Scotland politics

Lib Dems propose Scottish income tax rise to fund education

Classroom Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Liberal Democrats have proposed spending the money raised by the tax hike on education

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed increasing income tax rates by 1p to raise extra funds for schools.

The party said the change to rates would raise £475m a year, which it would put towards Scottish education.

It would be spent on a "pupil premium" to fund children from more deprived backgrounds, early learning, childcare and college provision, and giving money to councils for schools.

Holyrood's other parties have also pledged to focus on education.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said his party had "an ambitious plan", adding: "Scottish education was once the envy of the world. It has fallen hard and fast.

"But we have the plan that will put it right back up there. One penny is a small price for a big boost to get the country fit for the future."

'Top priority'

The policy was announced ahead of a Lib Dem debate at Holyrood focusing on their "pupil premium" proposal.

The SNP, Labour and the Conservatives each submitted amendments to the motion debated, with the parties changing it to relate to their own policies.

Labour's amendment replaced the text of the motion with words lauding its own policy of a "fair start fund".

The SNP's amendment replaced the wording with a statement praising its Attainment Scotland Fund, while the Conservative amendment praised the UK government's contribution to pupil premium plans.

Image caption The Liberal Democrats led a debate on education and their 'pupil premium' policy at Holyrood

Most of Scotland's parties have prioritised education ahead of May's elections, with Labour calling it a "top budget priority" and the SNP pledging to put it "front and centre".

The Scottish Conservatives have also focused on college education in the early stages of the campaign.

Scotland will gain new financial powers this year, although finance secretary John Swinney ruled out raising the income tax in his draft budget last year.

Record defended

During the debate, SNP MSP and education committee convener Stewart Maxwell said he was "more than a little disappointed" to hear Mr Rennie describe Scottish education as being at a crisis point.

He highlighted a recent announcement by Nicola Sturgeon that £230m would be invested in building or refurbishing Scottish schools and said the number of school leavers going to a positive destination was at a record high.

Education secretary Angela Constance said the evidence on the pupil premium was "mixed at best", saying the Scottish government's attainment fund was delivering better results.

However, Labour's Iain Gray used his speech to attack the attainment fund as "inadequate", instead proposing a "fair start fund" which would allocate £1,000 to primary school pupils from deprived backgrounds.

The Scottish Conservatives accused the Lib Dems of "recycling discarded SNP policies".

MSP John Lamont said: "This announcement shows that the Lib Dems have decided to join forces with a chaotic Labour party in lurching to the left on tax.

"Working families who have had a difficult time over recent years need their pay packets protected."

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