Sturgeon promises strategy to mitigate Tory tax credit cuts
The SNP leader made the commitment during First Minister’s Questions yesterday lunchtime in a fractious exchange with Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.
Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would keep up the pressure on George Osborne to “drop his plans for tax credit cuts”. She also accused Labour of missing the point.
“It is all too typical of Scottish Labour that, just when the pressure on George Osborne is building across the UK, the party eases up on the Tories and attacks the SNP instead. It seems that old habits and old friendships die hard,” the First Minister said.
“We will keep up the pressure on the Tories to drop the cuts altogether and, if they do not completely reverse them, we, as a responsible Government, will introduce credible, deliverable and affordable plans to protect low-income households, just as we did on the bedroom tax.”
During her speech at Scottish Labour’s conference last week Dugdale made a commitment to restoring any money lost by families affected by George Osborne’s plan to cut the UK’s tax credit bill by £4.4 billion. This would be funded, the Scottish Labour leader, said through higher tax and by refusing to abolish air passenger duty (APD).
In a debate in the parliament on Wednesday, Social Justice Minister Alex Neil said that the Scottish Government would be able to use new tax and welfare powers coming to Holyrood to top up lost tax credits.
Dugdale said the First Minister’s plan was a “vague assurance” and asked her to guarantee that “every family will receive the same entitlement from the Government as they do now”.
The First Minister did not make that guarantee but repeated her earlier answer that any solution brought by the government would be credible and affordable.
“I say to Kezia Dugdale that the detail of this matters to the families out there who are affected. One of the details that matter most is how the tax credits policy would be paid for.“
APD, Sturgeon said, “would not be available when Kezia Dugdale was required to pay for the tax credits policy.” The First Minister then said Dugdale had already promised to spend “that money on education. So in the space of 24 hours Labour managed to spend the same sum of money twice over. I say in all seriousness to Kezia Dugdale that that is basic incompetence and, frankly, the people of Scotland deserve better.”
Dugdale said: “Yesterday in the House of Commons the Prime Minister told working families they would just have to wait and see what happened next. Today in this chamber, the First Minister is saying exactly the same thing. I have listened to Nicola Sturgeon very carefully, I have listened to Alex Neil very carefully on the TV last night.
“Both have said that they will ensure that the income of those in receipt of tax credits won’t fall. But that sounds a little like the Tory argument that higher wages will automatically make up the difference.
“So can I ask the First Minister again – under the Scottish Government’s proposal, will every single family receive the same entitlement from the Government as they do now?”
Sturgeon responded: “I am not quite sure what it is that is difficult to understand. I don’t yet accept that these cuts will take place because there is pressure building on George Osborne to reverse them.
“So I think right now that is where we should be, united, in making sure the pressure stays on the Tories.”
The National View: FM’s commitment to mitigating effect of Tory cuts is welcomed