By-election candidates spar over tax rises and benefit cap on STV debate

The SNP, Labour and Tory politicians took part in the first televised debate ahead of the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election on October 5.

Candidates vying to be Scotland’s next MPs have sparred over the prospect of tax rises and the scrapping of the UK benefits cap.

Labour’s Michael Shanks, the SNP’s Katy Loudon and the Conservative’s Thomas Kerr all took part in a debate hosted by STV’s political editor Colin Mackay on Scotland Tonight.

It’s the first time the candidates have clashed on live TV and comes ahead of next week’s by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West which was triggered by the ousting of disgraced former MP Margaret Ferrier.

‘Tax rises by the SNP would hurt working people’

Katy Loudon faces questions over whether she supports tax rises in Scotland.

The SNP’s candidate was accused by her rivals of backing the prospect of further tax rises on Scottish households – something Labour and the Tories said would harm working people during a cost of living crisis.

Shanks asked Loudon: “I wonder why in the middle of a cost of living crisis you support making it tougher for people with increased income tax, increased council tax and this ludicrous suggestion that people [in Rutherglen and Hamilton West] should be taxed for going to their work in Glasgow.”

‘Tax rises by the SNP would hurt working people’

Loudon said proposals for a rise in council tax in Scotland were only under consultation but did not say whether she supported them.

“No decision has been made on this yet and to suggest otherwise frankly isn’t being straight with voters,” she told Shanks.

“If Labour aren’t for fair taxation, what are you for?

Labour and the Tories also attacked Loudon over the prospect of a congestion charge for those in Rutherglen and Hamilton West travelling into Glasgow.

Shanks said the levy on people in South Lanarkshire travelling into the city centre would “hammer” working people.

Kerr also said he opposed the proposals.

‘Labour flip-flopping on benefits cap’

Labour's Michael Shanks was accused of changing his mind over whether his party would scrap the two-child benefit cap.STV News

Tory councillor Kerr accused Labour of “having more flip flops than Blackpool beach” as he claimed Shanks had changed his mind over the two-child benefit cap.

Shanks described the policy – which stops benefits for the third and further child – as “horrific” and said Labour would carry out a full review into the Universal Credit system.

‘Labour flip-flopping on benefits cap’

Kerr meanwhile said he supports the benefits policy, which he said had public support.

The SNP said the limit “plunges” hundreds of thousands of kids across the UK into poverty and affects hundreds of children in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

‘The Tories have wrecked the economy’

Conservative Thomas Kerr defended the record of his party in the UK Government.STV News

Shanks and Loudon focused much of their attacks on Kerr over what they argued has been the economic mismanagement by the Conservative government in Westminster.

Shanks told Kerr: “Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak – every single one of them has been disastrous for Scotland’s economy and you’ve supported every single one of them.

“What do you say to people in Rutherglen and Hamilton West who are struggling to make ends meet because of rising mortgage costs brought about by your party?”

‘The Tories have wrecked the economy’

Kerr said that while he understood “times are tough” inflation was a global issue and was being felt across the world due to factors such as war in Ukraine.

“What the chancellor and Prime Minister are doing is focusing on the job,” Kerr said. “Labour doesn’t have a plan on any of this stuff.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Gloria Adebo was invited to the Scotland Tonight debate but chose not to take part.

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