Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Tories claim 'Yes' vote could mean higher VAT

children's clothing Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The Conservatives claim independence could lead to children's clothing being more expensive in Scotland

Scottish independence could mean Scots paying more VAT on goods such as children's clothing, according to the Scottish Conservatives.

A senior EU official confirmed that new member states must apply a minimum VAT rate of 15% with limited opt-outs.

The Tories said it could raise the cost of items like baby grows, children's football kits and bike helmets.

Pro-independence campaigners argue Scotland could join the EU from within and called the claims "scare stories".

The UK has a longstanding opt-out on VAT for 54 items such as children's clothing, books, disability equipment and construction work on naval vessels.

European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule confirmed, in response to a query by Tory MEP Struan Stevenson, that new member states would have to apply a standard VAT rate of at least 15%.

He added that the option of setting a reduced rate of 5% would apply to a limited list of goods.

The Tories said the standard EU rate of 15% would see the price of a Scotland football kit for children increase by more than £5.

A bicycle helmet would cost an extra £7 while the price of the Guinness Book of Records annual would jump by £3.

Mr Stevenson said: "As part of the UK, Scotland enjoys the best of both worlds with a 100% guarantee that we can avoid this tax. The UK negotiated hard to win this opt-out and we want to keep it.

"HMRC list 54 different items that currently enjoy zero-rates of VAT in the UK, ranging from children's clothes to books and newspapers, and even large swathes of the construction sector like shipbuilding. Why put such a substantial benefit at risk?"

Experts divided

Experts are divided over whether an independent Scotland would have to apply to the EU as a new state, or would continue with the UK's existing rights and opt-outs.

"Yes" vote campaigners argue that Scotland has been a member of the EU for 40 years and could negotiate the transition to independent membership from within.

SNP European Parliament candidate Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said the Tory claims were irrelevant because Scotland would not be treated as an accession state.

She added: "The 'No' campaign is clearly incapable of learning from just how quickly Project Fear's previous scares have all collapsed.

"Whether it was mobile roaming charges or driving on the right-hand side of the road, losing the pandas at Edinburgh zoo or risking attacks from outer space - the 'No' campaign has time and again been left looking utterly foolish."