The Chief Secretary to the Treasury attended a Joint Exchequer Committee with the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution in November. They discussed the ongoing work between both Governments to implement these and other powers. There are, of course, regular and ongoing discussions between officials from both Governments.
Does my hon. Friend agree that these taxation powers, coupled with other powers that have been devolved to Holyrood, make it one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world? Does she also agree that, quite rightly, they make the Scottish Government accountable for their actions in respect of taxation, and that the Scottish Government are responsible for making Scotland the most highly taxed part of the United Kingdom?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The new devolution settlement does indeed deliver one of the most powerful and accountable devolved Parliaments in the world, and the people of Scotland will look to their Government to use those tax powers wisely to make Scotland as competitive and attractive a place as possible in which to do business. We obviously want the Scottish Government to use those powers to deliver that and it is for them to choose how they use them, but they do have to account for their use to the people of Scotland.
Does my hon. Friend share my confusion that the Scottish Government prefer the narrative of whinge, whine and waffle to using the powers that this Parliament has given them to prove their competence in running the country?
As I am sure many hon. Members also know, I am very aware from many of my conversations with businesses—particularly those thinking about their plans for the future, especially since the referendum last year—that they often see competitiveness through the prism of tax and that they want to know the Government are entirely focused on creating the conditions in which businesses can grow and thrive. I really think that all of us need to focus on pursuing our plans to make our respective countries very competitive. In Scotland, the Government have to understand that the decisions they take about using their powers are part of such a package for businesses.
The Tories at Westminster are facing rebellion on their Back Benches on business rates. What advice are they taking from the Government in Scotland, who have listened to local businesses and put on a cap of 12.5% for businesses in the hospitality sector and particularly those in Aberdeen that have been hard hit by the oil price?
I think that is just an attempt to make a political bragging point. My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government have made it quite clear that they will have more to say about that. They are listening carefully to the concerns of particularly the smallest businesses and of those hardest hit by business rates in England.
Will the Minister explain to me how, simultaneously, the Scottish Government can, first, be not using the taxation powers they have, and secondly, be the highest taxed part of the country, particularly when neither of those statements is in fact true?
It is for the Scottish Government to account to the Scottish people for their plans. These points might be interesting ones to bring to Westminster and knock about in this Chamber, but real people are looking at the impact of those plans on their family income and the Scottish Government will have to account to them for those plans. It is far more than just a debating point.
These are all very important points. It is for the Scottish Government to use the powers that have been devolved to them and to account to their people for using them, but there is no doubt that people look at the competitiveness of tax regimes, whether personal or business, and that those regimes are important in the key decisions that people make about competitiveness and other things.