Taxing times ahead for the SNP

PIX BY MICHEAL CAIRNS'The Scottish Parliament Building, Holyrood Raod, Edinburgh
PIX BY MICHEAL CAIRNS'The Scottish Parliament Building, Holyrood Raod, Edinburgh

It was a huge pleasure to address the Conservative Party Conference last week as the first Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland for 18 years.

Prime Minister David Cameron made his intention for this government clear right from the start: to reclaim the mantle of One Nation, one United Kingdom. That is what over two million Scots voted for, just over a year ago.

It was a clear message: No thanks to independence.

Here is a fact you might not know: more people in Scotland voted to keep the UK together than have voted for any party, in any election at any time in Scottish history.

But we know we cannot be complacent. The SNP’s success in turning 45% for Yes into 56 seats in the general election shows that championing the UK must be a full-time job.

And we’ve seen over the past few weeks that those who want to break up Britain will never stop trying to achieve that, even after Scots decisively rejected it. The ballot boxes had hardly been put away before SNP leaders started muttering threats of a second referendum.

We had the debate. We had the vote. The result was clear.

The priority now for Scotland’s two governments should be to deliver on our commitments and govern in the interests of everyone in our country.

For me, that means delivering the Scotland Bill, with new powers for the Scottish Parliament. For the first time, the Scottish Parliament will become responsible for raising most of the money it spends. With control of income tax, they will have the means to increase their budget if they want to.

Public spending can rise, but taxes will have to rise to pay for it. So when people in Scotland go to the polls next year, the parties will need to present their plans for income tax.

Ruth Davidson has committed that under the Scottish Conservatives, Scots will never pay more tax than our neighbours in the rest of the UK. Ruth made that clear again at conference, and was warmly received by delegates from across the UK.

So the ball is now squarely in the SNP’s court. Instead of constant gripes about detail and process, it’s time they told us straight.

What do they plan to do with powers coming to Scotland – and who in Scotland is going to pay for it?