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Nicola Sturgeon urged to rule out tax rises in budget

The First Minister questioned what public services the Conservatives would take money from to fund their proposal.

The Conservatives have pushed the First Minister to rule out rises for taxpayers in next week’s Scottish Government budget.

The party’s interim leader Jackson Carlaw said the cost of the SNP relying on the Greens to pass their budget would be a “brand new tax on householders across Scotland”.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, where he was standing in for Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who is on maternity leave, he asked: “So will the First Minister make clear today, there will be no new tax on homes of hard-pressed ordinary Scots?”

He added: “The First Minister’s budget is now going up. She has the money to spend. The fact is no further tax rises are necessary. The Scottish Government has the cash.

“Isn’t the right choice this year to commit to no further increases on Scottish taxpayers?”

Mr Carlaw also criticised business rates in Scotland, saying they were “crippling” some businesses and putting 20,000 hospitality jobs at risk, with the “crass indifference” of the First Minister leading to closures.

He gave the example of the Capercaillie B&B and restaurant in Killin, which employs 16 staff.

Mr Carlaw said it is facing a rise in monthly business rates from £333 to up to £1,750 and is now up for sale.

He called for the Scottish Government to use the £42 million it will receive through the UK Government’s decision to cut business rates to benefit small firms across Scotland.

The First Minister said: “If we had followed Tory tax suggestions in this year’s budget, we would have £550 million less to invest in public services.

“If we were to follow what (Jackson Carlaw) appears to be suggesting for next year, that would remove hundreds of millions of pounds more.

“He hasn’t said yet today where he thinks we should take that from.

“Is it the National Health Service? Is it frontline local government budgets? Is it the education budget? We don’t know because the Tories refuse to tell us.”

She added: “The Tories’ tax policy and Tory spending policies are not credible but then we’re in a position where the Tories generally are no longer credible.”

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland offers the most generous package of business rates relief in the UK and the looming restaurant closure mentioned by Mr Carlaw appeared to be down to the rates revaluation process, not Scottish Government policy decisions.

She added the Finance Secretary would set out a budget next week which would be fair for both taxpayers and businesses.

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