Public finances

Swinney: SNP will urge Labour to raise taxes

John Swinney on Panorama: choices

SNP leader John Swinney says the party’s MPs would push to raise taxes at Westminster to ease pressures on public finances.

In a television interview, Mr Swinney said this would be the most effective way of bridging the gap in funding and would enable the Scottish government to increase spending on essential services.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves have insisted that there will be no increases in income taxes, VAT or national insurance.

Mr Swinney challenged that position, saying that that if he were prime minister he “would replicate the tax changes that we’ve made in Scotland”.

The SNP government has raised income taxes so that anyone working in Scotland earning about £28,000 pays more tax than if those living in England.

The policy has made Scotland the highest taxed area of the UK, but Mr Swinney says benefits such as free prescriptions and university tuition, as well as lower house prices compensated those paying more tax.

He criticised Labour for its commitment to the Tories’ tight fiscal rules and public spending and noted that the Institute of Fiscal Studies has warned of a “conspiracy of silence” between Labour and the Conservatives over details of their spending plans.

“People know in Scotland that the SNP has increased taxes on higher earners,” he said in a Panorama interview.

He said the alternative to putting up taxes is cuts in public spending, he said.

“And if there’s a choice to be made of the cuts in public spending that the Labour Party and the Conservative Party are essentially signed up to, and that’s the point the Institute for Fiscal Studies have made, that Labour are not being open with people about the fact that they’ve signed up to £18 billion worth of cuts.”

On the future of the North Sea oil and gas industry, Mr Swinney failed to say whether the party would support any applications for new licences under his leadership, insisting that they would be judged on merit against climate obligations.

When challenged over warnings that investors would switch billions of pounds from the UK because of the uncertainty, he said it was question of getting the right balance that would ensure the transition to clean energy.

He accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of being “utterly irresponsible” for granting swathes of licences.

Andrew Bowie, the British energy minister and Conservative candidate for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: “John Swinney has finally let the cat out of the bag and admitted what we all knew – that the SNP has abandoned the North East.

“The SNP have sought to dupe voters in the North East into thinking they were having second thoughts on opposing new oil and gas licences.

“But John Swinney has made it clear that nothing has changed by doubling down on his party’s anti-oil and gas stance, which threatens tens of thousands of jobs.”

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