Only Labour will end austerity in Scotland

Only Labour will end austerity in Scotland, Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn will say today.

Speaking at an event in Portobello the Scottish and UK Labour leaders will say that the new powers of the Scottish Parliament mean cuts to vital public services can be stopped.

Ms Dugdale and Mr Corbyn will both say that the SNP refuse to ask the richest 1% to pay their fair share so we can stop the cuts and invest in education.

Kezia Dugdale is expected to say:

“There are billions of pounds of cuts coming to Scotland, but only if we decide that we want to take the same decisions as Tories. If we want to take a different path, we can.

That is the choice we are faced with: will we use the new powers or will we keep cutting into our nation’s future prosperity? Labour’s choice is to use the powers to invest in the future, to break from austerity.

So here’s how we would do things differently. We’d set the rate of income tax a penny higher than George Osborne and we would ask the richest 1% to pay their fair share. That would enable us to stop the cuts, to end austerity.

If we don’t do that, we’d have to cut schools. Classroom assistants would have to be sacked. The people who help children to catch up if they fall behind with reading would go. The extracurricular activities where people find out who they are would be cancelled. And it wouldn’t just be cuts to schools; local communities, care for the elderly and thousands of jobs all across Scotland would face cuts. That’s the price of not using the powers.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she won’t bring in a 50p top rate, but says she is in favour of it in principle. I say to her – it’s easy to be a socialist in principle. The problem is she isn’t in practice.

My opponents say we shouldn’t do that because the richest will try to avoid paying it. I say that paying tax isn’t optional for you or me, so it shouldn’t be optional for the richest either. It isn’t the job of government to make excuses for why the rich won’t pay their taxes; it is the job of government to make sure the rich do pay their taxes.

There’s one other thing we’d do to make sure that everyone pays their fair share. As taxpayers our money is spent on billions of pounds of public contracts every single year. These contracts supply the resources for our hospitals and our schools; they run our buses and our trains. I think there should be a simple part of that contract – if you don’t pay your taxes as a company then you won’t get taxpayer funding in the form of public contracts. Under a Labour Scottish Government there will be no public contracts for those who avoid their taxes.

If we are willing to do things differently. If we are brave enough and bold enough. If we don’t mind upsetting the richest so we can look after the rest, then we can break from the austerity that has hurt so many people.”

Jeremy Corbyn is expected to say:

“All over the world people are rallying against austerity. In Scotland you have the opportunity, you have the power to break from austerity using the new powers you have. That isn’t in doubt.

The question is whether the Scottish Parliament has enough voices who are willing to use those powers to make that change.

Use the powers to do things differently or accept the cuts – that’s the simple choice.

Under Kezia Dugdale Labour has set out a bold plan to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts. With Labour austerity can end.

As things stand the income tax plans set out by the SNP for those powers wouldn’t provide a single extra penny for schools or hospitals, for investing in the future of the economy.

The anger people feel at the top 1%, from the financial crash caused by bankers, from the revelations of the Panama papers, from growing inequality, is the big issue of our age.

The SNP have no response to that. It is incredible that the SNP won’t ask the richest to pay more. To have gone from arguing last year for taxing the top 1% to accepting Tory arguments against it is a betrayal of everything Nicola Sturgeon promised she stood for at the general election last year.

The real anti-austerity alternative in this election is Labour. Every vote for Labour, every Labour MSP elected, will make sure that the Scottish Parliament will use the powers to stop cuts and invest in the future.”

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