29 April 2008

Errors make it a taxing time for Prime Minister

Since taking over the reins of power at Number 10 almost a year ago, it is fair to say that Gordon Brown's tenure has been characterised by a series of errors and ill-judged moves.
A last-minute u-turn on the General Election; loss of the personal data of millions of citizens; a hike on whisky duty – a track record that does not make for pleasant reading, and all in less than a year.

The latest of these blunders was the Prime Minister's controversial scrapping of the 10p Income Tax rate. This regressive move has seen some of the lowest paid and most vulnerable people in Scotland lose a larger proportion of their earnings to tax.

As of this month, taxes have increased for over 324,000 people in Scotland – 12% of all Scottish taxpayers – who have seen their tax double from 10% basic rate to 20%. Those earning less than £18,500 a year and those aged between 60 and 65 – about 680,000 Scottish households – will be hit the hardest by this catastrophic decision.

Even a last minute u-turn has not prevented the Labour Party from once again finding themselves tangled in a web of in-fighting as Brown cannot convince his own party of the benefits of penalising some of the poorest paid and hardest working in our society.
What's more, whilst the pay packets of low paid workers like cleaners and care assistants will be lighter at the end of the month, MPs are set to benefit by almost £300 a year from the scrapping of the 10p tax rate.

Amidst rising food and energy prices, this comes at a particularly difficult time for vulnerable households in Scotland. However, we can rest assured that the SNP Government is working hard to lighten the financial burden for the people of Scotland. The SNP understand the everyday financial demands facing Scottish people, and that is why, wherever possible, rather than penalising ordinary taxpayers, we are putting money back in people's pockets.

After less than a year in government, we have slashed prescription charges, increased payments for free personal and nursing care, scrapped the students' graduate endowment fee, and frozen Council Tax. This has been an impressive start in the SNP's long-term goal of making Scotland wealthier and fairer.

A legacy to be proud of

Sports are an integral part of the Scottish nation, at every level. Locally, sport is the essence of our community and gives our children and young people a positive outlet for fitness and recreation.

Here in Banff and Buchan we can all be proud of the vibrant sports tradition we boast in football, rugby, golf and many other games.

Nationally, sport gives our nation's top contestants the opportunity to compete against the world's best, and puts Scotland on the world stage. This is why last November the SNP Government pulled out all the stops to secure the 2014 Commonwealth Games for Scotland.
Hosting the games will bring untold benefits for all of Scotland in terms of the confidence of our nation, the investment in regeneration, the number of jobs created and indeed the sporting legacy, as our sports facilities receive a boost and our youngsters get involved in one of the most important global sporting events.

We are now beginning to see the fruits of this legacy in the North-east as Aberdeen recently received £5 million of Commonwealth Games funds towards a 50 metre swimming pool.
This Olympic sized pool will reap enormous advantages for swimming competitors and all children and young people in Banff and Buchan. I have long campaigned for a 50 metre pool in the North-east to allow our youngsters to realise their swimming potential and go on to compete professionally.

We may now some day see a Banff and Buchan swimmer win a Commonwealth gold medal on our own doorstep.

Stewart Stevenson
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