Following the debate that set the council budget in place, I wrote to Derek Mackay, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution, asking if he was willing to bring parties together for a discussion on how to progress with a better and fairer system of local taxation. A few months previously he had mentioned in Parliament that he was willing to get round the table for discussions with other parties to discuss local taxation options. But nothing has since happened.
I want today and in the weeks ahead to highlight the major failings of the SNP when it comes to public services, but in doing so I believe Labour must present an alternative that demonstrates we will ensure good quality local public services to meet the needs and aspirations of local communities across Scotland.
So I want to start with the ‘SNP Council Tax’.
I noted that when I used the term ‘SNP Council Tax’ in Parliament a few weeks ago many SNP MSPs got hot and bothered, objecting to me using the term SNP Council Tax. But I do believe that after ten years of promising to get rid of the Council Tax and failing to do so it is fair to now put the ownership of this unfair failed tax squarely at the door of the SNP.
It is worth taking just a moment to remember what Nicola Sturgeon had to say before the SNP came to power in 2007.
She said and I quote:
“The fact of the matter is that council tax is unfair and cannot be improved by tinkering around the edges”.
And of course in 2007 she pledged:
“We’ll scrap the unfair council tax…”
So ten years later, they are not going to abolish the council tax, they are going to tinker around the edges and they have the nerve to tell councils to put the tax up by 3% and then they claim this as an increase in funding that they are giving to local councils. It is not.
So we are clear, we would abolish the SNP Council Tax, it was unfair in 2007 and it is just as unfair today.
We set out in our vision for local councils what we would do instead and what that would mean for local tax payers.
But we do not have to wait till the next Scottish general election to end the SNP Council Tax. Labour signed up to the SNP commission on local taxation in good faith.
I would today appeal to Derek Mackay to think again and agree with that commission when it said that Council Tax was unfair and it had to go. In my letter to him I urged him to agree that the council tax is to be scrapped and to work together to put in place a timetable that we would be working towards to replace it.