50p tax rate: SNP names price of power in Labour deal

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP candidates for the general election at the SNP conference at the SECC in Glasgow.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP candidates for the general election at the SNP conference at the SECC in Glasgow.
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THE SNP has set out its priorities for Westminster if it holds the balance of power at the general election, with the reintroduction of the 50p top rate of tax among the changes nationalists want to see.

Deputy leader Stewart Hosie said he hoped there would be a “huge group” of SNP MPs in the House of Commons after May 7, adding that they could “hold the balance of power” in a hung parliament.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP candidates for the general election at the SNP conference at the SECC in Glasgow.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP candidates for the general election at the SNP conference at the SECC in Glasgow.

He used his address to the SNP conference in Glasgow to set out how the nationalists would vote in those circumstances.

Some of these appear similar to how Labour could vote - with Mr Hosie stating SNP MPs would vote to abolish the so-called bedroom tax, to scrap zero-hours contracts and bring back the 50p tax rate for those earning over £150,000.

Labour had increased the top rate for income tax from 40p to 50p towards the end of its term in power in 2010, but the current government brought it down to 45p.

Mr Hosie confirmed the SNP would “absolutely” support the reintroduction of the higher rate

SNP could “hold the balance of power” in a hung parliament

Deputy leader Stewart Hosie

He told the conference: “Labour talk about redistribution and a 50p rate of tax.

“This party moved the vote against the tax cut for millionaires. Every one of our MPs has already voted against a tax cut for millionaires when it counted. For all their talk, the Labour Party did not.

“So let there be absolutely no doubt.

“We would not have cut the 50p tax rate for the very highest earners during a recession. We still think it is right that those with the very broadest shoulders should bear a little more of the burden.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP candidates for the general election at the SNP conference at the SECC in Glasgow.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP candidates for the general election at the SNP conference at the SECC in Glasgow.

“So in the next Parliament, SNP MPs will support the reintroduction of the 50p rate of tax.”

He also said SNP MPs would vote to up the national minimum wage, rising to £8.70 by the end of 2020, and would “vote for a tough tax-dodgers Bill”.

He pledged that the party would “prioritise an immediate scrapping of the bedroom tax” and would “vote to end the use of zero-hours contracts”.

But he also stressed the SNP would not support the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which is based in Scotland on the Clyde.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP candidates for the general election at the SNP conference at the SECC in Glasgow.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP candidates for the general election at the SNP conference at the SECC in Glasgow.

“We could not countenance supporting a new generation of nuclear weapons,” Mr Hosie stated.

“The UK does not have £100 billion to spend on Trident and its replacement, and even if it did, these are indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction and we say no.”

The SNP has enjoyed a huge surge in support since the referendum, with polls suggesting they could win dozens of seats north of the border.

Mr Hosie said the polls had given the nationalists “a substantial lead over Labour for six months now”.

He told the conference: “Our focus is now on winning the 2015 General Election in Scotland. That is the next part of Scotland’s democratic journey.”

While he said the vote in May would “not be a re-run of the referendum”, he said it was “Scotland’s chance to hold Westminster to account, to ensure they keep their promise, fulfil their pledge, honour the Vow they gave to the Scottish people”.

Mr Hosie said the main Westminster parties had promised Scots “maximum devolution” in the run-up to the independence vote.

He added: “It is our job to make sure they deliver.”

But he stressed: “The only way to make sure Westminster delivers - on anything - will be to return the largest number of SNP MPs ever to Westminster. It will make the Scottish National Party the guarantors of real new powers.”

Mr Hosie said that a large number of SNP MPs in the Commons could help bring about more powers for Scotland, along with “an end to austerity and cuts”.

He told SNP activists: “With £30 billion of new cuts to come we are on track, unless we change, for a decade of austerity.”

He added that the SNP offered a “real alternative” to this, and declared: “A vote for the SNP is a vote to say ‘Enough is Enough’ to Labour, Liberal or Tory cuts.

“A vote for the SNP will, possibly for the first time, give the Scottish people the power to achieve real change at Westminster.

“And we need to change - not just to say no to austerity but to deliver real economic decision making to Scotland.”

The SNP won six seats in the 2010 general election, with its best ever result at Westminster seeing 11 Scottish nationalists in the House of Commons in October 1974.

Mr Hosie said: “I have no doubt we can and we will send the largest number of MPs to Westminster, but there is the potential to do more than that, to hold the balance of power.”

While he said polls were in the party’s favour, he added: “This is only potential. So our job now is to work like never before, because not a vote has been cast, nor a ballot counted, not a single seat declared.

“Let’s turn that potential into votes, votes into seats and then this party will deliver for Scotland.”

Scottish Conservative enterprise spokesman Murdo Fraser spoke out against the restoration of the 50p tax band, branding it an “anti-business move which would harm job and wealth creation in Scotland”.

Mr Fraser added: “It has been shown that when the upper tax rate is cut, collection actually increases.

“This is more evidence that both the SNP and Labour are determined to drag Scotland dangerously to the left.”