues to haunt the First Minister.

Labour is hoping to win back “lost” voters who deserted the party for the SNP and Mr Yousaf will set out what he sees as the differences between his party and Labour on spending plans, workers’ rights, benefits and nuclear weapons.

He will state that Sir Keir Starmer will become the next Prime Minister but he was disappointed not to have received a reply from the Labour leader to his request to discuss how they could work together “in the interests of Scotland.”

Sir Keir and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar have previously ruled out any deals with the SNP.

Sir Keir Starmer did not reply to Mr Yousaf’s request (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

Sir Keir last week stated that the party’s commitment to the UK’s nuclear deterrent was “total”, but the First Minister will tell the congress the “hundreds of billions of pounds” spent “could be invested in our people and our public services”.

He will add: “The upcoming general election is going to be a choice of values – it is about who will stand by their principles, and stand by the interests of working people and of Scotland.

“In my first year in office, I am proud to have delivered progressive taxation in Scotland, a direct ask of the STUC – allowing us to invest more in public services, tackle poverty and support a just climate transition.

“I am proud to increase the Scottish Child Payment – one of our measures helping to lift an estimated 100,000 children in Scotland out of poverty this year.

“And I have been unequivocal in my support for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and continue to demand an end to UK arms sales to Israel.

“It is clear that Sir Keir Starmer is going to be the next Prime Minister of the UK, which is why earlier this year I wrote to him offering to meet so we could discuss how the Scottish Government can work with his government in the interest of the people of Scotland. 

“We need to start reversing the damage of 14 years of Conservative rule, and I am keen we see immediate progress – so I’m disappointed that Keir Starmer didn’t even bother to reply.

“Because I know that people in this country want to see politicians put aside differences where we can and work in the interests of households across Scotland, and the UK.

“You can be absolutely clear what I and my SNP MP colleagues stand for.

“We will support increased investment in public services – not a continuation of Tory tax and spending plans.

“We will support measures to strengthen workers’ rights – and oppose any attempt to water down commitments and work to ensure that the offer matches the rhetoric.

“We will support measures to tackle poverty, and want to see a child payment rolled out across the UK. And we will continue to lead opposition to the two-child cap and the abhorrent rape clause.

“We will never abandon the WASPI women – we will demand justice and compensation for them.

Mr Yousaf has declared support for the Waspi campaigners (pic: Terry Murden)

“And we will oppose the wasting of hundreds of billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction – money which could be invested in our people and our public services.

“Keir Starmer’s values will see him lift the cap on bankers’ bonuses, but not lift the two-child benefit cap – those are the wrong values and wrong priorities.

“In this election, Scotland has a choice of values, and I will be calling on people to vote for  what they believe in, and vote for a progressive future for Scotland that I know we all want to see.”

In new research by Norstat, just 29% of people who voted for the nationalists at the last general election believe Mr Yousaf is doing a good job, compared with 36% who think he has been poor in office, while the rest are either neutral or unsure.

The poll suggests a general disillusionment with party leaders. Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, saw his rating fall by 10 points to -38.

There was also a dip in enthusiasm for both Sir Keir and Mr Sarwar, whose popularity dropped by 13 points and 14 points respectively.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “This is an SNP government that slashed £50 million from the Fair Work budget, which was earmarked to improve the conditions of low paid social care staff.

“Labour will transform workers’ rights in Scotland and across the UK with our New Deal for Working People, which will strengthen employment rights, end exploitative zero hour contracts and fire and rehire, and deliver a genuine living wage.”

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “Humza Yousaf and the SNP continue to ignore Scotland’s real priorities in order to push their independence obsession at every turn. As a result, Scotland is stuck.

“Since his promotion to Bute House he has doubled down on making Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK, with the majority of workers now paying more tax than those down south.

“This comes at the same time as the SNP are making huge cuts to public services in their tax-and-axe budget.”

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