Heated FMQs as Yousaf accused of 'most devastating' budget in history

Opposition parties said the First Minister is taxing Scots more while giving them less in the last session of First Minister's Questions for 2023.

Humza Yousaf faced intense criticism during a heated FMQs on Thursday over his government’s tax-raising budget.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar described it as the “most devastating” in the history of devolution.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross meanwhile said it means 1.5 million Scots now pay more tax than anywhere else in the UK.

Both parties have accused the SNP of making Scots pay more while getting less in return.

Scotland's income tax bands.STV News

It comes after the finance secretary’s budget made a number of cuts while raising taxes on higher earners.

The freezing of the threshold for the “higher” rate over earnings above £43,663 means more middle earners will be forced into paying more income tax.

The health, education and justice budgets all increased in real terms but the housing budget suffered a cut of £200m while rural affairs also saw a decrease in spending.

Mental health services were also recently cut by £30m while fuel security funding was scaled back.

Sarwar attacked the move which comes after several Scottish councils declared a housing emergency.

Despite the cuts, the Scottish Conservatives said everyone earning more than £28,850 is paying more in tax than if they lived south of the border.

“Does Humza Yousaf think its fair that a majority of Scots will pay more tax than people south of the border who earn the same wage?” Ross said.

The First Minister defended the tax measures taken in his budget which he said would raise £1.5bn.

He said that without tax rises the cash would need to have been plugged by cuts to public services.

Overall, he said the majority of people in Scotland will still pay less tax compared to those living elsewhere in the UK.

He said asking top earners to pay “a little more” means the Scottish Government was able to give the NHS a £500m uplift.

Ross also criticised Yousaf for deciding not to replicate the UK Government’s recent mini-budget which cut business rates.

He said: “It beggars belief that the Scottish Government has once again failed to pass on the 75% relief for retail seen elsewhere in the UK.

“First Minister, why are the SNP putting Scottish businesses at a disadvantage?”

Yousaf replied: “He [Ross] demands we spend every single penny of UK Government consequentials on business relief and tax cuts.

“If we had done that we would have seen real-terms cut to the NHS, a real-terms cut to education, a real-term cut to the police service, a real-term cut to the fire service.

“We simply won’t choose to do that.”

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