Scotland is to go ahead with the Scottish Budget on 6 February five weeks before the UK Budget, mainly due to legal requirements to finalise funding for councils.
The move by Derek Mackay, SNP, to go ahead with the Scottish Budget before the UK Budget is well within his right but is counter to normal practice. The decision is partly driven by frustration at Holyrood over the lack of coordination from UK government, most notably due to Brexit delays
Mackay has outwardly voiced his frustration of what he perceives as the chaos on the change of dates for the UK Budget calling it ‘completely unacceptable and has shown a disregard for devolution and lack of fiscal responsibility’.
Mackay has said that the requirement to publish before the UK Budget is required so as to avoid drastically reducing the time for parliamentary scrutiny by Scottish local authorities and public services, to ensure due time is given for local council budgets and council tax to be decided before the deadline of 11th March.
On the day the UK Budget was announced at the House of Commons, Chancellor Javid was caroulled by Alison Thewliss, SNP, Treasury spokesperson on the day, to apologise for the failure to keep the Scottish government up-to-date on the planned date of the UK Budget, which resulted in the Scottish government needing to unconventional steps to keep to schedule.
Javid’s response was by no means an apology but more a counter attack where he stated that ‘the Scottish government…….should examine its own policies, especially its policies on tax and infrastructure and skills and how it has let down the Scottish people time and time again.’
Javid could partly be alluding to the increase in income tax basic rate bands that came into force in the last tax year in Scotland but which unfortunately did not raise as much tax revenue as the Scottish government hoped for. With increasing devolved power of taxes to the Scottish government and the spectre of Scottish independence making an appearance again after the landslide victory by the SNP at the general election at the end of last year, it will be interesting to see how the tax scene will change from April 2020 and beyond in Scotland.
Changes to the tax regime in Scotland will continue but to what extent in the next Scottish Budget, is unclear. SNP have cited increased spending power to local councils ahead of the Budget on 6 February, which could see a rise in council tax of up to 3%.
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