“Vote with your conscience” on VAT, Murphy urges Scots Lib Dems

Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy has called on Lib Dems across Scotland to oppose what they themselves described as the Tories VAT bombshell before the general election.

Ahead of a Commons vote this week on the Government’s planned increase in VAT to 20 per cent, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, Jim Murphy, has called on Liberal Democrats across Scotland to oppose what they themselves described as the Tories’ VAT bombshell before the general election.

In a letter to Scotland’s 11 Lib Dem MPs, Murphy writes:

“Next week all of us will be asked to vote on whether or not to increase VAT to 20%. I am asking you to vote with your conscience, not the Coalition.

“I know that in asking you to vote against the Coalition, I am asking a lot of you but am doing so in order that together Scotland’s MPs can protect the poorest people in society.

“There is no doubt that poorer people and pensioners will be hit hardest by a VAT rise. Indeed, your party leader Nick Clegg made this clear on 7 April 2010 when he described VAT as a “regressive” tax.”

Meanwhile, following the warning by the Scottish Government’s chief economic adviser, Andrew Goudie, that the coalition’s budget has worsened the financial pressures facing Scotland, there are questions over the future of some universal benefits to Scots such as free personal care for the elderly and concessionary bus travel.

Ahead of the publication later this month of the report of the Scottish Government’s Independent Budget Review group, Ronnie Hinds, chief executive of Fife Council warned starkly in Scotland on Sunday:

“Efficiency savings are not going to be enough. They will act for considerably less than half of what will have to be required. It is going to come down to hard political choices.

“Over the medium term, we need to be looking at things like free personal care and also universal provision for concessionary bus travel.”

And in what was reported as a recognition that such tough decisions on certain benefits will have to be made, finance secretary John Swinney concluded:

“The days of simply deciding where to spend extra money are going for the foreseeable future. Instead, we all need to focus on how to deliver the things that really matter.”

The warnings come as the Holyrood Government pledged to consult widely with the public over how to address difficult spending decisions ahead of its next budget, likely once Scotland knows its settlement following George Osborne’s comprehensive spending review in October.

Swinney commented:

“It will be for the Scottish Government to publish our spending plans following the UK spending review in October, but before then, everyone who wants to contribute will have the opportunity to do so.

“We will go to communities across Scotland and we will listen to all voices who wish to be heard – not simply those who shout the loudest.

“That gives us the best possible chance of bringing forward the best possible budget for the whole of Scotland. A budget that protects what we value the most, that sustains the economic recovery underway across Scotland and meets the substantial challenge of our times.”

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