Scotland politics

Kezia Dugdale reaffirms 50p tax pledge in conference speech

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Media captionScottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale says she will vote against any proposal for a second independence referendum

Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale has pledged to oppose the Scottish government's budget if it does not embrace a 50p top rate of tax.

Addressing the party's UK conference, Ms Dugdale restated her support for the tax policy her party ran on in May.

She wants a 50p tax on those earning over £150,000, and a penny increase in income tax to pay for public services.

The conference will vote on Tuesday on plans to give the Scottish and Welsh leaders more power over their parties.

The proposals would allow Kezia Dugdale and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones the power to appoint a representative to the party's UK national executive committee (NEC).

The plans would also give the Scottish and Welsh parties more autonomy.

Sources have said there was an attempt to "unpick" the plans by removing the extra seats from the package. This was defeated, but it is possible there could be a second attempt prior to Tuesday's vote.

Speaking at the weekend, Len McCluskey, head of the UK's biggest trade union Unite, said Ms Dugdale should not have the power to appoint Scotland's representative on the NEC.

He said that while there was wide support for the autonomy proposals, coupling them with the NEC seat plans had created a "difficult position".

Ms Dugdale has said she is confident the full package will be passed.

Analysis by Nick Eardley, BBC Scotland's Westminster correspondent

Image caption Delegates at the Labour conference will vote on the autonomy proposals

It appears Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn are involved in their first dispute since his re-election.

A series of reforms to the way the Labour Party works are due to be passed on Tuesday.

The package includes autonomy plans praised by Ms Dugdale last week. This part is uncontroversial and supported by everyone I've spoken to.

But there is a row over another part. The reforms would also allow Ms Dugdale - and her Welsh counterpart Carwyn Jones - to appoint someone to represent them on the party's UK executive.

Mr Corbyn's supporters think the extra NEC seats could be used to try and undermine him as the battle for the party's future plays out. They want to postpone the plan.

For now, it appears Ms Dugdale will get her way. But it's possible there will be another attempt to scupper the NEC plan tomorrow.

In her address to the conference in Liverpool on Monday afternoon, the Scottish Labour leadersaid her party will not support "another austerity budget" in Scotland.

The speech is Ms Dugdale's first to conference since the Holyrood elections earlier this year, when Labour fell to third place in terms of the seats it holds in the Scottish parliament, behind the Conservatives.

MSPs at Holyrood will be responsible for setting income tax in Scotland from April 2017, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already rejected increasing the basic rate for the five year lifetime of the parliament, as well as ruling out upping the top rate in the first year.

'Clear choice'

Ms Dugdale said her party would "place amendments to introduce a 50p tax on those earning over £150,000 and to add a penny to income tax to pay for public services" when the Scottish government brings forward its budget for 2017-18.

She said: "With the full range of powers the Scottish Parliament now has, the SNP government faces a clear choice.

"Accept a Tory budget from Westminster, or go our own way with proposals to grow the Scottish economy and protect our schools and hospitals.

"If the SNP minority government do not accept these proposals, and try to force another austerity budget through Holyrood, we will vote against it.

"If they want support, they'll need to look to the Tories for that. Labour will not help the SNP pass an austerity budget."

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Image caption Jeremy Corbyn saw off challenger Owen Smith to win the Labour leadership contest

Ms Dugdale also attacked Ms Sturgeon over her stance on independence, saying Scottish Labour would not support a second referendum during the current Holyrood term.

She said: "We do not need the risk and uncertainty of another independence referendum.

"As we face negotiations on our membership of the EU and real threats to the future of our public services, we cannot afford our government to take their eye off the ball.

"With so many challenges facing Scotland in the future, we should not return to the divisions of the past.

"My message to Nicola Sturgeon is this: first minister, our country is already divided enough. Do not divide us again."

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