A press release on the always-positive Scottish Labour website this morning blares a wake-up call to the reckless and irresponsible Scottish Government. “IPPR Report Shows SNP Economic Policy Is Financially Illiterate”, it rages, going on to quote the party’s finance spokesman Ken Macintosh:
“This report shows that the SNP’s economic policy is financially illiterate. Not only do we get more spending than we raise as a result of being in the Union, but the SNP’s commitment to turn Scotland into a low-tax corner of Europe would see revenues plummet and public spending slashed to the bone. Scotland would be crippled by what could only be described as economic suicide.”
Oof. Strong words for sure. Hang on, though – which SNP economic policy are we actually talking about here? The preamble to Macintosh’s furious blast references “the SNP’s plans to cut Corporation Tax to 12.5%”. But the only problem with that is that the SNP doesn’t appear to have any such plans.
We scoured Google for evidence, but haven’t been able to find a single story, report or quote where the SNP has ever proposed a 12.5% rate of CT. What there are are lots of stories where journalists on Unionist newspapers note that the Nats have suggested the possibility of cutting Corporation Tax were it to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and in which said journalists have also claimed that Northern Ireland – where the tax is likely to be devolved to Stormont – intends to cut it to 12.5%.
We can’t, we should point out, actually find any solid evidence to support this claim either – it seems to be based purely on the fact that the tax is 12.5% in the Republic Of Ireland, and that the logical thing would therefore be for NI to set the same rate in order to compete better with its southern neighbour.
The journalists have nevertheless then put two and two together and assumed that because the SNP wants control of the tax devolved like it is in NI, and because the level there might be 12.5%, that the SNP’s plan must be to cut it to the same level in Scotland. The SNP itself, on the other hand, has never said any such thing. Examine this piece by former Labour spin doctor Lorraine Davidson in The Times all the way back in August 2011, for example:
“Alex Salmond yesterday set out his long-awaited plans for cutting the overall rate of corporation tax in Scotland — but backed away from a commitment to reduce it to 12.5 per cent, as had been widely predicted.”
Observe the use of the word “predicted”, which is a sneaky journalistic way of not-quite-admitting that you’ve got something completely wrong and that the entity you’re talking about didn’t say the thing you thought they would. And interestingly, if you dig out the IPPR report cited (but not linked to) in Labour’s press release, it only attributes the notion of a 12.5% rate to “some leading Scottish business figures”, with no mention of the SNP having put forward or even endorsed the idea.
[EDIT: an alert reader in the comments below reveals that the SNP's actual suggested rate of Corporation Tax for Scotland is 20%, not 12.5%.]
The straw man is a key weapon in Scottish Labour’s armoury. Bereft of any policies of their own, they can’t attack the SNP by putting forward alternative proposals, so the only route left is to pretend the Nats’ policies are something other than what they really are, and then rubbish the fake policies which exist only in Labour’s own propaganda. It’s an ugly, negative tactic which conspicuously failed to work between 2007 and 2011, but the party seems too paralysed by deep-rooted tribal oppositionism to try anything else.
In the interests of fairness, we contacted both Scottish Labour and Ken Macintosh and politely asked them if they could provide a single source for the SNP actually advocating a cut in Corporation Tax to 12.5%. If they come up with one, we will of course let you know immediately.